1981: A Transition Year If There Ever Was One


Transition was the theme of 1981. Personally, I transitioned from a high school student to a college student. Musically, 1981 represented the year that arena rock made its final year of dominance on the charts. Probably the biggest reason why that is was the launch of MTV on August 1. Sure, the AOR artists had videos, but the English new wave artists had the exciting ones. And, as MTV spread throughout the country, a second British would take place. However, in 1981, all of that was in the future. But, at that moment, radio was all about Journey, Styx, Foreigner and the rest.

9.11 pat benatar

1981 was also cool because Tom Petty, The Police and The J. Geils Band were all getting their due. Joan Jett, who always seemed destined for rock stardom, had her moment in the sun. Pat Benatar, Styx, Rush, Journey and Stevie Nicks all had number one albums. Ozzy Osbourne made a dramatic comeback. You could feel the music world beginning to rumble. Think about classic rock radio today, and many of the songs on my list are still getting lots of run today.

9.11 journey

Perhaps the song that has had the longest legs of all would have to be Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'”. That song has taken on a life of its own over the years, thanks in no part to its use on the pilot of the TV sensation Glee. That show exposed so many of the songs of early Gen X lives to the millennials, but Journey’s signature song is the one that has become one of the most streamed and downloaded songs of the digital age. And, as great of a song it is, I simply love other songs better. Yet, they will never capture the imagination of generations like that Journey song.

So, let’s get this thing started! Here’s my 100 favorite songs of 1981.

9.11 Christopher-Cross

100. “Arthur” – Christopher Cross

99. “Who’s Crying Now” – Journey

98. “Miss Sun” – Boz Scaggs

97. “Destroyer” – The Kinks

96. “Turn Your Love Around” – George Benson

95. “Baby, Come to Me” – Patti Austin & James Ingram

94. “Never Too Much” – Luther Vandross

93. “Freeze Frame” – The J. Geils Band

92. “Spirits in the Material World” – The Police

9.11 carl carlton

91. “She’s a Bad Mamma Jamma (She’s Built, She’s Stacked)” – Carl Carlton

90. “Ceremony” – Joy Division

89. “Stars on 45 Medley” – Stars on 45

88. “Girls on Film” – Duran Duran

87. “Take Off” – Bob & Doug McKenzie with Geddy Lee

86. “Gemini Dream” – The Moody Blues

85. “Lunatic Fringe” – Red Rider

84. “Endless Love” – Diana Ross & Lionel Richie

83. “Absolute Beginners” – The Jam

82. “I Ain’t Gonna Stand for It” – Stevie Wonder

81. “This Time” – John Cougar

80. “I Love You” – Climax Blues Band

9.11 dolly parton

79. “9 to 5” – Dolly Parton

78. “A Woman Needs Love (Just like You Do)” – Raydio

77. “Oh No” – The Commodores

76. “Young Turks” – Rod Stewart

75. “Just Between You and Me” – April Wine

74. “To Hell with Poverty” – Gang of Four

73. “T.V. Party” – Black Flag

72. “Gloria” – U2

9.11 manhattan transfer

71. “Boy from New York City” – The Manhattan Transfer

70. “All These Years Ago” – George Harrison

69. “How ‘Bout Us?” – Champaign

68. “You Better, You Bet” – The Who

67. “Turn Me Loose” – Loverboy

66. “Just Can’t Get Enough” – Depeche Mode

65. “When She Was My Girl” – The Four Tops

64. “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheel of Steel” – Grandmaster Flash

63. “Ghost Town” – The Specials

62. “Lady (You Bring Me Up)” – The Commodores

61. “Slow Hand” – The Pointer Sisters

9.11 kool & the gang

60. “Get Down on It” – Kool & the Gang

59. “Hold on Loosely” – .38 Special

58. “This Little Girl” – Gary “U.S.” Bonds

57. “Abacab” – Genesis

56. “Winning” – Santana

55. “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)” – AC/DC

54. “Hold on Tight” – Electric Light Orchestra

53. “Pretty in Pink” – The Psychedelic Furs

52. “Being with You” – Smokey Robinson

51. “Harden My Heart” – Quarterflash

50. “Controversy” – Prince

9.11 saga

49. “On the Loose” – Saga

48. “Burnin’ for You” – Blue Öyster Cult

47. “Games People Play” – Alan Parsons Project

46. “Waiting for a Girl like You” – Foreigner

45. “Celebration” – Kool & the Gang

44. “Too Much Time on My Hands” – Styx

43. “Tom Sawyer” – Rush

42. “Shake It Up” – The Cars

9.11 yoko ono

41. “Walking on Thin Ice” – Yoko Ono

40. “The Breakup Song” – Greg Kihn Band

39. “A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me)” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

38. “Time” – Alan Parsons Project

37. “The Voice” – The Moody Blues

36. “Limelight” – Rush

35. “Talk of the Town” – The Pretenders

34. “Edge of Seventeen” – Stevie Nicks

33. “While You See a Chance” – Steve Winwood

32. “Same Old Lang Syne” – Dan Fogelberg

31. “Ain’t Even Done with the Night” – John Cougar

9.11 Kim-Carnes

30. “Bette Davis Eyes” – Kim Carnes

29. “Jessie’s Girl” – Rick Springfield

28. “Magic Power” – Triumph

27. “I’ve Done Everything for You” – Rick Springfield

26. “Start Me Up” – The Rolling Stones

25. “Don’t Stop Believin'” – Journey

24. “Waiting on a Friend” – The Rolling Stones

23. “Private Eyes” – Daryl Hall & John Oates

9.11 The-Go-Gos

22. “Our Lips Are Sealed” – The Go-Go’s

21. “Let’s Groove” – Earth, Wind & Fire

20. “You Make My Dreams” – Daryl Hall & John Oates

19. “Give It to Me Baby” – Rick James

18. “The Stroke” – Billy Squier

17. “Urgent” – Foreigner

16. “Tempted” – Squeeze

9.11 ozzy osbourne

15. “Crazy Train” – Ozzy Osbourne

14. “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” – Stevie Nicks with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

13. “Kiss on My List” – Daryl Hall & John Oates

12. “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

11. “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)” – Daryl Hall & John Oates

9.11 frankie smith

10. “Double Dutch Bus” – Frankie Smith

9. “Dancing with Myself” – Billy Idol

8. “Centerfold” – The J. Geils Band

7. “I Know What Boys Like” – The Waitresses

6. “Genius of Love” – Tom Tom Club

9.11 Rick_James

5. “Super Freak” – Rick James

4. “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” – The Police

3. “In the Air Tonight” – Phil Collins

2. “Under Pressure” – Queen & David Bowie

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

1. “The Waiting” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

Author: ifmyalbumscouldtalk

I am just a long-time music fan who used to be a high school science teacher and a varsity coach of several high school athletic teams. Before that, I worked as a medical technologist at three hospitals in their labs, mainly as a microbiologist. I am retired/disabled (Failed Back Surgery Syndrome), and this is my attempt to remain a human. Additionally, I am a serious vinyl aficionado, with a CD addiction and a love of reading about rock history. Finally, I am a fan of Prince, Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, R.E.M., Hall & Oates, Springsteen, Paul Weller & his bands and Power Pop music.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: