Even traditional rock bands were known to incorporate keyboards into their music, live performances, and music videos.
New wave bands, however, were totally tied to the synthesizer without exception. This sound was present in the majority of 80s songs. Soft Cell’s hit popsynth ditty, “Tainted Love,” completely embraced the new wave synth sounds that were raging across the culture.
The electronic sound of the synthesizer combined with the driving BIM-BIM, whip-cracking beat and love-takes-no-prisoners lyrics made “Tainted Love” an enormous success, perhaps the greatest one-hit wonder of the 80s – and the 80s were, like, totally packed with awesome one-hit wonders.
Composed by Ed Cobb and originally recorded by Gloria Jones in 1964, “Tainted Love” found worldwide appeal when Soft Cell recorded it in 1981. Since then, it has been covered and sampled by countless groups and artists, including a Marilyn Manson version and a sample in Rhianna’s 2006 song “SOS.”
However, the song remains a testament to 80s music. It soared to the top of the UK charts and was soon released in the U.S., where, although it took 19 weeks to hit the top 40, it spent 43 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100.
The B-side of the single was another cover song, the Supremes’ Motown classic “Where Did Our Love Go?” There was also a popular remix of “Tainted Love,” which included a brief interlude of the B-side. Remixes were standard fare for 80s songs, and longer versions of new wave songs were totally popular in clubs.
80s Music Video: Tainted Love
There were several music videos created for “Tainted Love.” One featured Soft Cell’s Marc Almond and David Ball in an ancient Greek setting. Another shows Ball haunted by starry apparitions interspersed with images of Almond singing against a night-sky backdrop.
Check it out:
The song’s videos were not among the most memorable or heavily featured 80s songs on MTV. However, radio stations played the heck out of it, cementing it firmly among the pillars of 80s music.
80s Songs and One-Hit Wonders
Soft Cell was just one of many bands who lucked out when their 80s songs became worldwide phenomena. One-hit wonders were standard for 80s music, and while most musicians prefer a long, steady career, these fly-by hits catapulted songs like “Tainted Love” to fame and earned songwriters, producers, and performers a pretty penny.
Tainted Love remains one of the most important 80s songs. It helped define 80s music and its popularity continues through cover versions and sampling.
Technically, “Walk This Way” is a 70s song. But something happened to it in the 80s and it was never the same.
Written by Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, “Walk This Way” was the second single off Aerosmith’s 1975 album, Toys in the Attic. While the song was well received at the time, it would later become one of the most iconic 80s songs over a decade later when it was resurrected, revamped, and covered by an unknown rap group.
In 1986, rap group Run-D.MC. included their version of “Walk This Way” on their 1986 album Raising Hell, which itself became one of the defining albums in 80s music. The new version of “Walk This Way” quickly became an international hit and won both groups, Aerosmith and Run-D.M.C. a Soul Train Music Award for best rap single.
Run-D.M.C., Meet Aerosmith
While working on Raising Hell, Rick Rubin introduced Run-D.M.C. to Aerosmith’s music. Neither Run nor DMC were familiar with the 70s rock band. Jam Master Jay suggested they remake the song. Initially, Run and D.M.C. were not interested. But eventually, they covered the song and it became one of the most important 80s songs, laying the groundwork for Run-D.M.C. to become pioneers in hip hop and 80s music stars.
The revamped “Walk This Way” helped revitalize Aerosmith’s career. More importantly, it popularized rap music and particularly a new hybrid genre, rock-rap, which combined rock music with rap lyrics. The single included Steve Perry on guitar, Steven Tyler’s vocals, and rapping and scratching by Run-D.M.C. According to VH1′s Pop Up Video, Run D.M.C. couldn’t afford to use everyone in Aerosmith, so only Steven and Joe were on the track.
To this day, “Walk This Way” is considered a pioneering success within 80s music. In fact, it was the first rap song to make the top five in the Billboard Hot 100. It paved the way for various genres to fuse with rap and hip-hop music through artist collaborations. VH1 named it number four in its list of the “100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop.”
The Run-D.M.C. version of “Walk this Way” charted higher than the original. It’s totally one of the best 80s songs ever.
“Walk This Way” kicks off with a two-measure drum beat that morphs into a now-famous guitar riff, which was written by Joe Perry. The intro is followed by the first verse backed by a steady drum beat and bassline. Meanwhile, there are two lead guitars dueling it out. In short, it’s a noisy song, which is notable since most 80s songs tended toward the melodic.
The lyrics are about a high school kid losing his virginity and were inspired by a line from Marty Feldman’s Young Frankenstein. The rhyme scheme is metered and stressed, which may be one of the reasons why the song lent itself so well to rap.
The Run-DMC cover lyrics are almost identical to the original version of the song.
Rock, Rap, 80s
In a decade jam-packed with new and innovative 80s music, “Walk This Way” was one of the few covers that was not only successful, but a true reinterpretation of the original rather than a cookie-cutter remake. As far as 80s songs go, it’s unique because it single-handedly popularized hip-hop music, bringing an entirely new genre to mainstream listeners.