Feb 09

Popular ’81

FT + Popular/293 comments • 11,304 views

I give every song on Popular a mark out of 10 – these polls are your chance to nominate which YOU would have given 6 or more to. Pick as many as you feel qualify! My highest mark this year went to “Ghost Town”, my lowest to “Woman”.

Which of these Number Ones of 1981 would YOU have given 6 or more to?

View Results

Poll closes: No Expiry

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And by all means leave comments on the year in general!


1 2 3 10 All
  1. 1
    Mark G on 10 Feb 2009 #

    15! Twas a good year. Bear in mind “6” is a mark which I give things I can stand, and I never did enjoy Roxy’s “Jealous Guy”.

    Still, I’m amazed there are still tracks that don’t get unanimous praise, even here!

  2. 2
    vinylscot on 10 Feb 2009 #

    A terrible year for number ones, although it was a good year for pop music, and the charts overall. Even some of those which I liked at the time sound awful to me now!

  3. 3
    Erithian on 10 Feb 2009 #

    15 for me too, a landmark year personally and good memories associated with a lot of the music.

    Here’s the year-end top 30 bestsellers as broadcast by Radio 1 just before the New Year. Again the oddity that they must have compiled the list with a cut-off point before “Don’t You Want Me” had sold that many, because of the three 1981 hits that made the all-time top 100 DYWM is the highest placed at 25. “Tainted Love” was the 57th best seller of all time and “Stand and Deliver” 83rd.

    1 Tainted Love
    2 Stand and Deliver
    3 Prince Charming
    4 This Ole House
    5 Vienna – Ultravox (number 2)
    6 One Day In Your Life
    7 Making Your Mind Up
    8 Shaddap You Face
    9 Birdie Song – Tweets (2)
    10 You Drive Me Crazy – Shakin’ Stevens (2)
    11 Ghost Town
    12 Being With You
    13 It’s My Party
    14 Woman
    15 Happy Birthday – Altered Images (2)
    16 Hands Up – Ottawan (3)
    17 Stars on 45 – Starsound (2)
    18 Green Door
    19 Imagine
    20 Jealous Guy
    21 Kids in America – Kim Wilde (2)
    22 Japanese Boy
    23 Chi Mai – Ennio Morricone (2)
    24 Begin the Beguine
    25 Hooked on Classics – Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (2)
    26 Souvenir – OMD (3)
    27 Can Can – Bad Manners (3)
    28 Antmusic – Adam and the Ants (2)
    29 Do The Hucklebuck – Coast to Coast (5)
    30 Hold On Tight – ELO (4)

  4. 4
    Billy Smart on 10 Feb 2009 #

    An unusually low eight out of 19 for me, although I think that New Pop is probably my favourite pop thing ever, alongside disco. The right things tended to be big hits, but not the very biggest hits.

  5. 5
    lonepilgrim on 10 Feb 2009 #

    I voted for nine songs although there were a couple I could have given a 6 to if I were feeling a bit more generous. As I recall there was a feeling that things had changed by this year – away from rock to pop and from ‘authenticity’ to artifice.
    Ian Penman and Paul Morley were in their heyday at the NME and IIRC Grace Jones’ Nightclubbing was the NME album of the year.

  6. 6
    SteveM on 10 Feb 2009 #

    yeh only 8 too – not a good enough representation of ’81’s general awesomeness

  7. 7
    Billy Smart on 10 Feb 2009 #

    The NME Critics’ poll for 1981 singles is rather terrific;

    1. Ghost Town – The Specials
    2. Adventures on the Wheels of Steel – Grandmaster Flash
    3. Me no Pop I – Coati Mundi
    4. Fascist Groove Thing – Heaven 17
    5. Love Action – Human League
    6. Mama Used to Say – Junior Giscombe
    7. Tears are Not Enough – ABC
    8. Pull up to the Bumper – Grace Jones
    9. O Superman – Laurie Anderson
    10. Walking on Thin Ice – Yoko Ono
    11. Burn Rubber on Me – The Gap Band
    12. Tainted Love – Soft cell
    13. Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag – Pigbag
    14. Rapp Payback – James Brown
    15. Wordy Rappinghood – Tom Tom Club
    16. Let’s Groove – Earth Wind & Fire
    17. The Razor’s Edge – Defunkt
    18. Being With You – Smokey Robinson
    19. Four Movements – Thomas Leer
    20. Just Can’t Get Enough – Depeche Mode
    21. Going Back to My Roots – Odyssey
    22. Intuition – Linx
    23. Rapture – Blondie
    24. Plan B – Dexys Midnight Runners
    25. Happy Birthday – Stevie Wonder
    26. Chariots of Fire – Vangelis
    27. Der Mussolini – DAF
    28. Good Year for the Roses – Elvis Costello
    29. Shoot the Pump – J. Walter Negro & the Loose Joints
    30. Doors of your Heart – The Beat
    31. Kitchen Person – The Associates
    32. Can you Feel It? – The Jacksons
    33. Favourite Shirts – Haircut 100
    34. Pocket Calculator – Kraftwerk
    35. Another One Bites the Dust – General Saint & Clint Eastwood
    36. Launderette – Vivien Goldman
    37. Genius of Love – Tom Tom Club
    38. Chant No.1 (We Don’t Need This Pressure On) – Spandau Ballet
    39. Out Come the Freaks – Was(Not Was)
    40. W.O.R.K. – Bow Wow Wow
    41. Flowers of Romance – PiL
    42. Ceremony – New Order
    43. Beggarman- Pablo Gad
    44. The Longest Day – Sound of the Valleys
    45. The ‘Sweetest Girl’ – Scritti Politti
    46. Pretty in Pink – Psychedelic Furs
    47. The Art of Parties – Japan
    48. Computer Love – Kraftwerk
    49. Too Drunk to Fuck – The Dead Kennedys
    50. Show Me – Dexys Midnight Runners

  8. 8
    wichita lineman on 10 Feb 2009 #

    Wow. I’m the first person to vote for Julio, in spite of all the retrospective love we’ve shown him.

    12 for me, which is a record, I think, but then I reckon it was my generation’s ’66. Looking forward to someone else digging out the NME/MM/RM/Sounds polls…

    A few things that didn’t even bother the Top 20 in this year of years:
    Josef K – Chance Meeting
    Orange Juice – Poor Old Soul/LOVE Love
    Aztec Camera – Just Like Gold
    New Order – Ceremony/Procession/Everything’s Gone Green
    Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Plan B/ Liars A to E
    Depeche Mode – Dreaming Of Me
    Eyeless In Gaza – Invisibility
    Echo & The Bunnymen – A Promise
    Siouxsie & the Banshees – Spellbound
    Modern Eon – Childs Play/Mechanic
    Split Enz – History Never Repeats
    The Names – Night Shift
    Scars – All About You
    Fire Engines – Candy Skin
    Dolly Mixture – Been Teen
    Gang Of Four – To Hell With Poverty
    Pretenders – Day After Day

    and the States gave us…
    The Go Go’s – Our Lips Are Sealed/We Got The Beat
    REO Speedwagon – Keep On Lovin’ You
    Foreigner – Waiting For A Girl Like You
    Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes
    The Waitresses – I Know What Boys Like
    Rick James – Superfreak
    Rod Stewart – Young Turks

    It was a good time to be 16.

  9. 9
    Billy Smart on 10 Feb 2009 #

    The Sounds Critics poll for 1981 is less rockist than you might expect;

    1. Ghost Town – The Specials
    2. Tainted Love – Soft Cell
    3. Is Vic There? – Department S
    4. In God We Trust Inc – Dead Kennedys
    5. Tears Are Not Enough – ABC
    6. Favourite Shirts – Haircut 100
    7. Absolute Begginners – The Jam
    8. Mad Eyed Screamer – The Creatures
    9. I’m In Love With A German Film Star – The Passions
    10. Dreaming Of Me – Depeche Mode
    11. Planet Earth – Duran Duran
    12. The Art Of Parties – Japan
    13. Glow – Spandau Ballet
    14. (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang – Heaven 17
    15. Stand And Deliver – Adam And The Ants
    16. The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum – Funboy Three
    17. Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag – Pigbag
    18. Passionate Friend – Teardrop Explodes
    19. Intuition – Linx
    20. Chihuahua – Bow Wow Wow

    Melody maker took a lowly view of singles, but did annoint Ghost Town as single of the year

  10. 10
    Billy Smart on 10 Feb 2009 #

    And here are the same charts of 1981 seen upside down – ie the singles that got to number 40, but no higher;

    17 Jan I’m In Love Again – Sad Cafe – 1 week
    24 Jan I Shot The Sheriff – Light Of The World – 1
    28 Mar I Saw Her Standing There – Elton John & John Lennon – 2
    20 Jun Norman Bates – Landscape – 1
    5 Sep Europe – John Foxx – 1
    21 Nov Me & Mr. Sanchez – Blue Rondo A La Turk – 1
    26 Dec Christmas On 45 – Holly & The Ivys – 3

  11. 11
    wichita lineman on 10 Feb 2009 #

    Thanks Billy, must have been drawing up lists at the same time. Interesting how Plan B figures so high in the NME poll when it got a pasting all round at the time of release (February?).

    The Sweetest Girl! Adventures On The Wheels of Steel!! And, errm, Norman Bates. Anyone else reckon the Landscape album that contained Einstein A Go Go to be the most disappointing album EVER with a top pop hit on it? Bloody jazzers.

  12. 12
    johnny on 10 Feb 2009 #

    great lists! wow i love this site, you people are the best! so many songs to seek out now…

  13. 13
    AndyPandy on 10 Feb 2009 #

    Completely agree with Billy when he says that the best pop singles are often big hits but rarely number ones. New Pop (and electronic music from 87-92) are my best genres but I also found this year very disappointing Number One-wise even ‘Tainted Love’ I’m completely bored of now although I voted for it on the basis of what I thought of it back then.
    Also for me 1982 easily surpassed 1981 as the peak year for New Pop.
    And I’m sure we’d have soon be disussing what could well have been my best ever Number One in 1982 if Duran Duran had only gone ahead and released ‘The Chauffeur’ as a single.

  14. 14
    mike on 10 Feb 2009 #

    A paltry 7 votes from me this time round. A great year for chart pop and all points beyond; but no more than an average year for #1s.

  15. 15
    wichita lineman on 10 Feb 2009 #

    Re 13: I suppose I’d take 81 over 82 because of the pop awakening of the post-punk generation and the electropop crossover. Postcard peaked, which in turn led to Haircut 100’s unique Monkees-funk; Scritti Politti reinvented themselves (gently); Depeche Mode hogged the Independent Chart, and still included Vince Clarke; New Order released a debut single with no announcement, no reviews, nothing – it just, as if by magic, appeared in the shops. A huge amount of development from glum old 1980: the NME/underground had finally got over the fact Ian Curtis was dead.

    Meanwhile 1982 was a great year, no question, but more about consolidation. It seems to me most of its biggest names and greatest moments had first made a footprint, and maybe their greatest records, in ’81. Apart from Toto Cuelo. But I’d love to stand corrected.

  16. 16
    Conrad on 10 Feb 2009 #

    Well, I voted 14 which is pretty decent going, although the Number 1s of 1981 didn’t reflect what a fabulous year it was (and quite a few borderline 6s in that).

    That NME list is fantastic actually. Delighted to see “Burn Rubber On Me” figure so high, what a groove that has.

  17. 17
    Conrad on 10 Feb 2009 #

    So…what about the kids?

    The Smash Hits Reader’s Poll for 1981

    Top 10 Singles

    1. Tainted Love – Soft Cell
    2. Vienna – Ultravox
    3. Stand And Deliver – Adam & The Ants
    4. Souvenir – OMD
    5. Love Action – Human League
    6. Every Little Thing She Does- Police
    7. Ghost Town – Specials
    8. Prince Charming – Adam & The Ants
    9. Girls On Film – Duran Duran
    10. She’s Got Claws – Gary Numan

  18. 18
    Conrad on 10 Feb 2009 #

    The Smash Hits Reader’s Poll for 1981

    Best Group

    1. Adam & The Ants
    2. Human League
    3. Duran Duran
    4. Police
    5. Madness
    6. Ultravox
    7. OMD
    8. The Jam
    9. Japan
    10. Teardrop Explodes

  19. 19
    Conrad on 10 Feb 2009 #

    and, in the most important category (!)

    The Smash Hits Reader’s Poll for 1981

    Most fanciable human being

    1. Adam
    2. Simon Le Bon
    3. David Sylvian
    4. Sting
    5. John Taylor
    6. Midge Ure
    7. Gary Numan
    8. Phil Oakey
    9. Julian Cope
    10. Suggs

    1. Toyah
    2. Kim Wilde
    3. Clare Grogan
    4. Sheena Easton
    5. Debbie Harry
    6. Kate Bush
    7. Bo Derek
    8. Pamela Stephenson
    9. Joanne Catherall
    10. Olivia Newton-John

    …slight deviation away from music in the female list there

  20. 20
    Ben on 11 Feb 2009 #

    Just 6 out of 19 for me, but I would definitely have given Ultravox a very high mark for ‘Vienna’ had it made it to #1. Incidentally, check out Infernal’s awesomely boshtastic cover (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vAbjQH9SW0) from the ‘From Paris To Berlin’ album.

  21. 21
    Billy Smart on 11 Feb 2009 #

    Respect to the Smash Hits readership for the high placing of ‘Souvenir’ – such a yearning and hauted thing for such bright young listeners.

    Toyah as most fanciable female strikes me as baffling though, especially against such competition as Kim Wilde and Kate Bush.

  22. 22
    Billy Smart on 11 Feb 2009 #

    Here are the ‘phantom’ number ones of 1981, that topped the other (NME) chart, but not the Guinness one; In the Ait Tonight, Vienna, Chi Mai, Stars On 45 Part 1, Chant #1, Happy Birthday (Stevie Wonder), Happy Birthday (Altered Images).

  23. 23
    Tom on 11 Feb 2009 #

    Hold on “6. Midge Ure”!!!! Those were different times.

  24. 24
    Tom on 11 Feb 2009 #

    Oh, and I’m 8 for 19 (though in a more generous mood Smokey, Michael and Julio might have jumped from 5 to 6) – count me among the “brilliant year, slightly disappointing #1s” crew: didn’t help that the first few months were a write-off.

  25. 25
    Miss Peabody on 11 Feb 2009 #

    Billy Smart. You think Toyah’s bad. In ‘Sounds’ at the time it would almost certainly have been Beki Bondage at Number 1 :(

    Lest we forget amongst such an embarrassment of synth and pop riches, ’81 was also the pinnacle of Oi! and the ghastly Anarchopunks. Not Killing Joke though, they were always great.

  26. 26
    SteveM on 11 Feb 2009 #

    I think my Mum fancied Midge Ure a bit. Pretty sure she didn’t vote in the Smash Hits poll tho.

  27. 27
    Erithian on 11 Feb 2009 #

    Anyone else remember seeing Toyah in the nuddy in a production of “The Ebony Tower” circa 1983? She starred with Greta Scacchi (also in the nuddy, which was rather nice) and Laurence Olivier (who got to keep his kit on).

  28. 28
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 11 Feb 2009 #

    i don’t remember anything about tv’s the ebony tower except that mrs michael winner as was proved to be an EVEN WORSE actress than mrs robert fripp as would be

    the only thing sir larry’s any good in is WORLD AT WAR

  29. 29
    Billy Smart on 11 Feb 2009 #

    Aha! I got the vast ‘Lawrence Olivier at ITV’ Network DVD box set a couple of years ago for professional purposes (I’m writing a PhD thesis about television adaptation of stage plays). You present me with a reason to watch ‘The Ebony Tower’ tonight.

    I shall report back.

  30. 30
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 11 Feb 2009 #

    you will sleep well i promise

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