5. “Mother” – Danzig
Best hard-rock song of the 80’s bar none and also the best song named “Mother”. John Lennon and Pink Floyd’s respective songs are too inward and depressing. On his “Mother” Glen Danzig warns parents not to listen to his words, or follow him. And he’s right too. Because if you find hell with him, he’s gonna show you til your bleeding! Scary stuff. All of this would mean absolutely nothing if the music didn’t come across as a song Satan himself could have wrote. Hide your kids.
4. “Take on Me” – A-ha
Eat your heart out, “Baba O’Riley” this is synthesizer perfection right here. The song is also memorable for its iconic video with its sketches that come to life. However, one should not cross out the cleverness of its lyrics either: “I’m coming for your love, ok?” and “Take on me” becomes “Take me on” during the chorus. Classy. Also, look for Patrick Carney of the Black Keys in the video around the 2:00 minute mark.
3. “Dangerzone” – Kenny Loggins
Does any other movie capture the spirit of the 80s more than Top Gun? And as a bonus you get Kenny Loggin’s masterpiece, “Dangerzone”. The real genius of the lyrics comes from the double meaning of the lyrics. It could be about lift-off in a plane, or about a sexual encounter, or both. Who cares? Lift-off achieved.
2. “Whip It” – Devo
The lyrics of the catchiest song about masturbation/S&M are just icing on the cake. What really makes the song is the keyboard during the chorus. Has there ever been a more effective use of one note? Another iconic video, which has the band “playing” on the set of what looks like a photo-shoot for a Marlboro Man ad. Despite the use of the whip, in a real situation the man in the cowboy hat probably kicked Devo’s ass with their silly hats and keyboards. A victory for nerds!
1. “The Final Countdown” – Europe
The best intro to a song ever. Also worth noting the world’s best magician used this as his theme music.
Ten years ago, I probably would have thought that The Who playing the Superbowl was the greatest thing ever. When I was a teenager, to me The Who were the greatest band ever. They were loud, violent in their performances, and Quadrophenia is a definitive album for the misunderstood teenager. Pete Townshend in his younger years had a magnetic presence on stage with his windmills and guitar-smashing, but he was still awkward.
At 28, the very things that made The Who great to me as a teenager, are the very things I don’t like now. Almost all of their songs are loud – there is very little variation in their songs. Even the (few if any) ballads are loud. Their songs don’t speak to me the way they did when I was younger. And most of all – I find them awkward. This isn’t to say that I detest them, but I hardly ever go back to them. And when I do, I only listen to a few of their songs. I find “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” bloated and boring. They may have some great songs, but there is nothing in the Who’s catalogue that is as transcendent as “A Day in the Life”, “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” or “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
Which brings us to the Superbowl. I’m not suggesting that the performance will bad – The Who were always a great live band. I’d never deny them that. But their music is hardly party music. The Rolling Stones set contained “Start Me Up” – not one of my favorites but it’s a party song. Or in the case with U2, who played the first Superbowl after 9/11 – their music was perfect for a wounded nation. Last year’s performance by Bruce Springsteen was great. Not only was it musically fantastic, but even for his earnestness – Bruce knows how to bring in a party. Only Springsteen could have told a world-wide audience to “put down your chicken wings.”
Pete Townshend said that The Who’s set will contain bits of Tommy, “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. See Me, Feel Me? Seriously? Sure they might be their biggest hits, but will Tommy’s spiritual awakening connect with American audiences? I’m not so sure. Well, at least Led Zeppelin hasn’t reformed – then we’d have to put up with “Stairway to Heaven” or “Kashmir” at the Superbowl.