Jul 09

Popular ’83

FT + Popular/146 comments • 6,226 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?

View Results

Poll closes: No Expiry

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  1. 1
    TomLane on 19 Jul 2009 #

    I seem to agree with most of the voters, but I’m more receptive to these songs than most. Like most of them above a 6. Left off Rod, Pickets, Young. Wavered on Phil, but I like his version.

  2. 2
    Mark M on 19 Jul 2009 #

    It’s an unappealing bunch, with much of what I didn’t like about the High 80s – the mixture of retro songs with high-sheen production – really establishing itself.

  3. 3
    Billy Smart on 19 Jul 2009 #

    Just 7 out of 17 for me. Will this dark age of pop continue in 1984?

  4. 4
    Billy Smart on 19 Jul 2009 #

    The NME critics’ poll for 1983 presents a much more imaginative and appealing picture of the state of pop at this time. Almost all of these would have made an exciting number one. Which did Mark Sinker vote for, I wonder?;

    1. Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
    2. Bring It On – James Brown
    3. Pills & Soap – The Imposter
    4. Bad Seed – The Birthday Party
    5. Blue Monday – New Order
    6. Lean On Me – The Redskins
    7. All Night Long – Lionel Richie
    8. Church Of The Poison Mind – Culture Club
    9. This Charming Man – The Smiths
    10. Gimme All Your Lovin’ – ZZ Top
    11. 1999 – Prince
    12. Every Day I Write The Book – Elvis Costello & The Attractions
    13. Looking For The Perfect Beat – Afrika Bambaataa
    14. The Cutter – Echo & The Bunnymen
    15. Jucy Fruit – M’tume
    16. Hand In Glove – The Smiths
    17. I Love You – Yello
    18. Who’s That Girl? – Eurythmics
    19. Soweto – Malcolm Mclaren
    20. Long Hot Summer – The Style Council
    21. Let’s Dance – David Bowie
    22. Right By Your Side – Eurythmics
    23. Wherever I Lay My Hat – Paul Young
    24. Men Like Monkeys – The Three Johns
    25. I’m Still Standing – Elton John
    26. Synchro System – King Sunny Ade
    27. Every Breath You Take – The Police
    28. Wanna Be Startin’ Something? – Michael Jackson
    29. Bad Day – Carmel
    30. Oblivious – Aztec Camera
    31. Go Deh Yaka – Monyaka
    32. Cold Steel Gang – High Five
    33. Tour De France – Kraftwerk
    34. One More Shot – C Bank
    35. It’s Raining Men – Weather Girls
    36. Mutiny – The Birthday Party
    37. Between The Sheets – The Isley Brothers
    38. Little Red Corvette – Prince
    39. Money Go Round – Style Council
    40. You Brought The Sunshine – The Clark Sisters
    41. Lost Again – Yello
    42. Dark Is The Night – Shakatak
    43. Karma Chameleon – Culture Club
    44. Hot Hot Hot – Arrow
    45. Never Stop – Echo & The Bunnymen
    46. Alice – Sisters Of Mercy
    47. New Year’s Day – U2
    48. Everything Counts – Depeche Mode
    49. Racist Friend – The Special AKA
    50. This Is Not A Love Song – PiL

  5. 5
    Billy Smart on 19 Jul 2009 #

    Melody Maker only listed a poll of ten (rather differerent) singles of the year;

    1. Human League – (Keep Feeling) Fascination
    2. Heaven 17 – Temptation
    3. The Rolling Stones – Undercover Of The Night
    4. Culture Club – Church Of The Poison Mind
    5. Echo & The Bunnymen – Never Stop
    6. Eurythmics – Who´s That Girl?
    7. The Police – Every Breath You Take
    8. Malcolm McLaren: Soweto
    9. REM – Radio Free Europe
    10. Lionel Richie – All Night Long

    There was no singles poll in Sounds that year.

  6. 6
    Tom on 19 Jul 2009 #

    10 out of 17, but a lot of them were 6s and 7s – not a great batch but better than I thought just looking at the list before I started on it.

  7. 7
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 19 Jul 2009 #

    doubt i got a vote billy, i was very junior then

  8. 8
    Martin on 20 Jul 2009 #

    Much like 1999 was an unusually good year for movies, it is my belief that 1983 was a very, very strong year for interesting and fun pop songs. 82-84 is all very good, but 1983 was exceptional. And tons of the great ones aren’t mentioned here at all.

  9. 9
    Tom on 20 Jul 2009 #

    I’m noticing an interesting disparity in some cases between the comment box consensus (if such there be) and the relative votes. For instance, the comments crew seemed largely anti-Police and pro-Sunshine Band but KC and the boys are doing atrociously, and though a 1/3 tick rate for “Every Breath” isn’t great it isn’t bad either.

    So I wonder if the people who comment are unrepresentative of the readership?

  10. 10
    Conrad on 20 Jul 2009 #

    At a guess, Sting/the Police seem to inspire a good deal of criticism/comment whereas people are largely indifferent to, for example, KC & the Sunshine Band. I found something pleasant to say about “Give It Up” but on reflection still thought it worthy of only a 5. I’d give “Every Breath…” the same mark, but was no doubt prompted to say something negative about it!

    In the case of the Police, it’s also that song’s ubiquity which generates more negative, or critical, comment – you are commenting not just about the song but the public’s reaction towards it. Why is it so popular? Why do people choose it as a wedding song, despite its lyric…etc

    With many others, they are largely forgotten, so maybe the bar is lower.

  11. 11
    Ben on 20 Jul 2009 #

    Lots of 6s and 7s for me too. Found Billy’s Melody Maker top 10 interesting – I hadn’t realised that ‘Temptation’ never made it to #1. Kept off the top of the charts by ‘Let’s Dance’, which is probably Bowie’s most Marmite song.

  12. 12
    Billy Smart on 20 Jul 2009 #

    Here are the ‘phantom’ number ones of 1983, that got to the top of the other (NME/ independent radio) chart, but not the BBC one; China Girl (1 week), Gold (2 weeks), Never Never (1 week), Love Of The Common People (1 week).

  13. 13
    wichitalineman on 20 Jul 2009 #

    Never Never?! That would have a scored a 7 from me; China Girl too. As it is, I could only give 3 of these 6 or more, and Candy Girl only scraped in with a 6.

    Re the voting, I’m guessing a lot of readers may not be obsessive/autistic enough (unlike me for example) to check each track out before voting. KC isn’t exactly a radio staple in ’09. So they’ll vote for the ones they know and pass on the ones they don’t.

    As it goes, Give It Up was my second favourite no.1 of the year, behind the consensus classic.

  14. 14
    SteveM on 20 Jul 2009 #

    Most front-loaded year ever! Ticked most of the first half and almost none of the second.

  15. 15
    mike on 20 Jul 2009 #

    I voted for everything except for Rod Stewart and Flying Pickets. 1983 was a golden year!

  16. 16
    LondonLee on 20 Jul 2009 #

    Blimey, I only voted for 3 of them! 1983 was a good year but not at the top of the charts.

    I’m shocked at how little love there is for the Paul Young record, my second fave after ‘Billie Jean’

  17. 17
    wichita lineman on 21 Jul 2009 #

    Has there been a year that’s divided the faithful so much?

    As mentioned in the Only You thread, ’83 marked the start of the classicism of pop. Booker Newberry’s Love Town, a pleasant enough contemporary-sounding club hit with a decent vocal, was hailed an instant classic and came in a retro ‘instant classic’ sleeve.

    Kent and Bam Caruso joined Edsel, Ace and Charly in issuing non-hit, carefully conceived packages of pop’s past in ’83. Hearing The Left Banke’s Pretty Ballerina or Mary Love’s Lay This Burden Down for the first time was always going to make retro/pastiche/tributes like Uptown Girl and True (complete with their 100% top end, bass free productions) sound feeble. It’s hard to be objective but, nostalgia aside, I really don’t think the majority of these number ones have aged well (not even Candy Girl which I loved back then).

    I don’t mean to sound snob, I hope I don’t. I should add there was much genuinely NEW in ’83 (Blue Monday, Looking For The Perfect Beat) that thrilled me just as much as obscure northern/psych. But it was a bad year for Richard Hamilton’s model of POP I’d say; return of old school, pre-punk values (yeah, yeah, been ‘ere before…)

  18. 18
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 21 Jul 2009 #

    As already noted, the conundrum of models — which is also the contradiction at the core of punk — is that as soon as you have a a theory or a programme or an ideal or a manifesto, you’ve placed yourself on the side of the academy against whatever it is pop-art or punk or whatever is trying to escape

    Hamilton: “Hurrah for things that never go in galleries! Here’s a gallery show that finally gives them their due!”

    Punk: “Let us escape from all these fusty old rules! Here is the list of things you must to do achieve this!”

  19. 19
    lonepilgrim on 21 Jul 2009 #

    I was in an intolerant mood and so only voted for 5 or 6 – but there were a lot that just missed out.

    The Face magazines records of the year (in no set order) were:
    Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
    Blue Monday – New Order
    Pills & Soap – The Imposter
    Juicy Fruit – Mtume
    Autodrive – Herbie Hancock
    Native Boy – Animal Nightlife
    Let’s stay together – Tina Turner
    You brought the sunshine – Clarke Sisters
    Every Soul – Ruby Turner
    Don’t mess with Bill – Ruth Pointer
    Let’s dance – David Bowie
    I just gotta have you – Kashif
    Out come the freaks (II) – Was not was
    Ain’t nobody – Rufus
    Get Loose – Evelyn King
    Soweto/Zulu’s on a time bomb – Malcolm McClaren
    Long Hot Summer – Style Council
    Little Red Corvette – Prince
    Let the music play – Shannon
    Jam on revenge – Newcleus
    Hip Hop don’t stop – Mann Parrish
    Coup – 23 Skidoo
    Get Wet -C Bank
    Rockin Radio – Tom Browne
    The Roxy – Phase Two
    Love Town – Booker Newbury III
    Just fascination – Caberet Voltaire
    Last night a DJ saved my life – In Deep
    Une Sale Histoire – Fab Five Freddy
    Pacman – The Pacman
    Candy Girl – New Edition
    Just be good to me – SOS Band
    Go deh Yaka – Monyaka
    Outstanding – The Gap Band
    White Lines (Don’t do it) Grand Master & Melle Mel

  20. 20
    LondonLee on 21 Jul 2009 #

    Re: 17. I heard ‘Lay This Burden Down’ for the first time then too. On Kent’s ‘For Dancers Also’ album. What a monster record.

  21. 21
    lonepilgrim on 21 Jul 2009 #

    There’s a great quote in the ‘look back at ’83′ issue of the Face which encapsulates it’s emulsion of consumerist zeal for hip design with left leaning politics:

    “Barney Bubble died on November 14, the day that the Cruise missiles arrived in Britain.”

  22. 22
    wichita lineman on 21 Jul 2009 #

    Re 19: Interesting that a few of the Face records of the year I associate with ’84 (SOS Band, Shannon, White Lines). And most of the electro stuff I was unaware of til Streetsounds Electro 1 was released in November-ish ’83. Life changing!

    It’s quite incredible that wild card club smashes like Hip Hop Be Bop were never hits. It’ll be interesting, as the 80s progress, to see how many of the decade’s best singles were either minor hits or not at all – the major label’s conservative stranglehold (how many hits did N Kershaw/H Jones/P Young have between them??) being their lesson learnt from punk, with no small help from equally conservative Radio 1. And between them they truly succeeded in squeezing much creativity from the charts, the bastards. Seeds of C86 are sewn here (first Creation single also in late ’83).

  23. 23
    Rory on 22 Jul 2009 #

    And so farewell to my first year of pop obsession. A few more personal highlights that deserve a mention: Midnight Oil’s (very Australian) “The Power and the Passion”, one of the two very first singles I bought, and would happily buy again tomorrow; Blancmange’s “Living on the Ceiling”, which turned up on the Oz charts in early ’83, and was bound to appeal to a gangly teenager like me; the early hits of Tears for Fears, whose The Hurting spent 65 weeks in the UK charts; Michael Sembello’s “Maniac”, the better of the Flashdance hits; Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science”, which does more than John Hughes’s Weird Science in 4% of the running time; Def Leppard’s “Photograph”, gateway drug for many a metal-head; and someone I find it astounding never had a 1980s UK number one, Prince, whose “1999” was the canniest long-term investment a songwriter could make. Oh, and a band who played some small part in determining where I’ve spent the past eight years.

  24. 24
    lonepilgrim on 22 Jul 2009 #

    re 18 You’re right – Thom Gunn wrote about something like it in his 1957 poem “Elvis Presley,”:

    Distorting hackneyed words in hackneyed songs
    He turns revolt into a style, prolongs
    The impulse to a habit of the time.

    There was always a tension in punk between those who saw it as an end to standard ideas of ‘rock’ and those who saw it as a return to the essentials – which seems to lead inevitable to the ‘Classic’ view of rock or pop. Interesting that 1983 saw Mick Jones booted out of The Clash – as he seemed to have more time for mixing new styles such as dub and hip-hop – by Joe Strummer who seemed more conservative. It riles me that Jones doesn’t get the adulation given to Strummer, who has virtually been raised to sainthood.

    re: 17 & 22 I’d be interested to know when the seperate ‘Indie’ and Dance charts began to feature in NME and elsewhere. I always associate ‘Blue Monday’ with the former – probably because it was the indie equivalent of ‘The Sound of Music’ longevity wise. Those seperate charts reflect the atomisation of pop and an end to the serendipity and musical misegenation which Tom was lauding elsewhere

  25. 25
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 22 Jul 2009 #

    wow is that where the phrase “revolt into style“* comes from? thom gunn** was originally part of “the movement”, viz. the poets’ wing of the “angry young man/kitchen sink” spasm: quite early on he realised he was not only gay, but (unlike say lindsay anderson) comfy and happy with this, so he moved to san francisco and became frankly as un-larkin-esque as it is possible easily to imagine

    *i own melly’s book but have never quite got round to reading it

    **just after i stopped being sight&sound’s sub and fact-checker, they printed a story which meant to reference thom gunn, but actually referenced ben gunn (who is the mad marooned pirate in treasure island)

  26. 26
    pink champale on 22 Jul 2009 #

    as frankly as un-larkin-esque as it is possible easily to imagine..
    you’re not wrong! as part of my “american masculinities” module at university (what can i say, it was those heady days of the early nineties…) i wrote a big essay on “physique and its dissolution” with reference to thom gunn’s (wonderful) “man with night sweats” series. i had a big theory about how gunn’s slightly fascistic fetishisation of the male body with absolute unblinking utopian inclusiveness was a quintessentially californian trope – here i was thinking mainly of janes addiction, who i was really into at the time, and who absolutley do this (plus added shamanism) – probably wisely, none of this made it into the essay i don’t think, but it’s all a long way from larkin moping and penny pinching in hull.

  27. 27
    LondonLee on 22 Jul 2009 #

    Didn’t Burchill and Parsons say in ‘The Boy Who Looked At Johnny’ something along the lines of “The Sex Pistols wanted to destroy rock and roll, The Clash wanted to save it”?

  28. 28
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 22 Jul 2009 #

    Haha that sounds pretty likely Lee — it was certainly my unthinking line for years, I absorbed more of that horrible (horribly readable) book than I am comfy with…

  29. 29
    wichitalineman on 22 Jul 2009 #

    Lord Sukrat, I went to see DJ Taylor do a talk on the Bright Young Things last night and one of them coined the phrase “revolt into style”. Sadly, my champagne-addled memory can’t remember who said it, but it dates from the mid-’20s, and I’m guessing it’ll be in DJT’s book somewhere (which I don’t have).

    As for Melly’s book, it’s a cracker. Simultaneously awestruck by these kids who cost him a cosy living, and crisply cynical when he needs to be. I’ve been after a first edition 4evs – the Penguin edition always seems to disintegrate on touch.

    And as for Thom Gunn’s pome about the King, I prefer Scooter’s tear-soaked The Shit That Killed Elvis.

  30. 30
    ace inhibitor on 23 Jul 2009 #

    I’ve not read Melly either, but I’d always vaguely thought of ‘revolt into style’ as an imperative, with an invisible exclamation mark – just do it kids! Almost the opposite of Gunn’s sniffiness (if I’m reading him right), the punk update of which (just to tie a few of these threads together) would be strummer’s ‘turning rebellion into munneee’, not that joe ever did that of course. As for the number ones, mark said it all very succinctly at #2 I thought.

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