This week I thought I’d take this post into hitherto unknown territory. If you follow the series you’ll know that I grew up and developed my musical tastes in the Sixties and Seventies, and have been known to bemoan the fact that punk and disco came along and destroyed the end of the Seventies for me. I was having a comments chat with Cindy the other day and she asked if I liked any later music. This got me thinking: of course I did, but a lot of what I have bought and listened to since then was by bands and singer-songwriters I had been following from those earlier decades. The Eighties also marked the time when home and then family commitments had their effect on the number of albums I could buy and play: too little time, too little money! Apple Music kindly offers a filter by decade, and that has given me some ideas, but I also looked up the Official Charts Company, and found that they had recently run a series listing the top 40 UK songs of each year of the Eighties. That is four hundred songs and, without duplicating too many acts, I found a grand total of twenty three songs that I’d consider sharing – so that is where I’m going today. There will be eight songs in this post, but I’m not sure yet whether I’ll go further with my list, or maybe do an albums-based version of it.
I bought all of these, but on their albums: I no longer bought singles by that time. So, let’s get going:
Are you awake now? Frankie Goes To Hollywood were very much THE band of 1984, a year in which they had three #1 UK singles and a #1 album, Welcome To The Pleasuredome (a double album, which also got to #33 in the US). We bought it because my wife liked them – I did let her choose occasionally – and it really grew on me. I didn’t think I’d enjoy synth-based disco music, but there was a lot more to them than that – a very good cover of the Boss’ Born To Run being part of it. This song spent five weeks at #1 here and sold over 2m copies in the UK alone. It was also a #1 and top ten hit in many other countries, including the US, where it got to #10. It had risen to #6 here before the ever-prudish BBC realised what they were dealing with, and promptly banned it, thus ensuring it reached #1 a couple of weeks later. I can still remember the slightly embarrassed looks of the Top Of The Pops hosts when they did the chart countdown: “at number one this week, a song by Frankie Goes To Hollywood.”
I’m cheating ever so slightly by including this next one, as it was actually released in 1979. But it topped the charts for five weeks from December of that year, thus making it the first #1 of the new decade, so that’s good enough for me:
This was the first single released in the UK by Pink Floyd since 1968 – they were very much an albums band, although singles had been released (reportedly, against their wishes) in other countries. It was #1 in the UK, the US, and several other countries, selling more than 4m copies. The album it was on – The Wall, also a double album – was #1 just about everywhere except here in the UK, where it only reached #3. The song was known to be hated by the UK Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and the single and the album were both banned in South Africa in 1980 after the song was adopted by supporters of a nationwide school boycott, who were protesting against institutionalised racial inequities in education under apartheid. For me, those are two badges of honour! The Wall was later adapted into a successful movie, with a score written by Roger Waters, who also wrote the original album.
This next one was also a huge hit:
This was the opening track from Phil Collins’ debut solo album, Face Value, and was released in January 1981, a month ahead of the album. It reached #19 in the US, was a #1 in several countries, and got to #2 here in the UK, being held off the top by the posthumous release of John Lennon’s Woman. Face Value was a #1 UK album, and reached #7 in the US – it has sold around 10m copies overall. The song has one of the best known drum parts in rock music, and I still love the way it comes crashing in.
After the gloom of Phil Collins’ album about his marriage break up, how about some sunshine:
That one was also released in 1981, and is a track on The Police’s album Ghost In The Machine. The album reached #1 in the UK and #2 in the US. This track was their fourth #1 UK single, and peaked at #3 in the US. I’ve always loved the joyous feel of the song and this video is a perfect fit for that: the scenes of the kids are simply wonderful.
In a more laid back way, there is also a lot of joy in this next one, too:
That is now thirty seven years old, and the song still gets me every time. Whoever decided to bring in the choir made an inspired choice: I’ve loved this ever since I first heard it. This was a track on Foreigner’s fifth album, Agent Provocateur, which was released in December 1984, peaking at #4 in the US but giving the band their first UK #1 album. This was the lead single from the album, released a month earlier, and was #1 in the US, the UK, and loads of other countries too. Many critics at the time slated them, but the album sold over 4m copies, with similar sales figures for the single. To me, it is a bona fide soft rock classic.
A little bit of fun for you now:
That is still one of my all time favourite music videos, made all the more poignant knowing now that Freddie Mercury would only be with us for another seven years. This was on Queen’s eleventh album, The Works, released in February 1984, which got to #2 in the UK and #23 in the US. After Radio Ga Ga this was the second song from the album to be released as a single (in April 1984), and made #3 in the UK and #45 in the US.
I said earlier that a lot of the music I listened to in the Eighties was from artists I had been following from previous decades. This is one such:
That’s the beauty of artists who have been making great music for many years: you can always find something to fit your timeframe! As you probably know, that was on Springsteen’s album Born In The USA, yet another to have been released in 1984. Needless to say, the album was #1 in both the US and the UK, and in many other countries too. This was the first of seven of the album’s twelve tracks to be released as a single, and peaked at #2 in the US and #4 in the UK. In case you didn’t recognise her, the young lass plucked ‘at random’ from the audience is actually Courtney Cox, who later had a few friends.
At the risk of overloading you with Sting, he also features on today’s final tune:
Possibly one of the cheesiest music videos ever, but I’ve always enjoyed it. I’m a big fan of Dire Straits and have all of their albums. This was on the one which turned them into megastars: Brothers In Arms. This was their fifth studio album, released on 13 May 1985. It spent a total of 14 weeks at #1 on the UK Albums Chart (including ten consecutive weeks between January and March 1986), 9 weeks at #1 in the US and 34 weeks at #1 on the Australian Albums Chart. It was the first album certified ten-times platinum in the UK and is the eighth-best-selling album in UK chart history. It is certified nine-times platinum in the US and is one of the world’s best-selling albums, having sold more than 30 million copies. And to think the critics slated it when it first came out! It was one of the first albums to be recorded digitally, which made it ready to take advantage of those new-fangled CD players which were the new big thing in music at the time: apart from it being a great album, it benefitted from interest in the new technology and many, like me, bought a copy as soon as we had a CD player. As a single, this was a US #1 and UK #4, and the video won several Grammy and MTV awards, including MTV’s video of the year in 1986. The song also received the ultimate accolade: “Weird Al” Jankovich did a parody version of it!
That’s it for today’s bumper selection. Maybe, on reflection, the Eighties weren’t all that bad, really: I’ve surprised myself! As I said at the outset, I’m not sure where to take this next, but at present I’m thinking that next week’s tunes will also be from that decade – subject, of course, to the usual caveat that the programme is subject to last minute changes. Whatever, I hope you’ve enjoyed what for me is a cracking set of songs and will return to see what comes next. Until then, stay safe and well and have a great week 😊