NME's 100 Best Tracks Of The '80s

Earlier in the month, the UK’s NME busted out its Best Tracks Of The ’70s list, and now they’re back in rankonia mode to appraise the best tracks of the following decade. The Smiths, New Order, Pixies, and Stone Roses tie for most selections, with three apiece. Scan the entire list below.

100. Paul Simon – “Graceland”
99. The Clash – “Straight To Hell”
98. Dead Or Alive – “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)”
97. Pixies – “Where Is My Mind?”
96. OMD – “Enola Gay”
95. Elvis Costello – “Shipbuilding”
94. Starship – “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”
93. The Clash – “Should I Stay Or Should I Go”
92. Fleetwood Mac – “Everywhere”
91. INXS – “Need You Tonight”
90. Primal Scream – “Velocity Girl
89. Lil Louis – “French Kiss”
88. Bruce Springsteen – “Atlantic City”
87. Blondie – “Atomic”
86. Madness – “House Of Fun”
85. Womack & Womack – “Teardrops”
84. Soft Cell – “Tainted Love”
83. James – “Sit Down”
82. The Stone Roses – “She Bangs The Drums”
81. Van Halen – “Jump”
80. S’Express – “Theme From S’Express”
79. Cyndi Lauper – “Time After Time”
78. Faith No More – “We Care A Lot”
77. De La Soul – “The Magic Number”
76. Simple Minds – “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”
75. Dead Kennedys – “Too Drunk To Fuck”
74. Orange Juice – “Rip It Up”
73. The Fall – “Hit The North”
72. The Clash – “Rock The Casbah”
71. Queen & David Bowie – “Under Pressure”
70. Talking Heads – “Road To Nowhere”
69. Metallica – “Master Of Puppets”
68. Sonic Youth – “Teen Age Riot”
67. Duran Duran – “Rio”
66. U2 – “With Or Without You”
65. Melle Mel – “White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)”
64. Nirvana – “About A Girl”
63. Depeche Mode – “Never Let Me Down Again”
62. Sundays – “Can’t Be Sure”
61. The Waterboys – “Whole Of The Moon”
60. Guns N’ Roses – “Sweet Child O’ Mine”
59. Iron Maiden – “Run To The Hills”
58. Bomb The Bass – “Beat Dis”
57. Psychedelic Furs – “Pretty In Pink”
56. Soul II Soul – “Back To Life”
55. 808 State – “Pacific State”
54. Frankie Goes To Hollywood – “Two Tribes”
53. The Cure – “Just Like Heaven”
52. Bruce Springsteen – “The River”
51. The Jam – “Going Underground”
50. MARRS – “Pump Up The Volume”
49. My Bloody Valentine – “You Made Me Realise”
48. Prince – “Sign ’O’ The Times”
47. Grace Jones – “Pull Up To The Bumper”
46. Pixies – “Monkey Gone To Heaven”
45. Don Henley – “The Boys Of Summer”
44. Morrissey – “Everyday Is Like Sunday”
43. Kate Bush – “Hounds Of Love”
42. Cameo – “Word Up”
41. Dexys Midnight Runners – “Come On Eileen”
40. Happy Mondays – “Hallejulah”
39. Echo And The Bunnymen – “The Killing Moon”
38. Run DMC – “Walk This Way”
37. AC/DC – “Back In Black”
36. R.E.M. – “The One I Love”
35. NWA – “Straight Outta Compton”
34. The Smiths – “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”
33. Madonna – “Like A Prayer”
32. The Stone Roses – “Made Of Stone”
31. New Order – “Temptation”
30. Pet Shop Boys – “What Have I Done To Deserve This?”
29. The Jam – “That’s Entertainment”
28. Sugarcubes – “Birthday”
27. The Pogues – “Fairytale Of New York”
26. David Bowie – “Ashes To Ashes”
25. Public Enemy – “Don’t Believe The Hype”
24. The Jesus And Mary Chain – “Just Like Honey”
23. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – “The Mercy Seat”
22. Dinosaur Jr – “Freak Scene”
21. This Mortal Coil – “Song To The Siren”
20. Salt N’ Pepa – “Push It”
19. Joy Division – “Atmosphere”
18. Michael Jackson – “Billie Jean”
17. Bon Jovi – “Livin’ On A Prayer”
16. Pixies – “Debaser”
15. Pet Shop Boys – “It’s A Sin”
14. The Smiths – “This Charming Man”
13. The Jesus And Mary Chain – “April Skies”
12. The Stone Roses – “Fools Gold”
11. Human League – “Love Action (I Believe In Love)”
10. Eric B. & Rakim – “Paid In Full”
09. New Order – “Bizarre Love Triangle”
08. The Cure – “In Between Days”
07. Neneh Cherry – “Buffalo Stance”
06. Prince – “When Doves Cry”
05. The Specials – “Ghost Town”
04. Talking Heads – “Once In A Lifetime”
03. The Smiths – “How Soon Is Now”
02. Joy Division – “Love Will Tear Us Apart”
01. New Order – “Blue Monday”

Head to NME for the entire feature.

Comments (134)
  1. A wise man once said;

    Some things I like are not present on this list.
    Some things I like are not as high as I would have placed them.
    Some things I do not like are present on this list.
    Some things are placed higher than I would have placed them.

    • Some things I like are not present on this list.

      Yes, where is “Eye Know”, “Say No Go” or “Me Myself and I” by De La Soul? So much better than “The Magic Number”!

    • I’ll admit that my Ipod is pretty devoid of 80s music other than GNR and the fun-sounding new-wave songs like “Take On Me” (I like to party), but I’ve always had a hard time getting into Britpop and similar sounds the UK produced during that decade, save from teh Cure. It’s odd that I’m into modern bands who have those influences like Smith Westerns, etc. I’m even a big fan of Johnny Marr’s jangly guitar work but am still not in love with the Smiths, I don’t know if its Morrisey’s voice or what.

      But real talk, the reason I haven’t gotten into that stuff might just be because from a young age this notion was implanted in my mind that all English rock from that period sounded like Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping”. Probably that

    • I once said, “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” by The Gerogia Satellites should be 1 through 100.

      • Maaaaaybe you can throw “Pop Goes the World” by Men Without Hats for some diversity.

        And no, diversity is not an old old wooden ship used in the Civil War era.

  2. “once in a lifetime” Yes!

  3. Bon Iver is exactly where he belongs on this list for once!

  4. Michael_  |   Posted on Apr 30th, 2012 +8

    Yeah, not like ’80s hardcore was relevant or anything…

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  6. Kinda stoked to see Bomb the Bass and S’Express on the list. I lived in England for a year between 88 and 89, and those two tracks combined to totally destroy my 9-year-old brain, in a good way.

  7. Anyone ever heard of a little group called The Replacements?

  8. The teardrop explodes, japan?

  9. The top 10 is actually a lot better than I was expecting it to be. Kudos.

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  12. Yeah, where is the ´Mats? I mean the Replacements… !!?
    Anyway, it´s a good list. Got many many songs of these on my list. The best 108 songs of the 80′s on Spotify :D


  13. uhm, Beastie Boys? Paul’s Boutique was out in ’89, and don’t get me started on Licensed to Ill.

  14. This is a joke, right?

  15. “We liked Joy Division better when they were called New Order” ~NME

    • Yeah that one’s a head scratcher.

    • I prefer New Order. They’re more tuneful, colorful and happy which is what I’m looking for most of the time.

      • Oh, right.

        Blue = colorful

        Monday = happy?

      • crabtron  |   Posted on Apr 30th, 2012 +4

        I agree, New Order’s music is just more exciting to me than Joy Division’s. Although I feel weird even comparing them, since they sound different in so many ways.

      • I wanted to make a tasteless joke about Ian Curtis being such a downer but I can’t. Something about prefering the “happy”-sounding band that evolved after his passing doesn’t sit right with me though. You’re right about about the happier sound, but preferring NO over JD for that reason just feels gross.

        • I hear ya. This is not to suggest that I don’t love Joy Division. Usually during the wintertime, when I am in the right mood, records like ‘Unknown Pleasures’ and ‘Closer’ and Siouxsie and the Banshees’ ‘Juju’ are the best.

          But I live in a sunny climate with the beach ten minutes from my house, and I have always had a penchant for dance music, so stuff like New Order just suits me better most of the time.

          • Nor do I mean to sell New Order short as just a bunch of shiny happyfaces. Their emotional palette is richer than that.

          • crabtron  |   Posted on May 2nd, 2012 +3

            Also, with New Order there are just more songs to choose from, and so many of them are great. If I get tired of early-80′s New Order, I can just listen to their late-80′s stuff, and vice versa. With Joy Division, there’s just not as much of a selection. But I love Joy Division too.

  16. “Billie Jean” at number 16 kind of irks me. Maybe not number one, but it’s a way better song than “Living on a Prayer”.

  17. Livin On A Prayer was the best American hard rock song? WOOF

  18. No “Super Bowl Shuffle?” Walter Payton’s ghost will surely stiff-arm each member of the NME writing staff for this embarrassing omission.

  19. This one of those rare lists that gets enough right (“Buffalo Stance” in the top ten! New Order over Joy Division! “Love Action” in favor of “Don’t You Want Me!” “It’s a Sin!!!”) that it feels like nitpicking to point out the things they get wrong (“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” > “Time After Time”….. “1999,” “Little Red Corvette,” “Purple Rain,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Kiss,” “U Got the Look” > “Sign ‘O’ the Times;” their persistent adoration for the Stone Roses, etc.).

  20. This is stupid.
    Also, the Clash, my favorite “80′s band” were granted the honor of having their worst two songs on this list.

    • HAHA! “Should I Stay or Should I Go” proves that catchy doesn’t necessarily mean good. Their worst song.

      • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  21. I’m sure this was made by someone born in the 80s (I am) and under a “pop” (of popular) perspective. That said, contributors on NME working during that era would probably dismiss at least a quarter of this list… Because where is…

    - Anything from Sarah Records??? Ok, that wasn’t that popular, but still a bit of history doesn’t harm anyone. e.g. The Field Mice – Emma’s House
    - Violent Femmes – Blister in the sun?? (or what else on that album). Guys, perhaps it’s too much to ask for Camper van Beethoven, The Replacements, Minutemen or Husker Dü..
    - The Go-Betweens? Well, these Australians lived in London for a while, didn’t they?
    - XTC – “Senses Working Overtime” or my fav “Sgt. Rock”…
    - Misfits was a band before a TV show. Dismissing Hardcore can be understandable from a “pop” perspective but “Last caress”, musically, ain’t that “extreme”…

    • And I missed:

      Talk Talk (“It’s My Life” and “I Believe in You”)
      Kraftwerk (“The Model”)
      The Heaven 17 (e.g. “Temptation”)
      Siouxsie and the Banshees
      Eurythmics (e.g. “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This))
      The Descendents
      The Style Council (“Shout to the Top”)
      The Church
      Sade (“Is It a Crime”)

  22. Anyways I like/respect most of the picks and I don’t understand some of them. But well again.. that is a list. Personal.

  23. Not a bad list, except that number 1 pick. Put that at 100 and push everything else forward.

  24. Where in the fuck are The Police????

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  26. no double fantasy :/

  27. How does it feel Stereogum? To treat me like you do?

  28. “Personal Jesus”

    • Close call. While the single was released in the 2nd half of 1989, Violater didn’t get released until March of 1990 (according to wiki, CITE YR SOURCES!) Maybe that had an effect?

      Also points off for that fake rubberjohnny account. Had I had one I would have posted: “Marilyn Manson didn’t write that song in the 80s you *expletive deleted*”

      Missed Opportunity there.

      • Can’t speak for the “fake” rubjohn account, but there ain’t no rubjohn like the “real” rubjohn cuz the “real” rubjohn don’t stop.

        The single was released in August ’89. Come on, it “sounds” like an 80′s tune, and they put a less substantial DM song on the list. Plus, how many pseudo-80′s movie scenes or 80′s night parties don’t reference that song.

        Also, by extension of NME’s bullshit list criteria, they put several songs from an album released in December ’79 on the 70′s list, so I’m calling foul on that criticism.

        By the way, whoever downvoted “personal jesus” and didn’t grab enough nut to post, fuck you. I know that wasn’t you raptor, cause I had your back on the whole meltdown thing. But maybe it was; new week, new beef.

  29. What about Cocteau Twins?

  30. No Replacements disgusts me.

  31. Looks like a playlist complied from those “Best of the 80s” mixes you see on late night infomercials. Honestly surprised to see Flock of Seagulls absent from this list. Aren’t we far enough away from the 80s at this point to sort of disregard some/much/many of these songs and get into some of the deeper cuts and more obscure bands? Did we really need yet another 80s list with “Pretty in Pink” or “Tainted Love” on it? The NME is like the People magazine of music rags.

    • While I agree in principle with your post, I am deeply frustrated that you used “Tainted Love” as your example. The album cut of that song and the breakdown are some of the best minutes recorded to tape.

      I shit on any list that NME puts out, but I think that a lot of people have similar connections to individual tracks, which makes it difficult not to include all that “Best of the 80′s”-type shit.

      But you know, that’s just, like, my opinion and stuff.

  32. only one R.E.M. song is kind of suspect

    • Too right it is. That one song being The One I Love is even more suspect. If they could only put one R.E.M. song on this list I’d have wished they’d have gone for something like Radio Free Europe or Fall On Me.

  33. The first band I was looking for was Tears for Fears. They are not on this list, yet they easily had at least two of the best songs of that decade. So…


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  35. yes, talking heads are represented here. but come on. how the shit can “this must be the place (naive melody)” not be on here.

  36. WHERE IS “TAKE ON ME” BY A-HA!?!?!?!

  37. No Replacements, no Husker Du, no fucks given about this list.

  38. INXS’ “Need You Tonight” should be higher… that’s really all I have to say about this list without writing a small essay.

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  40. Cameo’s “Word Up” should have been in the Top 10………Come on!

  41. No Peter Gabriel??? Come on, “In Your Eyes” is the quintessential 80s song.

  42. a list like this is more a representation of possibly where the artist may have place than the actually song theres simply too many good songs left out to say the ultimate top 100

    the lack of Prince. Peter Gabriel, Blue Oyster Cult (seriously no Burning for You wtf), Husker Du, and Soul II Souls is just not right

  43. lil ironic it’s a UK list, featuring The Cure and The Smiths/Moz, and the Stray Cats aren’t on it…since they were the ones to inspire them to either A) use a Gretch guitar or B) dress 50s rockabilly style/hair…

  44. You lost me at Starship

  45. I know there’s always “where’s blah blah blah” as comments when these lists come out, and it gets tiresome.

    But seriously, where’s You Can Call Me Al?

  46. Where’s Norah Jones?

  47. Ya know…this is actually not a bad list! I mean, yes, we could all go down the “They left out….blank” road but that’s why we’re all here and love music so much. I will say this, when these guys were putting together this list and had to duck out for a beer break, I think my former high school girlfriend snuck in and dropped a Bon Jovi song in the top 20 when no one was looking. Damn her. Damn her tah Hell…

  48. No Georgia Satellites, “Keep your Hands to Yourself”? I mock you list.

    “I got some change in my pocket going ‘jangalangalang’….”

  49. Where da fuck is “Age Of Consent?” Should be top 20…

  50. Most of your choice didn’t survive the test of time,
    in my opinion this is the most important quality in that kind of lists -
    that’s why it is fun to check out but has a little value.

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