The Fifty Tracks of My Years from September 1983 to August 1984
Popular music can take us to a particular point in our lives. It is the soundtrack of our youth, birth, marriage, Bar Mitzvah, schooldays or not-so-happier times. Throughout my life, music has played a massive part. You can either see this on East of the M60 in written form, or in my professional capacity with Future Directions CIC on Fun Time Friday.
Like goodness knows how many people across the cosmos, I have created playlists on YouTube and Spotify. I am old enough to have done mixtapes and CD-R compilations in the pre-broadband age.
Taking us back to present social media scene, it was a Facebook post that inspired what could be our new annual feature on this blog. Inspired by the late-great John Peel, this Festive 50 is based on the fifty songs I loved in my formative years. Each one is in no particular order of greatness (supposedly). What the chart doesn’t have are songs from that year which I liked in later years. All of the songs listed were in the UK Official Chart from the 1st September 1983 to the 31st August 1984, including re-entries and re-issues. Neatly coinciding with Academic Years.
For your joy and sheer anorakdom, here’s the countdown:
The Fifty Tracks of My Years (1983 – 1984)
- Don’t Try To Stop It, Roman Holliday;
- The Safety Dance, Men Without Hats;
- Give It Up, KC and the Sunshine Band;
- Break My Stride, Matthew Wilder;
- Jump (For My Love), The Pointer Sisters;
- I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, Nik Kershaw;
- I’m Still Standing, Elton John;
- They Don’t Know, Tracey Ullman;
- IOU, Freeez;
- Double Dutch, Malcolm McLaren;
- It’s Raining Men, The Weather Girls;
- Wake Me Up (Before You Go-Go), Wham!;
- The Reflex, Duran Duran;
- Rockit, Herbie Hancock;
- Smalltown Boy, Bronski Beat;
- Hole In My Shoe, neil;
- Radio Ga Ga, Queen;
- Gold, Spandau Ballet;
- Club Tropicana, Wham!;
- Automatic, The Pointer Sisters;
- Two Tribes, Frankie Goes To Hollywood;
- Karma Chameleon, Culture Club;
- 99 Red Balloons (English version), Nena;
- What Is Love, Howard Jones;
- Wouldn’t It Be Good, Nik Kershaw;
- White Lines (Don’t Do It), Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel;
- Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed, Matt Bianco;
- (Keep Feeling) Fascination, The Human League;
- New Moon on Monday, Duran Duran;
- Red Red Wine, UB40;
- Come Dancing, The Kinks;
- In The Country, The Farmer’s Boys;
- Agadoo, Black Lace;
- Street Dance, Break Machine;
- Sneaking Out The Back Door, Matt Bianco;
- (Hey You) The Rocksteady Crew, The Rocksteady Crew;
- Dolce Vita, Ryan Paris;
- Relax, Frankie Goes To Hollywood;
- Searchin’, Hazell Dean;
- Jump, Van Halen;
- Doctor! Doctor!, The Thompson Twins;
- Girls Just Want To Have Fun, Cyndi Lauper;
- Thank You For The Music, ABBA;
- Young At Heart, The Bluebells;
- Wings of a Dove, Madness;
- The Closest Thing To Heaven, The Kane Gang;
- Fedora, Caramba;
- Eat It, Weird Al Yankovic;
- Susanna, The Art Company;
- Superman (Gioca Jouer), Black Lace.
Back when I was five, I had yet to gauge the meaning of song lyrics. What mattered to me was the tune, the melody, the structure (this is a high note, this is a key change), and being able to sing the tune later. Understanding the lyrics came later, around the same time I left Ewing School. As for understanding more complex song lyrics, that was in my mid-teens.
Top of our FTomYs (Fifty Tracks of my Years) is Roman Holliday’s Don’t Try To Stop It. It is a song I associate with The First Great Summer of the 1980s, alongside Ryan Paris’ Dolce Vita (37). The former reminds of being at one of my auntie’s houses, being in the back garden in warm sunshine. Besides having a good back garden, the front garden afforded grandstand views of the 340 Tennyson Avenue circular route.
Public transport tends to have been part of my early musical choices. I am reminded of a trip to Hathershaw on the 409 after hearing Men Without Hats’ The Safety Dance. It was in a certain bakery where I heard the tune, blaring away on a transistor radio (think it might have been during Peter Powell’s show on Radio One). In part of the lyrics (“You can dance when you want to”), the ‘want to’ sounded like (and was probably sung by myself as) ‘wattoo’ – as in Wattoo Wattoo, the French cartoon series that was shown on Granada Television.
Jump (For My Love) reminds me of the time I went to Manchester by train with my late Grandma. Today, I think nothing about getting a train but at five, it was a big deal – a treat on a modest journey instead of taking the bus. Back then, it was Class 104 DMUs instead of Pacers and M5000 trams passing through Werneth. Why, might you ask, does The Pointer Sisters’ tune remind me of Manchester city centre in the 1980s. The answer lies in its promo video; tiles galore, reminding me of the Arndale Centre before somebody chose to gift it natural light.
For some strange reason, The Reflex (Duran Duran, 13) and Two Tribes (Frankie Goes To Hollywood, 21) reminds me of being on the M56 in the summer of 1984. This, more to do with the songs I heard at the time prior to coach trips in Chester Zoo and Rhyl that year. Then again, back in the days when the M56 used to stop several miles instead of several yards short of the English/Welsh border, Two Tribes seemed a fitting tune for passing Stanlow oil refinery. (Well, not quite as fitting as Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s Stanlow that I didn’t hear till my twenties).
Perhaps I might have read too much into the Iran/Iraq War at the age of five, but I was more accustomed to the horoscopes page of the Daily Mirror instead of the Foreign News section in The Daily Telegraph. A year later, Denton Designs’ Frankie Goes To Hollywood game for the C64 and ZX Spectrum (Ocean Software, 97% Zzap! 64 Gold Medal) had a Raid Over Merseyside sub-game. One potential target was Stanlow oil refinery. Psychic or what?
Returning to Music and Buses (which doesn’t scan as well as Music and Lights), there are three more tunes that remind me of three journeys aboard Greater Manchester Transport’s finest vehicles. Two of which, oddly enough by Matt Bianco. The first one is Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed, because I can equate the uneven rhythm with the windiness of the 343 route to Mossley. The other one is Sneaking Out The Back Door, because I heard it prior to visiting Bury Transport Museum. A journey which meant the 400 Trans-Lancs Express. Then again, it was free for me (later 10p) and 10p for my late Nana. 40p for four buses and two concessions one Bank Holiday weekend.
The third tune in that category is also filed under The Soundtrack To Bus Journeys That Cannot Be Done Quite The Same Way in 2020. It is Wake Me Up (Before You Go-Go) by Wham!, which I heard from a covered bouncy castle on the funfair at Droylsden Carnival. This was another cheap and cheerful journey because my local bus had an extension to Droylsden via Littlemoss. Another reminder of that same 343 journey with the first Matt Bianco song was The Farmer’s Boys’ cover of Sir Cliff’s In The Country. Perhaps it was the Pennine foothills or that etched horse over Heyrod.
Steering away from Songs Incidental To Bus Journeys, the pop video as well as public transport shaped my early musical leanings. Combining the two was Bronski Beat’s Smalltown Boy, a fantastic song because of (a) how it captures British Rail in the 1980s (on video); and (b – though I didn’t understand it at the time) LGBT persecution in less cosmopolitan parts of the UK. Yes, I came for the video in my formative years and went for the song in my later years. A nailed-on classic.
Friends and family
From a very early age (before I understood song lyrics properly), the first group whose music I liked was ABBA. It was either the Swedish quartet or anything by Black Dyke Mills Brass Band in my toddling years. The pattern (arrangement for more musical types of course) felt right, and the ABBA box set got a bit of hammer at Chez Vall. Yet, it was Thank You For The Music which struck a chord, on a blank Boots tape. Its overall warmth attracted me to the track.
The next track under our Keep It In The Family strand (co-starring my Jack Russell Terrier instead of Barney the Bionic Bulldog) is Susanna by The Art Company. Once again, another auntie plays a bit part; she sung the song by changing ‘Susanna’ to read ‘to Sarah’. Years after I heard the song on its original release, I had a proper listen and thought the lyrics seem a tad risqué for five-year-old ears. Well, risqué in the Bill Podmore era of Coronation Street sense rather than E.L James’ Fifty Shades trilogy.
The arrival of my sister was marked with another favourite tune of mine: Culture Club’s Karma Chameleon. To my ears back then, the lyrics were nonsensical. Today, still the case, though one I would happily sing on karaoke once the pubs reopen.
Prior to seeing my relatives – or at least being at their house at the time – I would pick up some tunes along the way. One notable example was Herbie Hancock’s Rockit, which I loved (and still love) for its breakbeat. The same is true with (Hey You) The Rocksteady Crew by The Rocksteady Crew. Most of which was thanks to Saturday morning television – primarily Saturday Superstore, Data Run or Number 73. With the electro classic, the keyboard riff stole the show for me back then (and still does). Ditto the above with Arthur Baker’s remix of Freeez’s IOU.
“All we hear is…”
For some bizarre reason, I associated Queen with the then soon-to-be-demolished Queen Mill on Foundry Street. Back then, I thought, “why would you want to name a rock group after a Dukinfield cotton mill?” More than anything, it was with Radio Ga Ga – the first track of Now! That’s What I Call Music Volume Two. When I first saw the video, I tried to imagine Freddie Mercury and Co. being stood by the mill’s flagpole, or sheltering from the rain in its main entrance (where Morrisons car park and the bus stop is today).
Thanks to those early recollections, I still have a lot of love for Radio Ga Ga. The video and the song works well as a complete package. It is in my UEFA Champions League Tier of Queen songs.
Food for thought
Being as Morrisons has stood on the site of Queen Mill for 34 years, my relationship between food and music isn’t that intense. Yet, there are two tunes that stand out from 1983 – 1984.
One of them is Weird Al Yankovic’s Eat It. I could never quite place whether Eat It or Beat It (Michael Jackson) was the original of the two songs back then. I liked both tunes back in 1984. The other one is Caramba’s Fedora and we have a cryptic link for you in the style of a 3-2-1 clue.
A fedora is a type of hat, popular in Mexico which inspired The Mexican Hat Dance. Though you cannot fill it with four star to the brim, you will never run out of juice for a while.
Well, a brimmed hat from Mexico cannot be filled with Texaco, so you haven’t rejected the car. The size of the hat could keep you in juice for a while. As ‘while’ rhymes with ‘aisle’, you have rejected the two litre bottle of Kia Ora, on special offer at Morrisons.
Caramba’s Fedora is better known for its use in the Kia Ora advert from 1983. The animated advert said that Kia Ora’s squash was only good “for me and my dog”. Whether at its full length, or 30 second form, the song does scream ‘summertime’. Yes, a good time of the year for a cool refreshing squash, set to the strains of Roman Holliday’s Don’t Try To Stop It.
…and the one tune I couldn’t stand at the time was…
Paul McCartney’s Pipes of Peace. For my four-year-old ears, it sounded too maudlin with its melancholy ending. In later years, I was still unconvinced. Perhaps it is the arrangement of the said song that stops me listening to it properly. Then again, I thought at the time he redeemed himself with The Frog Chorus (altogether now… “Bum-bum-bum…”).
Before I go…
What are your opinions on the First S.V. Formative Years Festive 50? Do you have any fond memories of the aforementioned fifty tunes? Feel free to comment.
I shall leave you with this tune. Goodnight and good riddance.
S.V., 11 December 2020.