1983 Soundtrack

‘Long Hot Summer’ by The Style Council (see vid box to the right)
Many of my Jam fan mates were on the verge of mounting a bloody revolution when Paul Weller renounced new wave guitar pop and formed The Style Council.
Good thing: the bassline on this is sumptuous.
Bad thing: They didn’t wear socks.

‘Keep Feeling Fascination’ by The Human League
The band were already slightly on the wane after their brilliance in 81/82 but were still plugging away from some half decent tunes. This song only really works because of the bendy synthesiser riff that weaves through it from the start and the great northern-accented vocals of Susanne Sulley. Oh, and Phil Oakey’s Sheffield variety club Barry White style “Hey heey heyy heeyyyy!”

‘I Can’t Believe It’s Over’ by Funk Masters
The radio version of this started with a lovely repeated reverb horn riff followed by a great soul tune that was played through the summer of ’83. I presumed this was by some veteran slick American soul act but I never heard of Funk Masters again.

‘I Love You’ by Yello
1. Yello appeared to be a comedy music hall version of Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft.
2. This song is performed with ironic inverted commas all over it.
3. The main performers in yellow both had moustaches.
4. The album which this came from (You Gotta Say Yes to Another Excess) had a great illustration of a gorilla on the front.

‘Blue Monday’ by New Order
‘Blue Monday’ wasn’t so much a song as a drug. I had no desire to buy the 12 inch version but still turned up at the local record shop demanding a copy and handing over the requisite £1.99. And I even played it when I got home. Many times. Yet I didn’t particularly like it. It was as if the track was somehow commenting on how we lived our lives as we headed towards the mid-1980s so you couldn’t afford to miss out on it. It was an event. At discos it would come on and inwardly you’d think “crap it’s bloody Blue Monday again” and yet you’d rush onto the dancefloor and happily jerk and jump away to it along with everyone else. Very strange.

‘Come Back And Stay’ by Paul Young
Paul Young should have renamed his 1983 album No Parlez, calling it instead Pop Music For Girls That Will Really Annoy Boys. When I started seeing a girl at the end of the summer of ’83 there were three of us in the relationship. Me. The Girl. And this bloody song. When I went round to her house Paul Young was warbling away. If we went to the pub then she put it on the jukebox. And then… THEN… he went and did a cover of Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. Incredible.

‘Club Tropicana’ by Wham!
In 1983 you were sort-of allowed to like Wham! You see, in some ways ‘Club Tropicana’ was a punk record because Wham! were playing the system, subverting, dressing up, having a laugh. It’s two blokes from the suburbs who probably drive a clapped out Ford Escort pretending to be glamorous airline pilots. And they had a swimming pool. And look – DC Lee and Shirley are in bikinis! On the dark side, although the calamitous ‘Careless Whisper’ was still over a year away, there is about this song the faint whiff of the oncoming storm of 1980s rampant materialism.

The “Ooooohh ooooohhhh” harmonies are great, though.

‘Cruel Summer’ by Bananarama
It’s always tricky trying to decipher the meaning of seemingly innocent pop songs. But I’ve no doubt that ‘Cruel Summer’ is about a girl getting hacked off because the A Level results will be out soon and if her boyfriend gets two Bs and a C he’ll leave town to go to a plate glass university to study English and Film and he’ll probably meet some cool bohemian chick and forget about her. So she hacks into the anti-deluvian A Level results central computer system and makes his results look really bad. So he stays and becomes an unemployed alcoholic while she eventually earns big bucks as a computer programmer and leaves town, never to return.

‘Blind Vision’ by Blancmange
You just knew that Blancmange were never going to be massively popular – they had a hyperactive lead singer who styled himself on the Russian avante garde film director Sergei Eisenstein and who shouted slogans rather than sang. But the template of outlandish frontman and nerdy introverted backing musician was a good one. This song had a good simple keyboard riff that drove the song, pulling it along like a giant analogue synth being dragged through a Soviet winter by leather clad Bolsheviks. It’s let down by the trumpets and funky guitar – if they’d stripped that out and slowed it all down (and maybe got Johnny Cash to sing the vocals) this would have been a classic.

‘Rip It Up’ by Orange Juice
Compared to some of their earlier stuff, ‘Rip It Up’ was by no means a work of genius and it’s basically carried by a thoroughly charming vocal by Edwyn Collins, a guitar riff from Chic’s ‘Good Times’ and a rasping farty synth bassline (is that a Korg MS-10?). But although this wasn’t the sort of song you wanted to try and play yourself on a guitar, everyone was happy because Orange Juice had finally had the hit that they deserved.

‘Let’s Dance’ by David Bowie
Everyone was getting on fine with their synth handclap dance numbers and arty vocal wailings but Bowie wouldn’t let us be. He had to remind everyone that Japan and Edwyn and The Associates wouldn’t have existed if he hadn’t been there first. Like an annoying know-all older brother. Or Darth Vader trying to mess it up for Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back. With ‘Let’s Dance’, Bowie’s taken the guitar riff from ‘Rip It Up’ and had it played by a 10 piece band of killer robots, put it though a chorus echo unit and warbled over the top of it. This takes itself far too seriously.

And you could not, under any circumstances, dance to it.

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