‘Turning Japanese’ by The Vapors (see vid box to the right)
Suburban punk pop that enlivened any disco – ie. it was officially OK for teenage boys to dance to this. You could do the Skids ‘kicking’ dance to this or the more sedate swingy sidepunch routine. On a tour to Scotland with our youth football team in 1980 we all went to a big disco in Glasgow and the DJ put this in for us. “This one’s for the Market Rasen punks” he said, as the oriental style guitar riff chimed in and we all started gleefully kicking and swingy side-punching .
‘Going Underground’ by The Jam
In 1980, punkish pop went mainstream and this got straight to no.1. Although I went to see them live a couple of times, I wasn’t a big Jam fan like some of my mates, who would have travelled around the world to see their heroes play (that is, if they hadn’t got school in the morning). This was another disco staple for our little gang, one of the two or three songs that would get played regularly at the Festival Hall on a Saturday night. And it was about the threat of nuclear war, something we all bricked ourselves about.
‘Upside Down’ by Diana Ross
This reminds of big barn dances in high summer, when the DJ would borrow Led Zep sized speaker stacks and the music would blast from our village to the edge of the wolds four or five miles away. The opening bars would come in and I’d always think to myself, as the dancefloor filled up with girls, next time I will dance to this.
‘Rappers Delight’ by the Sugarhill Gang
Three blokes messing about over a Chic instrumental B-side. When this first appeared on Top of the Pops it was startling. “What? They’re not singing, just talking over the music. It’ll never catch on.”
‘Over You’ by Roxy Music
I’ve no desire to hear this song again except to relive what 1980 felt like. The only notable thing about it is that it reminds me that Bryan Ferry always looked like he was trying to push out a particular troublesome stool whenever he was singing.
‘Happy House’ by Siouxsie and the Banshees
The first 30 seconds of this are fantastic. If they’d just carried on in this way, and maybe called the song “Oooooh ooooh” or something, it would have been one of the greatest atmospheric film theme type pop songs of all time. As it is in becomes more lumpen and wordsy and drummy and verse/chorusy and the moment is lost.
‘No Doubt About it’ by Hot Chocolate
Brit cabaret soul band Hot Chocolate had smelt the way the wind was blowing in 1980 and decided they wanted a bit of that silver suit futurist pop action. Thus ‘No Doubt About It’ is kind of sci-fi-pop-soul-chicken-in-a-basket fusion. Errol Brown’s trousers might seem startling to our 21st Century tastes but in fact by 1980 even the Nolan Sisters were wearing strides like that.
‘Mirror in the Bathroom’ by The Beat
This was one of the great pop singles of the era with just the right amount of edge, rhythm danceability and weird discordant harmonies to get self-conscious 15 year old boys off their seats and jumping around. In this song The Beat, always underrated, are like a Brit version of Talking Heads – except better.
‘Funky Town’ By Lipps Inc.
This is how I remember ‘Funky Town’ – performed by Legs and Co on Top of the Pops in one of their typical bonkersly eccentric choreographic interpretations. In fact, it’s not really a very funky song (the title tricked us all) – it’s only the vocal part that makes it half-way listenable.
‘D.I.S.C.O’ by Ottawan
Ottawan were Boney M’s hyperactive little brother and sister and this is an intoxicatingly annoying singalong dance number. It’s the sort of thing that should really have been entered into the Eurovision song contest. It would have cleaned up.
‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ by Joy Division
Heartbreaking song and the end of an era. After this post-punk pop would become more frivolous and commercial sounding. On hearing of Ian Curtis’ death I wore a black armband to school the next day. OK, so it was actually an elasticated fluorescent orange plastic road safety armband.