Top 40 at 40: 1982-1991

I’m turning 40 this month! To help deal with celebrate that, I’ve built a playlist containing 40 of my favorite songs, each one representing a year in my life. I limited myself to one song per artist/band, for the sake of variety. And, I’m including YouTube videos so that, dear readers, you can listen to the songs for yourselves!

I’ll be breaking this into four chunks of 10 years at a time, because I don’t want to overwhelm anybody with 40 songs at once. Come back tomorrow for part 2!

1982: Who Could It Be Now by Men at Work

The song title may be a little obvious, but a song that wonders who could it be seemed fitting for the beginning of my life: Who could I end up becoming? What would my life be? Plus, Men At Work is pretty great, so I’m happy to get to start this playlist off with my favorite pop band from Austrailia.

Besides, it’s a better song title than the #1 hit the week I was born, “Don’t You Want Me” by the Human League.

1983: Let’s Dance by David Bowie

My personal favorite Bowie tune, I remember calling into radio stations and requesting this one on more than one occasion, back in the days before songs were just available to listen to all the time online.

Other than me really liking the song, and this being the year it was released, this one doesn’t directly relate to my life in 1983. That’s okay: just put on your red shoes and dance the blues.

1984: Savin’ the Day by The Alessi Brothers

Ghostbusters was released in 1984, and thanks to its related cartoon series a few years later, the film ended up becoming very important to me as a kid. While Ray Parker, Jr.’s theme is the more obvious choice here, and I DO like how Magic by Mick Smiley becomes an entirely different song halfway thru, the scene with Savin’ the Day playing definitely gets you pumped for the final battle with Gozer.

1985: Neutron Dance by The Pointer Sisters

The Pointer Sisters are incredibly underrated. I’m So Excited is probably their most popular song, but Neutron Dance and Automatic, are a little more my speed. Either way, you can’t go wrong with their greatest hits album.

1986: Dare to be Stupid by “Weird Al” Yankovic

While Weird Al is best known for his SONG parodies, it’s his STYLE parodies that impress me the most. Dare to Be Stupid is done in the style of Devo, and Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh has said he loves and hates the song for how accurate it is.

Plus, this song is featured in 1986’s Transformers: The Movie, which is, y’know, a movie I liked a lot as a kid. And as an adult. Incidentally, the original Weird Al music video couldn’t be embedded, so I used a clip featuring scenes from Transformers: The Movie, because that was the next-best thing.

1987: Hip to be Square by Huey Lewis and the News

I actually first encountered this song on Sesame Street, where they parodied it into a song about geometric shapes, called “It’s Hip to Be A Square.” It’s catchy, it’s fun, and the actual version is about being a responsible adult even if that means doing things that are a little less fun, which I appreciate. Both can be educational, and are pretty great for dancing along with.

It’s a hip song. Especially if you’re a quadrilateral with four equal sides and angles.

1988: What’s On Your Mind (Pure Energy) by Information Society

I don’t have any particular connection to this song, it’s just one of my favorite tunes from 1988.

1989: Partyman by Prince

There was no bigger pop culture event in 1989 than Tim Burton’s Batman, starring Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight Detective, and Jack Nicholson as The Joker — Well, the Berlin Wall coming down. But even the footage of THAT has a kid in a Batman shirt.

While Danny Elfman’s opening theme became THE iconic tune for Batman, the soundtrack album was done by the incomparable Prince. The track Partyman was a standout moment in the film. I’ve included the movie clip here, which includes over 50% of the song — After about the 3-minute mark in the YouTube clip, it’s just the next part of the film. Watch as you feel.

The Batman soundtrack was the first cassette of popular music that I ever owned, and I actually still have it to this day. I did eventually get the album on CD, as well.

1990: Spin That Wheel by Hi Tek 3

While Batman was a huge hit in 1989, the following year saw the release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in theaters, and Hi-Tek 3 (also usually known as Technotronic, best known for their 1989 hit Pump Up the Jam) featuring Ya Kid K on vocals was from that soundtrack. The above version is the non-TMNT release, including a couple extra verses with some drug references.

Thanks to her appearances on all three 90s TMNT film soundtracks, Ya Kid K has become one of my favorite hip-hop artists, so I had include her on this list. And here she is!

1991: You Could be Mine by Guns n’ Roses

Even though it’s featured in my favorite movie of all time, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, I actually didn’t ACTUALLY discover You Could Be Mine until a couple of years later, at an after school program. But thanks to the music video, the two will always be inextricably linked in my mind. Fun fact — For YEARS, the only place to find the music video after it stopped rotation on MTV was on the triple-disc Laserdisc box set release of T2.

While Guns n’ Roses were super cool for their time, to me Terminator 2 is the important touchstone here. It took my fascination of robots in disguise fighting their secret war amongst normal humans, and pumped it up to 11. Then it included rad action scenes with fantastic visual effects and time travel, which were the exact things that got me excited about X-Men, when that cartoon started the following year.

Speaking of the following year, come back tomorrow for songs from 1992-2001!

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