Before I got sidetracked I shared a set of Eighties songs in this series – in Tuesday Tunes 67, if you missed it. I said then that I’d created a list of twenty three songs from the top 40 of each year in the decade, and played you eight of them. It seemed a shame to waste the rest of the list, so I’m going to play them over the next two episodes, beginning with another eight today. The picture above may give you a clue as to where I’m starting:
That was the title track from The Eurythmics second album, which was the one that made them big stars. It was actually their second album, but the first did absolutely nothing in any charts. Sweet Dreams was released in January 1983, and got to #3 in the UK albums chart and #15 in the US. This track was released as a single to coincide with the album launch, although it was actually the fourth track on the album to be a single: while two of the previous three had been minor hits here this was the big success, reaching #2 in the UK and becoming a US #1. I’m not really a fan of electronic music but this one was a bit special, and the video still stands out as remarkable.
This week’s second tune is another that was a massive hit that launched a career, but again it wasn’t the debut release:
This was a track on Enya’s second album, Watermark, which was released in September 1988. The album reached #5 in the UK and #25 in the US, and was her second #1 in her native Ireland. But this is the song that made her: it was a UK #1, also topping the charts in Ireland, the Netherlands and Switzerland, getting to #2 in Germany and #24 in the US. It set the foundation for her in the States, though, and subsequent albums performed better over there. I’ve always loved the ‘wall of sound’ effect that she and producers Nicky and Roma Ryan created, and there is a beautiful, ethereal quality to her music. She comes from a musical family, too: her full name is Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin and she began her musical career as harmony vocalist with her sister Maire in the family band, Clannad, of whom you may have heard.
This next one was also a UK #1:
Red Red Wine was a track from UB40’s 1983 album Labour Of Love, which also reached #1 in the UK, and peaked at #15 in the US. On its original release as a single it got to #14 in the US, but was re-released there in 1988 and got to #1 second time around. The song was written by Neil Diamond, and originally released by him in 1967, when it reached #62 in the US singles chart: I think it safe to say that his bank balance received more from UB40’s version of his song than it did from his own. The Labour Of Love album was a set of cover versions of reggae songs that the band loved, and this one kind of sneaked in there by mistake: they knew an earlier cover version by reggae singer Tony Tribe, and were apparently very surprised to learn that it was a Neil Diamond song! It is a great album, and still gets played by me occasionally, nearly forty years on.
In terms of the UK charts, this next one stands apart from the three previous selections. Although the J Geils Band weren’t quite one-hit wonders here, they were pretty close to it, as only one of their other three UK chart singles made our top thirty. This is the one we remember them for:
This was a track on the band’s Freeze-Frame album, released in October 1981. It was a US #1 album, and became their only UK chart album, reaching #12 on the strength of the hit single. The song was also a US #1, and got to #3 here. It tells the story of a guy who suffers mixed feelings on seeing his childhood sweetheart as the centre feature in an adult magazine: not something I’ve ever experienced, though I did once see my first girlfriend smiling down from a street poster as the face of Dulux paints. It’s not quite the same, I guess.
And now for something completely different:
This was released as a single in February 1989, and became Simple Minds’ only UK #1. It didn’t chart in the US, and I’m not sure if it was released there. The song uses the music from the Irish folk song “She Moved Through the Fair”, but has completely different words. The band’s singer, Jim Kerr, who wrote it, explained how it came about: “I first heard the melody a few days after the Enniskillen bombing (when a bomb planted by the IRA exploded during a Remembrance Day service, killing 12 people and injuring at least 63), and like everybody when you see the images I was sick. In the second part of the song, I’m trying to relate to people in Northern Ireland who lost loved ones. I’m trying to talk about the madness, the sadness and the emptiness. I’m not saying I have any pearls of wisdom, but I have a few questions to ask.” That may explain how a Scottish band can produce such a powerful, haunting piece of music even though none of them had direct experience of ‘The Troubles.’ The song featured on the Street Fighting Years album, released three months later, which was also a UK #1 but only reached #70 in the US – apparently down to distaste of its strong political messages. Maybe they should have listened more – those playing political games over Brexit, which are putting at risk the Good Friday Agreement, should be made to watch this. On a brighter note, if you think you might have seen the fiddle player somewhere before, she is Lisa Germano, who played on a whole string of albums in the Eighties and Nineties as part of John Mellencamp’s band.
Time for something a little less intense, I think:
In case you didn’t know, Manic Monday was actually written by Prince, not by The Bangles, but they made a great job of it after being given the song. And when your lead singer (Susanna Hoffs) is drop dead gorgeous you’re already on a winner for me! The song was a track on the Different Light album, released on 2 January 1986, which peaked at #2 in the US and #3 in the UK. It was the first of five singles taken from the album, and got to #2 in both the US and the UK. As a side note, English folk singer Kate Rusby made a cover version of the song for her album Hand Me Down, which is so good that I’ve featured it twice here, first in Tuesday Tunes 19, complete with Susanna’s note of thanks and congratulations, and again in Under The Covers Old And New. Suffice it to say that I think Kate’s version is lovely, too!
This week’s penultimate offering is a bit of a departure from my normal type of music, if there is such a thing. Rather like The Bangles it is more pop-oriented than my usual listening, I think. You can call me an old softie if you like, but I still think this is lovely:
This one sneaked in right at the end of the Eighties. Right Here Waiting was released as the second single from Richard Marx’s album Repeat Offender in June 1989, and was a big hit worldwide, including getting to #1 in the US and #2 in the UK. The album had come out a couple of months earlier, and was also a US #1, getting to #8 in the UK.
This week’s final tune is another that was a massive hit. When you have two of the biggest acts in rock music together, I think that is likely to happen!
For some reason I can’t fathom, the official Queen video doesn’t credit David Bowie, who was very much a part of the song, so I’ve gone for this one instead. Under Pressure was originally released as a one-off single in October 1981, and was a UK #1, though it only reached #29 in the US. Poor taste, guys, keep up! It subsequently featured on Queen’s album Hot Space, released in May 1982, reaching #4 in the UK and #22 in the US. For me, it is still one of the best singles ever released, and it all came about from them mucking around in the studio in Montreux while they were recording separately there. I think we were lucky to have this, and Freddie and David are no doubt serenading the heavens with it now.
That’s all for this week. I’ll return next Tuesday to complete my very selective look back at the Eighties charts, and hope to see you again then. Now that summer appears to be over (did it ever begin?) I’m off to seek out my warmer clothes and try to avoid putting on the central heating too early in the year. There is still some cricket to be played, so at least I can watch our official summer sport while I shiver.
Take care, and have a good week 😊