1980 - http://www.thecinecynic.co.uk/2017/05/every-single-uk-number-1-single-1980.html
And 1981 - http://www.thecinecynic.co.uk/2017/05/every-single-uk-number-1-single-1980_6.html
With that all said and done it's time to get down to the nitty gritty of it all and review 1982.
- The Land of Make Believe – Bucks Fizz – 2 weeks, January 10th to January 23rd
For the first number one of the year we get a song that’s a step up from Making Your Mind Up – though that’s not really too difficult a task, it’s surprising how this song is quite decent. It’s far darker and more mysterious than Bucks Fizz’s previous songs as the vocals combine to create a slightly spooky atmosphere to the song. Musically the keyboards make the atmosphere simultaneously upbeat and dark and though the key change is somewhat inadvisable, as is the creepy child spoken word vocals right at the end, The Land of Make Believe is still a surprisingly good track from a group I previously was dismissive of.
- Oh Julie – Shakin’ Stevens – 1 week, January 24th to January 30th
Sorry Shaky, but adding an accordion to your number isn’t going to make me forget that you’re trying way too hard to be a 50s rock idol – in fact it gives me flashbacks to Shaddap You Face. Which is BAD. That accordion is really the only flash of difference in this song; without it Oh Julie would merely be a very generic 50s style rock ‘n’ roll song that can’t soar due to Shaky’s weak vocals. Why this man had three songs hit the top I can’t fathom at all…
- Computer Love/The Model – Kraftwerk – 1 week, January 31st to February 6th
Kraftwerk is a band that on first thoughts you may not see having a UK number 1 single but given the keyboards dominating the era their hitting of the top spot makes more sense. Both of these songs have an infectiously catchy melodies whilst the keyboards are able to create a sense of menace. However, the vocals bring things down in Computer Love, being so very monotonous throughout the verses and only perking up a little in the chorus. They’re a little better in The Model but still aren’t worth writing home about. Strip away the vocals and you’d have two very effective and haunting instrumentals – even with them there I’d recommend giving this a listen because of how great the music is.
- Town Called Malice/Precious – The Jam – 3 weeks, February 7th to February 27th
The Jam were on the verge of breaking up as 1982 rolled around but they still were able to release plenty of great songs in this final year before they disbanded. Town Called Malice may be their greatest number, a song that catches you with its infectious bass line and keyboard riff whilst Paul Weller delivers a vocal performance that puts you in a great spirit, smooth but with a punk flavoured edge. Like Going Underground it’s bundled on a double A side with a song that’s far less known but no less excellent. Precious has a very disco feel to it with the pulsating drum beat, funk driven guitar and even some trumpets. Weller delivers a vocal on this song that again energises you and leads to a song that may not be their most popular but is an absolutely brilliant one. As a pair, this might be the greatest single release The Jam ever released.
- The Lion Sleeps Tonight – Tight Fit – 3 weeks, February 28th to March 20th
Who doesn’t know The Lion Sleeps Tonight? Many people may know it nowadays from its use in The Lion King but 12 years before that it managed to reach the top of the charts thanks to a band that was only designed for the money – to cash in on the American success of the appalling Stars on 45 record producer Tim Friese-Greene sang a version of this song and had male model Steve Grant and two female backup singers become the faces of the band. So this only really existed to cash in on something that wasn’t good.
As for the song itself? If you say that you can’t get a bit of enjoyment from this song, you are clearly lying. Same applies if you claim that you’ve never sung along to the verse or indeed the repeated refrain of “Wimoweh”. However, this is far from a good rendition. The vocals are corny as all hell, with the lead vocals being utterly a ridiculously over-the-top falsetto whilst the female background vocals are also greatly overdramatic. The solo by what sounds like a recorder is also quite shrill and it leads to an experience that’s so very cheesy – accentuated by the very daft music video - and rather annoying. If you want a version of The Lion Sleeps Tonight, I’d recommend Lebo M’s version that came from The Lion King’s sequel album Return to the Pride Lands over this.
- Seven Tears – Goombay Dance Band – 3 weeks, March 21st to April 10th
This is another song that’s rather bizarre in how it’s presented. There’s a clear disco style to it but the instrumentation seems like it’s trying to take the song into a more calypso influenced direction, almost trying to ape Boney M. That’s easily the most notable facet of the song which is yet another generic disco song that you had thought, and subsequently hoped, had died out by this time. The song tries to capture your attention more by changing keys a few times but it doesn’t help as this song is a downright snoozer.
- My Camera Never Lies – Bucks Fizz – 1 week, April 11th to April 17th
Before this crazy retrospective I wrote them off Bucks Fizz as bad due to how dull Making Your Mind Up was to me. But this surprised me with its keyboard hook being wonderfully catchy and the changes in tempo in the rhythm that create a good atmosphere. Things do start to go wrong a bit at the end of the song with an instrumental breakdown that seems rushed and a weak key change. Additionally the vocals aren’t anything too special, just serving the job OK. Overall this won’t be one played time and time again but it’s good enough.
- Ebony and Ivory – Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder – 3 weeks, April 18th to May 8th
I understand the message of the song was well-intended, calling on people to come together regardless of racial lines. That’s a message I can get on board with. But those good intentions can’t stop this song from being absolutely awful. The tune is a slow mournful dirge that tries to be uplifting but ends up being trite with the keyboards being very intrusive and annoying. The lyrics meanwhile are very saccharine with the comparison of different races to keys on the piano and seem like a very childish set of lyrics. The duet itself is also horribly forced as Stevie really doesn’t need to be on the song – only obvious reasons of symbolism keeps him on. This just goes to show that even the best of intentions can’t prevent a song from being terrible and plays out like a primary school song rather than a number composed by a former Beatle.
- A Little Peace – Nicole – 2 weeks, May 9th to May 22nd
So we’ve seen the exploits of Britain and Ireland in their victories in the Eurovision song contest, let’s now cross the British Channel and head to Germany, which produced this winning number in 1982. The competition must not have been too stiff because this is not an interesting number. It slogs along for its three minute runtime with only a predictable key change attempting to liven the proceedings. Not only that but the melody sounds suspiciously similar to The Winner Takes It All, especially in its opening verses; clearly the writers wanted to ape ABBA’s success. But Nicole just isn’t ABBA and so this song is ultimately forgettable.
- House of Fun – Madness – 2 weeks, May 23rd to June 5th
There’s no disputing the complete… madness of this band. This song gets you grooving with a funky saxophone riff and the trumpet and piano that backs it up – this is accentuated most in the chorus that’s very odd in its instrumentation, sounding like something from a circus funhouse (natch) and getting you in the mood. The vocals from Suggs are very distinctive in a manner that’s perhaps not the most technically well done but is very enjoyable to listen to. Most interesting are the lyrics which may seem fun and innocent but are actually about a man who just turned 16 trying to buy condoms using silly euphemisms to the confusion of the chemist. Imagine this one being played at a kids party… This is an absolute ball of a track that shows the enjoyable nature of Madness.
- Goody Two Shoes – Adam Ant – 2 weeks, June 6th to June 19th
Of all the songs that Adam Ant has done this is the best one. Beginning with a pounding drum beat and trumpets that put you into a funky mood, this song becomes a great song to get you upbeat. Ant’s vocals are very good here, stepping away from the punkier style of his days with Adam and the Ants and becoming far smoother, which works very well for the new wave inspired nature of this song. A number that’s quite reminiscent of Lust for Life by Iggy Pop, Goody Two Shoes is an infectious song that’ll make you not want to drink or smoke.
- I’ve Never Been to Me – Charlene – 1 week, June 20th to June 26th
This is another number 1 that went to the top of the charts a while after it was released – a radio station in Florida started to play it a lot which led to Motown re-issuing the track where it became a big hit, getting to number 3 on the US charts and hitting the top spot over here. Musically this is a pretty standard AOR piano ballad, aiming for an older audience with its slower tune and somewhat melancholy tone, with lyrics about a woman who’s been all over the world having not had a truly fulfilling experience. Charlene’s performance is somewhat schlocky, with her vocals being light and breathy, and the spoken interlude is pretty sappy. Ultimately it’s not a terrible AOR song but it’s not exactly interesting.
- Happy Talk – Captain Sensible – 2 weeks, June 27th to July 10th
It’s hard to believe that the lead singer of punk group The Damned would be doing a cover of a show tune from South Pacific in a tropical sounding synthpop manner but indeed the red bereted singer did just that. Those origins are much better than the song itself which quickly wears out its welcome with the annoyingly jangly synth line. Captain Sensible himself just sounds out of the whole experience, like he believes the material is beneath him, with the song becoming very monotonous as a result – even his backing singers aren’t very interested with the whole affair. This is a song that aims to be upbeat but ultimately falls very flat because of the bad vocals and the annoying music.
- Fame – Irene Cara – 3 weeks, July 11th to July 31st
As the TV show spin-off of the 1980 film began the Oscar winning theme song rose to the top spot in the UK. Irene Cara’s vocals here are very good and she works hard to sell the song’s concept of aiming for superstardom, with the chorus being infectious to chant along to. It’s a shame then that the music pulls it down a bit, with the keyboard riffs sounding a little flat and bringing down the grand quality of the song somewhat – a guitar solo is pretty solid though. In spite of this flaw the song is still a very enjoyable one predominantly thanks to Cara and you’ll have the chorus stuck in your head all day.
- Come on Eileen – Dexy’s Midnight Runners and the Emerald Express – 4 weeks, August 1st to August 28th, biggest selling song of the year
There’s no mincing words on this case – this song is a masterpiece. From the opening violins you’re hooked into the song, whilst the rest of the instruments, from the banjo to the accordion, make sure you’re going to have a good time with this song. Kevin Rowland proves himself to be a really excellent vocalist that has been rather overlooked by the passage of time, with his work on the chorus and the distinctive “Too-rye-ay” that precedes the chorus standing out in particular. Said chorus is also a complete belter that the hardest of hearts could not resist to sing along to which only contributes to the absolutely enjoyable nature of the song. The part near the end where the song slows down only to speed up is also a lot of fun to listen to. In short, this is one of the greatest number ones of the decade.
- Eye of the Tiger – Survivor – 4 weeks, August 29th to September 25th
This song is one that’s absolutely impossible to hate – it’s cheesy, over-the-top and can never be disassociated from an epic training montage from a sports film and that’s why it’s so amazing. Everybody knows the guitar riff paired with the crashing symbols and nobody can shake it off from the boxing associations following dozens upon dozens of Rocky parodies. Dave Bickler’s vocals are gloriously over the top and contributes to a chorus that’s infinitely singable. Though the conclusion is a little bit underwhelming, taking a little too long to fade out, this song is still brilliantly upbeat and exciting and will make you want to get in the ring and duke it out for twelve rounds.
- Pass the Dutchie – Musical Youth – 3 weeks, September 26th to October 16th
You might notice that there was an alarming amount of reggae songs that hit the top of the charts during the 1980s. Even if you don’t know the name of the band you’ve probably heard of this song, a slow paced reggae number that’s very obviously an ode to taking drugs. The music itself is standard reggae sounding fare so we have to really discuss the vocals. The main deeper voiced singer is fine enough but the higher pitched vocals really starts to grate at the nervous at how shrill they are, sounding like the vocals were sped up in post-production. This is an ear worm of massive proportions but far from a great song.
- Do You Really Want to Hurt Me – Culture Club – 3 weeks, October 17th to November 6th
Boy George is another one of those figures that perfectly sums up the stereotype of 80s pop music with his soulful vocals and famously androgynous look. He’s a good singer, which is what’s able to carry many of his songs with Culture Club. Do You Really Want to Hurt Me is rather slow paced and has some influences taken from reggae (that one again) in its music that works with the context of the song’s desperately sad lyrics. George is definitely the individual that is able to boost this song from good to great, with his singing being smooth, quite sad and wonderfully tuneful. Though the song can get a little repetitive it’s still an enjoyable albeit slightly sad number.
- I Don’t Wanna Dance – Eddy Grant – 3 weeks, November 7th to November 27th
More reggae? It seems bizarre that there was so many number 1s that fit this genre given how it scarcely comes up in conversation about 80s music. Eddy Grant worked hard to make the genre more danceable, which we could see in the brilliant Electric Avenue. I Don’t Wanna Dance tries to carry on in that vein but comes up short with a drum beat and keyboard rhythm that’s rather lethargic and rather uninspired vocals from Grant. Things lighten up with a good guitar solo but this song is a bit too dull to stand alongside Electric Avenue.
- Beat Surrender – The Jam – 2 weeks, November 28th to December 11th
The final single release by The Jam, this is a song that manages to excite with its fast paced piano and drum riff. However, Beat Surrender has a melancholy undertone, with the song clearly knowing that the band were coming to an end. We can see this most notable on the middle 8 following the second chorus as the music becomes sadder and Weller’s vocals become more contemplative. The addition of female backing vocals near the end of the song only serve to make this song more uplifting and gives Beat Surrender a very bittersweet feeling to it; whilst The Jam may have split up too soon they at least went out on a high note.
- Save Your Love – Renée and Renato - 4 weeks, December 12th to January 8th 1983
This is another Christmas number 1 that absolutely baffles me in how successful it was. I suppose opera is a novelty on the charts but this song still doesn’t have the true silly and attempting to be funny factor of other novelty songs from the Christmas period and it seems as though the team behind this song were attempting to take this song all too seriously. It’s ridiculous and over the top and not in a good way – in an annoying way. Neither of the vocalists are good at all. Renato sounds oddly enough like an English man putting on a terrible Italian accent (at some points it even sounds Mexican!) – this is inexcusable given that he actually was Italian! Renée meanwhile is flat and dull, sounding like she gives no damns about the songs content. But who could, given the lyrics are nothing but cheap lovey-dovey fluff that sound like they came from a Hallmark greetings card? The sappy instrumental and the obviously signal-posted key changes only make the nauseating nature of Save Your Love that much worse, and it utterly blows my mind that this sickly, trying way too hard to be serious number had as much success as it did.
This was really not a memorable year at all. So many of these songs that hit the top spot ended up being buried by the passage of time – can somebody who lived in the 1980s really remember songs such as Seven Tears, I Don’t Wanna Dance and I’ve Never Been to Me? Whilst there were only a few truly terrible number 1s (Ebony and Ivory, Save Your Love) there were also only a few really great ones that have really stood the test of time (Town Called Malice, Come on Eileen). Already at 1982 I’m already starting to detest the effects of nostalgia, especially when it’s being peddled by people who didn’t live in the era that they claim was perfect (you can most notably see this phenomenon in YouTube comments – bonus points if they’re claim they’re 11 and are the only people in their school who listens to this music). You know what I mean – these kids who think that absolutely every piece of music from the 1980s was golden. No, it wasn’t and this year proved it – the bad songs and the boring songs were just buried by time. Were you to live in the 80s itself you would find yourself hating or flat out forgetting many of the number one hits of the era.
Wow, only 3 years in and I’m already getting disillusioned with a decade that I used to think was amazing. Let’s hope next year restores some faith for me…
Wow, only 3 years in and I’m already getting disillusioned with a decade that I used to think was amazing. Let’s hope next year restores some faith for me…
- BEST SONG - Come on Eileen
- WORST SONG - Save Your Love
Liked this post? Have any songs that you really disagree with my opinion upon? Do comment below and let me know. If you really liked this, then why not throw me a dollar or two on Patreon?
Hope you enjoyed this and I'm looking ahead to brighter skies on the horizon with 1983... See you then.