Spotify playlist : Top 40 Singles of 1985

1985 was a big year for music, not least for the fact Queen, King, Prince and Princess were all in the charts at the same time but also, it was the year of Live Aid. Following on from the success of the Band Aid single which raised millions for famine relief in Ethiopia, scores of the biggest names in music came together to perform in what still remains the greatest single music event in history. Mick Jagger and David Bowie teamed up to cover the Marvin Gaye penned 'Dancing in the Street' for the same charity, scoring a number 1. Russ Abbot had an All Night Holiday, Denise Lasalle warned us all about messing with her 'Toot-Toot' and Rory Bremner released a rather amusing parody cover of Paul Hardcastle's '19' entitled 'N-N-Nineteen (Not Out)'.  Jimmy Nail surprised us all with his decent singing voice on Series 2 of 'Auf Wiedersehen Pet' and subsequently hit the charts with 'Love Don't Live Here Anymore'. Billy Connolly released a 45 of his theme tune to the Kids' TV Show 'Supergran' and the phenomenon that was Whitney Houston charted for the first time with 'Saving All My Love For You'.

I listened to the 292 singles which entered the top 40 in 1985, whittled them down to a short-list of 132 and after a LOT of deliberation, present to you my best 40 singles of 1985...


After pillaging on the high-seas (or at least dressing like that's what he'd been up to), Pete Burns and Dead or Alive released this mid-80s disco anthem as the third single from their Youthquake album. Producer Pete Waterman disagreed with the release saying it was too different from 'You Spin me Round' and would therefore alienate record buyers. He was partially correct as the song only reached number 14 but I actually think this is brilliant, regardless of how unalike the two records are. I particularly enjoy the clever synth motif before each verse, being as I am, a connoisseur of such things.


Madonna was definitely getting into her groove with this release. To say that she was ubiquitous in 1985 is to understate just how 'everywhere' she was.  This was her first number 1 single in the UK and remains her best selling single to date. The song also featured in 'Desperately Seeking Susan' in which she appeared.  This is a proper pop song; infectious, punchy and provocative, it was clear, even at this moment in time, that Madonna was destined for great things.


This was the debut single of band 'King', getting nowhere when it was first released in 1984. The world clearly wasn't ready for lead singer Paul King's shiny drainpipe trousers. It was re-released after a TV performance generated interest and it shot all the way up to number 2. The video features Paul wasting cans of spray paint and ruining his new Doctor Martens on a demolition site. There's worse things to get up to on a Saturday I suppose.

The B-side of the double seven-inch pack was called 'I Kissed the Spikey Fridge'. Told you there were worse things to get up to.


A wonderful ditty this. Prince tells us about the time he worked in a shop, became entranced by a customer wearing a reddish-brown French hat and then popped off to a local farm with her before getting trapped in a barn by a thunderstorm. It doesn't sound like the best song in the world but it's definitely one of the best 37 songs of 1985.

In the video, Prince sports a lovely cloudy sky print suit with regency neck ruffle - a look that not every pop star could successfully sell as entirely normal. Legend has it that Ian Broudie mis-heard the lyric 'Thunder drowns out what the lightning sees' and, when he found out they didn't actually contain the phrase 'Lightning Seeds', he used it to name his band.


A mini-Thin Lizzy reunion, Gary asked Phil to join him on a song he'd written about the troubles in Northern Ireland and Phil obliged. It's raucous, raw and stark with a brilliant opening thirty seconds. Gary also released the excellent 'Empty Rooms' in 1985 which reached number 23. Out in the fields peaked at number 3 giving Gary his highest chart placing since 1979's Parisienne Walkways.


I was laughed out of a classroom at school once for calling this band 'De-Pesh-Ay Mode' - mainly because that's what David 'Kid' Jensen called them on the radio constantly. Apparently it's pronounced 'De-Pesh Mode', not that I'm still haunted by that particular moment in my life. This was a new song which they included on the compilation 'Singles 81-85' and released as a single in April '85. They'd really begun to master the industrial sound at this stage of their career and would only get better.



What a debut single this was. Problem was, they didn't follow it up; this number 15 peaking single was their only UK chart entry. Co-writer Nick Laird-Clowes had none other than Paul Simon as a mentor and when he told him he was going to call the song 'Morning lasted all day', Simon told him that was rubbish and to try again. 'Life in a Northern Town' was born, a tale of the decline of the Shipping Industry. The African-esque chorus was sampled by Dario G in 1997 for their hit single 'Sunchyme'.


It's Hammer time, and Jan  can be seen programming a Fairlight in the video - oh how jealous I was. I had to put up with a slightly out of tune upright piano in 1985 but it certainly added a certain jaunty air to 'Alex F' that the composer hadn't intended. This was the theme tune to the hugely popular Miami Vice, a TV show I was too young to either watch or understand. The synth stabs part-way through bear too much similarity to the main hook of 'Celebrate' by Kool and the Gang for my liking. However, this was a very exciting record which paved the way for more electronic instrumental singles in the coming years.


Long before Mariah Carey tried using every single available note in every song, Annie Lennox managed it in this chart topping piece of perfection. It was Dave and Annie's first and only number 1 single after which they diversified from their winning formula of accessible jaunty pop music into more brooding and serious songs which always made the best of Annie's unique and beguiling vocals. I don't care for many Eurythmics songs but I listen anyway for the vocal performances alone.

Stevie Wonder pops up half-way through with his harmonica - a prolific session musician, it would blow your mind if you saw the list of songs he'd lent his vocals, keyboard and harmonica skills to over the years. His harmonica can also be heard on Elton John's "I Guess That's Why they Call it the Blues", Chaka Khan's "I Feel For You" and Prefab Sprout's 'Nightingales".


Ahh, the first song I attempted at Karaoke and quickly realised that 2-Unlimited's 'No Limits' was probably more my style. Billy had started his career strongly with two number 2 peaking singles in 1976/1977 before disappearing from the charts for 7 years. He popped back up again in 1984 with the release of his fifth album "Suddenly".

The song "Suddenly" was a surprise chart success in that the arguably more-radio-friendly "Caribbean Queen" and "Loverboy" had already been released from the album and reached 6 and 15 respectively.  This ballad (usually a mis-step for a Pop/Disco artist) did better than either, nestling in at number 4 in June. This surprise is borne out by the fact they didn't make a video for the song; it was just Billy on stage performing to an audience. Saved them a bit of cash I suppose and it didn't do the chart placing any harm at all. Billy's vocal here is as good as you'll ever hear on a pop record.


Nonsense was Simon Le Bon's forte. He was able to write lyrics that sounded profound but on looking a bit closer, don't actually make any sense whatsoever. Simon invited Grace Jones to read a monologue in the middle of the song and wrote this for her : "Cut open murmurs and sounds be calm hands on skin. Carry further entangled strands." Nonsense aside, "Arcadia" is was what Simon, Nick and Roger did after Duran Duran took a hiatus. Everything was highly stylised from the look to the album art work and although the parent album was a masterpiece, it wasn't quite what the remaining Duranies were after. Neither though, was "The Power Station", the group John and Andy went on to form the same year.

"Election Day" reached a respectable number 7 in the UK.


Thank goodness (Or EMI, whichever you prefer) for the series that was "Now That's What I Call Music". Having purchased every edition up to the then-current number 5 (on which "The Word Girl" appeared as track 2), I was baffled by how many songs in the circa. 30 tracks each edition contained that I'd never heard on the radio or Top of the Pops. This was one such song. A bouncy uplifting pop song with chirpy vocals and lovely bright keyboards. I still think "Scritti Politti" sounds more like a kind of skin disease though.


Kevin Godley was not only a member of 10cc but went on to direct music videos such as , U2's "Even Better Than the Real Thing", Erasure's "Blue Savannah" and Blur's "Girls and Boys". Along with former bandmate Lol Creme (which is what you text back if someone asks if you want milk or cream in your coffee), he directed Duran Duran's "Girls on Film", Frankie's "Two Tribes" and The Police's "Don't Stand so Close to me" among many many others. And so, when Godley and Creme released "Cry", and they needed a video, there were only two men for the job.  Before CGI, they used clever wiping and dissolving effects to make people with very different faces slowly morph into each other. (Something Michael Jackson did on his video for "Black or White" but with much more sophisticated tools.)

Serial producer of hit singles Trevor Horn is involved here but it's not clear whose idea it was to increase the pitch of the word 'cry' until only dogs could hear it right at the end. Sort of ruins the experience, like coming out of a film you've really enjoyed and having the ushers throw popcorn at you as you leave, sort of.

Despite it's mesmerising video and heavy rotation on many different mixed-media TV shows, the song only reached a paltry 19. Baffling really as it belies it's simplicity and is imbued with a wonderful, almost unique atmosphere. Try doing that in 2024.

Incidentally, after Gary Moore and Phil Lynott, this was the second time ex-bandmates had teamed up to release a song together in '85.


I do feel a bit sorry for singers with such unique voices that could have gone stratospheric but for the right songwriting team. Kiki Dee is one and Lisa Stansfield is another. If only they'd been luckier with the songs made available to them. This was the case with Princess. She was a session singer and was hired by SAW (Stock, Aitken and Waterman) to do some vocal work on a project for Dee C. Lee. After winning over the production team, they worked on a few tracks together. Once this track was finished, no record label was actually interested in it so SAW created Supreme Records and released it themselves. It reached number 7 and based on SAW's output in the latter part of the 80s, you'd never guess this was theirs.  Sadly, her subsequent singles didn't reach the same heights.


Apart from the bizarre opening minute of the song, this is brilliant. It chugs along, taking you with it and never stops for breath. Brian May's excellent guitar riff is the kind of thing that makes a kid want an electric guitar for Christmas and Freddie's vocals are probably some of the best he ever laid down on tape bar "These are the Days of our Lives".

Bizarrely, the final iteration of the words "One Vision" are actually "Fried Chicken", which is a nod to a part of the writing process where they didn't have words for the chorus and started singing "One prawn, one clam, one shrimp, one chicken...".  It reached number 7 in November.


King made two albums and then they were done. Shame really as they had some proper good singles. Despite the uncomfortable imagery that comes with thinking about someone tasting someone's tears, you'd be really proud of yourself if you'd written this song. It's got so much character and so many great moments - especially the second verse where lead singer Paul gets all shouty and passionate. It's definitely moreish and lights that little flame of nostalgia. Paul went on to host various shows on MTV and became a VJ (like a DJ but for Videos).


I could never see Katrina and the Waves as a serious band after this single. They weren't a bubble-gum pop band full of optimism and jolly intentions - they were a Motown inspired mood band full of introspection and pessimism.  Although "Walking on Sunshine" was a hit, it ruined their ethos and regardless of anything profound they came up with later, they'd always be the "Walking on Sunshine" band. They leaned into this by writing something similar the following year but "Sun Street" wasn't as catchy and only reached number 22. "Sunshine" got to number 8 and is probably one of the most recognisable tracks of the decade.

Katrina re-emerged in 1997, representing the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest and winning with the song "Love Shine a Light" (which gave the band their highest chart placing with a quite impressive number 3).


Robert "Mutt" Lange might not be a hugely familiar name to you but as a producer and a songwriter his accomplishments include producing the second biggest selling album of all time (AC/DC's "Back in Black") and the best selling album by a solo female, Shania Twain's "Come on Over" in 1997. He's also got his paw-prints all over Bryan Adams' "Waking up the Neighbours", The Corrs' "Breathless" and Heart's "All I Wanna do is Make Love to you".

It's clear from the blood-stirring intro to "Loverboy" that his influence was strong in this track. The best thing about it is it's non-linear style - there's no fear here in the production or the structure. Just listen to the experimentation in the middle 8 - it's so unusual for a commercial pop song. It works though and I've still got this on rotation 40 years later. Superb.


Cherrelle was and probably still is an unknown to UK music fans. Part of the successful Minneapolis stable headed up by Prince and Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis (Janet Jackson's Songwriting team), she shot straight into the R&B top 10 with Jam and Lewis' first ever composition "I Didn't Mean to Turn You on" (covered by Robert Palmer in 1986). She teamed up with another singer who'd worked with Jam and Lewis, Alexander O'Neal, on "Saturday Love" before he went on to have a string of UK hits in his own right.

I can't adequately describe the feeling I had when I first heard this. It was an entirely different musical experience to anything I'd heard before. I'd heard a few Prince songs and enjoyed "When Doves Cry" in particular and though this came from two of his proteges, it was the equivalent of having bad eyesight and putting on a pair of glasses. Music suddenly went up to 4K. When Alex's "Hearsay" album came out, I bought it, listened to it over and over for more years than I care to acknowledge and never looked back. It's not hyperbole to say that Jam and Lewis are probably two of the most important and influential musicians of the 1980s (and beyond).


Only in the late 90s did I come to appreciate Simple Minds for what they were. Big songs with a huge voice, I always got the impression they were trying to be U2 but without the lyrical gravitas. Jim Kerr's voice was every bit as powerful and expressive as Bono's but the rest of the band lacked an identity and their songs were definitely written more for radio than for their own musical growth and enrichment.

I found the video for this song particularly stressful as they decided to set up all of their equipment at the edge of a precarious cliff. The production on the track was right up my street though with huge reverbed drums, glass piano chimes and soaring chorus vocals that dilate every blood vessel. It's a song that you could release in any year and get a top ten single. 1985 was brilliant wasn't it?


In the UK we didn't get a lot of information about American acts like DeBarge. For example, I didn't know if this was the same DeBarge who sang "Who's Johnny" on the Short Circuit soundtrack because that was by "El DeBarge" - I couldn't go to Google so that, and many other musical questions and mysteries, hung around until just now, when it popped back into my head and made me Google it. El DeBarge, it turns out, is the lead singer of DeBarge. Who knew?

Before "Miami Sound Machine" popularised the latin-beat on pop singles, it was present here - written by Diane Warren (who also wrote LeAnn Rimes' "Can't Fight the Moonlight", Aswad's "Don't Turn Around" and Michael Bolton's "How can we be Lovers") and omnipresent in April 1985. It peaked at number 4 in the UK.


Simple Minds didn't want to record this song originally because they didn't write it. Several other artists also declined to record it for the soundtrack to the movie "The Breakfast Club". After a lot of persuasion, they agreed to record it and was a good job they did. Despite having a few low-grade hit singles, this catapulted Simple Minds into the zeitgeist and made the record buying public (and the radio) care about subsequent releases. If not for this song, Simple Minds might have continued to hover around the mid-twenties of the chart before vanishing altogether.

Despite the hollow production, this track is a bona fide generational classic.


Howard's chart career was quite short-lived despite him continuing to release albums and perform live to his army of fans to this day. He first charted in 1983 and his last hit fell out of the chart in 1986. This song has some of my favourite lyrics of the decade, framed by a brilliant musical framework. The backing track is a network of intricate motifs and keyboard genius. The single featured the support of backing group Afrodiziak who also featured on  The Jam's "Beat Surrender", Elvis Costello's "Everyday I Write the Book" among others and one of the group, Caron Wheeler, went on to perform lead vocals on the Soul II Soul song, "Back to Life".

Howard sings, "Treating today as though it was the last, the final show, Get to 60 and feel no regret. It may take a little time, a lonely path, an uphill climb, success or failure will not alter it." I think about this verse a lot for many reasons and were it not in a pop song, it should have won some kind of Pulitzer. The song reached number 6.


Being a self-confessed Duranie, I was all over this at the time. Little did I know it would spell the end of the five-some for nigh-on fifteen years. I bought the single and I went to see the film at the cinema three times in the week it was released. The faultless Christopher Walken plays perfectly off Roger Moore even if the movie is a little bit forgettable. The single stalled at number 2 because Paul Hardcastle's "19" was hogging the top spot, something which still baffles me to this day.


This song sounds like it was great to record. Every moment in it is filled with joy - from the saxophone intro to Glenn's "Woah-oh-wo-ho" and the "Tell me can you feel it" mantra. It's a blast from start to finish. It was written for the movie Beverly Hill's Cop by Harold Faltermayer (he of "Axel F" fame, from the same movie) and recorded by the second solo member of "The Eagles" to have a hit single in 1985 (the first being Don Henley). Competition for places in the charts that year meant it only reached number 12 despite sounding like a sure-fire number 1 all day long.


There's many a dissertation that could be written about this song and still not fully capture what listening to it whilst nursing a tot of Jack Daniels whilst staring out of a rain soaked upstairs window can. Morrissey was always able to capture that sense of ennui behind every human interaction, however positive or mundane. The Smiths probably had no right to be in the pop charts at all - very little of what they released had commercial appeal but they spoke to millions of us in a way nobody else could. We loved that they understood how we were feeling and that we had someone up there in the midst of the important people who understood how we were living and more importantly, how isolated or ignored we felt socially or politically.

The work that went in to getting the tremolo guitar line (having to time oscillating amps in 10 second bursts, stopping and starting the tape to do so) and harmonising the slide guitar pays off hugely. This was one of the secrets of creating an enduring record - garnering a sound that nobody else ever had or ever could again. I'm still not sure if the line "I am the son and the heir" is meant to sound like "I am the sun and the air", but maybe that's part of the intrigue. As the song had already been released as the B-Side of "William, it was Really Nothing", when it came out in its own right, it only reached number 24.


After the huge success of "Take on Me", expectations were high for the follow up. Given the track records of bands who burst onto the scene with a huge smash hit, it was expected that the follow-up wouldn't reach the same heights. In one of those rare moments however, the follow-up absolutely smashed the first single out of the water. I'm talking metaphorically of course because "Take on Me" reached number 2 and this, number 1.

Where the video for "Take on Me" left off, the video for this picked up and led to the band standing on a stage in a church playing a concert to hundreds of mannequins. "The Sun Always Shines on TV" motors along with more energy than I've ever had in my entire life all the way though until the final bass piano note. Morten Harket's vocals soaring over and above everything else like no other pop singer in the world. This was the second of six consecutive top 10 hits in little over 12 months for the band.

One small tip, if the sun is shining on your TV, just shut the curtains.



The Cult hadn't done much for me; it wasn't the kind of music I leaned towards naturally and nothing they'd done sounded interesting enough to pay attention to - until this single. This has a unique energy which is as infectious as a Disco or Heavy Metal track, somehow incorporating sensibilities of both. Ian Astbury's vocals suit this perfectly, whereas I find them rather tedious on most of the other songs of theirs I've heard. This got to number 15, their second highest placing bar "Lil' Devil" which reached number 11 in 1987. Nope, me neither.


Despite the sweaty video, this is a tour de force. The track is layered with so many cleverly written synth parts and overlaid with Peter Cox's gravelly vocals to the point where you almost have to switch it off halfway through to get your breath back. It was the duo's debut hit, reaching number 5 in February and followed by three more top 30 singles in 1985. Cox's vocal gymnastics are quite something - it's a shame they never really pushed on from this early promise (they didn't manage to enter the top 10 with any of their subsequent 8 singles).


Written by Billy Bragg for his 1983 album Life's a Riot with Spy Vs Spy, the song becomes a little less impressive when you know that the opening lines were taken from a Simon and Garfunkel song (Leaves that are Green) and the tune was taken from a Thin Lizzy song (Cowboy Song). MacColl heard Bragg singing it in his rough busker style and immediately heard it differently in her head with harmonies and instrumentation.  She and then husband, Steve Lillywhite, set about recording it. She thought it was too short so Bragg wrote her another verse (and changed "I'm just looking for another girl" to "Are you looking for another girl").

This gave Kirsty her highest chart placing with a number 7 in February.


This song breaks all the conventions of a hit pop single. The intro is weird, the verse doesn't have a "Whistlable" melody and the singer was a complete unknown. She had no further chart success but continues to provide background vocals for artists such as Seal, Aerosmith and the magnificent Lana Del Rey. She scored a respectable number 11 in the UK with this brilliant track.


Lead singer of Marillion, Derek Dick ("Fish" to his friends), looked like someone you'd get drawn against in the Darts Round-Robin at your local on a Friday night. I didn't like this song originally because it was good, which meant it was competing with Duran Duran's "A View To a Kill" for the top spot. Turned out both only reached number 2 behind The Crowd's "You'll Never Walk Alone" and Paul Hardcastle's "19" respectively.

I remember thinking this song was the spiritual successor to Hot Chocolate's "It Started With a Kiss"; love stories are always a winner, especially when sprinkled with regret, could-have-beens and lessons learned. But with lines like "Dawn escapes from Moon-washed college halls" and "Barefoot on the lawn with shooting stars", you just feel this song in your bones. A forever classic.


Hairstyles in the 80s were eclectic to say the least but the one Jennifer Rush sported during the chart run of the uber-successful "The Power of Love" made her look like she'd been electrocuted in a wind tunnel. This was brilliant, if you like this sort of thing, which I don't particularly, but I got why it stayed at number 1 for five weeks and troubled the chart for a total of 33 weeks. It didn't kickstart a successful chart career however as her follow-up single "Ring of Ice" only reached number 14 and everything else barely scraped the top 100. Shame really as her voice was phenomenal and really should have been given more exposure - I think she would have done to Beverley Craven's "Promise Me", what she did to this track but alas, it was not to be.

This was the second single entitled "The Power of Love" to enter the chart in six months (the previous one was by Frankie Goes to Hollywood) and there'd be another barely five weeks later when Huey Lewis and The News released the title track to 80s Blockbuster "Back to the Future".


Second song in a row I don't really care for but understand it's importance and unique genre shifting power. Neil Tennant had been a journalist for Smash Hits before turning his talents to 'singing'. It's probably an unpopular opinion but I thought The Pet Shop Boys could have been even better had they given their songs to other people to perform. They did this several times of course with much success (adding weight to my argument) writing "I'm not Scared" for Patsy Kensit and Eighth Wonder, Dusty Springfield's "In Private" and Liza Minelli's "Losing My Mind".

West End Girls won the best single award at the Brits and an Ivor Novello award no less.  It of course hit number 1 for two weeks and remained in the top 10 for 8 weeks.


"Take on Me" had to be released three times before it charted. It was mixed, re-mixed and re-re-mixed with three different videos. Warner Brothers really believed in the band and it's to their credit. Unique isn't the word when you're describing Morten Harket's vocals. Add those to as catchy a track as you'll ever hear and point people in its direction, you've got a hit. It just shows that writing good songs was never enough - even with a little bit of radio airtime; marketing was everything and the pencil-sketch video which took 6 months to make, drew everyone's attention. The song reached number 2 in the UK for three weeks, stalling behind Jennifer Rush's "The Power of Love".


Talking of unique artists, Kate is truly a maverick and approaches song-writing from as many obtuse angles as she can muster. There are some artists who transcend the singles chart. You have to have some commercial success as an artist so that you can go on being an artist and not have to work a full time job, which gets in the way a bit. It struck me that Kate never worried about commercial success when writing songs - "Army Dreamers" which entered the top 20 in 1980 is a prime example of this. It just doesn't make any sense as a commercial single release - neither did "Wuthering Heights" for that matter but it rose to number 1 because it was so so different to anything before it.

The "Hounds of Love" album should be in everyone's record collection. "Running up That Hill" is probably the most accessible song on it in terms of catchy pop, but the rest of it is just a sublime mix of thoughts and atmospheres, lyrical erudition and expert vocalisation.  For best lyric of the decade, try this for size : "You don't want to hurt me, but see how deep the bullet lies".


I was surprised to see how much hate this song received at the time. The band didn't like it much and it's frequently listed on "Worst Songs Ever" lists. However, it's a great single, which is what this list is all about. Whether you're "Knee-deep in the Hoop-la" or "Playing the Mamba", it doesn't matter, the intro to this song drags you by the ankles into the verse and by the end of the first chorus it has your full attention. It reached number 12 in November.


There are some songs that I am just in awe of. Songs that chill the blood with their minor key changes and brooding vocals which really evoke a set of emotions you'll never feel anywhere else. Although I don't know what this song is specifically about, it's July in a seaside town isn't it? For me, more Scarborough than California, but even so, the smell of the sea, fish and chips, seagulls cascading towards your face and the heat of the day slowly fading as you sip Coors in a bay-side café.  It's actually about the passing from youth to middle-age and lamenting past relationships, but hey, if I can get a 99 with a flake along the way, why not?  It got to number 12 in 1985 and when it was re-released in 1998, it got to number 12 again.


 What a song this is by the way. There were a few German acts in the 80s; Falco (who sang in German), Nena with her balloons, Alphaville, Milli Vanilli, Kraftwerk and Trio (of "Da da da" fame) to name a few. Propaganda had already flirted with the charts, releasing "Dr. Mabuse" in 1984 and reaching number 27. This single fared a little better, settling at 21 before falling out of the chart. It's another example of a song which just didn't get enough exposure as it's a fabulous single. Another entry into lyric of the decade here too : "The first cut won't hurt at all, the second only makes you wonder, the third will have you on your knees, you start bleeding, I start screaming". Stick that in your Ivor Novello and smoke it.


Dear me. If you didn't like this song then you were either paid not to or lying. It's quite clever of them really, writing a pop song in a time signature rarely visited. It's in 12/8, which to those of you not au fait with music theory means, each bar still has four beats (conventional pop songs have this for rhythmic stability) but with an off-kilter undertone created by using three quavers per beat instead of two. It was unusual at the time so it made the track stand out immediately. Other songs using this rhythm include Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel", Toto's "Hold the Line" and R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts" albeit a much slower 12/8 where you can actually hear the three quavers per beat.

When I first heard this song I was mesmerised. £1.49 was duly saved up and a trip to Sounds Nice on the high-street beckoned.  The song was originally titled "Everybody Wants to go to War" which was a theme running through "Songs from the Big Chair", its sister album. "Mother's Talk" is about the threat of Nuclear War which was ever-present in the mid-80s and "Shout" is a protest song about such things.

Tears for Fears didn't appear at Live Aid even though they were originally supposed to. Ironic then that this song only reached number 2, being held off the top-spot by the "USA for Africa" song "We are the World". They atoned for their absence by re-recording the song with the title "Everybody Wants to Run the World" for Sport Aid in 1986.


If you want to see my blog about 1984 click here, or if you'd like to dip into the 70s, click here


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Spotify playlist : Top 40 Singles of 1984

George Orwell certainly didn't see Madness singing a song about Michael Caine coming did he? Nor did his book about 1984 contain the horrors that were Keith Harris and his stuffed Duck, Orville, singing 'Come to my Party' or Roland Rat (Superstar?) singing 'Rat Rapping'. All far worse than what he predicted.

In 1984, the charts had something for everyone, just like my local branch of B&M. If you were four years old, you had 'Superman' by Black Lace or The theme from Fraggle Rock, if you were 40 you had Cliff Richard, Shakin' Stevens and Elvis crooning at you and if you were 400 years old, there was Status Quo.

Almost every genre was represented too with 'Don't take my coconuts' by Kid Creole, Sarah Brightman's 'Unexpected Song', 'The music of Torville and Dean', the theme tune from BBC's live Snooker coverage and the Flying Picket's cover of The Eurythmics 'Who's That Girl' floating around in the lower reaches of the top 40. But 'Agadoo' and 'Ullo John, got a new motor' aside, what were the best 40 singles of what some would argue, was the best year in popular music?

(40) The Police - King of Pain

This was Sting & Co.'s last original hit single which only managed to reach number 24 in the chart. They'd matured by this point and were writing clever songs with depth (Synchronicity II, Wrapped around your Finger, Walking in Your Footsteps) but these weren't as commercial and fun as Walking on the Moon and Message in a Bottle so the 7"-buying public were looking elsewhere. They metaphorically knocked everything off their manager's desk the day they left the studio for the last time when they released an extremely ill advised remix of "Don't stand so close to me" in 1986, for some reason.

(39) The Pointer Sisters - Automatic

A brilliant single and quite an unexpected one from the R&B trio. Known mainly for their dance tracks, this came out of nowhere and rocketed to number 2, being held off the top spot by Duran Duran's "The Reflex". There's no auto-tune or digital trickery here, that really is Ruth Pointer's actual vocal cords. The fat synths here are brilliant (especially in the chorus) and it really underlined how classic acts were now embracing electronic instruments instead of being a little bit terrified of them.

(38) Kenny Loggins - Footloose

You'd never know if he'd walked past you in the street but our Kenny was responsible for two of the most iconic movie songs of all time. Unknown in the UK before Footloose was released, he'd had no less than 7 top 40 hits in the US.  He also wrote 'Danger zone' which featured in the 1986 movie Top Gun but failed to reach the top 40 here. He followed this up by providing a song called "Nobody's Fool" for Caddyshack II in 1998 and "Return to Pooh Corner" in 1994. The latter, I hope, has something to do with Winnie the Pooh.

Anyone who paid attention to the charts in 1984 will have an image of Kevin Bacon leaping through the air whenever they hear this track - and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

(37) Madonna - Like a Virgin

After some success in the clubs with her 1982 single "Everybody", Madonna burst into the charts with "Holiday" in January 1984 and quickly followed that with "Lucky Star" which reached number 14 in March. By no means a well-known pop star at that moment in time, she released "Like a Virgin" which turned the head of anyone who heard it or saw her gyrations on a Gondola in the video. It began a streak of thirty five consecutive top 10 hits in the next ten years, seven of which reached number 1. This song alone sold over six million copies worldwide. An icon indeed. The track also features the impeccable musicianship of Nile Rodgers, Bernard Edwards and Tony Thompson of Chic.

(36) Queen - I want to Break Free

Queen confused their loyal fanbase by releasing the album "Hot Space" in 1982 which steered dramatically away from their 70s rock roots into R&B, dance and funk. "Under Pressure" was the only single from the album to break the top 10 and as Brian May recalls, "we hated each other for a while". They took a few years off before returning with the album "The Works" which spawned the number 2 charting "Radio Ga Ga" and "I want to break free" which peaked at number 3. This was despite the video being banned by MTV for the whole cross-dressing thing. This also explains why MTV never showed any Pantomimes.

(35) Re-Flex - The Politics of Dancing

If you wanted to embody 80s music in one song, this is it. Infectious and uplifting with all the best early 80s synthesizer noises, this was Re-Flex's only top 40 hit. Entering the chart at 63 in January 1984, it took five weeks to climb to number 28 for two weeks then dropped out of the top 100 completely 3 weeks later.


(34) Girls Just Want to Have Fun - Cyndi Lauper

Cyndi's debut single spent seven weeks in the UK top 20, reaching as high as number 2 behind Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax". Written by Robert Hazard in 1979 as "Boys just want to have fun", Cyndi, with some lyrical and musical adjustments, turned it into a raucous feminist anthem with as fun a video as you're ever likely to see. Not a bad way to introduce yourself.

(33) Band Aid - Do They Know it's Christmas?

Released near Christmas to raise money for the famine in Ethiopia, this single had sold over three million copies by the end of the year. The brainchild of Bob Geldof was initially hoped to raise seventy thousand pounds, however the single has re-charted and been re-recorded twenty times to date and raised over two hundred million pounds. Despite the rush to get it written and recorded, it's a great single in its own right.

(32) Ultravox - Dancing With Tears in my Eyes

Seven albums into their career and they were still releasing music of this quality. Bands whose introduction to the charts was modest had a tendancy to improve with every release - whereas, those who stormed the charts immediately found it hard to match the quality of their first releases, for obvious reasons. Midge had been around well before Ultravox so I guess he never felt any pressure to match his other hit singles - which is very freeing creatively. The peaked at number 3.

(31) Slade - Run Runaway

Another band well into their career, Slade were 11 albums in and still releasing singles of this quality. It was a brilliant single actually and it was a hit in the USA where they'd failed to chart previously. I'd be surprised if there was anybody in the music industry these days who is capable of writing a song like this. It feels a lot like "Is this the way to Amarillo"; a song which sticks the first time you hear it, sounds so simple but is so well crafted musically, it couldn't be written by anyone new to song writing. Not sure if their lyric "See Chameleon lying there in the sun" was inspired by "Karma Chameleon" but if not, they're the only two songs I'm aware of that contain colour changing lizards.

(30) Bananarama - Rough Justice

Bananarama learned a commercial lesson with this release. It's brilliantly written (all three contributing music and lyrics along with their collaborators at the time, Jolley and Swain), brilliantly produced and performed. It was the kind of stuff I would have loved hearing more of from the Bananas but it's heavy themes didn't resonate with the record buying public and it stalled at number 23.

(29) The Weather Girls - It's Raining Men

You can't imagine anyone else singing this can you? Especially not Geri Halliwell. It's handy that they were called "The Weather Girls" and they just happened to be singing about rain. They didn't mention whether it was going to be sunny later or if a cold front was moving in from the east however. The song was written in 1979 as a post-disco dance track and offered to Donna Summer, Diana Ross, Cher and Barbara Streisand, all of whom decided against it. It was originally released in 1983 but only managed to get to number 73 - it's second release in 1984 reached number 2 behind Lionel Richie's "Hello".

(28) Echo & The Bunnymen - Seven Seas

It was the unusual lyrics in this song that hooked me into buying the 7". Ian McCulloch had one of those voices that were perfect for pop songs - it was such a pity the "Bunnymen" didn't come up with songs this good very often. They only had two top ten hits in the 80s (The Cutter and The Killing Moon which are fundamentally the same song) but bafflingly, their most poppy and commercial release "Seven Seas" only reached number 16.

(27) The Smiths - Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now

This is another song that deserves to go in a museum and sent up into space for aliens to understand completely what it feels like to be a human being from a working class town in the North. The Smiths were a band that encapsulated a sense of being. A lot of their songs had you nodding along and saying "Yes, that's exactly how I feel" without being terribly poetic about it. Morrissey absolutely loved Sandie Shaw and the title is a nod to her song "Heaven Knows I'm Missing Him Now". You haven't truly experienced ennui until you identify with the line "I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour but Heaven knows I'm miserable now."

There was a lot of wasteland around where I grew up in the early 80s; buildings that had been demolished and the broken glass and half-bricks left behind for kids to play with - so, the video for this song really resonated too. God bless The Smiths. It got to number 10.

(26) Blancmange - Don't Tell Me

My catnip in the 80s was a synth solo. "Take on Me", "I Won't Let the Sun go Down on me" and "We Close our Eyes" had particular appeal, so when I heard the Synth Calliope at the beginning of this song, I was hooked.  Reaching number 8 in the chart, they committed the cardinal sin of making their next release a song which had absolutely nothing to do with their sound, song writing or entire ethos as a group. They released a cover of Abba's "The Day Before You Came" which, being kind, is an awful song anyway, never mind the cover version. Maybe they thought they'd do what Soft Cell had done with "Tainted Love"? That release got to number 22 somehow and their last two singles in 1985 only scraped to number 40 and 77 respectively.

(25) Ollie and Jerry - Breakin... There's No Stopping Us

Breakdancing films were popping up all over the place and one in particular, "Breakin'", spawned this number 5 peaking single. 80's staple drum machines the TR-808 and Linn LM-1 were up front and centre here, oozing with 80s noises - here I am 40 years later, still listening to this and enjoying it as much as I did back then. There's something magical about music like that. The video for the song features a young Jean-Claude Van Damme doing a manic jig in the background.

(24) Kim Wilde - The Second Time

After a very strong start to her music career (her first five releases went top 20) things went a bit awry with the next three ("Child Come Away", "Love Blonde" and "Dancing in the Dark") which weren't quite as catchy, nor did they sell very well. Kim changed record companies in 1984 but still didn't manage to break the top 10 until late 1986. This song was truly magnificent however despite only reaching number 29. It's bombastic, it's catchy and it's got a great synth part. It just goes to show, even if you've got a brilliant single, you never know if the public will take to it or not.

(23) Alison Moyet - Love Resurrection

Another from the Jolley and Swain stable, "Love Resurrection" has all the sensibilities of "Robert De Niro's Waiting" but without the quirks and with a much better vocalist. Alison's debut album "Alf" was much anticipated after her success with Yazoo and it didn't disappoint. All her singles were immensely chart friendly, especially this one; the chorus allows her voice to soar and carry the words like an Albatross on a thermal. Just wonderful. I had the pleasure of seeing her live a couple of years ago when she supported Tears for Fears on their Tipping Point tour. Her voice is even better in person.

(22) The Bluebells - Young at Heart

There are so many stories attached to this song, I don't think I can fit them all in. Originally recorded by Bananarama and written by Siobhan Fahey and her boyfriend at the time, Robert Hodgens (aka Bobby Bluebell of The Bluebells), it appeared on the Nana's debut album in quite an unrecognisable form. Reworked in 1984, it reached number 8 and became the soundtrack to the summer (well, my summer at least). The violinist Bobby Valentino, who provides what is arguably the hook of the song, took legal action when he wasn't given a writing credit. He won and was subsequently compensated for his efforts.

As was a common trend in the charts, the song was featured in an advert in 1993, prompting the record company to re-release the track (The Bluebells themselves having disbanded long before) and saw it rise all the way to number 1. Just for context, the week it hit number 1, the rest of the top 5 was made up of "Oh Carolina" - Shaggy, "Informer" - Snow, "Mr Loverman" - Shabba Ranks and "No Limit" - 2 Unlimited. A song out of time indeed, probably because there wasn't another song of this quality on general release at the time. The Bluebells even had to reform for their appearance on Top of the Pops!

(21) Bob Marley & The Wailers - One Love/People Get Ready

Originally recorded in 1965 by The Wailers, this was re-recorded in 1977 and released as a single in 1984 to promote the release of the compilation album "Legend".  The video (much like The Eurythmics' "Who's That Girl") has a few cameo appearances from Paul McCartney, two members of Bananarama, Neville Staple of The Specials, members of Aswad and Musical Youth and Suggs and Chas Smash of Madness.

(20) Duran Duran - New Moon on Monday

Duran weren't far from a schism but this single from their third album is one of the reasons I'm still quite upset they split up when they did. Simon's voice does a lot of the work here and because of its register, this isn't a song they played live too often. Guitarist Andy Taylor has cited the video as one of the most embarrassing moments of his life - the director asking all five members to dance in the street whilst fireworks go off behind them. Watch it and it'll become the most embarrassing moment of your life too.

(19) Wham! - Last Christmas/Everything She Wants

Another key event in 80s popular culture was the announcement of a Wham! Christmas single. A special slot was created on TV for the premier of the video and we all sat round waiting for it to air. It didn't disappoint and the song has charted every single year since downloads and streams count towards chart positions (2007). The double-A side, "Everything She Wants" is Wham!'s best song by far but it was ignored by radio stations for obvious reasons. They missed out on a Christmas number 1 as the other song George Michael appeared on, "Do They Know it's Christmas" beat it to the top spot. It finally hit the top spot at Christmas in 2023 because of the absence of X-factor finalists and "Ladbaby".

(18) U2 - Pride (In the Name of Love)

A tribute to Martin Luther King, U2 had started to sound much more like a band who could sell singles to the general public. The infinitely catchy chorus and stunning guitar riffs go all the way to making this a single you wanted to replace the needle at the start of the disc and go again and again.

(17) Madonna - Holiday

Madonna's introduction to the wider music scene was quite modest by her standards. A quirky pop song about needing a Holiday reached number 6 in the UK but the look she sported in the video is one which everyone would recognise as Madonna. "Holiday" was re-released in 1985 after she's had four consecutive top 5 hits and it reached number 2 behind her own "Into the Groove". She tried this feat again with "Borderline" (which originally reached number 56) and this also peaked at number 2 in 1986. It wasn't third time lucky however as the re-release of her second single (the number 14 peaking "Lucky Star") only reached number 84. "Holiday" was released again in 1991 and reached number 5.

(16) Talk Talk - It's My Life

"It's My Life" only managed to reach number 46 in 1984 before disappearing. They re-released it in 1985 and it did even worse, only scraping in at number 93. The third release managed to capture a few imaginations and in 1990 it got to number 13, their highest ever chart placing. It throws up all sorts of questions about what used to make people go out and purchase a physical unit of music. This is a brilliant pop song but for whatever reason, it either didn't reach the ears of enough people or I'm completely wrong about how good it is.

(15) Bryan Adams - Run to You

Pop rock wasn't entirely new at this time, but something that sounded this good was. A lot of hair-rock bands like Whitesnake and Foreigner had been floating about in the charts remaining largely unnoticed or ignored but Bryan turned a lot of people onto the concept of loud upfront guitars without the sweat and tight leggings. It's arguable that he paved the way for the likes of Bon Jovi and Europe but "Run to You" is simplicity wrapped up in a joyously produced vocal bundle of rock ebullience.

(14) Hall & Oates - Out of Touch

First appearing in the UK charts in 1976 with "She's Gone" which reached a princely number 46, it took the duo six years to crack the top 10 with "I Can't go for That (No can do)". "Out of Touch" settled at a baffling number 48 in the UK despite it being their best single by far. This is borne out by the fact it hit the number 1 spot in America. It didn't get its moment in the sun in the UK until the group "Uniting Nations" covered it in 2004 and saw it climb to number 7.

(13) Level 42 - Hot Water


When I first heard this, I couldn't get it out of my head, to paraphrase Kylie. That's the mark of a great single isn't it? One that won't leave your head and makes you pop to Woolworths with your £1.49. Mark King's bass is superb and probably better framed in the 12" version of this song but as with a lot of Level 42 singles, the verse completely outshines the chorus (traditionally, the chorus is the main event). None of their first eight releases broke the top 20 and this, their 11th single, just scraped in at number 18.

(12) Tina Turner - What's Love Got to do With it

This is another single that made me reach for the volume button on my cassette radio. That synth-panpipe motif at the start is wonderful and it seems weird now but I remember thinking, "Who is this singing?" Having not released anything in the UK since 1973's "Nutbush City Limit", her comeback single "Let's Stay Together" had completely eluded me despite its number 6 chart placing. "What's Love Got to do with it" hit number 1 in the USA making her the oldest solo female chart topper (she was 44). She never managed a number 1 in the UK but this was her biggest selling single ever and gave her a career high of number 3 (Both "River Deep, Mountain High" and "We Don't Need Another Hero" peaked at number 3).

(11) Frankie Goes to Hollywood - Two Tribes

"Relax" had spent five weeks at number 1, nineteen weeks in the top 10 and sixty-three weeks in the top 100 between November 1983 and April 1985. It had dropped into the top 30 after it's run at the top when "Two Tribes" was released. This reignited sales for both singles and in July 1984, "Two Tribes" was at number 1 (for nine consecutive weeks) whilst "Relax" was at number 2. To say Frankie were a phenomenon is an understatement. They even spawned a T-Shirt craze which was basically a white T-shirt with "Frankie says Relax" written on the front in big black letters. "Two Tribes" was just as energetic and bombastic as "Relax" and was every inch a number 1 single (and even won Holly Johnson, Peter Gill and Mark O'Toole an Ivor Novello award).

(10) Stephen 'Tin Tin' Duffy - Kiss Me

Original vocalist with Duran Duran, Stephen Duffy fronted the band "Tin Tin" who released a version of this in 1982 but it failed to chart. He then recorded a solo version a few years later and saw it climb all the way to number 4. A few singles at that time contained the sampled "Dum Dum" voice which came on one of the floppy disks supplied with the $8000 Emulator-2 sampler (also used to great effect by "The Art of Noise", a group that included Trevor Horn and J. J. Jeczalic who both worked on the aforementioned "Two Tribes").

This is a wonderfully glossy pop song which frames Duffy's chirpy optimism perfectly.

(9) Prince - When Doves Cry

It's all about the spaces in this song. It's not over produced, it contains very little instrumentation, it has unique drum sounds and a wonderfully simple synth hook between verses. The lyrics are thought provoking and Prince's voice is allowed to sparkle amongst the motifs. They certainly don't write them like this any more. This was the first single from the "Purple Rain" album and if it was something you bought into, this period of Prince's career will still be regarded today as one of the most significant in the history of pop. This was his first UK top ten hit, reaching number 4.

(8) Dead or Alive - You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)

Whoever you were, this song will have had your attention. It was the first number 1 hit for production team "Stock, Aitken & Waterman" (who removed all the musicians from the process of making records), and Dead or Alive's only number 1 hit. Pete Burn's vocals were always quite intense but on this song, they're slightly terrifying. The energy suits the urgency of the track though so it all combines to create a classic which has never aged a day.

(7) Tears for Fears - Shout

"Songs from the Big Chair" was one of the albums of the decade and spawned two of the singles of the decade. "Shout" graced the top ten for seven weeks, peaking at number 4. The Linn drum rhythm provides the platform for the entire thing but its the expert production that brings the song to life. Roland Orzabal has gone on record recently to say he wishes he could go back and rewrite the lyrics for the verses but to us Tears for Fears fans, the song remains a nugget of perfect pop.

(6) Wham! - Wake Me Up Before You Go Go

Just nine original singles released, all nine went top ten and four got to number 1. This song was the first of those four chart toppers (remaining there for two weeks) and what an in-your-face single this was. Bouncy, optimistic neon-tinged glittery pop fronted by the increasingly flamboyant George Michael who was starting to establish himself as a bona fide pop star. Wearing white jeans and a "Choose Life" T-shirt at the start of the video, he swaps this for a pair of tiny shorts, a day-glow hoodie and a fetching pair of yellow neon fingerless gloves. Meanwhile, Andrew opts for a Legionnaire's hat with back-flap. Needless to say, neither fashion statement caught on as much as leg warmers and Deeley boppers.

(5) Nik Kershaw - Wouldn't it be Good?

Nik is a jazz musician first and foremost. Trying to pick some of his songs apart is futile for all but the best musicians. The chord structures, rhythmic patterns and chord progressions on his first album "Human Racing" were beyond us mere mortals. The result on "Wouldn't it be Good?" is a convoluted and intriguing verse and bridge which perfectly sets up the simpler radio friendly chorus. An absolute gem of a song; Nik's first hit and a number 4 which he bettered only twice.

(4) Bananarama - Robert De Niro's Waiting

Another single with a brilliant intro. It's so clean and shiny, it immediately sets the tone for the rest of the song. The song is about the love of a celebrity; in this case, the Banana's love for Robert De Niro. They never had a number 1 single but this one didn't do too badly, reaching a career high of number 3. Siobhan Fahey did have a number 1 in 1992 with the "Shakespears Sister" track "Stay" which remained at the top for eight weeks!

(3) Bronski Beat - Smalltown Boy

Synthesizers have always been a bit cold haven't they? It took a while before the general music buying public saw them as anything other than soulless computers being prodded at by androids. In steps "Bronski Beat" with a masterclass in framing an extremely clever lyric with perfection. The notes they don't use are more important than the ones they do - there's so much space in the musical accompaniment that Jimmy Somerville's perfect falsetto glides around and at times, becomes another instrument in the pop orchestra. This reached number 3 but nothing they released beyond this ever carried the same gravitas, preferring instead to turn their hand to disco and emotionless pop before Jimmy upped and left to form "The Communards".

(2) Duran Duran - The Reflex

 Watch the video for this song and you'll want to be Simon Le Bon. He was the pop star at the time and the perfect front man. Strange that parent Album "Seven and the Ragged Tiger" had been out for four months and, this being the third single released from said album, it crashed straight in at number 1. Totally unheard of! Part of the reason could be the fact the single had been remixed from the album version by Nile Rogers who added all the "Ta na na na" parts and juiced up the rhythms. It wasn't released as the lead single because the record company thought people would be put off by the "Why-ay-ay-ay-ay don't you use it" parts, completely ignoring the fact it was moments like this in songs which made them stick in your head.

(1) Cyndi Lauper - Time After Time

Magical. A far superior song to "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" which got to number 2 earlier in the year, this only reached number 3. This is another song from this decade which will stand the test of time and sound good in whichever year its played. The video however contains a lot more caravans than you'd think.


If you want to see my blog about 1983 click here, or if you'd like to dip into the 70s, click here


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Service charges, politeness tax and unwelcome sausages

Imagine you’re in Asda and you’ve got your little basket with a mega pack of toilet roll, a Twix and a puzzle magazine in it. You pop your goods on the conveyor belt and as the cashier beeps each thing through as you wait patiently at the end with your carrier bag made of ether, you hear a fourth beep. You look down at the things being slid towards you and notice the cashier has scanned a packet of sausages.

“I didn’t put sausages on the conveyor belt”, you say. “Yeah,” they reply, “they’re discretionary sausages. You have to ask me if you want them to be removed from your receipt – and, as I’ve already printed it, I’ll have to shout for my supervisor to come over. They have to enter a special code to remove them. If you decide to keep them, the cost of the sausages will be divided up evenly among all us checkout people as a kind of tip. So, are you sure you want me to ask someone to remove the sausages from your bill?’ You look at your receipt and where you expected to pay £10, you’re now having to pay £11 – £1 for a pack of sausages you don’t want. Unwelcome sausages.

Now imagine you’re in any of the big chain restaurants in 2023. You order your food and drink, it arrives and you smash it into your face with glee. Then you ask for the bill. Said bill arrives and you notice it’s a little more expensive than you expected. On closer inspection, you realise they’ve added a metaphorical packet of sausages – in this case a service charge, albeit discretionary. Ten per cent.

Now I’m aware this challenges your moral code and I’m sure most of us slip the pizza delivery person a couple of quid when they hand you the boxed Shangri-La that is the Pepperoni Passion with extra peppers but that’s because we think it’s nice to be nice – it’s fair to tip someone who probably relies a lot on those tips to make a decent wage and what is an extra couple of quid to the bill? However, I’m sure we’d all feel different if said delivery person demanded a tip and then went as far as to tell you how much they wanted?

Fifty five pound tip please

The discretionary service charge in restaurants is on the rise I’m afraid. I first saw it last year in a branch of Byron Burger. I was confused by it – it’s not a British thing; I’ve only lived in Britain forty or so years, so maybe it is a British thing? Baffled, I just paid the bill including the service charge, then searched my soul to try and understand how I actually felt about it.

Whether I’m right or wrong, cynical or jaded by a world being gripped by money grabbing corporations, I’ve come to the conclusion that the discretionary service charge in this case, is actually a ‘politeness tax’. Let’s say they leave tipping up to the customer (as they used to – the card machine would say ‘press 1 to tip or press 2 to continue’). One in two of us might add a tip. Not that we’re even sure the tips go to the service staff and not straight into the bank account of the chief executive of course.

The discretionary 10% service charge is now added to your bill in order to ensure you feel too awkward to ask for it to be removed. To prey on the politeness of us British ‘don’t look now’ types. We’re all too ‘not now Gerald’ and ‘don’t make a scene’ to ask for the server to go remove the charge. Well, I’m not.

I was in the Botanist a few weeks ago and had a wonderful meal, the service was spot on too. However, when I saw the service charge on the bill, I politely asked the server to remove it. Not because I didn’t want to tip but because whoever manages the Botanist’s policies has realised they can make more money out of people who haven’t got that much to start with by adding a charge they know people are too polite to ask for the removal of. Not me though, I was all like ‘could you please remove the charge’. Turns out the server had to go and speak to a supervisor to get this removed (increasing her disgruntlement further, not only just hating me for judging her service as untippable – which wasn’t what was happening). When she came back, she slammed the receipt on the table, sans service charge but with extra ruining of the experience.

Now, I can’t be the only one who would rather be asked if I want to tip, which is only polite, rather than be forced to? They’re literally adding sausages to the bill that I didn’t want and it’s somehow my fault that they have to log in with a special code and then wander all the way back over to the sausage fridge so they don’t go off. Slamming a receipt on the table, to me, is their way of making sure I just pay it next time and don’t make a fuss.

To me, a service charge isn’t an appropriate method of getting tips out of people in British culture. We’ve adopted many American customs over the years but forcing sausages on people shouldn’t be one of them. It’s actually stopping people tipping if anything and stopping people going into restaurants where they force extra charges on you that you’re kinda convinced the charges don’t go to the service staff. So, next time you’re in a restaurant, check the menu to see if they add a discretionary service charge. If they do – well, you’ll just have to decide if the sausages were worth it.

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)

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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.