For me, the three years I remember as being best for music fall in a row. These were the years that defined my teenage days perfectly: 1982, 1983 and 1984. The 80s was the decade for music and we were spoilt with a wide range of styles from pop, new romantic and soul to rock, country and dance – it had everything!
Those years represent my time at comprehensive school, a time I particularly enjoyed. My uniform was immaculate, I wore my tie in the correct way, I worked hard in class, did my homework and was a model pupil. Some, all or more of that may not be true, but one thing’s for sure: the music was simply awesome. We had house-bases at our school, with each house having its own area that always had music blasting out. It was an eclectic mix of music that depended on which house-base you visited and which Head of House was choosing the tunes that day. Those three years ignited my passion for music and helped me take the first steps in my career as a DJ and producer. So, let me take you on a journey, starting with 1982.
I had just started comprehensive school and by 1982 I'd begun to take a real interest in music. I used my weekly pocket money to buy records from the local newsagent, which stocked ex-jukebox singles called Pop-Ex Records. The singles were scratched and warped, but they played (just) and they were cheap, which meant I could build my record collection for very little money.
There were some amazing TV shows that showcased a wide-range of music from pop to punk, rock to rap, disco to dance, and almost everything else going. Shows like Cheggers Plays Pop and Razzmatazz always included a couple of live performances from the artists of the day. For the edgier music scene there was The Old Grey Whistle Test and The Tube. Of course, Thursday night at 7pm was essential viewing for the legendary Top of the Pops. The music in 1982 was just incredible. The hangover of the 70s was long gone, thank goodness, and new groups were emerging and pioneering exciting new sounds. I look back at 1982 and remember that music was everywhere, including in my dad's Ford Cortina Estate, where I would spend hours listening to the radio, inevitably ending in a flat battery!
It was also a great time for TV, with Cheers, Allo Allo, No.73, The Young Ones and Treasure Hunt being essential watching in our house. There were some fantastic movies released too, including An Officer and a Gentleman, Rocky III, Annie and E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, the latter being one of the first films I ever saw at the cinema (I promise I didn't cry, honestly!). TV themes and soundtracks were delivering huge tunes, with many of them hitting the charts.
1982 was also the year I took my first steps to becoming a DJ. Every Friday at 12.30pm, after everyone had bolted their lunches down, there was a disco that was held in a hall in the lower school. The disco was hosted by my maths and woodwork teacher, Mr Cooke, who had built his own twin decks, complete with a tape cassette player in the middle – it was a thing of beauty! The setup was simple. Twin decks on a table and two large speakers on either side of the stage. The curtains were drawn and the room was plunged into almost total darkness, no sign of health and safety in 1982! Rather than dance around with my mates, I would stand at the side of Mr Cooke completely mesmerised by the twin decks, the music and the impact it had on my school friends. Mr Cooke would play a selection of the latest tunes from Madness, Shakin' Stevens, Duran Duran and Wham!, and it was the latter that gave me my first step on the DJ ladder. Mr Cooke had just cued up the next song when he leant over to me with the microphone and asked me to introduce it. In my best DJ voice, I proudly announced, “the next song is Wham! and ‘Young Guns’”. I ended the year as the DJ for the Friday afternoon disco. 1982 had worked its magic.
1. ‘Come On Eileen’ – Dexys Midnight Runners
2. ‘A Town Called Malice’ – The Jam
3. ‘Don't You Want Me’ – The Human League
4. ‘Get Down On It’ – Kool & the Gang
5. ‘I Can Make You Feel Good’ – Shalamar
Best Selling Single: ‘Come On Eileen’ – Dexys Midnight Runners
Best Selling Album: ‘Love Songs’ – Barbra Streisand
Christmas Number One: ‘Save Your Love’ – Renée and Renato
1983- A year later and my music world changed forever. It was as if someone had switched the button to 'pop' and left it there for the next 12 months. The charts were literally flooded with hit after hit. In January the first new number one saw Phil Collins top the charts with his version of the Motown classic 'You Can't Hurry Love'. Other number ones that year came from Men at Work, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Billy Joel, Bonnie Tyler and KC & The Sunshine Band. I bought magazines including Smash Hits, Number One and Look-in that were packed with lyrics, interviews and posters! I remember with great fondness going to the local newsagent every day, hoping that they’d have the latest editions of my favourite magazines to read. I would carefully remove any pics of my favourite bands and artists, and then plaster them on my bedroom wall or use them to cover my school books (did anyone else do that?).
The big films of 1983 included Return Of The Jedi, Trading Places, Octopussy, Staying Alive and Flashdance, with the latter providing a superb soundtrack that included the title track from Irene Cara plus the awesome ‘Maniac’ by Michael Sembello. On TV we were watching shows like Blackadder, The A-Team, He-Man, Masters of the Universe, Blockbusters, Minipops and Auf Wiedersehen Pet. I remember racing back from the youth club on a Friday night to sit in front of the box watching Oz and co. whilst eating a large bag of chips. In the words of Joe Fagin, “That's Livin' Alright”.
David Bowie released the multi-million selling album ‘Let's Dance‘, which spawned several hits, including the chart-topping title track. There was a huge amount of Euro-pop including ‘Words’ by FR David and ‘Dolce Vita’ by Ryan Paris. Meanwhile, the music video took on a completely new level of creativity. Songs like ‘Rock It’ by Herbie Hancock, ‘Say Say Say’ by Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson, and Spandau Ballet’s ‘Gold’ all showcased the pop video perfectly.
Radio One was still the station to listen to for the best music. During the summer holidays you would find me glued to the radio every weekday at 11am to hear the end of the news, the pips, and then the greatest thing that radio has ever broadcast, the Radio One Roadshow! Every week for six weeks the nation would tune in to listen to Mike Smith, Mike Read, Peter Powell and the undisputed master of the roadshow, Steve Wright, doing silly things in front of a live audience standing on a beach somewhere by the coast. It was fantastic. Loads of guests, live acts, games (including the legendary Bits & Pieces) and, of course, music! The show was filled with feel-good pop anthems like ‘I'm Still Standing’ by Elton John, ‘I.O.U.’ by Freeez, and Wham!’s ‘Club Tropicana’. Radio was so good in 1983...oh how times change! You can sum up the music of 1983 in one word: pop-tastic.
1. ‘Billie Jean’ – Michael Jackson
2. ‘Gold’ – Spandau Ballet
3. ‘Uptown Girl’ – Billy Joel
4. ‘All Night Long (All Night)’ – Lionel Richie
5. ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’ – Eurythmics
Best Selling Single: ‘Karma Chameleon’ – Culture Club
Best Selling Album: ‘Thriller’ – Michael Jackson
Christmas Number One: ‘Only You’ – Flying Pickets
1984 - This was the year of the 12” single. They had been around for a number of years but in 1984 record sales were beginning to drop, so record companies did all they could to sell more songs – and that included the 12” single. Almost every act released a 7” and 12” version, with many also adding picture discs and cassette singles to their release packages. The music was awesome in 1984 and the 12” single simply enhanced your listening pleasure thanks to its undeniable creativity. One group in particular cornered the market on the 12” release thanks to the ingenuity of their record label, ZTT. The band achieved three UK number ones in 1984 and were one of the biggest acts of that year. They are, of course, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and they kicked off the year with the multi-million selling ‘Relax’ and ended it with the stunning ‘Power Of Love’.
1984 was also the year that Wham! achieved their first UK number one with the party classic ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ and George Michael hit the top spot with his solo effort ‘Careless Whisper’. The group would end the year with their biggest-selling single, reaching number two with the festive favourite ‘Last Christmas’. Their festive offering sold over one million copies, but they were denied the prestigious Christmas top spot by Band Aid, who sold over three million records with the charity single ‘Do They Know It's Christmas?’.
The music in 1984 delivered an eclectic mix. Pop continued to dominate thanks to tracks like ‘Ghostbusters’ by Ray Parker Jr, ‘99 Red Balloons’ by Nena, ‘Together In Electric Dreams’ by Giorgio Moroder and Philip Oakey, ‘Break My Stride’ by Matthew Wilder, and ‘I Won't Let The Sun Go Down On Me’ by Nik Kershaw. But we were also treated to new musical styles, including songs associated with the breakdance scene. Tracks like Chaka Khan’s ‘I Feel for You’, ‘White Lines (Don't Do It)’ by Grandmaster Melle Mel, and ‘Breakin’… There’s No Stoppin’ Us’ by Ollie & Jerry were all huge chart hits. There was also an influx of novelty songs in 1984 including ‘Nellie the Elephant’ by Toy Dolls, ‘Hole in My Shoe’ by Neil, and of course ‘Agadoo’ by Black Lace. Let's quickly move on, shall we?
As with the previous year, 1984 delivered hit after hit. The charts then were as good as they’ve ever been thanks to tracks including Van Halen’s ‘Jump’, Madonna’s ‘Like A Virgin’, ‘Footloose’ by Kenny Loggins, and ‘Radio Ga Ga’ by Queen... the list of great songs is almost endless!
At the cinema, we were enjoying Footloose, Gremlins, Ghostbusters, The Karate Kid and Beverley Hills Cop. On the small screen, we watched Spitting Image, Duty Free, Surprise Surprise, and The Trap Door – and 24 million of us saw Torvill & Dean win Gold for the UK at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. An incredible year from start to finish.
1. ‘Relax’ – Frankie Goes To Hollywood
2. ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ – Wham!
3. ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’ – Cyndi Lauper
4. ‘Together In Electric Dreams’ – Phillip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder
5. ‘Footloose’ – Kenny Loggins
Best Selling Single: ‘Do They Know It's Christmas?’ – Band Aid
Best Selling Album: ‘Can't Slow Down’ – Lionel Richie
Christmas Number One: ‘Do They Know It's Christmas?’ – Band Aid
As with other articles I’ve written for Pro Mobile, it’s open for you to get involved. Maybe as you read this piece you’re already thinking about which three years you’d pick. Maybe the years from your school days or perhaps those you enjoyed best during your time as a DJ?
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 105, Pages 26-30.