THE TOP 500 POP SONGS OF THE 1980S
THIS WEEK’S FEATURED SONG
Hungry Like the Wolf by Duran Duran - Song #33
This song by British new wave band Duran Duran was the band’s breakthrough hit in the United States. Of all the songs on this list of the TOP 500 POP SONGS OF THE 1980S, Hungry Like the Wolf benefitted the most from American television channel MTV, which launched in 1981. Prior to MTV, a song’s success in the U.S. depended on radio airplay. Hungry Like the Wolf had already been a hit in the U.K. and Australia, and so had the band’s 1981 debut single Planet Earth, but it wasn’t until MTV put the Hungry Like the Wolf video in heavy rotation (airing it four or five times per day) at the end of 1982 that it became a radio hit in the U.S. Duran Duran keyboardist Nick Rhodes stated, “MTV got so many requests that people started requesting it on the radio, so it sort of quickly turned around.” Hungry like the Wolf peaked at #3 on the U.S. Billboard Top 40 in 1983. The song was also a hit in South Africa, Canada, Poland, Ireland, New Zealand, and Italy.
The video for Hungry Like the Wolf was directed by Australian Russell Mulcahy (who had previously directed the band’s Planet Earth video, and later directed the 1986 cult classic film Highlander). The video was shot in the island country of Sri Lanka, and features exotic jungles, rivers, temples, and marketplaces reminiscent of the huge 1981 Steven Spielberg film Raiders of the Lost Ark. (Duran Duran guitarist Andy Taylor described the storyline of the video as, “Indiana Jones is horny and wants to get laid.”) Most of Duran Duran’s videos were shot on 35 mm film, which gave them a much more polished and cinematic look than what was standard in the ‘80s. In the video, singer Simon Le Bon’s head rises in slow motion from a river as rain pours down, an homage to a scene from the 1979 Francis Ford Coppola film Apocalypse Now. The night before the video shoot, Simon Le Bon went to a hair stylist for blond highlights, but his hair turned orange, which is why he is wearing a hat in the video. In 1984, the Hungry Like the Wolf video won the very first Grammy award for Best Short Form Music Video, a dual award with Girls On Film, another Duran Duran song that had already been a hit in the U.K. and Australia (as well as New Zealand, Sweden, and Ireland). Girls On Film was not a U.S. Billboard Top 40 song in the U.S., and therefore did not make this list of the TOP 500 POP SONGS OF THE 1980S, but it ranks #44 on a separate list featured on this website: The Top 50 Crucially Iconic ‘80s Songs That Were NOT Popular (in the United States) in the ‘80s.
Duran Duran is an English new wave band formed in Birmingham (West Midlands, England) in 1978. The group is one of the most prominent of the so-called Second British Invasion of the U.S., which refers to the period of mid-1982 to mid-1986 when a wide variety of music artists from the U.K. became popular in the U.S., primarily due to MTV. When Duran Duran recorded its self-titled debut album in late-1980, the band members were Simon Le Bon (vocals), Andy Taylor (guitar), Nick Rhodes (keyboards), John Taylor (bass), and Roger Taylor (drums). None of the Taylors in the band are related. The band is named after a character in the 1968 science fiction movie Barbarella, starring American actress Jane Fonda as a space traveler. In the film, a scientist named Durand Durand creates a weapon to destroy humanity. Duran Duran has never disbanded, but there have been some changes in line-up. Nick Rhodes is the only band member who has been with Duran Duran since its formation in 1978. Simon Le Bon joined in 1980. John Taylor and Roger Taylor joined the band in 1979; both of them left the band at different times, but re-joined in 2001. Andy Taylor joined the band in 1980, but left in 1986, returned in 2001, and left again in 2006; Andy Taylor is the only one who is not presently a member of Duran Duran. A new album is expected to be released in autumn 2020.
Duran Duran has released 14 studio albums, four live albums, four compilation albums, two albums of remixes, two box sets, and 39 singles. Fifteen of those 39 singles were U.S. Billboard Top 40 hits, and 13 of them were in the ‘80s. Six of those 13 songs are on this list. In addition to Hungry Like the Wolf, the others are 1982’s Rio at #232, 1985’s A View To a Kill at #270, 1984’s The Reflex at #285, 1985’s Save a Prayer at #410, and 1983’s Union Of the Snake at #471. (Note: Save a Prayer is on the 1982 album Rio, but it was not released as a single in the United States until 1985, although the music video was very popular on MTV in 1983. Save a Prayer had been released as a single in the United Kingdom in 1982, and peaked at #2 on the U.K. Singles Chart. A special U.S. single version was finally released in 1985, after Duran Duran’s live album Arena was released.)
Duran Duran’s other hits in the U.S. are 1983’s Is There Something I Should Know?, 1984’s New Moon On Monday, 1984’s The Wild Boys, 1986’s Notorious, 1987’s Skin Trade, 1988’s I Don’t Want Your Love, and 1988’s All She Wants Is. In 1993, Duran Duran had hits with Ordinary World and Come Undone. In 1985, the band members pursued side projects during a break in their schedule. John Taylor and Andy Taylor joined English singer Robert Palmer (whose Addicted To Love is song #184 on this list) and drummer Tony Thompson of the ‘70s disco band Chic to form The Power Station. The Power Station had three U.S. Billboard Top 40 hits in 1985: Some Like It Hot, a cover of British glam rock group T. Rex’s 1971 hit Get It On [the cover’s title is Get It On (Bang A Gong)], and Communication, none of which made this list. Nick Rhodes, Simon Le Bon, and Roger Taylor formed the group Arcadia, and recorded one album, So Red the Rose. Arcadia had one U.S. Billboard Top 40 hit, Election Day, which didn’t make this list either.
What is Hungry Like the Wolf about? The song was written collectively by all five of the band members. John Taylor has said that he’s not sure what the song is about, but that it probably has do to with meeting girls and having sex: “Simon likes animal metaphors... To me, it was like wanting to have sex with someone.” Andy Taylor said that Simon Le Bon’s inspiration for the lyrics was the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, which features the Big Bad Wolf. The lyrical repetition of the word “do” at the end of each verse was inspired by the instrumental portions of Canadian singer/songwriter/guitarist Gordon Lightfoot’s 1971 hit If You Could Read My Mind. Hungry Like the Wolf was produced by Colin Thurston, who also produced Kajagoogoo’s Too Shy (song #325 on this list) and Bow Wow Wow’s I Want Candy, which did not make this list, but is song #3 on the previously mentioned list of excluded songs: The Top 50 Crucially Iconic ‘80s Songs That Were NOT Popular (in the United States) in the ‘80s.
Before the band recorded Hungry Like the Wolf in 1982, new synthesizers and sequencers were coming on the market. Guitarist Andy Taylor told Blender magazine, “That track came from fiddling with the new technology that was starting to come in.” He linked a sequencer and a Roland Jupiter-8 keyboard with the revolutionary Roland TR-808 drum machine, which was one of the first drum machines that allowed users to program rhythms using analog synthesis instead of just using preset patterns. The Roland TR-808 quickly became a cornerstone of electronic and dance music, as well as the burgeoning hip-hop movement in the ‘80s, specifically for its deep, booming bass sound. One of the first songs to use and popularize the Roland TR-808 was Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing (song #104 on this list).
A wide variety of artists from many genres have covered Hungry Like the Wolf, including American alternative rock band Hole in 1995 (click here), American pop/punk band Less Than Jake in 1995 (click here), Finnish punk/rock band Hybrid Children in 1995 (click here), American rock band Guild of Ages in 1999 (click here), Serbian hard rock band Love Hunters in 2002 (click here), American metal band Gothic Knights in 2003 (click here), American group Vitamin String Quartet in 2004 (click here), American metal band Devil’s Radio in 2005 (click here), U.K. pop/punk band Cranial Screwtop in 2007 (click here), American metal band 13 Winters in 2008 (click here), American string band No Strings Attached in 2008 (click here), English pop/punk band Subliminal Girls in 2008 (click here), American industrial rock band Black Light Burns in 2008 (click here), American alternative rock band Amaru in 2010 (click here), English ‘80s retro band The Molly Ringwalds in 2011 (click here), American group Piano Tribute Players in 2011 (click here), British acoustic duo Stu’s Front Room in 2013 (click here), Irish vocal harmony group Mongoose in 2015 (click here), American experimental musical group Hidden Citizens featuring Tim Halperin in 2015 (click here), American horror-rap rocker Jamie Madrox and electropunk musician Little Jimmy Urine in 2019 (click here), and English rock band Muse in 2019 (click here).
Hungry Like the Wolf is sampled in 2012’s Really Hungry Really Tired by American rock band Truxton, 2015’s Hey Everybody! by Australian rock band 5 Seconds of Summer, and 2018’s 3 Knives by American hardcore punk band Code Orange. In 2013, American guitarist Marco Pigolotti recorded an instrumental acoustic version of Hungry Like the Wolf with both Rio and Save a Prayer (click here). Hungry Like the Wolf is interpolated in 2011’s Your Only Friends Are Make Believe by American rock band Bloodhound Gang, and in 2013’s Strange Melody by American folk singer Jessica Pratt.
Animal-torturing-and-slaughtering multinational enterprise Burger King wanted to use Hungry Like the Wolf in advertisements. In 2002, Andy Taylor told Blender magazine, “Burger King has been at us to use it for a commercial ever since it came out. We’ve spent 20 years telling them to f*ck off!” The song is performed in a 2007 commercial for animal-torturing company Old Spice (part of Procter & Gamble, one of the cruelest companies that tests on animals). In 2014, when animal-torturing and baby-killing franchise Yoplait used Hungry Like the Wolf in an ad for its cruel bovine-mammary-secretion-based yogurt, Duran Duran was displeased and issued this statement: “Many of you have written to us, voicing your dismay about the recent license of our song Hungry Like the Wolf, to a yogurt commercial. Please know, Duran Duran [does] not support this usage of [our] music and unfortunately, this particular license was granted without any prior notification to any of us. Had we known, under no circumstances would we have backed it. Thankfully, the ad has now been taken off the air and moving forward we hope to avoid any further situations like this.” Yoplait took the ad off the air, but not because of licensing issues——rather, the company did not want to be associated with the notorious 1983 Diane Downs murder case, which had a resurgence on social media, with people condemning Yoplait for using Hungry Like the Wolf in the 2014 ad because of its association to this horrendous crime.
Diane Downs was convicted for the murder of her daughter (age seven) and the attempted murder of her other two children (ages three and eight). According to true crime author Ann Rule, Diane Downs was listening to Hungry Like the Wolf before she shot her three children in her car. Ann Rule also stated that Diane Downs sang the song’s chorus in court while testifying. This scenario is depicted in the 1989 made-for-TV movie Small Sacrifices starring American actress Farrah Fawcett, which is based on the best-selling book of the same name by Ann Rule. According to the website Slicing Up Eyeballs, during the trial, when Hungry Like the Wolf was played in the courtroom, Diane Downs was reportedly tapping her foot and snapping her fingers along with the song. In the movie, the prosecution plays Hungry Like the Wolf in the courtroom in order to demonstrate to the jury that the song motivated her to kill her children. She was convicted of murder and attempted murder, and she was sentenced to life in prison plus 50 years. Yoplait ultimately issued this statement: “When we chose the song, we had no idea of its connection to this terrible event. We take your feedback seriously, and yes, we have decided to remove this ad from the air while we consider other versions. Please know that it may take a couple of days until the ad is fully removed. We’re again sorry that it’s upset you and promise there was no intention to cause such disappointment.”
Hungry Like the Wolf has been used in several movies and television shows. In the 2005 animated film Shrek 2, a lampoon of American singing competition show American Idol, called “Far Far Away Idol,” features a performance of the song by the Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs (click here). The song is also featured in the following films: 1984’s Hot Dog...The Movie, 2002’s Big Fat Liar, 2003’s Old School, and 2011’s Take Me Home Tonight. Hungry Like the Wolf is featured in the opening minutes of Steven Spielberg’s 2018 film Ready Player One. Animated TV series Futurama references Hungry like the Wolf in a 2008 episode (click here). A medley of Hungry like the Wolf and Rio is performed in a 2013 episode of Glee (click here). The song has also been featured in the TV shows The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Lizzie McGuire, and The Shield. Hungry Like the Wolf is featured in the 2020 series finale of the mega-hit sitcom Modern Family, as siblings Mitchell and Claire perform their high school skating routine (click here).
Using the TABLE below, you may sort the list of THE TOP 500 POP SONGS OF THE 1980S by rank, title, artist, and year.
When sorting song titles or artists in the table, they will be alphabetized. (The four songs that begin with a parenthesis will be listed first, followed by the four songs that begin with numbers.)
Songs and artists that begin with A or The are alphabetized that way. (For example, you’ll find The Police and The Pretenders with the letter T, and A Flock Of Seagulls with the letter A.)
Solo artists are alphabetized by their first names. (For example, Bryan Adams is with the letter B, and Richard Marx is with the letter R.)
To see all of an artist’s songs ranked in order, enter the artist’s name in the search box, and then, to sort the results by rank, click on the # at the top of the first column.
THE SEARCH BOX
The SEARCH BOX is in the top right corner of the table. When you type a word or words into the SEARCH BOX, the table will collapse, revealing the search results, which you may then sort by clicking on the table headers. (NOTE: To get back to the full list of 500 songs after doing a search, you must clear the search box.)
SORTING BY YEAR
To see songs from a specific year ranked in order, enter an apostrophe and the year (for example: ‘84) in the search box, and then sort the results by rank. The year listed is the year that the song entered the United States Billboard Top 40.
DETAILS ABOUT THE SONGS & ARTISTS
For more information and interesting facts about the songs and the artists, plus other great ‘80s songs that didn’t make this TOP 500 list, and much more, please go to PAGE 2: THE MUSIC.
WHO HAS THE MOST SONGS?
Who has the most songs on the list – Madonna, Prince, George Michael, Whitney Houston, or Michael Jackson? Click HERE to find out.