Spotify playlist : Top 40 Singles of 1982
This 1982 list was the hardest to compile so far - I couldn't whittle it down to 40 for a start, I could have easily had a top 100. And putting the 40 in some kind of order? Well... have a look at what I managed to cobble together into the best 40 singles released in 1982...
(40) The Clash - Rock the Casbah
For several years I had no idea what he was singing in the Chorus. I still don't really, I had to google it. Anyway, The Clash using a piano? 'London Calling' was probably the coolest album to own when you were young - this wasn't from that album of course, but I think it's legacy spilled over a little bit. If you right-click on the strip at the bottom of your screen you get an option to 'Lock the Taskbar', which is what I always sing whenever I heard this song now.
(39) XTC - Senses working overtime
I've liked everything I've heard by XTC but I've never been compelled to listen to an album by them. Not sure why. This single is inventive in the extreme. It starts with a weird 'trapped under the floorboards' bit, followed by a build and a straight pop chorus. Engaging and interesting at the same time. It got to number 10 and supported the flat earth theory by telling us that 'all the world is biscuit shaped'. It stops short of saying it's being carried on the back of a massive intergalactic tortoise though.
38) Tight Fit - Fantasy Island
This got to number 5 in 1982. ABBA were shuffling offstage commercially yet here was a song that could have been taken from one of their 70s albums. This was also quite Bucks Fizz - if only they'd had another male member it would have fitted the brief. How much of the songs they recorded were actually sang by the people on stage is disputed. There were rumours their previous hit, 'Lion Sleeps Tonight' was sung by session musicians.
(37) Mickey - Toni Basil
Everything you need to know about this song is in this post here
Basically, Toni Basil is the greatest vocalist of the 80s. No, seriously.
(36) Phil Collins - You Can't Hurry Love
I wasn't sure what to make of this when it first came out. I'd heard it before but didn't know it was a Motown classic - I was only vaguely aware of Motown at the time anyway. It didn't make sense and he was doing his own backing in the video and there were four of him. As the years rolled by, I found out that Phil was brought up on Motown and realised a life-long dream when asked to help write 'Loco in Acapulco' with the Four Tops. His voice actually suits this very well. Nice choice and a great single. It was released in 1982 but hit number 1 in January 1983. Bit of trivia here, it was the first track on the first ever 'Now That's What I Call Music' compilation.
(35) Dionne Warwick - Heartbreaker
When you hear a Bee Gee's penned song you just know it's them don't you? It's not that they all sound the same, it's that they've all got this personality and phased pianos and sensibilities and strong melodies. This song sounds a bit trapped in the 70s but that's not a bad thing because it' neither the 80s or the 70s any more so it's hanging timeless in the ether now as a brilliant single. Dionne's voice is so melty isn't it? Mixes perfectly with Barry G in the chorus too.
Dionne hadn't had a top ten hit for 14 years but this gave her two weeks at number two.
(34) Roxy Music - Avalon
Roxy Music weren't my cup of tea in the 70s. They became a whole new animal as the 80s began however, with their unique brand of white soul and Bryan Ferry's impression of someone singing whilst trying to dislodge last night's triple-meat kebab with chilli sauce. This charted at No. 13 in the UK. The backing vocals were performed by Haitian singer Yanick Étienne, whom Bryan Ferry heard in the adjacent studio and invited her in to help out. The song's music video was directed by Ridley Scott!!
(33) A Flock of Seagulls - I Ran
It still baffles me to this day how this didn't enter the top 40. It must have done well stateside as Flock of Seagulls were namechecked several times in American movies of the time. Mainly centring around the haircut of the lead singer. (It got to number 9 in the US actually. Ed.)
This probably qualifies as the best single never to be a hit in the UK. Lead singer Mike Score was confronted by a UFO in his youth and wrote this song as a result. He ran, he ran so far away, couldn't get away though. It's one of those songs that brings back memories of that endless summer of 82. "I Ran" reached number 43, and although a few hits followed it for the Seagulls, they never did anything as good as this again.
(32) Human League - Mirror Man
This is a proper pop song isn't it? If aliens landed and their first question was, 'What is pop music?', you'd have to play them this.
My issue with The Human League was that in December '81 "Don't You Want Me" had entered the chart at number nine and got to number 1 a week later. It's one of the most recognisable songs of all time now - but they just stopped. They didn't captialise on this League fever sweeping the nation. It took an entire year for them to release this and get to number 2 with it. Then it took them another 18 months to release a new album. (they did have another number 2 single in 1983 in the mean time).
There was potential here that I don't think was ever really reached properly.
(31) Japan - Ghosts
There's some of us that get this and some of us who just don't want to. David Sylvian's stuff is alright I suppose, nothing special, but different enough to prick your ears up to amongst all the other fantastic music of the time. This song is something of a masterpiece though.
Japan only had two top ten hits and this was the biggest. Number 5 to be precise. I still think David, Nick Rhodes and Marilyn should have formed a super group. You never saw them all in the same room did you?
(30) Bucks Fizz - Now Those Days are Gone
The song was nominated for an Ivor Novello award and for good reason. The Fizz are deceptive in that you get the impression that they're a bubble-gum pop group trying to be ABBA but that's not the case at all. Some of their singles were superb - mature, well produced and with real heart. Land of Make Believe is one of the best songs of the decade.
This number 8 peaking single was a real surprise. It began with Mike Nolan singing acapella and the others harmonising until some gorgeous strings and electric pianos creep in towards the middle. The lyrics are as painful as you'd find in any blues ballad and not so twee as to work even 40 years later. I'd say this either inspired the 'Fame' song 'Starmaker' or the same person was involved in writing both songs.
(29) Modern Romance - Best Years of our Lives
A complete change of pace this. Party songs were massive in the early 80s, hence the popularity of Black Lace and my primary school putting their album on repeat in assembly so the teachers could have a child-free hour in the staff room every Wednesday morning. This trumpety gem moved slowly up the chart, but it ultimately became Modern Romance's biggest hit. An alternative version complete with a Christmas feeling helped it to peak at number four in it's eighth week on the chart.
I remember a song of theirs, Cherry pink and Apple Blossom White (I think) which had four minutes of instrumental and 10 seconds of singing in it. Smash hits actually published the lyrics on a full page of their magazine.
(28) Spandau Ballet - Lifeline
Infinitely better than either Gold or True which came from the same album. Even if they did steal their opening verse from ABC's Poison Arrow. It had looked like Spandau's career would be short and sharp as their previous two singles had failed to break the top 30 and a third (Instinction) whilst hitting number 10 was very bland.
This was a bit of a bolt out of the blue and showed they'd found their 'sound'. Should have gone higher than number 7 really.
Spandau have split up, fell out, made up, split up, gone to court, made friends and split up again more times than any other band.
(27) The Psychedelic Furs - Love My Way
It's easy to see where Electronic got their song 'Getting away with it' from - and they did get away with it - a copyright lawsuit that is.
This passed me by at the time, the first I heard of the Furs was their 1986 hit 'Pretty in Pink' which was great. This is a wonderful single though and puts me in mind of Teardrop Explodes. It only got to number 42 such was the quality of everything else happening in the world of popular music at the time.
(26) Yazoo - Don't Go
Despite Vince and Alison barely acknowledging each other in real life, they managed to come up with some magnificent work between them. This is one of Vince Clarke's greatest moments - the sequencing itself is quite something.
This single had spent three weeks at number three which, as noted above, was a hell of an achievement given the quality of everything else around at the time. It was a complete flipped coin to their first hit 'Only You' but was similar to that single's B-Side, 'situation'. It was a staple of the school disco in the early 80s.
(25) Gary Numan - We Take Mystery (to bed)
One of the songs that made me an obsessive Numan fan for life. The bass is infectious, the synths finely balanced and the atmosphere in the bridge/chorus is something that will always make me twitch with excitement. This was Gary's sixth top 10 hit from his first eight solo releases. He didn't get there again although he did hit number 2 in the album charts with his last two, 'Savage' (2017) and 'Intruder' (2021).
(24) Kids from Fame - Hi Fidelity
When I was 7, I wanted to marry Valerie Landsburg, the lead vocalist on this track. I used to watch Fame religiously as it was on after Top of the Pops on a Thursday night. The TV show spawned an album and several singles - this one got to number 5. The album spent 12 weeks at number 1 in the chart and only 18 other albums have bettered this in chart history! It was the 'Glee' of the day I suppose - another TV show that spawned actual chart singles. Don't pay any attention to the version of the song on the video though, Bruno totally ruins it with his out-of-tune 'Hi Fi Deliteeee' bits.
(23) Hall and Oates - Maneater
I'm probably remembering this wrong but I heard a story where Stevie Wonder apologised to Hall and Oats for nicking the beginning riff of this song for 'Part Time Lover'. Then John Oates said something like, 'Don't worry about it, we nicked it off someone else'. It might actually have been a completely different set of people and songs however so pay no attention to me.
It was a very Motown song anyway so Stevie probably thought he'd written it himself anyway. It got to number 6.
(22) Depeche Mode - Leave in Silence
This was Depeche post-Vince Clarke and what a change. As much as I love Vince, he is very optimistic with his synth sounds. This is much much darker and probably influenced a raft of shoe-gazing bands which followed. 'This will be the last time... I think I said that last time', Dave croons. Brilliant.
(21) Hot Chocolate - It Started With a Kiss
This could have been a movie or a novel. Its such a well told tale, I feel like I'm in the story. Best friends at school who drift apart as they get older and eventually, one stops feeling about the other whilst the other will never let those feelings leave. Eventually, they meet after many years and she doesn't even know who he is! Oh my god, its one of the most heart-breaking songs ever written and Errol really sells it doesn't he? This only got to number 5; can you imagine something like this being released these days? Hallelujah for being the age I was in the 80s. Kids these days will never have an experience like this song being fresh and new.
"Never thought it would come to this... you don't remember me do you?"
A Bona Fide classic which deserves its own shelf in the music hall of fame.
(20) Whitesnake - Here I Go Again
A humble little sort of secret rock group were Whitesnake. Especially in 1982 when their brand of music was a bit alien to us over here in the UK. This song didn't have it's moment until it was re-recorded in 1987. The '82 version sounds like something John Lewis would have commissioned for a Christmas advert compared to the '87 version.
It got to number 34 and eventually, with the remix, got to number 1 in the US and number 9 here. Mainly due to the road being well trodden by Bon Jovi and Europe who prepared our palates for it.
(19) Duran Duran - Rio
The swell you hear at the beginning of this song is Nick Rhodes throwing some metal poles onto the strings of a grand piano and then reversing the tape. And what an intro! John Taylor's finest moment and one of the most iconic album covers and pop videos of the era. Duran were one of the only bands who utilised and highlighted the talents of every single member of the band. Every song on their first three albums had all five members showcasing what they could do with their instruments - rare indeed.
This was the final single from the Rio album which probably explains why it only got to number 9, lower than both Hungry Like the Wolf and Save a Prayer, both inferior songs in my opinion. You can't trust the charts can you?
(18) Mari Wilson - Just What I Always Wanted
Miss Beehive, the 'Queen Of Neasden' had a wonderful voice. There was a woman where I lived in the 80s who you'd see wandering around the high street with her 60s Beehive hairdo - which I believe she'd had since the 60s and never changed it. Or washed it. She definitely wasn't a Mari Wilson tribute act. She was in Kwik Save at the time.
This got to number 8 but the follow up 'Cry me a River' only barely broke the top 30 and she never charted again. Pity really, she had star quality.
(17) Maisonettes - Heartbreak Avenue
There were lots of 60s throw-back songs around in the early 80s. The production on this gave it a timeless feel, like it was an actual 60s group in the 60s singing 60s music. It got to number 7. The singer 'Lol Mason' had a brother who was in the soap Crossroads at the time this was charting.
(16) Bananarama - Shy Boy
This song has the distinction of being the first song I ever taped off the radio along with 'Sign of the Times' by 'The Belle Stars'. It's another song which leans into its production values. The muddiness of early 80s production is one of the reasons these songs have endured. Like old black and white photographs, they're not clear enough to make out all the details so you get sounds that sort of mix together that shouldn't and it gives you a wonderful atmosphere. This song might have left the collective memory of everyone who heard it in 1982 but it still makes me smile even today.
(15) Madness - House of Fun
This got to number 1 but they had much better songs which didn't achieve that status. Everything they released was entertaining and the public and music press were starting to take them seriously, even if they weren't taking themselves seriously at all. They had, after all, two of the best songwriters around at the time so they were bound to come up with stuff of this quality. It was about a lad maturing to the age he was allowed to begin engaging in adult activities. I'm not sure how it didn't get banned, given the stuff the BBC was vetoing at the time.
(14) ABC - The Look of Love
This got to number four and was as glossy a pop song as you were likely to hear. Ever. The album, The Lexicon of love is still revered as one of the greatest ever pop albums of all time. Despite a couple of bangers in 'Be near me' and 'When Smokey sings' in later years, they never did live up to this early promise.
(13) Yazoo - Only You
Vince left Depeche Mode and formed Yazoo. A band on the edge of greatness for a band that might not ever have made it. Thankfully, this debut single got to number 2 despite the weird single cover. Acapella group, The Flying Pickets then took it to number 1 at Christmas a year later.
(12) Madness - Our House
Four weeks at number five for one of their best ever singles. From beginning to end it's a perfect pop song and underlines how mature their songwriting was getting after stuff such as One Step Beyond and My Girl.
(11) ABC - Poison Arrow
This got to number 6 and I don't think there was anyone alive in 1982 whom this song didn't appeal to. The various musical sections in this must have been crafted to a tee - there's so much going on, it could never have been written by just one person.
(10) Fat Larry's Band - Zoom
There were too many people in Fat Larry's band weren't there? They needed their own HR Department. This was the fourth song released from their fifth album and it was rare that such a thing would reach number two but they did. Probably because nobody bought the album - it only got to number 57 despite this being a hit. It's a song that sounds better sung in the shower in the morning.
(9) Simple Minds - Glittering Prize
Despite the empty, quite amateurish production on this song, it's somehow enhanced by it. It's a brilliant song and should have been a number 1 all day long. This was a track from their fifth album, the first four of which didn't make much impression at all - a wonder their label allowed them to keep releasing stuff - but with 'Promised you a Miracle' they entered the public consciousness and this, their second track from the album, got to number 16. They've gone on to release some absolutely iconic songs and like Big Country and U2, had songs you needed to crank up the Hi-Fi to really appreciate.
(8) Stranglers - Golden Brown
Bands were using signature instruments to get a new 'sound' in the early 80s. This was non-more apparent with the Harpsicord on this song - which was also written in 3/4 (a very rare time signature for a pop song). They threw the odd 4/4 bar in there too in order to throw you off and make the song more interesting. Only Genesis and Peter Gabriel had such success with this previously (funny time signatures). It spent two weeks at number two before The Stranglers went back to releasing non-sensical noise as singles and getting nowhere.
(7) Blancmange - Living on the Ceiling
The signature instruments on this song were the Tablas and the Sitar which didn't sound contrived at all - they fitted perfectly. I'm still scared of Neil Arthur btw, ever since I saw him glaring down the camera at me from the Top of the Pops studio.
I did listen to the album that this song was lifted from many years ago and I remember distinctly there being a song about looking for God in a Lampshade. I hope I'm wrong about that though?
(6) Culture Club - Do you Really want to Hurt me?
Eddy Grant, The Police, Musical Youth, Stevie Wonder, UB40, Madness, Bad Manners, The Specials et al. If it was Reggae, pseudo-reggae or a bad parody of reggae, it was all over the charts in the early 80s. This was the least likely reggae hit of the time though - George O'Dowd's white soul voice mixed with some smooth Caribbean-tinged pop music was absolutely amazing. A number 1 hit which deserved it way more than the tripe that was Karma Chameleon.
(5) Bucks Fizz - My Camera Never Lies
Three number one hits from their first five releases, Bucks Fizz were starting to gain some legitimacy and stopped being thought of as some manufactured novelty group trying to be ABBA. They were releasing way better singles than ABBA were at the time anyway. This song has a slow bit, a quick but, a choral part, some brilliant harmonies and excellent musical construction. A classic in every sense.
(4) Irene Cara - Fame
In a photo taken just after Irene stubbed her toe on the ottoman, Irene recorded the theme tune to the TV show Fame. The TV show used the version sang by Erica Gimpel however - Irene's version had been recorded two years previous but that was the one RSO decided to release. And it was a good thing they did - hitting number 4 in its first week, it got to number 1 for 3 weeks and was the third best selling single of the year. It's one of those songs that makes an impression right from the first few bars. I love those sort of pop songs.
(3) Dexy's Midnight Runners - Come on Eileen
Spending four weeks at number one, this was another song using a signature instrument to garner that unique sound. The violin or 'fiddle' was paired with a banjo and gave us a staple of the birthday party disco for the next forty years. The bit where it slows down and goes 'come on... eileen ta-loo-rye-ay... come on...' and gets progressively faster - I have no idea how someone didn't end up going through the floor. Best selling song of the year and it had Siobhan Fahey (of Bananarama)'s sister on the cover and in the video.
(2) ABC - All of My Heart
How could a song sounding this amazing have come out of 1982? A full orchestra and guitars and pop vocals - just superb. What studio and producer was able to do this? They can't even do it now! I was gigging in Durham a good few years ago and we had a fan who stood right in front of us most of the night, fully appreciating our pseudo-versions of Howard Jones and Duran Duran covers. We played this as our finale and when we finished, he came right up to me and said 'Play it again'. I was terrified but managed to calm him down and politely refuse as the rental time on the PA had expired and the bloke was there to collect it.
(1) Tears for Fears - Mad World
This reached number 3 but didn't sound like anything else I'd ever heard. Their sound was so unique and the messages on parent album 'The Hurting' were ones i wouldn't actually get until about 15 years later - such was the depth of what they were singing about. This is an album that will never be matched or repeated. The song itself spoke to me through the line 'Hello teacher tell me what's my lesson - look right through me, look right through me'.
On the single cover, Curt is in a bad mood because Roland won't buy him an ice cream.