Saturday, 1 September 2012

The Best Of 1984 - part 1

JUMP TO: 100-76 II 75-51 II 50-26 II 25-1

In 1984, the world was meant to be ruled by The Party and kept under watch by Big Brother, at least according to George Orwell. Instead, pop stars had become the world's new ruling class - telling us what to wear (bracelets, and lots of them), watch (Footloose and Ghostbusters), drink (Coke or Pepsi) and think ("Choose Life" or "Relax"), and getting rich beyond imagination in the process.

Big hair was still, er, big in 1984, as modelled by Limahl

By the end of the year, the music industry would band together to tell the rest of us about a cause that was actually worthy of our attention and spare cash, and over the next few years put their persuasive powers to good use by spearheading a stream of charity releases and concerts. As indoctrination goes, it wasn't a bad thing.

In Sydney, Australia, I was having my own form of indoctrination as I came ever more under pop's sway. By the end of the year I would even own my first LP that wasn't performed by an animated character (we'll get to one of the songs from in the next few days)!

If you haven't read one of my yearly recaps before, you can check out the ones from 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982 and 1983. But come back, since 1984 was a great year for music. Let's kick things off with songs 40 to 31 on my list of favourites from 1984...

At number 40, it's "The Glamorous Life" by Sheila E, the super-talented singer/percussionist who would also pop up in 1984 on one of Prince's best known b-sides, "Erotic City", and whose impressively choreographed performances were a sight to behold. "The Glamorous Life" was one of the first examples of a female artist scoring a huge hit with a song written by Prince (see also: Chaka Khan, Sinead O'Connor, Sheena Easton, Martika), and Sheila would work extensively with The Artist Eventually To Be Known As Symbol over the next few years.

With a song from their debut album, Stoneage Romeos, at number 39 it's "I Want You Back" by Hoodoo Gurus - and it actually wasn't a hit single in Australia, only reaching number 68. But, like "Tojo" and "My Girl", it paved the way for bigger things from albums number two, Mars Needs Guitars!, and three, Blow Your Cool. We had a copy of Stoneage Romeos in my house (belonging to my eldest sister), which might explain how I got to know the song so well despite its lack of success.

It's not one of her best known songs, but I like it - at number 38: "The Second Time" by Kim Wilde, which was the first single taken from her fourth album, Teases And Dares. 1984 was a low point in Kim's career, with the type of hits she'd enjoyed in 1981 and 1982 eluding her, especially in Australia, where she hadn't had a big single since "View From A Bridge". But "The Second Time", as well as the two other singles from the album, "The Touch" and "Rage To Love", are all worth a listen if you're not familiar with them.

At number 37: "Dancing In Berlin" by Berlin, who are best known for their Top Gun big ballad, "Take My Breath Away", but it's their synthpop tracks like this, "Like Flames" and "No More Words" that I prefer. "Take My Breath Away" would prove to be too successful in some ways, with the band never living up to its success and splitting up one year after its release, in 1987. But, like so many '80s bands, they've reformed - for a VH1 TV show I remember watching a few years ago - and are touring and recording again.

Another artist making its debut in 1984 is at number 36: "Smalltown Boy" by Bronski Beat, a song and video that could not have had a clearer meaning if it tried, but I think I was too young to understand what was going on at the swimming pool at the time. Bronski Beat would continue to release politically charged records for the next couple of years, with lead singer Jimmy Somerville going on to do the same in his next group, Communards, and later as a solo artist, taking a break from issue-based songs every so often to release a big old camp cover version. 

A classic soundtrack song at number 35, it's "The NeverEnding Story" by Limahl, who by now had been kicked out of Kajagoogoo. Like so many great movie songs from the era, this was written and produced by Giorgio Moroder (the man behind "Call Me", "Flashdance... What A Feeling!" and another hit from 1984 we'll get to eventually). Unfortunately, this would be the last we'd hear from the man born Christopher Hamill on the charts, but he's a regular performer these days at '80s revival festivals.

At number 34: "Juno And Me" by The Dugites, which has to be one of the most fun songs of all time (what do you expect from a band whose lead singer's surname is Nutter?). The Perth band had been around since the last '70s, and even though their ambitiously titled debut song was called "Hit Single", they never really had one with 1980's "In Your Car" only reaching the not-so-dizzy heights of number 34. When "Juno And Me" could only climb to number 60, the band called it a day. This is another track I was introduced to thanks to my sister's vinyl collection - she had the Cut The Talking album from which this song was taken. 

Another Perth band is at number 33 - "Heaven (Must Be There)" by Eurogliders, who succeeded where The Dugites failed and scored a massive number 2 hit with this song. A handful of other successes would follow for the group led by real-life couple Grace Knight and Bernie Lynch, who'd steam up the small screen the following year with the clip for "We Will Together", but Eurogliders would ultimately break up at the end of the decade. Grace went on to have a very successful jazz career and even re-teamed with Bernie for new Eurogliders material in the mid-'00s.

1984 also saw the launch of this solo career - at number 32 it's "Love Resurrection" by Alison Moyet, the former Yazoo vocalist's debut single. Alison's Alf album would spawn another two hits, "All Cried Out" and "Invisible", but this was my favourite of the three. More success would follow with her second album, Raindancing, but by the '90s, less and less people were buying her records. Alison still releases an album every so often and even reunited with Vince Clarke for a Yazoo tour a few years back - but was never able to build on the promise of her '80s debut. 

With the song that started it all - at number 31 it's "Holiday" by Madonna. Proving that the third time really is the charm, "Holiday" succeeded where "Everybody" and "Burning Up" had so far failed (with the latter becoming an Aussie top 20 hit in the wake of the success of "Holiday"). And even though "Holiday" didn't even come with a proper clip - various TV performances like the one below were played instead - the quality of the song and Madonna's potential shine through.

That's it for part one of my trip through 1984. Coming up in Part 2: more Madonna (it was a big year for her!), the original version of a song that's been covered more times than I can recall and a song so racy it was banned in the UK.

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