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Celebrity Guest Top 5 Songs of the 80s

Some of our favorite artist and industry figures took the time to participate in Synconation’s 80s week by providing their Top 5 Songs of the 80s. Enjoy!

Tesla Boy

1. The Smiths – “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” on The Queen Is Dead from 1986
2. The Cure – “Lullaby” on Disintegration from 1989
3. Depeche Mode – “Personal Jesus” on Violator from 1989
4. David Bowie – Let’s Dance on Let’s Dance from 1983
5. Michael Sembello – Maniac on Bossa Nova Hotel from 1983

Pat McGuire – Editor-in-Chief of FILTER Magazine

1. Public Enemy – “Bring the Noise” on It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back from 1988
2. De La Soul – “The Magic Number” on 3 Feet High and Rising from 1989
3. Beastie Boys – “High Plains Drifter” on Paul’s Boutique from 1989
4. Eric B. & Rakim – “Eric B. Is President” on Paid in Full from 1987
5. Boogie Down Productions – “Criminal Minded” on Criminal Minded from 1987


1. The Cure – “Lovesong” on Disintegration from 1989
2. David Bowie – “Ashes to Ashes” on Scary Monsters from 1980
3. Tears for Fears – “Sowing the Seeds of Love” on The Seeds of Love from 1989
4. Michael Jackson – “Billie Jean” on Thriller from 1982
5. Nine Inch Nails – “Sin” on Pretty Hate Machine from 1989

Rob RoyDim Mak Recording Artist

1. Michael Jackson – “Billie Jean” on Thriller from 1982
2. Prince – “When Doves Cry” on Purple Rain from 1984
3. New Edition – “Can You Stand The Rain” on Heart Break from 1988
4. Janet Jackson – “Let’s Wait A While” on Control from 1986
5. Cyndi Lauper – “True Colors” on True Colors from 1986

James Tritten – Founder of Fort Lowell Records

1. Agent Orange – “Too Young To Die” on Living In Darkness from 1981
2. New Order – “Your Silent Face” on Power, Corruption, &  Lies from 1983
3. Iron Maiden – “The Trooper” on Piece of Mind from 1983
4. Sade – “Hang On To Your Love” on Diamond Life from 1985
5. Eric B. & Rakin – “Microphone Fiend” on Follow The Leader from 1988

Josh James – Evergreen Terrace and Casey Jones

1. Operation Ivy – “Sound System” on Energy from 1989
2. Modern English – “I Melt With You” on After the Snow from 1982
3. Queen & David Bowie – “Under Pressure” on Hot Space from 1982
4. Paula Abdul – “Straight Up” on Forever Your Girl from 1988
5. Minor Threat – “Out of Step” on Out of Step from 1984

Dave W. of White Hills
(New Album, H-p1 comes out on June 21st on Thrill Jockey)

1. Julian Cope – “Eat The Poor” on Sunshine Playroom from 1983

B-side to the debut solo EP by the eccentric lead man of The Teardrop Explodes. One thing that was great about music in the 80’s was people stretching boundaries and you could always find that on a B-side. This track is a perfect example of that. It’s definitely a pop song,  but it’s very damaged. That’s something Julian has always been able to strike a balance between and is what has made him an endearing figure in pop music since 1979.

2. Killing Joke – “Requiem” on Killing Joke from 1980

When all is said and done it’s all about the riff and man is this one mighty riff…so mighty the song needs nothing else. Hypnotic, intense, and uplifting. Still sounds fresh and punishing today, thirty-one years after its release.

3. The Butthole Surfers – “Whirling Hall Of Knives” on Rembrandt Pussyhorse from 1986

Demented and haunting track from the “Rembrandt Pussyhorse” album released in 1986. Not what you’d expect from a release in the 80’s. Sounds like sea chanty that could have been written by the Velvet Underground.

4. Flipper – “Ever” on Generic from 1982

Opening track to their 1982 debut album “Generic” that perfectly captures a mental breakdown.

5. Specimen – “Sharp Teeth” on Sharp Teeth from 1985

A-side to an amazing EP from 1985. If this track was written by Bowie or Bolan it would have been a huge hit. Unfortunately for Specimen it wasn’t.  The perfect melding together of Goth and Glam by a underrated band of the 80s.

Chad Matheny – Emperor X

I try to stay away from making lists of favorites or bests or ultimates or other hyperbole, so when Brenton asked me to come up with a list of my top five songs from the ’80s I took an arbitrary, scattershot approach. I made a list of the first dozen or so awesome tracks I could think of and whittled them down to the five that I felt were most relevant to me today. I’m confident there are better songs than the ones on this list, but I’m also confident that these songs totally rule and are from the ’80s. Please enjoy!

1. Re-Flex – “The Politics of Dancing” on The Politics of Dancing from 1983

I know very little about this group, but this song makes me feel great about attending illicit ragers. It’s like…partying as an act of civil disobedience, encapsulated in synth pop form.

2. Real Life – “Send Me an Angel” on Heartland from 1983

I remember hearing this song for the first time riding in my friend’s mom’s car when I was six or seven. It was a run-down Honda with no AC, and the stereo competed with the wind rushing in through the open windows blaring a distorted, screeching mess, like a boom box at the beach. She was a stressed out single mom with permed neon red frizzy hair, lived in the projects with her two kids who she yelled at all the time. Even at seven I understood what a song like this must mean to a person in that position. She eventually married a fundamentalist Christian and now lives in a large-ish house in some Southern megasuburb, so I guess she got the song’s wish!

3. Musical Youth – “Pass the Dutchie” on The Youth of Today from 1982

Weed reference disguised as poverty anthem? Poverty anthem disguised as weed reference? Who knows? Either way it’s a great jam from UK Jamaican teenagers.

4. Charly García -“No Soy un Extraño” on Clics Modernos from 1983

I heard this on a warped compilation tape someone in my study abroad program found in their host family’s old music pile. The rest of the tracks were awful nationalistic rock. This one stood out because it’s hazy and because that bassline at the end of each verse stanza is so crucial, and because of that relentless clap on every single eigth note, and because of that hilarious/awesome pitch-bent keyboard harmonica solo, and because the lyrics are great (“I’m not a stranger…two gay dudes in a bar holding hands, enshrouded in a cloud of smoke…” stuff like that.) This guy is the Argentine Donald Fagan.

5. Connie – “Rock Me” on Connie from 1986

No words can be said about this. Just move to it. It is proof of the existence of a purpose in the universe. Freaking dance, man.

Jeremy Simeon Howell Griffith
Former Member of Moments in Grace / Record Producer: Norma Jean, Underoath, Sunbears!

1. Peter Gabriel – “Mercy Street” on So from 1986
2. Toto – “Rosanna” on Toto IV from 1982
3. Fleetwood Mac – “Hold Me” on Mirage from 1982
4. Killing Joke – “Love Like Blood” on Night Time from 1985
5. Mike + the Mechanics – “The Living Years” on The Living Years from 1988


These are just some recent jams that have inspired the songs I’ve written.

1. Level 42 – “Something About You” on World Machine from 1985
2. Kajagoogoo – “Too Shy” on White Feathers from 1982
3. Chaka Khan – “I Feel for You” on I Feel for You from 1984
4. Duran Duran – “Rio” on Rio from 1982
5. Kenny Loggins – “Heart to Heart” on High Adventure from 1982

Ted Joyner of the Generationals

1. Cyndi Lauper – “When you were mine” (Promo Only) from 1985
2. Talking Heads – “Road to Nowhere” on Little Creatures from 1985
3. The Smiths – “How Soon Is Now?” on William, It Was Really Nothing from 1984
4. Peter Gabriel – “Sledgehammer” on So from 1986
5. Huey Lewis and the News – “If this is It” on Sports from 1984

James Tuttle from CodesevenEqual Vision Records

1. Bon Jovi – “Livin’ on a Prayer” on Slippery When Wet from 1986

This was my first cassette tape I ever bought in 86 – I think – with my hard earned allowance? I personally hate this song now but was my gateway into the rock world.

2. Run DMC – “Tricky” on Raising Hell from 1986

Yep…. besides the Fatboys, this was the first rap record I had ever heard. I wanted to be a rapper after hearing this.

3. Poison -“ Talk Dirty to Me” on Look What the Cat Dragged In from 1987

I loved Poison and I love this song. It was also the first riff I ever learned how to play on guitar. They still put on an awesome show so go see them.

4. Anthrax – “Antisocial”  on State of Euphoria from 1988

This was my gateway into the heavier side of rock. I was listening to Suicidal, Megadeth etc almost over night because of this song.

5. Michael Jackson – “Beat It” on Thriller from 1982

I really can’t stand his music at this point, but back when Thriller came out, I was moonwalking and break dancing all over my parents floor. Eddie Van Halen’s solo was the icing on the cake.

Jonathan Grant Berlin – Sunbears!

1. The Talking Heads – “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” on Speaking in Tongues from 1983
2. Tears For Fears – “Head Over Heels” on Songs from the Big Chair from 1985
3. Freur – “Doot – Doot” on Doot-Doot from 1983
4. Peter Gabriel – “In Your Eyes” on So from 1986
5. Stevie Nicks – “Stand Back” on The Wild Heart from 1983

Jared Bowser – Sunbears!

1. The Cure – “Plainsong on Disintegration” from 1989
2. U2 – “A Sort Of Homecoming on The Unforgettable Fire” from 1984
3. Sonic Youth – “Teen Age Riot on Daydream Nation” from 1988
4.Queen and David Bowie – “Under Pressure” on Hot Space from 1982
5. The Talking Heads – “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” on Speaking in Tongues from 1983

Craig Chaney – Evergreen Terrace

1. The Church – “Under the Milky Way” on Starfish from 1988
2. Metallica – “Damage Inc.” on Master of Puppets from 1986
3. The Cure – “Fascination Street”  on Disintegration from 1989
4. U2 – “New Years Day” on War from 1983
5. Debbie Gibson – “Lost In Your Eyes” on Electric Youth from 1988

Matt McCartie from Theft and Former Driver 8

Five picks is too hard when in 10 years you go from a little kid listening to your parents music to discovering you want to play music. These are tracks that take me back to a specific place in time. The 80’ s are an era wrought with cliché and silliness but is too often overlooked as a time when Rick Astley, Milli Vanilli and Def Leopard were in the charts. It’ s easy to forget that everyone from Fugazi to Echo and the Bunnymen were putting out records that people are still trying to emulate. New order and U2 had no idea that bands would still be trying copy their emotion and synth sounds today. The 90’ s was the age when music changed everything for me but those bands were carrying the torch that these artists first carried.

Thanks for the walk down memory lane. Cheers.

Family Wagon Music

1. Howard Jones – “Things Can Only Get Better” on Dream into Action from 1985
2. Cyndi Lauper – “Time After Time” on She’s So Unusual from 1984
3. Icicle Works – “Whisper to a Scream” Released as Single from 1982
4. Spandau Ballet – “True” on True from 1983
5. Hall & Oates – “Maneater” on H2O from 1982

Skate Music

1. Toy Dolls – “We’re Mad” on A Far Out Disc from 1985
2. Fugazi – “Waiting Room” on 13 Songs from 1988
3. 7 Seconds – “Walk Together, Rock Together” on Crew from 1984
4. The Vandals – “The Legend of Pat Brown” on Suburbia Soundtrack from 1984
5. Soulside – “Name in Mind” on Trigger from 1987

Mind Changing Music

1. U2 – Wire on The Unforgettable Fire from 1984
2. Depeche Mode – “Never Let Me Down” on Music for the Masses from 1987
3. Echo & the Bunnymen – “Bring on the Dancing Horses” Released as Single from 1985
4. New Order – “Bizarre Love Triangle” on Brotherhood from 1986
5. The Smiths – “Ask” on Rank from 1988

3 thoughts on “Celebrity Guest Top 5 Songs of the 80s”

  1. Cash Carter says:


  2. Tracy Tritten says:

    Glad to see Eric B. & Rakim listed twice.

  3. Blue Fire says:

    My Top 5: Smiths – William it was…., Phenomena – did it all fir Love – Duran Duran – View to a Kill , Toto – Africa – , Sabrina – Boys Boys Boys… ;)

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