|Class 1 (15 songs)
"That really hits the spot"
|Class 2 (33 songs)
"OK, now we're talking"
|Class 3 (48 songs)
"Pump up the volume"
(good - very good!)
|Class 4 (78 songs)
"I'd buy that for a dollar"
(some listenable stuff - good)
Not surprisingly known as Abba's signature song, Dancing Queen became the only Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 single, reached number one in Europe and went on to be their biggest hit. The tune features a lovely blend of instrumentation and sparkling vocals. A very clever bassline runs throughout the orchestration, which is both warm and upbeat, and the melody is spot on. Although not containing the most adventurous harmony, this is still possibly our favorite pop song of all time!
Abba's last single was a fitting finale. Although not harmonically outstanding, the song is very well crafted, of particular note the captivating verse sung by Agnetha Fältskog.
This is a piece of progressive rock out of the top drawer. The chordal riff which kicks off the tune (and remains the underlying theme throughout) is impressive and is augmented by soulful chords and a short but exceptional synthesizer interlude. The arrangement has a very retro 80s feel to it, which adds to the appeal.
Featured in the soundtrack of the film Saturday Night Fever (starring John Travolta), How Deep Is Your Love is one of those laid-back uplifting love songs that became the trademark of the Bee Gees. Perfect to listen to when the world is getting you down. For 17 weeks it stayed in the US Top 10, which was a record at that time.
Also part of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, this sentimental number was very popular at the time and it's easy to see why. A steady tempo belies the song's depth and although the chorus is repeated too much in the latter half, More Than A Woman will always remain a firm favourite. A recent remix cover version by 911 isn't bad either.
The theme tune for the TV sci-fi series of the same name is an absolute gem. Although not a pop tune in the traditional sense, it was released as an LP under then name "Star Fleet Project," hence its inclusion in this list. Futuristic, yet retro at the same time, the echoing vocals and synth backing elevate this to almost cult status. As a side note, try and seek out the instrumental intro tune, which is also great.
DeBarge's biggest hit, this was the main single from both the Rhythm of the Night album (which went gold) and the motion picture The Last Dragon. With its carnival atmosphere and catchy melody, this will indeed have you dancing until the morning light!
Hold on Tight is one of Communards' lesser known songs, perhaps because it was not released as a single (it was included on their album Red). Intelligently structured, the way the song develops is remarkable. The icing on the cake is the use of the whole note scale which first appears just after the 1:50 mark. One of the top picks.
First released by The Spinners in 1974, this cover version enriches an already fine melody and updates the orchestration with some lovely synthesized instrumentation. The song works very well as a duet with good vocal alternation and frequent key changes. One of the all time greats.
Electric Light Orchestra (ELO)
ELO specialises in high energy feel-good rock tunes and this is no exception. This track epitomises the optimistic feel of the era and features a melody you'll find yourself singing along to. All Over The World was featured in the film Xanadu (the third top 20 tune from the soundtrack in fact) and was also used as the name for ELO's compilation album in 2005.
A song celebrating the fact that erm, I'm alive. Well, not me specifically but anyway. The main chord sequence of C, A, F, G is quite common, but it's the style in which this song is delivered which really impresses. The tune culminates spectacularly just before the 3-minute mark with some phasing followed by an evocative instrumental section and ending fittingly on a mysterious chord (flattened submediant's major 7th for all you music theory buffs!). I'm Alive was also featured in the film Xanadu.
This cheerful bouncy tune only reached number 35 in the USA charts. Despite this, it remains one of ELO's most loved songs and the unofficial anthem of Birmingham City Football Club! Highlights include the occasional computerised vocals and an interesting excursion starting around the 3:45 mark where the song develops classically in to an almost dream-like state.
Perhaps Jackson's most famous song and certainly his most entertaining, Thriller will always be remembered for the thematic video that accompanied it and for Vincent Price's creepy laughter at the end. However the actual tune itself is remarkably well constructed, with crispy synthpad and lush backing vocals throughout. The lead up to the glorious bridge just before the 2.00 minute mark is stunning, as is the reprise at 3.06. A monster hit and no mistake.
I found this bit of treasure on a Best of 80s cassette I had lying around somewhere. After listening to some pretty generic rock and pop tracks, it was a breath of fresh air. Smooth, sweet and sparkly, Clouds Across The Moon is unique in terms of its composition and also the novel monologue approach in the singing. Featuring outstanding harmony, timely key changes and a stylish orchestration, the song is embroidered with popping, whizzing and whooshing effects, and uses good ol' cheesy synth toms and bell sounds to good effect. Highly recommended.
Swing Out Sister
Well, this just has to be one of the most amazing introductions ever, with a sequence of jaw-dropping chords. The main tune that follows is a slight anti-climax, but the gorgeous synth-jazz orchestration mix and chord twists cover up this shortcoming. The only other criticism is that the song is played a bit too slow. I found a utility called Pacemaker for WinAMP from the Plugins page at www.winamp.com. This lets you alter the speed of mp3s and when this song is played faster, it really does improve it.