Songs to learn and sing. The Eighties' Top 10 singles:
1. PUBLIC ENEMY "Fight the Power" (Motown, 1989). PE drove home the decade's most vital and direct statement with a hip-hop hammer. No wonder Radio Raheem fought to death for it in Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing."
2. MADONNA "Who's That Girl" (Sire, 1987). With this pastiche of Top 40 trash and Latin hip-hop, Madonna delivered everything chiquitas like Gloria Estefan and Lisa Lisa only promised. Almost made up for its lame cinematic source, too.
3. R.E.M. "(Don't Go Back to) Rockville" (I.R.S., 1984). All the murky atmospherics and obfuscatory vocals went out the window on a single more Old Nashville than New South. The honky-tonk gem proved the Athens, Georgia, boys to be Johnny Cash's unlikely kin.
4. WALL OF VOODOO "Mexican Radio" (I.R.S., 1982). With a skewed techno beat and surrealistic border imagery, this one seemed inspired by Jos e Cuervo. While the zany rhythms drew you in, the eerie sense of alienation made the tune truly memorable.
5. SYLVESTER "Do Ya Wanna Funk?" (Megatone, 1982). If this raunchy, aggro-dance single by disco queen Sylvester (who died of AIDS last year) were re-released today, it would be as controversial as Robert Mapplethorpe's photos. Offensive to PMRC-types or not, it's still an unforgettable distillation of disco sleaze.
6. THE REPLACEMENTS "I Don't Know" (Sire, 1987). "Should we give it up or hang around some more?" mused singer Paul Westerberg on this thoughtful rave-up. It caught the Replacements at the cusp of restless maturity, courting careerist rock 'n' roll, then happily spitting in its face.
7. THE SMITHS "Boy With the Thorn in His Side" (Rough Trade/Sire, 1986). Never was the dichotomy between Morrissey's anguished introspection and Johnny Marr's brilliant, spirited guitar work so effective. And it had the Big Mouth playing his favorite role: a martyr to forbidden love.
8. CABARET VOLTAIRE "Sensoria" (Some Bizarre/Virgin, 1984). Given its roots in the antiseptic world of British industrial music, this was a real find: a soulful butt-shaking slab o' funk that would sound just as natural blasting from a back-street beatbox.
9. ELVIS COSTELLO "Everyday I Write the Book" (Columbia, 1983). Who'd have figured that the master of vitriol himself would pen the decade's prettiest love song? Costello's wry literary analogies made this cutting yet tender, sardonic but sweet.
10. BANGLES "Hero Takes a Fall" (CBS, 1984). Filled with hard-edged guitar riffs and allusions to Aeschylus, this proved that pre-sellout Bangles were the only Eighties girl group that could get as down 'n' dirty as rock's big boys (sorry, Vixen) and still show a cerebral side.
Radio refuse. The Eighties' Bottom 10 singles:
1. GUNS N' ROSES "Sweet Child O' Mine" (Geffen, 1987). As a sappy little love song, it was blandly forgettable. But as a catalyst for the ensuing glut of vile power balladry, this was the Eighties' most unfortunate No. 1 hit.
2. STEVE WINWOOD "Don't You Know What the Night Can Do" (Virgin, 1988) and GENESIS "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" (Atlantic, 1986). Two seminal singles in the odious trend toward corpo-rock sponsorship. Winwood's tune represented a new low in musical advertising (it was hawked to Michelob before the record was even released); "Tonight" gave us another good reason to hate Phil Collins.
3. EDIE BRICKELL AND NEW BOHEMIANS "What I Am" (Geffen, 1988). "Choke me . . . before I get too deep," whined Brickell, and what a tempting invitation it was. The most overrated of all late Eighties sensitive female singer-songwriters, this neo-granola girl and her smelly Earth-Shoe folk gave rock's distaff branch a bad name.
4. CHRISTOPHER CROSS "Sailing" (Warner Bros., 1980). Only technically an Eighties performer, Cross was actually part of the soft-rock immortals from a decade earlier. The Man Who Would Be Manilow's smarmiest moment.
5. BRUCE WILLIS "Respect Yourself" (Motown, 1987). The wine-cooler pitchman belched his way through this slice of yupster soul, forever defiling the Staple Singers' original. On the credibility scale, it ranked below the California Raisins' Motown covers.
6. HUEY LEWIS AND THE NEWS "Hip To Be Square" (Chrysalis, 1986). Quintessential Lewis and the Snooze, this single had Huey playing the cheerful geek, a role he milked more successfully than anyone this decade, except maybe Dan Quayle.
7. MICHAEL SEMBELLO "Maniac" (Casablanca, 1983). Somehow it made perfect sense that Sembello originally wrote this cut as the theme song for a slasher flick. Even though it was reworked into Flashdance's perky aerobic anthem, there was still a genuinely seamy and violent edge to the track, which would have been better titled, "Dance, Bitch, Dance!"
8. LOVE AND ROCKETS "So Alive" (RCA/Beggars Banquet, 1989). "I'm sooooo alive," murmured somnambulant singer Daniel Ash, and the irony of that line was the only glimmer of wit this dirge-dance number offered. Its sleepy monotone vocals and metronomic beat represented the nadir of British wuss-pop.
9. WHAM! FEATURING GEORGE MICHAEL "Careless Whisper" (Columbia, 1984). Supposedly Michael penned this at 16, which might explain why even the mash notes of the New Kids On The Block aren't as gooey or sophomoric.
10. BON JOVI "Dead or Alive" (Mercury, 1986). Jon boy tried to lay a major guilt trip on his fans by grousing about how rough mega-stardom is. Worst of all, he actually got a nation of little girls to sympathize with him. (Year refers to release date of album on which song appears.)