The 80s, the best decade of music in my opinion it had everything, New Wave, Madchester and some of the best cheese, when making an 80s party playlist we all know the obvious tracks that will be in any playlist, like Wham! Elton John, Rick Astley, Kylie Minogue etcetera.
However these following track whilst in no particular order of quality are some tracks that you should think about putting in your 80s music playlist.
Bronski Beat – Why?
Formed in 1983 by Steve Bronski, Larry Stienbachek and lead singer Jimmy Sommerville, the song taken from the band’s debut album The Age of Consent which contains synth drums and a bit of a Jazz feel. It is one of the best Synth Pop tracks and a brilliant song lyrically about Anti-Gay prejudice.
Why? Was released after their first single and classic Smalltown Boy, reaching number 6 in the UK singles charts and 27 in the U.S. Hot Dance Club Singles chart. But it’s an incredibly popular song in the European music charts reaching number 2 in the Dutch top 40, number 3 in Belgium and number 5 in the then West German charts.
If you want to hear a mashup of Why? and Smalltown Boy then I recommend the equally brilliant Supermode track Tell Me Why which in its own right in an excellent dance track.
Heaven 17 – Temptation
Not just a band featured in an internet advert a few years back but this 80s classic by Heaven 17, another synth pop band trust me this isn’t a synth pop list. Heaven 17 formed in Sheffield in 1980 with two of its founding members Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh coming from fellow Sheffield act The Human League.
The song itself is the bands highest charting song peaking at number 2 in the UK Top 40 and number 3 in the Republic of Ireland.
Martyn Ware reportedly wrote the song in reference to the Lord’s Prayer with the line “Lead Us Not Into Temptation” featured in the song and with a Motownish vibe to the song it’s an instant classic from the bands second album The Luxury Gap.
Motörhead – Ace of Spades
In the summer of 1980 Motörhead were already a known and establish band however their bestselling song was yet to come, but then in October of 1980 the band dropped the title track from the new album Ace of Spades.
The track is dirty, it’s gritty, it rock ‘n’ roll from the last true rock star in Lemmy Kilmister, this song will bring a very different flavour to any 80s playlist assuming you’ve gone with the cheese this is the perfect song to change the mood, the tempo and get the heads rocking.
Nena – 99 Luftballons
You mean 99 Red Balloons right? Nope, simply because Nena allegedly regret translating their Cold War West German anthem 99 Luftballons which translates to 99 Balloons. The song’s English version spent three weeks at the top of the UK charts in 1984.
The song makes a point about the paranoia surrounding the issue of a full blown war between East and the West, the lyrics talk about 99 balloons being released and turning up on radar as unidentified objects with both sides scrambling jet fighters to intercept fearing it’s an attack from the other side.
It’s a fantastic discotheque classic so well worth being on any playlist let alone an 80s one.
Prefab Sprout – King of Rock ‘N’ Roll
“Hot Dogs Jumping Frogs Almond Cookies” Bonus points if you get the reference not that anyone is keeping score!
This 1988 release may be able to claim it has the strangest music video ever made although the Mick Jagger David Bowie ‘Dancing in the Street’ might give it a run for its money. The song is reportedly a response to Prefab Sprout front man Paddy McAloon dislike for songs with Rock ‘N’ Roll in the title.
Designed to be incredibly catchy, the song tells the story of a seemingly washed up 50s singer known for this one hit wonder song and is forced to sing the same lyrics over and over again because that’s all the people want, they want ‘Hot Dog, Jumping Frog, Albuquerque’.
It’s a song that much like You Can Call me Al by Paul Simon is incredibly catchy and with a happy melody but when you analyse the lyrics then you understand the utter genius of the song.
Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark - Enola Gay
It’s another Cold War anthem and another song that melody wise is incredibly catchy but lyrically darker.
The song asks you the listener if this is right, should this have happened to Japan and Hiroshima, the lyrics are clever with references to the time 8:15 which was the time in Japan the bomb was dropped and subsequently killed approximately sixty six thousand people.
‘Enola Gay, is mother proud of little boy today’ Little Boy being the code name of the actual bomb, ending with “this kiss you give, it’s never ever gonna fade away” could be seen as not only referring to nuclear radiation the effects of which are still being debated by scientists today, but also the genie is out of the bottle regarding the use of nukes in warfare.
The song was OMD’s first top 10 hit and the band would go onto have many more in the coming years but this is our favourite OMD track and should be on any 80s playlist.
Ultravox – Vienna
Originally formed as Tiger Lilly in 1974 Ultravox had seemingly ended in 1979 when lead singer John Foxx left the band and Island records dropped them but no one told the other band members that, as Billy Currie recruited Midge Ure as the new lead vocalist.
It was at that moment the band struck gold as the music direction of the group changed as did their fortunes. Ure and Currie had met whilst working collaborating on Visage, a studio New Romantics band.
Vienna the title track from the band’s fourth album, released in 1980 the song was considered to long and slow by the bands label Chrysalis Records. But the song made it to seven-Inch in January of 81’ with a black and white video filmed in Covent Garden and Vienna.
Vienna won “Single of the Year” at the 1981 Brit Awards and was the bands first top 10 hit reaching number 2 in the UK singles charts, what kept it off the top spot, Shaddap You Face by Joe Dolce.
Beastie Boys – Fight For Your Right