The best singles 1980-1983

I like to think were Tom Petty alive he’d slowly nod, face puckered, when I explained how in the last five years — since Pulse — I’ve heard “Refugee” as a queer anthem. Released in January 1980 months after the disco backlash and a year replete with backlashes against the ERA, “secular humanism,” unions, shrinking defense budgets, national health insurance, and Black Americans, “Refugee” defied the tenor of the decade soon to be defined by the man who, swept into the Oval Office in November, encouraged these backlashes. Do you wanna funk? Tom Petty may not have known to show you how, but the beautiful, clean, open sound of “Do You Wanna Funk” suggested he’d learn.

1. Patrick Cowley ft. Sylvester – Do You Wanna Funk
2. Yoko Ono – Walking on Thin Ice
3. ABC – The Look of Love
4. Prince – Little Red Corvette
5. New Order – Temptation
6. Loleatta Holloway – Love Sensation
7. Michael Jackson – Wanna Be Startin’ Something
8. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Refugee
9. Roxy Music – Same Old Scene
10. A Flock of Seagulls – Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)
11. The Human League – Love Action (I Believe in Love)
12. Gang of Four – To Hell With Poverty!
13. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five – The Message
14. Japan – Ghosts
15. Dazz Band – Let It Whip
16. George Benson – Give Me the Night
17. David Bowie – Ashes to Ashes
18. Shannon – Let the Music Play
19. Dionne Warwick – Heartbreaker
20. Willie Nelson – Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground
21. The Pretenders – Back on the Chain Gang
22. Earth Wind & Fire – Let’s Groove
23. .38 Special – Caught Up in You
24. Culture Club – Time (Clock of the Heart)
25. Soft Cell – Bedsitter
26. Duran Duran – Planet Earth
27. Olivia Newton-John – Magic
28. Run D.M.C – It’s Like That
29. Heaven 17 – Temptation
30. Teena Marie – Behind the Groove
31. The Police – De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da
32. Pete Shelley – Homosapien
33. The English Beat – Mirror in the Bathroom
34. Juice Newton – Queen of Hearts
35. Adam & the Ants – Dog Eat Dog
36. Grace Jones – Warm Leatherette
37. Frida – I Know There’s Something Going On
38. The Go-Go’s – Our Lips Are Sealed
39. Ronnie Milsap – (There’s No) Gettin’ Over Me
40. Kurtis Blow – The Breaks
41. Stevie Nicks – Stand Back
42. The B-52’s – Private Idaho
43. The Specials – Ghost Town
44. Daryl Hall and John Oates – I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)
45. The Jam – Start!
46. The Time – 777-5311
47. Rosanne Cash – Seven Year Ache
48. Rick Springfield – I’ve Done Everything For You
49. Evelyn King – Love Come Down
50. Fleetwood Mac – Hold Me
51. Rod Stewart – Young Turks
52. The Rolling Stones – She’s So Cold
53. Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart
54. Freez – I.O.U.
55. Eddie Rabbit – Drivin’ My Life Away
56. Ricky Skaggs – Cryin’ My Heart Out Over You
57. Indeep – Last Night a DJ Saved My Life
58. Don Williams – I Believe in You
59. Jackson Browne – Lawyers in Love
60. Merle Haggard – I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink
61. Eurythmics – Love is a Stranger
62. Lime – Your Love
63. John Cougar – Hurt So Good
64. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – Crimson and Clover
65. Rick James – Give It to Me, Baby
66. Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson – Pancho and Lefty
67. The Beat – Save It For Later
68. The Go-Betweens – Cattle and Cane
69. Imagination – Just An Illusion
70. John Anderson – Wild and Blue

6 thoughts on “The best singles 1980-1983

  1. I like “Love Sensation” is there, which I’ve always liked better than “Hit and Run”. Ditto the Grace Jones version of “Warm Leatherette·, since the Normal’s original I find it so cold and mechanic.Seminal be damned in this case.
    Admittedly surprised by your number 1 choice; not because I dislike it, quite the contrary, I didn’t know you were so fond of the act. Damn the Torpedos is a fine album: “Don’t Do me Like That” also made my list.
    Love the love for the forgotten “The Breaks”. That song needs a re-evaluation. It didn’t made any list since 1980.
    I need to hear that “Pancho and Lefty” take. I grow used to Townes Van Zandt’s., which I ADORE.
    Surprised the best version of “You Are Always on My Mind” besides the complete makeover of the PSB later on didn’t make it. But that other Willie Nelson single I don’t remember. Speaking of which, no Peter Gabriel? And I really need to re-hear that Teena Marie single again, for I find surprising has beat the deathless “Square Biz”. Which makes me think also of “Heartbeat” and “Walking On Thin Ice” since in my list they’re all sequenced (somewhere in there lies also “Slow Hand”). 1981 was awesome year for singles outside the mainstream charts, of course.

    The list has a bit of everything for everybody, except Motorhead. Which is fine by me.

    1. That’s cool. Also, I need to hear Japan. It has never made it on radio here. Never. Is David Sylvian a cult figure? Surprised I found out he worked with Fripp and Sakamoto. The 80s will be another headache (in a good way). Did you know the Nazi-onalists here banned from radio every English music from 1981 to 1983?. I mean, especially Brit. A certain War, you know. (I love a man in uniform, just not those)
      Some remnants masquerading as “artists” ask for something similar NOW, because the pandemic has risked their “jobs”. The wave of nationalisms has a party name here you may have heard of. Maybe in movies or famous musicals. Our “proggressive” musicians identify with it. If you see a contradiction there you may move to my country to understand it. It’s so disheartening.

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