Following up on our recent feature Top Songs from the ’80s with Girl Names in the Title, it was only fair to provide a similar list for the opposite sex. While there certainly are many songs written about men, it appears that the number pales in comparison to how many have been written about women. Neither list includes songs that use the generic “Girl” or “Boy” like Foreigner’s “Waiting For a Girl Like You” or Deniece Williams’ “Let’s Hear it For the Boy”, so there are many more songs like that or that don’t refer to the subject’s name in the title.
To qualify for this list, the song had to be released between 1980-1989 and include a guy’s name in the actual title of the song. My rankings will be based on a combination of perceived quality of work and pop culture significance, but mostly just my personal taste level both then and now (which admittedly can change daily). I only list each artist once, so if they have multiple qualifying songs those are ranked together. Here are my TOP 15 SONGS FROM THE ’80s WITH GUY NAMES IN THE TITLE:
15. “Eric B. is President” (1986) by Eric B. & Rakim – This was their debut single and was eventually included on their debut album Paid in Full in 1987.
14. “Mickey” (1982) by Toni Basil – First recorded by UK music group Racey in 1979 as “Kitty”, Basil changed the name from Kitty to Mickey to make the song about a man.
13. “Axel F” (1984) by Harold Faltermeyer – An unusual guy’s name, this electronic instrumental was, of course, titled after the Eddie Murphy character “Axel Foley” in Beverly Hills Cop.
12. “Peter Piper” (1986) & “Jam-Master Jay” (1984) by Run-DMC – “Peter Piper” was the lead track on their iconic Raising Hell album, but was never officially released as a single (only the B-side to “My Adidas”). “Jam-Master Jay” (also not released as a single) was from their debut album touting the DJ and third member of the group.
11. “Be Good Johnny” (1982) by Men at Work – Written from the viewpoint of a 9-year-old boy who is constantly being told to be good, but prefers to daydream rather than concentrate in class or play sports, it was never released as a single in the U.S. despite getting regular radio airplay.
10. “Major Tom (Coming Home)” (1983) by Peter Schilling – Originally recorded in German, the song reached #1 in three countries before being recorded in English and released in the U.S. “Major Tom” is unofficially related to the protagonist of David Bowie’s 1969 song “Space Oddity”.
9. “Who’s Johnny” (1986) by El De Barge – The debut solo single by El DeBarge was used for the film Short Circuit and Johnny thus likely refers to the robot character in the movie called “Johnny 5”.
8. “Paul Revere” (1986) by Beastie Boys – The song tells a fictional story of how Adrock, Mike D and MCA first met.
7. “When Smokey Sings” (1987) by ABC – In this case, the guy’s name is a tribute to the great Smokey Robinson.
6. “Jacob’s Ladder”(1986) by Huey Lewis & the News – This song was co-written by Bruce Hornsby who did a rendition of his own in 1988.
5. “Tom Sawyer” (1981) by Rush – Neil Peart wrote the lyrics inspired by a poem called “Louis the Lawyer”.
4. “Jack and Diane” (1982) by John Cougar Mellencamp – The only song to make both the Girl Name and Guy Name lists.
3. “Jessie’s Girl” (1981) by Rick Springfield – Springfield took a class with a friend of his named Gary and Gary’s girlfriend. Springfield initially wanted to use the actual name of his friend, but instead decided to go with a different name. He chose “Jessie” because he was wearing a T-shirt with the name of football player Ron Jessie on it. Springfield says that he does not remember the name of the girlfriend, and he believes that the real woman who inspired the song has no idea that she was “Jessie’s Girl”.
2. “You Can Call Me Al” (1986) by Paul Simon – The song names were inspired at a party when French composer/conductor Pierre Boulez, who was attending the same party, mistakenly referred to Paul as “Al” and to his then wife Peggy as “Betty”.
1. “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” (1985) by John Parr – Obviously from the soundtrack to the film of the same name, the lyrics were actually inspired by a news clip about the Canadian athlete Rick Hansen, who at the time was going around the world in his wheelchair (on what was called the “Man in Motion Tour” to raise awareness for spinal cord injuries.
There’s my list. As usual and as I mentioned earlier, these are based on my personal preferences and the order could very well change a little depending on my mood or nostalgia on a given day. Any songs that you think I missed or that you would rank a lot differently? If so, please be sure to leave those down in the comments section below. As far back as there has been music, I am pretty sure that men and women have been a popular song topic. I would bet that the “cave man” wrote songs about “cave women”. A small portion of those songs actually use a name of the girl or guy in the title. The great decade of the ’80s is no exception and had its share of songs with a girl or guy’s name in the title. Now you have a list of each to prove it.
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