Top 10 Songs of 1982
By 1982, most ’70s classic rockers had figured out that there was no use trying to keep up with the young kids. So instead of experimenting with new sounds or rethinking their game plans, they settled back into what they did best: guitar-powered rock ‘n’ roll with few frills and no pretensions about saving the world or anything like that. Most of the tracks on our list of the Top 10 Songs of 1982 are from ’70s veterans digging into familiar trenches. Most everyone else jumps in alongside them, seeking safety in numbers and guitars.
The Who should have called it quits after Keith Moon died. The two albums they released following his death — 1981’s ‘Face Dances’ and the following year’s ‘It’s Hard’ — are mostly forgettable messes, filled out with sloppy songwriting and lazily played songs. There are a few exceptions, notably ‘You Better You Bet’ from ‘Face Dances’ and this Pete Townshend-sung cut from ‘It’s Hard.’ It’s not prime Who, but it is the only song from the era that’s shown up regularly on recent tours.
Unlike most of the Eagles‘ general-target songs, Henley’s biggest single, the second released from his debut solo album, had a specific purpose: to deliver a fierce slap to hollow news reporting. Granted, it’s not the most original cause to take up, but Henley certainly makes it personal. No wonder: In 1980, a 16-year-old girl OD’ed at his house, and he was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The tabloids ate it up. This was Henley’s revenge.
After John Bonham’s death in 1980 put an end to Led Zeppelin, fans were hungry for something, anything, that had to do with the band. Plant delivered on his first solo album, which was close enough to Zeppelin at times to kill what little hope was left for a reunion. The LP’s most Zep-like song and opening track features Phil Collins on drums.
By 1982, both Yes and King Crimson had steered into different directions, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer had broken up. So Crimson’s John Wetton, Steve Howe from Yes and Carl Palmer, the P in ELP, formed a prog supergroup that was way more mainstream-friendly than their previous bands. Asia’s self-titled debut album hit No. 1, and their first single — pulled along by a monster guitar riff — reached No. 4. Both are way better than anything their original bands had released in years.
Jett didn't write, and wasn't the first to record, 'I Love Rock 'N Roll' (an obscure British band called Arrows released it in 1975). But she completely owned the song, which was the opening track, title tune and personal manifesto of her second album. Unlike most of the other artists on our list of the Top 10 Songs of 1982, Jett didn't have much success in the '70s (her band the Runaways, for all the attention they've picked up over the years, didn't sell too many records). But her classic song speaks for every single one of them.
Is 'Shock the Monkey' about inhumane lab experiments? Is it an animal-rights anthem? Or is it a metaphor for love's most primal reactions? Or is it a coded song about masturbation? Who knows for sure? Gabriel's first Top 40 hit kicks in a way that the classic synth-driven rhythm and repeated title refrain override all interpretations. It's definitely the most forward-thinking cut on our list of the Top 10 Songs of 1982.
'Fleetwood Mac' got them noticed, 'Rumours' made them stars and 'Tusk' was an inspired but kinda odd double record that was more about Lindsey Buckingham showing off in the studio than the songs. So after a three-year break, they returned with the relatively straightforward 'Mirage.' 'Hold Me' was the first single, a Top 5 hit written by Christine McVie, with some help, of course, from some of Buckingham's nifty production tricks.
Springsteen retreated to his New Jersey home following the lengthy tour in support of 1980's 'The River' and recorded a bunch of new songs on a basic tape recorder with little more than an acoustic guitar and harmonica in his bedroom. Those songs, which were supposed to be working demos for the E Street Band, ended up as Springsteen's sixth album, 'Nebraska.' There's a common theme of desperation in bad times running throughout the stark, stripped-down LP. 'Atlantic City' is the one that got some airplay.
Chrissie Hynde penned the Pretenders' only Top 5 hit about guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, who died of a drug overdose earlier in the year. Taking its field chant from R&B legend Sam Cooke's 'Chain Gang' and a jangly guitar line inspired by the Beatles, 'Back on the Chain Gang' became a timeless requiem for broken lives.
John Mellencamp (still going by “Cougar” when he recorded 'Jack & Diane') was beginning to shake his corporate-rock image when he made his sixth and only No. 1 album, 'American Fool.' The nostalgic tale of first love in a small American town is framed by acoustic guitars, handclaps and a drum-fueled bridge. Greater things would come with 'Scarecrow' and 'The Lonesome Jubilee,' but the seeds were planted on 'Jack & Diane,' Mellencamp's only No. 1 single.