Ah, the 80s. Whether you were donning your finest spandex and getting tiddly on Cinzano or putting on the leathers and devil-fingering to Guns'n'Roses, it'll still go down as the most diverse, eclectic and extravagant decade in recent cultural history. We had New Order and Frankie Goes To Hollywood, U2, Prince and Cyndi Lauper, Springsteen, INXS, Bananarama, Duran Duran and the list goes on. Here, however, we whittle down a decade of societal decadence and political decay into the 100 tracks that defined it. Words: Ben Hewitt, Matthew Horton, Priya Elan


The one that got the Mondays on Top Of The Pops is a far cry from the sequenced beats of 'Pills 'N' Thrills And Bellyaches' that established them as baggy chiefs. 'Hallelujah' is a mess in the fine tradition of 'Bummed', a dirty loping funk held together with sticking plasters and – in all probability – Shaun Ryder's "junk". Sorry. It's still amazing, obviously.

39'The Killing Moon'

The Bunnymen's lasting classic has a Hollywood ending – an appearance in 2001's Donnie Darko that introduced them to a legion of new fans. Its air of mystery slotted handily into the film, but Ian McCulloch knew he had a belter on his hands from the moment he woke up one morning with the chorus already in his head. It opened new vistas for the band, making them the stars they always knew they were.

38'Walk This Way'

Hip-hop's biggest ticket to the mainstream came when Run-D.M.C. and Aerosmith broke down that wall in the 'Walk This Way' video, busting taboos and blurring the line between rap and rock. Who were the rock'n'roll rebels now? The ageing Toxic Twins or those chaps in the laceless Adidas? Clue: not the ones who were going to start recording power ballads with their daughters in the video.

37'Back In Black'

Now that's what we call a comeback. AC/DC's first album after the death of original singer Bon Scott proved none of that fire had gone out, and the title track was the purest example. Over one of Angus Young's crunchiest riffs, new screecher Brian Johnson doffs his cap to his predecessor and spits "I'm back in black!" with the gusto it deserves. The peak of AC/DC's lithe, fat-free years.

36'The One I Love'

For better or worse, 'The One I Love' was REM's big push through the commercial barriers, a US top 10 hit transforming them in one fell swoop from floppy-haired college radio darlings to bald-bonced plane-trashing heroes of the glossy monthlies. There were still good records to be made but this straddles the eras, anthemic but nasty with enough of a whiff of the underground to keep the early adopters on board.

35'Straight Outta Compton'

Obviously hip-hop's evolved, got madder, got badder, got blander since 1988 – but let's not forget NWA's impact. Gangsta rap was still shocking, before we got all blasé about guns, hoes and all that juice, and NWA pulled no punches, with Ice Cube, Eazy-E and the rest giving it both barrels. Throw in Dre's frightening production and 'Straight Outta Compton' was a threat people took seriously.

34'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out'

Heavens, is that Morrissey being romantic? "To die by your side/ Well, the pleasure, the privilege is mine" bears the hallmarks of classic Moz – overdoing it a bit, laying on the language – but there's an unmistakable poignancy here. Some think it's about him and Johnny Marr, pals forever as they fall under a 10-ton truck, but it's probably just a fantasy unfurling around the soaring strings.

33'Like A Prayer'

Though, these days, a cape trip is about the height of Madge's tabloid-baiting power, the queen of the pop controversy used to trade in far more eyebrow-raising fare. 'Like A Prayer' was her prude-offending Watergate, in which she scandalised the church by cavorting with a black Jesus and doused every scene in more religious imagery than the Vatican. It didn't harm the song's prospects that it was a belting pop tune, a welcome return to form after the sub-par tosh of her Who's That Girl soundtrack efforts.

32'Made Of Stone'

A smash No.90 hit, 'Made Of Stone' nevertheless brought the Roses to wider attention, making some waves on the indie chart and encouraging the kids to check out the album that would become their all-time favourite. It's a Byrdsian jangle with that essential Madchester swagger and bite from Ian Brown's lyric, later better known for devolving into cries of "Amateurs!" as The Late Show's power blew.


Sitting pretty between 'Everything's Gone Green' and 'Blue Monday' in New Order's early 80s run of astonishing singles, 'Temptation' is about as close as they came to a pop song at that point – there was just too much groundbreaking sonic exploration to get caught up in. It strikes a note of regret, a sense this is the best it's going to get, but – artistically at least – the truth was far from it.

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