Saturday, 1 September 2012

The Best Of 1984 - part 1

JUMP TO: 40-31 II 30-21 II 20-11 II 10-1

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 it 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...

Causing all sorts of controversy was the song at number 40: "Relax" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, but being young and na├»ve, I had no idea what Holly Johnson was really singing about. Originally released towards the end of 1983 in the UK, "Relax" didn't take off until 1984 - and then it was absolutely massive, not only in Britain, where it topped the charts and sold almost two million copies, but also in Australia (where it reached number 5 and spent 40 weeks on the chart) and the US (where it would eventually go top 10 in 1985). Frankie would dominate the music scene throughout the year with two more big singles, "Two Tribes" and "The Power Of Love", but after "Welcome To The Pleasuredome" in 1985, the group's sales would go into steep decline.

At number 39, it's "We Belong" by Pat Benatar, who showed a softer side than on her previous single, Australian chart-topper "Love Is A Battlefield" (and most of rockin' back catalogue). She even brought along a kiddy choir for the big climax of this ballad, which gave her another top 10 single locally. 

With a song from their debut album, Stoneage Romeos, at number 38 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 37: "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.

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. 

At number 35: "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.

A classic soundtrack song at number 34, 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 33: "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 32 - "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 31 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. 

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

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