From time to time – usually when I’m at work – I like to listen to the equivalent music chart from a random year whilst scratching ill-informed comments in my notebook. This week, the UK Top Ten from 2 July, 1983. There were a handful of rather fine records floating around outside this decalogue. The seedy synth-pop of ‘Come Live With Me’ by Heaven 17. ‘War, Baby’ by Tom Robinson. And the excellent ‘Nobody’s Diary’ by the always underrated Yazoo. But it’s the Top Ten that concerns us here (if only because life gets in the way of doing nothing but scribble). Fingers crossed there’ll be at least one interesting record to discuss…
Edit: YouTube links added to the below, if for some strange reason you’re desperate to listen to such “wonderment”…
I have zero recollection of this. It’s almost as if the quartet’s monolithic, all-encompassing fame rested solely upon that single moment of alchemy; the bit when knee-length skirts became much shorter in an instant, and the world was no longer the same place.
‘When We Were Young’ sounds nothing like ‘Making Your Mind Up’. It’s in a minor key, carries an intro forged from a disenfranchised synth riff, and features a mournful, Jay Aston vocal reminiscent of late-period Abba (when they no longer wanted to be Abba). It’s also an utterly unremarkable record; the type of song you’d see mimed to on Pebble Mill At One, sandwiched between an interview with Thora Hird and the cookery spot. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this week’s number 10 was bought exclusively by children, and dirty old men who watched the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest and ever since yearned to do a sex on Cheryl Baker.
9 – Wham! / Bad Boys
Slap bass – check. Trinket rhythm guitar – check. Pepsi and Shirlie hiding in the background like an afterthought – of course (we don’t even need to query the presence of an awkward George Michael cod-rap routine; there are some things in life it’s safe to assume). To be fair, Michael did pen this tale of teenage rebellion whilst still a teenager himself – a sort of ‘Summertime Blues’ for the ra-ra skirt generation – which is more than can be said for the majority of us. It’s also about as dangerous as the stodgy semolina I was probably served at school the day after watching ‘Bad Boys’ performed on Top Of The Pops – but that’s adolescent angst for you.
Missed opportunities in the history of popular music: the day that ’80’s soft funk outfit Shalamar called off merger talks with ’80’s soft funk goons Shakatak. Yup; if the past had given us Shala-shaka-mara-tak, the world would be a better place today.
I remember nine year old me quite liking ‘Dead Giveaway’; can vaguely recall taping it off the radio. Probably something to do with the synth cadences straddling the chorus. Of how the bass track – pleasingly high in the mix – powers away as if belonging to a stronger song. The lyrics are nowhere near as interesting – something about “I’ve seen you, trying to act all uninterested, but I know you really want to get into my pants” in a manner that suggests that no, they genuinely are uninterested – but it’s 1983, and this is pop music; expectations should never be met.
7 – Freez / I.O.U
The most interesting track in this week’s Top Ten, principally because it was produced and co-written by Arthur ‘Afrika Bambaataa’ Baker. Or Arthur ‘New Order’ Baker, if you prefer. Also, it was one of the first hit singles to feature digital sampling – such combined provenance delivers something sharp, something essentially modern (particularly on the various mixes released both then and subsequently). In fact, I’d go as far as to herald this a great pop single if it wasn’t for John Rocca’s weak, double-tracked falsetto, which detracts almost as much as his mumbled spoken-word accident three-quarters of the way through. From great pop single to curio in the opening of a gob, then. 12″ version = below the words.
Every girl I’ve ever been out with has been smitten by Bowie’s Let’s Dance LP. Me – not at all. I hate it. Makes me pine like mad to be listening to Scary Monsters. In fact, come to think of it, I’m pretty sure that discord over Let’s Dance has been the direct cause of every one of these ladies leaving me – fucksocks.
Accordingly, I’m not going to have anything positive to say about ‘China Girl’, both the album’s second track and its second single. Even though it was co-written by Iggy, and first appeared on old man Osterberg’s The Idiot long player; an artist covering one of his own songs would usually appeal to my sense of mischief, but not when it’s mid-80’s Bowie doing the meta.
I tried to listen to this. On at least sixteen separate occasions. Only, each time, something unexpected would happen. Something bad. My ears inexplicably became filled with fast-drying mortar. My laptop jumped up and smashed itself into the brickwork. A sudden compulsion to attend a stranger’s funeral. Forty winks. So I’ve still never listened to ‘I Guess That’s Why They Call it Shite The Blues’. Feel free to drop your review in the comments.
I’ve never seen Flashdance. I have a hunch that it’s not for me – I only watch films with subtitles, or Carry On movies – but even if I was tempted, the single the film spawned would have put me off. The best thing about ‘What a Feeling’ is the middle eight, which sounds like it’s been played on a Bontempi organ. By Frank Sidebottom. That, and that bit where Ms Cara sings Take your passion and make it happen – only, it sounds like Take your pants off and make it happen, which is a far superior lyric.
Because songs are brief shards of narrative, more often than not from a first person perspective, only an idiot would take them literally. That said, ‘Every Breath…’ does sound like a stalker’s charter. Sting’s vocal delivery (as always) is so earnest, it’s as if he’s straining to underline the (self) importance of his lyrics. The (self) righteousness of his lyrics; silly old constipated Sting.
Even now this song till generates approximately £40,000 per minute in royalties. This is the only fact you need to know about it.
Soul Mining by The The was released in 1983 – I could, and should, have been writing about that, instead. Only, lead single ‘This Is The Day’ arrived in September, and rose as high as #71 in the hit parade – which only goes to prove that I’m two months and seventy chart placings out, and the British public loves its aural wallpaper.
‘Baby Jane’ is unfortunately not a homage to the wonderful Bette Davis / Joan Crawford movie What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? Instead, Rod babbles on about a lost love like a horny stevedore wearing fishing waders. Don’t forget I know secrets about you he sings at one point, as if he’s been studying the lyrics of ‘Every Breath You Take’ for inspiration. Rod will have also been wearing impossibly tight trousers in the video for this. So tight that you can see the outline of his penis; Rod’s penis would have released a better single.
Freez / I.O.U. (12” Mix)