100 Greatest Songs From 1981

Criteria: Songs listed are from Rock 'n' Roll and related sub-genres. Rankings are based on initial and lasting popularity and on acclaim received from critics and musicians.

Note: Yearly song lists go by earliest 'release date' (Single, Album, or Country of first release). Not necessarily the year a song peaked in the U.S. charts.

  1. I Love Rock 'n' Roll - Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
  2. Don't You Want Me? - Human League
  3. Tainted Love - Soft Cell
  4. Super Freak (Part 1) - Rick James
  5. Physical - Olivia Newton-John
  6. Don't Stop Believin' - Journey
  7. In the Air Tonight - Phil Collins
  8. Start Me Up - Rolling Stones
  9. Our Lips Are Sealed - Go-Gos
10. Jessie's Girl - Rick Springfield
11. Endless Love - Diana Ross & Lionel Richie
12. I Can't Go For That (No Can Do) - Hall & Oates
13. Under Pressure - Queen and David Bowie
14. Rock This Town - Stray Cats
15. Down Under - Men At Work
16. Centerfold - J. Geils Band
17. Waiting for a Girl Like You - Foreigner
18. Who Can It Be Now? - Men At Work
19. Let's Groove - Earth, Wind, & Fire
20. 867-5309/Jenny - Tommy Tutone
21. Genius of Love - Tom Tom Club
22. Just Can't Get Enough - Depeche Mode
23. Bette Davis Eyes - Kim Carnes
24. The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel - Grandmaster Flash
25. Every Little Thing She Does is Magic - The Police
26. Urgent - Foreigner
27. Edge of Seventeen (Just Like the White Winged Dove) (live) - Stevie Nicks
28. Ghost Town - Specials
29. Being With You - Smokey Robinson
30. Kids in America - Kim Wilde
31. Open Arms - Journey
32. Slow Hand - Pointer Sisters
33. Give It to Me Baby - Rick James
34. Get Down on It - Kool & The Gang
35. Tom Sawyer - Rush
36. Tempted - Squeeze
37. Girls on Film - Duran Duran
38. Working for the Weekend - Loverboy
39. Baby, Come to Me - Patti Austin and James Ingram
40. Freeze Frame - J. Geils Band
41. Never Too Much - Luther Vandross
42. You're the One for Me - D-Train
43. Heartbeat - Taana Gardner
44. Mama Used to Say - Junior
45. She's a Bad Mama Jama (She's Built, She's Stacked) - Carl Carlton
46. Harden My Heart - Quarterflash
47. Turn Your Love Around - George Benson
48. Lady (You Bring Me Up) - Commodores
49. The Stroke - Billy Squier
50. Shake It Up - The Cars
51. Walking on Thin Ice - Yoko Ono
52. Never Say Never - Romeo Void
53. At This Moment - Billy Vera & The Beaters
54. We Got the Beat (I.R.S. version) - The Go-Gos
55. Mony Mony - Billy Idol
56. You Better, You Bet - The Who
57. For Those About To Rock (We Salute You) - AC/DC
58. Pull Up To The Bumper - Grace Jones
59. Stop Draggin' My Heart Around - Stevie Nicks w/ Tom Petty & Heartbreakers
60. How 'Bout Us? - Champaign
61. Waiting on a Friend - Rolling Stones
62. Limelight - Rush
63. Controversy - Prince
64. Theme from "Chariots of Fire" - Vangelis
65. Stand and Deliver - Adam & The Ants
66. Papa's Got a Brand New Pigbag - Pigbag
67. Love Action (I Believe In Love) - Human League
68. (We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang - Heaven 17
69. Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl) - Haircut 100
70. A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do) - Ray Parker Jr. & Raydio
71. Square Biz - Teena Marie
72. A Million Miles Away - Plimsouls
73. I'm In Love - Evelyn "Champagne" King
74. Chant No. 1 (We Don't Need This Pressure On) - Spandau Ballet
75. Call Me - Skyy
76. All Those Years Ago - George Harrison
77. The Breakup Song (They Don't Write 'Em) - Greg Kihn
78. It Must Be Love - Madness
79. Message of Love - Pretenders
80. Wordy Rappinghood - Tom Tom Club
81. Stray Cat Strut - Stray Cats
82. Da Da Da (I Don't Love You, You Don't Love Me, Aha Aha Aha) - Trio
83. Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do) - Christopher Cross
84. O Superman (For Massenet) - Laurie Anderson
85. Boy from New York City - Manhattan Transfer
86. Abacab - Genesis
87. Funky Sensation - Gwen McRae
88. Out Come the Freaks - Was (Not Was)
89. The Sweetest Girl - Scritti Politti
90. Ai No Corrida (I-No-Ko-Ree-Da) - Quincy Jones feat. Dune
91. Moody - ESG
92. Spirits In the Material World - The Police
93. Too Drunk To Fuck - Dead Kennedys
94. Gloria - U2
95. T.V. Party - Black Flag
96. When She Was My Girl - Four Tops
97. Ceremony - New Order
98. To Hell With Poverty! - Gang of Four
99. Charlotte Sometimes - The Cure
100. This Little Girl - Gary "U.S." Bonds
20 more worth mentioning.
101. Just Between You and Me - April Wine
102. The Waiting - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
103. Hold On Loosely - .38 Special
104. Burnin' For You - Blue Oyster Cult
105. Who's Crying Now? - Journey
106. Planet Earth - Duran Duran
107. Magic Power - Triumph
108. Young Turks - Rod Stewart
109. One of Us - ABBA
110. Oh No - Commodores
111. Private Eyes - Hall & Oates
112. Hold on Tight - Electric Light Orchestra
113. Reward (With a Capital Wow) - The Teardrop Explodes
114. Homosapien - Pete Shelley
115. Der Kommissar (The Commissioner) - Falco
116. Ghosts - Japan
117. Say Hello, Wave Goodbye - Soft Cell
118. Tears Are Not Enough - ABC
119. That's When I Reach For My Revolver - Mission of Burma
120. Der Mussolini - D.A.F.
DigitalDreamDoor Editor Picks for 1981
An unheralded great record from 1981
Jeff's choice -
Greatest Single Re-entry:

* No Woman, No Cry (#8 UK) - Bob Marley & The Wailers
Jeff's choice -
* Fate - Chaka Kahn
Lew's choice -
* Trouble - Lindsey Buckingham
Bruce's choice -
* Hepno Beat - Dynamic Hepnotics
Brett's choice -
* Haunted Town - The Effigies
Ryan's choice -
* It's Obvious - Au Pairs
Adam's choice -
* The Gigolo - O'Bryan

Edited By:
Last Updated: 2014-01-26