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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 1983

I have two simple rules when making my "Best of" song lists. First, an artist can't appear more than once. Second, I will not rank my lists. The first rule makes the list-making harder, and the second makes it easier. This paradox creates a happy medium.

For all of 2013, I have been working on lists representing 30, 20, and 10 years ago, along with a list for this year. The weird thing about making these lists after the fact is the use of hindsight, for I have discovered new artists and new songs in the interim years and, in some cases, during this process of trying to fill out a 100-song list.

Even more interesting to me, an perhaps best evidenced in this particular list, is the commingling of pop songs that I'd eschew on a similar list today, alongside obscure tracks—ones I might not never even have heard of back in the day—that have only emerged through time.

Still, what you see below is an honest attempt to assess a year in time, merging the reality of a list made 30 years later with the idea that, had I been able to conceive of such a list at the time (as an adult, not as the five-year-old I was), I would have included pop hits and obscure tunes, aging favorites and new artists.

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, but you get the general idea. Track notes to come eventually or maybe never.

  1. Violent Femmes

    Blister in the Sun

    Violent Femmes

    Violent Femmes

    Slash

    Notes

  2. Undercover

    She Was Hot

    The Rolling Stones

    Undercover

    Universal

    Notes

  3. Swordfishtrombones

    16 Shells From a 30.6

    Tom Waits

    Swordfishtrombones

    Island

    Notes

  4. Synchronicity

    King of Pain

    The Police

    Synchronicity

    A&M

    Notes

  5. True

    True

    Spandau Ballet

    True

    Chrysalis

    Notes

  6. Between the Sheets

    Between the Sheets

    The Isley Brothers

    Between the Sheets

    T-Neck

    Notes

  7. Honesty

    Dirty Laundry

    Curtis Mayfield

    Honesty

    The Boardwalk Entertainment Co.

    Notes

  8. Candy Girl

    Candy Girl

    New Edition

    Candy Girl

    Streetwise

    Notes

  9. Madonna

    Holiday

    Madonna

    Madonna

    Sire

    Notes

  10. Seven and the Ragged Tiger

    The Reflex

    Duran Duran

    Seven and the Ragged Tiger

    Capitol

    Notes

  11. Construction Time Again

    Everything Counts

    Depeche Mode

    Construction Time Again

    Sire

    Notes

  12. Future Shock

    Rockit

    Herbie Hancock

    Future Shock

    Columbia

    Notes

  13. It's Like That

    Sucker M.C.'s (Krush-Groove 1)

    Run-DMC

    It's Like That

    Profile

    Notes

  14. Blue Monday

    Blue Monday

    New Order

    Blue Monday 12"

    Factory

    Notes

  15. White Lines

    White Lines (Don't Do It)

    Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel

    White Lines (Don't Do It)

    Sugar Hill

    Notes

  16. Let the Music Play

    Let the Music Play

    Shannon

    Let the Music Play

    Emergency

    Notes

  17. Break Out

    Jump (For My Love)

    The Pointer Sisters

    Break Out

    Planet Records

    Notes

  18. Flashdance

    Flashdance (What a Feeling)

    Irene Cara

    Flashdance

    Polygram

    Notes

  19. She Works Hard for the Money

    She Works Hard for the Money

    Donna Summer

    She Works Hard for the Money

    Mercury

    Notes

  20. Stompin' at the Savoy

    Ain't Nobody

    Rufus & Chaka Khan

    Stompin' at the Savoy

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  21. Love Wars

    Baby I'm Scared of You

    Womack & Womack

    Love Wars

    Elektra

    Notes

  22. Billie Jean

    Can't Get Outta the Rain

    Michael Jackson

    Billie Jean

    Sony

    Notes

  23. Pipes of Peace

    Say Say Say

    Paul McCartney featuring Michael Jackson

    Pipes of Peace

    Parlophone

    Notes

  24. Too Low for Zero

    I'm Still Standing

    Elton John

    Too Low for Zero

    Island

    Notes

  25. An Innocent Man

    Tell Her About It

    Billy Joel

    An Innocent Man

    Columbia

    Notes

  26. Katrina and the Waves

    Walking on Sunshine

    Katrina and the Waves

    Katrina and the Waves

    Attic

    Notes

  27. Colour By Numbers

    Karma Chameleon

    Culture Club

    Colour By Numbers

    Virgin

    Notes

  28. Burning Bridges

    Always Something There to Remind Me

    Naked Eyes

    Burning Bridges

    EMI

    Notes

  29. 99 Luftballoons

    99 Red Balloons

    Nena

    99 Luftballoons

    Epic

    Notes

  30. Speaking in Tongues

    Burning Down the House

    Talking Heads

    Speaking in Tongues

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  31. The Hurting

    Mad World

    Tears for Fears

    The Hurting

    Fontana

    Notes

  32. Listen

    Transfer Affection

    A Flock of Seagulls

    Listen

    BMG

    Notes

  33. White Feathers

    Too Shy

    Kajagoogoo

    White Feathers

    EMI

    Notes

  34. Fascination!

    Mirror Man

    The Human League

    Fascination!

    A&M

    Notes

  35. Reach the Beach

    One Thing Leads to Another

    The Fixx

    Reach the Beach

    MCA

    Notes

  36. In Heat

    Talking in Your Sleep

    The Romantics

    In Heat

    Epic

    Notes

  37. First Offense

    Sunglasses at Night

    Corey Hart

    First Offense

    Capitol

    Notes

  38. Touch

    Here Comes the Rain Again

    Eurythmics

    Touch

    Sony

    Notes

  39. Let's Dance

    Modern Love

    David Bowie

    Let's Dance

    EMI

    Notes

  40. Strip

    Strip

    Adam Ant

    Strip

    CBS

    Notes

  41. Mummer

    Great Fire

    XTC

    Mummer

    Virgin

    Notes

  42. Good for Your Soul

    Nothing Bad Ever Happens to Me

    Oingo Boingo

    Good for Your Soul

    A&M

    Notes

  43. Japanese Whispers

    The Lovecats

    The Cure

    Japanese Whispers

    Sire

    Notes

  44. Seance

    Electric Lash

    The Church

    Seance

    EMI

    Notes

  45. Modern Romans

    The Walls Came Down

    The Call

    Modern Romans

    Mercury

    Notes

  46. Rebel Yell

    Rebel Yell

    Billy Idol

    Rebel Yell

    Chrysalis

    Notes

  47. Metal Health

    Cum on Feel the Noize

    Quiet Riot

    Metal Health

    Epic

    Notes

  48. Subterranean Jungle

    Time Bomb

    Ramones

    Subterranean Jungle

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  49. Out of Step

    Look Back and Laugh

    Minor Threat

    Out of Step

    Dischord

    Notes

  50. Hootenanny

    Color Me Impressed

    The Replacements

    Hootenanny

    Restless

    Notes

  51. Metal Circus

    Diane

    Hüsker Dü

    Metal Circus

    SST

    Notes

  52. What Makes a Man Start Fires?

    The Anchor

    Minutemen

    What Makes a Man Start Fires?

    SST

    Notes

  53. Chomp

    Crazy

    Pylon

    Chomp

    dB Recs

    Notes

  54. Emergency Third Rail Power Trip

    This Can't Be Today

    The Rain Parade

    Emergency Third Rail Power Trip

    Restless

    Notes

  55. More Fun in the New World

    The New World

    X

    More Fun in the New World

    Elektra

    Notes

  56. Murmur

    Radio Free Europe

    R.E.M.

    Murmur

    I.R.S.

    Notes

  57. Afoot

    Every Word Means No

    Let's Active

    Afoot

    I.R.S.

    Notes

  58. Soul Mining

    This Is the Day

    The The

    Soul Mining

    Sony

    Notes

  59. And a Time to Dance

    Anselma

    Los Lobos

    …And a Time to Dance

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  60. Hand of Kindness

    Tear-Stained Letter

    Richard Thompson

    Hand of Kindness

    Hannibal

    Notes

  61. The Waterboys

    A Girl Called Johnny

    The Waterboys

    The Waterboys

    Chrysalis

    Notes

  62. War

    New Year's Day

    U2

    War

    Island

    Notes

  63. The Crossing

    In a Big Country

    Big Country

    The Crossing

    Mercury

    Notes

  64. Cargo

    Overkill

    Men at Work

    Cargo

    Columbia

    Notes

  65. Conflicting Emotions

    Message to My Girl

    Split Enz

    Conflicting Emotions

    A&M

    Notes

  66. Field Day

    Our Town

    Marshall Crenshaw

    Field Day

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  67. Infidels

    Jokerman

    Bob Dylan

    Infidels

    Columbia

    Notes

  68. Legendary Hearts

    Turn Out the Light

    Lou Reed

    Legendary Hearts

    RCA

    Notes

  69. Everybody's Rockin

    Wonderin'

    Neil Young

    Everybody's Rockin'

    Geffen

    Notes

  70. Money and Cigarettes

    I've Got a Rock 'n' Roll Heart

    Eric Clapton

    Money and Cigarettes

    Reprise

    Notes

  71. Confrontation

    Buffalo Soldier

    Bob Marley & The Wailers

    Confrontation

    Tuff Gong

    Notes

  72. Labour of Love

    Red Red Wine

    UB40

    Labour of Love

    Virgin

    Notes

  73. The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect

    Bang the Drum All Day

    Todd Rundgren

    The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect

    Bearsville

    Notes

  74. Secret Messages

    Rock and Roll Is King

    Electric Light Orchestra

    Secret Messages

    Epic

    Notes

  75. Uh-Huh

    Pink Houses

    John Cougar Mellencamp

    Uh-Huh

    Mercury

    Notes

  76. Lawyers in Love

    Tender Is the Night

    Jackson Browne

    Lawyers in Love

    Asylum

    Notes

  77. Eyes That See in the Dark

    Islands in the Stream

    Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton

    Eyes That See in the Dark

    RCA

    Notes

  78. It's Only Rock and Roll

    Breakin' Down

    Waylon Jennings

    It's Only Rock and Roll

    RCA

    Notes

  79. Texas Flood

    Pride and Joy

    Stevie Ray Vaughan

    Texas Flood

    Epic

    Notes

  80. Eliminator

    Legs

    ZZ Top

    Eliminator

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  81. Passionworks

    How Can I Refuse

    Heart

    Passionworks

    Epic

    Notes

  82. The Wild Heart

    If Anyone Falls

    Stevie Nicks

    The Wild Heart

    Atlantic

    Notes

  83. Faster Than the Speed of Night

    Total Eclipse of the Heart

    Bonnie Tyler

    Faster Than the Speed of Night

    Sony

    Notes

  84. Live From Earth

    Love Is a Battlefield

    Pat Benatar

    Live From Earth

    Chrysalis

    Notes

  85. Pyromania

    Photograph

    Def Leppard

    Pyromania

    Vertigo

    Notes

  86. 90125

    Owner of a Lonely Heart

    Yes

    90125

    Atco

    Notes

  87. Rock 'n Soul Part 1

    Say It Isn't So

    Daryl Hall & John Oates

    Rock 'n Soul Part 1

    RCA

    Notes

  88. Sports

    Heart and Soul

    Huey Lewis & The News

    Sports

    Chrysalis

    Notes

  89. Body Wishes

    Baby Jane

    Rod Stewart

    Body Wishes

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  90. State of Confusion

    Come Dancing

    The Kinks

    State of Confusion

    Arista

    Notes

  91. Porcupine

    Back of Love

    Echo & the Bunnymen

    Porcupine

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  92. This Charming Man

    Jeane

    The Smiths

    This Charming Man

    Rough Trade

    Notes

  93. The Abominable Showman

    Raging Eyes

    Nick Lowe

    The Abominable Showman

    Columbia

    Notes

  94. Punch the Clock

    Everyday I Write the Book

    Elvis Costello & the Attractions

    Punch the Clock

    Columbia

    Notes

  95. Genesis

    That's All

    Genesis

    Genesis

    Atlantic

    Notes

  96. She's So Unusual

    Time After Time

    Cyndi Lauper

    She's So Unusual

    Epic

    Notes

  97. Hearts and Bones

    Hearts and Bones

    Paul Simon

    Hearts and Bones

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  98. Trouble in Paradise

    I Love L.A.

    Randy Newman

    Trouble in Paradise

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  99. Holiday Road

    Holiday Road

    Lindsey Buckingham

    Holiday Road

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  100. Can't Slow Down

    All Night Long

    Lionel Richie

    Can't Slow Down

    Motown

    Notes