Jul 09

Popular ’83

FT + Popular/116 comments • 4,717 views

Every Popular entry has a mark out of 10 – here’s where you get to choose which you’d have given 6 or above to (and make any general comments on the year in the comments boxes, of course). The highest 1983 mark I gave was 9, for Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” (pre-death!). The lowest I gave was 3 apiece for UB40 and Rod Stewart.

Which Of These Number One Singles Of 1983 Would You Have Given 6 Or More To?

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  1. 101
    Chelovek na lune on 15 Apr 2017 #

    11 August 1983
    Skinner n Vance (the latter in v questionable red blue and yellow patterned jumper that is all a bit “Tony the Tiger”)

    David Grant “Watching You Watching Me”
    Very dull soulless soul (or RnB-less RnB if you prefer) to start with. Very dull. ToTP could do with fewer balloons flying around really too. Slick choreographed dancing is marginally more interesting than the song.

    Style Council “Long Hot Summer” on video
    The Council’s third single, each of the three being quite different in character and style from the others. This might be the best of them (it’s certainly not the worst). Nice vid of lounging around on and by the Cambridge back waters. it really is a much nicer city than Oxford, if a bit too puritanical. As with Bananarama’s contemporaneous hit, there’s a case for the 1989 remix being superior, but actually this is damn good. And very unlike anything the Jam did.

    Level 42 “The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up)”
    Still post-funk, and expressing concerns about potentially impending nuclear war, and despite finding some slightly later 42 tracks to be pretty superb, I find this difficult to love. I’m thinking: were these the prime precursors of Jamiroquai? If so how unfortunate.

    Spandau Ballet “Gold” on video
    Yeah, i know. I love it, still. Video a twist on the Duranie love of exotic locations thing. Deserts and sunflower fields and Middle Eastern/Islamic decor. Morocco? (Oh no: Wiki says southern Spain. al-Andalus I guess). One of their signature tunes, deservedly.

    The Creatures “Right Now”
    In the studio this time. Powerful as well as retro – a convincing update, thus. Goth appearance with very un-goth music. Yes. Fab.

    Lotus Eaters “First Picture Of You”
    Yeah there’s competition from the likes of Jimmy the Hoover et al, but can we crown them the best one hit wonders of 1983 (at least) and be done with it? Melodious delightfulness. Sweetness and assertiveness perfectly married. The flowers really are screaming their joy.

    Charts (hmm don’t remember the Bruce Foxton track at all. will have to check it out)

    Depech”ay” Mode “Everything Counts”
    Still so young and boyish, Vince Clarke has no shirt on, and discernably little body hair. Musically and lyrically, an enormous step forward for a maturing act of some capability.


    Robert Plant “Big Log” (on video)
    A song that takes itself very seriously. It might be better if it didn’t.

    KC & the Sunshine Band “Give It Up”
    Vastly better than the David Grant record, anyway.

    Danceout to Herbie Hancock “Rockit”
    A proto-Axel F bit of instrumental electro. Far from unattractive. Zoo have no clue how to dance to it any more than the audience do.

    Mostly a pretty decent edition, once David Grant was out of the way.

  2. 102
    Chelovek na lune on 15 Apr 2017 #

    1 September 1983
    The Kid and Peel (the best presenting partnership by far) dressed as cowboys,because.

    Modern Romance “Walking In The Rain”
    Mellower, vaguely reggae beat, a bit more characterful than wine bar pap, and less blatantly or exceedingly irritating than, well, most of their other singles. Their final hit though. Thankfully.

    Madness “Wings Of A Dove” (on video)
    Gospel choir bit and steel drums on a plane. Then the nutty boys, literally, like, ON, a plane. On top. Then inside and in the cab. And elsewhere. Wacky good fun, great steel drums bit which must have pissed off the NF-affiliated bit of their fanbase. Hardly the best thing they did, but a burst of joyous energy.

    Gary Numan “Warriors”
    Classic Numan sound and ambience, and not a wildly accessible song. Good keyboard bits. His final top 20 hit of the century (excluding two remixes of “Cars”), which suggests the appeal of his shtick was already wearing off (still, the abuse he got from the musical press, in part because of his politics, couldn’t have helped.) But this does seem “fans only”

    Peel in Paris doing the Eurochart
    No 9 in Europe Righeira “Vamos A La Playa” – another superficially jolly pop song about nuclear war. We only hear it very briefly, and only the repeated chorus line, but seems OK.
    No 10 in Europe: Rose Laurens “Africa, the Voodoo Master”
    Hmm, people complaining about “cultural appropraition” or “orientalism” might maybe just occasionally have a point.
    No 12 in Europe Ryan Paris “Dolce Vita”. Europop, no Europap, in English. Oh dear. Sub-Eurovision.
    No 8 in Europe Berdian Stenberg “Rondu Russo”
    Flute much in evidence, instrumental.
    No 1 in Europe Mike Oldfield “Moonlight Shadow”

    Genesis “Mama” (on video) introduced by the Kid pointing a toy gun at the camera.
    Now this really is a work of art, powerful, haunting, atmospheric. Cut off a bit early.


    Big Country “Chance”
    Less in your face than their two recent singles but no less rewarding. Brooding, and solemn, joining an honourable list of Scottish rock melancholia.


    Stray Cats “(She’s) Sexy + 17”
    Dull rockabilly revival style that would have better sent to bed long before.

    No 1 UB40 “Red Red Wine”
    In retrospect, the first step on the journey towards a formerly hot and insightful political act becoming an idiot jukebox. But they’ll still OK here, and their talents are quite clear.

    Dance out to New Order “Confusion”
    Which is incredibly exciting and futuristic (a wee “football chant” element too perhaps) without being overwhelmingly brilliant.

    A curate’s egg edition, although the good parts really were good.

  3. 103
    Lazarus on 16 Apr 2017 #

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard it in full – was ‘Vamos a la Playa’ really about a nuclear holocaust – as per Nena – or was Peely having us on there? Channelling Nevil Shute, were they?

    Oh and CNL @ 101 Pedant alert – Vince had left the Mode by then of course.

  4. 104
    Chelovek na lune on 16 Apr 2017 #

    @103 – yes, Lazarus (having just looked up its entire lyrics), I think I may have foolishly fallen for Peely’s joke….

    And yes, also – urgh – I did mean to say “Martin Gore”…..

  5. 105
    weej on 16 Apr 2017 #

    From the Vamos A La Playa wiki page;

    “Due to the meaning of its title and its lighthearted melody, Vamos a la playa has become a summer and holiday anthem in many countries. However, the song deals with the explosion of a nuclear bomb in the ocean. The people in the song all wear “a sombrero” to prevent the “radioactive wind” from “messing up their hair”. The singer states that finally “the sea is clean,” and instead of fish there is now “fluorescent water”.”

    It’s one of the first singles I owned, aged 4 or 5, and I still rate it. – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTsVJ1PsnMs

  6. 106
    speedwell54 on 23 Apr 2017 #

    Back to back episodes for a change. Powell very smartly dressed in a suit and tie, Peebles less so in a mustard body warmer. He introduces Heaven 17 but whatever he says, he comes across as the disinterested judge.

    Glenn is wearing a black and white checked shirt that was everywhere for a few years. Whoo Whoo!

    Rod Stewart hot on the heels of Baby Jane and another big hit with What Am I Going To Do? On video tonight with a less arty version of Duran’s Rio from the year before. Rod goes bigger and has a schooner not a yacht. Barely scratched the singles chart for the last 20 years but albums still pretty much top tens all the way.

    Another 70’s act and Status Quo with Ol’ Rag Blues. This is the blue print single and performance. No alarms and no surprises. Rossi waistcoat, Parfitt white top, Lancaster black cap sleeved t-shirt. (denims+white trainers -obvs) wide leg stance and synchronised guitar swaying. It has a really nice ending; very ELO. They had been consistent if not ground breaking for a decade but ‘Marguerita Time’ was just around the corner and that was a line crossed.

    Jo Boxers and Johnny Friendly, seems to be almost there. Possibly trying too hard and has too many ideas for one track. The instrumental part sounds good. Bye to them.

    Peabo/Roberta – Tonight I Celebrate My Love For You. twktc. Chart countdown.

    Ryan Paris- Dolce Vita as heralded by Peel last week. “We’re living LIKE in the Dolce Vita” so is this LIKE where the whole LIKE thing came from? Hired dancers are vogueing throughout.

    Countdown from Peter. The guy standing behind him is -I’m pretty sure- Duncan Norvelle – before he was famous (well kind of).Anyone?

    Paul Young _ Come Back and Stay- Originally by Jack Lee who also wrote “Hanging on the Telephone” Great bass again and nice routine from the backing singers – a bit of swedeheaven me thinks.

    Red Red Wine at No1 and out to Level 42.

    Not my favourite but there has been worse.

  7. 107
    Steve Williams on 23 Apr 2017 #

    “Is that Duncan Norvelle?” has taken over from “Why don’t they edit the presenters out?” as the most asked thing on social media when Pops is on. It isn’t, Duncan Norvelle was already famous in 1983, he had starred on the ITV series Saturday Royal earlier that year and certainly had enough work to not have to turn up to Pops every week for fifty quid a throw.

    As Richard Marson, former Top of the Pops floor manager, confirms, it’s a man called John Goldsmith, who we’ll continue to see regularly on this programme for the next few years. A lovely bloke, apparently.

  8. 108
    chelovek na lune on 23 Apr 2017 #

    8 September 1983
    Inexpicably sharp-suited Powell and inevitably deadpan Peebles

    Peebles makes a joke “a record that could be bigger than the TUC conference in Blackpool” (Back when newspapers still had industrial relations correspondents too. Before Arthur Scargill comprehensively overplayed his hand, anyway)
    Heaven 17 “Crushed by the Wheels of Industry”
    After a couple of really quite excellent singles earlier in the year, this is a bit weak. Very weak, even. Might have better suited as an ABC rejected B-side during their “…Zillionaire” period. Some of Zoo dressed in labourer’s overalls dancig on a podium in their characteristic irrating manner.

    Rod Stewart “What Am I Gonna Do” on video
    More than mildly OTT and ridiculous nautical tropical sunshine with Rod prancing about video, but noone looks to Mr Stewart for subtlety The track is jolly enough – there is something to prance to, and where better than on a boat in the sun? Fly the Scottish lion rampant too.

    Obvious cut thanks to the Doors’ lawyers denying us Annabel Lamb’s not wildly brilliant sub-Eurythmics take on “Riders on the Storm”

    Status Quo “Ol’ Rag Blues”
    Lighter and a bit poppier than sometimes, kind of classic early-80s Quo sound otherwise. When their critical reappraisal eventually comes this will probably be assessed as a light-hearted and attractive interlude (but which will refuse to prove to be memorable in any way). Would sound good in a pub, probably with Double Diamond and Roast Ox crisps.

    JoBoxers “Johnny Friendly”
    Slowed down compared with their earlier hits, has a bit of a Living Colour vibe about it. Funky, and sharp. But with a distinctly English character. Much less astounding than “Just Got Lucky” – it does say “minor hit” – but no denying it’s both innovative and not unattractive.

    Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack “Tonight, I Celebrate My Love” (on video)
    Bit of a classic slow-dance number, no?


    Ryan Paris “Dolce Vita”
    Robotic dancing. Some decent synthesised instrumental bits between the verses are probably, nay certainly, the highlight of this inoffensive number.

    Paul Young “Come Back And Stay”
    Great 80s synths and moodiness, the haircut and the black and white angular not-quite splatter top he is wearing have aged much less well than the song. Fine chanting from the women. Yeah. Rather appealling.

    no 1 UB40 “Red Red Wine” (on video)
    Vid being set mostly in a boozer, before they sold much in the way of wine.

    dance-out to Level 42 “Livin’ It Up (When The Sun Goes Down)”

    Not a brilliant edition, but kind of quite representative of the musical trends and concerns of 1983…

  9. 109
    speedwell54 on 23 Apr 2017 #

    Thanks Steve @107 for the info. No idea I was being so obvious. I don’t feel too bad if it’s a ‘thing’ he must look something like him. I thought it would be a tiny shaded area in the Venn diagram ‘people old enough to know who Duncan Norvelle is’ and “use social media’, but there you go.

  10. 110
    chelovek na lune on 23 Apr 2017 #

    22 September 1983
    Bates n Read

    Howard Jones “New Song”
    Legendary performance with chained dancer alongside HJ. Capable and still fresh and then still futuristic mid-80s synth-pop.

    David Bowie “Modern Love” (on video. mostly of a live performance)
    Competent and capable poppier but not quite over-poppy Bowie. Drags a little bit, maybe.

    Hot Chocolate “Tears On The Telephone”
    They’ve still got it, musically and performance-wise, one of the best singles acts of recent years. This song is not essential, though.

    Toyah “Rebel Run” (on video)
    Vaguely sci-fi futurism, but with sound effects and a general soundscape that were ubiqutious around this period. OK. But more style than substance? Perhaps.

    The Alarm “68 Guns”
    The energy of the performance is maybe a bit ridiculous given it just underlines that they are miming. Gah, so much posturing in so few minutes.

    Nick Heyward “Blue Hat For A Blue Day”
    Sweet and sensitive, but rather nondescript. Disappointing.

    Status Quo “Ol’ Rag Blues” (on video)
    Alright as far as it goes.

    Mike Read plays the chorus of “Ol Rag Blues” on kazoo.
    Clearly no photo of the act at no 30, Unique

    Soft Cell “Soul Inside”
    Ball and Almond being recognizably Ball and Almond in their nuances and styles of performance. Not their strongest song though. Maybe the string of brilliant singles in 81/82 was a fluke after all. Chaos and turmoil evident, but more eloquently expressed on other occasions. There’s a bit for a minute or so in the middle of th song, where the tension that has been building up, is released, that’s the best part of the song.

    Heaven 17 “Crushed By the Wheels of Industry” (on video)
    Considering this isn’t even climbing the charts any more, something better could have been on than this. The video, which explores various different perceptions and realities of “work”, is better than is the song.

    No 1 Culture Club “Karma Chameleon”
    Boy George dressed in Yellow with a hat that is almost like a crown out of Alice in Wonderland; ther rest of the band dressed as American Footballers or cowboys for reasons unknown. Quality pop that hides its lyrical tensions and pains behind a bright singalong surface. Very good.

    dance out to Hot Streak “Body Work”
    Not a notably distinguished bit of electro. Zoo could have justified their existence by doing some break-dancing to this, but they don’t, so.

    A more than tolerable edition.

  11. 111
    lockedintheattic on 24 Apr 2017 #

    @106 & @107 – those backing singers are the wonderful ‘Fabulous Wealthy Tarts’ and sadly this was their last outing with Paul Young. They totally made this one and ‘Love of the Common People’, everything he did after was a hell of a lot duller.

    More about them here: https://ifyouwerethere1980s.wordpress.com/tag/the-fabulous-wealthy-tarts/

  12. 112
    Mark G on 25 Apr 2017 #

    So, is that not them on The Regents’ “17” single?

  13. 113
    Adam Puke on 25 Apr 2017 #

    Loved the Numskulls tribute in the Heaven 17 video, never seen that before.

  14. 114
    speedwell54 on 25 Apr 2017 #

    @112 The backing singers on the Regents “7 teen” single are named on “So it Goes” blog as Kath Best and Bic Brack. After Regents split Martin Sheller (Regents) worked with Bic and Ben Brack(?) writing and producing. “Musica Pop” a single by ‘the Bic’ is on eBay. Only one source for this info but seems ok.

  15. 115
    Lazarus on 26 Apr 2017 #

    #111 But doesn’t Powell introduce ‘Come back and Stay’ as Paul Young and the Royal Family? I don’t remember that at all, how long did he use that for? Were they credited as that on the record, and if not why mention them? It would have been like saying “here’s Elvis Costello, and Afrodiziak.” I do remember the Fabulously Wealthy Tarts though.

    Ryan Paris was OK, at least you could (sort of) dance to it. I much preferred it to FR David’s effort from earlier in the year. A later single of his was ‘Harry’s Bar’ – not, I assume, the surprise Xmas hit from Gordon Haskell of a few years ago (which we’ll come to eventually on Popular, I suppose).

    We missed a week of course (hence Status Quo being on twice in a row) with Jimmy Savile, still, being one of the presenters, and for similar reasons (DLT) we will also miss the following show, that of 29 September, when the largely unlamented Zoo made their final appearance. As remarked on the start-of-year doc, there was no real need for them once everyone was doing videos.

  16. 116
    speedwell54 on 29 Apr 2017 #

    Jensen and John present this week’s edition dressed as Roman soldiers. Kicking off with Freeez and Pop Goes My Love. More scratching on this and less jazz funk. To my ears it doesn’t really work, and their chart career was over save remixes. White gloved dancers try and fail to distract you from Rocca’s awful cardigan.

    Bowie on video again twktc.

    Kid is still saying Depech-ay Mode and “Love In Itself” . A bit less catchy and a bit less a hit. Martin is wearing clothes you could walk down the street in- for the first time. The freestyle bit at the end is a bit weird. John refers to them as Depech-ay too.

    Meatloaf and “Midnight at the Lost and Found” and he commits to the performance as always. It’ a video, but a performance in a much bigger space than totp could provide. He must win the league of number of words per hit. He turns up in an episode of Elementary this year.

    Nick Heyward and “Blue Hat for a Blue Hat” pleasant enough but a bit background. He brought out some great stuff post Haircut but this isn’t a favourite. A new album, trailed years ago does seem to be coming out this summer called “Woodland Echoes” -has to be worth a listen.

    New Song – Howard Jones on a rather LD video with a cast who look like they won a raffle. Song 7 video 3.

    David Grant – Love Will Find A Way. This is rather dull and nmcot at all. Kid says “a-prancing” as he introduces him but I don’t think he’s being negative. He definitely is prancing about.

    Charts, and there are a few acts that passed me by -‘Unique’ and ‘Body Work’ mean nothing. The Alarm and “68 Guns” up next, a repeat from a couple of weeks ago I think. Drummer Nigel Twist signed my copy of “Rain In The Summertime” in HMV Middlesbrough in 1987.

    New Order – “Blue Monday” Live performance repeated from a few months ago. Amateurhour. Chart countdown to number one and Culture Club the performance from a fortnight ago. Out the The Rock Steady Crew. John Peel smiles; it might have been false.

    Not my favourite but there has been worse.

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