1980s Pop: The Worst Bits

We’ve looked at some of the great bits before, but what about the worst bits of ’80s pop, those moments that have you screaming at the radio?

Those randomly-generated solos, irritating choruses, ill-advised technological experiments or disastrous vocal sojourns?

Sometimes crap bits can ruin a perfectly decent song. But whose fault are they? You can often feel the band ‘spokesperson’ putting his oar in, going against the journeyman producer who probably wanted to get some session players in anyway.

And are there recurring themes? The dodgy sax solo is an ’80s staple. There are definitely repeat offenders (hello Midge). And maybe there are types of music that lend themselves to crap bits too (soft rock, mid-’80s techno-pop).

So roll up, roll up! Join us for the worst bits of 1980s pop…

15. Herb Alpert’s trumpet solo on Janet Jackson’s ‘Someday Is Tonight’
Searching for some Miles-style, brooding sexiness, label boss Herb luxuriates in Jam and Lewis’s delicious soundworld for a few seconds, picks up his trumpet and…

14. The chorus of Level 42’s ‘Running In The Family’
The most anodyne single of their glittering career, not helped by some creepy lyrics and a yukky, somewhat out-of-tune chorus.

13. The sax solo on Aztec Camera’s ‘Somewhere In My Heart’

12. The ‘false ending’ to T’Pau’s ‘China In Your Hand’

11. Lisa Stansfield’s spoken-word intro to ‘All Around The World’
Pass the sick bag. Yes, the song is an unashamed ‘tribute’ to Bazza White’s eroto-soul, but Lisa probably should have parked the sexy-as-a-dentist-chair, American-accented spoken-word opening of this UK number one (she should have done it in her Rochdale accent… – Ed.).

10. The guitar solo on Philip Bailey/Phil Collins’ ‘Easy Lover’
It’s crying out for some widdly Van Halen-inspired techno flash, but unfortunately Daryl Steurmer can only manage a tepid, weirdly unmemorable pass…

9. The sax solo on Spandau Ballet’s ‘True’
A classic ’80s single, almost ruined by Steve Norman’s dire feature. He sounds like a kid who’s just been given an alto sax for Christmas.

8. Steve Hogarth’s piano solo on The The’s ‘Heartland’
Much beloved in some circles but always sounds a bit tentative and formless to these ears.

7. The chorus of Duran Duran’s ‘Wild Boys’

6. The sampled vocal bits in Kylie Minogue’s ‘I Should Be So Lucky’
A horrible song from top to tail, but the keyboard ‘solo’ puts the tin lid on it. See also Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ and Mel & Kim’s ‘Respectable’.

5. Gazza’s rapping on ‘Fog On The Tyne (Revisited)’

4. Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’
Just the whole song. Period.

3. The chorus of Ultravox’s ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’
If you look up ‘bombastic’ in the dictionary, you’ll see a little thumbnail of Midge.

2. The chorus of Midge Ure’s ‘If I Was’
See above.

1. The spoken bits on Michael Jackson’s ‘The Girl Is Mine’
This one divides opinion. Macca and Jacko’s little tete-a-tete has been the cause of much merriment, but it somehow fits the song. Still rubbish though…


15 thoughts on “1980s Pop: The Worst Bits

  1. Absolutely concur on dodgy ’80s sax solos. Hate them! But Matt, the one time you mention The The and it’s in a list like this. *cry* OK, so the piano solo in Heartland is definitely not up to par compared to Jools’ in Uncertain Smile, but it’s not THAT bad is it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s more a pick out of frustration, exaggerated for ‘comic’ effect… I’ve tried and tried with The The but can’t quite find my way in, but DO happen to really like a few songs from ‘Infected’ including ‘Heartland’, probably my fave. But I don’t ‘get’ the point of this solo and it always slightly galls me! Sorry Steve/Suzanna…


  2. Hey I like that sax Solo on “true”. Okay, it’s cheesey but so is the whole song. “Running in the family” – worst level song ever anyway. Tacky as hell. Not helped by the fact we had to play it live every time…

    Liked by 2 people

      • Hi Matt. I’m a jazz sax player of several decades, and I still hold the solo in True to be one of the worst sax solos of all time. All of the pro players I know feel the same. I struggle to be in the same room as the track when the solo comes on, it offends me so much. Everything about it is awful – the tone, the intonation, the timing, the (lack of) inventiveness. Gold standard of badness. BTW, it’s a tenor, not an alto, although I can understand the confusion given the sound coming out of the horn. Thanks for your observations – your page made me smile 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Matt, I’ve just looked thru your list of 80s artists on the ‘about’ page, and I have to say, you’ve reminded me that it wasn’t all bad. Some great artists who continued to fly the flag when the mainstream music was so dire. I was pleased to see Wynton in your list – do you know the album Black Codes (from the Underground)? Also Thomas Dolby – still love Aliens Ate My Buick. My work mate’s son went to school with TDs son/daughter (not sure which it was) and he’d find himself in the same queue as TD at parents’ evening to see a teacher 🙂


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