Another 20 Beautiful Songs of the 80s
This list follows on from the Top 20 Most Beautiful Songs of the 80s. As I promised on the first installment, the second installment would follow shortly after. Many thanks to Randall who obviously spent hours putting this entire list together! If you are going to complain about an omission, be sure to check the first list in case your song is there. Onwards!
20. A Slow Song Joe Jackson
I desperately wanted to include Joe Jackson’s “Steppin Out” on this list, but in keeping to my rule of one song per artist, I felt I had no choice but to choose “A Slow Song” instead, as it’s such a movingly beautiful ballad. There is no better slow song for closing out the night at the club. Trust me, I know.
19. Evangeline The Icicle Works
You’ll know these guys from their bigger hit from 82, “Whisper to a Scream,” but this song, from 86, has a gorgeous, soaring chorus that was top form for this group—they never did better.
18. Under the Milky Way The Church
Oh yeah. From the height of Shoegazing, from the ultimate Shoegazing band, one of the most haunting tunes from the mid-80s, or the whole decade for that matter.
17. Verdi Cries 10,000 Maniacs
Okay. First, I CHALLENGE you to find a prettier song. Go ahead. Try. It all works in this one… Natalie’s beautiful, strange voice, the poetic lyrics, the piano, the images it paints in your mind of a holiday in Italy. This may have been the one that made me fall madly in love with Natalie Merchant, my fellow upstate-New Yorker. And I still think this is her best.
I Could only find a live version of this from 2005, but it’s still good.
16. The Metro Berlin
Ah… supremely sexy Teri Nunn… total pretty-boy John Crawford. Quintessential overly-coiffed, overly made-up, it’s-all-about-how-we-look California New Wave.
15. Time (Clock of the Heart) Culture Club
I was never a fan of Culture Club. Had nothing to do with Boy George’s cross-dressing persona, I just found them a bit facile and was put off by the way they were hugely overplayed on the radio and on MTV in the early days. But with distance their songs are impressively arranged and immensely likeable.
14. Souvenir Orchestral Maneouvers in the Dark (OMD)
A band with many a pretty tune under its belt, OMD’s souvenir is, I think, their most haunting (and in a way simplest) melody. Gentle synth dancing along a quiet beat, vocals in a sort of distant echo, this song always reminded me of lying in the grass on a summer day, staring up at the empty blue sky.
13. Precious to Me Phil Seymour
A protégé of Nick Lowe’s (or something like that) Phil Seymour was a one-hit wonder (if this could be called a “hit” – I don’t think it charted very high) who, if I recall correctly, died at a young age. A grad of Dwight Twilley’s band, Phil had that gentle “country-ish” song similar to Lowe’s. This is his prettiest. [JFrater: excuse the video clip – it is the only embedable one I could find. Music starts around 00:28]
12. 2000 Miles The Pretenders
Come on, you all know this one. The only Christmas song on my list, and one of only two or three decent Christmas songs to come out of the 80s, and my personal pick as the best of them. First time I heard this song was literally on a snowy night in 1983 – my girlfriend of the time and I were in my car, getting ready to go inside a bar (ah, the days when the drinking age was 18) and this came on. Instant inspiration for making out. This is the kind of song that makes you want to rock your head from side to side.
11. Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now The Smiths
Very difficult to pick a single “most beautiful” Smiths tune, but I finally got it down to this one and “Half a Person,” and then closed my eyes and picked one at random. And here we are. Morrissey’s fantastic drama-voice, Johnny Marr’s great guitar.
Now bear with me on this one. Billy Bragg surely has one of the ugliest voices (and ugliest mugs) in modern music. And at first listen this song doesn’t seem all that pretty, with Bragg’s off-key, warbled refrain of “Shirley!” But listen to the lyrics coupled with the gentle melody that trips along. This is a poignant, beautiful little tune from 1986 that was big on college radio at the time. A pretty, non-sappy love song about growing up and getting older and living with failure.
9. Fall on Me REM
I had to stick to my rule of one song per group, but this was especially hard. Finally, though, I had to exclude REM’s Nightswimming since it wasn’t technically 80s. But Fall on Me is beautiful in its own right—a lilting, soaring song that carries you down the road on hot, summer days.
From Duran Duran’s greatest album, “Rio” (one of the greatest LPs of the 80s) and one of several haunting songs they produced.
7. Only You Yaz
Memories, memories in this song. I went out with several girls in college, but there was… one… well, you know what I mean. I still see her dark, dark hair and her big brown eyes, and yeah, I feel old now, and I still miss her… but the memories make me smile, too. Only You is one of the soundtrack selections to a young relationship. Could work for anybody. I recommend it.
6. See You Depeche Mode
Maybe a breakup sequel to “Only You.” But in any case one of DM’s best. Which is saying a lot. I was tempted to include others of theirs… several. But this is still the prettiest song they ever put out, I think. Not the best—just the prettiest.
Come on. The coolest and best make-out song ever. Another steamy, summer-evening song.
For some reason I couldn’t find the song on YouTube. Maybe Prince is angry again. Silly Prince.
4. Vienna Ultravox
Just HAD to include it for its cheesy Eurotrash moodiness. I had a friend in college who was mad for Ultravox and other Eurodisco stuff. Some stick with you, some don’t. This one always stuck with me for some unknown reason.
3. Depending on You Rain Parade
The Rain Parade were, to me, the best of the Paisley Underground groups, though some would hand that crown to The Dream Syndicate. In any case, this gem from 1985 had me the first time I heard it. Haunting and icy cool.
Unfortunately could only find a live version.
2. Oh Lamour Erasure
Erasure were the height of Eurodisco/synth. You weren’t supposed to take this music seriously—you were just supposed to LOOK serious when you were dancing to it.
1. Bizarre Love Triangle New Order
REALLY tough choice because there are so many great and beautiful New Order tunes. But this, perhaps their best known is still the tops, I think. The refrain makes it… “Everytime I see you falling, I get down on my knees and pray…”