And that’s it! Well, I made it! It’s taken 38 posts and over 50,000 words but TOTP for 1983 is finally over. I can’t lie – it’s been a struggle. Watching and writing about an hour or so of 80s hits doesn’t sound like too onerous a task does it? No, but dissecting the performances, trying to remember what I thought about them from 34 years ago, finding the clips, checking facts (well, looking things up on Wikipedia) etc…it’s all taken its toll. Should I carry on? Can the lure of 1984 sustain me?
Well, I’ll have a think about it. In the meantime, let’s have a think about what we have learnt:
- I am a very sad man who knows more and remembers more about the charts of 1983 than anyone would ever need to.
- The Radio 1 DJs were on money for old rope for the level of linking they provided.
- 1983 featured some awful records
- 1983 featured some great records
In my time working Our Price I was lucky enough to work with a guy called Pete who was the original bass player for the Stone Roses. One day he explained to me the 7 year cycle of music which was that every 7 years a movement or phenomenon would come around and change the musical landscape completely. Thus:
1955 – the birth of rock ‘n’ roll and the teenager
1962 – the emergence of the Beatles and Beatlemania
1969 – the counter culture hippy movement
1976 – the backlash of the punk movement
1983 – and that’s where it all falls down. As Pete advised – “nothing happened”*. And he’s right…sort of. There was no major cultural or musical shift but that’s not to say there was no good new music. 1983 seems to have been subject to some revisionism over the years and seems to have been allocated the label “new pop” to describe it with all its attendant negative connotations that follow the term “pop” around. It cannot be denied that the year’s biggest four acts (Duran, Spandau, Wham and Culture Club) were out and out pop. Even Spandau and Duran who started out as “new romantics” or even (Heaven forbid) “art rock” outfits (at a push) were full on mainstream at this point.
*Of course, The Stone Roses formed in 1983 so quite a seminal year for Pete himself and proof that something did happen.
A quick check of the year’s No 1 singles would seem to confirm that it was a terrible year with some right stinkers in there.
|1 January||“Save Your Love“||Renée and Renato||2|
|15 January||“You Can’t Hurry Love“||Phil Collins||2|
|29 January||“Down Under“||Men at Work||3|
|19 February||“Too Shy“||Kajagoogoo||2|
|5 March||“Billie Jean“||Michael Jackson||1|
|12 March||“Total Eclipse of the Heart“||Bonnie Tyler||2|
|26 March||“Is There Something I Should Know?“||Duran Duran||2|
|9 April||“Let’s Dance“||David Bowie||3|
|30 April||“True“||Spandau Ballet||4|
|28 May||“Candy Girl“||New Edition||1|
|4 June||“Every Breath You Take“||The Police||4|
|2 July||“Baby Jane“||Rod Stewart||3|
|23 July||“Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)“||Paul Young||3|
|13 August||“Give It Up“||KC and the Sunshine Band||3|
|3 September||“Red Red Wine“||UB40||3|
|24 September||“Karma Chameleon“||Culture Club||6|
|5 November||“Uptown Girl“||Billy Joel||5|
|10 December||“Only You“||The Flying Pickets||4|
Fortunately, there were also some damn fine songs amongst the dross. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see some of these either because they didn’t sell enough to dent the charts or we missed out on seeing them in these TOTP repeats due to the omnipresent “presenter issues”. Well maybe we can do something about that….
Hits we missed
Aztec Camera – Oblivious
What…a…tune! In Summer 1983 I heard a track on Radio 1 called “Walk Out To Winter”. It was by a band called Aztec Camera and it was wonderful. As it wasn’t a hit though, but I logged the name of the band for future reference. A few months later, a song called “Oblivious” was re-released and this time it made the Top 40 and my association with Aztec Camera was fully formed. I distinctly remember going to town with a guy from school called Mark around this time. We both bought the Assembly “Never Never” and whilst Mark opted for “Waterfront” by Simple Minds for his 2nd purchase I bought “Oblivious” which was a limited edition double pack (nice!). Here is the Boy Wonder looking 12 but sounding fab.
The Assembly – Never Never
Talking of The Assembly…..this was of course a collaboration between Vince Clark looking for a new project after disbanding Yazoo and the Undertones lead singer Feargal Sharkey. It’s a marvellous piece of synth pop balladry with Sharkey’s distinctive vocals lending it a plaintive, beseeching quality. There was something about the voice and the lyrics which drew me in (the latter probably appealing to my continuing lack of meaningful contact with the opposite sex). It ended up being a one-off as the planned project of getting in guest vocalists for each track on a planned album never (never) materialised. Shame.
Kajagoogoo – Big Apple
One of the year’s biggest stories next – it’s Kajagoogoo but the new, streamlined , Limahl-less version who were always more interesting I thought. This was their first single as a four-piece and it sounded good to my 15 year old ears. A stronger, less wimpy sound than previously.
As I remember there was a whiff of chart rigging about the single’s climb up the chart. However on checking the story, it seems they were incredulous that it had dropped down the charts and demanded a re-count! Whatever, it was to be a false dawn. They would make the Top 40 one last time early the next year but then it all fell apart and despite a name change to Kaja, the spell was broken. Still, it acts as a reminder that there was more to them than Limahl’s haircut and “Too Shy”.
Carmel – Bad Day
Now I’ve thrown this one in just to dispel the myth that 1983 was just about pure, meaningless pop. Well here’s someone who was all about gospel, blues and jazz. It is of course Carmel (which is the name of the band as well as the singer – sort of like Blondie but only if Debbie Harry were actually called Blondie Harry). Now this wasn’t a massive favourite of mine (I’m no jazz fiend) but I liked it enough and I include it here as it is such an anomaly amongst its chart competitors of the time. The band were massive in Europe and are still going today.
Kim Wilde – Love Blonde
Not quite jazz as Carmel knows it but here’s Kim Wilde with her own version of it. This performance had a massive effect on the 15 year old me. Can’t remember why now (ahem)…
King Kurt – Destination Zululand
OK here’s one again to prove that the charts weren’t all cheesy grins and cheesy tunes. Please excuse the presence of the hairy presenter and Tony Blackburn getting the band’s name wrong and then nearly forgetting the name of the song. It is of course King Kurt with “Destination Zululand”. I was not a member of the psychobilly fraternity by any stretch of the imagination but this lot were just fun I thought. Whilst we all remember the lead singer getting tarred and feathered, on watching this back my eyes are drawn to the male audience member dancing behind the band. He looks so out of place with his casual look and wedge haircut. Fair play though, he keeps on going to the end.
Songs that should have been hits
Just to show that not all my musical tastes in 1983 were shaped by the Top 40, here are some songs that I liked that never made the Top 40. A single cover denotes I bought it too.
Bloomsbury Set – Hanging Around With The Big Boys
Tipped to be the new Duran Duran (indeed they had toured with them I think), this lot should have been huge. They had the looks and a great power pop record. I think it was this performance on Razzamatazz that hooked me.
View From The Hill – No Conversation
Not sure how I got to know about this one, must have been played on the radio I suppose, but it’s a gorgeous bit of lilting soul-pop that deserved much wider recognition.
Intaferon – Steamhammer Sam
Intaferon are probably more remembered for the nearly hit “Get Out Of London” but this follow up is a great tune and is a forerunner of Blur in many ways.
Naked Eyes – Always Something There To Remind Me
What was it about this synth-pop version of this Bacharach and David classic that convinced me to buy it? Heaven knows. It’s not aged well. I think it was a big hit in the US hence its UK release. The band’s Rob Fisher would go onto be one half of Climie Fisher later in the decade – he must have liked being in duos.
Haircut 100 -Prime Time
This was my last fascination with the band (now Nick-less) and here we find them in last chance saloon in terms of regaining former glories. At the time I was a little disappointed but I think its a fine slice of pop funk now. The album has just been re-released on Cherry Red Records after languishing in the vaults for 33 years. Check it out.
1983 – their year in the sunshine
One of the other things that strikes me about 1983 was the amount of bands that came and went within the space of the year. OK some of these acts were around before the year and lasted slightly past the calendar 12 months but in terms of commercial success, this lot were at their peak in 1983 and then were just gone.
- Lotus Eaters
- Modern Romance
- New Edition
- Roman Holliday
OK – I’m nearly done. So then… 1983…phew…quite a year in many ways and one which I will always recall fondly. Hope some of my ramblings have conjured up some equally fond memories. See you in 1984?