My Top Ten Favorite New Wave Songs of the 1980s

Most of my blog posts are purely technical but sometimes, just for fun, I’ll do a top-10 list. Like this.

The 1980s had some really interesting music. I distinctly remember the very first times I heard songs by Adam Ant, Flock of Seagulls, and other new wave bands. It’s kind of difficult to describe exactly what a new wave song is so I won’t try. Here are my top 10 favorite new wave songs. I don’t mean these are the best songs, I mean that if I was going on a road trip and could only take ten new wave songs, these would be the ones.

1. “I Ran”, A Flock of Seagulls (1982). This song is almost a cliche for 1980s new wave excess and bad hair, but it’s still an excellent, catchy song. Great use of synthesizer.

2. “Do You Wanna Hold Me”, Bow Wow Wow (1983). One of my top 10 songs of all time. Combination of great guitar work and incredible vocals by Annabella Lwin. A.L. was really beautiful and I think she was only 16 or 17 when she sang this song.


3. “Public Image”, Public Image Ltd (1979). This is really a post-punk, pre-new-wave song but this is my list so I can do what I want. Really a simple song but John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten when he was in the Sex Pistols) has a really interesting, distinctive voice.

4. “Invisible Sun”, The Police (1981). The Police are probably on most people’s top-10 songs of the 80s list, but usually not for this song. It’s always been my favorite from this band.

5. “The Cutter”, Echo and the Bunnymen” (1983). This is a very complex song musically that has held up well over time.

6. “Whisper to a Scream (Birds Fly)”, Icicle Works (1983). Not really sure why I like this song so much but it’d be on my road-trip list anytime. Nice balance of vocals, drums, guitar and synthesizer.

7. “Major Tom”, Peter Schilling (1983). I ‘m almost embarrassed to put this song on my list because it’s kind of silly but I like it. On some other day I’d substitute one of the honorable mention songs listed below. Totally weird lyrics/subject (even if you know the reference to Bowie’s “Space Oddity”) but a very catchy melody.

8. “Roam”, The B-52s (1989). Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson have two of the best voices of the 80s and together they’re fantastic. I pick “Roam” over some other B-52s great songs, “Rock Lobster” in particular.

9. “Church of the Poison Mind”, Culture Club (1983). I’m not really a big Culture Club fan but I really think this song complements the others on my list nicely. Boy George was too weird and creepy but he could sure sing.

10. “The Promise”, When in Rome (1988). I normally don’t like relatively slow songs but the addictive melody of this song puts it on my top-10 list.


“Take on Me” (A-Ha) is a good song that I remember for the very clever video. There are a zillion songs that remind me of 1980s movies like “Sixteen Candles” and “Breakfast Club”: “Don’t You Forget About Me” (Simple Minds), “True” (Spandau Ballet), and on and on, but they don’t make it on my road-trip list. On some days I’d put “Lies” or “Hold Me Now” by the Thompson Twins on my list. I’m a bit surprised that no Duran Duran songs quite made my list. I like “We Got the Beat” (The Go-Go’s) but it just missed the cut. “Dancing with Myself” (Billy Idol) is almost a good song but too primitive musically. Two of my favorite slow songs of the 1980s are “Wishful Thinking” (China Crisis) and “Dance Away” (Roxy Music) but I don’t like slow for road trips. “One Way or Another” (Blondie) is good but not top-10 for me.

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