Greetings, Glancers! It’s 1983, the year I officially dropped onto the planet, forever changing Humankind’s progression through the nether-galaxy. It was a time when the 80s (as we know them today) were really getting into full swing. Both the Internet and the first Mobile Phone officially appeared (weird, I know, and not at all a coincidence of me deciding to land), President Reagan was shaping US Politics and his Dictator-In-Chief Nancy was waving a magic morality wand across the nation to hilarious non-effect. MASH came to an end, informally ending the 70s, Michael Jackson introduced us to the moonwalk, Margaret Thatcher maintained her chokehold on Britain, Return Of The Jedi premiered, the NES went on sale in Japan, KISS washed their faces, a bunch of terrorists escaped from prison in Northern Ireland, and the Delorean ceased production.
In terms of Music, Michael Jackson premiered the video for Thriller and the album of the same name dominated the charts, Karen Carpenter and Dennis Wilson died, Kirk Hammett replaced Dave Mustaine in Metallica, the Eurythmics told us about Sweet Dreams, Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet pranced about, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper released their debuts, metal bands across the globe were either starting out or hitting their peaks, and Yentl and Flashdance were stinking up the big screen.
But what on Earth was in the UK Top Ten in October of 1983? Well I’m glad you didn’t ask, because we’re about to find out!
1. Culture Club: Karma Chameleon
We all know this one, right? It’s one of the most famous and pervading pop hits of the 1980s, successful enough to land Boy George a spot on The A Team for some reason. It’s pure 80s pop nonsense, and all the better for it.
I think I remember Tracey Ullman being a singer, but I have no idea what this is. Hmm, it sounds Christmasy. Then it turns into some 80s version of a 50s style song, with sweet and innocent words and voices and melodies. The video is a bit of nonsense, with some expected comedy from Ullman, and I don’t see why this ever would have reached so high on any chart. Oh wait, I do, because people are idiots. It’s a very simple, straightforward pop song, nothing to it. Then Paul McCartney shows up. No idea.
Uhh, speaking of McCartney, here’s Siouxsie and Co doing their thang on a Beatles song. It’s a straight enough cover of a song I’m not a huge fan of, with a little more punk, a little more 80s, and Siouxsie’s pronounced vocals instead. The original is a little bland and repetitive and this doesn’t do anything to change that.
Have I heard this already in my Bowie album listen through? Probably, but from the name I can’t remember. Hitting play…. ah yes, I do remember this one. I remember liking it. It still sounds like that other Noughties song I can’t name. This is good.
I don’t know who this is or what this is, lets check it out. Already with the disaster 80s sounds. And your typical male 80s vocals. Everything that was wrong about the 80s right here. At least there’s an audible melody, so it has that in its favour over and above today’s efforts. It’s light and innocent and has a sense of fun – it’s not about sex in other words, so again it has that in its favour versus today’s stuff. Actually a nice keyboard solo in the middle.
I must admit I was never the biggest fan of PIL. I should clarify; I never had that much interest in PIL. Yes yes, Johnny Rotten and all that, but any time a friend stuck on one of their albums I became bored quickly. I admit I was expecting The Sex Pistols V2.0, and instead I caught a bug-riddled, floppy disk version of Talking Heads. I imagine their sound was interesting back in the day, but judging in decades later it sounds horribly dated. Rotten was never the greatest vocalist in the world, but he sounds suitably demented, if somewhat robotic here. It’s not a love song, and beyond a catchy three note riff and some bouncy bass, it has zero melodic quality. Decent cynical punk lyrics of course, but it very quickly wears out its welcome with repetitive rhythms, no building, layering, tension, and a devout avoidance of melody. I get the point, but I’m past the point of caring.
Isn’t this the same guy as number 5? I don’t think I recognise the name, but maybe I’ll recognise the song. Parts of the chorus sound vaguely familiar, as if I heard this in a movie I saw in the 80s. I’d love to make a joke about being a budget rate Lionel Ritchie, but his voice is too smooth. The song is another meh 80s love song – probably a nice one for a certain type of lady of a certain point in time, but even if you were to gloss this up or muddy it down or re-arrange however you liked, the core of the song would still be uneventful and shrugsome.
8. UB40: Red Red Wine
I’m going to go ahead and skip right over this one and not bother linking it. Because I am petty. But also because I can’t stand UB40 and I have a completely rational hatred for them. Also, this song is utter shite.
The biggie. I get how seminal it is, how culturally significant, how influential, and how it was born out of Joy Division. But I’ve never liked it, and most of the music inspired by it either pissed me off or bored me. It’s not my thing, but I appreciate the fact that it exists and how nifty the beats are.
Off the top of my head, I don’t know what this is, but given the amount of Essex that was floating around my domain in the 80s, I assume I’ll know it when I hit play. No, I don’t remember ever hearing this, but what a weird song. It has male vocals, then a woman joins in later, and the bulk of the song has this swaying, twee shuffle sound. It has a terrible spoken piece, but it has nice harmonies and ‘island chanting’, yet it begins like a quasi-hymnal mixed with Christmas Cliff Richard song. Why it’s over five minutes long is anyone’s guess – you could still have the weird intro, the crux of the song, and the spoken part and still be three minutes. Bizarre.