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“What really matters is what you like, not what you are like… Books, records, films — these things matter.”
— High Fidelity

Etcetera

Best Songs of 1982

Sandwiched in between two of my favorite songs of all-time, the other 98 tracks on this list are ones that were already part of the musical firmament by the time I my awareness of the world around me began to fully form a few years later. So it’s not so much that these songs present my earliest musical memories, but more apt to say that a large chunk of this list was the foundation for my music listening in the years to come.

This might say something, too, about the time itself, for back in 1982, it wasn’t simply that the world moved slower; it was also the case that things were allowed to stick around longer. Movies would stay in theaters for months. TV shows reran for decades. Not so much anymore; now there are too many other options in the pipeline, too many pieces of content itching to find their place in the culture.

All of which is to say that I don’t necessarily associate much of this playlist with the year 1982. A possible culprit of this collapsing of time? MTV. The network was in its first full year of operation in ’82, and fully blossomed in 1983 (especially when it finally decided to air the now-iconic “Billie Jean” video after Michael Jackson’s equally legendary Motown 25 performance). So what I am saying, obliquely, is that it took awhile for the culture to materialize back then. Perhaps, too, there is something to be said about the limitations of delivery and the gatekeepers that controlled them… but that’s another story.

Whatever the reason, and surely there are plenty, these songs defined the decade to the point that I would guess lots of people, including you, would be surprised to know that they originate in this particular year. It was one which, too, finally shed the last vestiges of the sounds of the ’70s, which is probably why so much of this playlist can be so readily reduced to its decade-based moniker. This is the first year of the Eighties which actually sounds like &ldquoEighties”.

For these year-end lists, I like to undertake the seemingly impossibly task of creating an hours-long mix. The order you see below represents that effort, which you can listen to via Spotify. Sadly all 100 tracks aren't available—just 5 short!—but you get the general idea. Track notes to come eventually or maybe never.

  1. Thriller

    Wanna Be Startin’ Something’

    Michael Jackson

    Thriller

    Epic

    Notes

  2. Upstairs at Eric's

    Situation

    Yaz

    Upstairs at Eric’s

    Sire

    Notes

  3. Keep It Live

    Let It Whip

    Dazz Band

    Keep It Live

    Motown

    Notes

  4. Zapp II

    Doo Wa Ditty

    Zapp

    Zapp II

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  5. West Coast Poplock

    West Coast Poplock

    Ronnie Hudson & The Street People

    West Coast Poplock 12"

    Street People

    Notes

  6. Computer Games

    Atomic Dog

    George Clinton

    Computer Games

    Capitol

    Notes

  7. Gap Band IV

    You Dropped a Bomb on Me

    The Gap Band

    Gap Band IV

    Mercury

    Notes

  8. Killer on the Rampage

    Electric Avenue

    Eddy Grant

    Killer on the Rampage

    Portrait

    Notes

  9. The Golden Age of Wireless

    She Blinded Me With Science

    Thomas Dolby

    The Golden Age of Wireless

    Capitol

    Notes

  10. Friend or Foe

    Goody Two Shoes

    Adam Ant

    Friend or Foe

    CBS

    Notes

  11. The Gift

    Town Called Malice

    The Jam

    The Gift

    Polydor

    Notes

  12. Special Beat Service

    Save It For Later

    The English Beat

    Special Beat Service

    I.R.S.

    Notes

  13. Too-Rye-Ay

    Come On Eileen

    Dexys Midnight Runners

    Too-Rye-Ay

    Mercury

    Notes

  14. The Rise & Fall

    Our House

    Madness

    The Rise & Fall

    Stiff Records

    Notes

  15. After the Snow

    I Melt With You

    Modern English

    After the Snow

    Sire

    Notes

  16. Call of the West

    Mexican Radio

    Wall of Voodoo

    Call of the West

    I.R.S.

    Notes

  17. Billy Idol

    White Wedding

    Billy Idol

    Billy Idol

    Chrysalis

    Notes

  18. Walk Among Us

    Skulls

    Misfits

    Walk Among Us

    Slash

    Notes

  19. Under the Big Black Sun

    Blue Spark

    X

    Under the Big Black Sun

    Elektra

    Notes

  20. Vs.

    Trem Two

    Mission of Burma

    Vs.

    Ace of Hearts

    Notes

  21. Miami

    Texas Serenade

    The Gun Club

    Miami

    Animal

    Notes

  22. Benefactor

    Never Say Never

    Romeo Void

    Benefactor

    Columbia

    Notes

  23. Running Away

    No One’s Little Girl

    The Raincoats

    Running Away / No One’s Little Girl

    4AD

    Notes

  24. 10 Cents a Dance

    Jukebox (Don’t Put Another Dime)

    The Flirts

    10 Cents a Dance

    “O”

    Notes

  25. Vacation

    Vacation

    The Go-Go’s

    Vacation

    I.R.S.

    Notes

  26. I Want Candy

    I Want Candy

    Bow Wow Wow

    I Want Candy

    RCA

    Notes

  27. Scandal

    Goodbye to You

    Scandal

    Scandal

    Columbia

    Notes

  28. So Excited!

    I’m So Excited

    Pointer Sisters

    So Excited!

    Planet Records

    Notes

  29. Janet Jackson

    Young Love

    Janet Jackson

    Janet Jackson

    A&M

    Notes

  30. Jump To It

    Jump To It

    Aretha Franklin

    Jump To It

    Arista

    Notes

  31. Why

    Why

    Carly Simon

    Why 12"

    Mirage

    Notes

  32. Avalon

    More Than This

    Roxy Music

    Avalon

    Virgin

    Notes

  33. Quartet

    Reap the Wild Wind

    Ultravox

    Quartet

    Chrysalis

    Notes

  34. Temptation

    Temptation

    New Order

    Temptation 12"

    Factory

    Notes

  35. Da Da Da

    Da Da Da (I Don’t Love You You Don’t Love Me Aha Aha Aha)

    Trio

    Da Da Da

    Mercury

    Notes

  36. A Broken Frame

    The Sun and the Rainfall

    Depeche Mode

    A Broken Frame

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  37. Shuttered Room

    Red Skies

    The Fixx

    Shuttered Room

    MCA

    Notes

  38. A Flock of Seagulls

    I Ran

    A Flock of Seagulls

    A Flock of Seagulls

    Arista

    Notes

  39. The Party's Over

    Talk Talk

    Talk Talk

    The Party’s Over

    EMI

    Notes

  40. Rio

    Hungry Like the Wolf

    Duran Duran

    Rio

    Capitol

    Notes

  41. Security

    Shock the Monkey

    Peter Gabriel

    Peter Gabriel

    Geffen

    Notes

  42. Forever Now

    Love My Way

    The Psychedelic Furs

    Forever Now

    Columbia

    Notes

  43. The Blurred Crusade

    Almost With You

    The Church

    The Blurred Crusade

    Second Motion

    Notes

  44. Groovy Decay

    The Cars She Used to Drive

    Robyn Hitchcock

    Groovy Decay

    Albion

    Notes

  45. Marshall Crenshaw

    Someday, Someway

    Marshall Crenshaw

    Marshall Crenshaw

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  46. Shoot Out the Lights

    Wall of Death

    Richard & Linda Thompson

    Shoot Out the Lights

    Rykodisc

    Notes

  47. The Days of Wine and Roses

    Tell Me When It’s Over

    The Dream Syndicate

    The Days of Wine and Roses

    Slash

    Notes

  48. Chronic Town

    Wolves, Lower

    R.E.M.

    Chronic Town

    I.R.S.

    Notes

  49. Repercussion

    Neverland

    The dB’s

    Repercussion

    Albion

    Notes

  50. Green on Red

    Illustrated Crawling

    Green on Red

    Green on Red

    Down There

    Notes

  51. Meet the Windbreakers

    That Girl

    The Windbreakers

    Meet the Windbreakers

    Big Monkey

    Notes

  52. Learning to Crawl

    Back on the Chain Gang

    Pretenders

    Learning to Crawl

    Sire

    Notes

  53. Fast Times at Ridgemont High

    Somebody’s Baby

    Jackson Browne

    Fast Times at Ridgemont High

    Asylum

    Notes

  54. Picture This

    Do You Believe in Love

    Huey Lewis & The News

    Picture This

    Chrysalis

    Notes

  55. Mirage

    Hold Me

    Fleetwood Mac

    Mirage

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  56. Daylight Again

    Southern Cross

    Crosby, Stills & Nash

    Daylight Again

    Atlantic

    Notes

  57. Grasshopper

    One Step Ahead of the Blues

    J.J. Cale

    Grasshopper

    Island

    Notes

  58. Beautiful Vision

    Dweller on the Threshold

    Van Morrison

    Beautiful Vision

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  59. The Nightfly

    I.G.Y.

    Donald Fagen

    The Nightfly

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  60. H2O

    One on One

    Daryl Hall & John Oates

    H2O

    RCA

    Notes

  61. Where Everybody Knows Your Name

    Where Everybody Knows Your Name

    Gary Portnoy

    Where Everybody Knows Your Name

    Applause

    Notes

  62. Tug of War

    Take It Away

    Paul McCartney

    Tug of War

    Columbia

    Notes

  63. If That's What It Takes

    I Gotta Try

    Michael McDonald

    If That’s What It Takes

    Reprise

    Notes

  64. Get Loose

    Love Come Down

    Evelyn “Champagne” King

    Get Loose

    RCA

    Notes

  65. Murphy's Law

    Murphy’s Law

    Cheri

    Murphy’s Law

    Venture

    Notes

  66. Vanity 6

    Nasty Girl

    Vanity 6

    Vanity 6

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  67. What Time Is It?

    777-9311

    The Time

    What Time Is It?

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  68. 1999

    1999

    Prince

    1999

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  69. The Message

    The Message

    Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

    The Message

    Sugar Hill

    Notes

  70. Planet Rock

    Planet Rock

    Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force

    Planet Rock

    Tommy Boy

    Notes

  71. Who's Foolin' Who?

    Cutie Pie

    One Way

    Who’s Foolin’ Who?

    MCA

    Notes

  72. Moving Target

    Explanations

    Gil Scott-Heron

    Moving Target

    Arista

    Notes

  73. Straight From the Heart

    Forget Me Nots

    Patrice Rushen

    Straight From the Heart

    Elektra

    Notes

  74. Midnight Love

    Sexual Healing

    Marvin Gaye

    Midnight Love

    Columbia

    Notes

  75. Kissing to Be Clever

    Do You Really Want to Hurt Me

    Culture Club

    Kissing to Be Clever

    Virgin

    Notes

  76. Toto IV

    Africa

    Toto

    Toto IV

    Columbia

    Notes

  77. English Settlement

    Senses Working Overtime

    XTC

    English Settlement

    Caroline

    Notes

  78. Sweets From a Stranger

    Black Coffee in Bed

    Squeeze

    Sweets From a Stranger

    A&M

    Notes

  79. Nick the Knife

    Heart

    Nick Lowe

    Nick the Knife

    F-Beat

    Notes

  80. Beatitude

    A Quick One

    Ric Ocasek

    Beatitude

    Geffen

    Notes

  81. Night and Day

    Steppin’ Out

    Joe Jackson

    Night and Day

    A&M

    Notes

  82. Always on My Mind

    Always on My Mind

    Willie Nelson

    Always on My Mind

    Columbia

    Notes

  83. Don't Be Scared

    The Story of an Artist

    Daniel Johnston

    Don’t Be Scared

    Gammon

    Notes

  84. Nebraska

    Atlantic City

    Bruce Springsteen

    Nebraska

    Columbia

    Notes

  85. The Nylon Curtain

    Allentown

    Billy Joel

    The Nylon Curtain

    Columbia

    Notes

  86. American Fool

    Jack and Diane

    John Mellencamp

    American Fool

    Mercury

    Notes

  87. Combat Rock

    Rock the Casbah

    The Clash

    Combat Rock

    Epic

    Notes

  88. Rip It Up

    Rip It Up

    Orange Juice

    Rip It Up

    Polydor

    Notes

  89. Angst in My Pants

    Eaten by the Monster of Love

    Sparks

    Angst in My Pants

    Atlantic

    Notes

  90. The Dreaming

    Suspended in Gaffa

    Kate Bush

    The Dreaming

    Fish People Music

    Notes

  91. Strawberries

    Life Goes On

    The Damned

    Strawberries

    Dojo

    Notes

  92. It's Hard

    Eminence Front

    The Who

    It’s Hard

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  93. Long After Dark

    You Got Lucky

    Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

    Long After Dark

    MCA

    Notes

  94. Eye of the Tiger

    Eye of the Tiger

    Survivor

    Eye of the Tiger

    Volcano

    Notes

  95. Bad to the Bone

    Bad to the Bone

    George Thorogood & the Destroyers

    Bad to the Bone

    EMI

    Notes

  96. Green Light

    Can’t Get Enough

    Bonnie Raitt

    Green Light

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  97. Wild Things Run Fast

    Wild Things Run Fast

    Joni Mitchell

    Wild Things Run Fast

    Geffen

    Notes

  98. Imperial Bedroom

    Beyond Belief

    Elvis Costello & The Attractions

    Imperial Bedroom

    Columbia

    Notes

  99. Baroque Hoedown

    As Real As Real

    The Three O’Clock

    Baroque Hoedown

    Frontier

    Notes

  100. Shabooh Shoobah

    Don’t Change

    INXS

    Shabooh Shoobah

    ATCO

    Notes