1982 Soundtrack

‘Poison Arrow’ by ABC (see vid box to the right)
You know you’re going a bit crazy when you start to think that pop songs have vital hidden messages just for you. This track seemed to me to be a commentary on my on-off relationship with local beauty Maggie Jefferson. It wasn’t the first time – a couple of years earlier on ‘Armagideon Time’, the B-side to the Clash’s London Calling single, Joe Strummer had various bits of advice for my ears only, particularly his advice to give up playing in the school orchestra and move into a more central midfield position in my local youth football team.

‘Mirror Mirror’ by Dollar
In the white heat of early 82’s shiny pop explosion I bought this song as a clear vinyl 12 inch single, clearly brain addled. It’s interesting now for its lush production and echoing keyboards but at the time I think I saw my purchase of this as some kind of Machiavellian attempt at a girl-seducing recording. Just in case, you know, a girl ever came round to my house demanding to inspect my record collection. As for this video, it’s pretty nightmarish.

‘Temptation’ by New Order
That opening sequenced drum pattern will always remind me of the heart pumping thrill of being a teenager in 1982. New Order were at this time making great dance music for people who couldn’t really dance – just listening to that rhythm makes you want to flail your arms about manically. Even when a year or so later they started working with US electro dance producer Arthur Baker there was still some subtle un-rhythmic quaity to their music that made it human. And Bernard Sumner couldn’t sing so his “Oooh oooh ooooh oooh” at the start had a comforting ironic quality.

Of course, this was far too leftfield for Saturday discos.

‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigpag’ by Pigbag
Pigbag sent out a message of hope to every teenage nerd with a brass instrument – your time has come, oh geeky ones, to rise up and take your place on the dancefloor. If only this sort of thing had been part of the London School of Music grade examinations, I could have become a Professor of Pigbaggian Riff Theory.

‘A Night to Remember’ by Shalamar
Loose and laid-back funky number built around a Chic-style rhythm guitar motif. In one of my fantasies of this period Shalamar singer Jody Watley gets a job as a supply teacher at our school and falls instantly in love with me during an English lesson about Little Dorrit. But it was’t all about Jody, gorgeous though she was – the skinny bloke was personally responsible for starting the body popping craze and the other one had very impressive curly mullet.

‘Sexual Healing’ by Marvin Gaye
Another track that has the true sound of ’82. While given a sheen of drumbox mysticism by this video and the production, let’s be honest – Marvin is saying that he needs to retire to his bedroom with a ‘Gentleman’s Magazine’ and indulge in a quick bit of relief, then he can get back to what it was you were talking about. But don’t go on too long about stuff that Marvin’s not interested in, otherwise he’ll be back upstairs with his copy of Razzle before you can say “middle aged uncle in a suit turns up on the dancefloor at a wedding and embarrasses everyone with his tales of Europan ‘art’ publications that he keeps in a plastic bag under his mattress so his mum can’t find them”.

‘Annie, I’m Not Your Daddy’ by Kid Creole and The Coconuts
Some thought that the Kid Creole project was a valiant attempt by Oxfam to bolster a worldwide network of charity shops by making old men’s suits fashionable. One minute it’s the boring work clothes of a chubby town clerk, the next it’s the outfit of choice for a young urban dandy. The idea of Kid Creole was more intoxicating than the music. I always preferred ‘Que Pasa/Me No Pop I’ by Kid Creole bandmate Coati Mundi.

‘Theme from Harry’s Game’ by Clannad
I never saw Harry’s Game and at that time I’d never been to Ireland. But whenever I heard this track I had an urge to jump on the back of the nearest white horse and charge into a mist filled landscape towards the sea and shack up with a crowd of nymphomaniac jazz/punk-loving mermaids then set up some kind of undersea commune where everyone spoke Irish in echoey close harmonies. (Years later that actually happened, but that’s another story).

‘Waiting For A Girl Like You’ by Foreigner
This is in to remind everyone that 1982 wasn’t just about progressive UK art school pop jumping into the mainstream – there were still fearsome American AOR dinosaurs stomping around the musical landscape roaring out their clumsy synth and guitar power ballads. This is the sort of song that should have talked to shy teenagers who were crap with girls, except that the music was so bad you had to turn the radio off.

‘I Can’t Go For That’ by Hall and Oates
These blokes were Americans in their mid 30s but they got away with being hugely unfashionable types by an approach laden with wry humour. Although it was probably recorded in a 72 track studio, ‘I Can’t Go For That’ sounds like it was knocked out in ten minutes on a little cheap keyboard from Radioshack. They probably went to their record company with a high concept approach “Imagine it’s this suburban house where Depeche Mode live and it’s half ten so they’ve all gone to bed, so Depeche Mode’s dad and his mate starts playing with the band’s equipment. Then they pull up the sleeves of their suits and start doing funny walks.”

‘Party Fears Two’ by The Associates
Apart from maybe Orange Juice’s ‘Simply Thrilled Honey’, no other song encapsulates the breathy early 80s post-modernist thrill quite like this. ‘Party Fears Two’ seemed like a rum-flavoured European soundtrack to sophisticated urban travel and romantic adventures while wearing World War 1 army trenchcoats (when in reality I’d just play it before going down to the Red Lion for a couple of pints with my mates). The heart of the song was Billy McKenzie’s reverbed shrieking “Awake me!”, in which the listener was encouraged to let go of outdated perceptions and crack open their mind to new creative possibilities. While wearing nicely pressed shirts.

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