Top 50 Tracks of the 1980s: # 5-1

5. Pet Shop Boys with Dusty Springfield, “What Have I Done To Deserve This?”
If asked to show a person from another era what 1980s music was like and how good it could be, I’d play them this. Unlike various songs here that I’ve described as “timeless”, this one screams 1987; even ’60s icon Springfield sounds like she’s been given a 20-year, buff-and-shine update (although her chorus here ranks with all her classic work). Fortunately, the Pets always knew how to temper sophistication with mass appeal, and Springfield benefits as much from them as they do from her.

4. The Smiths, “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”
I could write a whole book on this song (seriously); for the sake of this blog, I’ll keep it brief. Not one wasted note exists on this fan favorite/penultimate track on The Queen is Dead, from those startling first guitar chords to Morrissey’s repeated intonation of the song’s mysterious, delectable title near the fade-out. Arguably the closest this iconoclastic band ever came to a love song, and who else would say, “To die by your side / is such a heavenly way to die” in a love song and make you believe it?

3. Cyndi Lauper, “Time After Time”
Since I didn’t have MTV in 1984, I don’t know if, at that time, I ever knew this was by the same weirdo who sang “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”. It always remained in the depths of my subconscious until, as an adult, having confirmed who sung it, I found it more deeply affecting with each passing year. Such a good song that everyone seems to love it (sitcom characters even do abrupt karaoke renditions of it)–I’ve never met anyone who genuinely loathes it.

2. The Go-Betweens, “Bye Bye Pride”
These Aussies always deserved so much more love than they got; arguably, only real music geeks knew their work. Collected, it plays like an alternate universe soundtrack where everything’s more literate and romantic (though not in a sentimental sense). I posted the lyrics to this, one of their most beautiful and buoyant songs when its writer/vocalist abruptly died in 2006, putting a tragic end to the group. I try to live my life in accordance with its pragmatic optimism; I also love that it fades out with an oboe solo (of all things).

1. New Order, “Temptation”
“Temptation” has to be number one. I briefly considered deliberately keeping it off the top because I’ve already blogged about how it’s my favorite song, but if I’m being honest with myself, it can’t be # 2 or 3 or 10 or whatever. I have little left to say about it except that it was awesome to finally see the band perform it live last month and that the last two minutes and thirty seconds (from “Bolts from above hit the people down below” on) are possibly my favorite 2:30 of any song.