Relive the music of 1981 athttp://www.last.fm/listen/usertags/Kattastic/1981
it might jog a few memories for the 1981 lyrics game, eh?http://www.last.fm/user/Kattastic/journal/2006/12/5/283408/Beginnings and Endings
1981 for me is a year marked by some pretty big endings and beginnings……..
The beginning of me buying my own music and the end of only listening to parents and sisters records (though not the end of their influence as I’m still listening to ABBA, Electric Light Orchestra, Supertramp, Village People etc etc)
The beginnings of the New Wave and the New Romantics as 1981 was the year that saw the first record releases by such luminaries as Depeche Mode, Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet - aaaaaaaaahhhhhh JOY!
The real tail end of the disco era as ABBA released their last studio album “The Visitors” in 1981, while the Village People felt the pressure of changing musical styles and tried to go all New Romantic with “Renaissance” (which by the way was anything BUT a renaissance for them) and the end in a way for punk with Stuart Adamson leaving The Skids (soon to emerge with the glorious Big Country
) who then went all kind of folksy with songs like “Iona”, while The Clash were becoming increasingly commercial and radio friendly culminating in “Rock The Casbah” in 1982 (while I do like this song the fact that I can remember it being sung on “Young Talent Time” – a hideous youth troupe talent programme that spewed forth Dannii Minogue and Tina Arena – suggests an incredible low-point for The Clash”)
Oh, and of course it’s the beginning point of my musical journey – and if I ever get through the 80s, 90s and 00s and back to the 60s and 70s, it will eventually be the end point too…..(talk about wishful thinking!)So how does 1981 rate?
I didn’t actually hold out much hope for 1981 – and thought it would probably be fairly uninteresting and mostly uninspiring. Well, I was quite wrong. Now it’s only the start of the decade and I know that by the time I get to about 1986 (which I predict will be the winner of the title of “Greatest 80s Year”) and Scoundrel Days
, Black Celebration
, The Seer
and True Confessions
, I’ll probably look back and poo-poo 1981 – but for now it’s held up pretty well.
You’ll see in the lists below that I reconnected with some long-forgotten old favourites, and picked up a few new faves as well. I’ve also begun to listen to a few new artists and started to take a closer look at some of whom I only knew 1 or 2 songs. Plus I just got to revisit lots of material I hadn’t listened to that much in a long time – particualrly Speak And Spell Duran Duran
and Journeys To Glory
In the case of “Speak and Spell”, I’d had the album for a few years but I’d never really spent much time listening to it. After all it wasn’t ‘really’ Depeche Mode – more a Vince Clark project…… however I’ve really come to appreciate it. It’s certainly one of their worst albums – but then the Mode have so many great albums that it’s hard to compete. There are a few stinkers on there, a lot of alright to good stuff, and only a couple of 5-Star tracks but overall it’s all interesting at the very least for understanding and charting the development of the Mode.
And now to “Duran Duran”….. for me this is the greatest of all the Duran albums and one of only 7 albums I considered ‘flawless’ in a past journal survey: http://www.last.fm/user/Kattastic/journal/2006/06/17/158597/
I can’t speak highly enough of Duran’s debut album – 5 x 5-Star songs and 4 x 4-Star ones – and really the 4 star ones are only such as I just had to create some separation between the tracks. It’s moody, broody, atmospheric stuff – and while the singles are all really strong (especially “Careless Memories”), the album tracks are top notch too – “To The Shore”, “Anyone Out There”, “Night Boat” to name a few always inspire my imagination and play out mini movies and storylines in my head. If you don’t own it – buy it! If you haven’t listened to it for ages – then give it another listen. It’s one of the few albums I can listen to the whole way through, enjoy every song and feel like it’s over way too soon. All the tracks work really well together and just flow – so it’s a great one for putting on, turning the lights down, flopping down on the lounge or a bean bag and just soaking up they way you did when you were a teenager.
Finally, “Journeys To Glory”. Another great album – though not nearly as good as “Duran Duran” – but all 3,4 and 5-Star tracks. Having come to Spandau Ballet when they were fully into their poncy suits and their radio friendly, fairly easy-listening music jam packed with saxophone solos – I initially found “Journeys to Glory” a real shock as it’s just so different. And it’s a better different, believe me. While I still enjoy their later stuff like “Gold”, “True” and “Only When You Leave” – it seems decidedly sappy, wet and watered down compared to “Journeys To Glory”. Their debut is much harder, much more synth based and very much in the early New Romantic vein. Sometimes it does get a bit much – songs like “Musclebound” are a bit over the top and bordering on very comical, but “To Cut A Long Story Short” and “Reformation” are wonderfully dark and brooding while the largely instrumental “Age of Blows” is one to set the imagination off – and would have been great as an epic film soundtrack.
Overall there was a lot to enjoy from 1981 – as you’ll see from my charts further down….The Star Ratings…
To get an idea of how 1981 fared – and to try to compare it later to as I get through the other years of the 80s – I rated all the songs from 1981. Here’s the breakdown
5 Stars – 14%
(totally awesome – LOVE IT! and listen all the way through it every time)
4 Stars – 30%
(generally awesome – just not quite as great as the 5 star babies)
3 Stars – 38%
(Like it quite a lot, pretty solid song, don’t get a huge urge to play it frequently)
2 Stars – 13%
(Alright but certainly nothing special)
1 Star – 5%
(Complete and utter rat shit)
And now some silly graphs….
Greens and Blues are the goodies and are all go, Orange is getting ready to stop for it marks the end of my listening range and Red is stop cause it’s only dire stuff ahead
and in pie form
Finally, with same strange calculations I ended up giving 1981 an overall mark of 67% - I guess that means it's 2/3's good. It doesn’t sound that high – but I guess I need a fair bit of scope for future years. Themes and Trends
Hmmm, perhaps a bit ambitious as frankly I can’t be bothered to really delve into this topic too much, however I did notice whilst listening to 1981 that apart from a lot of cheese and novelty kind of songs that there were three main ‘vibes’
1. Oodles and oodles of broody, moody, dark and a wee bit menacing synth music most notably from from Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Visage, The Human League, Adam and The Ants and Echo and The Bunnymen, but also evident in other artists’ offerings
2. A bit of a tropical summery feel evident in The Tide Is High
, Aie A Mwana
, It Aint What You Do
and African And White
3. Lyrically there seems to be a bit of a fixation with art, acting and performamce?
“The visions are making me stay
The art is pretending its art”The Freeze
“She was silent trying to be
Like the girl who acted on the TV
Always knowing when to say
Wishing for a moment so that they could see
Staring in the night
A picture in my room
And I think that she knew her lines”Shout
“It's not far to never never land
No reason to pretend”Sailing
“I see you, you see me
watch you blowin' the lines when you're making a scene”Private Eyes
“Painting scenes from magazines”Passionate Reply
“I’m walking into studio
Consider strange appeal
Paint me in the home
I’m brushing up on sketchbook
Designs for love unreal
Paint me in the home
Oil and skin you’ll need to buy it
Consider what I mean
She sinks beneath the moving pictures
Prepare the brush for me
I’m craving with this need”Paint Me Down
“saw you in the picture
I saw you play the part
This aint nodisco…..
Part one act one
This aint nodisco
This is more a story
And were reaching the end
This aint nodisco”Nodisco
“Is this a love in disguise
Or just a form of modern art…..
I had a nightmare only yesterday
You played a skeleton
You took my love then died that day
I played an American”Tora! Tora! Tora!
“Lying and waiting
A man in the dark in a picture frame
So mystic and soulful”Vienna
Hmmm, must have been a bit of New Romantic preoccupation, eh? Wikipedia calls the New Romantics an “art-school based youth movement” – so perhaps that’s why?? That or with all the frilly costumes they wore they were particularly aware of role-playing?THE CHARTS AND LISTSMy Favourite Albums of 1981
OK, it’s only three I know – but I just don’t have that many entire albums from 1981. As the 80s progress the competition will get fiercer!
1. Duran Duran
2. Journeys To Glory
3. Depeche ModeMy 20 Favourite Songs of 1981Unsafe BuildingStand and DeliverThe Magnificent SevenJust Can’t Get EnoughNodiscoCareless MemoriesPlanet EarthSound of ThunderGirls on FilmTo the ShoreKiss on My ListThe Sound of the CrowdEvery Little Thing She Does Is Magic Under PressureConfusedTo Cut a Long Story ShortGolden BrownViennaThe VoiceFade To Grey15 Classic Songs of 1981 – A Must for any 80s PartyAntmusicRapture Bette Davis EyesJust Can’t Get EnoughGirls on FilmPlanet EarthOur Lips Are SealedDon’t You Want Me CentrefoldDown UnderUnder PressureTainted Love Jessie’S GirlKids in America ViennaThe 10 Best of the Cheesy Hits of 1981
1981 is a serious year for the cheese as music took a REALLY scary turn – that of the dodgy medley of covers all set to a relentless synthesised beat – anyone remember the “Hooked On Classics”? Or “Stars on 45” (also known as “Starsound”)? You probably wouldn’t want to – however I get a strange pleasure out of the musical massacres they produced. “Stars On 45” covered then cut and pasted together medleys of ABBA and Beatles songs amongst others, while even the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra couldn’t resist the allure of the trend and did the same to classical standards. Yes, it’s horrible – but like a car wreck, you can’t help but look! “Hooked On Classics” brings back many happy memories of playing the “Ghostbusters” pc game on the Apple IIC (some years later, that is….)
As Alan Partridge would say “smell my cheese”…….Making Your Mind UpMorning Train (9 to 5)Bad Habits Let’s Hang OnGotta Pull Myself Together9 to 5 Why Do Fools Fall In LoveHooked On ClassicsThis ‘Ole House
(oh, dear – I must admit I had a crush on Shaky! *hangs head in shame*) Stars On 45 5 Big Ballads, Overblown Tear-Jearkers and the like…One of UsI’ll Find My Way Home It Must Be LoveSlow HandKeep on Loving You The 10 Worst Songs of 1981This Little GirlWhat’s Your Name?Shaddup You FaceDuncan So This Is RomanceIntuitionAngel of the MorningSomeday We’ll Be TogetherEndless LoveThere’s No One Quite Like GrandmaOld Favourites/New Acquisitions
Part of reliving the 80s involves checking out the hit songs and major releases of the relevant year. One of the pleasant surprises is re-discovering songs you liked from that year – but which you kinda forgot about because they’re not in your collection (or they’re lurking somewhere in the old vinyl collection). After a quick visit to the i-tunes store I became the ‘proud’ owner of the following tracks from 1981…..SailingOur Lips Are SealedKiss on My ListPrivate EyesWho Can It Be Now?Make A Move On MePhysicalStart Me Up
sadly I’ve been unable to find Japanese Boy
……the search continues….5 New 1981 Gems Discovered
More joy as 5 songs I never really listened to before leap into my list of faves…Unsafe BuildingWater on GlassThe VoiceNodiscoIce Machine5 Few New Artists Being Appreciated
OK, the last three I was well aware of, but I’d never bought anything by them. The first two are all new – and for The Alarm I really must thank drche
for the recommendation to listen to them. The Alarm’s “Unsound Building” is a real Celtic rock corker!The AlarmEcho & the BunnymenUltravoxHall & OatesThomas DolbyAnd finally...Song of the Year
A special mention for Jon & Vangelis' "I'll Find My Way Home" which just screams 1981 for me - not just because it's one of the first singles I ever bought but also because it always makes me think of of my first "Choose Your Own Adventure Book" - "The Cave of Time" - which I just adored. Lame song? Lame book? C'mon it was 1981 and I was 8!
Bring on 1982!Artist ConnectionsABBAAdam and the AntsThe AlarmBananaramaBarry ManilowBlondieChina CrisisChristopher CrossThe ClashDavid BowieDepeche ModeDiana RossDolly PartonDuran DuranEcho & the BunnymenEddie RabbittElectric Light OrchestraElvis CostelloGary U.S. BondsThe Go-Go’sGodley & CremeHall & OatesThe Human LeagueJ. Geils BandThe JacksonsJames BrownJon & VangelisKim CarnesKim WildeLight of the WorldLinxMadnessMax WernerMen at WorkThe NolansOlivia Newton-JohnThe Pointer SistersThe Police QueenREO SpeedwagonRick SpringfieldThe Rolling StonesRoxy MusicRoyal Philharmonic OrchestraShakin’ StevensSheena EastonSimple MindsThe SkidsSoft CellSpandau BalletStars On 45Thomas DolbyUltravoxVisage