The real stories behind pop single covers

You might think that record companies used to send pop stars off to a photographer to make them wear costumes and stand in the woods and such, in order to take a picture to put on the front of a pop single. Well, that's right - but what if there was something else behind the pictures on the albums? Would they be something like this :

I told you wait for me before taking the net curtains down

 

Early design of Sonic the Hedgehog

 

I told you to wait for me before taking down the net curtains

Page 23 of the Grattan Catalogue, XXXXXXXXXXXXXL Jackets and mustard shirts

Page 25 of the Grattan Catalogue, pseudo-jeans

Edge in the huff after Bono pelts him with a well aimed snodger

Page 77 of the Grattan Catalogue, rubber, wipe-clean, stain-proof, heat-accumulation packing material

"Just so there's no confusion, I think we need to make it clear which Africa we're singing about"

"I wasn't up to anything, why?"

We can finish the decorating after the photo shoot

No Curt, you can't have an ice cream, you spent all our money on braids

 

"What? Me? Erm... I'm a - lamp post inspector or something"

Irene after stepping on an upturned plug

PVA glue and shampoo are not the same thing

"I told you I was wearing dungarees today. Now I look like an idiot!"

Gary can't sleep so he's reading his phone in bed

Four for the price of one on panama hats at Primark

Zooming into Kate's eye, we can see there's a picture of her younger-self tattooed on her cornea

Blind Melon before they could afford a rehearsal room

Terry in the naughty corner, thinking about what he's done

"Hello? Hello? I don't think this shoe is a phone you know"

Sixth floor please

 

Kate, regretting not tidying yesterday, slips on a tissue

Leo gets a new bouncy castle installed in his back garden

World record attempt, most people playing a piano at the one time

 

Taken during the national shirt shortage of 1977, the one on the left, 100% has been bullied into this photo

This album comes with matching placemats and coasters

I wasn't doing anything in the barn. The horse is lying.

 

The importance of using the correct voltage on your effects pedal

 

The best (and worst) Toys of the 1980s (Part 2)

Etch-A-Sketch

This was the precursor to the Laptop. A Laptop that could only run Microsoft Paint in black and white.  It had a monochrome screen so everything you drew looked like it was set in the 1930s.  I’m not sure what the appeal of the Etch-a-Sketch was because a pencil and a sketch pad was infinitely more enjoyable. and easier to use. and cheaper. and were already in your house.

If you weren’t used to which knob did what, or which direction went which way, you’d always twist one of the knobs in the wrong direction to make the cat you were drawing now have whiskers coming out of places it shouldn’t have whiskers.  Diagonals were a challenge too as were circles so you could forget drawing Pacman eating a bag of Doritos.  If you wanted to keep the picture you’d drawn, you either had to take a Polaroid of the screen or you had to frame it and then go out and buy another Etch-a-sketch.

To remove the picture you’d etched and sketched, in order to draw another one, you had to shake it up and down so the polystyrene beads inside smoothed out and recoated the glass with aluminium powder.  My mission was to remove all the powder from the glass by meticulously moving the needle up and down the screen, 1 nanometre at a time.

This is what happens when you’ve worn out all the actual uses for a toy; you start inventing different uses for it. Like when you’d got bored of riding your bike, you’d turn it upside down and turn the pedal with your hand to see how fast you could make the back-wheel spin. Action Man became a teaching hospital specimen and the one of the speakers from your hi-fi became a makeshift stool when you had friends over and not enough seats.

Raleigh Chopper

Made of steel, making it ridiculously heavy, with one wheel bigger than the other resulting in involuntary wheelies and the fact it wobbled when you got up any kind of speed, the Raleigh Chopper was a death trap.

Add in the fact it had a T-bar gear stick not three inches away from your groin, there were plenty of opportunities for birth control if you braked too hard.  First released in 1969, it was still a big seller in the 1980s until the BMX took over.  The film ‘Raleigh Chopper Bandits’ didn’t quite have the same ring to it but would definitely have been a better film.  The main draw for this bike was the sofa it had on the back in place of a conventional saddle.  You could fit three maybe four of your friends on the back and take them for a short weekend break in Rhyl.  The low-drop handle bars and the addition of a kick stand made you feel like a Hells Angel too; only with less tattoos (apart from the ones you got inside bubble gum which you licked and pressed onto the back of your hand).

Purple people eater

In 1958, Sheb Wooley had a song called the one eyed one horned flyin’ purple people eater. In it, there is a monster that wants to join a rock and roll band and tries to achieve this by eating purple people.  In 1982, I thought I’d never sleep again when I got a Waddingtons Purple People Eater. It was made of rubber; a creepy latex type of rubber with a face that would have given Freddie Krueger nightmares.

The premise of the game was much like that of Operation – you had to remove the people from its mouth with a pair of tweezers without touching the sides.  If you did touch it, its right eye lit up and it screamed a scream that made my soul temporarily leave my body.  There’s an online legend I read in which a young chap’s dad used to wear the rubber monster over his head and chase him around the house.  He still sleeps with both eyes open. Forty. Years. Later.

Hungry hippos

These days, the single biggest cause of repetitive strain injury is typing on keyboards. In the 80s it was Hungry Hippos giving us all carpal-tunnel syndrome. A game for up to four players, each taking their place behind a hippo with a lever on its back. Marbles are released into the playing area and each player has to smash the lever down as many times as possible in order to extend the hippo’s telescopic neck to grab as many marbles as possible. A game of luck, then, which invariably ended up with someone slamming the lever into the table so hard, the entire game was catapulted across the room into your Nan’s face whilst she was watching Metal Mickey.

If you get a chance, take a look at the commercial from the 1980s. It features four children pressing their lever lethargically for 30 seconds, looking like it’s not possible to have less fun. Then one of the kids shouts ‘I’ve won’ in the least excited voice of all time. The other three kids look relieved rather than upset that they’ve lost and they’re now allowed to leave and go wash the dishes or count the blades of grass in the back garden, you know, something less tedious.

Mr Frosty

This was the greatest lie ever told to an eight-year-old. Mr. Frosty was a plastic snowman with a blue hat and a circle cut out of his tummy. It was supposed to be an ice cone maker.  However, in the television advert, someone put an ice cube into the hole in his head, popped the hat back on (to use as a kind of plunger) and then turned the handle on his back. What came out of the hole in his tummy was perfectly crushed ice, the type slush puppies are made of.

Taken from Pingu's episode of 'Where are they now?'

In reality, the handle wouldn’t turn and would eventually snap off – either that or 1% of the ice would shave after a few minutes because it had melted.  What ice you were able to get out was then covered with syrup dispensed from a penguin’s head. The E numbers gave you the energy to turn the handle and shave the ice just like the advert!

Girl’s world

“What’s this you’ve given me for Christmas Mummy? Ooh, a disembodied head! Thanks Mum!”  Girl’s World was the slightly sexist Christmas gift for lovers of make overs and future YouTube beauty influencers. Its reason for existing was to practice your hairdressing and make-up skills; the manufacturers forgetting that each person who received one also had their own head to practice these things on, all they really needed was a much cheaper mirror and a £1.99 make-up set from Woolworths.

With the Girl’s World came some shampoo, conditioner (which seemed to work on nylon hair), rollers, a brush, a comb and some fake make-up which was designed to be washed off the dummy’s face once you were done.  The make-up consisted of eyeshadow (colours ABBA would be scared to wear), blusher and lipstick. Most people who owned one got bored with it one day, cut its hair, ruined it, put it back in the box, put it on top of the wardrobe and never played with it again.

Swingball

Ahh, the quintessentially English pastime of a gentle game of tennis.  Wearing a white jumper and shorts combo, using a fuzzy little ball, two friends gently pat the ball back and forth over a net followed by finger sandwiches and a glass of Pimms. What fun!

Then… there’s Swingball.

It was an attempt to recreate Tennis but without all the ‘having to go and get the ball which has gone over a hedge’ business. It also eradicated the difficult ‘serving’ part too, so what went wrong?  Well, for a start, the ball was attached to a rubber band connected to a spiral on top of a stick which had been hammered six feet into the ground.  It didn’t resemble tennis in the slightest.

The point of the game was to try and get the ball to spiral around the stick until it reached either the top or bottom (depending on which you preferred) before your opponent did.  What was supposed to be a relaxing game of chivalry soon descended into a frenzied pair of hyped-up children going berserk and smashing the tennis ball with more energy than either has put into the entire rest of their lives.

The ball would inevitably detach from the string after one last furious wallop of the racquet and fly through the glass of next door’s greenhouse.  The participants would all then immediately scatter and deny ever having heard of swingball, and when questioned, tell the next-door neighbour that the stick in the back garden is part of an old washing line the previous owners of the house had.

1983

Spotify playlist : Top 40 Singles of 1983

It's hard to imagine now but in 1983, when you heard a song on the radio, on Top of the Pops or saw a band perform on The Little and Large show, you either had to tape it on a cassette/video or go to the shop and part with actual money to own it and play it when you wanted to. This spotify-less age meant mix-tapes ruled your days and a lot of songs disappeared into the ether. You'd probably never hear them again save the 'Forgotten 80s' radio show on Absolute Radio on Sunday nights.  Even then, that song you use to love but forgot even existed might be played once a year and you wouldn't be listening at the precise time it was on.

So imagine my joy when the internet started to contain all those forgotten songs that I had no hope of ever hearing ever again bar a visit to a local vinyl fair at the leisure centre, trawling through hundreds of singles to pick one out and go - 'how did this go again'? then part with a couple of quid, get it home, pop it on the record player and go 'ah yes, didn't like it did I?'.  The internet has now given me access to every single song I can remember and every one I've never heard of. This list of best singles of 1983 would have otherwise been made up of the songs I remember. As it is, it's made up of songs I totally remember, some I couldn't quite remember but do now and some I'd never heard before. Bless the internet.

I've done a top 60 because there were 20 songs I couldn't possibly leave out of the count down. 1983 was mint.

(60 actually)

(60) Toto - I Won't Hold You Back

The lesser known of the three hits Toto had in this period. The others being 'Rosanna' and 'Africa' of course, but this one is just beautiful. Roger Sanchez revived it in the early 00s and did a good job but this original is up there with anything Fleetwood Mac ever did with this romantic atmosphere.

(59) Michael Jackson - Wanna Be Starting Something

As you'll see, Michael didn't manage to free up any of the budget he spent on the Thriller video to spend on single covers. I have to admit, I've never seen him in jeans, though I'm not sure these are actually jeans, maybe jeggings?  Anyway, whatever it was that was 'too high to get over' and 'too low to get under' had me thinking about this song long after it had finished and still rotates on my Spotify playlist of greatest songs ever, so something went right here.  This was the fourth single to be taken from the album so it was quite something for it to reach number 8.

(58) Duran - Union of the snake

This was just before Duran's decline from the very highest peak of pop stardom you can achieve. They were well produced on their third album 'Seven and the Ragged Tiger', in fact, the songs on this album sounded a lot better than the last two even if the songs weren't actually better, they sounded the best they'd ever (and would ever) sound here. The video for this song was something special too but, Wild Boys aside, their video quality would match their place in the pop world going forward with each one a little cheaper to make than the last.

(57) Irene Cara - Flashdance...What A Feeling

This was the last we saw of Irene in the charts, though after last year's 'Fame', she left with two absolute dancefloor classics. There are probably earlier examples (like the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever) but song and movie tie-ins were becoming much more frequent. The power of the music video meant it could be used as an advert for something else. This song was taken from 'Flashdance' and, with no disrespect, without this song or 'Maniac' by Michael Sambello, I'm not sure this would have been a hit at the box office. For me, it was a dull affair of someone wanting to be a dancer or something but the video for this brilliant tune gave it more gravitas than it deserved. It was the backdrop for the set-piece dance routine where she has to 'wow' the judges to let her into college or something (loving the research I've put into this). That scene has been parodied numerous times since and you could even call it 'iconic' even though it's not. The bit where she dumps a load of water on herself is also iconic for some reason.

(56) Heaven 17 - Crushed by the wheels

Great bass guitar here and, probably, a heavy message about the plight of the working 'man'. Not Heaven 17's greatest hour though - that would come later in the year.

(55) Nick Heyward - Whistle Down The Wind

Oh sweet lord, what a tune. I had the privilege of seeing Nick perform this song at Bents Park in South Shields in 2004 and he was note perfect. This was his first solo single since leaving (and having a court battle) with the rest of Haircut 100. Nick's lyrics were always abstract (or random, not sure which) but here he really speaks to the sentimental side of you, if you've got one.

 

(54) Phil Everly & Cliff Richard - She Means Nothing To Me

The Everly Brothers were probably just as important to the base-rock of popular music as Elvis, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry or Little Richard. There are hundreds of 60s, 70s and 80s acts who were massively influenced by 50s music, certainly those who crafted their vocals or played actual musical instruments when they went into the studio.  It was pleasing that Phil and his mate Cliff were able to sell records in 1983 and probably not just to people in their early 40s who grew up in the 50s and 60s listening to their music.  I was 8 and loved this as much as I loved Joan Armatrading or Howard Jones. I'm not sure what my point is however. This got to number 9 and gave Phil Everly his first top ten hit for 18 years.

(53) Elton John - I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues

I've never been able to work out if Elton John is an angry man with diva-ish qualities who treats people badly or if he's a cheeky scamp who likes to dance about in massive glasses being everyone's best friend. Probably both. He'd released a string of awful songs in the 70s with the odd gem scattered amongst them; here, he broke free of that and started releasing some of the absolute best songs of all time. Not sure what changed or what influences in his life had come and gone, but if he could have bottled the inspiration he was having in this period, I'd like a few litres please. This got to number 5.

(52) Prince - 1999

Here he is everyone, he's arrived finally. His previous 'hit', the number 41 peaking 'I wanna be your lover' was ahead of it's time and ahead of everyone who heard it's readiness for such raw energy.  '1999' only got to number 25 because, again, the American invasion hadn't quite happened properly yet. Michael Jackson was probably the only exponent having massive hits. This 25 peak wasn't quite the end of the story for this song though because in 1985, it was reissued with 'Little Red Corvette' on the B side and got to number '2', the highest he ever managed bar 'The Most Beautiful Girl in the World'. Stupidly, it was reissued again in January 1999 - I saw it on the counter at HMV in Edinburgh and thought, 'eh?', it's about New Year's Eve 1999, not January 13th 1999. Never mind, it got to number 10 then anyway.

(51) Rocksteady Crew - Hey you

Nothing says 'We use synthesizers' like saying the word 'digital' four times in the introduction to your song. You could tell this was written the first day their keyboard player got a new synth, it's got that 'ooh, an echo setting' vibe all over it. This song sparked my love affair with the 'Now that's what I call music' series.  The first ever album had this on it along with 14 other songs in this top 60 count down. At primary school we had a day when we could bring a Vinyl album in and play it whilst doing work, craft projects I think. My best mate brought in 'Number of the Beast' by Iron Maiden which made me question his ethics and morals. I brought in Duran Duran's first album and someone, I forget who, brought in 'Now that's what I call music 1', though it was just called 'Now that's what I call music'.  This was the first time I heard this song and by 3pm I was singing 'Hey You, the rocksteady crew, Bee Boy Blah Begga-lecka boogaloo'. I've just Googled it and the lyrics are actually 'B-Boy breakers electric boogaloo'. Nope, me neither.

(50) Wang Chung - Don't be my enemy

This is a cheeky little song which probably nobody remembers but you should definitely give it a spin. It's quintessentially what the early 80s were all about and perfectly produced.

(49) Human League - (Keep Feeling) Fascination

Even Phil Oakey admitted the other two blokes who sing on this were better vocalists than him - although, I can't actually tell which of the singing parts are Phil and which aren't, apart from when Joanne and Susan sing of course. The video for this was ground-breaking, like a lot of videos made in the early 80s (because none had really been made before, they were all quite pioneering in some way). They actually painted a house and street red so from above it looked like a big red dot. They room they're performing in is derelict too and I think that street was actually demolished not long after the shoot. This slowly climbed to number 2 in the chart but once there, fell out of the 40 sharpish, it was only on the chart for 7 weeks.  The production was really weird - it wasn't until I heard the digital version of this that I realised my record player wasn't playing up during the intro. It does sound like the belt on the player is slowing down and speeding up. The little tinkers.

 

(48) Bonnie Tyler - Total Eclipse Of The Heart

The video for this was quite spooky, choirboys with glowing eyes and Bonnie being chased through a wet stately home. Jim Steinman penned this song for a Vampire musical he was writing and you can just hear Meat Loaf singing it - but it suits Bonnie's voice perfectly. She'd not even hinted at performing songs like this before so either she begged her record company to let her realise her potential as a vocalist or it all happened by accident. Whichever, the result is a song that will always get the blood pumping and a lesson to all those weakly 'talented' idiots we're lumbered with in the charts these days. There'll never be music like this in the charts ever again - let that slowly sink in like spilt jam on a cardigan.

(47) Kajagoogoo - Too Shy

Produced by Duran Duran's Nick Rhodes, this was as good a debut hit as you're likely to hear. They had two more hits, the band fell out, Limahl was fired, he went on to have some solo success, Kajagoogoo then had two more hits without him and then saw their last week on the chart ever, less than a year after this hit number 1. Nick Beggs was on lead vocals for some of their best work regardless of chart positions though, it's a mystery why all he seems to do these days is follow Howard Jones around playing weird shaped bass guitars.

(46) The Police - Wrapped around your finger

I completely missed this first time around. I definitely wouldn't have got it anyway - the subject matters of Police songs weren't the type of thing an 8-year-old would be interested in anyway. This was about having an affair with a much older woman, 'Every breath' was about stalking, 'Don't stand so close' was about a 'teacher-pupil' situation and 'Invisible Sun' has elements of war and poverty. The album 'Synchronicity' is titled after a Carl Jung philosophy. I have to admit, I was more drawn towards the theme tune to Inspector Gadget at the time. These days though, 'Wrapped around your finger' has more emotional depth than Inspector Gadget and a little more gravitas than the theme tune to 'Rainbow'.

(45) Toto - Africa

Just in case you didn't know what shape Africa was, Toto have drawn it on the wall behind them, helpfully including Madagascar in case you were in doubt that it was part of the continent despite being an island.  They're not in Kansas any more, but in the song they do say that 'Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus' using a mountain as a metaphor for a mountain.

The structure and instrumentation on this song is as good as you'll hear in 1983, and the result is a song that'll endure forever, probably.

(44) Thompson Twins - Love On Your Side

Joe is giving Allanah a foot-up over Tom's back-garden wall so they can steal his apples. At least, I think that's what's going on, on the cover. What a bad idea to include the lyric (Rap boy rap) on the cover. It's like they wanted to ride the slipstream of the zeitgeist but they didn't need to - they were doing just fine doing their own brand of pop music.  One of the best moments in pop music occurs on this song when Tom sings 'I played you all my favourite records' and then plays an excerpt from their earlier minor hit 'In the name of love' like product placement or when YouTube interrupts what you're watching to tell you about some new self-folding trousers.

They had nine successive top 40 hits, some brilliant and some rather less so ('We are detective'????) The legend goes that their record company demanded that they write 'Hold me now' two, despite their protestations that you can only write what you feel like writing next.

(43) Joe Fagin - Breakin' away

I'm not sure if it's nostalgia or whether this is a great single but I absolutely loved Auf Weidersehen Pet, still do in fact, I watched all four series back to back last year and enjoyed every single second, all over again. This was the song that played over the introductory credits and put me in mind of the theme tune to the likely lads. 'Oh, what happened to you, whatever happened to me? What became of the people we used to be?' - that's such a sad lyric and one I only 'got' much later in life. Similarly with this song, 'Breaking away', it didn't have much effect on me in 1983 but these days, 'Don't want tomorrow to be like today, Until the good times roll around again, Auf Weidersehen'.

(43) Fun Boy Three - Our Lips Are Sealed

After the Specials had hit the top with their seventh hit 'Ghost Town', Terry Hall departed to form 'The Fun Boy Three' which I'm sure was a sarcastic reference to the look on his face most of the time. This was TFB3's seventh single, and by far their best. It was co-written by Jane Wiedlin, of the Go-Go's and 'Rush Hour' fame. It got to number 7 here and the Go-Go's had a top 20 hit with it state side.

(42) Men At Work - Overkill

To me, it seemed everyone looked at Men at Work as a novelty comedy band. When the video to their song 'Down Under' came out, it was played for laughs and kind of undermined the talent behind what they were doing. Madness got away with it because they represented a movement, a style, an identity - it wasn't all about the music, but Men at Work just came over as a group of physical comedians who had a 'Baron Knight's' style song about Veggie Mite sandwiches.  'Overkill' is a fabulous song but only got to number 21. Colin Hay appeared on US sitcom 'Scrubs' singing it acoustic-style before Dr. Cox takes his guitar and smashes it against the wall. Iconic.

(41) Lotus Eaters - The First Picture Of You

The greatest mysteries of all time include the Loch Ness Monster, who shot JR/JFK and how this song only got to number 15. They didn't chart again either. It's such a well written, produced and crafted song - it belongs in a museum - this one in fact!

(39) Paul Young - Wherever I Lay My Hat

Paul took this old Marvin Gaye B-side all the way to number 1. It's not the most politically correct song of all time but Paul's voice turned it from gentle bland faire to true soul classic. I bought the parent album 'No Parlez' on vinyl last year and the whole thing still sounds fresh. It's criminal that 'Behind your smile' wasn't on the album.

(38) Michael Jackson - Billie Jean

See previous comment regarding Michael's single covers. This is the song which launched the already pretty famous Michael Jackson to cosmic stardom. He performed his little moonwalk (a move he nicked from Jeffrey Daniel of Shalamar) on the 25th anniversary Motown concert here 

At the time, everyone thought the song was about Billie Jean King, one of the greatest Tennis players of all time. It wasn't though, it was about fans who claimed their children had been fathered by one of the Jackson 5, but they would go on to say, 'But the ched is not my son'.

(37) UB40 - Red Red Wine

One of my sister's friends said to me, at the time this song was in the charts, 'it's such a sad song, it makes me cry'. I didn't have the foggiest clue what she was on about - as I said above, the true gravitas some of the songs in the charts had didn't hit me until I'd gone through some 'things' and seen other 'things' in the course of my life. Of course, I've had my own 'Red Red Wine' moments now so I totally get why it's so sad - however, my sister's friend was 13 at the time so I'm concerned as to how she'd understood the message of the song to the point it had such an emotional impact.

(36) Prince - Little Red Corvette

I was introduced to this song in the late 80s when a school friend gave me a mixtape of various music from the Minneapolis stable. Safe to say, I never looked back - this song is so smooth and representative of what Prince did best, oozing with personality and atmosphere.

(35) China Crisis - Christian

China Crisis are definitely the best group you've never listened to. Criminally underrated and ignored by the mainstream, their back catalogue is littered with wonderful tunes, if not the most exciting ones, they're quirky, melodic and gently soothing. This song calms me right down and always makes me happy when I hear it. This got to number 12 in January and they wouldn't follow it up until the following year when Wishful Thinking got to number 9 in January 1984.

(34) Tracey Ullman - They don't know

Purists will cite Kirsty MacColl (one of the greatest humans to ever exist) 's version of this song as the best and original (she wrote it after all). However, Tracey was having a great start to her career on TV and now in music, so anything she released was getting attention. There's a note in the middle after the solo where it goes 'Baby!', which was too high for Tracey to sing so Kirsty stepped in to do it for her (or it was copied from the original vocal take on Kirsty's version). Getting your hands on the original MacColl version is quite difficult as at the time, she told Stiff Records that she didn't want to extend her deal with them so, out of spite, stopped printing the single and stopped promoting it so it didn't have a hope of charting.

(33) Michael Jackson - Thriller

The song is great but as previously mentioned, tie-in a song and a movie and you've got gold for both. People who like movies will hear the song and people who like songs will see the video and become aware of the movie, doubling your audience for both!

The 'Thriller' video was, in all respects except length, a movie and the visuals definitely brought the public's perception of the song up from where it would have been without the video. I recorded the video off the telly and learned the dance. There's a bit where three zombies turn to look at the camera half-way through the dance, and I never knew what to do at that point - it still annoys me to this day. Then they released 'The Making of Thriller' on VHS which I rented from the local video rental shop about four times and watched at least three times on each rental period. Safe to say I was obsessed and looking back, I can see why - the 80s was littered with these big events. Wham's video for 'Last Christmas' was a massive deal as was Frankie Goes to Hollywood's 'Two Tribes', there was Band Aid and Live Aid of course, and a lot of what Madonna was doing in both music and movies dominated the landscape. If there's one period in history I'm grateful to have existed it's between 1983 and 1986 - add in the release of Tears for Fears 'Songs from the Big Chair' and it pretty much underlines that small section of history as one of the greatest in pop culture. Whatever you think of Michael Jackson, he was absolutely one of the greatest pop stars in the history of history.

Ed Sheeran? LOL!

(32) Rod Stewart - Baby Jane

Red pleather aside, this song is the perfect vehicle for Rod's voice. His heyday was coming to a close and he'd soon be joining the stable of other 70s pop stars who were still capable of having hits but weren't lighting up the record collections of us under 18s like Wham! and Duran Duran were. This song had mass appeal though and hit number 1 without much effort. He managed to outstay all those young pretenders like Adam Ant and Limahl, and he's still releasing records these days!

(31) Men without hats - Safety Dance

We can dance, We can dance, everybody look at your pants. This song was a protest at the fact people were told to stop 'pogoing' on dance floors because they were bumping into people, standing on people and knocking drinks out of people's hands. So the 'safety' dance was one that was much gentler and kinder on people's toes. This got to number 6 and the band didn't trouble the charts ever again. The video is very very strange too.

(30) Ryan Paris - Dolce Vita

If you've read my commentary on my top 40's of the late 70s, then you can add this song to the list of those in my formative years that attached themselves to the part of my brain that absorbs unique sounds. The keyboard sound on Racey's 'Lay your love on me' will always take me back to 1978 - likewise the keyboard motif on this number 5 peaking hit. It's just so sonically pleasing - it makes my brain happy.

(29) Icehouse - Hey Little Girl

Talking of sonically pleasing, this is quite a unique sounding single and as far as I know, the only one of the 1980s that fades in rather than out (there's bound to be more but I don't know of any). I don't know if the lead vocalist was trying to sound like David Sylvian or Bryan Ferry or David Bowie or whether he just sounded like this - maybe he was doing an impression of David Sylvian doing an impression of David Bowie?

(28) U2 - New Year's Day

U2 weren't very well known at the time but it was probably The Edge who carried the band at this point of their career. If you listen to the parent album 'War', there's lots of interesting stuff going on, bombastic drumming, enthusiastic bass guitar and lots of Bono yelling and not quite hitting top notes, but it's in the Guitar layers and textures that the album really lives. It wasn't until 'The Unforgettable Fire' when they started to really gel and well, by the time 'The Joshua Tree' came out, they'd all reached a place where they were all contributing as much as each other. 'New Year's Day' is a favourite among U2 fans and it's easy to see why, bar Bono's shouting.

(27) The Kinks - Come Dancing

Probably the saddest song I've ever heard. Ray Davies sister died of a heart attack whilst dancing at one of the old-time dance halls (The Lyceum). This song isn't specifically about that though, it's a fictional tale of a young boy whose sister goes dancing at the Palais dance hall on Saturday nights.  The reason why this song is so sad is not only because of the inspiration behind it which is tragic in itself but it's that moment in your life when you realise parts of your own life have gone forever. My old primary school was demolished about 15 years after I left it. Seeing a gap where it used to stand was devastating. It wasn't that I wanted to go back there or anything but a lot of my most important memories and friendships were made there. Most of the songs in this list remind me of there too - the song 'Come Dancing' is sung from a time when the Palais has been knocked down and since then a bowling alley, supermarket and now a car park stand on the site. So when Ray Davies sings

'The day they knocked down the palais
My sister stood and cried
The day they knocked down the palais
Part of my childhood died, just died'

you really feel it. There are parts of your life that just ended and you didn't realise until years later when a totem to those times disappears. It makes people go 'why are they knocking that down' when really, its practical use these days is zero, it's just a reminder of when times were different, simpler, better - but only because we were young and all that mattered was dancing, drinking and dating.

(26) Limahl - Only for love

It was actually the best thing for Limahl when he was kicked out of Kajagoogoo, especially when he had a hit pretty much straight away with this and (see previous comments about song-movie tie-ins) 'Never-ending Story'.  'Only for Love' appeared on disc 1, side 1 of 'Now That's what I call Music' and 'Too Shy' appeared on disc 1, side 2. Not sure if any other artist has had two entries on the same volume, can't be bothered to check, but it's a good pop quiz question nonetheless.

(25) Paul Young - Come back and stay

Another single from 'No Parlez', this time an up-tempo affair which showcased the talents of his backing group 'The Fabulous Wealthy Tarts' who were Maz Roberts and Kim Lesley who were instrumental in giving the album its unique signature along with Pino Palladino on bass and the Simmons drum machine. In fact, it was the 'tarts' who made sure this single worked, without them, it wouldn't have been up to much.  They featured on the next album 'The secret of association' and again elevated 'I wanna tear your playhouse down' with their unique sound but then faded into the background for the rest of the album, or, more likely, were absent. Shame.

(24) Spandau Ballet - True

This is one of those songs you recognise from one note. It was massive at the time but I don't think time has been kind. It's a bit boring and not as good as the much more dynamic 'Gold'. This was the third single from the album and if they'd released it a bit earlier, we would probably have already forgotten all about Renee and Renato.

(23) Altered Images - Don't Talk To Me About Love

Don't talk to me about love and don't talk to me about drawing people's heads in proportion to their bodies.  This was the only decent single from the album - which was a bit more grown up than their earlier efforts but then, it was the playful fun vibe that people liked about Claire Grogan and the gang. They'd released two albums and six singles in six months! Because they weren't turning any work down at all (it had taken so long to get any at all, they were flying to Europe for interviews, back to the studio and back out to Europe without a break) they were fresh in the radio station exec's minds - this single was played about ten times in the week before it was released - which was unheard of!

(22) Grand Master Flash - White lines

Now that's what I call music 3. I had the cassette version and I remember on Sunday afternoon with my Walkman and orange sponge headphones curled up on the settee, listening to the whole thing. This is the track that stood out - I'd not heard it on the radio for whatever reason but here it was in all it's glory. It reminded me of those videos you were shown in school about not talking to strangers - only this one was cool people telling you not to do drugs.

I was once on the bus with my wife going to work and there was a bloke on the front of the bus listening to his Walkman, which everyone could hear. He was listening to 'Two Tribes' and from my time listening to 'Now that's what I call Music 3' so many times, I always expect 'White lines' to follow it. So when it was about to finish I said, 'I bet he listens to 'White Lines' next.'  As predicted, 'White Lines' came on. My wife was freaked out. It was just a guess that he was listening to NTWICM3 but now I knew he was, here was my chance to freak out everyone sitting near me too. 'I bet 'Free Nelson Mandela' comes on next', I said loud enough for the people around me to hear ... ... ... 'Freeeee-heeee Nelson Mandela!' Hilarious!

I had to get off the bus before the next song came on - I couldn't remember what the next one was anyway - probably Love Wars by Womack and Womack, which nobody remembers.

(21) Spandau Ballet - Gold

You've got the power to know, you're indestructible!

Great video, great voice and an iconic song to be played whenever anyone wins at the Olympics.

(20) Eurythmics - Who's That Girl

The soundtrack to my summer this. The 6 weeks holidays from school, down the seaside, going on fairground rides, playing on arcades, wading in the sea up to the bottom of your turned-up trousers. The video had various cameos in it like members of Bucks Fizz, Kiki Dee, Hazel O'Connor, Kate Garner (of Hayzi Fantayzee) and Keren Woodward and Siobhan Fahey of Bananarama, the latter of which later married Dave Stewart!

(19) Michael Jackson - Beat It

More Jackson in Jeans but this time completely overshadowed by the quality of the song. Probably his best ever, and with the West Side Story themed video, a masterpiece of pop music. The opening growl is played on a Fairlight - it got me thinking that in the early 80s when this sort of technology was emerging, you really had to seize those new noises. I was writing a song a few years ago and I've got a Fairlight plug-in, which is a software emulation of the original and I came across the instrument that does the opening note for 'Beat it'. Obviously, I can't use this sound in any of my songs because it's already associated so strongly with 'Beat it', it'll never find it's own signature or personality. It's like that for a lot of the new sounds emerging in the 80s, groups had to get the new kit, find all the new cool sounds and get them in their songs sharpish before someone else came along and used it first. Like the synth brass on Van Halen's 'Jump' or the opening to 'Take on Me'.  Anyway, the guitar solo on 'Beat it', speaking of Eddie Van Halen, is stupidly good.

(18) Eurythmics - Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)

Probably the most iconic 80s song ever. It's the one Absolute '80s plays whenever they've had a technical breakdown, like its their screen saver. Dave Stewart came up with the bass line when the thing he was playing wasn't working so he played what he'd written, backwards. That sparked the rest of the song. Annie's voice here is just head and shoulders above anything else that you'd heard before, if you'd grown up in the 80s that is. It hit number 1 in the US but only managed a measly number 2 here.

(17) Belle Stars - Sign Of The Times

 

I was really disappointed with the rest of the output from the Belle Stars because this song is superb. The rest of their singles were ok - which often happens I suppose. Bands like this unfairly get labelled as one-hit-wonders when in fact, they had one massive song and a few others that entered the top 40 but weren't given much air-play so the casual music lover would never be aware they even ever released any other music.  Their other notable hit was 'The Clapping Song' which was a novelty cover-version.  'Sign of the times' got to number 3.

(16) Depeche Mode - Everything counts

I liked this song originally because it has a Melodica in it. My teacher at school at the time, Mr Dowson, used to have one in his top drawer and would whip it out whenever we listened to 'Singing Together' on Radio 4. We'd sing songs like 'Green Grow the Rushes 'O' and 'Cockles and Mussels'. I loved it and always wanted a go on his Melodica - but never did because it was full of his saliva.  Anyway, Depeche Mode came to my attention because their album was named after a toy I always wanted but never asked for, for Christmas, for some reason, the 'Speak and Spell'.  This tune is particularly invigorating and stands out because of all the 'found' sounds that Martin Gore used as percussion and the like. It enjoyed a number 6 peak in the UK.

(15) The Thompson Twins - Hold me now

I liked this at the time but didn't buy the single. It was in 1999 when I was watching the Adam Sandler film 'The Wedding Singer' when one of the scenes was preceded by this song that I thought, 'Oh yeah, I loved that song'. Still a few years away from YouTube and even more away from Spotify, I bought the soundtrack to the movie on CD in order to get my hands on a few forgotten gems from the 80s I hadn't heard in over 10 years including 'How soon is Now' by The Smiths.

This was the Thompson Twins' biggest selling single, entering at number 31 it peaked at number 4 and stayed on the chart for 15 weeks.  On the later Thompson Twins albums you can hear some of the melodic motifs from their hits being repeated, and not very well - which just makes you want to go back and listen to this again instead.

(14) Nik Kershaw - I won't let the sun go down on me

Nik in an early version of Sonic the Hedgehog

There was a girl I liked at school and I thought I'd impress her by singing the lyrics to this, directly to her face one playtime. She looked like she was enjoying it until I got to the bit where he says 'Old men in stripy trousers', at which she burst out laughing, said 'I love that bit' and then wandered off.  I used to know all the lyrics to all the songs in the top 10 at the time but this song had particularly unusual lyrics so I found them fascinating.  'Here in our paper houses stretching for miles and miles' and 'Pinball man power glutton, vacuum inside his head' were wonderful word patterns to an 8 year old.  It started my love affair with Mr. Kershaw (not in that way) and he's now the artist I've seen live more than any other.

This didn't crack the top 40 when it was first released but after 'Wouldn't it be Good' and 'Dancing Girls' had both been hits, it was re-released and got to number 2!

(13) Howard Jones - New Song

Howard had a great look in 1983 didn't he? His sound was so different to the other synth solo artists and his voice really carried over the glassy twinkling.  This song has a resemblance to Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel but it's just a passing resemblance. It reached number 3 and launched his career. Howard is the artist I've seen the second-most live - even if I'm terrible at grammar.

(12) KC and the sunshine band - Give it up

Excuse me, can I have my table cloth back now?

Summer sun, playing catch in the park, feeding the ducks, lazy Sunday afternoons. That's this song for me. It's so catchy and up-beat and classic and surely finds its way into most people's top 100 of the 80s. If you want to see someone dancing to this as if they've been told their dog's just died, watch the video for the song. Harry Casey looks like he's being told he won't be fed unless he performs the song for us.

(11) Lionel Richie - Running with the night

For me, this is Ironing Board Face's best song. It only reached number 9 in the UK and if you listen close you can hear Richard Marx on backing duty.  The string stab in the chorus was the first time I was aware of it anywhere outside of a slasher-horror movie and it works so well. The guitar solo from that bloke out of Toto rivals that one from Eddie in Beat it.

(10) Tears For Fears - Pale Shelter

How someone 18 years old can write a song with this much depth is beyond me. It doesn't matter how you dress it up, this wasn't a single - it wasn't a hit single - but it was and it did. It's the opposite of what you should do to sell records - it's dour, depressing, inward, moribund and claustrophobic. However, it's such a brilliant song that the record buying public showed they could be impressed by someone that wasn't dressed up as a chicken or someone with a fake Italian accent.

As a spooky kind of serendipity or synchronicity, the bedroom on the back of the single cover looks exactly like the bedroom I had when I was 4 years old. The bed up against the window looking out onto the road outside with Superman wallpaper! That could even be me on the bed - I'm not sure how they got that pic but, I'm sure that's me.

(9) The police - Synchronicity II

Speaking of Synchronicity, this has one of the best starts to any pop song ever and for once Sting's voice isn't weedy and whiney. Well it is a bit, but it's not as annoying as it normally is. This is one of those 'story' songs which makes you listen just to find out what happens next. Full of energy and atmosphere - this is one of those songs on The Police's last album that made you sad they'd split up. Especially when you heard Sting's solo work, which lacked the energy of Stewart Copeland's drumming and the inventive chord work and rhythms of Andy Summers.

(8) Elton John - I'm still standing

How good is this? It's complete electricity from start to finish even if these days, Elton sings 'I'b dill dan dig'. I've played this live on more than one occasion and it always goes down well at an 80s night. Elton was well and truly back from his late-70s doldrums.

(7) Duran Duran - Is There Something I Should Know

What a single this is. Some of the best guitar you'll hear on a pop single, marry that with the glossy production, Nick's wonderful choice of synth sounds, Simon's powerful vocals, John's coupling with Roger's drums and you've got yourself a worldwide smash pop single.

It was the Duran's 8th release and their first number 1. It was a 'between' albums song (in that it didn't feature on either 'Rio' or 'Seven and the Ragged Tiger') which probably contributed to it selling over a million copies.  Take that in for a moment - over one million copies! Ed Sheeran recently 'outsold' the rest of the top 30 alone by selling 11,000 vinyl and 19,000 downloads. That's 3% of the performance of this single. Yes, people don't buy physical music any more but it gives you a clue as to why the music industry is little more than an underground industry these days.

(6) Howard Jones - What is love

 A number 2 peak for this convoluted pop record. Only a piano player with immense skill could have written this, such are the chords in some of the inter-bridge and linking parts. It's the reason I bought 'Human's Lib' which remains to this day, one of the greatest ever albums in pop history.

(5) Frankie goes to Hollywood - Relax

I'm surprised Trevor Horn survived the production process on this. The original version of this song which Frankie debuted on 'The Tube' is quite good if a little simple. When you hear the sonic trickery on the final released track, especially the bass sound and rich synth sounds, you can really appreciate how long it took to perfect. It was recorded by members of 'The Blockheads' before being rejected for not sounding modern enough. Then re-recorded with the genius behind 'The Art of Noise' J. J. Jeczalik. None of 'Frankie' appeared on the record except lead singer Holly Johnson. Horn stating that the band he'd seen on 'The Tube' weren't exactly the band they appeared to be.  The record didn't become a hit straight away - it took Radio 1's Mike Read to express a dislike for it and a refusal to play it to bring it to mass attention, make it sell and end up at Number 1 in  the first week of 1984. Top of the Pops just showed a still of the band when it was announced and then played a different song. It was at the top for five weeks, fell down the chart and then climbed back up to number 2 when Frankie released their follow up, 'Two Tribes'. The video for the latter was a huge deal with a late-night special dedicated to its release - such was its controversial content.

(4) Yazoo - Nobody's Diary

Vince doesn't seem to put much effort into Erasure's records these days (their last 3 albums have been turgid affairs) but back when he had the bug of creativity biting him in the back of his brain, this was the kind of magic he was capable of.  It was the only single from Yazoo's second album and peaked at number 3. Although the song was recorded with 'dated' technology, it hasn't aged a day - it still sounds fresh - and the lyrics are some of Alison Moyet's best work.

(3) Heaven 17 - Temptation

When I first heard this song I thought music couldn't get any better. I thought, this is it, this is the best song of all time. I taped it off the radio and listened to it over and over again. Carol Kenyon's vocals are just fantastic. (She also sang backing on Tears For Fears' album 'Seeds of Love'). The song actually has a 60-peice orchestra! It reached number 2.

(2) Police - Every Breath You Take

This song was born out of Sting's affair with Trudy whilst married to her best friend, arguments amongst the band and disagreements on the arrangement of the song. How then this sounds as good as it does is a mystery. Often mistaken for a sweet love song, it's actually from the point of view of a jealous lover. Quite dark really. In the end, it's Andy Summers Béla Bartók style riff that makes the song what it is. Without it, it could have been an empty Billy Preston-esque organ song or even a pseudo-reggae song in the style of 'Walking on the Moon'.

(1) Bananarama - Cruel Summer

Quite simply one of the best crafted pop songs of all time. The fact the members of Bananarama never sounded like they were singing the same note even though that was the intention, gave them this kind of achordal resonance that made their vocals nice to listen to. The guitar work is sublime as is the 80s production - but add this to the hot hot summer we had in 83, and the song jumps out of the speakers. 'Trying to smile but the air is so heavy and dry'. Its inclusion on the soundtrack to The Karate Kid (see my previous comments about movie tie-ins) helped it up to number 8 and gave them success in America.

 

If you want to see my blog about 1980 click here, or if you'd like to dip into the 70s, click here

 

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The best and worst of School in the 1980s

School in the 1980s

School in the 1980s was great. It was just after corporal punishment was abolished and teachers weren’t subject to rigorous testing by OFSTED, so they’d spend a lot of time out of the classroom drinking whisky in the staff room or crying in the cloakrooms allowing you and your mates to have winnet[1] fights. Here are a few of the things happening in schools in the 1980s you might remember.

Traffic Surveys

It felt like we had to do a traffic survey every few weeks at Primary School. The teacher would shove a clipboard and pen in our hands then tell us to go stand near a busy road and count the cars.  Sometimes, we even had to record how many cars of each colour had passed in the allotted time period. This all seemed very educational; the possibilities for workshops and subsequent lessons seemed limitless. We could have discussed pollution and its impact on the environment, the process through which town and city planners pass to design and build new roads and traffic calming measures – the list is endless.  However, we never so much as drew a bar graph or even collated a table of data with which to forecast or interpret trends via data analysis techniques. It only dawned on me much later in life (probably five minutes ago actually) that there were never any teachers with us when we were standing on the side of the road for three hours.  Come to think of it, the teacher was always in a strangely good mood when we finally came back to school, had slightly red cheeks and called us all his ‘best mate’.

Clang Ball

There is no other way to describe this item of playground equipment than a ‘clang ball’. It was the sound it made as it hit the asphalt and the sound it made in the back of your brain when someone hit you in the face with one.  Don’t confuse these with the light plastic ‘penny floaters’ which you could buy from all good newsagents for the princely sum of £1.  No, these were made with industrial grade plastic, always unfathomably over-inflated and covered in pimples with all the properties of a jellyfish.  These balls bounced higher than any ball, travelled faster than any ball and removed skin when it so much as touched your aura.

Compass

A compass was three things in one. It was a lethal weapon, a tool to draw circles and something you could use to gouge graffiti into your school desk. Back before health and safety was something people cared about, these were handed to children without discrimination to use as they saw fit.  Of course, drawing perfect circles was hugely necessary in the teachings of Pythagoras, John Venn and the inventor of the Olympics logo.  Not so much for the rest of your life after leaving school. If you get caught by the police in public with one of these dangerous weapons, your excuse needs to be better than, ‘I just love Geometry so much’.

Free Milk

At the age of four, I’d never ever wanted to drink milk of my own accord.  I’d drink it from my cereal bowl when I’d overestimated the cereal to milk ratio, but never on it’s own from a glass.  However, just before morning play time at infant school, the teacher would march us all down the corridor to a crate of tiny milk bottles by the Headmaster’s study.  She’d then instruct us to take one each (complete with straw) and make our way back to the classroom.  We all had to sit on a square of carpet in the corner of the room, stick the straw into the foil lid (like an elaborate kind of CapriSun) and sit in awkward silence punctuated by slurping and swallowing noises.

It went down a treat and I would always hang around the door of the classroom when I’d finished my bottle, peeking down the corridor to see if there were any left after the other classes had been to get theirs.

Once the bell rang for playtime, you’d go out and play. One thing I don’t recommend, and it makes me gag to think of it now, is to go and run around for fifteen minutes when you’re full of milk. The reason being, you’ll very soon not be full of milk.

Gloy gum

This was a clear type of honey coloured glue in a bottle with a rubber top which acted as an applicator. I defy anyone reading this right now to deny they used to cover their hands in it, wait for it to dry and then peel it off like some weird zombie with a fetish.

It’s more common cousin was PVA glue which came in tall white bottles. This was used for the exact same thing and sometimes, craft projects.

Shatterproof rulers

These 30cm beasts had to be carried in a school bag because they wouldn’t fit in a pencil case. I much preferred my six inch one. It never got in the way and it did the job adequately. I’m still talking about my ruler by the way. The 30cm version had the words ‘shatterproof’ or ‘Shatter Resistant’ printed in huge letters down the middle. I’m not sure what people were doing with rulers beforehand that prompted a company to start advertising that their rulers were shatterproof.  We’d re-enact scenes from ‘Robin of Sherwood’ using rulers as swords whilst the teacher was out of the room, but I don’t think we were ever in any danger of ending up with bits of shattered ruler in our eye balls.

At the age of seven, I thought the word ‘shatterproof’ meant ‘indestructible’ and took it as a challenge.  ‘Of course I can shatter it’, I thought to myself, and promptly bent it in half until it snapped. ‘Ha, I showed them!’, I thought and to my delight, I’d created two six-inch rulers! What a good day that was!

[1] Chewed up paper blown through a biro with the ink removed

1982

Spotify playlist : Top 40 Singles of 1982

YouTube playlist : Top 40 Singles of 1982

 (If the videos aren't working below you can go direct to the playlist here : 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.

 

If you want to see my blog about 1980 click here, or if you'd like to dip into the 70s, click here

 

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Click Bait

The fact we're all desensitised to everything these days and nothing seems implausible, journalists have to think up ways of getting us to click on their articles to sell us stuff with piles of adverts that pop up, interrupt the bit of screen you were reading or just freeze the page altogether for a few minutes meaning you can't scroll down to read the rest of the article or even click on the advert which has frozen your screen.

Here is a recent example I found which not only shows how over-the-top journalists have to be, but also, how literally anything is deemed newsworthy these days.  The link to the article was this :

There are three issues in that one sentence headline.  The word 'shoppers', the word 'hysterics' and the word 'awkward'.  Let's take a look at the article... (Link here (if it still works))

Shoppers have poked fun at B&M after a supplier made an unfortunate spelling error on a product sold in stores. An eagle-eyed shopper noticed the error on a set of star sign-themed mugs sold in B&M when they were out shopping.

Eagle eyed? You need the eyes of an Eagle to spot a spelling error on a cup? Really?

Posting on Reddit, they uploaded a picture of the typo.

The article was posted by one person - the headline was 'shoppers' when in fact it was one shopper. The other people who were in 'hysterics' were people reading Reddit. Now, I warn you to brace yourself. The hilarious misprint that follows could cause either a hernia or one of those laughs where snot comes out. Ready for 'hysterics'...?

The star sign "Pisces" was misspelled as "Pices" on the mug, which features a gold drawing of the constellation.

“Take a trip to your local B&M for your 'Pices' mug," they posted on Reddit, reports Mirror Online.

The dictionary defines hysterics as 'a wildly emotional and exaggerated reaction.' Nope - me neither. If you follow the link to the Mirror website, their headline was 'B&M shoppers in stitches over awkward spelling mistake on Christmas mug'.  First, it's not a Christmas mug, it's got a zodiac sign on it and secondly - 'in stitches'?? I'm picturing people wandering up the aisle in B&M, catching a glimpse of the cup, choking on their own saliva and doubling over, unable the breathe through hilarity induced convulsions. And thirdly, what's awkward about it? If they had printed your internet history on the mug and your wife saw it - yeah, that's awkward. But only because she'll see all the Christmas presents I've bought her. However, 'Pices' isn't awkward.

The Mirror continued with 'The star sign "Pisces" was spelt wrong - reading "Pices" instead - as any astrology enthusiast would be quick to notice.' Astrology enthusiast? Or just someone over the age of six who can spell? They go on 'Tickled by the spelling blunder, people fled to the comments to share their thoughts'. Fled to? You can't flee towards something, you flee from something surely? They fled from B&M to the comments section? There are people writing articles for the Mirror without a basic command of the English language.  No surprise there I suppose. They finish the article with 'It comes as some shoppers fear whether they will be able to get their Christmas gifts this year at all due to shortages brought by Brexit and a lack of lorry drivers.' The entire article was obviously there to mention Brexit, their entire narrative for everything that's gone wrong in the last 2 years, even though it had nothing at all to do with it.  Anyway, back to the Chronicle :

The blunder inspired replies from fellow Reddit users.

I hope you've recovered from the hysterical photo enough to read on... and, whilst I'm being pedantic, I might as well point out that the constellation on the cup is inaccurate (there should be three stars top left and it should be rotated to the right about twenty degrees.) Anyway -

"LOL I might get this for my mom. She's a Pisces and a teacher so it will doubly annoy her," wrote one.

LOL? Did you really LOL? If you were in hysterics or in stitches, shouldn't that have been ROFLMAO? And, 'Mom?' Yeah, an american person could well find themselves in a B&M but it sounds more like they're not one of the 'shoppers' the article accuses of finding things that aren't funny, funny - but more someone in America trawling the internet for hilarious side-splitting photographs of mild spelling mistakes.

Another said: "Got my eye on that Sagittaring mug next to it.”

I don't know how this Redditer didn't get on Mock the Week. And I now think I'm missing something. Is 'pices' a street term for bumhole? I've just checked on the dark web and apparently there are some people who call public lice 'pice'. But there's about eight of them and they're all 12 years old.

A B&M spokesperson told the Daily Star: “We’re aware of a handful of mugs with a spelling error made by our supplier.” B&M is a popular spot for bargain hunters, with shops around the North East.

If you see me lying on the floor in a B&M by the mugs, in the foetal position, shaking uncontrollably in a puddle of my own drool, don't worry, you'll know what's happened.

The top 10 best TV Theme Tunes of the 80s

In the 80s, there were two things that had my full attention. The music chart and everything in it, and the television. Three channels became four in the early 80s, giving us 33% more choice of what to watch. Adverts burned into our memories forever, actors, comedians, variety acts, singers and presenters became part of our families. People with discernible talent, invited into our living rooms to do the things they did with skill, charisma and questionable personal lives.

Alongside the music of the decade which is still played on radio these days, some music that carved itself into our cerebellums isn't heard at all - until someone says something like, 'Remember Rainbow?' and the theme tune pops into your head like a faulty toaster. Well, I've done another arbitrary list of something - this time, theme tunes as actual pieces of music, and what I think were the best ones of the 1980s. There's a video accompanying this too so go watch that and transport yourself back to your youth, or to a time before you were born if that's something you think you'll enjoy.

10. Mr Benn

I enjoyed jolly theme tunes, especially the ones on Kids TV shows. The 70s was a golden age for Children's television (where this particular show was from). There was an innocence about it you don't get with the weird stuff they have these days. The theme to Mr Benn was an orchestral ensemble of clarinets, xylophones and other things played by real musicians. The melody skips about into unexpected areas with an almost Rimsky-Korsakov sensibility to it.  It's in stark contrast to the theme of the show however, as Mr Benn is a sad character who has to escape his real humdrum life by going into a costume shop, getting slipped something medicinal by the shopkeeper and believing he goes on adventures based on whatever costume he'd try on that day. It's in this list because it was shown again and again in the early 80s at lunch time. The music is credited as composed by Don Warren, (which was Duncan Lamont's pseudonym).

9. Knightmare

A synth-based one this. With thunder, horses, whooshes and power-drums, you couldn't help but get excited for the show to come. It was composed by a bloke called Ed Welch, who will appear again in this list. He also co-composed the Icelandic entry in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1995. It wasn't called Ja Ja Ding-Dong though.

8. The Incredible Hulk

Before Marvel was bought by Disney and everything was produced by computers and people with loads of letters after their names, The big green grumpy idiot was the subject of a modest television show which tapped into the heart of what it must be like to get angry indiscriminately at things that don't concern you and start lashing out at people you don't know - much like a Facebook argument.  In the recent movies he's Bruce Banner - in the tv show, he's David for some reason. When he got angry he turned into Lou Ferrigno and back again. At the end of the show, David Banner would leave the town he'd smashed up and wander off into the distance, trying to hitch-hike along to the saddest music known to mankind.  The tune was called 'The Lonely Man' and featured on an album which was released containing all the incidental music from the show, all composed by Joe Harnell. In his early days, he was taught by Leonard Bernstein and even accompanied Judy Garland and Marlene Dietrich on stage from the piano. Quite a career!

7. The A-Team

Probably one of the most famous tv theme tunes of all time. Full of excitement, it accompanies the opening credits perfectly. Trucks flipping over, helicopters flying into the camera, Hannibal dressed as a dinosaur smoking a cigar, Murdoch talking to a sock puppet, Mr. T. smiling, a car smashing through a wall and then being chased by a helicopter followed by a jeep flipping over, again. Brilliant!  The theme tune was composed by Mike Post (LA Law, Quantum Leap, Magnum PI and Hill Street Blues) and Pete Carpenter (Bewitched).

6. Thundercats

After watching the intro to this, you need a cup of tea and a lie down. It's just too exciting. The music is frantic, the montage of the cats themselves running, jumping, fighting, floating and watching their swords getting longer is all too much for an 8 year old, especially after two cans of fanta and a packet of space dust. 'Feel the magic, hear the roar - Thundercats are loose' - then Mumra appears and you pass out from the excitement only to wake up and find you've missed the entire episode and you're now watching Grandstand. Bernard Hoffer wrote the theme tune; there's not a lot of information about him knocking about but he also wrote the theme for SilverHawks. Whatever that is.

5. The Moomins

This family of Hippos and hangers-on is still very popular due to the artwork and stylings. The music is gorgeous. Like an excerpt from a Mozart opera. It's ethereal, magical and drags you straight off into the weird world of Moominvalley. Because the soundtrack is so weird, it gives you a Proustian rush - much like most of the things you heard, smelled or tasted for the first time as a child will do - associative involuntary memories. It was written by Graeme Miller and Steve Shill, two post-punk composers using rudimentary synthesizers. It works too.

4. Knight Rider

Electronic music had taken over a little bit by the time Knightrider came along but it's metallic robot-like bleepy bloopy computer-game-like arpeggiated bubbling set the scene perfectly. David Hasselhoff's perm, the whooshing red light on the front of the car and the moment he presses 'Turbo Boost' and jumps over a 3 foot hedge, all combine to send you back to that moment you were sitting directly in front of the television in your superman pyjamas and Sooty slippers, drooling at the thought of having a car that could talk.  The main theme is taken from the Brass Band piece 'March and Procession of Bacchus From Silvia' by Leo Delibes. The rest is a lift from Harry Thumann's 'Sphinx' which you can check out here.

3. Bod

Chaotic but clever. This theme was written by someone who understood music  to a very fine degree. It's not whistlable, although I do find myself still trying from time to time, and it's not catchy - but it hooks you in and wakes you up. According to the 'internet' Derek Griffiths wrote the music - I do remember him singing the doobeedoos in this and other themes (each character had their own) but wasn't aware he was a musician with writing chops of this standard. He sang on loads of kids TV stuff and was the voice of SuperTed. I saw him in a production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast as Lumiere in 1998 - I still remember it, he was that good.

2. Cockleshell Bay

Heartbreaking. It takes real skill to compose music like this. I used to try and play it on the piano when I was first learning and couldn't understand why notes that weren't in that key were being used - then understood that it's in two different keys that keep swapping - that's what gives the whole thing that bittersweet feel without jarring you out of the atmosphere. Genius really. It made you feel a bit melancholy, totally out of keeping with the theme of the show - two kids living in a B&B because their Dad couldn't face going back to work in a factory. Good times.  The program started as a feature on Rainbow (hence the rainbow in the image) but became it's own thing after a while. The tune was composed by David Rohl and Stuart J. Wolstenholme, neither of which are in the Foo Fighters.

1.Blockbusters

Written by the same bloke who did Knightmare, this is the archetypal quiz show theme tune that beats even Who wants to be a Millionaire and Countdown.  The clever use of the opening of Beethoven's 5th Symphony is played just as the composer's head flips into view in the opening credits. Ed Welch also wrote songs for Cilla Black, Shirley Bassey and Davy Jones, then wrote theme songs for The National Lottery, Catchphrase and Thomas and Friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Christmas, but it’s not Christmas

It's Christmas, but it's not Christmas

Every year I trawl the shops looking for stuff to add to my ever increasing hoard of Christmas decorations to the point the roof is going to be slowly prised off my house to allow all the baubles, trees and light-up snowmen to protrude. However, this year, there has been a shift - possibly because everything has already been invented so designers are trying to come up with new ideas for Christmas decorations by using things that are nothing to do with Christmas and hoping none of us notice and buy them anyway. Well I'm here to tell you to stop it! Just take a look at what they're trying to trick us into purchasing...

First up, The Range who have these gems on sale :

Along with jingling bells, Christmas carols and the smell of cinnamon, the thing I associate most with Christmas is the sound of a tractor. So what better than Santa riding into town on a steam tractor with a variety of colourful lights and an ornament that 'Makes a tractor sound'. That'll be lovely on Christmas day as your centrepiece on the dining table.

Not only is this animal, native to South America, dressed in a hat and scarf (when it's actually covered in a natural hat and scarf known as wool) but it's being dragged into the Christmas genre against its will. It doesn't want anything to do with Christmas. Look at its face.

All of Santa's Reindeer are dead and finally, planes have been invented. Much more reliable and faster than Reindeer, the downside is that Santa is now contributing to climate change. The fact this plane has no roof isn't very practical for trips to and from the North Pole. But how will he deliver the presents if there's nowhere to land?

Santa's training with the paratroopers has finally paid off as he just parachutes into your chimney. He's made of acrylic too so if you've left your fire on he's in trouble. Not sure how he's meant to get back up into the plane which I assume he's left on autopilot?  Hang on... sold out? Of course it is! They just flew off the shelves  (or whatever the internet equivalent is).

Nothing Christmassy about a bear or a Penny-Farthing I hear you say. Hang on - just put some totally out of perspective Christmas  trees around it and boom, you've got a Christmas bear on a bike. An absolutely massive bike.

 

This is just getting ridiculous now. How do you make an animal that lived 90 million years before Christmas was invented, Christmassy? Make it green and attach lights to it's torso so it looks like a Christmas tree, pop a Santa hat on it's head, make it hold a garland saying 'Tree Rex' and make it play Christmas music when you press it's foot. We'll never get to see a real T-Rex so who knows, maybe this is what they looked like?

I see what they've done here. Everyone associates snow with Christmas so naturally, any animal who also lives where it's snowing is automatically classed as a Christmas animal. No. A Polar Bear has nothing to do with Christmas - bar the fact they live in the same continent as Santa. So do Walruses but they're no more or less Christmassy than a Polar Bear!  However, this one is playing the saxophone which decreases its Christmas factor by at least 28%  Saxophones aren't Christmassy even if you get one for Christmas.

 

Penguins don't live in the North Pole so one couldn't have possibly even met Santa let alone allow themselves to be embroiled in this winter festival built around a baby being born in a stable in Palestine. Still, pop a Santa hat on anything and you can call it a Christmas decoration...

They're not even trying now. What is a Scandi bird? Scandinavian bird? Only if Santa does actually live in Lapland (Finland - Scandinavia) would this be relevant but again, not every animal that lives in Lapland is Christmassy. Wolverines live in Lapland. I've never seen Hugh Jackman in a Christmas film.

Sometimes you don't even need to pop a santa hat on something, just sprinkle snow on it and it becomes an instant Christmassy decoration. There's a review on this which says : "This ornament is plenty good enough to look great at Christmas and bring a smile to your face every time you look at him." You can't argue with that like. It's listed as 'Orange' too, but it's not. I used to get an orange in my Christmas stocking so maybe this is how they've tried to tie it in?

Not Christmas. This is from Next - I wonder what they're going to do next year? Put a Santa Hat on a Tarantula? Sprinkle snow on a crab? Dress a snake up as Jesus?

 

Again from Next - how Christmassy, some severed elf heads to hang from your bony featureless tree of death

 

From Roov.com, there's nothing better than the gift of a Christmas Lobster and at a very affordable £9.49, you can hang one in every room!

 

and finally, TK Maxx have come up with an alternative to Turkey this year. Complete with a pair of earmuffs, the only way to tie Ostriches in with Christmas is to make them completely white, give them built-up shoes and a silver beak.  That's it, you've completely ruined christmas for everyone. I hope you're happy.

The best 100 songs of all time

The Best 100 songs in the world EVER

Spotify playlist : The Greatest Songs in the World (Ever)

YouTube playlist : The Greatest Songs in the World (Ever)

 (If the videos aren't working below you can go direct to the playlist here : 100 best songs ever)

You can't write a list of the best songs ever written. It's not possible to write a list someone can't debate. Even if you get lots of people to agree on what the best one ever written is, none of those same people will agree on number 2 in the list.

Despite this, I've written a list of the top 100 songs ever written. Not because one opinion is more valid than another and not because I think any of my music taste is somehow more refined than anyone elses, I just want to entertain and hopefully get you to listen to something you might not have heard before - music changes lives and some of the songs on my list helped change, shape and save mine.

So, what makes a great song? I don't mean a good song - I mean a really great song. Lots of things I suppose, but also little things. A big guitar solo or a couplet that you get as a tattoo. A little synth motif that becomes part of the fabric of reality. A story that makes you cry or the singer's way of telling the story that makes you believe every word.  Those things exist in great songs.

A great song is one you keep going back to every few weeks for the rest of your life - like a well stocked buffet.  Enough ramble, here's my pick of the top 100 songs ever written, and a bit about why I'm making such a bold claim!

 

 

(100) Who's that girl - Eurythmics

What sets this song and 'Sweet Dreams' apart (which is the other contender for the list) is the mood. Some of the most popular synth-pop of the early 80s wasn't the jolly blippy-bloopy stuff you probably associate with synthesizers, it was the darker, more brooding stuff.  Gary Numan had Complex, Ultravox had Vienna and The Eurythmics had Who's That Girl. The way the song changes pace at the bridge is very clever and Annie Lennox's layered vocals are as sweet as you'll find in any song throughout the ages. This is a superb song!

(99) Too little Too Late - JoJo

No room for music snobbery here I'm afraid. There's no reason a mid 2000s teen-angst pop song can't be one of the greatest ever written. This isn't as throw-away as the artist may lead you to believe. There's some real pain here, despite the fact JoJo didn't write the song; she sells it. Brilliantly so. Sometimes songs get over-produced and the whole thing seems a bit manufactured but you can tell listening to this that an acoustic version would be every bit as sparkling and gut-punchingly sorrowful. What a wonderful blend of songwriting and performance.

She re-recorded it when she'd grown up (She was 15 when she recorded the original) a few years ago, popped that version on spotify and took the original down. Like she was ashamed of it? The re-recording has none of the emotion of the original, which is weird cos you'd think she'd be able to sing from experience.

(98) Shelter - Duran Duran

This song probably passed a lot of Duran Duran fans by never mind those who only sparingly dip into albums with successful singles on them (like me). Duran had fallen into a bit of a lean spell following an extremely successful period in the 80s. They burst back on the scene after the flop that was 'Liberty' in 1990 with 'Ordinary World' in 1993. It's no accident that I've picked 3 songs from that album in my top 100 and there could have been more.  'Shelter' is a sonic masterpiece. Rumour has it the album was recorded in someone's front room and had no producer. However true, that makes 'Shelter' even better. The verse is unusual, the powerful bridge and synth hits are wonderful and I still love to put this on, turned up loud nearly 30 years later.

(97) Fiction - Nik Kershaw

When I heard Nik Kershaw was releasing his first new album in over 10 years, I was overjoyed until I heard it. I wasn't expecting it to be slow and guitar-led. Gone were the glassy synths. Gone were the jazz chords and multiple key signatures. Gone was the slightly misguided pop star who made a few dodgy albums ('Radio Musicola' and 'The Works') despite still liking them a lot. There was no 'One and Only' on this album but it was a lot more mature and the songs had more depth than anything else he'd done. The songs lingered too. They planted themselves in my head and grew until I loved them more than I'd ever expected to on first listen.

Great songs usually aren't that great when you first hear them. It's like Ricky Gervais' 'The Office'. People didn't get it and it had barely any audience the first time it was shown. It grows on you when you start to understand it. 'Fiction' is quite simple but so powerful. Instead of using flowery metaphors, it captures exactly the way I've felt so many times in my life and it all floods back each time I hear this. It reminds me that it all could have been so different!

(96) The Troubles - U2

Probably an odd choice for even big fans of U2 this but it baffles me why this was shoved to the back of an album they gave away for free. It's delicate and heartbreaking. It's morose without being depressing. It's a brilliant vehicle for the contrasting vocals of Lykke Li and Bono and not in a 'Kylie/Nick' style either. The last minute of the song is where it's power lies though. It's about contrasts, survival and letting go to save yourself. Definitely don't listen to this if you're not having a good day though.

(95) Maybe in another life - Madness

Madness were one of my first musical loves. Not enough to go and buy anything they did mind, though my music purchases were few and far between until I started getting enough pocket money to buy comics, sweets and vinyl. It wasn't until I bought all of the Madness singles (and B-sides) collected on a box set called 'The Business' in 1994 that I felt the full force of one of the greatest bands of all time. There never seemed to be enough discipline about the Nutty boys to be able to come up with the genius tunes that were 'Our House', 'Yesterday's Men' and 'One Better Day'. This B-Side however was lo-fi, raw and slightly unproduced but that's what makes it so beautiful. Chas Smash sang lead vocals more and more towards their first break-up. He's not the best singer and he can't really phrase very well and his diction is definitely off in places but this song comes from the heart. It got me through some dark days and maybe that's influenced me into picking this in my top 100 but I stand by it - the saxophone complements the lament perfectly too.

(94) Everybody wants to rule the world - Tears for Fears

One of the first songs ever to make me stop what I was doing to listen. I absolutely loved this when it came out in 1985. I'm still sad they didn't play Live Aid and still gutted they fell out and split up in 1990. They weren't the best at artwork but this song is littered with gorgeous sonics, classic riffs, wonderful imagery (There's a room where the light won't find you - Holding hands while the walls come tumbling down - when they do I'll be right behind you), and a fun memorable video.  Songs from the Big Chair will always be a fixture on my record player until I wear out the vinyl and have to buy another copy.

(93) The Fear - Lily Allen

Lily Allen didn't do much for me when she debuted in the charts around 2006. It was all a bit saccharine for me especially with contemporaries Nerina Pallot, Pixie Lott, Little Boots and Sandi Thom littering the top 40 with twee ditties.  Then this came along and, as with many other songs on this list, stopped me in my tracks. It's a commentary on consumerism, excess and societal pressures on appearance, not just for in-the-spotlight pop stars. The chorus is wonderful and that's all down to producer Greg Kurstin who co-wrote the song with Lily. It spent four weeks at number one and each one deserved.

(92) Pop Muzik - M

The vocal stylings, the hook, the sentiment and the unique sound all elevate this simple pop song into 'classic' status. It wasn't meant to have Synths on it at all but eventually someone conviced them to use them. The best thing about the whole thing was that the single had two songs on the A-side and which one you got depended on which groove the needle dropped into first. Whenever this song is on, it always cheers me up. It's the first song on the list that doesn't have some kind of dark theme.

(91) Ashes to Ashes - David Bowie

Ooooooh! Yes! I'm not a fan of Mr Bowie by any stretch and when I first heard this in 1980 I had no idea who he was. I suppose it was the video that made me listen to the song. The visuals were so interesting to a five year old that the song just went in by osmosis.  Having recorded various covers of this song over the years, I've deconstructed it and it gets better the more you dig into the different instruments and effects and weird vocal noises and bass guitar and and and... just, wow. Masterpiece.

(90) Video killed the radio star - The Buggles

A great song is one that sounds good across the ages and this will never sound out of time. Prophetic and cynical, it captured imaginations from the day it was released. Now it's streaming that's killed the radio star - it's killed the entire pop chart in fact. Like Ashes to Ashes, there's so much studio trickery going on here - not autotune or sampled drum loops like they have these days - but real instruments and voices with clever production techniques and real musicians on real instruments. It was all downhill from the invention of midi and virtual instruments. Trevor Horn of course went on to be one of the most influential producers of his age.

If you get a chance, have a listen to the follow up 'Living in the plastic age' which is nearly as good as this.

 

 

 

(89) True Faith - New Order

I first heard this on a late night radio show, one of those that played stuff that wasn't out yet. It took my breath away - so much so that it didn't occur to me to grab a blank tape and record it. It's a triumph of musician and sequencer. The Musicians Union was terrified when synthesizers came along saying it was going to put people out of work. They did, sort of, but it took digital recording platforms to really shove violinists and saxophonists out of the picture. Peter Hook using a bass guitar as a percussion instrument and Bernard Sumner belting out one of the best lyrics of the 80s in :

'My morning sun is the drug that brings me near
To the childhood I lost, replaced by fear
I used to think that the day would never come
Spend my life in the shade of the morning sun'

(88) Goodbye - Spice Girls

Don't underestimate the Spice Girls' impact on popular music in 1996. It started a revolution that's still going today. 'Wannabe' is a brilliant single, launching the power pop fivesome into the stratosphere. Their image, message, energy and dare I say it, voices, created a marketing juggernaut that saw them on every TV show, every pencil case and every 9-year-old girl's bedroom wall. Hallelujah.  Geri was the best member of the group, and the most essential to their aura. When she left, the rest of them just didn't have the same sparkle. Having said that, they released 'Goodbye' after Geri left and if you were swept up in the Spice Girls whirlwind like me, it really felt like the end of an era. The song was about the departure of Halliwell but also I think, about the end of the group. They did go on to release the horrific song 'Holler' two years later before splitting up properly.  I liked a lot of what they did in their solo careers - even Victoria had a couple of enjoyable moments in the charts.  Goodbye was their third consecutive Christmas number 1, when it used to mean something, long before Simon Cowell got his grubby hands all over it.

(87) You Came - Kim Wilde

Simple this; it's the use of the B minor 7 chord in the bridge.  It jars; it makes the part of your brain that expects the progression to go somewhere to go 'eh?'. Apart from that, it's a blazing 80s blur of wonderful melodies and production. I could just as easily have chosen 'Never Trust a Stranger' or 'The Second Time' from Kim's back catalogue, which by the way, is totally worth checking out.

(86) First attack of love - Terry Hall

Terry has popped into my playlists quite a bit over the years. 'Ghost Town', 'Really Saying Something', 'Our Lips are Sealed' and the album 'Home'. I can't put into words what this album means to me. I bought it because I managed to catch a rare playing of 'Sense' on MTV in 1998. That was on this album so into the cassette player it went - and stayed there for months. This track is right at the end of the second side and from the opening bare guitar riff to the final note, it stirs something I only feel when I'm listening to this song. I can't imagine life without it.

(85) Point of view - DB Boulevard

What a great singer Moony is. This got to number 3 in 2002 and I used to watch VH1 for hours hoping the video would come back round. (This was before YouTube) There were a lot of 'producers' in the charts early 2000s and a lot of them were churning out very enjoyable singles. Roger Sanchez's 'Another Chance' and Spiller's collab with Sophie Ellis Bextor are fine examples of this new branch in musical artists emerging and evolving (there are more in this top 100 list too).  Music Videos were reaching a zenith too with songs like 'Starlight' by the Supermen Lovers and Sweet like Chocolate. Point of View has a great video and the song is all 'don't worry, be happy' which is always good. This song is just infectious and I like when it comes round randomly on Spotify.

(84) Too lost in you - Sugababes

The original Sugababes line-up had wonderful vocal chemistry. Formed by the All Saints manager, they didn't have a hugely successful start until Siobhán Donaghy left and Heidi Range joined. Eventually, every member left and was replaced by someone else so they didn't have any founding members.  Like the ship of Theseus.

I loved Sugababes in their middle period as much as I loved All Saints (see later in the list). Their song 'Stronger' is amazing and way beyond anything you'd expect from a percieved manufactured girl group or boy band. There was much more here that you'd find in any Oasis album, any Nirvana track or even a Bob Dylan nasal social commentary whine. The version of this song that starts with conga drums is the best version. The build is fantastic and when the harmonies kick in through the chorus, the hairs on the back of your everything will stand up. Superb.

(83) Don't go breaking my heart - Elton John and Kiki Dee

Has there ever been a better duet? I loathe most of Elton's 70s stuff. It's too jangly and tuneless. It's a bit non-sensical in the main but he gave his head a shake and started writing some superb stuff by the 80s. 'I'm Still Standing', 'I Guess that's why they Call it the Blues', 'Sad Songs', 'The One' and 'Believe' are wonderful songs. 'Don't go breaking...' is a particularly brilliantly crafted song. Real time was spent on writing this. Each piano chord, each vocal note and although Elton's strange vocal delivery isn't for everyone, he chose the perfect foil in Kiki Dee.

(82) The little things that give you away - U2

Whatever you think of U2's slow decline since 2004's 'How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb', their 2017 album 'Songs of Experience' had some real gems. This song comes straight from the top drawer. Lyrically, musically and atmospherically this song takes you to so many places. I'm not even sure what it's about but the lyrics don't ever do that thing where a word snaps you out of the song and makes you go 'why did they say chicken dinner there?'.  Bono's voice is a raw and gravelled as ever here and he's still one of the only vocalists around these days who makes you believe everything he sings.

(81) All around the world - Lisa Stansfield

There's a hint of Barry White here and as Lisa cleans up her Lancashire accent, you never feel that her monologue at the start is out of place. What a voice as well.  Her and Morten Harket should have duetted. Both were able to change their voices entirely depending on what they were singing. It's something inbuilt and natural. Like Kiki Dee, if Lisa had been given some better material after this smash hit, she could have been massive. The fact she was chosen as one of those to honour Freddie Mercury at the tribute concert in 1992 along with Elton John,  David Bowie, George Michael, Seal, Paul Young, Annie Lennox and Robert Plant spoke volumes for her standing in the pop world at the time.

(80) Don't you want me - Human League

This wasn't even going to be released as a single and was even shoved to the back of the album because the band didn't like it that much. Since it stormed to number 1 in 1981 it has since become a bona fide classic regardless of your taste in music. Phil Oakey has a great voice and a lot of their top 40 hits are a joy to listen to.  'Heart like a wheel' and 'Fascination' are my favourites, along with 'Open your heart' and 'Lebanon'. A great band with dodgy beginnings which saw them doing some very avant garde stuff that didn't resonate with the main stream and the eventual formation of Heaven 17, which definitely wasn't a bad thing.

For me though, watching Top of the Pops on that fateful evening, that bass synth intro set me on a path to needing synthsizers in my life forever.

 

 

 

(79) Call me - Spagna

This song has everything an infectious summer anthem needs.  From the velcro-like intro which hooks you in to the Euro-pop stylings that so defined Eurovision for so many years, Call Me is a triumph of a pop song. It goes further than just being a great single, it just cheers my soul up. I know singles do that but this hits a deeper part - a part of me I suppose that remembers those wonderful mid-80s summers with endless sunshine. I'll never get bored of this song.

(78) Secrets - Tears for Fears

Steel yourself. This is a deep cut from one of the greatest bands and songwriters of the modern age. After Tears for Fears broke up in 1990, Roland Orzabal continued alone but commercial success was elusive. The songs however remained at a very high standard, especially with 1995's 'Raoul and the Kings of Spain', a concept album exploring Orzabal's Spanish heritage.  Secrets is about the troubles in relationships, which gives the lyric the necessary weight but the pacing and power of the vocal are superb too so, here it is, the 78th best song ever written!

(77) You get what you give - The New Radicals

This is one of those songs it hard not to like. It defined a moment in time - many songs have done that over the years however so that's not why it's in the list. It's just so different to anything else I'd heard at the time. I wanted to put it on the stereo and turn it up as loud as it would go and dance around the house, over and over again. This song has the genuine power to transform your mood and that's rare.  The lyrics suggest he's going to 'kick' Marilyn Manson's 'ass in'. When asked about it, Manson said he wasn't mad about the threat of violence, more that he'd been included in the same line as Courtney Love.

(76) Saint - Texas

Listening again, maybe this song should have been a bit higher in the list, but there's some quite stiff competition. Texas hit a peak with this album, as if they'd opened a magical songwriting chest that inspired them all for a year. A lot of the other Texas stuff I've heard doesn't even get in the same postcode as this album. It's oozing with atmosphere and listening back to front is an absolute journey. This song manifests in the room as you play it. It's sister song for me is the track 'Move in' which is almost as good and would be just outside my 100. If I ever do an albums list, this is one of the first in.

(75) Quit playing games with my heart - Backstreet Boys

I said before, it doesn't matter how cheesy or credible a band or artist are in the eyes of the general public, genuinely great songs can come from anywhere.  Often on 'worst songs of the 80s' lists, Chris DeBurgh's 'Lady in Red' is a great song. It's the stigma that gets in the way. Anyone seeing the artist above may be forgiven for thinking 'Backstreet Boys were just a boyband' but this song is heartbreaking. As sad and emotionally exhausting as any of your 'Always on my minds', 'Tears in Heavens', 'Hurts' or 'Father and Sons', 'Quit playing games' touches a part of you that needs to be open to it.  If you've ever wished to go back and redo something, live something again, change an outcome - this will have you in tears. 'I wish I could turn back time, impossible as it may seem but I wish I could, so bad...'

(74) Sanctify yourself - Simple Minds

YES! YES! YES!

My favourite thing about Simple Minds is their use of power in songs. Power in the drums, in the bass, in the guitars and of course in Jim Kerr's voice. He's a lot gentler these days but back in the day, he was capable of going from soft and sensual to loud and electric. Alive and Kicking, Glittering Prize, Don't you Forget about me, Waterfront and Belfast Child, all songs you must have on your best songs playlist.

(73) Release me - Agnes

Strange that Agnes only had two hits. Both were brilliant but then, nothing. The first, 'Release me' reached number 3 but the follow up 'I need you now' only got to number 40 in 2009.  This has baffled me since I was old enough to understand the music charts. An artist would release a song every bit as good as another song but one would go top 10 and the other wouldn't chart. Why didn't people hear the other one? Did they hear it and hate it? Were they thinking it just sounded like the one they bought and they were sick of it? Regardless, any artist would have been proud to have this song in their repertoir, even if it was the only one they ever hit the chart with.

She showed her mettle at the tribute concert for Marie Fredriksson when she sang 'It must have been love', dare I say it, better than Marie ever did.

(72) The day the world turned dayglow - X Ray Spex

This is brilliant. Poly Styrene is a legend and rightly so. I talked about this song when I put it at number 2 of the best singles of 1978 here. It's one of those songs you need to know, to know. That's not to say that if you think it's just a load of noise and shouting that you're wrong, but that's what makes music brilliant. Your own opinion.

(71) Nobody's Girl - Nicky Holland

Sadly, even people who follow popular music closely may not have heard this. Nicky was part of the Tears for Fears 'Songs from the Big Chair' tour and began writing music with Roland Orzabal, contributing quite a lot of lyrics and piano to their album 'Seeds of Love'.  She quite deservedly got to release music in her own right - and this, one of the best songs I've ever heard, was written with Lloyd Cole. It's beautifully produced and her unique voice carries the song right to the middle of where songs are supposed to hit you. The rest of the 'Sense and Sensuality' album is lovely too - it's one you can stick on in the background and it accompanies any mood. This could have been her 'Sleeping Sattelite' but Google can't find any singles or what number her album charted at... I guess it got no promotion?

"I've been lost, I've been found, I'm every woman's daughter, and I'm nobody's girl".

(70) It must have been love - Roxette

Timeless, powerful and perfectly crafted. It was the piano solo in the middle that grabbed me on my first listen. Still does. Marie's voice was superb and it's featured again on this list much nearer the top spot. This was of course featured in the movie 'Pretty Woman' but it had been released originally in 1987 in Sweden where it reached number 4, as were subsequent singles 'Dressed for Success' and 'Listen to your heart'.  Once one of their CDs made it over to the USA and a wise old record executive pushed their music to the rest of the world, 'The Look' was released and went to number 1 in several territories. 'Dressed' and 'Listen' were then released worldwide and did just as well so 'It must have been love' was released again and went stratospheric.  After 'Joyride' went to number one everywhere, their career started a slow decline. Only 'How do you do' and 'Sleeping in my car' made any real dent in the top 10. We sadly lost Marie in 2019 and their first album 'Pearls of Passion' will always be one of my favourite albums of all time.

 

 

(69) Redemption Day - Sheryl Crow

This was an album I bought on the strength of one song but I soon realised that Sheryl wasn't her singles. In fact, whatever you heard in the chart wasn't a representation of what she was capable of. You need to listen to the 'Wildflower' album. It's not what the kids are listening to so it only got to number 25 here but it's as good a collection of heart-rending songs as you're likely to hear.

When I first heard the 'Sheryl Crow' album, track 3, 'Home' blew me away. It wasn't a particularly great time when I got this album and the melacholy nature of much of it still gives me goosebumps - especially 'Redemption Day'. It's like, come on - how can a song this good exist? It's politically charged but not in a preachy way, just a sad sort of 'where's your common sense' way. I heard Johnny Cash cover this and for once, he didn't make it his own - and that's rare.

(68) Hounds of love - Kate Bush

What an album. What a singer. What a song writer. I love artists who do exactly what their souls tell them to do. Her song 'This Woman's Work' brings me to actual tears. It's stupidly heartbreaking. I'm surprised that most of what Kate Bush did resonated with enough people to sell enough singles. I can understand her album success but when appealing to the common denominator, she was able to hook them too.  Hounds of Love got five star reviews from all the music press which usually means it isn't worth listening to but wow. Side 1 is as good a side of Vinyl you'll ever hear and the song 'Hounds of Love' is so refreshingly honest, it hurts.

'I found a fox, caught by dogs, he let me take him in my hands, his little heart beat so fast and I'm afraid of running away'

and the genius lyric : "You don't want to hurt me but see how deep the bullet lies"

(67) December - All About Eve

The lyrics of this song, I hope, were written with a powerful truth. I want them to be true so much because they're so lucid and realistic and full of imagery and emotion that you can actually feel. I'd hate to think it was a fiction - but then, even if it is, it's so beautifully written that there has to be some truth in it.

The song is about looking through a keepsake tin and finding a sprig of mistletoe used one December to kiss someone long gone.  She then blames the time of year for bringing back feelings which are only nostalgia, not real feelings of actually missing that person. The line that gets me every time (and the construction of the melody hammers the emotion home perfectly) is 'A fall of snow and the afterglow should be taking our breath away... but the years stand in the way'. Damn!

(66) Until the end of the world - U2

U2's best album. Borne out of them trying to find a new sound, finding a lot of frustration and then almost splitting up. Then came 'One' which you may or may not see further up this list, and the rest is history. To have a truly great album you don't just need great songs or great lyrics or even any of that - I think it's the atmosphere. It's the thing you can't describe. Everything has an aura - places, food, people, tv shows and music. If you've heard this album you'll know what I mean about the atmosphere. Something they managed to capture in Hansa Studios was intangible and something you just can't bottle or recreate. I'm sure if they went back to record this album again from scratch it would sound completely different. This is a record that took a lot of people a lot of time to create.

It's a song that comes from a real place which always gives it gravity. Bono and The Edge fell out temporarily and it inspired Bono to write a fictional conversation between Jesus and Judas which, in the end, results in Judas' suicide. Bono even 'sings' the song as a conversation - there's no discernible tune. And it's brilliant.

(65) Sin of the City - Duran Duran

It wasn't until the internet was a thing that I found out what this song was about. It's about the Happy Land arson fire that killed 87 people trapped in an unlicensed social club in New York City on 25 March 1990. Despite not knowing about this at the first years of listening, it was the piano riff I noticed. Nick Rhodes was integral to the early Duran Duran sound, using synths in a very different way to other bands. It's clearest on the Duran splinter group Arcadia's album 'So Red the Rose' where he goes gale force 9 with the pads and effects - crafted ones - perfectly weighted ones.  He came to the forefront again on the 'Liberty' album and silenced those critics who said he used to just stand around on stage, twiddling knobs. On Sin of the City he produces a chord sequence like no other I've heard. Epic.

(64) No Rain - Blind Melon

This is exactly how I felt in the late summer of 1993. I feel so sad when I hear this song now, especially as lead singer Shannon Hoon died of a drug overdose in 1995. Like another song higher up this list, you can't help feeling that there was a lot of pain in what he was singing and that only serves to turn up the power of the lyric.

'And all I can do is read a book to stay awake
And it rips my life away, but it's a great escape'

These days it's X-box and TikTok.

(63) Black Coffee - All Saints

I might have mentioned this already but there was a peak in the quality of music videos in the early 2000s. The video for this song turns the lyrics up to 11 and it becomes very clear what it's about. It's not the romantic song you think it is, that's for sure. I loved the production on this and 'Pure Shores' - I think the same producer worked on Madonna's 'Frozen'. If they didn't then someone needs to sue someone.  Unlike Bananarama, who all sang the same note most of the time, All Saints were able to sing four different parts and melt their voices together into a wonderful tub of ice cream for your ears. It's pure joy.

(62) She sells sanctuary - The Cult

This has everything that Simple Minds' 'Sanctify Yourself' has but it also has a stronger hook and a singer who wants everyone to know that the heads that turn make his back burn.  It's a hurricane of a song and you're swept up in it along with the cows, cars and plastic bags.

(61) I can't stand it - Twenty 4 Seven

Here's something unexpected and something you've probably never heard. There are a few versions of this and the radio cut that I first heard is nowhere to be seen on Spotify. If you listen to the spotify version, you'll lose all respect for me and give up on the list. I assure you though that the Bruce Forest remix, which was the one radio stations played, is the one with the synth hook and tumble piano in the chorus which is what makes the song so enjoyable to listen to.  I'll find it on YouTube somewhere so check out that version in the playlist above.

Twenty 4 Seven were a foursome who strutted around on stage taking turns to rap and sing. When their song 'Are you Dreaming' was out, I had a friend at school who, every time I saw her for an entire week, we'd rap the chorus together, impromptu, without agreeing to do so before hand. It was weird but going 'Dreaming can be very nice, sometimes hot sometimes ice cold, but they're so real, nightmares can make you feel like jumping up and running away sometimes, dreams are just like people, human beings, fantasies are dreams' was one of the best in-jokes I've ever shared with anyone.  It's weird that I can remember that from 30 odd years ago but I can't remember what I went into the kitchen for twenty mintes ago.

(60) In the air tonight - Phil Collins

Don't underestimate the simplicity of this song. It's actually quite complicated. The initial percussion rhythm was programmed into a (new at the time) drum machine with loads of processing to give it that ethereal, twilight on the moors type feel. It makes you feel like it actually is coming in the air tonight. That drum fill in the middle is iconic for a reason. Bit overdone now I think but pretend you're hearing it for the first time and it gets you right there.  Phil Collins is one of the greatest songwriters of our time and you'd be hard pressed to find anyone up to his standard who's had a hit in the last 20 years.

 

 

(59) Phantom Bride - Erasure

Above all else, the album that this song comes from, 'The Innocents', is one the best sounding albums you'll ever hear. The production on it is so clear, the instruments so crystaline, the vocals so pure and the quality of songs so good, it comes as close to a masterpeice as you can get for a pop album.  Phantom Bride is everything good about the album in one song.

(58) Just one smile - Gene Pitney

What strikes me most about songs from the 60s and 70s is how singers, musicians and performers were there on merit. Whatever they looked like - they weren't taking selfies and dressing in Gucci and flaunting their wealth in vulgar ways (see Instagram circa 2019). Singers could sing, and most had voices so unique you knew who it was immediately. I was listening to the radio the other day, trying to pick something out from the 'songs of today' that I could at least tap my foot to. I couldn't discern any voice as unique. Everything was lost in the mix and so layered with effects and digital stupidity, I didn't know what was going on.

Gene Pitney had one of the most unique voices of the 60s. Along with Roy Orbison, any song he sang became something more than the tune, the words, the structure. I know this list seems to be filled with heavy songs - heartbreaking songs - but they're the ones that hit you the hardest. Just one Smile is just that, heartbreaking.

(57) Advice for the young at heart - Tears for Fears

'Love is a promise, love is a souvenir - once given, never forgotten, never let it disappear.'

The third single from Tears for Fears' masterpeice 'The Seeds of Love'. It's about when you're young, you want to be an adult and when you're finally an adult, wanting to be a child again.  This song was co-written by Nicky Holland (who sang 'Nobody's girl' above), and absolutely came from a place of truth.

'Soon we will be older. When are we going to make it work?'

I feel like that all the time.

(56) The Man with the child in his eyes - Kate Bush

Apart from the horrendous single cover, this is a song of real quality. Apparently she wrote it when she was 13. I was still playing Karate Kid in the back street at 13. It won an Ivor Novello for it's outstanding lyrics. The piano part is full of every characteristic you find in a Rachmaninov. In fact, you could probably sprinkle Kate Bush songs all over the top 100 best ever and none would seem out of place.

(55) Who's that girl - Madonna

I'm probably in the minority of one here but this is pristene pop perfection. Even when Madonna wasn't at the top of her game in the 80s, she was still head and shoulders above most of her peers. It's bright and optimistic and thankfully, doesn't bring the awful movie it was from to mind too much.

(54) Sand in my shoes - Dido

Not convinced by Dido's vocal delivery if I'm honest. At least it's unique and not like all those clones you used to get on X-factor singing the same Whitney Houston song with too many notes per word. Sand in my Shoes is about meeting someone on holiday, getting home to your humdrum life and not knowing if you want to see that person again because you like them or beacause the memory of them is synonymous with the sun, sea and sand escape from real life.  It's wonderfully written and delivered and has lots of those nice musical hooks. It's a shame that songs like this get lost in the ether and dissappear a few months after they were released. Actually, around the end of the 2000s  I was worried Rihanna songs were going to be circulated for the next 20 years but thankfully, they all dissappeared and were forgotten too. Especially that godawful Umbrella song. Um... what was I talking about again...

(53) Land of Make Believe - Bucks Fizz

Bucks Fizz won Eurovision and whilst the gamble was taken to offer them a recording contract based on that one performance, it paid off massively. A string of great songs followed and this went all the way to number 1 in 1982. You forget the ABBA comparisons because they became a group in their own right and this song is right up the street of a 7 year old, which is the age I was when I first heard it. They're on about ghosts and superman and imaginary friends. Inspired.

(52) Criticize - Alexander O'Neal

One of the greatest vocalists of all time. Rolling Stone will only ever go with the cliche choices of Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Beyonce because they're good in their own right but they'd all struggle to outdo Alex in his prime. The 'Hearsay' album is one I'd take to a desert island without hesitation. 'Sunshine' is my favourite song on the album but Criticize is so well written. The bass, the drum sound, Alex singing with very little effort. I first heard this song at a school disco and went out to buy the album that weekend. I've been listening ever since.

(51) Home - Erasure

Oh Erasure. How on earth can you take your uplifting twinkly positivity and turn out a dark, brooding, atmospheric, disturbing and inspiring song using instruments that 'have no soul'. Vince Clarke reaches his Zenith on this album and Andy Bell achieves a clarity in his vocals which rivaled any of his contemporaries. This song takes you out of yourself and it's the sort that you can attach quite powerful associations and memories with. Stunning with a captial S.

(50) In your eyes - Peter Gabriel

This is how you do lyrics. "So much wasted, and the moment keeps slipping away". Peter Gabriel must have come from money because he wasn't afraid to do music his way. However extreme or weird, dressing up as a flower or writing avante garde whistling medleys, he didn't stick to a safe commercial path. One of his albums was dropped by his record company just before releasing it (only for them to try and buy it back after the first single went top ten)! However, when he's gone straight down the middle with a conventional stab at pop music, it's been brilliant.

'In your eyes' ticks all the boxes for a love song. And some more boxes that aren't on the list.

 

 

 

(49) Sweetness follows - REM

This is quite a scary song. Depressing and too realistic - borne of 'Everybody hurts' but a little more cryptic, it squeezes your soul and pulls out all your ventricles.  'Lost in our little lives' and 'live your life with joy and thunder' are simple lyrics but so so so effective in context with the moody drawl of the strings. It's just a dark masterpeice, that's all.

(48) Sleeping Sattelite - Tasmin Archer

This song came from nowhere. In fact, one of my mates rang me to tell me to listen to it when it first came out - he loved it so much. I had to just leave the radio on all day to hear it - such was the lack of streaming back then. As soon as it came on I knew it was the one I was waiting for. It glitters from the first note to the last. I bought the album. I loved the album. I still listen to it now. 'Arianne' and 'Halfway to Heaven' should have been top 10 hits too. It's a song that'll be played on radio right up until the universe explodes. And probably after that too.

(47) Ordinary world - Duran Duran

What a glorious comeback single for my one-time favourite band. They were my everything in 1993 and although I'd loved their previous effort 'Liberty', the fans and the radio didn't. They'd lost two members and their 'way' until this perfect peice of emotionally stirring mixture of pop and soul came along. Of course I bought CD1 and CD2 (a tactic bands used to sell more singles by sticking lots of bonus tracks on each CD) with a slightly different mix of the song and an acoustic version on CD2. I used to support bands the way I supported football. I always wanted the bands I liked to get to number 1 and checked the charts methodically when they were published every Sunday. I was desperate for this to get to number 1 (They'd been there twice before) but it wasn't to be. They had to settle for number 6 (a crime) but they did manage one place higher with 'Reach up for the sunrise' in 2004. That's the last we'll see of the Durans in the charts though. In fact, I've got more chance of getting in the charts than Duran Duran have these days.

(46) Knowing Me, Knowing You - Abba

If you've done any level of songwriting, you'll know why this is one of the greatest songs ever written. On the surface, it's the totally 70s production, especially on the twinkling detuned piano and weird reverb at the start. Then it's the evocative lyrics and the harmonies - then, under all that is the simple melody of the verse which flips into that almost angry bridge and chorus.  As long as you don't think about Alan Partridge, you'll know what I mean. Abba are after all, the gold standard of pop songwriting.

(45) Please Push no more - Gary Numan

Did you ever think Gary Numan's cold emotionless voice could break your heart? This is a song which gives you chills but not in the android sense, in the actual 'wow, someone did a number on this fella' way. It's the way he sings 'So that was love?' in a way I think we've all felt at one time. There's such heart in this song that the synth wailing in the instrumental bits sound every bit in place. The album as a whole is probably Numan's best and this song dots the T's and crosses the I's.

(44) What's up - Four Non Blondes

This song was out at such an exciting time for music; American music really. It was all kicking off in 1993 and this was one of the songs which led the way - with Spin Doctors and Blind Melon following. 25 years and my life is still trying to get up that great big hill of hope. I was 18 at the time but I knew what they meant - and knew even more by the time I was nearly 19. I said Hey-ey-ey-yey-yeh, I said Hey, What's going on????  I'm still not sure.

(43) The way I are - Timbaland (Ft. Keri Hilson)

Timbaland almost saved popular music for a moment there in 2007. He almost launched Keri Hilson's career too. He definitely helped One Republic have a career and he nearly had a big chart career of his own. Despite all these nearlys and almosts, this song borrowed a lot from Salt 'n Pepa's song 'Push it', dragged it into whatever the prevailing wind was at the end of the 00's and came up with something catchy, fresh and infectious. I still get happy these days whenever it pops into my ears unannouced. It's almost feminist, sort of too.

(42) True Love Ways - Buddy Holly

I can't get over how fresh and clean this sounds despite it being recorded in the 50s. 1958 to be precise, four months before his untimely death. It's got a lot to do with the gospel song 'I'll be alright' which was played at Holly's funeral. Though I can't find a source to say otherwise, the beginning of the song features studio talk; the engineer telling people to be quiet and the piano player to give Buddy his starting note - it sounds like it's all recorded in one take, live. Couldn't possibly be though could it? It makes you wonder what he would have been capable of in later days - but it's like that with all hugely talented people who are taken too soon; their legend grows bigger than they ever were. Sometimes, that's deserved though.

(41) Martha's Harbour - All About Eve

Some songs don't sound like they were written by humans. It sounds like they were passed down through generations, having been born before humanity like they were part of the evolution of the planet. That might be going a little over the top, but this song is so well written, beautifully crafted, so visual and teeming with metaphors (not obvious cliched ones either) that it couldn't have just been three people in a room, making stuff up. Its a song that connects with your soul, and those are the ones that stay inside.

(40) Time after time - Cindy Lauper

At the time it was a completely unexpected gambit from Cyndi to release such a slow burner of a song. She was meant to be weird and loud and quirky and weird. This was mature and heartfelt and sincere. It shouldn't have worked. It should have been Tina Turner or Alison Moyet really, but once the confusion wore off, you couldn't imagine anyone else singing this. It's just brilliant.

 

(39) The sun always shines on TV - A-Ha

Epic! Or at least it was when that word meant epic, before the Americans started overusing words like Awesome so they lost their meaning. This song is so full of drama, it must have been written in several different sessions. You don't write an intro like that and then follow it up with an actual body of a song which is even better. Morten Harket's vocal is one of the best you'll hear on an 80s single and the way the last minute builds to the high note and eventually, the low piano note leaves you out of breath and not able to listen to anything else for at least a couple of hours.

(38) Temptation - The Everly Brothers

This is one of those noisy 60's tracks with all that church hall reverb and it still sounds better than most stuff recorded these days on little digital boxes does. It was originally written in 1933 and recorded by Bing Crosby. It's a perfect vehicle for the brothers' harmonising and the 'yay, yay, yeah-yow' intro is hooky and brilliant. Real singers, real instruments, real songs.

(37) Anytime you need a friend - Mariah Carey

There's some debate about who the greatest vocalist of all time is and Mariah (Pre-2001) was always there or thereabouts that argument. She gives it her full range on her second album 'Emotion', something I can't recall any other artist doing before her. Not that any other artist has as big a range as her anyway - she did it in a natural way and not in a 'see how high I can sing!' way.  'Any time you need a friend' is a masterpeice of gospel and soul. Her voice never sounded so pure and engaging and the vocal acrobatics (which are a little annoying at times on her later stuff) are perfectly weighted. You listen in a state of awe; bone chilling awe. Wonderful.

(36) Show me heaven - Maria McKee

Some singers don't know how to perform. They do the notes ok but they don't quite understand the words or what the song is about so they just do the whole 'la la la' thing. Maria McKee demonstrates how to perform a song on this track. She changes her voice to suit the mood, the message and the tone. She begins softly and then hits you in the face with a 'I'm not denying'. Remember when films had songs? Songs you could say 'that's from that film' about? When was the last time a song was in a film, specifically written for that film?  Anyway, this is a brilliant song by someone who mysteriously didn't have another hit - apart from 'I'm gonna soothe you', which got to number 35 three years later. Nope, me neither.

(35) If I could change your mind - Haim

You don't know this song. Nobody does and I'm sad about that. Haim had a brilliant first album, a brillianter second album and then an album which is probably one of the worst ever released by anyone ever as a third album. Two of them got to number 1 and one got to number 2. They got so much hate at the Brit Awards for winning best international group because people were like 'I've never heard of them' or 'they don't look like pop stars' or whatever. Their songs are fresh and interesting. Their voices are quirky and bubbly and 'If I could change your mind' is a first-listen classic. If you get a chance, listen to 'The Wire', 'Save me' and 'Days are gone' too. You'll thank me. Twice.

(34) I still haven't found what I'm looking for - U2

I probably don't even need to say anything about this. It's a gospel song about faith, or trying to have faith in a world that tests it to the full. The version they did on Rattle and Hum is probably the definitive one but that wouldn't have been commercial enough to chart (maybe). One of the greatest songs of all time on one of the greatest albums of all time by one of the greatest rock bands of all time - and you'd be pretty hard pressed to disagree with any of those statements however much you hate U2.

(33) I'm with you - Avril Lavigne

This was as unexpected a release from Avril as 'Time after Time' had been for Cyndi.  'Complicated' was a great debut but she was pratting around in a shopping centre on a go-kart so it didn't give me a great deal of hope for her second single. And I was correct - Sk8er Boi was awful. I thought that that was that for the angry JoJo but knock me out with a teaspoon if the first time I heard 'I'm with you' I was like 'Noooooo'. Superb in every sense of the word. I've probably listened to this at least twenty times a year, every year since 2003. It made me buy the album - and what an album it is. The second album was even better. 'Losing grip', 'Don't tell me' and 'My Happy Ending' are almost a soundtrack to my 2004.

(32) I don't care - Shakespears Sister

Obsessed isn't the word. It felt to me like nobody 'got' Shakespears Sister. I hate that 'Stay' is the only song people know and like by them when their grasp on songwriting was as strong as anybodies, they just didn't want to bow to the record execs who wanted trashy throw-away pop like what Bananarama did - the reason Siobhan Fahey left them in the first place to stamp her own personality on the music. It was such a shame she never really embraced Marcella as a true partner in music. They were sort of thrown together - but let's be honest, she wouldn't have made it without her. 'Run Silent' is an amazing song, too lightweight for the record buying public at the time but 'You're History' broke them into the chart and grew them a fanbase. I specifically went to Our Price when 'Hormonally Yours' came out to listen to the album on one of those 'stations' where you put the headphones on and press the button. 'I don't care' came on and didn't leave my consciousness since. I love the poem in the middle, Siobhan is the only person with such a sarcastic and dark demeanour enough to read one out in the middle of a pop song. Marcella providing the sugary antidote to Siobhan's deep gravelled tones. Brilliant. As is the video.

(31) We don't have to take our clothes off - Jermaine Stewart

There's part of your soul missing if this song doesn't get you up and gyrating across the room. It's so full of joy - it's infectious and I'm baffled how music and songs can sound like this but people just don't want to write them any more. It's like they all came out in the mid-80s and then they were made illegal. None the wonder why there's radio stations dedicated to 80s music now. For this song alone, Jermaine needs his own plaque in his own room on his own floor of the music hall of fame.

(30) Toy soldiers - Martika

This song was talked up by Rick Dees before I'd heard it as a song about drug addiction. Not being of the age where song lyrics ever meant much more than just a way to get a good tune into the world, it was probably a good job he said that - other wise I'd probably have just thought the song was about some carved wooden nutcrackers. I think one of the worst things she ever did was to get involved with Prince. Or maybe she wouldn't have had any more hits without him - who can say.

 

(29) I don't want to talk about it - Rod Stewart/Everything but the girl

In a true golden age for popular music, summer 1988, this was played on the radio. I can imagine when young'uns hear a cover version on the radio these days (someone had the audacity to add a dance beat to Tracy Chapman's 'Fast Car' last year), they think it's a brand new song and it becomes their definitive version. Even if you play them the original, the classic version, the best version - they don't get it and why should they? When I heard this, I loved it and it's always going to be the best version. Secretly, Rod Stewart's version is better but don't tell anyone.

(28) Hand on your heart - Kylie Minogue

If you look at the songs written and produced by Stock, Aitken and Waterman, it will blow your mind.  It's true that a lot of the top 10 hits they had towards the end of their reign sounded spookily similar, however, there are some bona fide classics in their back catalogue. However throwaway you think 'Hand on your heart' is, it's got everything and the lyrics really do hit the right emotional spot. Like a lot of the songs I've chosen, it just lifts you from wherever you are to somewhere a lot higher.

(27) Broken Strings - James Morrisson ft. Nelly Furtado

I'd all but given up on the charts in 2008 until this gem came along. Stuff worth listening to is still out there if you can be bothered to unearth it amongst the vacuous wailings of people who look better than they sound. This is one of the all-time greatest songs for the simple fact it's got heart, a great melody and a true build at the end with all the dramatic qualities you get from any Wagner or Bach peice.

(26) Buffalo stance - Neneh Cherry

Nenah Cherry wasn't a very good pop star. Not in my opinion anyway. She always looked a bit awkward and not very polished or believable, actually. This was a very well crafted song however and her pseudo-rapping suited it (it didn't quite work on anything else she did however). I think it's the backing track that I like most about it - a very good choice of sounds! Well done to the production staff on this one.

(25) Groove is in the heart - Deelite

I know this is mainly samples and weirdness but the talent to put something like this together shouldn't be underestimated. The whole thing sounded like a riot to record and write. There's charisma and coolness all over the record and it's so full of interesting moments you can't help but put it on again and hear something different next time.

(24) Nothing compares 2 U - Sinead O'Connor

Quite often, songs Prince wrote that were covered by other people were often better than the version Prince recorded. Manic Monday, I feel for you and Nothing Compares 2 U to name a few. Sinead pitches the emotion required to bring this to life perfectly. Prince wasn't able to do that, strangely.  Like I mentioned before, there's such a difference between singing a song and peforming it. Giving real emphasis to what she's saying is integral to how good this song is - the wrong singer turns this into a flat dull ballad - Sinead breathes life where maybe there wouldn't have been any?

(23) Mad World - Tears for Fears

A better song which sums up isolation, self doubt, alienation and being unable to meld with the social environment is yet to be written. The greatness of this song lies in its simplicity. It's 4-chord verse with stark ghost-like synths provide the perfect backdrop for Curt Smith's fragile delivery. 'The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I ever had', he sings. Bleak.  The bit I identified with in 1982 was 'Teacher tell me what's my lesson, look right through me'. Don't watch the video though, Roland's dancing by the lake takes you out of the dark emotive journey of the song into a 'what is actually going on with his fingerless gloves?'

(22) Live to tell - Madonna

This isn't so much a song as a peice of classical music with pop sensibilities. As with lots of other Madonna songs at the time, it was from a movie I didn't watch but it made an ideal soundtrack for any romantic drama. There's a bit in the middle where it slows right down to the point of stopping - then dives straight back in. Dramatic and atmospheric at the same time.

(21) In my life - The Beatles

Little commentary needed here. Everything John Lennon says in this song is absolutely true for him and probably for anyone who listens to the song. I think we've all met people we never thought we'd lose touch with; one day we saw them for the last time for whatever reason and it's not really until a few years later you realise how much of a positive influence they were on your life.  I think John Lennon must have had a lot of regrets, even at that young age - a lot of affection for his childhood and formative years at least.  This song often finds itself at the top of 'greatest songs ever written' lists in Mojo and Rolling Stone. It's at 21 here because there are 20 better than it... starting with...

(20) Sweet Illusion - Junior Cambell

Probably the best song of the 70s. It's got a real Motown vibe and bright orchestral arrangement which gives it the drive but Campbell's vocals are everything here. There's something about the arrangement which takes it above a lot of songs that came before it that had the same essence. I'm not sure what it is but it works for me.

(19) I don't want to be around - Curt Smith

 

Not everyone's cup of tea this. Probably nobody's cup of tea to be frank but when Curt Smith went solo in the early 90s, he released an album called 'Soul on Board' because his contract said he had to, but he dismissed it immediately and it didn't sell well - but I loved it - still do. Then he went quiet for about 10 years and started releasing music on his own label. Playing intimate gigs in his native New York, his band decided to record some of the songs they'd written and stick them out on his MySpace 0r whatever he was using in 2002. Luckily, I managed to get a copy on eBay and loved every last second of it. 'Mother England' is a highlight with 'Snow Hill' and 'Sorry Town' also brilliant tracks. 'I don't want to be around' is a slow burner but once you get into the big 'chorus' (which isn't really a chorus, it's more of a bigger louder verse) it sweeps you along - made all the better by the abstract lyrics. Superb.

(18) One Day - The Verve

'Urban Hymns' was one of those albums that defined a moment in time. Late 1997, the British pop landscape had been sculpted by guitar bands from Manchester (well, over that way anyway) and The Verve just happened to release Bitter Sweet Symphony at a time when people were rediscovering The Smiths and missing the time when Oasis were new and 'fresh' (which lasted about 6 months for me before everything they did either sounded like a parody of something already released in the 70s or a parody of themselves). How a song like 'The Drugs Don't Work' got to number one, I'll never know. It's brilliant but it's shockingly depressing and has no uplifting qualities in either it's tone or music at all. Emo was here to stay for 8 months before bubblegum pop came back round to dominate the top 10. However commercial the singles were (count 'Lucky Man' in that trio), 'One Day' is so much more than the combination of everything else on the album. Now, this was an album like they were meant to be. Everything ran together like an opera and each theme, mood and atmospheric guitar swirl was perfectly crafted to take you on a trip into your own insecurities and make you question all the choices you'd ever made. 'One Day' stands apart though - totally part of the album's tapestry but even on it's own, it's a love song to someone who has gone forever like you've never heard. It crawls inside you, hurts you from the inside and stays there for 24 years - so far.

(17) Like a prayer - Madonna

Exhibit A. How to write a pop song. Another gospel song in my top 100, it also feeds off 'Live to Tell' with the empty vocal-only sections then jumps back into the dance-rhythm backed pop song. The vocal layering and harmonies are second to none and whatever you think of Madonna as a vocalist, she'd absolutely honed her craft by the 'Like a Prayer' album (before going off and being weird for about 7 years). For someone known as a pop vocalist, she's got an incredible range - see 'I'll remember' and 'Frozen' as examples.

(16) Stay on these roads - A-Ha

Morten Harket's vocals sound good whatever he's doing. This song however was absolutely the vehicle for his voice - all three members are credited with writing the song so I'd like to think Morten just turned up one day and started wailing away only for the other two to build the song around him.  As a love song, it's beautiful. He sings 'Stay on these roads, we shall meet - winter's gone, I'm on my own'.  However you want to interpret the lyrics, it's like you'll meet 'the one' one day, or, the one that got away will come back to you, in a fate driven narrative. Either way, it's another one of those absolute heartbreakers with hope instead of unrequited what-nots.

(15) Solsbury Hill - Peter Gabriel

Another one that speaks for itself. The structure of the song is so unusual that it keeps you interested throughout, the lyrics are sometimes abstract and sometimes so literal, you can't help thinking about what he must have felt like as part of Genesis, who were breaking through when he decided it wasn't for him and regardless of whether he could make it as a solo artist, he was going to do it anyway. Brave or stupid, if you had this song in your locker, of course you'd take the risk.

(14) Are Friends Electric - Tubeway Army

This song was a happy accident. Musically, it doesn't work on paper but the clashing keys and odd lyrics about robots being 'friends' somehow captured a public imagination who were absolutely not ready for this bloke. And he upset the industry and the press in the process. He wasn't seen as someone who had worked for his success, he just turned up one day and started having number 1 hits at the expense of the more glamourous artists of the time. That's what's always been wrong with the music industry and why so many talented artists don't survive. It's like cousins marrying. Eventually, the charts is full of music with three chins and no eyebrows.

(13) Drowning Man - U2

This song absolutely chills me to the bone. It's in a similar vein to Solsbury Hill with its odd meter and Bono's voice has never sounded so raw and full of legitimate emotion - maybe on 'One' but here, when he sings 'Hold on, hold on tightly to this love' and then the beautiful string section comes in it sounds so different to normal pop music, you're in danger of forgetting it's even a song or music you're listening to, you become such a part of what's happening. You just have to let yourself be swept up in it and enjoy everything that's happening. How four 22-year-olds could have produced this peice of music (they had a producer as well I suppose) baffles me to this day. It's an unbelievable track - and that's saying a lot when the album also had 'Like a Song' on it.

(12) Broken Wings - Mister Mister

There's a lot more here than you notice on face value. The bass line at the start really sets the mood and by the time the lyrics come in, the shivers are already creeping up your spine. Granted, the lyrics aren't the most profound, bordering on teenage diary poet, but they're delivered with such passion and commitment, you almost don't notice. I think it might have been influenced by The Beatle's 'Blackbird' but don't quote me on that.

(11) One - U2

No apologies for the amount of U2 songs in the top 100 - they're just that good at writing songs. 'One' is undoubtedly an all time classic and made all the better by the mythology of it being the song they wrote when they were at their wits end with each other and the fact the writing of their new album wasn't going to plan at all. By all accounts, this was the one that made them all understand their places in the band, that they were one, but they weren't the same and that was ok. The lyrics are some of the best you'll hear in a pop song - in fact, the lyrics on the parent album 'Achtung Baby' are some of the best you'll hear. 'Until the End of the World' and 'Ultraviolet' are the highlights. Even live, they, nor anyone else has ever been able to capture the moment they put down on celluloid - this is an absolute masterpeice from the drumming, the guitar layers and the emotional outpourings in Bono's voice, it's just head and shoulders above anything you would have heard in a pop chart 20 years either side of it.

(10) Human Racing - Nik Kershaw

I loved 'I won't let the sun go down on me' because of the 'old men in stripy trousers' line. Beyond that, I didn't take any notice of Nik Kershaw until I was listening to one of the 'Now that's what I call music' albums and this song was the very last track. It was so odd. It didn't sound at all like a single and I'm pretty sure it didn't catch anybodies attention at the time - not in a mainstream way anyway. The lyrics get better with age - especially when you realise the world isn't full of possibilities.

(9) Yesterday - The Beatles

It's simple and really separated Paul McCartney as the leading member of the Beatles. John Lennon wrote some amazing stuff but it was all a bit too messy, arty and abstract for me at times. McCartney wrote accessible songs, ones you could play yourself on the guitar or piano. 'Yesterday' is such a raw song because we can all relate to it and that makes it heartbreaking and brilliant at the same time. It'll never age either.

(8) True Colours - Cindy Lauper

This was 'Yesterday' of the 80s. Sorrowful, deep and full of truth - Cyndi's voice didn't sound right at the time but you can't imagine anyone else singing it now. Her vocal has such a vulnerability in it, you feel every word, every note. A masterpeice in every sense.

(7) These are the days of our lives - Queen

Whilst the pictures painted by this song would have been sad enough, topped with a hint of morality about being in the moment - the untimely death of Freddie Mercury made this song even more poignant. You can't help but imagine him writing these words as he tried to come to terms with his diagnosis, saying thank you for such a life and the chance to live the way he did. It's a song which makes you re-evaluate your own situation too, in a good way. It's not one you can listen to too often though, unless you want to dehydrate yourself through your eye holes.

(6) The Working Hour - Tears for Fears

When you get into the top six of any list, you expect perfection. And that's what we have right here. Roland Orzabal is my favourite ever songwriter but he was given plenty of help with this one. The drum rhythms are all Manny Elias, the piano motifs are all Ian Stanley but the lyrics and vocal arrangements are classic Orzabal. Duran Duran's uniqueness came from the fact you could pick out every instrument, like each of the five had really taken time to write their parts and blend them together so nobody got pushed backwards, they worked as a unit - remove one and it just wasn't the same. This is what happened here - everyone has a moment. William Gregory (founding member of Goldfrapp) plays sax on this and elevates what would probably have been a 9/10 song to a 11/10 song. The production on the parent album 'Songs from the Big Chair' is some of the best I've ever heard - especially the brightness and roomyness of the synths. I could go on for days about this song but just give it a listen and you'll be an instant fan too.

(5) Dignity - Deacon Blue

What's going on here is how to write a pop lyric with meaning, metaphors, psychology, emotion and empathy. It's one of those lyrics you take with you into the rest of your life. It's about a guy who works as a street sweeper (you don't see them any more, with their little metal carts and brooms do you?) and he's happy. What the white collar people in their Mercedes'es forget is that even though they think they're the important people making all the big decisions, society comes to a complete halt without the street sweepers, the shop workers and the care assitants. It's a commentary on how the people on the lowest wages are sometimes the happiest. The guy in the song saves his money for years to buy a small boat and go sailing on his holidays. That one week where he can live out a lifelong dream - Working for something and achieving it instead of inheriting the money and not appreciating anything you have. He has his dignity and that is what separates this song from the pack. However, there's four better...

(4) Silver Blue - Roxette

It's a real head-scratcher how this was left on an album and never released as a single. It's awful to say but Per Gessel ruins it a bit by singing - but by that token it just makes you realise what a fantastic vocalist Marie Fredriksson was. When she comes in on the second verse, shivers shoot up and down you like a cold shower. Again, the production is the key here, listen to those ethereal backing vocals and wonderful fretless bass. An easy choice for the top 5.

(3) Bedshaped - Keane

I couldn't believe what I was hearing when I first heard this. It was the video really that kept me listening. By 2004 I'd all but stopped checking the chart to see who was number 1 and what the new releases sounded like. I still watched VH1 in the background when doing something else and this stopped me doing whatever I was doing. It sings. The whole song sings. I bought the album and the next four after that but the closest they ever came again was 'Bad Dream' - still not in this ballpark though. It's one of those songs a songwriter would clap their hands over and go 'That's it - my work is done. Time to find another hobby'. What a song and I mean WHAT A SONG.

(2) Dancing Queen - Abba

I think I might have used this analogy before but if you were teaching songwriting, structure, harmonies and production all at the same time - this is the song to use as a perfect example of all. The piano motif has been copied endlessly, the way the chorus comes in full power at the beginning, the harmonies between the Abbettes was always superb but on this single they really hit.  This is as close to perfection as a song will ever get I think. Apart from...

(1) Famous last words - Tears for Fears

Words will never do justice to this song. It's power is in the structure. It starts mutedly and builds to this wonderful full middle section before dropping back into a delicate and emotionally charged outro. Roland Orzabal never wanted to sing this song - he didn't think his voice suited it and it's that insecurity which brings the vocal to life. It's mainly about an old couple who met and lived through the war and they're facing the end of their long lives. It's another tear-jerker I'm afraid and you'll be exhaused by the end if you listen to my top 10 in a row. 'All our love and all of our pain, will be but a tune - hand in hand, we'll do and die, listening to the band that made us cry, we'll have nothing to lose, we'll have nothing to gain, just to stay in this real life situation for one last refrain'.

As the day hits the night

We will sit by candle light

We will laugh, we will sing

As the saints go marching in

And we will carry war, no more...

Best. Song. Ever.

 

Do you agree or disagree with anything in the list? Leave a comment below or tell me your top 100! I'll be posting my 'best singles of 1982' soon so follow me on Facebook for notification of that going up and other stuff that's happening!

 

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1981

Spotify playlist : Top 40 Singles of 1981

YouTube playlist : Top 40 Singles of 1981

 (If the videos aren't working below you can go direct to the playlist here : 1981)

Having a number 1 single doesn't really mean what you think it means. Yes, it's a number 1 and blah blah blah, history, awards etc. But when you think about it, you've just had the most popular song of that moment in time. There have been some awful number 1 singles but they got there because they hit at the correct moment in time. If Ultravox had released Vienna three weeks later than they did, it would have been number 1 without a problem. However, Joe Dolce's 'Shaddap your face' was the right record at the right time. It must have been a nightmare for artists who knew they had a brilliant single, working out when best to release it. However, Human League had absolutley no expectations for 'Don't you want me' to the point Phil Oakey didn't want to release it as a single.

In the end though, chart positions don't matter. 'Vienna' ended up being a song for the ages whilst 'Shaddap your face' was a song for the moment. Number one or number two doesn't really matter; it's almost arbitrary, a lot like my personal top 40 of 1981 in fact. However, this is definitely the strongest list of songs I've complied since starting in 1973 so sit back, stick the playlist on and read along...

(40) Duran Duran - Planet Earth

Duran Duran were a little bit ridiculous at the start. They fully embraced the New Romantic look of frilly pirate blouses, long floppy foppish hair and that weird dancing people did when Visage came on the radio.  However decent this song was, it didn't suggest the band would be crashing into the chart at number 1 in two years time, nor did we think they'd still be releasing records and touring right into 2021! (They've had some terrible moments in that time sprinkled with gems of genius). I've seen them live four times, twice when the original line-up got back together for the Astronaut Album in 2004. This got to number 12 and they even managed to get on the Old Grey Whistle Test. Which was an acheivement for a band such as this back then.

Some cynics would say they nicked the sound on their first album from Roxy Music.

(39) Dramatis - Love Needs No Disguise

For a Gary Numan fan, this was great. Dramatis were his former backing band who got together after Numan announced he was retiring from touring (a decision he reversed two years later). Maybe I'm biased but I adore this song, the atmosphere is electric - probably not the 39th best single of 1981 but it's my chart so I can do what I like. It spent two weeks at number 33 and then fell out.

(38) Four Tops - When She Was My Girl

This was their first top ten hit since "Simple Game" had reached number three in 1971. This got to number 3 also. There was something formulaic about this sort of music - but no more than that churned out by Stock, Aitken and Waterman or even Swain and Jolley - if it works, it works and when it works well, it's brilliant.

This could well have been a B-Side for one of Michael Jackson's singles from 'Off the Wall'. He would probably have done it better too.

(37) Barry Manilow - Let's Hang On

Nobody gets in the chart these days with a cover version of something first released in the last ten years.  They all have to go back to the 80s or 90s. Back in the day you could have three versions of the same song by different people in the top 40.  The Four Seasons and Johnny Johnson And The Bandwagon had both had hits with this song in the '60s. Then Darts had their very last hit with this song in 1980 when they took it to number 11. 18 months later, Barry Manilow took it to number 12 and gave us the definitive version even though I picture Frankie Valli's face whenever I hear this version.

(36) Sheena Easton - For Your Eyes Only

Nobody had heard of her 12 months ago but Sheena was given the honour of recording the title song for the latest 'James Bond' film. Since being on a kind of documentary about starting in the music industry, she'd had five top 40 hits and one near miss in a year. This number eight peaking single had a good chart run lasting ten weeks, but was her last top ten hit ever. She even performed this at the Oscars. Then Prince got his claws into her and made her into something else entirely...

(35) Ottowan - Hands Up

After dislocating your arms trying to spell out 'D.I.S.C.O.' in the style of 'Y.M.C.A.', Ottowan decided to release a song that would put further strain on your arms. Putting your hands up every time the chorus came around got very tiring. This was a fun Pan Pipe-led tune that no doubt had all the Nannas up on the dancefloor in Benidorm at the time. It spent two weeks at number three.

 

 

 

 

(34) Hazel O'Connor - Will You

This was Hazel's third and final hit. I remember thinking at the time that this was a very mature song - I didn't know what was going on in it but knew that I didn't know what was going on because it had mature themes. It surprised me that Hazel stopped having hits, especially with her starring in Breaking Glass, from which "Will You" was taken.  It got to number eight.

(33) Abba - Lay All Your Love On Me

This only came out as a 12" single. Odd that it sold so well but this was Abba on the slide. Still a great song but quite removed from the style they'd had so many hits with. Erasure covered this and three other ABBA songs for their "Abba-esque E.P" which got to number 1 in 1992. Andy Bell worshipped ABBA and even got the usually retiscent Vince Clarke to dress up in a blue satin jump suit and dance along on stage when they performed it live.

(32) Depeche Mode - Just Can't Get Enough

Speaking of Vince Clarke, he wrote this little ditty. It was like 'Twinkle Twinkle little star' to my young ears and sounded so simplistic, it gave me ideas of grandeur that buying one of those bleepy boxes would mean I could write a simple little bloopy tune and get into the top 10.  Turns out no matter how simple it sounds, it's not simple in the slightest.  This peaked at number eight, Vince left to form Yazoo and thirty years later, Depeche Mode were still having hit singles.

(31) Cliff Richard - Wired for Sound

Cliff likes tall speakers and Cliff like small speakers but he also likes roller skating in a sports hall wearing a walkman with orange sponge ear protectors.  It's a bit table-chair this track but it's decent enough and the video made it memorable enough to endure a decent chart run and end up at number 4.

(30) Rolling Stones - Start Me Up

I used to ask the guitarist in our band to play this for me before each rehearsal - just the intro - cos I loved it. He'd oblige with a sigh and then I'd leave him alone for the rest of the night.  The only thing wrong with this is that Mick Jagger totally over-jaggers the vocal and it's quite repetative and it's quite repetative.  It reached number seven and it's quite repetative.

(29) Adam and the Ants - Prince Charming

I still want to be Adam Ant. The 80s one - not the one now. This entered the chart at number two on the strength of his popularity, then took the tiny step up to number 1 where it remained for four weeks. I loved the Pantomime video with Diana Dors as the Fairy Godmother (one of her last onscreen performances) and Adam as the Prince assuming the Cinderella role. He then dresses up as Alice Cooper and Lawrence of Arabia for some reason.

(28) Linx - Intuition

If you've ever played the arcade game 'Out Run' then you might have thought it was an odd choice to use this song as one of those accompanying you on your hurtle through tropical lands in a Ferrari. However, it wasn't this song, just an 'homage' (by 'homage' I mean CTRL+C then CTRL+V).  It was Linx's highest charting single in reaching number 7.

(27) Foreigner - Waiting For A Girl Like You

This is one of those songs that has loads of potential and you think it's going to be great and then it doesn't quite go where you thought it was going to.  Also, I've always had an issue with the line 'a girl like you'. Surely, you should be telling her you've been waiting for her - actually her - not a girl like her.  That's not going to go down well on your first date.

They'd managed a number 24 with 'Cold as Ice'. This got to number 8 and made sure the parent album 'Foreigner 4' sold oodles.

 

 

(26) Abba - One Of Us

ABBA's 19th and last top twenty hit in their own right. This was like a song from a musical - which is where Benny and Bjorn went next of course. This song also seems to have inspired Ace of Base quite a lot.

(25) Linx - So This Is Romance

Lovely but very much like their other hits. It reached number 15 and was the last time that Linx featured in the top forty.

(24) Phil Collins - In The Air Tonight

Easily one of the greatest songs of all time but not a 'single' for me.  It got to number 4 and remains laced with plenty of metaphorical or is that actual literal commentary about an 'incident' that may or may not have happened. I love songs with a mythology. It might have been scribbled on the back of a tab packet in a cafe on a rainy thursday but the atmosphere turns it into something that will live forever. This should have been one of the songs catapulted into space for aliens to find. Unless it already has been, in which case, as you were.

(23) Alvin Stardust - Pretend

My judgement of this song is clouded by the fact it reminds me of a thoroughly enjoyable holiday in Great Yarmouth, in which, was an adventure playground the likes of which I'd never seen, nor even dared to dream ever existed!  Anyway, this song is very jolly but I don't think I would have noticed it much without that association. It was Alvin's biggest hit since his March 1974 number one "Jealous Mind", and his first hit of any description since the Summer of 1975. This number four peaking hit, had reached number two for Nat King Cole in 1953.

(22) Bucks Fizz - Piece Of The Action

So obsessed was I by Bucks Fizz at the time, I could be heard singing this in the local supermarket whilst the cashier was checking out our groceries.  Only much later did I realise what 'action' the Fizzers wanted a 'piece' of and I was far too young for those sorts of shenanigans. It reached number 12.

(21) Teardrop Explodes - Reward

I was and still am scared of Julian Cope. He looked like the kind of kid at school who would smash your art project and laugh about it right in your face. It was the only single by the band to reach the top ten, and peaked at number six.

(20) Soft Cell - Tainted Love

I know this is supposed to be a kind of classic or whatever but I just don't think Marc Almond has a very nice voice. Obviously the 'doo doo' hook of the song is probably what dragged most listeners in to start with but when Marc starts to 'soul', he misses notes all over the place and starts shouting and going all over the top. If he'd just calm down for a minute, it might have sounded quite nice.

Having said that, it was the biggest selling single of 1981 so I'll move on.

(19) Adam And The Ants - Stand And Deliver

Not content with glamorising pirates, he was now doing it with Highway men. Neither have what you'd call balanced morals. This song's five week stay at number one was the longest for a single in 1981. It was also the third single to enter the chart at number one in just over a year.

(18) Shakin' Stevens - This Ole House

The biggest selling male vocalist of the 80s. Bigger than Sir Michael of Jacksonville. He was in an Elvis stage show when he was discovered and didn't release his first single until he was into his thirties but he mixed it with the young'uns and taught them a thing or two about standing on their toes and pointing into the middle distance. It smashed straight to the top of the chart, naturally, and the video was very literal - dancing about in a delapidated old house that needed it's shingles fixed. Maybe antibiotics would have helped?

(17) Human League - Love Action (I Believe In Love)

 

You know that 'action' Bucks Fizz wanted a 'piece' of? Well, this actual 'love action' was a little different if not related to the same subject area.  I'll let you google it.  Anyway, Human League were starting to get the recognition they deserved. They had been trying for three years before they had a number 12 hit with "Sound Of The Crowd" earlier in 1981. They had even got a mention in someone else's hit the previous year when the Undertones referred to them in "My Perfect Cousin". It reached number three and spent 11 weeks in the top 40.

(16) Dollar - Mirror Mirror

What a single this is mind. I just don't understand why David van Day became so obsessed with being in Bucks Fizz, then stealing the name when he finally managed to become an official member (despite never being in the original line-up) and then even re-recorded all their hits with his voice on them and releasing an album of 'greatest hits'. He had several perfectly good Dollar songs to tout around the holiday camps.  If you ever manage to catch an interview with Cheryl Baker where van Day's name is mentioned, you can actually see her teeth turn to spikes and her eyes turn red. She detests the man.  This was a number four hit!

(15) Toyah - Thunder In The Mountains

I used to sing this in my head in order to get to sleep when I was 6. Odd I know, but I loved this song so much. She did a Mad Max impression in the video too. It got to number 4 and all but ended her career as a top 10 artist.

(14) Madness - Grey Day

I never thought a madness song could be so deep. I'll say this for it, it got me through some really bad times when I was much older (the song passed me by at the time) and that's not the sort of thing you'd ever say about the throw-away comedy-esque stuff Madness were doing in and around this period.  It's a song with a real finger on the button of what it feels like to look out of your window in the morning and forget what happiness is.  This reached number four.

(13) Jacksons - Can You Feel It

This took nine weeks to reach number six, and totalled 13 weeks in the chart.  This was 'sampled' in 1998 and got to number one. The myth goes that the ironically named 'Tamperer' used this track without permission but knew they'd make more money than the copyright lawsuit would cost so went ahead anyway.

(12) Talking Heads - Once In A Lifetime

I'm a bit slow admittedly, but I'm not entirely sure what the message of this record is. To me it seems the narrator is saying, he lived his life to a script - getting married, getting a car and a house and couldn't remember really how it all happened. Regardless, it's a superb track co-written with Brian Eno and with a video choreographed by Toni Basil. It reached number 14.

(11) Altered Images - I Could Be Happy

A song doesn't have to be serious or have a hugely deep message to touch part of you. This song is deceptively deep however and tinged with more than a little sadness.  Claire Grogan's chirpy voice hides the message that she'd rather climb a really tall tree or go to Skye on her holidays just to get away from this awful person she's with.  'I could be happy', she sings, 'run away, get away, far away, how do I escape from you?' - meaning that she's probably trapped in a loveless relationship or worse. It doesn't bear thinking about really but the music is suitably jaunty to hide the horror of what's really going on behind the fun vocal so all's well. I think?

 

 

(10) Kiki Dee - Star

I first heard this when it was used as the theme tune to New Faces or Opportunity Knocks or even some other talent show I've forgotten the name of.  Kiki Dee was a fabulous singer and with the right material, could have been massive. It's all about who you know though and she wasn't obviously in league with any good songwriters or Elton John any more.

(9) Randy Crawford - You Might Need Somebody

Randy Crawford has one of those voices. Doesn't matter what she's singing, you just want to listen. She has such a unique vibrato that doesn't do that thing they do on X-Factor or The Voice in order to sound like they can sing, but only to people who don't know what a good singer actually sounds like.  Anyway, Shola Ama did a decent job of this in the 90s but Randy's version is pure liquid gold to the lug holes.

(8) Roxy Music - Jealous Guy

This was more of a Bryan Ferry solo effort than a Roxy track, but it gave them the only number one single of their career. It spent two weeks on top. I was never really a fan of John Lennon's voice and thought most covers of his songs were better than his versions of them. Bryan Ferry knocks this one out of the park to the point I can't even remember what John Lennon's original sounds like any more.

(7) Human League - Open Your Heart

This was the third single from the 'Dare' album. It peaked at number six. I love the line about 'you know your worst is better than their best'.  Human League embraced the Arpeggiator and most of their tracks in this era were heavily based on it. I'm still using mine and thirty years later, I'm still trying to sound 1% like Human League. I'll probably give up in about twenty years.

(6) Kim Wilde - Kids In America

Talking of the arpeggiator, this track begins with the most 80s one of all time.  Kim told a story about how this song was written.  Her brother Marty was in his bedroom next door playing that thumping bass arpeggio over and over - she was banging on the wall telling him to stop.  She didn't know he was busy writing the song that would launch her career.

Kim spent two weeks at number two with this and followed it with a further 16 top 40 hits before the decade ended, more than any other British female soloist in the eighties. Her most recent album 'Here come the aliens' was superb and at least five songs on it would have hit the top 10 were today 1984. Which it is... in my mind.

(5) Bucks Fizz - Land Of Make Believe

I was genuinely terrified of this song. It had the word 'ghosties' in it, which I totally believed in at the time (I did a class project on ghosts when I was nine years old and read sooooo many books about them I was convinced they had to be real - that's a story for another time however). The song sounded haunted too, as did the video and right at the end, a creepy girl's voice starts telling us about an imaginary friend that comes to tea that only she can see. That was it - I spent the next three months under the covers!!

It was number five over Christmas, and had made it to the top by the middle of January 1982, spending two weeks there.

(4) Madness - It Must Be Love

The Ninth successive top ten hit for Madness was a cover version of Labi Siffre's 1971 number 14 hit. They even persuaded Labi to appear in the video. It was one of the first things I learned to play on the piano (the bit at the beginning) and started a life long love affair with Madness. It reached number four in 1981, and then number six ten years later.

(3) Specials - Ghost Town

I don't know that this really reflected what was going on in the summer of 1981. I think it was actually about unemployment and lack of government attention to the working class - and something about the lack of music venues or something. Anyway, this was the seventh and last hit for the Specials, of which all seven made the top ten. As a piece of pop production, it needs to go in a museum - like a proper one, not this on-line one.

(2) Ultravox - Vienna

How devastating. Ultravox didn't do much for me until later in the 80s but this was a bona fide classic that will still stand up to scrutiny in 673858 years time.  As I said right at the top, it doesn't matter that it didn't get to number 1, everyone knows it's infinitely better than anything Joe Dolce could do with his ukelele.

(1) Human League - Don't You Want Me

Where do I start with this? Well, it was the first 30 seconds of this record that turned me into a fan of synthesizers. I didn't know it was a synth at the time, I'm not sure I even knew what a synth was per se, but I knew that bass line intro would embed itself in my soul for eternity. The song had a story that you wanted to know more about. The video was mesmerising. Everything about this song is perfect.

It was the fourth track taken from Dare as a single and it was completely unheard of for a fourth single from one album to be this successful. Five weeks at number 1 and it caused sales of the album to rocket again too. Phil Oakey had one of the best voices of the 80s and still sounds great - they're still touring in 2021!

 

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