Best of the '80s Redux, Poll — April 13, 2015 at 7:55 am

Top 100 Songs of 1981: Slicing Up Eyeballs’ Best of the ’80s Redux — Part 2


Pardon our (more than) slight delay, but we’re back, after copious number-crunching, with the second installment in our new Best of the ’80s Redux series, the Slicing Up Eyeballs readers poll that has now determined our collective ranking of the Top 100 songs of 1981.

RELATED: Top 100 Songs of 1981 Spotify playlist

Following our Best of the ’80s album polls in 2013, we decided to change formats for this year’s song polls, so, instead of giving you a pre-selected menu of tracks to choose from, we’re going with pure open, anything-goes voting. And for the ’81 poll, we upped the ballot from 10 to 25 slots.

For this 1981 poll, there were 9,082 total votes cast, which was only a slight increase over the 1980 results, despite each participant being able to vote for significantly more songs.

So far fewer people voted this time around.

As you can see below, Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough” took the No. 1 spot, followed closely by Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” at No. 2 and The Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” at No. 3.

There is still some confusion over the rules, with people voting for songs that were singles in 1981, yet already had been released on albums in 1980. Songs that made the Top 100 of 1980, such as The Clash’s “The Magnificent Seven” or Blondie’s “Rapture,” garnered a lot of votes this time around, as well.

So thank you all for voting and sharing your thoughts. Take a look at the Top 100 list below — and feel free to offer your own take on the results, good or bad, in the comments below.




depeche mode1. Depeche Mode,
“Just Can’t Get Enough”

RELEASE: Single; appears on Speak & Spell
SONGWRITER: Vince Clarke
PRODUCERS: Depeche Mode, Daniel Miller
BUY IT:, iTunes



soft cell2. Soft Cell,
“Tainted Love”

RELEASE: Single; appears on Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret
PRODUCERS: Dave Ball, Daniel Miller, Mike Thorne
BUY IT:, iTunes 



the human league3. The Human League,
“Don’t You Want Me”

RELEASE: Single; appears on Dare
SONGWRITERS: Philip Oakey, Jo Callis, Philip Adrian Wright
PRODUCER: Martin Rushent
BUY IT:, iTunes



duran duran4. Duran Duran,
“Girls on Film”

RELEASE: Single; appears on Duran Duran
PRODUCER: Colin Thurston
BUY IT: Amazon.comiTunes 



siouxsie5. Siouxsie and the Banshees,

RELEASE: Single; appears on Juju
SONGWRITERS: Siouxsie and the Banshees
PRODUCERS: Nigel Gray, Siouxsie and the Banshees
BUY IT:, iTunes



new order6.New Order,

SONGWRITERS: Ian Curtis, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Bernard Sumner
PRODUCERS: Martin Hannett, New Order
BUY IT:, iTunes



cure7. The Cure,

RELEASE: Single; appears on Faith
SONGWRITER: Robert Smith
PRODUCERS: Mike Hedges, Robert Smith
BUY IT:, iTunes 



squeeze8. Squeeze,

RELEASE: Single; appears on East Side Story
SONGWRITERS: Glenn Tilbrook, Chris Difford
PRODUCERS: Roger Bechirian, Elvis Costello
BUY IT:, iTunes



adam and the ants9. Adam and the Ants,
“Stand and Deliver”

RELEASE: Single; appears on Prince Charming
SONGWRITERS: Adam Ant, Marco Pirroni
PRODUCER: Chris Hughes
BUY IT:, iTunes



queen bowie10. Queen and David Bowie,
“Under Pressure”

RELEASE: Single; appears on Hot Space
SONGWRITERS: Queen and David Bowie
PRODUCERS: Queen and David Bowie
BUY IT:, iTunes



11. Duran Duran, “Planet Earth”
12. Tom Tom Club, “Genius of Love”
13. The Go-Go’s, “Our Lips Are Sealed”
14. The Psychedelic Furs, “Pretty in Pink”
15. The Specials, “Ghost Town”
16. U2, “Gloria”
17. The Cure, “Charlotte Sometimes”
18. The Clash, “This Is Radio Clash”
19. R.E.M., “Radio Free Europe”
20. Romeo Void, “Never Say Never”


21. The Police, “Spirits in the Material World”
22. Phil Collins, “In the Air Tonight”
23. Ramones, “The KKK Took My Baby Away”
24. The Go-Go’s, “We Got the Beat”
25. Echo & The Bunnymen, “A Promise”
26. Kraftwerk, “Computer Love”
27. The Pretenders, “Talk of the Town”
28. The Church, “The Unguarded Moment”
29. The Stranglers, “Golden Brown”
30. Simple Minds, “Love Song”


31. New Order, “Everything’s Gone Green”
32. Billy Idol, “Dancing With Myself”
33. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, “Souvenir”
34. Bauhaus, “Kick in the Eye”
35. The Police, “Invisible Sun”
36. Siouxsie and the Banshees, “Arabian Knights”
37. Heaven 17, “(We Don’t Need This) Facist Groove Thang”
38. New Order, “Dreams Never End”
39. Japan, “Ghosts’
40. Pete Shelley, “Homosapien”


41. Laurie Anderson, “O Superman”
42. Depeche Mode, “New Life”
43. Bauhaus, “The Passion of Lovers”
44. Black Flag, “T.V. Party”
45. The Cars, “Shake It Up”
46. The Human League, “Love Action (I Believe In Love)”
47. Rush, “Tom Sawyer”
48. Prince, “Controversy”
49. Grace Jones, “Pull Up to the Bumper”
50. The Cure, “All Cats Are Grey”


51. Men at Work, “Down Under”
52. Altered Images, “I Could Be Happy”
53. Kim Wilde, “Kids in America”
54. Devo, “Beautiful World”
55. The Pretenders, “Message of Love”
56. R.E.M., “Sitting Still”
55. Squeeze, “Labelled With Love”
58. Soft Cell, “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye”
59. Kim Carnes, “Bette Davis Eyes”
60. Altered Images, “Happy Birthday”


61. Mission of Burma, “That’s When I Reach For My Revolver”
62. Depeche Mode, “Dreaming of Me”
63. Soft Cell, “Sex Dwarf”
64. Rick James, “Super Freak”
65. Men at Work, “Who Can It Be Now?”
66. The Cure, “Faith”
67. Devo, “Working in a Coalmine”
68. Stray Cats, “Rock This Town”
69. X, “White Girl”
70. The Waitresses, “Christmas Wrapping”


71. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, “Joan of Arc”
72. Kraftwerk, “Pocket Calculator”
73. Japan, “Visions of China”
74. Public Image Ltd., “The Flowers of Romance”
75. Dead Kennedys, “Too Drunk to Fuck”
76. Stevie Nicks, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”
77. Elvis Costello and the Attractions, “From a Whisper to a Scream”
78. Ultravox, “The Voice”
79. The Rolling Stones, “Start Me Up”
80. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”


81. The Psychedelic Furs, “Into You Like a Train”
82. The Beat, “Doors Of Your Heart”
83. Duran Duran, “Careless Memories”
84. Devo, “Through Being Cool”
85. Black Flag, “Rise Above”
86. Adam and the Ants, “Prince Charming”
87. Split Enz, “One Step Ahead”
88. Rick Springfield, “Jessie’s Girl”
89. Killing Joke, “Follow the Leaders”
90. Kate Bush, “Sat In Your Lap”


91. The Human League, “Seconds”
92. The Cure, “The Funeral Party”
93. The Cars, “Since You’re Gone”
94. Spandau Ballet, “Chant No. 1 (I Don’t Need This Pressure On)”
95. Kraftwerk, “Computer World”
96. Echo & The Bunnymen, “Over the Wall”
97. Tom Tom Club, “Wordy Rappinghood”
98. New Order, “Procession”
99. Ramones, “We Want the Airwaves”
100. Depeche Mode, “Photographic”







  1. Waiting for Spotify playlist

  2. Go-go’s “our lips are sealed” has two entries

  3. Ghost Town is listed twice.

    • Tim Barlow

      The point is, whether it’s #15 or #85, it’s way too low. Single of the year, easy (at least in the UK). Bunch of fucking idiots!

  4. These lists are great – any chance you could turn them into Spotify playlists??

    • Myles Becker

      I second the notion…sure, we could do this, ourselves, but I’d love to have it be an official one from you all.

  5. Are you gonna Spotify this list too?

  6. Ghost Town is also listed twice – 15 and 85.

  7. Specials “Ghost Town” is #15 and #85

  8. So… did the extra votes… 25 instead of 10… help differentiate at the higher numbers? I’d be interesting to know how many votes were cast for the songs 90-100.

    And by 9000-ish votes… you mean not 9000-ish ballots, but individual votes for songs… so yeah, a LOT less voted. Any idea why?

    And Split Enz, “History Never Repeats” didn’t make Top 100? wow.

    Great list. I’m assuming when we get to Top 100 Song of the Eighties, you’ll have a list to choose from, based on the songs we’ve all selected in these polls.

    Good stuff.

  9. This is a great list. More of a best of “one hit wonders and deep cuts” than a best “over all” list. Still. I like it.

  10. Specials Ghost Town at 15 and 85.

  11. Kraftwerk, “Computer Love” is 2 times… 26, 96

  12. Thanks. Great list. On to 1982!!

  13. 15. The Specials, “Ghost Town”
    85. The Specials, “Ghost Town”
    100% The Specials, “Ghost Town”??

  14. I looked it up and Romeo Void “Never Say Never” is a 1982 song.

  15. Split Enz’s “One Step Ahead” was also released in 1980, not 1981 (though it came out in late ’80, so its airplay was mostly ’81). “History Never Repeats” (mentioned above) was released in 1981.

    Speaking of New Zealand pop craftsmen, am I the only one who voted for “Counting the Beat” by the Swingers?

  16. Any reason why “Ghost Town” is at both 15 and 85?

  17. TRIUMPH didn’t even crack the top 100????

    You guys are philistines.

  18. Which Specials song is at 85 since Ghost Town already appeared at 15?

  19. rustyspanner

    To encourage voting, it may help to have a tab on the front page at all times, similar to the “120 Minutes Rewind” tab. Finding the ballot is almost impossible once it disappears from the front page. A follow-up post with a few days remaining before the submission deadline may also help.

    How did Ceremony not finish number 1? Ridiculous.

  20. Enjoy these polls. Personally I think you would get more participation if you provided a pick list to choose from as with the 80’s album polls. People are lazy…

  21. Siouxsiescure

    The worst DM song and way too overrated was #1… Embarrassing???!!! It shoulda been Soft Cell.

    • Should have been “Tempted” and then Soft Cell, but otherwise I agree. I wonder if “Just Can’t…” ended up #1 because of the extended (25 votes instead of 10) range… so people slapped it into their list because they had room and padded out their list, not because it was particularly strong. I’d hazard a guess that “Just Can’t…” was rarely if ever someone’s #1 song of the year… but it clearly showed up on the majority of the lists.

      Might have been an artifact of the larger selection range, but then I suggested that SUE expand it, so I’ll take the heat if so. heh.

      • I think plenty of people actually *like* “Just Can’t Get Enough,” without there being some meh-fest about needing to add filler to your top 25. (And quality wise, I’m personally not sure how it’s that much different than “Tainted Love”? YMMV)

        And it’s not the WORST DM song. I can think of others on “Speak and Spell” alone that earn that honor. I mean, if “What’s Your Name” was #1, then I think we’d have an issue.

        • what’s your name was poor LOL

          Puppets I voted number one tho and it got nowhere in the top 100 – i wonder if anyone else noticed how good an album track it was???

          • I feel the same about “Tora Tora Tora”! There’s a good number of well-written songs on Speak & Spell and some good B-sides from that era, too.

        • I am going to borrow “meh-fest” someday — that’s brilliant!

          Oh, and my DM vote was for “Dreaming of Me.”

          • Haha! Hey, thanks!

            I think I attended Meh-Fest 1999. San Francisco hipsters all pretending not to give a crap about the bands they were watching.

          • Dreaming of me and Tora Tora Tora were my considerations for best songs of ’81 too – both so good

  22. Smiler Grogan

    I think the reason why there were less votes than 1980 is that ’81 was a rather ‘meh’ year. Despite having the ability to vote for more songs, I was far less enthusiastic about my ’81 list than ’80.

    Two Duran Duran songs in the top eleven? Underwhelming, to say the least.

  23. Are you going to leave The Specials “Ghost Town” at 15 and 85, or are you just going to delete my comment again?

  24. Murphy's Law

    The Rollng Stones? Really?

  25. David Buck

    i just can’t fathom “that’s When I Reach for My Revolver” being all the way down at 61. I just don’t get it.

  26. Rush at #47…nice to see our Canadian voters came out. On another note, Hall & Oates “Kiss On My List” is not on this “list” – thank goodness.

  27. Hey, now both my dumb comments are here and I look like a dope!
    On the plus side, Kraftwerk isn’t listed twice. “Computer World” and “Computer Love” are both great songs.
    And Discogs lists Romeo Void as a 1981 release, but most other sources say February 1982.

  28. El Arreglardo

    On balance, the second 10 are greatly superior to the top 10.

  29. 1981 was a great year for music, but you wouldn’t know it by some of the complete dreck that made this list…

  30. Thanks for this!
    And for the polls that remind me of other songs I’d forgotten.
    And for the entire blog.

  31. steinomite

    A lot of big hair/poofy shirt commercial “new wave” fluff here. Where’s all the good stuff like The Birthday Party, ACR, Section 25, Josef K, early Scritti Politti, etc?

    • Just realized that Scritti’s ‘The “Sweetest Girl”‘ isn’t on the list. This renders the entire thing invalid.

      • Could have been because people (well, me at least) thought it was an ’82 song… as the album release for Songs To Remember was ’82. UK single release, not something I was aware of.

        I mean… this whole thing is a popularity vote so hardly a critical poll, but it would be interesting to have a single source to look up official dates… maybe Wikipedia?

        • I’d suggest discogs rather than wikipedia as a reliable source for release dates.

          There have been more omissions of classic ’81 cult hits in favour of Cure album cuts and MOR guilty pleasures. ‘Tears Are Not Enough’ (ABC), ‘Papa’s Got A Brand new Bag’ (Pigbag), ‘Tell Me Easter’s On Friday’ (The Associates), etc.

          But in the end, 100 songs for 1981 is not much. I remember having had five new favourite songs per week back then.

  32. Trying to remember what I voted for… Glad Black Flag and the DKs made it in…

  33. Eric Bradford

    I made one for Tidal, missing five entries:

    Also made the same compromise with “Sitting Still,” not the hibtone version that came out in 1981.

  34. With a couple exceptions, I think the Top Ten is rather disappointing. But I am glad Under Pressure squeaked in. Oh, well, the lists are still fun.

    • I think most of the votes for “Under Pressure” came from Vanilla Ice. Without that song to steal from, he’d be working at Foot Locker or installing car stereos for a living.

  35. Marty Flanagan

    Was surprised “Under Pressure” barely made the top 10, and disappointed more of my oddball personal favorites didn’t make the list (I had hoped that Yello’s “The Evening’s Young” or Einsturzende Neubauten’s “Tanz Debil” would have at least ranked in the 90’s).

  36. REO Speedwagon’s Hi InFidelity was the biggest selling album of 1981 with 6 million copies sold in that year alone and not 1 song makes the list? This list is way New Wave heavy.

  37. I’m surprised that Dumb Waiters by The Psychedelic Furs didn’t make the list, but other work by them did. That is the best song on Talk Talk Talk. 99.9% of the songs in the list suck.

  38. In Shreads – The Chameleons should be voted on this list

  39. Madness?

  40. at the end of the day, there were thousands of songs that were released in 1981, so the list must miss out dozens of amazing songs. I would just love to see the list of all the songs voted for to be honest – but I am asking too much for sure :))

    Well done Slicing Up for creating a v interesting scenario – when is the ’82 thing out? can’t wait to see this, as in my opinion the music got better between ’82 and ’89, apart from mainstream music obviously

    • Agreed… an alphabetical list of all songs voted on would be cool… though how easy that would be depends on the format of the data… a .csv shouldn’t be too hard. Wouldn’t really want SUE to have to expend too much effort… but it would be cool.

      And I’ve definitely got my list from ’82 ready to go… just waiting to see what I’ve forgotten or missed when the vote comes out.

      • yeah waiting for the ’82 one to start- i have my list too! yeeeaaahhhhrrr! i agree – it would be great to see an alphabetical list of all songs voted for. possible??

  41. Strange, but cool, to see Rush cracking the top 50 (47) on a predominately college/indie music site. But how they beat out Mission of Burma is beyond me.

    • In ’81 I was 13 and I’d just started high school, and Rush was huge, and in my young mind was VERY alternative to what else I knew. I couldn’t not vote for it, since this poll was opened up to any music, not just the College Rock/Alternative selections. I’d have left it off if the criteria were different, but to this day I listen to Rush as much as the Smiths or R.E.M., etc.

  42. I’m super surprised Every Little Thing She Does is Magic by The Police didn’t crack the top 100. I checked and rechecked, and the song was released in November 1981. How is that omission possible?

    • Very strange, indeed. ‘Every Little Thing She Does is Magic’ kept Altered Images’ ‘Happy Birthday’ from hitting No. 1 on the UK charts in the week ending 14 Nov 1981.

    • That was the one big surprise for me, too.

    • Agree… it was my vote from Ghost In the Machine. Considering Invisible Sun and Spirits In… both hit the list, I am surprised as well.

  43. Pylon – “Crazy”… did this just not get enough votes for 1981 (Wikipedia indicates a 7” single, or is it a 1982 song as iTunes indicates… or ’83 for when the album came out?

    Just wondering as I’m still jonesin’ for the ’82 voting to begin.

  44. Grey Day?

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  46. Obviously the #1 song is a huge mistake…..#s 2 thru 7 are better than #1….the worst of the big dm songs. Sickening. #2 is really #1….there was some sort of error guys……lol!!!

  47. This top ten was rough. I’d say two MAYBE three of those would be in my top ten. Shocked just can’t get enough was #1 it’s not one of their best songs. Also nothing from the motels? If only the lonely should be high!

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