1980s Song Meanings

By Ed Osborne

With the demise of disco’s domination of the Top 40, rock ’n’ roll enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, with veteran and new bands and solo artists competing for attention.

One of the most significant events in contemporary music history occurred in 1981 with the debut of MTV. Synth-driven records, often by international acts, provided a distinct contrast to more traditional rock and pop.

The resulting democratization of the music business also opened the door to mainstream superstar status for black artists and, as the decade wore on, solo female Singers.

This new emphasis on visuals meant that appearance and performance art became as important, and in some cases more so, than the audio recording: a shift that had permanent ramifications for the music business.

As for the alleged death of disco, it merely went on hiatus for a while, before returning in the form of dance rhythm records sans the trademark splashy high hats and whistles.

The decade closed out with hip-hop’s ascendance to platinum sales heights and the
beginning of the boy band craze.

This content and all Song Meaning articles were created and written by Top 40 Contributing Editor Ed Osborne. © 2023 Ed Osborne. All Rights Reserved. In addition to these song meaning articles, Ed has written our “Year in Music 1960s-1990s” articles.


Call Me – Blondie

Cars – Gary Numan

Cool Change – Little River Band

Dancing With Myself – Billy Idol

Don’t Misunderstand Me – Rossington Collins Band

Do That To Me One More Time – Captain & Tennille

Flirtin’ With Disaster – Molly Hatchet

For Your Eyes Only – Sheena Easton

Hard To Say – Dan Fogelberg

Heartbreaker – Pat Benatar

Hit Me With Your Best Shot – Pat Benatar

I’m Alright – Kenny Loggins

I’m Coming Out – Diana Ross

Ladies Night – Kool & The Gang

Longer – Dan Fogelberg

Love Stinks – J. Geils Band

Never Knew Love Like This Before – Stephanie Mills

Ride Like The Wind – Christopher Cross

Sailing – Christopher Cross

Shining Star – The Manhattans

The Biggest Part Of Me – Ambrosia

Upside Down – Diana Ross

What I Like About You – The Romantics

Whip It – Devo


65 Love Affair – Paul Davis

867-5309/Jenny – Tommy Tutone

Abracadabra – Steve Miller Band

Bad To The Bone – George Thorogood & The Destroyers

Caught Up In You – 38 Special

Centerfold – J. Geils Band

Don’t You Want Me – Human League

Early In The Morning – The Gap Band

Everybody Wants You – Billy Squier

Eye In The Sky – Alan Parsons Project

Fantasy – Aldo Nova

Freeze-Frame – The J. Geils Band

Get Down On It – Kool & The Gang

I Ran (So Far Away) – Flock Of Seagulls

Juke Box Hero – Foreigner

Key Largo – Bertie Higgins

Let It Whip – Dazz Band

Love Is Like A Rock – Donnie Iris

Maneater – Daryl Hall & John Oates

No One Like You – Scorpions

One Hundred Ways – Quincy Jones Featuring James Ingram

Rock This Town – Stray Cats

Sexual Healing – Marvin Gaye

Stone Cold – Rainbow

Shake It Up – The Cars

Tainted Love – Soft Cell

The Stroke – Billy Squier

Up Where We Belong – Joe Cocker And Jennifer Warnes

Working For The Weekend – Loverboy

We Got The Beat – Go-Go’s

You Dropped A Bomb On Me – The Gap Band

You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ – Judas Priest

You Should Hear How She Talks About You – Melissa Manchester


Bringin’ On The Heartbreak – Def Leppard

Caribbean Queen (No More Love On The Run) – Billy Ocean

Cool It Now – New Edition

Drive – The Cars

Eyes Without A Face – Billy Idol

Ghostbusters – Ray Parker, Jr.

Girls Just Want To Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper

Hold Me Now – Thompson Twins

Hyperactive – Thomas Dolby

I Can’t Drive 55 – Sammy Hagar

I Feel For You – Chaka Khan

I’m So Excited – Pointer Sisters

Joanna – Kool & The Gang

Karma Chameleon – Culture Club

Let The Music Play – Shannon

Love Is A Battlefield – Pat Benatar

Love Somebody – Rick Springfield

Miss Me Blind – Culture Club

Missing You – John Waite

Rebel Yell – Billy Idol

Sister Christian – Night Ranger

Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell

Still Loving You – Scorpions

The Glamorous Life – Sheila E.

The Reflex – Duran Duran

Think Of Laura – Christopher Cross

We’re Not Gonna Take It – Twisted Sister

(You Can Still) Rock In America – Night Ranger


Addicted To Love – Robert Palmer

Everybody Have Fun Tonight – Wang Chung

Holding Back The Years – Simply Red

Human – Human League

I Can’t Wait – Nu Shooz

I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On – Robert Palmer

If You Leave – Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark

King For A Day – Thompson Twins

Lady In Red – Chris DeBurgh

Let’s Go All The Way – Sly Fox

Love You Down – Ready For The World

Love Zone – Billy Ocean

On My Own – Patti Labelle and Michael McDonald

Rock Me Amadeus – Falco

Sara – Starship

Secret Lovers – Atlantic Starr

Shake You Down – Gregory Abbott

Sweet Love – Anita Baker

Take Me Home Tonight – Eddie Money

Tender Love – Force M.D.’S

The Men All Pause – Klymaxx

To Be A Lover – Billy Idol

Walk Like An Egyptian – Bangles

Walk This Way – Run-D.M.C.

We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off – Jermaine Stewart

Who’s Johnny – El DeBarge

Word Up – Cameo

You Can Leave Your Hat On – Joe Cocker


Da’Butt – E.U.

Devil Inside – INXS

Every Rose Has Its Thorn – Poison

Electric Blue – Icehouse

Girlfriend – Pebbles

Hazy Shade Of Winter – Bangles

Heaven – Warrant

Hot Hot Hot – Buster Poindexter And His Banshees Of Blue

How Can I Fall? – Breathe

Hungry Eyes – Eric Carmen

Kiss Me Deadly – Lita Ford

Kokomo – The Beach Boys

Mercedes Boy – Pebbles

Need You Tonight – INXS

Nite And Day – Al B. Sure!

Push It – Salt-N-Pepa

Roll With It – Steve Winwood

Sign Your Name – Terence Trent D’Arby

Shattered Dreams – Johnny Hates Jazz

Tell It To My Heart – Taylor Dayne

The Promise – When In Rome

Together Forever – Rick Astley

Wild, Wild West – The Escape Club


Ah! Leah! – Donnie Iris

Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do) – Christopher Cross

Being With You – Smokey Robinson

Bette Davis Eyes – Kim Carnes

Celebration – Kool & The Gang

Don’t Stop The Music – Yarbrough & Peoples

Endless Love – Diana Ross & Lionel Richie

Give It To Me Baby – Rick James

Hold On Loosely – 38 Special

I’ve Done Everything For You – Rick Springfield

Jesse’s Girl – Rick Springfield

Just The Two Of Us – Grover Washington, Jr. (With Bill Withers)

Lady (You Bring Me Up) – Commodores

Limelight – Rush

Nicole – Point Blank

Rapture – Blondie

She’s A Bad Mama Jama (She’s Built, She’s Stacked) – Carl Carlton

Super Freak (Part 1) – Rick James

Talk To Ya Later – The Tubes

Take It On The Run – REO Speedwagon

Theme From “Greatest American Hero” (Believe It Or Not) – Joey Scarbury

The One That You Love – Air Supply

The Tide Is High  – Blondie

Urgent – Foreigner

Waiting For A Girl Like You – Foreigner


Always Something There To Remind Me – Naked Eyes

Africa – Toto

Bang The Drum All Day – Todd Rundgren

Come On Eileen – Dexys Midnight Runners

Cum On Feel The Noize – Quiet Riot

Dead Giveaway – Shalamar

Down Under – Men At Work

Flashdance…What A Feeling – Irene Cara

Hungry Like The Wolf – Duran Duran

I’ll Tumble 4 Ya – Culture Club

It Might Be You – Stephen Bishop

(Keep Feeling) Fascination – The Human League

Let’s Dance – David Bowie

Major Tom (Coming Home) – Peter Schilling

Maniac – Michael Sembello

One On One – Daryl Hall & John Oates

One Thing Leads To Another – The Fixx

Promises, Promises – Naked Eyes

Rio – Duran Duran

She’s A Beauty – The Tubes

She Blinded Me With Science – Thomas Dolby

(She’s) Sexy + 17 – Stray Cats

Stardust – Mel Tormé

Stray Cat Strut – Stray Cats

The Safety Dance – Men Without Hats

Time (Clock Of The Heart) – Culture Club

True – Spandau Ballet

Twilight Zone – Golden Earring

White Wedding – Billy Idol

Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy – Sammy Hagar


Alive & Kicking – Simple Minds

All I Need – Jack Wagner

A View To A Kill – Duran Duran

Be Near Me – ABC

Broken Wings – Mr. Mister

Can’t Fight This Feeling – REO Speedwagon

Cherish – Kool & The Gang

Don’t You (Forget About Me) – Simple Minds

Do You Want Crying – Katrina And The Waves

Do What You Do – Jermaine Jackson

Fresh – Kool & The Gang

Forever Young – Alphaville

I Miss You – Klymaxx

I Want To Know What Love Is – Foreigner

Meeting In The Ladies Room – Klymaxx

Neutron Dance – Pointer Sisters

Never Surrender – Corey Heart

Oh Sheila – Ready For The World

Relax – Frankie Goes To Hollywood

Rhythm Of The Night – DeBarge

Sentimental Street – Night Ranger

Solid – Ashford & Simpson

St. Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion) – John Parr

Suddenly – Billy Ocean

Take On Me – a-ha

Tenderness – General Public

The Power Of Love – Huey Lewis & The News

Things Can Only Get Better – Howard Jones

Voices Carry – ‘Til Tuesday

Walking On Sunshine – Katrina And The Waves

We Belong – Pat Benatar

We Built This City – Starship

We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome) – Tina Turner


At This Moment – Billy Vera & The Beaters 

Don’t Disturb This Groove – The System

Can’t We Try – Dan Hill (With Vonda Shepard)

Carrie – Europe

Come Go With Me – Expose

Don’t You Want Me – Jody Watley

Heart And Soul – T’Pau

I Got The Feelin’ (It’s Over) – Gregory Abbott

I’ve Been In Love Before – Cutting Crew

(I Just) Died In Your Arms Cutting Crew

Is This Love – Whitesnake

Keep Your Hands To Yourself – Georgia Satellites

Looking For A New Love – Jody Watley

Love Power – Dionne Warwick & Jeffrey Osborne

Mony Mony “Live” – Billy Idol

Nobody’s Fool – Cinderella

Notorious – Duran Duran

Oh Yeah – Yello

Right On Track – Breakfast Club

Rock Me – Great White

Rock Steady – Whispers

Still Of The Night – Whitesnake

The Final Countdown – Europe

You Got It All – The Jets


18 And Life – Skid Row

Angel Eyes – Jeff Healey Band

Baby Come To Me – Regina Belle

Back To Life – Soul II Soul

Bust A Move – Young M.C.

Coming Home – Cinderella

Cult Of Personality – Living Colour

Don’t Close Your Eyes – Kix

Don’t Know Much – Linda Ronstadt (Featuring Aaron Neville)

Dreamin’ – Vanessa Williams

Every Little Step – Bobby Brown

Eternal Flame – Bangles

Foolish Heart – Sharon Bryant

Funky Cold Medina – Tone Loc

Good Thing – Fine Young Cannibals

Here And Now – Luther Vandross

If You Don’t Know Me By Now – Simply Red

It’s No Crime – Babyface

Love Shack – The B- 52’s 

My Prerogative – Bobby Brown

Rock Wit’cha – Bobby Brown

Roni – Bobby Brown

Shower Me With Your Love – Surface

So Alive – Love And Rockets

Sowing The Seeds Of Love – Tears For Fear

Straight Up – Paula Abdul

The Mayor Of Simpleton – XTC

Walk The Dinosaur – Was (Not Was)

When I’m With You – Sheriff

When I See You Smile – Bad English

Wild Thing – Tone Loc