Here it - you asked for it - so I stand and deliver. Oh, dear, that’s a bad start. Suffice to say, Adam nor his ants will appear on this list (though I have a soft spot for Prince Charming, to be honest).
The only rule for this list - I had to like it at the time. You know, in the actual 80’s. And still like it now. It’s a high hurdle I set but let’s limber up and hope we don’t crash into the bar too much.
Ashes to Ashes - David Bowie (1980)
Scary, arty, new romantic cool! I remember watching this on Top of Pops with that weird and compulsive video. That strange dance on the beach, the odd costumes, the backhanded reference to Major Tom. This kicked off the decade and took it in a glamorous direction after the punk and rock of the 70’s. And teh sound ain’t bad either!
Vienna - Ultravox (1981)
Cruelly kept off Number 1 by an annoying one hit wonder, this was a classy song with a kick-ass video. What’s not to like? Midge Ure wandering around Covent Garden and - yes - Vienna - in a mac with pointy sidies. Peak New Romantic but staying just the right side of pretentious. Epic song, with hypnotic piano, swelling strings and the suggestion of something mysterious, something foreign, something tragic. Still never been to Vienna.
Under Attack - Abba (1982)
Abba’s sad swan song. It did nothing in the charts and the group faded away after this. Very late-era Abba, synths, electric bass, treated vocals, I first heard this at Rochdale roller ring early 1983. it has stuck with me ever since.
To France - Mike Oldfield (1983)
Updated folk for the 80’s generation. I remember hearing the song - strangely enough - in France, sat in the back of my parents car as we drove around Brittany Probably in the rain. Maggie Reilly voice and the folky / medieval feel and subject matter make this an ethereal postcard from a vanished age. That age being my youth. I often return to this song when I want a good song to cook to, when I’m writing, when I want to imagine being young again.
Relax - Frankie Goes to Hollywood (1983)
Frankie Says… Well, if you don’t know what Frankie Says, you weren’t there. Frankie had three massive hits in 1984. They were all over the year like a rash. I got my mum to buy this single on one of her Saturday shopping trips to Rochdale. I remember being in Spain 1984 and all you could hear in the discos (yes, I said discos not clubs) was either Relax or Two Tribes in one of their many, many, 12 inch varieties. Obviously Trevor Horn created the vibe, the driving beat, and there was a shocking amount of Paul Morley ZTT inspired marketing, but, this was an era defining sound.
It’s about sex, isn’t it?
Madonna - Like A Virgin (1984)
Oh yeah! Something about time and place gets this one in the top ten. Her singing has matured and so did her production values, but this is where’s it is at. Joyous and dance-able, even for saddos with that bouncy synth beat, it calls out thirty odd years later. But to really experience it you need to be 16 and walking into a Rochdale disco with this pumping out! The smell of cheap perfume, hair spray and alcohol! Nothing better.
Pride - U2 (1984)
God! I loved this song. I love this song. Edge’s eternal guitar playing a special riff, Bono’s vocals, the U2 style drumming. Martin Luther King! The sound of me heading off to the pub in Rochdale for a cheeky 5 pints on Wednesdays in The Grapes or Elephant and Castle. “Are you 18, sonny?” This song is the time and place of who I am and where I came from.
Walk This Way - Aerosmith feat Run DMC (1986)
Seriously - this record still kicks arse. Rap and rock fusion! An alternative pathway which we kinda lost on the way. But boy did it produce one memorable collaboration.
Voyage Voyage - Desireless (1987)
Ah, holiday records. That’s what the 80’s were about. Who could hate Ottowan’s ‘Hands Up, Give Me Your Heart’ or FR David’s seminal ‘Words’. Add Desireless to this trio and we a one-twp-three combination of sublime 80’s French summer Euro pop. Voyage Voyage - I heard this in Benidorm in the summer of 1988 as I perused the city’s art galleries, a fragrant girl in a white dress on my arm as we discussed art and memory. Yeah. Or, maybe it was the soundtrack to being pissed up in one of the town’s clubs trying to buy girls with tattoos and bikini tops rum and cokes. One or the other. Great Euro pop though.
All Around the World - Lisa Stansfield (1989)
How could I not put Lisa Stansfield on the list? If it wasn’t a great song however, I wouldn’t have added it, but it is here on merit. The fact that she went to my school and I knew her slightly are interesting but not clinches. Lisa bookends this decade for me. We were in the school play at the start of the 80’s and she ended the decade at Number with this song. I remember the feeling of pride when this became a smash. That was before jealousy kicked in. Why had CBS returned my demo?
(Hint: It was shit)
I will probably change my mind in five minutes, but let’s start this way, shall we?