In no particular order other than the order in which they popped into my head…
“Double Vision” Foreigner (No. 2, 1978, from Double Vision) The problem with being a rock & roll band that had its biggest hits with power ballads (“Waiting for a Girl Like You” and “I Want to Know What Love Is,” Foreigners only No. 1 U.S. single) is that it makes it easy for people to forget how great you sounded in the vicinity of crashing guitars. If I’d forgotten about Foreigner’s considerable rock might, I received a bracing reminder at the gym yesterday when my iPod shuffle picked the biggest rocker of the band’s career. The dramatic key change on the chorus, the haunting outro, Lou Gramm’s kick-ass vocal — it all sounds so good 35 years later that I pressed repeat at least a dozen times.
“When It’s Over” Loverboy (No. 26, 1982, from Get Lucky) About 10 years and two months ago, I was at an ’80s-themed New Year’s Eve party in London, and the two biggest surprises of the evening came when the DJ spun Loverboy (“Working for the Weekend” — what else?), and moments later, when a friend revealed that the Canadian outfit was her all-time favorite band. What? Two major props in one night? When people talk about acts that defined the ’80s, Loverboy never seems to make the list, which is too bad. Many of the group’s hits still hold up today, especially the best one, which, interestingly, wouldn’t have sounded so out of place on 1981’s Foreigner 4.
“More Than a Feeling” Boston (No. 5, 1976, from Boston) Sporadic output (only five albums between 1976 and 2002) and the lack of a focal point member for marketing purposes may have stopped Boston from becoming as legendary as it should be, but any rock & roll disciple who denies having logged hours cranking Boston’s first hit on the headphones is either lying or deaf.
“Don’t Stop Believin'” Journey (No. 9, 1981, No. 4, 2009, from Escape) Want to know when I lost all hope for the music taste of Gen Y? About two years ago, my 22-year-old boyfriend at the time floored me when he told me that the only version of this seminal ’80s Journey hit that he’d ever heard was the Glee massacre of it, which was why he loved the song. That’s what you get for being born in 1988! But even after a much-needed history lesson (during which I played Journey’s original for him for the first time), he still stood by his love for that anemic cover by the Glee kids. Sacrilege!
“Back in Black” AC/DC (No. 37, 1981, from Back in Black) How is it possible that the Australian band behind a three-decade string of platinum and multi-platinum albums, and such iconic rock songs as “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” “You Shook Me All Night Long” and this one (which it’s impossible for me to listen to without being haunted by the ghost of Bon Scott, the late AC/DC singer in whose memory it was written and recorded), never managed to climb above No. 23 (with 1990’s “Moneytalks,” of all singles) on Billboard‘s Hot 100?
“Everybody Wants You” Billy Squier (No. 32, 1982, from Emotions in Motion) Until Alicia Keys sampled the drum line from Squier’s “The Big Beat” on her recent “Girl on Fire” single, it had been years since anyone had given such public acknowledgement to the biggest male solo rock act of the early 1980s. I’m now ready for a full-blown revival led by his greatest — if not necessarily his biggest — hit.
“Desire Walks On” Heart (1993, from Desire Walks On) Okay, I concede! It wasn’t a hit (nor even a single), and it’s far from a classic in the traditional sense of the word (something that’s celebrated by the masses), but listen and learn what sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson could still do in the ’90s. (And afterwards, check out the great, underrated 1993 opus on which it was the closing track.)
“Once Bitten, Twice Shy” Great White (No. 5, 1989, from …Twice Shy) Mott the Hoople’s Ian Hunter wrote it and made it a 1975 Top 20 UK single, but it was Great White’s 1989 cover that remains my all-time favorite hair-metal hit.
“Shadows of the Night” Pat Benatar (No. 13, 1982, from Get Nervous) I’ve written it before (here), and I’ll do so again: Can we get a major comeback, please? Those recent props on Glee (via a mash-up “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and Blondie’s “One Way Or Another”) and Drop Dead Diva (via an impromptu performance of “Love Is a Battlefield” by Brooke Elliott and Faith Prince) were nice, but the world needs to be reminded that Benatar was good for a lot more than just two songs.
“Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (No. 3, 1981, from Bella Donna) One of the greatest things about Nicks solo career was how she was brave enough to kick it off with a single that was pure Stevie Nicks, yet sounded like nothing she’d ever done before with Fleetwood Mac (probably because it was written not by her but by Tom Petty and Mike Campbell) and like nothing she’s done — solo or with the band — since.