Top 10 Most Memorable Lyrics From the '80s

by Jill L. Ferguson

In the 1980s, we demanded our MTV with Dire Straits, became addicted to love with Robert Palmer, and moonwalked, flashdanced, walked like an Egyptian, and electric slid our way through the decade. '80s music was happy and hopeful, the soundtrack to our teenage idealism, dreams, and friendships.

We girls just wanted to have fun and emulate our music icons by putting on the ritz: neon hoop earrings, bountiful bangles and jelly bracelets, parachute or stirrup pants, Jordache or Guess jeans, overalls, and leg warmers a la Olivia Newton John or Jennifer Beals. And we felt the noize, bobbying our scrunchied ponytails to the beat of totally awesome hair bands. We rocked with Amadeus or the Casbah — even though I had no idea where or what that was in 1982.

Like Foreigner, our most important quest was to know what love is, and thankfully, the lyrics told us: a look, a battlefield, something to believe, or something to be lost in. Love could also turn stalkeresque, as in the hypnotic "Obsession" and the unsettling "Every Breath You Take."

The times were memorable and the lyrics reflected my teenaged feelings. They taught me lessons about love and that I wasn't alone with what I felt or was going through as I figured out who I was, what I wanted, and what life was about.

So on this Manic Monday, I'm walking on sunshine down memory lane recalling the top 10 most memorable lyrics from my teen years — the '80s:

No one captured the us vs. our parents feeling quite as hilariously as DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince with "Parents Just Don’t Understand." I tried to heed the advice of "There's no need to argue, parents just don't understand." This song was less aggressive and more relatable than the Beastie Boy's "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right" because I was not a high school partier... though I did love the Beasties' line, "Your mom threw away your best porno mag" and knew some guys who could relate.

 
 

"Kiss On My List" by Hall & Oates is iconic in its sweetness. In days of pre-sex saturation, kisses meant so much to me. The line "Because your kiss is on my list of the best things in life" became something for a kisser to strive for.

Image via Giphy

Image via Giphy

Prince and other '80s artists were poetic and playful with innuendo. "Little Red Corvette" talks of horses and jockeys. So different from 1994's "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails: "I want to fuck you like an animal." Where is the poetry or playfulness in that?

Image via Giphy

Image via Giphy

Like Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach," the peppy "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" by The Gap Band taught me that first love and sex wasn't always positive: "You were my first explosion, turned out to be corrosion. You were the first for me."

Image via Giphy

Image via Giphy

A lot of 1980's music embraced the mental acuity and social messages embedded in some 1980s songs. "We Didn't Start the Fire" by Billy Joel tops this category by literally listing notable figures and events from around the world with the not-our-fault refrain being the only lyrics I found easy to master: "We didn't start the fire / It was always burning /Since the world's been turning / We didn't start the fire / No we didn't light it./ But we tried to fight it."

Image via Giphy

Image via Giphy

In a similar spirit of "we didn't create this mess, but we'd like it to end" is U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday." The haunting refrain,"How long, how long must we sing this song" is, sadly, as applicable to the bloodshed of today as it was on the actual Sunday Bloody Sunday in Derry, Northern Ireland, in 1972.

Image via Make A Gif

Image via Make A Gif

"Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey brought hope to this "small town girl livin' in a lonely world" and to lots of city boys who wanted to take a "midnight train goin' an-y-wherrrre."

Image via Giphy

Image via Giphy

nd as we dreamed of going somewhere, anywhere, The Eurythmics "Sweet Dreams" reminded us "everybody is looking for something," and that it was extremely important to "Hold your head up. Keep your head up, movin' on" despite certain high school cliques routinely disowning a member or two...

 
 

No '80s list would be complete without old-school rap, which was created the decade before but came into the mainstream thanks to Grandmaster Flash, Kurtis Blow, Sugarhill Gang, and RUN-DMC. "Basketball" by Kurtis Blow makes my list for extolling the virtues of sport (instead of misogyny or violence): "I like slam dunks, take me to the hoop. My favorite play is the alley-oop."

Image via Giphy

Image via Giphy

Finally, here's the granddaddy of this decade's proliferation of songs devoted to strippers. "Centerfold" by J. Geils Band is the story of a school-age crush. "She was pure like snowflakes, no one could ever stain" and yet he finds her years later as the centerfold of his adult magazine.

~~~

These songs never fail to make me feel forever young in my fast car tapping my Chuck Taylors to the beat. What are your most memorable lyrics from the '80s?

 

Jill L. Ferguson is an artist, the author of seven books, and the entrepreneur who founded Women's Wellness Weekends. Her hair isn't as big as it was when she was a teenaged ice and roller rink rat, but she still loves to skate.