Monday, February 07, 2011

Reeling In The Years: 1983

by Robin Seamer

1983. The year of the Rubik’s Cube, neon coloured socks, yuppies and when real men didn’t eat quiche. The synthesiser and bad haircuts were everywhere, more often than not in tandem and I LOVED IT. Forget Enid Blyton because the real famous five were the all singing, all dancing New York High School for the Performing Arts dudes known as Danny, Lydia, Coco, Bruno and Leroy - the Kids From Fame – like an 80’s Glee except cooler, more lycra and original songs. 1983 was when new wave, new romantic and pure pop all collided in a sexy explosion of colour and decadence before pop stars got a conscience and formed Band Aid in 1984. This is a snapshot of 10 of the songs that sound tracked my wayward experiments with wearing berets and buying my first pair of Doctor Marten boots. The finest of times.

Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax
Most people will remember this as a hit from 1984 but technically it belongs to 1983 having been released in November of that year. Possibly the most controversial but successful single of the decade, producer Trevor Horn took the original version of the bands song and completely re-recorded it himself with a session keyboard player, the only presence of the band being that of Holly Johnson’s recognisable vocal and the orgasm noise which was created by recording the band jumping in a swimming pool. Who could forget the iconic image of dancer Paul Rutherford dressed in a sailor hat and leather vest, Johnson in rubber gloves with shaved head and the phrase ALL THE NICE BOYS LOVE SEA MEN accompanying the shot? Relax was the soundtrack to many a teenage boys fumblings at Blue Nun fuelled parties with both boys and girls. Play it now and it still sounds stonkingly good.

Orange Juice – Rip It Up
The Scottish post-punk band that got the funk, Rip It Up was the bands only top 40 hit, although they had a wealth of other brilliant songs. For non-pop historians, even if you don’t recognise him in the video you may recognise his dulcet croon – for this was the band that Edwyn Collins was in before his solo career.

Howard Jones – New Song
“I don’t want to be hip and cool,” sang the solo-synth wizard with the haircut that looked like some sort of electrified parrot, whilst Jed, his bald chained-up gimp of a mime dancer busted some moves. Any similarity to Peter Gabriel’s Salisbury Hill is entirely coincidental of course. Over twenty five years later this song would be one of the highlights of a one off performance at the ultra-hip Bestival, for which this author was partly responsible for the booking. New Song would also soundtrack an episode of teen-TV drama Skins. Be careful for what you don’t want in your lyrics Howard.

Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
Everything about this song was perfect. The icy synth line juxtaposed with the soulful vocal of Annie Lennox, Dave Stewart’s detachedness and Lennox’s short cropped orange hair. La Roux – watch and learn.

The Belle Stars – Sign of the Times
It was a sign of the times that an all-girl band could have a huge hit single without removing their clothes. They had amazing wide brimmed hats and Sign of the Times was one of the most hummable tunes of the year. Radio was kissed - no argument it was better than Prince’s song of the same title.

New Order – Blue Monday
Do I really need to say anything? John Peel Festive 50 number 1 1983. One of the biggest selling twelve inch singles of all time. Throbbing synth bass, dead pan vocals. Incredible. Indie dance was born.

Tears For Fears – Pale Shelter
The title of the song is a reference to "Pale Shelter Scene", a 1941 drawing by British sculptor Henry Moore. A hit when re-released, in part thanks to the eleven (yes eleven) picture disc and coloured vinyl versions of the song that were available to collect.

The Alarm – 68 Guns
It wasn’t all synths and shiny pop in 1983. Welsh rockers still had the obligatory big hair, but 68 Guns was a chest-thumping anthem that they never bettered. The group’s stadium rocking attempts were never as commercially successful as their peers U2, Big Country or later day Simple Minds though.

Haysi Fantayzee – Shiny Shiny
Probably the only song that people remember Haysi Fantayzee for is John Wayne is Big Leggy, but Shiny Shiny was actually a quirky nursery-rhyme hit in 1983 getting to number 16 in the charts. The bands ragamuffin thrift-shop styling was a precursor to that of Boy George from Culture Club who the duo accused of stealing their fashion ideas.

The Cure – Love Cats
Pick any year between 1981 and 1992 and you can pick a great song by The Cure. One of their biggest pop hits, it’s still an indie disco favourite now. Everyone knows and loves The Love Cats. The end. No arguments.

Master list

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