January is upon us, and that means attempting to improve and change some of the things about ourselves that we always promised we would. My buddy, Chris Omo has a Facebook group called, “Friends Who Like Take Me Back to the 80’s” and that made me think about what songs from one of the happier generations of music really make you want to get your butt off the couch and do something. Olivia Newton-John’s classic, “Physical” would make sense here, or even Tony Basil’s classic to cheerleading, “Mickey”, but as poppy as the 80’s could be, these songs just don’t scream motivation or discipline to help start a workout routine as a New Year’s Resolution after spending a lot of time eating sugary holiday treats. So I went year by year looking at the Billboard top 100 songs each year and picking the best songs to make me at least look at a treadmill (in no particular order of greatness, or lack there of).
1. Eye of the Tiger- Survivor
Let me preface this with a fact about me. I’m 5’5″ tall, with the ego and attitude of someone much taller than me. The definition of “Little Man Syndrome” is not wasted on me, and to speak for my vertically challenged brethren, the Rocky movies (with the exception of 5, which is a pile of trash) are a motivational and inspiring factor of our lives. I can’t think of a time in my life while flipping through channels, and coming across any of the Rocky movies (except 5… see above) where I kept flipping. With Apollo Creed’s cockiness, Clubber Lang’s dominance, and Ivan Drago’s Performance Enhancing Drug Problem being at the forefront of near impossible opponents to defeat, Rocky did, every time.
“Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor was released as part of the soundtrack to Rocky 3, and is the theme of what Rocky had to do to overcome Mr. T’s Clubber Lang. The song is so good about kicking a$$ that it is the opening credit of Rocky 4, recapping that a$$ whipping. The guitar riff in the beginning, with the quick drum beats makes me want to install a punching bag in my basement. At the very least, put on grey sweatpants and try jogging around the neighborhood after drinking a glass full of Salmonella in the version of raw eggs. Side note, I found a soundtrack with all the songs from all the rocky movies called, “The Rocky Story”. If I am being honest, this is really all you need to work out. No other songs are needed, but that would kill the idea of this list…
2. Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’- Michael Jackson
It is a poor argument to say that Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” wasn’t one of the best albums in history based on it’s sales and widespread appeal globally. With songs like “Beat it” and “Billie Jean” (PYT didn’t age well) alone, Michael Jackson is an 80’s icon. One could suggest that “Beat it” is enough to get you to lift a weight or two from the Eddie Van Halen guitar riff, but if I had to pick one song from that album to make you move, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” has got to be that song. From the onset, it is all high energy. By the end of the song with the hard to understand chant of “Ma ma se, ma ma sa, ma ma ko ssa” you are fully invested. I’d do a push up, and attempt a pull up.
3. Centerfold- J. Geils Band
This song was played so much in the early 80’s that even if you didn’t like it, it got stuck in your head with the chant alone of “Nah, nah, nana, nah nah, na, na, na, na, nana, na, na, nah”. “Centerfold” by J. Geils Band starts out with a saxaphone medley and then the high energy vocals of Peter Wolf don’t quit. At the very least, this is a great warm up song, to what you have high hopes of completing with your calorie burn.
4. I Ran (So Far Away)- Flock of Seagulls
Flock of Seagulls had other songs, but even so, they fall very much in the “One-Hit Wonder” category. “I ran (So Far Away)” is not only iconic, but lead singer, Mike Score’s hair style alone defined 80’s fashion (He’s bald now, probably from all the hairspray). The mindset listening to this song is very much “James Bond meets the Fugitive” and although it doesn’t make me want to run, like the song suggests, its rhythmic repetitious echoing makes for good sit up form. I just don’t know if I could do enough sit ups to complete the entire 3:57 of the songs length. Exercise goals!
5. Another One Bites the Dust- Queen
I know what you’re thinking… “We are the Champions/We Will Rock You is so much more of a better selection for songs to work out to.” You’re not wrong. Those songs scream pushing yourself past your physical limits and “feeling the burn”, HOWEVER, I grew up a Detroit Lions fan. My fondest memory of the Lions hype videos were of Billy Simms highlights to the song “Another One Bites the Dust”. It’s funny though, because although the Lions have had good seasons in my lifetime (even won a playoff game… once), I would say they rarely have made teams bite dust. It’s a great song to do arm curls with. The bass riff helps you stay in count.
6. Cum on Feel the Noise- Quiet Riot
The song title alone is proof that being an 80’s kid, came without much parental disgust of “what is my kid being exposed to”. Quiet Riot are a bunch of clowns who I think are surprised they ever got out of the club scenes and made it big. Maybe they let it go to their heads, maybe they were always just hoping to be rock icons, but I highly recommend watching their documentary, “Quiet Riot: Now You’re Here, There’s No Way Back.” Looking for a new lead singer to replace the late Kevin DuBrow becomes a challenge, worth seeing.
I can’t deny though, that if there ever was a song that plays as the best beer drinking/frat party commercial ever, it is “Cum on Feel the Noise”. At the very least, when you get that combustible drunken energy after doing keg stands and need to “Go streaking through the quad and into the gymnasium”, you can thank this song for helping power you through. I have a headache just thinking of this aftermath.
7. Let’s Go Crazy- Prince
It would be an absolute insult to include Michael Jackson on any list of 80’s music and not have his counterpart equal, Prince, along with him. Prince has a lot of funk in his songs, some that really get going, and some that stay soft or complacent, and most of which I would say don’t strike you as high energy. With the exception of “Let’s Go Crazy”. It kind of reminds me of an aerobics instructor’s class, asking you to do “high knees” and “jumping jacks” but really, you could bench press to this song…
8. Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)- Journey
Owning a bar, for the better part of 2 decades, “Don’t Stop Believin'” is a Michigan Jukebox anthem for the simple crowd-pleasing sing-along lyric, “Born and Raised in South Detroit”. However, I didn’t know this, but that song only made it to #9 on the Billboard top 10 and was only the 72nd best song that year. How is that possible? Journey had two songs that could be argued to help you workout, “Only the Young” from the movie “Vision Quest” about a high school wrestler trying to make weight to take on the undefeated champion “Brian Shoot” gets your blood pumpin is in the discussion, but only because of this movie, not because of the song. “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” though, is a Journey classic of high energy and although this video is cringe-worthy (a perfect fit for Dad Joke Genius), it’s enough for you to do that extra squat you didn’t want to do.
9. Far From Over- Frank Stallone
John Travolta killed it with the Bee Gees in the late 70’s disco drama “Saturday Night Fever”, and then he returned in the early 80’s with the “kind of” sequel, “Stayin Alive”. Sylvester Stallone directed this movie, and of course, he gave a handout to his brother, Frank, and as many times as I hear it, I think the song “Far from Over” is more fitting in an Andy Samburg comedy like, “Hot Rod”. I can’t deny though, despite it being funny to me, the song is super energy, like Red Bull giving you wings. But Frank Stallone? And John Travolta as a ballet dancer? Never mind, both of those last questions spells gold!
10. Chariots of Fire-Vangelis
You know you have an iconic song when it is parodied over and over again through TV skits and movies. I still have never seen the movie, “Chariots of Fire”, but I clearly remember the song “Chariots of Fire” by Vangelis being used in the movie, “National Lampoon’s Vacation”. Also, little known fact, “Chariots of Fire” is the title holder for longest time a song was on the top 40 charts to reach #1 (5 months) and it was only there for 1 week AND it is also the only piece of music by a Greek artist to top the US charts. There is a calming energy about this song, and really, if you made it through the workout you had planned (good for you), this should be the cool down song. You have achieved greatness, at least for 1 day.