Updated: Oct 6
In 1983 I was 13. I was a pretty immature one, clinging to the idea of toys (specifically my Star Wars figures which I loved more than anything) and fearful of growing up.
But puberty, school pressure and reality meant I needed to start letting go of childish things (much to my poor father’s relief). My attention shifted to my ZX Spectrum and crappy (but at the time revolutionary) games, but I wasn’t enthusiastic for that long. Music was starting to take over and I started listening more and more to the radio, Top Of The Pops and even The Tube.
Since 1982, Top Of The Pops was a staple that I watched religiously but it took until I was 14 to finally get my own record player and start a lifelong habit of acquiring physical media (there were no iPods then - it was a choice between buying an album, taping it off someone else or taping it off the radio).
With regards to the latter, I became very skilled, timing pressing record on my parents rather primitive mono cassette player to catch as much of the song as possible, and ideally none of the banal chunter of Mike Read, Gary Davies or whichever tedious disc jockey was fronting the radio show (Moz was right, hang the DJ). My initial compilations were all taped off the radio, having to wait until my 14th birthday for that elusive record player (with built in speakers so it took up no room in my tiny box bedroom).
But in 1983, my interest in music started to kick in big style. I bought Smash Hits and started to help me shape my tastes (NME looked a bit too grown up at this stage - how wrong I was! Thompson Twins were my early love and I was definitely a Durannie. When I turned 14, I started with compilations but quickly started looking back at albums for the last few years as well as new ones.
There were mistakes along the way (Go West causes much hanging of head in shame). But also I was ahead of the curve of my friends (The Message and White Lines (Don’t Do It) singles were stars of my first little record collection.
But here are the albums I loved from 1983, as I started to find my musical fandom feet. Some have been added since, but most had started to catch my attention, even if I wasn’t quite sure why.
20. Synchronicity - The Police
Their swansong album, I had loved Message In A Bottle as a kid, and pop hits like Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic. But I remember seeing them on the Kenny Everett Show, playing King Of Pain and was blown away (though Andy Summers' outfit isn't great in hindsight). Off I trundled on the next Saturday morning to Woolworths in Crayford and bought the 7 inch single. It was played relentlessly on my parents' stereo (alongside its b-side, Tea In The Sahara, which I loved, though less so).
It was another year before I would progress to buying albums, but I remember just loving this song. I must have heard Every Breath You Take before this, though I have no memory of it. Later, my friend Andy's younger brother Mark LOVED The Police and I must have heard everything they ever did via him. I lost touch with Mark - a real shame as we were kindred spirits music wise.
Many, many years later, I bought the vinyl boxset of all The Police's albums and they have stood up well, especially this album. And I saw them in 2007 when they reformed. I recall the gigs being great, though they did a terrible version of Roxanne. Hey ho. But the songs from Synchronicity stand up well as a great 80s pop rock album.
Ultimately, they suffered by not being very cool, by Sting being so pretentious and probably get unfairly maligned as people remember Sting's propensity to talk about tantric sex (put it away Mr Sting, no one wants to know!). Poor Trudie...
19. Let's Dance - David Bowie
I didn’t come to Bowie until 1984 and like Dr Who, we all have our “Bowie”. My Bowie wasn’t Ziggy, he wasn’t the ice cold cool Thin White Duke, it wasn’t the even new romantic Pierrot clown…he was the bleach blond, besuited pop star.
Modern Love was my first Bowie love and it’s probably my favourite ever Bowie song (if only for that Michael Caine-esque spoken intro “I know when to go out, I know when to stay in…get things done”. Let’s Dance the song and China Girl were also amazing….but the Let’s Dance album? Hmm.
And as we know, worse was to come…Bowie was about to hit a creatively fallow period, but the hits from ’83 were a great introduction. Like Dr Who fans who go back and discover Jon Pertwee and William Hartnell, I would go on to discover the Ziggy years, the Berlin albums and his last few records were just wonderful (he had his David Tennant / Matt Smith years!), but this was my starting point, so I have a huge soft spot for it.
18. Seven And The Ragged Tiger - Duran Duran
I loved Duran Duran and still do. Not always the easiest thing to be, a Durannie at a repressed all boys school in the 80s, where literally anything other than liking football or rugby meant you could get a kicking...liking Nick Rhodes was risky business.
But I am honest enough to recognise that they are not always magnificent. Their eponymous debut and Rio are masterclasses in cool, synth pop. But ‘83’s Seven And The Ragged Tiger was a patchy affair.
But it has its moments – New Moon On Monday is a forgotten classic, but the big hit singles of The Reflex and Union Of The Snake? Meh….I can take them or leave them. I do love Shadows On Your Side and (I’m Looking For) Cracks In The Pavement.
It’s not their strongest album, but its excess led them to realise a change was needed. This led to the side projects (the marvellous Arcadia and the fairly average The Power Station), departures and new production, in the form of Nile Rodgers. Their next album, Notorious, was a classic, a real return to form. If the levels of global success were reduced, change and longevity were secured. Ragged Tiger helped, unintentionally, facilitate that evolution.
17. Porcupine - Echo And The Bunnymen
There were a couple of guys in the year above me at school who I had a bit of a crush on - not a romantic crush, but I thought they looked cool, dressed cool and I would surreptitiously sneak a look at the scrawls on their notebooks to see which bands they liked (I had no older siblings to get any musical education from). They were the reason I became obsessed with wearing "Karate slippers", which almost certainly gave me flat feet...oh, the price of fashion...
The Bunnymen were one of the bands they loved. So off I went to investigate. I wasn't a huge fan at first, but I loved The Cutter and The Back Of Love.
It was Ocean Rain I fell for a year later, playing my little cassette copy to death (the tape warped, which was gutting!). Porcupine is a retrospective find, and I love it. It's not as strong an album as Ocean Rain, Heaven Up Here or Crocodiles. But Clay is as catchy as anything they ever wrote, the title track is a precursor to the orchestral dramatics of Ocean Rain, and Heads Will Roll is classic Bunnymen.
Interestingly, whilst the Bunnymen have toured, playing the whole of their first two albums, and have toured playing all of Ocean Rain several times (I've seen it a least twice with an orchestra now), they have not revisited Porcupine. I'll have to read the new Will Sergeant album to maybe find out why.
Playing it now on the train to London and it sounds amazing!
16. Thriller by Michael Jackson
This is a difficult one. We knew Michael was a bit odd. His childlike speaking voice, his peculiar life, and later his seemingly changing skin colour were hard to comprehend.
Much later, the many accusations of child abuse leave me perplexed about how to think about this album. Watch Leaving Neverland and you will have no doubt that the man used his celebrity to engage with children. He didn’t survive to face these accusations so we will never know for certain. But the huge wealth he had meant that he could have kept that at bay for the rest of his life if he had survived, as he had in the few cases that did challenge him.
So how do you square this awful possibility / likelihood. I try and be woke (I was politically correct and “right on” previously so it’s all just part of a journey). And I will “cancel” some artists for crossing lines (see Morrissey). I don’t think it’s cancelling - I think it’s the consequence of making terrible choices and using your platform to propagate offensive views.
But the songs on Thriller are hard to ignore. So, I have tried to separate the man from the music. I still do this with Moz, listening to the music of my childhood and 20s and 30s, but I remain Morrissey Neutral (by offsetting this listening by making donations to refugee charities to cancel out any benefit that Moz might get from this).
Thriller is an amazing pop album, with songs written by Quincy Jones and Rod Temperton - I have decided that I don’t want to put their genius in the bin because of the acts of the frontman. But listening to this again, I will Jacko-Offset and contribute to a charity for child who are sexually abused.
And the songs…gosh, Beat It, Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, Billie Jean and of course, the title track, Thriller.
To me Michael was always associated with visuals - as a child, I had watched The Jacksons cartoon, more for the cool artwork than the music. Now, he was taking video, still relatively new for music, to a whole new level. The video for Thriller was an event.
The songs are pop perfection, even the duet with the (at least then) out of favour and seemingly lost Paul McCartney (his rediscovery of his talent was six years away). The Girl Is Mine is fabulous. Jackson set out to record an album of all killer tunes. He was canny enough to see disco was over, so incorporated rock (Eddie Van Halen!) and horror (Vincent Price!). This album is worth respect for its business sense as much as its tunes.
And yes, I know it was released in 1982, but this was an album for 1983 - the best seller for that year (and indeed 1984 in the US as well) and ultimately, the best-selling album of all time (70 million plus).
It’s an album now that comes with huge baggage, but it’s impossible to ignore its impact.
15. High Land, Hard Rain - Aztec Camera
Roddy Frame was the guitar wonder kid from East Kilbride, with floppy fringe, suede tassel jacket and just 19 when he released his debut album, having recorded a series of singles for Glasgow’s legendary Postcard label.
Although on a classic indie label, his music was poppy, catchy, soulful (as was much of the Postcard roster - see Orange Juice). Oblivious was a hit, a song he’d consciously written to appeal to Top Of The Pops (though “I see you crying and I want to kill your friends” was a little less Haircut 100 than the tune was). Some of its songs dated back to 1979, such as We Could Send Letters (when young Roddy was just 15!).
His music was inspired by an unusual mix of The Fall (well at least his rather unpopstar dress sense), The Slits, Motown and jazz guitarists like Django Reinhardt. Walk Out To Winter steals from Ain’t No Mountain Hard Enough, though it conjures more the feel of Prefab Sprout. We Could Send Letters is all unrequited lost love and remains a favourite.
I saw him with a friend playing an acoustic solo show in London sometime around 2005 and he played Oblivious, Pillar To Post and Walk Out To Winter, The Boy Wonders to rapturous cheers, the latter enticing drunk middle aged me to shout the latter’s “high land, hard rain” refrain with alcohol enhanced gusto.
The songs still stand and whilst his last couple of albums haven’t grabbed me, 2005’s Surf showed he still has fantastic talent (Small World is the theme tune to BBC’s Early Doors comedy, which was finally back on iPlayer this year, if albeit briefly).
There are moments in his later career that match this record, but he never quite produced a set that reached this high.
14. 1999 - Prince and The Revolution
I used to walk to school with a boy in the year below me at school called Martin. We were good friends and our musical journey was one we took together. We had different tastes but a similar obsessive tendency. As I bought all the albums I could find by New Order and Joy Division and Simple Minds, he bought every album by Prince And The Revolution.
Whilst Purple Rain was his starting point, we soon would bamboozle each other with facts about our new found heroes. And berate each other for our belief OUR band was better than the other’s band. I suspect this is how football fans live their whole lives.
I look back and am glad, as whilst I would have heard the unavoidable rise of Prince in the 80s without Martin, I wouldn’t have heard earlier albums like Dirty Mind and Controversy.
The album includes Delirious, Little Red Corvette and of course the title track, which in the run up to the millennium must have earned Prince a packet!
If your songs can survive that many crap millennium parties, they can survive anything…
13. The Crossing - Big Country
Checked shirts, sleeveless denim jackets, head bands, bagpipe guitars, very suspect knitwear, thunderous drums, coordinated onstage hopping, shouting “Ha!” (or something to that effect….it was a massive “f*** you” to the effete, glamourous synth pop I loved. But I adored them.
Big Country were not the subtlest of bands, but dear Lord they were rousing stuff. Fields Of Fire, Chance, Harvest Home were all “punch your arm in the air” belters...enough to make you seriously consider a mullet….well, not quite…
It’s not all aged well, and the 80s production on the drums sounds overbearing and the guitars a little noodley for my tastes these days. But I saw them in 1990 and they were fantastic (even though some arsehole tried to nick my leather biker jacket). And I saw them again with my girlfriend of the time, Jane, in 2000, supported by The Alarm…so many mullets in one place, it was like some imagined post-apocalypse where barbers had all been wiped out, as had taste…
Sadly, Stuart Adamson, their singer and guitarist, died by suicide that following year in 2001. Though Big Country never really caught that energy of The Crossing again, he still could bang out a tune and always seemed a lovely guy on stage. Sadly, his demons meant he just couldn’t see the sun in wintertime, such a terrible shame.
12. Before Hollywood - The Go-Betweens
Cattle & Cane. It's one of those songs those songs that if that was all you did with your career, you'd still be talked about. But The Go-Betweens produced lots of classic songs through their career - their second coming being my favourite period - two of their three reunion albums, The Friends Of Rachel Worth and Bright Yellow, Bright Orange, being two of my favourite ever albums.
I think I had a 7 inch single of this I found in a Woolworths bargain bin. I'd heard them mentioned on John Peel or somesuch radio show. It had no cover and was scratched, but I loved this song. It was much later when I went back and checked out the album - probably in my late teens. I taped it off someone I knew at my Saturday job.
Two Steps Step Out had a Smithsey feel to me, but weirdly disjointed, like The Fall. Dusty In Here is Grant recalling his late father, who he'd lost at 6 - it's lovely, auto-biographical stuff. Ask is lo-fi indie perfection, but with sudden drops in pace, and Forster channeling his inner Dylan.
Often over-looked, it's Lindy's drumming that holds it all together. Crisp, tight and keeping the changing beats together. And although they covered Cattle & Cane on the b-side of Blue Eyes, By Chance feels like its one of the major influences on The Wedding Present's sound.
A great, lo-fi masterpiece, that I doubt most of you have ever heard. Go check it out - you can find it on Amazon Music and YouTube, but sadly not Spotify.
11. Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) and Touch - Eurythmics
In the 80s, when people seemed to just about be able to start to grasp something other than binary gender stereotypes (Boy George was national news – "is it a boy? Is it a girl?” the headlines screamed…). Eurythmics Annie Lennox, with her cropped red hair and pin stiped suits caused similar confusion…lots of fun to be had with a conservative media, struggling to keep up with a changing world.
Eurythmics had broken through after years on the side-lines as The Tourists, followed by a flop debut album. In 1983, they released two albums. The first with Love Is A Stranger and Sweet Dreams, establishing them as a top notch synth pop act. Cold and robotic music, but with the warm vocals of La Lennox.
Touch followed in less than a year to consolidate this, with Who’s That Girl? and Here Comes The Rain Again continuing the cold electronic sound they had forged, though Right By Your Side showcased their pure pop abilities. The First Cut was synth cod-funk, Aqua was stately and showcased Annie's magnificent voice with none of the unnecessary histrionics that would come with later albums. Touch is complicated, sophisticated and artsy.
Both albums show a band on a path to being huge, and though it's pure pop stuff, I loved it then and still love them now.
10. Life’s A Riot With Spy Vs Spy - Billy Bragg
One man, a guitar and the truth. Billy was just taking that Woody Guthrie model and adding in punk ethics and an electric guitar. Sparse, simple and very moving. His voice was the source of some mockery, though it’s refined and improved over the years, like a good red wine. Somewhat unfairly, his nose got a fair few digs as well.
He famously got radio coverage, when he heard that John Peel was hungry, so delivered him a Mushroom Biryani to the studio, earning himself a play on Peel's show. He was no fool from the outset, and he’d basically play anywhere and toured relentlessly. Soon, the recognition shifted to his lyrics which were beautiful, frequently poignant and relentlessly principled and political. The Bard Of Barking indeed....
When I first heard him, I had never heard anything like it (I think it was a couple of years later when he played Levi’s Stubbs Tears on Whistle Test, or some such programme). I went back and picked up this on vinyl.
Seven songs, less than 16 minutes long and on the original album, it’s just Billy and his electric guitar. He may have lacked the accoutrements that other bands had (even the stripped down Smiths had bass and drums, and many layered guitars - Billy’s album was like a bootleg it was so basic), but it had tunes and hits, even if they were raw. A New England is the standout, all killer lines and a killer tune. Kirsty MacColl added a verse and a Smithy backing track and nailed herself a top 40 hit.
To Have And To Have Not was basically his politicly manifesto set out in 2 minutes and 33 seconds. I wish all political parties could be so concise!
Billy’s ability to write a hit and maintain political principles has never left hum, and though I don’t always love his new stuff these days, there is always something to love and admire.
9. Speaking In Tongues - Talking Heads
This was their 5th album, and it's a perfect example of a band truly hitting their stride. '77 was the jittery debut, More Songs About Food And Buildings consolidated the sound and was more elegant, tuneful. Fear Of Music was all dark paranoia, mixed with more world music sounds and afrobeats. Remain in Light was art funk perfection.
Speaking In Tongues was all of these things and more. And it had their biggest hits - Burning Down The House and This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody).
But it wasn't this album that first caught my attention. It was the live album, Stop Making Sense, which caught my ear. I saw a clip of the groundbreaking live concert film by Jonathan Demme and knew this was a band I would love. But finances meant that the best I could afford was this live album - a mini greatest hits, showcasing the band at the height of their powers.
These days, I have gone back and acquired all their albums, and Speaking In Tongues is one of my faves (though I have a huge soft spot for More Songs About Food And Buildings.
I once wooed a girl when I was a teenager whilst playing her a mixtape with Girlfriend Is Better and Burning Down The House - she thought I was cool because they were on the tape. Thanks Talking Heads!
8. War - U2
There is a great joke my friend Matt told me - "What's the difference between Bono and God? God doesn't walk around Dublin thinking he's Bono". It's a killer joke, because no matter how great the music he has made is and how many worthy causes he has championed, Bono is quite annoying. Indeed, reviled in many, many quarters.
As a teenager, U2 were very important to me. I am a second-generation mick (now with newly acquired Irish passport), with my father from Limerick and mother from Sligo. But I am also a south-east Londoner (Ok, I was born in Kent and grew up there, but my youth was spent in SE postcodes, as is my adult life, so this is home). I was never sure if I was English or Irish. Growing up, everyone we knew was Irish or Italian. I went to a Catholic school until I was 11. Attending a Protestant grammar school soon got rid of my illusion that most people were Irish - and often I (and others) got a kicking for having an Irish surname, especially after some terrorist atrocity or other. My protestations that we did not support any of this really didn't matter. Haters gotta hate. These days I default to feeling I am more Irish than English - having spent lots of time back there with my folks, and now they are passed, looking to maintain as many connections to them as I can. Plus Brexit has left me very disillusioned by the land of my birth.
So Bono and his band are caught up in my confused feelings about my identity. My second gig was bunking off school to see U2 when I was 17 at Wembley Stadium with three friends, all siblings and whose parents were from Cavan. U2 gave us an identity and we felt more Irish because we loved them so much. The gig was astonishing (why wasn't this my first gig, instead of Isle of Wight pop-slap bass-funksters Level 42? It would be so much cooler). The gig cemented a lifetime love of those 80s albums, even turning a blind eye to Bono's shocking mullets and some truly terrible dress sense.
I saw them again on the Zooropa tour, a stunning, mind-boggling show, which even had Salman Rushdie come on stage (a very brave thing, given the fatwa that had been issued, brought more into focus by the recent attack on the heroic author). Sadly, the less sad about the Pop tour the better, and I have utterly failed to see them again (and despite my Bono reservations, I'd really like to).
(I've used the above four paragraphs elsewhere on Back In Black(heath) - but we are forever being told it's good to recycle, so I am basically saving the planet...)
But back in 1983, I loved U2. And Bono back then, humungous mullet aside, was very impressive. War seemed righteous, angry, and different. It had its big political uncomfortable realism with Sunday Bloody Sunday, but it's pop tunes of New Year's Day and Two Hearts Beat As One.
Seconds pointed to a more arty, punky U2, as did The Refugee. Red Light was huge, a song that would make a fabulous addition to any future setlist, especially with its weird horn break. Surrender is the first time you can hear where the might go on future albums like The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree. War is a great album, after October's confused, weaker sound.
But it was the accompanying live album, Live Under A Blood Red Sky that I adored. That album included War's three strongest singles, but reworked and reenergised versions of the best of Boy and October, plus the standalone single 11 O'Clock Tick Tock. It rarely left my tape deck and Walkman for a year or so.
Over the years, I've got fed up with U2 - too much preaching, too many lectures, too much Bono...just too much. But as I have written elsewhere on here, Surrender, his autobiography has helped me fall in love with the band again. And listening back to War and Live Under A Blood Red Sky and reading Surrender, I've remembered just how much they meant to me.
7. Soul Mining - The The
It's a band name that wasn't future-proof (try searching for them on Setlist.FM (it only works if you search for TheThe - one word). But they were a great band, with a great name and they had amazing artwork, designed by the later Andy Johnson, brother of The The's sole continuous (and in reality only) member, Matt.
Infected was the album that first caught my attention, but I soon went back and picked up a copy of the cassette of this. The cassette was flawed in that it included an extra track at the end, rather than ending as Matt Johnson intended. As Matt says in his recent interview for Tim's Listening Party, it's like ending a book with an additional paragraph that the author excluded - it makes no sense to add Perfect at the end.
But these 7 songs when stripped back to the original track list as Matt intended are perfection. Literate, dark, even absurd at times That Sinking Feeling's cheery chorus "I'm just a symptom of the moral decay that's gnawing at the heart of the... Country!" is wonderfully incongruous.
Uncertain Smile has the most spectacular piano ending that you can ever imagine - apparently, Jools Holland turned up at the suggestion of the album's producer, Paul Hardiman, listened to the track and then nailed this magnificent ending in one take...wow!
Giant, the album's closer, is gargantuan, as its title suggests - hypnotic, pounding, chanting, rhythmic...no wonder Johnson was outraged when he realised that his label shoved Perfect after this considered closer. And of course, its standout is This Is The Day, which has been used many times in film and TV soundtracks over the years, including Static, Empire Records, Fresh Meat, I Feel Pretty, Sex Education and most recently, Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 3.
It's wistful, melancholic, bluesy (it's opening lyric sounds exactly like the standard opening lyric of any traditional blues song (as Matt says in the Tim's Listening Party interview). It's written on a Suzuki Omnichord, which is just beautiful. And its accordion part is played by Wix Wickens is a good foil to the usual electronic sound The The pioneered. If I ever feel down, it's a perfect pick me up song.
A great record and I have had the pleasure of seeing them a few times over the last 20 years - the tracks from this album are always the highlight.
6. Script For A Jester’s Tear - Marillion
I fell in love with Marillion 2.0 - the Steve Hogarth years (see Love At First Sight - My First Marillion Gig). Script was completely ignored at the time as were Marillion in general. They were progressive rock - I was indie / pop.
But after my coach journey revelation in 1989, I went back and bought all their albums with my hard earnt pennies from my job as a bank clerk. I was smitten, though the production on Script and its successor, Fugazi, didn't sound great - the live versions of the songs sounded so much stronger.
But the songs....I had just been unceremoniously dumped by my first true love and was heartbroken, so these tales of crushed heartbreak hit home and I played them to death. I even experimented with with some face make up (just some squiggles round the eyes my friend Serena did for me, when we saw Fish playing his first London gig (I looked a dick - a frequent occurrence during this period - the mystery of why I was unceremoniously dumped is not really that mysterious in hindsight).
The title track, The Web and the epic Forgotten Sons were stunning. I knew every word of every song on this album, and would play it to people, trying to will them to love it as much as I did. I genuinely didn't understand why people couldn't see it (or rather hear it). God, I must have been annoying...
Now I can see it's pretty niche stuff - to most people, they are just Genesis rip-offs with overly wordy lyrics and overdramatic stage shows...but I loved them, and I still do. Fish leaves me a bit lost these days, his voice is so weak now and his songs just dull. But Marillion 2.0 are still great, still playing live and still interesting. I don't love their last four albums, but there are always moments on each. And I will see them live for the 28th time in November at the Roundhouse, my favourite London venue.
I doubt they'll play anything from this, and they don't need to. But it's the 40th anniversary if Script and a little part of me would lose my shit if they played Garden Party....
5. Construction Time Again - Depeche Mode
Depeche Mode had been plinkity-plonkity synth pop stars for their first two albums. Speak And Spell, their debut with Vince Clarke at the songwriting helm, had been experimental pop, with stone cold classics like New Life and Just Can't Get Enough. Then Vince had buggered off, leaving Martin Gore to step up and pick up the songwriter mantle for A Broken Frame.
I didn't love the latter, and hits like See You and The Meaning Of Love were weak, sappy pop. But the third single and opening track, Leave In Silence, indicated that there was a darker, more interesting future ahead.
Get The Balance Right!, a standalone single between their second and third album, confirmed Martin had found his feet and was more than able to replace Clarke. Plus it was the first with Alan Wilder on board as the new fourth member, who made huge contributions to their sound. It was also the first song of theirs to include a guitar (although heavily processed through a synth) - a sign of where things were to go in the longer term.
The album was superb - lots of sounds that I hadn't heard before - more of an industrial sound, strapped over their continuing pop sensibilities. The music got darker, the lyrics got darker - this was a move away from their Vince Clarke days...they would move so much further, but this was the transition album. Some tracks haven't aged well, such as More Than A Party or Pipeline's dirge experimentation. But The Landscape Is Changing could have been the title of their new manifesto - everything was changing. And in Everything Counts and Told You So, they had a couple of stone-cold classics, the former still a regular in their live sets.
I am off to see them in January 2024 at The O2 Arena, and am stupidly excited to see them for something like the tenth time.
4. Script Of The Bridge - The Chameleons
I had never even heard of The Chameleons as a teenager, not from anyone at school, or friends from other schools, or even when I started working and broadened my friendship circle.
It was my Uni friend Nick that made me watch them on video in our first year. I wasn't that fussed, but over time they grew and grew on me. Nick got a live album of them playing Toronto which I listened to obsessively.
Finally, I caught up with all their albums, and though my favourite songs are on their third album, Strange Times, this is my favourite album overall. It's punk, new wave, even prog rock at times (look at it's album cover and tell me there isn't some prog rock going on there.
When they reformed to play some gigs in 2000, I got tickets to see them in London and told Nick to come down and meet me in Shepherd's Bush. I didn't tell him who we were seeing, but I think he worked it out and that original line up playing again for the first time in 13 years was stunning.
The album is chockerful of classics that they still play (Second Skin, Don't Fall, Monkeyland, Up The Down Escalator, A Person Isn't Safe Anywhere These Days), but these days I have more time for tracks like Less Than Human and As High As You Can Go.
Listening now, I cannot believe they weren't huge. They sound is like Noel Gallagher playing with the Bunnymen - Goth, but with Beatles inspired hooks. And frontman Mark Burgess is a truly great performer. It's beyond me, but somehow they didn't get the attention that lesser bands like The Alarm and others did. I think it was a complete lack of image, terrible dress sense and those prog rock album covers - they weren't cool and posed, like the Bunnymen or the Teardrops. The young Mark Burgess was pretty scruffy to be honest. They were as far removed their stylish peers as you can imagine.
But they are still acquiring new fans now. One of my younger team members told me that he loved them and was going to see the latest incarnation of them live - I was amazed he'd even heard of them. So they still have loyal old fans and new fans keeping them going. Wish they'd make a new album - their last EP was superb.
3. The Hurting - Tears For Fears
A band that should be charged retrospectively with crimes against hairstyles...but I loved them all the same. The Hurting was angsty, anguished, anxious and very, very serious. Duran and Spandau talked about clothes and girls...TFF talked about Arthur Janov and primal scream therapy. They took themselves way too seriously for many people - “The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had”. Jesus....
But they had tunes and synths and songs like Mad World and Pale Shelter seemed very grown up to teenage JO'B. The guitars were simple and added colour to the synths which dominated the album. The songs were BIG and Change was even danceable.
And it had some weird experimental tracks like Ideas As Opiates and The Prisoner that were like nothing I had ever heard. It was brilliant, I loved them and even considered modelling my hair on Curt's, though my mother soon put paid to that idea (she was right; however she failed later during the "rubbish David Sylvian look years" later).
The album was a huge success, but when they tried to follow it up with an even more fey, whingey, synthy single (The Way You Are) this was a flop. They took stock, looked back at tracks like Watch Me Bleed, which was the most guitary thing on The Hurting and rebuilt their sound to be more muscular, less whiney (though they were still singing about psychology and multiple personalities). They strapped on the guitars and came back with Mother's Talk and Shout and were HUGE.
I saw them a few years ago and it was great, but they barely spoke to each other. It came across as the archetypal "top up the pension" tour. But since then, they have released a new album (The Tipping Point), which feels like a real partnership between Roland and Curt. It's ridiculously good. And the hair is much better these days...
2. Murmur - R.E.M
Document was my introduction to REM (I can't be arsed to include the bullets between each letter). The One I Love and Finest Worksong were amazing, and then Green solidified my love for them. A girl called Rosie told me to go back to Murmur, and it was amazing, but she warned me that the lyrics were unintelligible.
At first it was a shock. I didn't quite appreciate that bands didn't come along fully formed and that their style developed and sharpened and evolved, whereas Murmur sounded less produced, more basic than the later albums I had started with. Better equipment, better producers and bigger budgets. The later albums were bigger, clearer and poppier. But I soon loved Murmur. But what on earth was he on about? On 9-9, Stipe even sang the lyrics "conversation fear" - it's probably the clearest lyric on the whole song...
The cassette spent much time in my Walkman (though Stevey, my uni friend, played me their first singles album, Eponymous, when we met and the version of opening track Radio Free Europe is SO much better! I've even edited the album on my cassette then and now on Spotify - see below).
Murmur is great - atmospheric, dark, enchanting, like a distant cousin of The Smiths, but less immediate. It's anti-rock or "college rock", a rebellion against the poodle rock that dominated the USA. Enigmatic, ambient, chilled, and jangley as fuck. Perfect Circle is one of the greatest songs of the 80s. Sadly, when I finally saw them in Milton Keynes in 1995, the audience were more interested in hearing Shiny Happy People than hearing any of their early material. I nearly saw them in 1989, but I made a bad, bad choice...(see Ten Bad Gig Decisions).
If you have never heard it, pop some headphones on and take yourself out for a wander. To me it's like the Cocteau Twins - listening to it, I can phase out the rest of the world and listen to its wonderful tunes...and still try and work out what Stipe is going on about....
1. Power, Corruption and Lies - New Order
My all time favourite album, as is well documented on this site - see New Order - Power, Corruption and Lies (and sneezes and chat up lines).
It's the album I still play at least once a month. It, and its accompanying single, Blue Monday, blew my little teenage mind. It sounded like nothing I had heard before. And it was hard to reconcile that the musicians making this largely joyous music were the same musicians that made the "none more goth" sound of Joy Division.
Age of Consent sets the scene for the album, powering along like nothing I had heard before. Leave Me Alone, its closing track, is its perfect moment, the most gentle song about loneliness you will ever hear. Everything in between takes in synths, pop, (almost) jazz, vocoders, tribal drums...there really isn't an album like it (though The Cure ripped it off on several songs...).
As documented in my Mrs JO’B went to Supergrass and all I got was this lousy tea towel! article, I have boots, lamps, turntable mats, with it's beautiful cover. I've since added to this with the latest piece of art we've acquired. Mrs JO'B spotted it in Deal, and warned me if I turned around, I would need to buy this interpretation of the album as a dictionary cover. She was right. I did. It's brilliant.
I wish the band would play more from this (though to be fair, they still play Blue Monday, Age Of Consent, Your Silent Face, 586 and Ultraviolence. But to hear them play The Village, or Leave Me Alone would be so wonderful...
And that's it for 1983. People always say how crap the 80s were for music, but this is just one year and 20 albums that are either stone cold classics, or at least have some great songs that have lasted the test of time. Just working on 1993 now, which really does have some classics!
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