Decades – 1982
Updated: Jan 23
40 years ago I was 11, about to turn 12. Music really wasn’t on my radar. Frankly, I cared about four things:
Star Wars figures
Blake’s 7 - I was still reeling from the end of the last series and its dramatic climax, where all the gang were killed..,.or were they? I clung to the hope Avon had survived...I was to be disappointed...
My broken right wrist, a clean break after a nasty slip on the ice just before Xmas
However, 1982 remains one of my favourite years for music. Some songs were starting to pique my interest - I was blown away by Simple Minds performing Promised You A Miracle on Top Of The Pops. I was in my first year at secondary school and remember seeing these really cool guys in the years above me with dyed hair, studded belts discreetly hidden under their blazers, pointed suede pixie boots….that’s the look I wanted. Asking my Irish mother to fund her 12-year-old dress like that? It would have been easier to fly to the moon. That look would have to wait a few years until I had my own money. And I just wasn't quite ready to give up Star Wars for vinyl and clothes and shoes...yet..
By 1984 I threw myself into music with aplomb and these are some of the first bands I fell in love with. Don’t get me wrong, I liked some real shite at 12 – I fear I really liked Hi-Fidelity by The Kids From Fame…. This list is very much a rewriting of history and informed with the benefit of hindsight.
But genuinely love them I do - here are ten of my favourite albums from that period. Ok, I’ve Spinal-tapped the list so it’s technically 11…
10. Upstairs At Eric’s – Yazoo
I recall watching Yazoo on Cheggers Plays Pop and thinking Vince Clarke was the coolest thing I had ever seen. The song wasn't bad either - their debut single, Only You. I had no idea Vince had been in Depeche Mode, I just liked his hair and his disinterest in what was going on around him. I was starting to be pretty disinterested in the mundane things around me myself, so it resonated. Miserable teenage years were ahead.
I didn't get the album until a couple of years later, and it's filled with songs that have really stood the test of time, like Only You, Don't Go, Goodbye 70s and more. There are some howlers - I recently bought the album on vinyl late at night after several red wines. I had forgotten dreadful attempts at experimentation like I Before E Except After C. Unlistenable nonsense.
But overall it's aged well, and it inspired modern bands like LCD Soundsystem, who named checked them on Losing My Edge, their debut single, though being a Yank, he called them Yaz - "I hear you're buying a synthesizer and an arpeggiator and are throwing your computer out the window because you want to make something real. You want to make a Yaz record". Give it another blast, just skip track 4 at all costs!
9. Imperial Bedroom - Elvis Costello & The Attractions
I really didn't get Elvis Costello for a long time. I had to work at it. Most people probably don't approach listening to music in this rather workman like way, but I KNEW I was missing out. My lovely friend Heather leant me a compilation she had made and I listened to it most Sundays walking from my student house to mass (like the good Catholic boy I was). It eventually landed and Beyond Belief, the opening track of this album was the one that did it.
It's detailed, blistering, a song by a man drunk, kicking the chair over and about to crack up. I must have worn the tape down rewinding it and replaying it again and again. I definitely wore out my Walkman's batteries.
"History repeats the old conceits, the glib replies the same defeats. Keep your finger on important issues with crocodile tears and a pocketful of tissues"
I went and bought Imperial Bedroom on CD and it's full of brilliant tunes - the jazzy Almost Blue, the pop of Tears Before Bedtime, the scathing Shabby Doll - it's intricate, complicated and yet instantly catchy. Imperial Bedroom is not his greatest album, but it's up there.
Frankly though, none of his albums are as good as the song his father wrote for the R White's Lemonade advert (I'm A Secret Lemonade Drinker), which includes Elvis (then still the humble Declan McManus) on backing vocals. I still love this song.
8. Combat Rock – The Clash
The Clash's swansong (no, Cut The Crap is not a real Clash album and that's the end of it, ok?) was brimful of classics - Rock The Casbah, Should I Stay Or Should I Go?, Know Your Rights, Straight To Hell....it's bloody marvellous. That said, it's also impenetrable and its second side must have sounded very cool to me when I first taped it off a mate at 16. In reality, the second side is piss-poor - Atom Tan, Sean Flynn...it's weak. But it's still a great record and really experimental given how huge they were by then. Plus the cover is class, its antimilitarism was cool as fuck to teenage JO'B.
I saw Joe playing at the V festival in 2000 and he was cracking, a masterful frontman (though two idiots in front of me thought they were watching James - heathens!). Then in 2011, I saw Mick Jones and Paul Simonon playing a short set of Clash songs to raise money for the Hillsborough 96 campaign. The songs were stunning and Should I Stay Or Should I Go tore the house down.
7. The Gift – The Jam
Another final album, The Gift is not The Jam's finest moment (for me that's Sound Affects), but it's a fabulous mix of Northern Soul, funk, pop, soul, even a bit of calypso! It signposted the sort of direction he wanted to go with The Style Council, but you can see that Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler's muscular powerhouse of a rhythm section would have always been too heavy for that laid back, lounge pop sound Weller heard in his head as his next step.
But The Gift is a great goodbye - Happy Together, Ghosts, Precious, Just Who Is The Five O'Clock Hero?, Carnation and of course Town Called Malice. It stands repeated listens 40 years later and maybe we need more pop stars in 2022 writing song tiles like The Planner's Dream Goes Wrong - maybe The Brexiteer's Dream Is a Disaster?
I finally saw Weller play Town Called Malice at Hyde Park, supporting The Who in 2015. I was stuck in a mahoosive queue for a round of beers for his whole set. When I finally got served, I ordered eight pints and carried them back precariously in two cardboard box lids - four pints in each, with one lid balanced on top of the first four pints. Carrying EIGHT pints back was no mean feat and I was cheered and clapped by many mods and geezers in Fred Perrys as the Modfather belted out The Jam's greatest moment - one group of fellas even gave me a standing ovation. So Town called Malice, and The Gift, are intrinsically linked with my finest lad moment.
6. “Too-Rye-Ay” – Dexy’s Midnight Runners
I had loved Geno from Dexy's previous incarnation and thought they looked amazing on Top Of The Pops (though I had no idea who Geno was). I thought their gang look was cool - that's how bands should look - like a unit.
So I was confused when they next appeared in dungarees, looking like a raggle tangle bunch of gypsies. But I loved Come On Eileen and frankly, who doesn't? It's an impossible to shift ear worm. But the album is a powerhouse of Celtic soul. There isn't a bad tune on it and it's aged incredibly well. Kevin Rowland, they leader would go on to take them, off in yet another direction and look, and their fame dwindled. But go back and listen to this - Plan B, Old, Liars A to E, Let's Make This Precious, Until I Believe In My Soul are all incredible.
I have seen Kevin Rowland in the flesh twice. The first time he was DJing at the Apple Cart festival in Hackney, playing Northern Soul and Ska records, singing over the chorus occasionally. His voice was incredible and he was immaculately dressed - him just DJing was better than sets by other 80s artists that day like Adam Ant and Scritti Politti (and the latter were amazing). Rowland just has it.
I saw Spandau Ballet in 2015 and had tickets 7 rows from the front of the O2. As we waited for the 80s legends to come on stage, I saw Rowland in the audience. Dressed like a 30s Golfer who had joined the Peaky Blinders. He was style personified and looked better than any of Spandau. Must see the reformed Dexy's!
And do check out their performance on Top Of The Pops, playing Jackie Wilson Said, backdropped by a massive picture of Scotland's finest darts player, Jocky Wilson. Genius.
5. You Can’t Hide Your Love Away / Rip It Up – Orange Juice
Orange Juice produced not one, but two fabulous albums in 1982 - unimaginable these days that a band would be allowed to do this, or indeed have sufficient high quality material. But both albums are flawless.
You Can't Hide Your Love Away was released in March, but by then Edwyn had unceremoniously sacked guitarist and co-singer James Kirk and drummer Steven Daly. They were replaced by Malcolm Ross from Josef K and Zimbabwean drummer Zeke Manyika and quickly produced the second album, titled after probably their most famous song, Rip It Up.
Both albums are a mix of jangly guitar, thundering drums and massive dashes of Al Green soul (indeed, their debut includes a wonderful cover of L.O.V.E Love which Edwin delivers beautifully). Tender Object has a dizzying mix of funk, afrobeat, insane electronica...it's genuinely wild. Elsewhere Intuition Told Me Pt 1 is a fabulously downtrodden bit of folk meets barroom ballad. Consolation Prize is basically a template for most 80s indie pop and Felicity was the song that brought me back to them in the late 80s, when it was covered by The Wedding Present.
The Rip It Up album continues, but brings in more afrobeat stylings, Zeke's influence moving them on a stage further. It remains true though to Edwyn's vision for them to be a soul band first and foremost. Mud In Your Eye is just stunning, while Louise Louise has the best song title ever.
I never saw Orange Juice, but saw Edwin supporting Pulp in the 90s. He was back in the charts with A Girl Like You and was a producer of some merit. He skipped across the stage like Chuck Berry and his quiff was magnificent. I thought he was better than Pulp, an opinion I had to keep to myself for fear of being chastised by my Britpop friends.
But then he had two catastrophic strokes in the mid-2000s that left him without the use of his right arm and his speech impaired and suffering from dysphasia. But he is a hero and never gave up, relearning to write songs, to play guitar with his left hand and while his son strummed for him. And he returned to gigs. I went to see him in Edinburgh, not expecting much, but left stunned. The show was amazing. Edwyn was funny and could still sing like a demon. His cheeky wit and charm were all still there and it was a life affirming show. I've seen him many times since - go if you get the chance. You'll realise you can overcome anything.
4. Peter Gabriel IV (aka Security) – Peter Gabriel
Gabriel bypassed me in 1982, but by 1988, I was obsessed. The first cheque I ever wrote when I was 18 was in Our Price and I bought So, Peter Gabriel III (aka Melt) and Peter Gabriel IV (aka Security). Gabriel's first four albums were all eponymous but numbered by the fans to distinguish them or given these nicknames.
Of my three purchases, Peter Gabriel IV was my favourite. Experimental, percussive, catchy and weird. Really weird. Lyrics about cultural imperialism, prisoners of conscience, claustrophobic synths and thundering African influenced rhythms and drums. It's heady and heavy stuff. It has its pop moments - Shock The Monkey and I Have The Touch are catchy and stand up well after 40 years. Lay Your Hands On Me and The Family And The Fishing Net are oppressive, better live than on record.
The album ends with a random experiment with samba music, that bears little resemblance or connection with what's gone before it. It's great though and it gave a much needed break from the album's heavy feel.
I would loved to have seen Gabriel play this tour - the tour's live album, Plays Live, is one of his best. I've seen him a few times since the 90s, but he's concentrated on new material and the hits - I wish he'd take this and Peter Gabriel III out on tour, it would be stunning. But he's a forward looking artist, not a one trick nostalgia pony. Boo!
3. The Lexicon Of Love – ABC
Unlike Peter Gabriel, ABC are very happy to play the nostalgia show, and I have seen them play the whole of Lexicon Of Love live several times. No complaints it, it stands as a perfect example of the best of the 80s. Singer Martin Fry will cheerfully dig out the gold Lamé suit and belt out Poison Arrow, The Look Of Love, Tears Are Not Enough. And why wouldn't he?
Produced by Trevor Horn, it was released against a backdrop of the Falklands war, unemployment, riots, Thatcher. The album was a much needed respite from the terrible things that it soundtracked. Although lumped in with New Romanticism, it was in fact more like the 80s does Rat Pack, Fry the period's bleach blonde Sinatra. He was suave, glitzy, stylish - and came coated in the slick sound that Horn created for them. And they made big story videos and best of all, they delivered that 80s classic - the spoken word lyric - “I thought you loved me, but it seems you don’t care", and the response from his breathless lost love “I care enough to know that I could never love you". Fabulous stuff. More spoken lyrics can be found here.
Its finest moment though was All Of My Heart, a lush ballad about lost love ("Add and subtract but as a matter of fact, now that you're gone I still want you back"). Anne Dudley's strings, Horn's kitchen sink production and Fry's soaring vocals, it’s the 80s personified in one epic, stylish track.
I still play the album regularly - it feels like some technicolour concept album, but in reality there's no real narrative theme. It doesn't need one, it's just perfect.
2. Rio – Duran Duran
You either liked Spandau or Duran. I liked Duran (essentially I was a Duranie). They were cooler, colder, funkier. Their videos were glamorous, they looked like Indiana Jones meets James Bond (Hungry Like The Wolf still looks cool now). It's easy to dismiss Duran as a boyband, but they were so much more. They could really play - John Taylor is a fantastic bass player, playing like Bernard Edwards from Chic. Indeed the original vision for Duran was to take the spirit of The Sex Pistols and Chic and create a new music. They succeeded.
Rio is chocker block with hits (Rio, My Own Way, Save A Prayer, Hungry Like The Wolf), but also has impeccable, classic album tracks like Hold Back The Rain, The Chauffeur and Last Chance On The Stairway. All could have been singles. This was only their second album and they had distilled all their influences (Roxy Music, Bowie, Chic, Japan ) into a truly era defining record. The artwork is as 80s as you can imagine, a poster from Athena pasted onto a record for the world to admire.
Its finest moment is New Religion. Spooky, funky, dark and described in the liner notes as "a dialogue between the ego and the alter-ego" - pretentiousness is nothing to be scared of, as Adam Ant almost said.
I have seen Duran several times and they are a fantastic live act, but they'd do well to check out Joanne Joanne, the all female Duran Duran tribute act, though they don't play Rio! They do a cracking New Religion, mind...
1. New Gold Dream 81+82+83+84 – Simple Minds
I bought this album purely on the basis of the cover. Ok, I knew I liked Promised You A Miracle, which I remembered from seeing on Top Of The Pops. But the album's artwork was fantastic and like nothing I had seen before. It looked like some ornate bible, with pictures inside of the band looking like glam futurists, all eye make up and studied cool.
I loved it and they were the first band where I saved my pocket money and went back and bought all their albums. It took me a while to fall in love with the earlier ones (I'm still not that fussed about Life In A Day), but I adored Songs & Fascination / Sister Feelings Call (read my previous review here).
But New Gold Dream was the first album to draw me into their world entirely, scrawling their album titles and song titles onto my school notebook and on the side of my school bag. It's an album full of perfect tunes, atmospheric, arty, again channelling Bowie like so many on this list.
After four albums and no hits, they needed to breakthrough or this could have been the end. They hired a 20 year old producer, Peter Walsh, fresh from producing Penthouse And Pavement by Heaven 17. Guitarist Charlie Burchill credited Walsh as making a huge difference - it wasn't what he put in, it's what he left out. The album is more focused than its sprawling double album predecessor.
The album is driven by Derek Forbes' slinky, funky bass - more the lead instrument that then Charlie's guitars, which complement the bass, rather than take the spotlight. Someone Somewhere In Summertime is cryptic, Colours Fly And Catherines Wheel feels almost Talking Heads, New Gold Dream is Krautrock electronica, dance music taking Bowie's Low to its pop extreme, forever dating itself with its chant of 81, 82, 83 84...it's magnificent. Glittering Prize provided them with another hit - they had made the commercial crossover at last.
Simple Minds would go on to be bigger and more overblown, but still interesting, until by 1989, it was just mullets, over sincerity and scissor kicks and I gave up. They finally started to find their way back in the mid-2000s, and after 2012's tour playing just songs from their first five albums, they came back regenerated, making two career highlight albums since - Big Music and Walk Between Worlds. That 2012 tour gave me the chance to see New Gold Dream's highlights live, a perfect night out.
I still listen regularly to the album, mesmerised by Herbie Hancock's keyboards on Hunter And The Hunted and time travelled back to Our Price in Dartford, emptying out my little wallet to see if I had enough change to buy the cassette. I am glad I did!
So that's 1982. Over the next few weeks, I will look back at the best albums of 1972, 1992, 2002 and 2012. Stay safe, x