Oct 10

Popular: The 80s

Popular30 comments • 2,323 views

Another poll! If this one gets a good reaction I’ll go back and do 70s, 60s, etc ones.

Here are the 10 years of the 1980s – you pick your favourite pop year. The definition of pop is up to you – I’ve listed some of the songs we covered here but don’t limit your considerations to those – they’re just a reminder!

Which year of the 1980s was best for pop?

View Results

Poll closes: No Expiry

Loading ... Loading ...


  1. 1
    Steve Mannion on 18 Oct 2010 #

    1980: 14
    1981: 7
    1982: 8
    1983: 9
    1984: 6
    1985: 8
    1986: 10
    1987: 13
    1988: 8
    1989: 5

  2. 2
    Rory on 18 Oct 2010 #

    A much harder call than I expected. If “pop” = “Popular” we have to discount some years that had plenty of good stuff going on below number one, including the one we just struggled through. As for number ones, I want to choose ’81 or ’82 for their highlights, but they each had a lot of chaff a well. Which means it has to be ’84 for me.

  3. 3
    punctum on 18 Oct 2010 #

    Can’t pick July 1981-June 1982 – which was the best year (as in 12-month period) for pop in that decade, and maybe any other decade – so went for 1982 on balance.

  4. 4
    Erithian on 18 Oct 2010 #

    Rory #2 – Tom’s saying nothing about basing your selection solely on the number ones, so we shouldn’t.

    Looking back, the golden age pretty well coincided with my student years, ’81-84, which is maybe as it should be (but many who weren’t students will identify that period too). Which of those years wins a single vote is an impossible choice and depends on my mood at any given time (“but then what about this one, what about that one?”)

    OK, at this particular moment I’ll go for ’84, for the event-pop, the summer atmospherics and the liberation at the end of finals. Come back tomorrow and I’ll probably say something different.

  5. 5
    Chelovek na lune on 18 Oct 2010 #

    Top: 81 – 82 – 89 – 80 – 88 – 83 – 87 – 84 – 86 – 85: Bottom

    I think. More or less. As NOT, generally, reflected by the number ones. (Could quibble with the order of both the bottom two and the top two; and of some of the other adjacent pairs too)

    I couldn’t rule out placing “The Model” as the best number 1 of the decade, either. Although I shall give the matter further thought.

  6. 6
    Tom on 18 Oct 2010 #

    Early days yet, of course, but it’s currently 33 votes to 6 for the first half of the decade. Oof!

    I was torn between 81, 84, and 88 – went for the latter (only person so to do): house, hip-hop, indie were all terrific that year, and close enough to pop to qualify. But if my definition were to narrow it would be 84 probably.

  7. 7
    Chelovek na lune on 18 Oct 2010 #

    #4 The strange thing is that for most of the time when I was a student (in the next decade) I barely listened to pop music at all. This was admittedly in St Andrews in all its glorious medievalness. I’d been a regular gig-goer (of an indie kind) in London when I was a sixth-former, but, well, living a good (and wholly impractical) 2 hour journey (be it to Glasgow or Aberdeen) from any gigs of that type I might have been inclined to attend, I found plenty of other things to fill my time and mind…

  8. 8
    thefatgit on 18 Oct 2010 #

    I’m in the ’81 camp. Always something interesting happening every week, and the 1st year I bought the NME every week without fail. Pretty much my Pop Thrill year, with ’84 and ’85 coming in 2nd and 3rd respectively.

  9. 9
    Steve Mannion on 18 Oct 2010 #

    Despite favouring 1980 for #1 singles, the year comes up v short when it comes to tracks on my PC – some catching up to do there (altho this only includes tracks tagged with the correct year (probably about two thirds of my collection). Posting these as I was quite curious myself.

    1988: 196
    1981: 179
    1982: 159
    1989: 137
    1984: 136
    1983: 132
    1987: 125
    1986: 121
    1985: 120
    1980: 92

    Those numbers actually seem quite low but I don’t tend to keep entire albums on this PC, just my favourite tracks. Glad it’s fairly well balanced across the decade at least.

  10. 10
    Billy Hicks on 18 Oct 2010 #

    My favourite track of the entire decade is ‘A Little Respect’ by Erasure, spookily enough released the week I was born in 1988. But I’m going for the year before, 1987.

    Well, how can I not? Jack Your Body. True Faith. Got My Mind Set On You. Bad. You Win Again. Pump Up The Volume. I Wanna Dance With Somebody. Fairytale of New York. With Or Without You. Respectable. Love In The First Degree. Rickroll. And everything the Pet Shop Boys (It’s A Sin/Rent/What Have I Done…/Always On My Mind) and Erasure (It Doesn’t Have To Be/The Circus/Victim of Love) released.

    Pop music built and built over the decades before it reached its glorious, energetic peak at the end of the 80s. After that the only way was down.

  11. 11
    Billy Smart on 18 Oct 2010 #

    I bet nobody’s consulted this for 20 years – the Melody Maker readers’ poll of the 1980s!

    Best single

    1. New Order – Blue Monday
    2. Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart
    3. The Smiths – This Charming Man
    4. The Sugarcubes – Birthday
    5. Soft Cell – Tainted Love
    6. The Smiths – How Soon Is Now?
    7. Dinosaur Jr – Freak Scene
    8. U2 – Pride In The Name Of Love
    9. Band Aid – Do They Know Its Christmas?
    10. Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill
    11. Echo & The Bunnymen – The Killing Moon
    12. The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary
    13. The Sisters Of Mercy – This Corrosion
    14. The Cure – The Lovecats
    15. The Cure – Boys Don’t Cry
    16. Joy Division – Atmosphere
    17. New Order – Temptation
    18. The Cure – Just Like Heaven
    19. The Mission – Tower Of Strength
    20. Prince – Sign ‘O’ The Times

    Act of the eighties

    1. The Smiths
    2. The Cure
    3. U2
    4. REM
    5. New Order
    6. The Jesus & Mary Chain
    7. Prince
    8. The Sisters Of Mercy
    9. The Mission
    10. The Fall
    11. Echo & The Bunnymen
    12. Siouxsie & The Banshees
    13. Depeche Mode
    14. Sonic Youth
    15. Guns N’ Roses
    16. Simple Minds
    17. Kate Bush
    18. Duran Duran
    19. Pet Shop Boys
    20. Husker Du

    Album of the 1980s

    1. The Jesus & Mary Chain – Psychocandy
    2. The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead
    3. U2 – The Joshua Tree
    4. The Cure – Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me
    5. Kate Bush – The Hounds Of Love
    6. The Smiths – Hatful Of Hollow
    7. The Sisters Of Mercy – First & Last & Always
    8. REM – Green
    9. Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction
    10. The Cure – Faith
    11. The Cult – Love
    12. My Bloody Valentine – Isn’t Anything
    13. Simple Minds – New Gold Dream
    14. Joy Division – Closer
    15. Echo & The Bunnymen – Ocean Rain
    16. The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses
    17. Throwing Muses – Throwing Muses
    18. The Cure – Pornography
    19. New Order – Substance
    20. Pixies – Surfer Rosa

    Casting my eye around the other categories;

    Event of the eighties: Live Aid (followed by the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 1989 Reading Festival)

    Greatest Loss of the eighties: The Smiths (followed by John Lennon and Ian Curtis)

    Hope for the nineties: No more Thatcher (2nd: No more acid house, 3rd: A Labour government)

    Man of the eighties: Gorbachov (2nd: Morrissey)

    Woman of the eighties: Thatcher (2nd: Kate Bush, 3rd: Madonna)

    Worst Influence of the eighties: Stock Aitkin & Waterman (2nd: The Thatcher Government, 3rd: Acid house)

  12. 12
    lonepilgrim on 19 Oct 2010 #

    I eventually settled for 1984 – largely due to Prince and Frankie – but 81 and 88 were strong contenders

  13. 13
    Elsa on 19 Oct 2010 #

    My favorite 12-month period – early ’82 to early ’83 – corresponds to Marcello’s, I reckon, since in the States we were getting all of the wonderful British New Pop records about six months late. So we were getting “Don’t You Want Me,” “Tainted Love,” “The Look of Love,” “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” etc. AND at the same time we got Tom Tom Club’s first, “Planet Rock,” Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message,” Prince’s 1999, Thriller, & countless others. Unbelievable, in retrospect. Nice to be 14 then, though of course I didn’t fully appreciate it.

    My general opinion as an ’80s survivor agrees with the poll results: first half of decade good; second half not as good. Although two of my favorite genres, freestyle dance & old-school hip-hop, peaked in all their baroque grandeur in 1987-1988.

  14. 14
    Erithian on 19 Oct 2010 #

    “First half good; second half not so good.” You don’t think the unseen hand behind 80s music might have been Sven-Goran Eriksson…?

  15. 15
    Conrad on 19 Oct 2010 #

    I’m completely with Marcello on this. The charts covered by the Virgin Rock Yearbook Vol III (1 August 1981-31 July 1982) document the most magical 12 month period not just of the 80s but, well, ever!

    Having to pick a calendar year, then 1981 just ahead of 1982, partly because of the excitement and anticipation that built throughout the year. The latter half of 1982 by contrast is a bit of an anti-climax.

  16. 16
    koganbot on 20 Oct 2010 #

    I voted ’88 but that was based on America, and pop was whatever I happened to be listening to. Also, it’s been proven by science that the best years for music from the ’60s onward have repeating end digits not counting zero: 1966, 1977, 1988, 1999. I know it seems improbable at the moment, but next year is going to be terrific.

    1988 reference points: Stacey Q Hard Machine, Guns N’ Roses Appetite For Destruction, L’Trimm “Cars With The Boom,” Phuture “Slam!” Cover Girls “Inside Outside,” Def Leppard “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” Public Enemy “She Watch Channel Zero,” S’Express “Superfly Guy,” EPMD “Strictly Business,” Bam Bam “Where’s Your Child?” Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana,” Pussy Galore Sugarshit Sharp EP, Vivien Vee “Heartbeat.”

  17. 17
    Rory on 20 Oct 2010 #

    Hang on, koganbot. As a certified scientist (that old BSc has to be good for something), I spot a flaw in your mathematical logic here. The best years for pop are clearly occurring every 11 years, like solar cycles. That suggests that the next best year for pop should be right now.

  18. 18

    It’s symbolic logic not mathematical logic.

  19. 19
    swanstep on 20 Oct 2010 #

    I reckon that koganbot should see off Rory’s +11 formula by ditching the idea that repeating 0s shouldn’t count (why shouldn’t they?). 2000 was a fabulous year for music: Kid A, Stankonia, The Marshall Mathers LP, Xtrmntr, Stories from the City Stories from the Sea, Madonna’s Music, Parachutes, + singles like Beautiful day, One More Time, Frontier Psychiatrist, and so on and on. I remember feeling a little embarrassed at how much 2000 stuff there was on my end o’ decade list.

    Anyhow, here’s hoping you’re right about 2011! (If it’s as good as 2000, I think we’ll all be very happy.)

  20. 20
    Rory on 20 Oct 2010 #

    It’s all because of sunspots, I tell you.

    Those solar maximum number ones in full:

    Mar 1958: Perry Como, “Magic Moments”
    Nov 1968: Joe Cocker, “With A Little Help From My Friends”; Hugo Montenegro, “The Good The Bad And The Ugly”
    Dec 1979: The Police, “Walking On The Moon”; Pink Floyd, “Another Brick In The Wall”
    Jul 1989: Soul II Soul, “Back To Life”; Sonia, “You’ll Never Stop Me From Loving You”
    Mar 2000: Madonna, “American Pie”; Chicane/Bryan Adams, “Don’t Give Up”; Geri Halliwell, “Bag It Up”

  21. 21
    swanstep on 20 Oct 2010 #

    repeated post deleted

  22. 22
    unlogged moggy on 20 Oct 2010 #

    45 of the voters in this poll are GOTHS.

  23. 23
    Gavin Wright on 26 Oct 2010 #

    After a quick look through the Everyhit archives as reassurance, I’ve gone with 1982 – so many of my all-time favourite singles charted that year. I definitely prefer the pop (as in the top 40 hits) of the earlier half of the decade though there’s thrilling stuff outside the mainstream all the way through.

  24. 24
    ottersteve on 1 Mar 2012 #

    Hey….Looks like it wasn’t my imagination that 1981 was the best of years for No. 1’s. Quite pleased the majority agree with me. 1984 came a close second for me though.

    Interesting that each year contained at least one classic song and 1 total raspberry.

  25. 25
    AndyPandy on 1 Mar 2012 #

    Can’t believe 1982 isn’t doing better.

    My order would be 1982/1983/1989/1981/1988/1980 then a long long gap to 1984/1987 then an even longer gap to the awful 1985/1986 (worst ever 2 years in the history of pop music?).

  26. 26
    ottersteve on 24 Oct 2012 #

    Are you going to do this with the other decades (50’s 60’s & 70’s).
    I know you’re busy, but don’t we all just luuurv these lists?

  27. 27
    Alan on 18 Oct 2014 #

    How polarised the results of this were! I’m of an age that reckons 81/82 were amazing anyway because I was the right age, but just looking at the #1s there’s some duds in there mixing it up. I think 86/87/88 are really strong too, again just in the #1s alone but also in general, so I’m caught out by how little support they seem to have

  28. 28
    Tom on 19 Oct 2014 #

    I will be doing this for the 90s. 21 records to go!

  29. 29
    Alan on 19 Oct 2014 #

    WOO – 21 records each one number 1 for 2 days.

    carrying on… 86 started with West End Girls and Sun Always Shines on TV – both in the FT readers top 50, and has Edge of Heaven and two Madonna #1s (ok and Nick Berry and de Burgh). Might tot up the years in the reader top 100 now…

  30. 30
    Steve Mannion on 2 Jan 2015 #

    I recently decided I NEEDED Spotify playlists for every year of chart hits since 1952 and I was not aware of any already other than a few that Will Swygart put together a few years back. In my case this means everything you can find in the Polyhex database (which I grabbed all the data from via two character searches on ‘songs beginning with’ for, um, several hours…).

    So here they are (AA sides and at least one additional EP track usually included if available):

    UK chart hits of 1980 (497 out of 556 approx)

    UK chart hits of 1981 (481 out of 526 approx)

    UK chart hits of 1982 (490 out of 555 approx)

    UK chart hits of 1983 (545 out of 621 approx)

    UK chart hits of 1984 (496 out of 558 approx)

    UK chart hits of 1985 (475 out of 564 approx)

    UK chart hits of 1986 (506 out of 585 approx)

    UK chart hits of 1987 (529 out of 615 approx)

    UK chart hits of 1988 (580 out of 660 approx)

    UK chart hits of 1989 (608 out of 698 approx)

    Generated via the wondrous text-to-playlist generator IVY at http://www.ivyishere.org/ although a lot of manual checking and editing also needed.

    Will do other decades ASAP :)

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)

If this was number 1 when you were born paste [stork-boy] or [stork-girl] into the start of your comment :)


Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page