I know, I know. Time to get to the point. Be warned that I might dismiss a few of these in succinct terms.
51 Ratt / “Round and Round” 1984
I’m going to take a moment to bash Jane’s Addiction and Perry Farrell, just because they deserve it every minute of every day.
All I heard in college was, “Oh, Jane’s Addiction is so cool. They’re so alternative.”
Alternative? The first 50 times I heard Been Caught Stealin’, I thought it was Ratt.
This song was eminently forgettable if not for the video, teaching kids of my generation how to tear their clothing on the climb up to the attic away from Milton Berle so they can show that much more midriff while dancing around.
Ratt had another video, I Need a Woman, that popped up on Beavis and Butt-head. They didn’t like it. IIRC, Butt-head said he needs a woman, too, but isn’t up there singing some crappy song about it, and Beavis noted that the “women” in the video all looked like sophomores. Not in college.
52 Dead or Alive / “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)” 1985
I’m not supposed to like dance-oriented songs like this. Especially not back in high school, when I never, ever, ever danced, and I scoffed at pop all day while listening to Rush and Husker Du.
But geez, this is a good song. It’s like White Zombie’s More Human Than Human in the sense that it may be the only time these guys ever put together the pieces in the right combination. (In White Zombie’s case, they couldn’t even put the pieces together again when playing it live — I saw them on some MTV awards show, and it was a train wreck.)
I’ve often fantasized of doing a guitar-based cover version. (Jason? Jefito? Which of you recently posted something about a synth-based song that could just have easily have worked on guitar?)
53 Billy Idol / “White Wedding” 1988
1988? That can’t be right. Let’s see … quick check at AllMusic … aha — 1982, not 88.
What I’m finding with a lot of these songs is that whether I not I liked them is irrelevant. The early 80s MTV bands simply knew how to write musical hooks, deliver vocal hooks and script video hooks. You can … not … forget … this … song. And it’s not altogether unpleasant.
54 Salt-N-Pepa / “Push It” 1986
86? That’s risky. Wouldn’t want to play that song just as Reagan woke up from a nap in the Oval Office near The Button. That would’ve made the Cuban missile crisis look like a picnic on the Mall.
55 A Flock of Seagulls / “I Ran (So Far Away)” 1982
Again, NOT a one-hit wonder. Space Age Love Song is pretty good, and Wishing beautifully explores the possibilities of synth and heavily processed guitar.
Frankly, what held these guys back is Mike Score’s voice. Which has NOT aged well.
You may think of AFOS as a synth-and-hair band, but listen closely to Paul Reynolds’ ultra-sharp guitar riffs. It was a pity he couldn’t quite replicate them on Bands Reunited, but the poor guy hadn’t played in 15 years or so.
56 Bonnie Tyler / “Total Eclipse of the Heart” 1983
I was skinny in high school for two reasons. First, I ran cross-country. Second, in the days before remote control, I had to sprint across the living room to change the channel when this piece of dreck popped up. I may have had nightmares about the kids with the glowing eyes. Or the arrangement.
57 Toni Basil / “Mickey” 1981
This is a good place to work in something horrible I saw in the Macy’s parade this morning. The cast of the Broadway rendition of How the Grinch Stole Christmas popped up to lip-synch (badly, in some cases) part of the show. It’s safe to say ol’ Doc Geisel is spinning in his grave. The producers absolutely missed the point of the story. The kids of Whoville demand presents and act shocked when the Grinch does his reverse-Santa act. I’ll repeat for emphasis — this heartwarming story of how the Whos are totally unfazed by a massive act of serial burglary on Christmas Eve is rendered here as a bunch of spoiled kids mugging for the crowd.
I mention that, because this entire song and video is mugging. As Peter Griffin once said, “I was very aware that I was watching a performance.”
Set up a good Weird Al parody, though.
58 Culture Club / “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” 1982
One of my best friends from high school performed as Boy George in a lip-sync contest, and it was so adorable that I never hated this song or the band. At the time, I had no idea of the anguished undertones of the George-Jon … oh crap, what’s the drummer’s name? Anyway, that relationship.
George has gone on to become self-parodying, taking out various hostilities on society in any way he can find, but the guy had a great voice.
59 John Mellencamp / “Jack & Diane” 1982
Wasn’t he Cougar at this point? Anyway — I was talking with Mrs. MMM recently about how Mellencamp is one of those guys I respect, even if I don’t own a ton of his music. When you get right down to it, Mellencamp is to Indiana what Springsteen is to New Jersey. He told the stories.
To me, this isn’t one of the better ones. I think Mellencamp got more sophisticated musically over the next couple of years, and it helped. But as I said with Billy Idol, this burns into your head. Even if the video image is of Mellencamp freeze-framed as he starts to throw a punch at the camera for no apparent reason.
If you want the lyrics to the parody I wrote in high school, Sam and Diane, ask me after I get through this list.
60 Young M.C. / “Bust a Move” 1989
You wish you could sex her, but you’re standing there like you were Poindexter. Excellent.
Guy’s got some brains, too, which makes it work. That, and Flea’s guest appearance on bass.
61 Styx / “Mr. Roboto” 1983
Funniest part in the actual VH1 special was seeing a dazed Tommy Shaw make some nondescript comment about this. Yes, that was even funnier than seeing Dennis DeYoung (“former lead singer of Styx”) ham it up. The Shaw bit is hilarious if you remember the Behind the Music in which Shaw clearly doesn’t buy the Kilroy Was Here concept and even jokes that he feared for his safety as he prepared to go out in front of a rowdy audience in Texas to deliver dialogue: “But … Kilroy … what about the youth of today?”
Most of the memorable songs in this countdown are harmless. This one is crap.
(Apologies to my co-worker’s brother, who happens to have been Styx’s drummer for about a decade now.)
62 Berlin / “Take My Breath Away” 1986
It’s a pity Berlin is remembered for this and not something brilliant like The Metro or campy like Sex. That’s all I have to say about that, as Forrest Gump might say.
63 Devo / “Whip It” 1980
It’s a pity Devo is remembered for this and not something brilliant like … no, wait, this WAS Devo’s moment of brilliance. Classic guitar riff, deadpan humor — this is good stuff.
64 Paula Abdul / “Straight Up” 1988
Can someone explain to me why this is better-remembered than Opposites Attract, a modestly clever song with a fun video? This song is just … there. You can probably dance to it. That’s about it.
65 Foreigner / “I Want to Know What Love Is” 1984
Love is never having to listen to this song. Now get back and play Double Vision so our newly converted classic rock station can have something to play once an hour.
66 Depeche Mode / “Just Can’t Get Enough” 1981
They went on to do MUCH better than this. Enjoy the Silence has grown on me over the years, I Feel You was a refreshing guitar blast, and the newish stuff is gorgeous.
67 REO Speedwagon / “Keep On Loving You” 1980
I think I’d like this better if I drank Budweiser.
68 Public Enemy / “Fight the Power” 1988
What’s Spike Lee up to these days, anyway? Hip-hop’s power to uplift peaked here, and it’s been a steady downhill slide ever since.
69 R.E.M / “It’s The End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” 1980
I supposedly knew someone who knew someone who knew the kid in this video. That’s because Athens isn’t that big a town.
This was 87, by the way. R.E.M. was just a rumor in 1980. By the time this came out, I was heading for college, and this was the perfect soundtrack song for all those freshman frustrations.
When Michael Stipe is striving for High Art with stuff like Losing My Religion, it’s easy to forget that these guys have a great sense of humor.
70 Joan Jett & The Blackhearts/ “I Love Rock N’ Roll” 1981
I don’t know — I was never as enamored with the Jett attitude as others were. Perhaps it was the leather jackets, like she wanted to be the Fonz of the 80s. Not my thing.
But as far as beginner-level guitar riffs go, this was a good one.
71 Rick James / “Super Freak” 1981
It’s a pity the talent to write hooks like this is so often wasted on guys who mismanage their lives as badly as Rick James did.
72 The Fixx / “One Thing Leads to Another” 1983
This band did quality stuff for a few years. Red Skies was a haunting masterpiece. This one, like so many others here, may not be their best, but the hooks are killers.
73 Nena / “99 Luftbaloons” 1983
The people on the VH1 special were shocked to hear that this had something to do with balloons accidentally triggering a missile crisis. Yes, it did, and it’s quite clever.
Unlike some of the other bands here, Nena qualifies as a one-hit wonder. I can’t remember another song in her catalog, and I’m the guy who can name two songs by the Red Rockers, for Pete’s sake. (I’ll spot you China. Name another. Go ahead.)
Anyway, that’s too bad. I love her voice.
74 George Michael / “Faith” 1987
My dislike of George Michael only melts for one song, and that’s Freedom. The only good thing that came from his other work is Dana Carvey’s amazing impersonation. (“Look at my butt, Dennis! It’s perfectly round! Scientists use it to calibrate their instruments.”)
75 Prince / “Little Red Corvette” 1983
The VH1 crowd all recounted how they eventually realized this song was about sex. No shit. It’s PRINCE. Of COURSE it’s about sex. Even *I* got some of the references, and I was still a couple of years away from kissing a girl when this song came out.
Probably why I found it a little intimidating.