The Fifty Tracks of My Years from September 1984 to August 1985
Popular music can take us to a particular point in our lives. It is the soundtrack of our youth, birth, marriage, random bus journey, 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.
For our second Fifty Tracks of My Years, we span a period from the 1st September 1984 to the 31st August 1985. As with last year’s entry, these reflect the tunes I loved at the time, no necessarily the ones I still enjoy listening to today.
The 1984 – 85 academic year was a seminal point for me. After being at nursery school, I started Proper School. Infant school. The one where attendance is compulsory. For the first three months I was at what was called the Bottom Infants, which in today’s terminology (thank you, Messrs Baker, Clarke, Dearing, and Joseph) is Reception Year. At the start of 1985, I was moved to the school’s SENCo unit, though did some ‘day release’ at mainstream infant classes.
Music was something I picked up off television as well as radio. The pop video clips on TV-am’s Good Morning Britain formed part of my musical influences as much as Live Aid and various Saturday morning TV shows.
For your eyes and ears, and sheer anorakdom, here’s the countdown with some detailed reflections on most of the tunes.
The Fifty Tracks of My Years (1984 – 1985)
- Lean On Me (Ah-Li-Ayo), Red Box.
- Live Is Life, Opus.
- The Wild Boys, Duran Duran.
- I Just Called To Say ‘I Love You’, Stevie Wonder.
- Freedom, Wham!.
- Last Christmas, Wham!.
- Frankie, Sister Sledge.
- Everybody Wants To Rule The World, Tears For Fears.
- Together In Electric Dreams, Phil Oakey and Giorgio Moroder.
- Nellie The Elephant, The Toy Dolls.
- 19, Paul Hardcastle.
- Money’s Too Tight To Mention, Simply Red.
- There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart), Eurythmics.
- Careless Whisper, George Michael.
- History, Mai Tai.
- Do They Know It’s Christmas Time?, Band Aid.
- Money For Nothing, Dire Straits.
- Material Girl, Madonna.
- Everything She Wants, Wham!.
- Ghostbusters, Ray Parker Jr..
- Round and Around, Jaki Graham.
- Walls Come Tumbling Down, The Style Council.
- You Spin Me Round (Like A Record), Dead Or Alive.
- I Feel For You, Chaka Khan.
- Do The Conga, Black Lace.
- Head Over Heels, Tears For Fears.
- We Close Our Eyes, Go West.
- The War Song, Culture Club.
- Easy Lover, Phil Collins and Philip Bailey.
- Pride (In The Name of Love), U2.
- We All Stand Together, Paul McCartney and the Frog Chorus.
- Half A Minute, Matt Bianco.
- A View To A Kill, Duran Duran.
- Your Latest Trick, Dire Straits.
- Tarzan Boy, Baltimora.
- Feel So Real, Steve Arrington.
- Since Yesterday, Strawberry Switchblade.
- Life In a Northern Town, The Dream Academy.
- Icing On The Cake, Stephen ‘Tin Tin’ Duffy.
- Axel F, Harold Faltermeyer.
- We Are The World, USA for Africa.
- Love and Pride, King.
- Cherish, Kool and the Gang.
- The Rhythm of the Night, Debarge.
- Atmosphere, Russ Abbot.
- You’ll Never Walk Alone, The Crowd.
- Round and Round, Spandau Ballet.
- Excitable, Amazulu.
- Invisible, Alison Moyet.
- Imagination, Belouis Some.
Music started to have a greater impact on my life in 1985, though at the age of six, I couldn’t gauge meaning in most of the lyrics. Rhythm and arrangement – the beat, melody and instruments gave me that sensory feedback which I got from music. If I could sing or dance along to it, that mattered.
Music started to give me goose pimples; certain melodies either got me smiling or sobbing. It could make me feel warm or feel cold. First in the former category is a song that began its run in the singles chart before September 1985 and reached its peak outside the scope of this article.
Red Box’s Lean On Me (Ah-Li-Ayo) (1) wasn’t only my favourite song at the age of six. It remains in my All Time Top Ten outside of this year’s Fifty Tracks Of My Years. Firstly, the opening bars always reminded me of winter – nights in a cold house with the heating turned off to save money. How did I get this association? British Gas in its pre-privatisation era had an adaptation of Red Box’s song in its adverts. I associated the song with replacing old gas cookers or ageing gas fires.
When Opus’ Live Is Life (2) hit the charts, it was seen as an après ski song – the sort of thing you would have sung going out on the (“Peas” – Ed) after the piste. I always thought of it as a summer song and – in later years – a great karaoke song. (Then again, it does open Stylus’ Disco Beach Party double LP from 1985 – which includes Rustie Lee’s cover version of Barbados).
Family inspired my choices from 3 to 7. The highest placed one is The Wild Boys by Duran Duran with Russell Mulcahy’s death-defying video one influence. Closer to home, it reminds me of a journey back to Dukinfield on the 344 with my late Nana. We were sat upstairs after getting the bus outside George Lawton Hall in Top Mossley (so she could have a smoke as well). I also remember eating a liquorice bun from Cakebread on Stamford Road and associate the song with that cake. The like of it I haven’t seen since – which could also be said for the Park Royal bodied Leyland Atlantean I was aboard.
Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called To Say ‘I Love You’ (4) gets quite a lot of stick in the music press. It is seen as his worst song, despite being his biggest commercial smash (from the less-remembered by today’s standards film The Woman In Red). My sister has warm memories of it too and we still like the song. Especially the 12” extended version.
Even at the age of five, Freedom (5) was my favourite Wham! song. It is still my favourite one because of its Northern Soul style belly and guts (though – you’ve guessed it – the five-year-old S.V. didn’t get the meaning of its lyrics). Then again, it might have been heard on a half-consumed episode of The Saturday Starship where yours truly thought “great tune”.
When this year’s Fifty Tracks Of My Years were compiled, the next Wham! song only finished below Freedom on goal average. The song in question is Last Christmas, (6) which also had a fantastic double-A side in Everything She Wants. Apart from the rhythm and its superb arrangement, I am transported back to The Good Old Days of Publicly Owned Bus Travel. Back when you could get a 343 on Boxing Day – to see one of my aunties in Mossley. Also the snowy views of Harridge Pike, Buckton Castle and Alphin Pike. A timeless song; I only wish I heard the Christmas Pudding 12” mix in 1984. (Morrisons’ Bredbury branch, back in 2014 was where I first heard that version).
At the other end of the 1984 – 85 academic year, I am reminded of a trip to my mother’s friend’s house in Syke near Rochdale. This was because I heard the tune at the time and thought “cheeeeeesssse” straight away. Sister Sledge’s Frankie (7), through the mention of the song, is enough to give anybody an ear worm. I could never forget the video, where the Frankie fellow (chased by Kathy, Debbie and the other Sledge sisters) is a postman. This surprised me a little because fictitious postal operatives in my mind were called Pat.
To a lesser extent, I am reminded of the 343 or 344 whenever I hear Walls Come Tumbling Down (22) by The Style Council. Especially that section between The Buckton Castle pub and Winterford Road.
Steering away from Songs Incidental To Bus Journeys, the pop video as well as public The eighth tune reminds me of sunny days in 1985, thanks to its iconic bass line and jangly guitar riffs. Tears For Fears’ Everybody Wants To Rule The World (8) references the US and USSR superpowers. Yet it sounds like the soundtrack to a Yew Tree Primary School sports day as well. My second Tears For Fears tune, Head Over Heels (26) is worth an honourable mention – this due to their arranging skills and me being a sucker for good piano riffs.
The ninth tune of the countdown, Together In Electric Dreams (9 of course), was one I loved because I liked the synth sound. For me, it screamed ‘digital’ – and this was partly because the video I saw had LED style text on the promo video I saw (think it may have been TV-am’s Datarun).
I liked The Toy Dolls’ version of Nellie The Elephant (10), purely because it was a fun song. It was my introduction to The Toy Dolls’ work besides the Razzmatazz signature tune. For me, still the definitive version of Nellie The Elephant, though my favourite Toy Dolls cover is their take on The Charlie Daniels Band’s The Devil Went Down To Georgia (the excellent The Devil Went Down To Scunthorpe).
You spin me round…
By sheer coincidence, some of this year’s Fifty Tracks Of My Years have a circular theme – a bit like the naff dancing flower I bought 30 years ago. Top of our rotating tunes is Money For Nothing by Dire Straits (17). A great tune that would later be the first pop video on MTV Europe. As for the spinning thing, that’s the turntable on the microwave oven. The tune also takes me back to boarding a Manchester-bound 219 in 1985 – remembered because it passed what is now The Witchwood (the 219 has gone via Katherine Street since the early 1990s).
Next up on the list is Jaki Graham’s Round and Around (21). For me, it was the arrangement and Jaki Graham’s vocals that I loved (and still adore to this day). Dead Or Alive’s You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) (23) reminds me of my most hyperactive state of mind. I associated it with dancing – or spinning about like a Jack Russell Terrier chasing its tail. The same is also true of Tarzan Boy (35). Alongside the whole of Quantum Jump’s The Lone Ranger, I would also pay good money to see somebody sing Baltimora’s tune on karaoke.
An honourable mention should be made of Spandau Ballet’s Round and Round (47). Filed as ‘pretty good’ by my five-year-old ears, it is one tune I have liked even more in my advancing years. Especially after seeing the pop video which gives the song by Messrs Kemp, Hadley and Keeble its context.
“I got a message on the radio, but where it came from I don’t even know…*”
Many folk would remember a certain song because of where they were at the time. I bought The Clash’s London Calling LP on the strength of hearing it at Jumbo Records in The Merrion Centre in 2001. There are three songs on this year’s countdown under the First Heard It In Some Random Place category. On both occasions, they were inside my uncle’s Austin Mini off a portable stereo radio and twin deck cassette player.
The first of these three songs was Simply Red’s Money’s Too Tight To Mention (12). This was my first way into Simply Red’s back catalogue, as with Jericho and Holding Back The Years. The second one was Steve Arrington’s Feel So Real (36). The third song is Mai Tai’s History (15). A banger of a tune with a catchy chorus and superb arrangement. What I didn’t get at the age of five was Mai Tai’s connection with Prince (which was something you didn’t glean from Uncle Ben’s page in the Stalybridge Reporter).
The other thing that the three songs have in common is their appearance on Now! That’s What I Call Music Volume 5 which was in their stereo system a lot of the time. A lot of the other tunes I liked on this countdown came from the usual suspects – Piccadilly Radio and the pop videos on Good Morning Britain. I first remember Axel F (40) via TV-am’s programme instead of the tedious Top of the Pops performance. At the time I thought “not bad, wouldn’t quite set the world alight” – then again, I do remember hearing Kraftwerk’s The Model at the age of three and thought “wow”.
“In the name of…”
The period of this year’s Fifty Tracks Of My Years covers a few charity singles and the best known of the three is Do They Know It’s Christmas Time? by Band Aid (16). For me, the 1984 original remains the definitive one, closely followed by Stock Aitken and Waterman’s retread five years on.
The next of the three was another original song with a charity ensemble: the USA’s answer to Band Aid. Entitled We Are The World (41), the USA For Africa single charted on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and had a few big hitters (Lionel Richie, Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Springsteen and The Pointer Sisters to name a few). I liked it at the time, though I was too young to see the slightly nationalistic hook and the sense of “yeah, this is America being great under Ronald Reagan”. (Still a good tune all the same).
The third of our trilogy came from the first football tragedy I remember. The fire at Valley Parade, Bradford City’s ground on the 11th May 1985 which led to the death of 56 people. Following the disaster, the Bradford Disaster Appeal Fund was set up and part of its initiative was a cover of You’ll Never Walk Alone (46). Sung by The Crowd (a charity ensemble whose line-up included Gerry Marsden, Black Lace, The Nolans, and Kiki Dee) it peaked at Number One a day before my sixth birthday.
In 1984, U2 seemed like “just another group” to my five-year-old ears. I thought The Unforgettable Fire (title track of that year’s album) was all right, but I thought Pride (In The Name of Love) (30) was more emphatic and listenable on the odd occasions I heard it at the time.
Listenable yet uncool
As the five-year-old and six-year-old me at the time took in anything that sounded good, any attempts at coolness were out of the equation. To be honest, the concept of coolness was nothing I really got in my teens. It was (and still is to some point even now) the same approach as Half Man Half Biscuit’s 2000 song Irk The Purists. A case of “it sounds good, so what?” which I why I shall take my love of Genesis, Supertramp, Roger Hodgson and Black Lace (“What???” – Ed) to the grave.
Whilst on the subject of Ossett’s best known musical export, Do The Conga is halfway up our chart (25). Purely for the It Was Great At Yew Tree Primary School Christmas Parties Factor. Then I saw the video a few years later: cheesier than a Dairylea hamper, though redeemed by shots of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway and a Leeds City Transport double decker bus. I would take three dancing Leodisian milk bottles as seen in the video over a melting one in Sheffield a la Threads any day.
Also filed under Tunes I Loved Though Wouldn’t Own Up To Liking Nowadays is We All Stand Together by Paul McCartney and The Frog Chorus (31). I used to be scared of the high pitched bit halfway through the song but the video – through my eyes at the time – was nothing short of amazing. It stands up well today.
Released at around the same time is Russ Abbot’s Atmosphere (45). I thought the song was pretty good at the time, but my 42-year-old ears would be happy to leave it in 1985 where it belongs. Firstly, I prefer Joy Division’s Atmosphere several times over and, secondly, I prefer Russ Abbot’s comedic work. The TV schedules are poorer without his sketches on screen, but that’s my opinion. (Now and again I still watch the odd episode of Russ Abbot’s Madhouse on YouTube and it is still a hoot).
For some music lovers, the words ‘Matt Bianco’ are shorthand for that Saturday Superstore phone call. During their short commercial life, they did some great tunes. In last year’s Fifty Tracks Of My Years, we had Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed and Sneaking Out The Back Door. The one I like from this chart was Half A Minute (32). Its catchiness and uptempo nature was why I loved the tune – as well as how the beat sounds like somebody having ants in their pants.
George Michael has four appearances on this year’s Fifty Tracks Of My Years. Deservedly so, Last Christmas and Freedom are in my Top Ten (I must have had great musical taste back when I five). His first solo work, Careless Whisper (14) always reminds me of the summer of that year. With Everything She Wants, the double A side of Last Christmas (19) I got – and still get – the feeling of this song being a Night Song. This due to the arrangement and the fact I had only seem to have heard it at Stupid O’Clock on Piccadilly Radio (often before a set of Christmas jingles).
“Behind me stood a maniac laughing at me, saying ‘I watched it in the adverts’…**”
It is interesting to note that our first entry of our Fifty Tracks Of My Years has something else in common with our last one. They were both adapted for use in adverts, or used in near unchanged form for TV and radio ads.
Belouis Some, a two-hit wonder in 1985, entered the charts that year with Imagination (50). The first entry into the charts was a moderate success. Shortly after the release of Some People, Imagination reentered the charts in 1986 and enjoyed greater success. The first time I remember the song properly was that very year – when a non-original version of the song – was used in adverts for Barclays Bank. At first I thought it was an original, but it was a very very good (to Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers standards) needletime friendly version. I only wish Belouis Some (or Neville Keighley to give his proper name) released a few more chart singles.
The same could have been said of The Dream Academy’s Life In A Northern Town (38). At first I thought it was a little depressing. Melancholy yet listenable. Then I saw the video in later year and – once more – it provided some context to the song. In the singles chart at least, Nick Laird-Clowes’ group were one hit wonders and there should have been room for another chart single. The self-titled album is well worth seeking out.
…and the one tune I couldn’t stand at the time was…
A tough one this time! I might have to be a bit controversial by saying it was Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson with I Know Him So Well. Today I think it’s quite a good song, but my mother used to listen to the Barbara Dickson Songbook cassette several times more than considered healthy in 1985. I was bored with it back then, but I am now happy to add Barbara Dickson’s works to my playlist now and again. Especially January, February and It’s Really You because of its off-the-scale cheesiness in the melody department. (Yes, they were on that tape too!)
Before I go…
What are your opinions on the Second 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., 24 December 2021.
* All Over The World, Electric Light Orchestra (1980).
** Architecture, Morality, Ted and Alice, Half Man Half Biscuit (1986).