Chart Music Through The Years – 1983

Way Back Wednesday: The Top Music of January 22, 1983 : The Retro Network

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.

2. Tracey Ullman: They Don’t Know

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.

3. Siouxsie And The Banshees: Dear Prudence

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.

4. David Bowie: Modern Love

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.

5. Howard Jones: New Song

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.

6. PIL: This Is Not A Love Song

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.

7. George Benson: In Your Eyes

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.

9. New Order: Blue Monday

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.

10. David Essex: Tahiti

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.

Britain’s Favourite 50 Songs of the 1980s

The Dolly Dolls 19080s #TBT (With images) | Worst album covers, Greatest  album covers, Album cover art

The 1980s – I’ve talked about them before, do ya kennit? It’s when I was born, it’s when you were born – and even if you weren’t, with the amount of retro mewling and nostalgia surrounding the era these days, you probably feel like you were.

Christmas Telly in 2020 was a bit of a shambles – the days of big movie premieres on Terrestrial TV are long gone thanks to the convenience and availability of Streaming Services, but generally there are a few good shows held back specifically for the holidays by the big British Corporations. My only genuine British TV viewing this Christmas were the fantastic Waterhole: Africa’s Animal Oasis – which saw Chris Packham and Ella Al-Shamahi following the design and aftermath of a human-made Waterhole in Africa, and keeping tabs on the different species turning up to use it – and Channel 4’s Jungle Mystery – Lost Kingdoms Of The Amazon, which followed Ella (again) travelling the Amazon to investigate new proof of the ancient civilizations spread down the river with numbers presumed to be in the millions, and how descendants of these tribes are struggling to survive today.

One mainstay of End Of Year programming is the C-List Celeb pandering ‘Nation’s Favourite’ lists. Every year, most channels will have a Favourite Christmas Songs or Favourite Movie show to eat up a two hour block while the engorged viewer sweats the last leg of turkey out from their pits, but we do get the more curious ventures such as Britain’s Favourite Toy or Britain’s Favourite Biscuit. This year as I was channel hopping I stumbled upon the final fifteen minutes or so of Channel 5’s Britain’s Favourite 80s Song. Now, I’ve no idea who voted for this – presumably some random 1000 idiots were selected (based on the top ten selection), but generally lists of these type cater to the audience the Channel markets to. An NME list of best 80s song would feature a lot more Indie artists than a more populist magazine. Channel 5 has largely given up its more controversial leanings and is now a semi-populist version of Channel 4. Therefore, you’ll expect mostly big hits and Number 1 singles, lots of one hit wonders, with the odd interesting selection.

Lets take a look at the top 50 songs as voted for by Britain, and weep.

50. Relax – Frankie Goes To Hollywood

To its credit, the show is presented by Craig Charles (who makes everything better), but you know there’s going to be a heavy reliance on pop over Indie or Metal, and a lot of British synth artists I absolutely despise who get an unusual amount of credit for apparently creating a new genre. I’ve always argued that synth is an instrument (shock) not a genre – and that the Synth-Wave, New Wave artists were fairly inept creatively, relying on this new fangled instrument (which had been around in previous decades) to bolster average or boring pop songs. The only real legacy or influence that the artists prevalent in this generation have is a legion of even shittier pop and dance acts, and a further dumbing down of Chart Music. Relax is a prime example – it’s an ordinary song – crap vocals, decent melodies, it only stands out because of its synth. It’s not a favourite of mine, but it’s absolutely massive and is always going to appear on a list such as this.

49. You Spin Me Round – Dead Or Alive

You can have all the androgyny you want, that’s great, but your song is shit. Repetitive dog crap, horribly sung like so many British male vocalists of the 80s. I don’t think I ever heard this song in the 80s – it somehow passed me by until it inexplicably took on a second life in the 2000s, and now you can’t escape the thing. A turgid heap of toilet run-off.

48. Vienna – Ultravox

The first song I didn’t really know. Unsurprisingly it’s another synth number, it’s another deep, low vocal – at least until the chorus. It’s slow and melancholy, but at it’s core it is fairly boring. Apparently it was held off Number 1 by Shut Up A Your Face, which is clearly the superior song. I always go for melody and emotion over production or instrumentation – if the core of your song is so hollow that it is only memorable for its use of an instrument, then it’s just surface bullshit. Sure I can enjoy it, but in most cases not. Mix your melody and emotion with production and then we’re talking.

47. Kids In America – Kim Wilde

It’s another synth based pop song, but this one actually nails the melody portion. It’s a silly, pandering lyric, but it’s throwaway fun with a very catchy chorus.

46. The Final Countdown – Europe

An all time classic. Of CHEESE! We have the usually likeable Lucy Porter mixing up Metal bands with whatever the fuck Europe was supposed to be, because you can’t have a musical countdown list without some idiot attempting to mock a genre they clearly don’t understand. It’s a song about nothing, but it’s easily one of the most recognisable songs ever written and is ludicrously catchy. When I was DJing on New Year’s Eves – this was always the song before Midnight.

45. The Tide Is High – Blondie

One of Blondie’s most poppy moments, this cover song is almost as gorgeous as 1980 Debbie Harry. She doesn’t sing it very well or anything, but it’s such a sweet melody that it’s always going to be a winner. And even if it’s not, I’m too busy being mesmerized by Debbie’s face to care.

44. Money For Nothing – Dire Straits

The biggest song from one of my Favourite 80s Albums, Money For Nothing is far from my favourite song on said album, but again there’s no escaping that huge riff. Knopfler is such an underrated guitarist, but not the greatest singer in the world. Outside of the riff, the song is a tad on the meh side.

43. Never Gonna Give You Up – Rick Astley

The Eddie Munster of the Pop World, Rick Astley, meets with the Bin Laden/Hussain/Pinochet of the Pop World – Stock, Aiken, Waterman. This trio generated so much unforgiveable copycat crap in the 80s that it beggars belief. And yet, many of their songs – well, a few of their songs were undoubtedly catchy. One of the main problems I have with their stuff is that they are such cut and paste jobs – you hear one of their songs and you know instantly that it’s them – same instruments, same beat, same rhythm, same production, same soulless smiles – and the videos are almost identical too – bad dances, same camera movements, same colours. It’s ridiculous and cannot in any way be taken seriously as something to purchase or respect. As much as pop metal bands like Europe can be ridiculed, Stock, Aiken, and Waterman songs are so much more ripe for arse-ripping. As for this song… everyone knows it, big chorus, could have been sung by anyone. A darker, slower, not shitty pop version of this song could be interesting.

42. Walking On Sunshine – Katrina & The Waves.

I’m not sure what this is doing on the list – it’s a happy bouncy song forever used in Holiday adverts, but nothing special. The only special comment I can make on the song is that I always enjoy pissing off Iggy Pop fans by saying the intro to Lust For Life and this are identical.

41. China In Your Hand – T’Pau

I’ve always liked this one – no big story behind it, no real reason for me to like or dislike it. It’s just a decent little song which has always been there.

There’s a break in the countdown to talk about MTV and a couple of random other songs – maybe to fill up time, maybe because the Producer of the show was upset their favourite songs were missed out. In retrospect, MTV may have been one of the worst things to ever happen to music, leading to a reliance on visuals and looks over sound and song, a reliance which remains to this day, and has perhaps become the most important facet of creating a hit.

40A. Wild Boys – Duran Duran

Duran Duran were very much style over substance in their biggest songs and videos, and if there’s a single takeaway from the decade as a whole, as it pertains to chart music, it’s style over substance. There are a lot of Duran Duran songs I love – this isn’t one of them – and beyond the bombastic shouting of Wild Boys, there’s not a lot to it.

40B. Thunder In The Mountains – Toyah Wilcox

I don’t believe I’ve ever heard this one, which makes me wonder why it’s on a list like this or who the hell voted for it. Just an excuse to get Toyah in to the show as a commentator.

40. Don’t Leave Me This Way – Communards

Another cover, another terrible synth dance track. A shocking, truly shockingly awful video, with Mr Jimmy Sommerville being possibly my least favourite artist ever thanks to him appearing in no less than four acts I despise – this bunch, Bronski Beat, Fine Young Cannibals, and his solo work. I’m sure he’s a lovely bloke, but his music is the antithesis of everything I enjoy.

39. Purple Rain – Prince

Prince… everybody goes on about him as this chameleon figure, changing genres, having so much variety…. I haven’t heard this at all (in the admittedly small handful of songs from him that I know). I’m in no way versed in the dude’s music, but essentially everything I’ve heard from him is very similar – pop funk. And I don’t like much of it. I’ve wanted to delve into his back catalogue for some time, but I’ve held off by the fact that I don’t really like his biggest tracks, such as this. If I don’t like his best stuff, how the hell would I fare with everything else.

38. Dancing In The Dark – Bruce Springsteen

Out of all the good Springsteen songs they could have picked, they went for this. It’s… fine. Boring, repetitive, not the best vocal, okay melody, okay lyrics, terrible video. Whatever.

37. Chain Reaction – Diana Ross

Yeah, I love this song. It’s cheesy as the in-betweens of a tramp’s toes, but it’s pure sweet golden melody goodness. For some reason, they spend most of the time on this entry talking about Ross being a Diva (like this is in some way a good thing) and her clothes and the video. Keep it to the song, guys, especially when it’s a good song.

36. Don’t Stand So Close To Me – The Police

It’s an odd one… yeah, the subject matter is plenty icky, but like many Police songs it tows the line dangerously between white boy reggae rubbish, and goodness. The song shifts between minor and major in quite a jarring way – I’d have preferred it to go in a different direction for the chorus, but the verses are good. Some bin-lid comments that the song is like a precursor to #Metoo – no… it’s simply good morals and not being a repulsive shitbag – such notions did exist prior to Twitter. Mostly a nothing song I forget as soon as it ends.

35. Eternal Flame – The Bangles

Well, one of my favourite all time songs by one of my all time favourite bands, sung by one of my all time favourite singers. It’s perfect. I can’t quantify what it is about Susannah Hoffs’ voice that I love… but I will never tire of it.

34. Addicted To Love – Robert Palmer

Part of me really hates this song. It’s not good. But there’s still something about it. Bit of a one hit wonder.

33. I Just Called To Say I Love You – Stevie Wonder

This one gets ridiculed quite a lot. Yeah, it’s another cheese gobbler, but it’s sincere. I could of course lose all the little twee bleepy blop sounds – but once again – the sign of a truly good song is when you strip the production away, sing it solo or with minimal backing and it has the same impact. It’s rather lovely.

32. What’s Love Got To Do With It – Tina Turner

Yeah, good song – she had a few of them in the 80s.

31. Karma Chameleon – Culture Club

It’s androgyny done right, hint hint Dead Or Alive. Cheese? Check. Cheekbones? Check. Fun song great melodies? Check. It’s pure 80s silly fun.

30. Tainted Love – Soft Cell

Nope, hate this song. More synth junk. Take away the crap (in other words, listen to the original) and it’s… a little better. For such an average song it has been covered hundreds of times – but there’s not a good version of it to be found.

29. Africa – Toto

I really don’t get why this is a thing – not then, and certainly not now. Sure the 80s were a weird time when any old novelty shite should become successful… I guess that mirrors today’s meme-led world. It’s not terrible… I just don’t understand its success or how it has lasted so long. Once more, it’s the production which takes the song to the next level, beyond its fairly ordinary roots. If I heard it once I’d like it but forget it. For whatever reason it has persisted. Yet another one hit wonder.

28. 500 Miles – The Proclaimers

It’s another novelty song, which wasn’t intended to be one, and another which has inexplicably stayed with us long past its Use By Date. Featuring one more dismal video, it’s a catchy throwaway song which was a hit because everyone was on Coke, and now everyone remembers it in some semi-ironic way. It has been played at every wedding I’ve ever attended. Apart from my own. But seriously, what the hell is up with their mouths?

27. Everywhere – Fleetwood Mac

I always forget this is Fleetwood Mac. I’m surprised it’s on the list at all – I didn’t think people liked it. I still don’t think they do, given that it only receives about 30 seconds of coverage compared to every other song on the list so far. Again, fine, throwaway, don’t dislike, don’t care.

26. Do They Know It’s Christmas – Band Aid

Yep, thought it may have been higher. I guess it deserves to be there for its cultural importance. It’s a good song too.

25. Red Red Wine – UB40

Probably my host despised band ever. Everything these fuckers have done should be confined to The Great Void.

24. Come On Eileen – Dexy’s Midnight Runners

Another one hit wonder, another wedding song, another novelty song. I still like it though.

23. Total Eclipse Of The Heart – Bonnie Tyler

Yep, love it. Like it? I don’t know, I certainly have sung it enough times over the years. 

22. Careless Whisper – Wham!

I’ve never understood it myself, but George Michael and Wham! were huge. Sure, there are a couple of songs I enjoy but the vast majority of his solo, and the group’s material is sugary pop guff. Rather than spend a couple of minutes talking about the song, they launch into a 5 minute segment showing a whole bunch of Wham! hits. This song is one I like when it’s on, but only to a certain degree – the saxophone sounds ridiculous, the verses are bland, pre-chorus is good. It’s the sax that everyone remembers, I tend to forget everything else about it.

21. I’m Still Standing – Elton John

I feel the exact same way about Elton as I do about George. Wildly overrated in my opinion, but this is a good enough song. Certainly would never make my personal top 50 1980s songs, but I don’t have anything negative to say about it. Once again, they spend most of their time speaking about the video and choreography. 

Again, we take a break in the chart to talk of the video and its cost rather than the song. They main feature here is Duran Duran’s Rio, with a bit about how White Artists had money thrown at their videos over Black artists. It’s a decent song, kind of always sounds like a Bond song. Not one I ever think about it, but like any number of 80s songs it has always been part of my life. 

20. Take On Me – A Ha

The Duran Duran bit was obviously a precursor for this. It was only a matter of time before this showed up. I like it. It’s hard not to. It’s not amazing or anything, but again there is no escaping it if you grew up in Britain in the 80s and 90s.

19. I Wanna Dance With Somebody – Whitney Houston

Whitney – what a talent. Then it all went a bit wrong. You’d be hard pushed to find a more perfect 80s pop song, or pop song of any generation, than this. It’s unnecessarily stretched out towards the end, but no doubt a great song.

18. The Winner Takes It All – ABBA

Yeah, I must do an ABBA walkthrough on the blog. This is an endlessly beautiful, sad song. There you go – melody, emotion, instrumentation, all perfect. Just a shame the band is heralded as this big Camp thing rather than the genuinely great songwriters they were. Not that I’ve heard any of their albums in full… actually, we had Voulez Vous in the house when I was growing up so I probably did listen to the full thing.

17. Everybody Wants To Rule The World – Tears For Fears

I didn’t think this was as popular as it seems to be, but fair enough. It’s a decent song but I have no specific thoughts on it. 

16. Uptown Girl – Billy Joel

Novelty song, but one by someone prolific. Prolific, but I know barely any of his stuff. It’s silly, but catchy, like the best novelty songs.

There’s another break to talk about fashion – I always love when people go on about how ridiculous the hair and the outfits were back then, without looking at the absolute state of what they’re currently wearing and which will no doubt be a similar source of ridicule in a few years time. There of course needs to be a bit about Duran Duran versus Spandau Ballet. Still not a single mention of any of the genuinely good musical movements of the 80s, but there you go. 

15. Do You Really Want To Hurt Me – Culture Club

I prefer Karma Chameleon. This is fine.

14. Don’t You Forget About Me – Simple Minds

Fair enough. I’ve never been the biggest fan of this one, and Simple Minds are another one of those groups I’m subtly advised to listen to. I haven’t heard anything to push me in their direction, beyond bands I do like citing them as an influence. 

13. Lets Dance – David Bowie

This is somewhat surprising. I guess they had to get Bowie in there somewhere, far from his best song, far from my favourite from him. 

12. Billie Jean – Michael Jackson

Finally. I wasn’t sure if there would be anything from Michael given the latest accusations towards him after his death. It’s difficult to separate all of that stuff from his music and from your feelings about him, but jeebus his music is still so effing good. I’ve never been that fussed on the video, which of course they spend too long talking about, but the song is an all time classic. 

11. In The Air Tonight – Phil Collins

I’ve never understood the love this guy gets either, or the success. A handful of fairly good songs. I think this song has been drastically overrated over time (HE SUDDENLY PLAYS THE DRUMS) but I appreciate the downbeat nature of the song. This is one of his good ones, but I’m not a super fan. 

10. Super Trouper – ABBA

Interesting. I never thought much of this one – it does suffer somewhat from sounding like just another ABBA song and gets lots amongst all the other hits for me. I’m baffled it’s as high as it is, higher than The Winner Takes It All and Billie Jean!

9. Eye Of The Tiger – Survivor

Another novelty song and essentially a one hit wonder, littered with cheese crumbs. But you wouldn’t change a single thing about it. A perfect example of the pop rock song, and one which never fails do get middle aged men pumped up.

There’s a break to talk about technology and synth, as if we haven’t had enough of that already. They start with I Just Can’t Get Enough. See, it’s songs like this which push me back from ever listening to Depeche Mode. Again, some of my favourite bands cite them as influences, but there hasn’t been a single song of theirs which has given me the kick in the spine big enough for me to care. To me this just seems like another repetitive pop song too reliant on the novelty new instrument, and made worse by the bland droning vocals.

Oh look, it’s another one – Enola Gay by OMO. Bleepy synth? Check. Droning male vocal? Check. Awful video? Check. One hit wonder? Check. This may as well be Depeche Mode or any of the other synth artists on the list. Was it influential? Don’t care. 

8. Don’t You Want Me – The Human League

See above comment. Except this is a little better.

7. Sweet Child Of Mine – Guns N Roses

About f’ck’n time. An antidote to every other piece of crap on the list, though admittedly as overplayed as everything else here.

6. Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This – Eurythemics

Inevitable. It’s certainly memorable, as one note as it is.

There’s a shocking revelation about Madonna – not a single Madonna song makes the countdown, which honestly is truly bizarre. Regardless of how you feel about her music, she was one of the most successful artists of the decade so to not have a song on this list is nonsensical. I call shenanigans. 

5. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper

Yep, great song. Love Cyndi, doesn’t get the credit she deserves. 

4. Livin On A Prayer – Bon Jovi

It was bound to happen – I’m surprised they only have one song on the list (not surprised it’s this one) and I’m surprised it’s this high. 

3. Radio Gaga – Queen

See above.

2. Every Breath You Take – The Police

Yeah, I’ll take that. I’m not a fan of Sting or The Police, but this is their undoubted masterpiece. 

  1. Last Christmas – Wham!

I’m surprised it’s top, but maybe it’s because it’s that time of year. No doubt it’s a great song, but best song of the 198os? Nah, mate, nah. 

There you have it. No room for Madonna. No room for U2. A single Michael Jackson song… if we think purely about biggest selling artists there was also no AC/DC, Jennifer Rush, Kylie Minogue, John Lennon, and if we think about other genres there’s no New Order, Iron Maiden, Metallica, no Sinead O Connor, New Kids On The Block, BROS, no Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, or MC Hammer, no Kenny Rogers, The Cure, The Pixies, or Kate Bush. Of course, you can’t fit everyone in. 

What are your thoughts on this list? Which songs would you have liked or expected to see on here? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Talking Heads – Speaking In Tongues (Top 1000 Albums Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! Lets keep this run of first time listens going. I say first time listens, but I have a feeling I’ve heard this before, or most of it. Or at the very least it has been on in the background or people have tried to make me enjoy it and failed. It could be this album or it could be another by Talking Heads. In many ways I should like Talking Heads, as they have inspired bands I do like and people say they have a similar sense of humour and lyrical style as I have/had. The songs I’ve heard have never been more then meh for me, and most less than that. I don’t like the vocals and I don’t like the sub Shakin’ Stevens stage presence.

What Do I Know About Talking Heads: Led by David Byrne, I always thought they were English when I was younger, only later finding out they were American. They merged punk and pop and New Wave 80s stuff and always felt like an offshoot of New Order to me. I’ve never heard anything by them which sounded like punk, whatever people made me listen to was always dancey or quirky or poppy. I know most critics and serious music fans like them, so I’m in the minority. Or I just haven’t been converted yet – we’ll see.

What Do I Know About Speaking In Tongues: Nothing concrete. I know it reviewed well and I have heard the name. I may have heard some songs from it or the whole album in passing, but if I don’t remember it it didn’t make an impact. Looking at the track-list – no bells a-ringing, my first thought is ‘how dare you have only 9 songs – only metal bands can have 9 songs on an album’.

Burning Down The House: Hello? Right, there’s the music. I had an inkling this was going to be this. I’ve gone on record before saying that the Tom Jones version of this is one of my least favourite songs of all time. Musically I like this a little more, but vocally it’s horrendous. The music is all blippy blappy moonman stuff and that prevents the main melody from grating as much as the cover does. It doesn’t become repetitive, like the cover, as the music differs enough from one moment to the next but it’s still not something I’d need to hear again.

Making Flippy Floppy: Moonman fade in. Terrible beats and worse vocals. Now this one is repetitive. It sounds like a bad Prince song. At least the bass and instrumentation are sometimes interesting, but it sounds very dated. There’s a whole tonne of lyrics but from one I can pick up without studying, it sounds like random nonsense. Some sort of snaking solo in the middle, sounds nice but the drums ruin it. Nothing hear to make me want to listen again. I assume a lot of people will like to dance to this, and the lyrics give the appearance of intelligence so it’s okay for people who don’t like generic dance music to get into it. Could have a minute shaved off and not lose anything.

Girlfriend Is Better: Listen – the whole 80s synthesized drums thing has always been a problem for me. I’ve never liked it, and I still don’t. That funky staccato guitar is almost identical in every song so far. The vocals are never going to be for me. A lot of the other musical stuff going on is okay, but the songs themselves and the lead melodies don’t deserve the pieces that I do enjoy. In other words, the songs are crap but there are little pieces int he background which should have been cut and paste into a better song. Once again, if I was off my face and dancing this would be fine, but then someone’s vomit hitting the bowl is enough to make me dance when I’m off my face. Haven’t the time or patience to study the lyrics but they seem the most interesting part. In summary – bits I like, but not enough.

Slippery People: The drums are better in this so far. More blips and blaps. The the same guitar. Then the same vocals. I can’t really say ask to replace the vocals and guitar, and in most cases the drums, because then it would be a completely different band apart from the one everyone else seems to love. Backing vocals spice things up a bit, but unfortunate the whole thing is so monotone. That’s always one of the issues I had with a lot of punk – the lack of vocal melody – but at least it was backed up by sheer force or emotion. This has plenty of groovy backing musical parts which are nice – probably my favourite song so far but that’s hardly saying a lot. I guess I’m interested in what sort of person really loves this. Plenty of people in the comments on Youtube are proclaiming each song as the best ever (standard for any video), but I can’t see your standard punk person getting it. Post-punk yeah, but post-punk rarely works for me, people who like pop and dance stuff I would guess this is too strange for them. For me, it’s both not strange enough, lacks emotion, lacks melody, and it’s too repetitive.

I Get Wild/Wild Gravity: Here come the bad drum sounds. Same guitar, but with echo effects. Sounds like something from a Karate Kid knock-off. I’d appreciate this more if I could see it freaking more people out. I love weird for the sake of weird, but it only works for me when it’s either a complete failure or no-one cares. When it tries to hard to be offbeat and ends up sounding just like everything else, but with a slight twist, then it doesn’t work for me. I think that’s part of the issue with this band and me. It’s commercially weird. It’s not buck nuts. That and the repetition and ‘fake’ nature of the music kills it for me. And the melodies just pass over me like they’re not there.

Swamp: Actually, I’m thankful this is only nine songs. This intro reminds me of one of Rod Stewart’s 80s songs. You know, that one where he’s walking towards the camera with his sleeves up. That’s probably all of them, but anyway. Different vocals and different guitar this time. Still no melodies worth mentioning. It’s funny how all the Youtube comments on these songs are like a secret club It’s funny how those comments are more interesting than the songs. Hand clap drums are the spawn of Putin. The vocals remind me somewhat of Bowie – there’s a range but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. For me, I qualify again. You like them, good for you, but they’re not for me. I like my vocals to be ripped from the guts of Hell.

Moon Rocks: Reggae start? Hope not, because that shit rarely flies with me. Why is every song 5.45? Is that intentional? It’s certainly funky, but I don’t think the vocals fit. The music keeps being more interesting than the melodies. The jangled guitars are back. Nice bass going on. Some sort of moonman interlude. Messing in the studio. Making noise from nothing. This one is so overtly funky that it’s hard to not get down. Probably the best one so far, benefits from the occasional melodic turn. Is there enough for me to care?

Pull Up The Roots: More hand clap beats. Come on – how did know one hear this and immediately think it was a terrible idea? Here come the vocals, all over the place again. Better melody for chorus. More Youtube comments saying how ‘normal’ people won’t get it. That’s just what I’ve been saying. It’s not weird or unusual. If you’re enjoying it and blasting it from your car, it isn’t weird enough, it’s 100% normal. It’s not the vocal style of most bands, but that doesn’t mean normal people don’t get it as much as it means it’s not good. And many many vocalists from the era adopted this style – not sure if this was first but Bowie was at it long before this was released. The best thing I can say is that it is funky or you can dance to it. I rarely consider a song’s ability to make you want to dance as a compliment. A better compliment would be that something like this would never chart today, because everything is so bland – credit for not being bland, but I’d never consider it weird.

This Must Be The Place: It’s just… it sounds so weak. I know I’m a metal and rock fan and am used to songs existing solely to blow my head off, but that’s not all I listen to. I listen to plenty of gentle music in traditionally softer genres, but even those feel more vibrant and energetic than this – not weak. Maybe it’s the artificiality of it. I don’t know. It sounds like standard middle of the road pop to me. Maybe because it’s my first and only listen, but this song just blends in with the others and doesn’t stand out. I know it’s different and even has a different approach, but at this point in the album that central vibe is a plague. Criticism at its best, folks!

What Did I Learn: When people say punk I still immediately think of angry young people screaming over three minute guitar based songs, but there’s more to it. I’ve always known that, but I think this and a lot of other stuff got erroneously labelled punk too. It’s entirely something else, but if people have deemed it punk or post then fine. This was exactly the album and style and sound I anticipated it would be, and my feelings about the band haven’t changed. It’s a sound I don’t enjoy, though I can see why some people do. I don’t understand why it’s held in such high esteem even though I should be the target audience. To me it’s too weak, it’s not weird enough, it’s not as adventurous as it either thinks or as it once was, and the monotonous looping of it all keeps me at arm’s distance.

Do I Think It Should Be In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: My opinion is an easy no. To me it sounds like every other Talking Heads work I’ve ever heard and sounds a hell of a lot like many other 80s bands. That sound is so ingrained that it could be a one-hit wonder act or an established artist or Talking Heads – too similar. Of course I’m aware I’m missing most of the nuances which come with dedicated listens and familiarity, but these posts are all about first time, one time listens. I can’t say how influential this was over any other Talking Heads album but Wikipedia tells me this is their fifth so I can only assume their earlier stuff was more influential? There’s not enough I’ve enjoyed here to spur me on to investigate further, but if you’re a fan fill me in in the comments. As is increasingly the case with these albums, I feel like I should apologise for not liking it and if any fans are reading this they’re probably frothing at the beak at how fucking stupid I am for not getting it. You like it? Great. Not for me. Did I say that already? It’s better than most modern chart stuff, I’ll give it some credit.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 965/1000

Let us know in the comments what you think of Speaking In Tongues!

Nightman Listens To – New Jersey – Bon Jovi

Greetings, Glancers! Before all the Snookies and muscular metrosexuals began stinking up the place, Bon Jovi were celebrating their home with their 4th album and mega hit New Jersey. Riding high on the success of their previous album, the band were rapidly becoming one of the biggest in the world, but it’s rare that a single album is enough to sustain a band or prove their abilities, and so the boys needed to prove themselves. New Jersey arguably goes further than Slippery When Wet by branching out a little from their usual sound successfully, while knocking out another number of glossy rock anthems which have stood the test of time. Like most of the band’s biggest albums, I’ve likely heard every song here at least once, but I can’t say for sure that I’ve listened to the album in a single sitting. Lets rectify that now!

Lay Your Hands On Me: Echoing drums, cheesy ‘hey’ shouts, and phaser/guitar/airplane noises to create a strange opening. A minute in and the experimental sounds still abound, with a few spoken pieces added. Eventually the gospel like organ and choir starts before giving way to the 80s Jovi sound. It’s nice that they’re trying new things in their first song, but strip that all away and we have another straightforward, mid-paced, well written anthemic rick song. The verses aren’t great, Jon has some odd vocal tics, but the chorus is great. There isn’t much more to it – the chorus gets stretched out for the last couple of minutes, with further backing vocals and instrumentation to give added oomph.

Bad Medicine: A famous guitar/synth intro gets us into fist pumping full swing and no time is wasted as the chorus blasts out in the opening moments. Funky verses at a mid-stomping pace lead into an anthemic bridge with singalong lyrics before tailing into that big chorus again. Simple stuff, but very catchy and yet another track for a wide range of listeners to headbang to. There isn’t much else to the song, a decent solo in between repeated choruses spreads things out to the five-minute mark, although all that ‘wait a minute’ nonsense at the end could, nay, should have been cut.

Born To Be My Baby: Three big hits in a row, this one again wastes no time in getting to the point with catchy chanting leading into atmospheric pumping synth similar to ‘Runaway’. This is a high energy track which sometimes gets lost amidst all the more famous singles from the band, but I’ve always felt it’s one of their strongest. It’s perfectly 80s, but the melodies are great throughout – verse, bridge, and chorus are each breathless and excellent. A particular scratching solo works well, and those 80s stadium drums make you want to run through the streets in an 80s movie montage.

Living In Sin: This one opens like an 80s pop ballad, and I don’t remember it. Guitars and drums come in eventually, though it’s all soft, middle of the road stuff. The chorus is once again anthemic but it isn’t working for me as I don’t recall hearing it before and it doesn’t have a particularly strong hook. A standard solo followed by a rinse and repeat to end brings an ok song to its conclusion… nothing memorable here, fairly standard 80s ballad cheese, but I imagine a lot of young couples got naked to it at the time and it likely holds a strong nostalgic value.

Blood On Blood: Another hit which opens with tinkly guitars and other effects along with tumbling drums and weird synth and Baywatch piano. South Park vocals with a Springsteen feel give a triumphant anthemic feel, and the pace and the chorus ensure this is another classic. It’s a feel good, fast paced smiling rocker with nice backing vocals and some good melodies. We bring things down a notch for a quiet, whispered section before bringing it all up again for a final chorus section. So far this is shaping up to be the strongest Bon Jovi album yet, but I don’t recognise most of the upcoming songs, so we’ll have to see if it drops in quality for the second half.

Homebound Train: Lone guitar whining which recalls Led Zep opens this one, before a big riff comes in. I don’t remember this one, but it seems funky enough. The ‘down down down’ section sounds familiar so I must have heard it at some point. It’s an odd vocal choice for the lyrics as Jon sings it in a sleazy style, when it appears to be a simple song about going home, though maybe it’s all about sex and I haven’t been listening properly. Nice duel between synth, harmonica, and guitar, pretty good guitar solo, then a funky mid-section. A decent enough, fun rock track.

Wild Is The Wind: Lots of harmonics on the guitars in this quiet opening. I knew it wouldn’t be long before the Cowboy Jovi appeared. I wasn’t 100% if I had heard this when I saw the track list, but yes I’ve heard it, even though I don’t remember it fully. The song becomes standard Bon Jovi rock stuff by the time we get to the chorus, but it’s a pretty great song; atmospheric, ok lyrics, musically and melodically strong, and a slightly more complex song from a structural standpoint. None of the hooks are as instant as the band’s most famous tracks, but there’s a consistency meaning they’re equally strong. One of the guitar parts sounds an awful lot like a guitar part from Bryan Adams’s ‘Heaven’.

Ride Cowboy Ride: We’re defo into Cowboy territory now, as the name suggests. A radio static tune with acoustic guitars and duel vocals serves as an introduction for the next track, but as a standalone song it fine, and the main hook is catchy without lapsing into full-blown Country disasters.

Stick To Your Guns: This opens with a blast before calming and transforming into an acoustic ballad for the verses. It’s another inspirational, full-blooded American anthem of the Springsteen ilk, but the chorus isn’t as powerful as the verse, and we all know that an anthem only works if the chorus is the peak. The chorus is fine, it’s just a little weak when placed beside the very good verse. I do like the way the guitar solo merges with the vocal when it begins.

I’ll Be There For You: This is the band treading into complete acoustic rock and ditching the synth to make a more honest, typical ballad. Even though the guitars are electric, and the drums are big, at its core this is an acoustic track. The verses are good, and unlike the previous track, the chorus takes things up a notch to ensure we move into anthem territory. The song does get stretched a little needlessly with an overly long second verse – it seems like an attempt to fit as many lyrics in as possible, but we get the idea after a few lines. Still, another good song.

99 In The Shade: When I saw the name of this one I immediately had visions of 80s cheese, though the name wasn’t familiar to me. It starts at a high pace, with Queen-esque harmonies before merging into standard 80s rock. Oh lord, ‘tell the boys’… as soon as you hear something like that, you know you’re fighting a lost cause. Yes, my assumptions were correct, this is all 80s cheese, how wonderful it is to party and all that shite. Most of the lyrics of the verses are lost, the chorus lyrics are light and shite, and there aren’t any melodies of note. There is a lot of shouting though, if you’re into that.

Love For Sale: Talking and harmonica messing around. Sounds like the band pretending to look like they’re arsing around. This continues at a high pace with a demo feel. It sounds like they are having fun anyway, there’s a great solo, the drums and bass are non-existent. It’s an odd choice of a final track for an album packed with stadium filling anthems and really should have been a hidden track if they really wanted to include it. It’s an ok song, but isn’t worthy of closing the album.

A mostly, consistently good album then, with a first side of hits, and a second half of lesser tracks ranging from very good to ok, and only one which I would consider poor. This is probably the best Bon Jovi album out of the four I’ve covered so far, and there are still quite a few hit albums coming up as the band began that treacherous crossover into the nineties. As with each of the Bon Jovi albums so far, there isn’t a lot of wisdom or emotion on display – these are party or driving albums, heart-pumping songs to get you moving and smiling, and it’s easy to cut away the chafe from the good stuff. Let me know what you think about the album in the comments – any special memories of hearing the songs at the time of release or if you feel it is another poodle rock mistake!