Saturday, 22 September 2012

The Best Of 1985 - part 1

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

I've always loved British music - and there was no better time for it than the mid '80s. As my journey through my favourite songs of years past reaches 1985, we come to the tail end of what became known as the Second British Invasion (the first one happening back in the 1960s led by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones).

Tears For Fears were part of the mid '80s British Invasion

The phrase British Invasion relates to the success of UK acts in the US chart, but Australia was also treated to an influx of music from the motherland - and as we count down my list of favourite songs from 1985, we'll see that a healthy 65% of this first batch are tracks by British artists.

Our first British performer is one half of the duo at number 40 - "Goodbye Bad Times" by Giorgio Moroder and Philip Oakey, who, if you recall, teamed up on my favourite song from 1984. This second single didn't do anywhere near as well as "Together In Electric Dreams", but was another catchy little ditty from their album collaboration. Yep, I just wrote "ditty".

At number 39: "Raspberry Beret" by Prince & The Revolution, who was well and truly a mainstream superstar by now. In the US, this song was the first single from his post-Purple Rain album, Around The World In A Day, which also contained "Pop Life" and "Paisley Park" (the lead single in Australia). Paisley Park was also the name of Prince's record label that launched that year and his recording studio. The period from 1984 to 1992 was really the peak of Prince's commercial success, with a new album coming out every year (including soundtrack releases like Batman and Graffiti Bridge) and scaling charts around the world.

With their last substantial hit, at number 38 is "King For A Day" by Thompson Twins, who carried on recording for some years but stopped seeing the type of success they'd enjoyed in the previous couple of years. In the UK, the slump had already begun, with this track failing to hit the top 20 there but it did well enough in Australia and the US.

A band that had no trouble making it to the upper reaches of charts around the globe in 1985 is at number 37: "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" by Tears For Fears, from the all-conquering Songs From The Big Chair album. Between this song, previous single "Shout" and next release "Head Over Heels", there were few more successful artists in 1985. So popular was this song that it reached the UK top 5 twice - once on its original release and again in 1986 as "Everybody Wants To Run The World", a re-recorded version to raise money for famine relief in Africa.

With my favourite song of theirs, at number 36 is "There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart)" by Eurythmics. It was also their biggest hit in the UK, where it reached number 1, while in Australia, previous single "Would I Lie To You?" takes that honour. I like a lot of Eurythmics songs - but there are only a few that I'd say I love and some, like "Missionary Man" and "Beethoven (I Love To Listen To)", that I just can't stand. This, however, is one of the good ones - and is one of two big hits from 1985 to feature Stevie Wonder on harmonica (the other being "That's What Friends Are For", which Stevie also sang on).

Making her first appearance in my top 40 for 1985, at number 35 it's "Material Girl" by Madonna, the second single released from Like A Virgin and by this point another guaranteed hit for the world's biggest music icon. My most enduring memory of this song is it being played on a school excursion to Warragamba Dam and as it blasted out of the bus' stereo, I bounced along in my seat to it despite universal ridicule from the other guys in my class. It wouldn't be the first time I'd be laughed at for liking pop.

As I've mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I also have a love-hate relationship with the band at number 34: "You're So Strong" by Mental As Anything. 1985 was, of course, the year of their biggest hit, "Live It Up" - but I can't abide that track. There's something a bit too nursery rhyme about it for my taste (and this from a fan of Steps). But "You're So Strong" was the right mix of catchy and cool for me.

One of the 1980s' most underrated groups is at number 33 - it's "Perfect Way" by Scritti Politti, who were led by the Princess Di hairdo-sporting Green Gartside. I actually served Green (real name Paul Strohmeyer) when I was working at HMV on Oxford Street in London in 1999 - but, since he looked nothing at all like he did in the '80s, I didn't realise it was him until I glanced at the name on his credit card as I handed it back to him. From memory, he was buying some R&B 12" singles. "Perfect Way" was actually a big hit in the States, while the group's only top 50 single in Australia had been 1984's "Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)". But my fandom of Scritti Politti was only just getting started.

Another British act having fleeting success in the US is at number 32: "Something About You" by Level 42, which was from the band's sixth album, World Machine, and was their biggest hit to date in the UK as well. As we saw in my 1987 ARIA chart recaps, Level 42's only top 50 hit in Australia was "Running In The Family", but being such an Anglophile, I liked a lot of their music. And there was plenty to choose from, with the band led by vocalist/bass player Mark King releasing music in every year of the decade.

From a song with serious lyrical content to one whose words are at times absurd, at number 31 is "We Built This City" by Starship. Like many songs that are absolutely massive, "We Built This City" has not been treated kindly in the years that have since passed. A regular entry in "Worst Songs of the '80s" lists, "We Built This City" was the first single the band released with their shortened moniker of Starship and a new ultra-commercial sound. In Australia, the song would reach number 1 in early 1986 and stay there for four weeks - and I, for one, still like it.

In Part 2, some more British acts are joined by a bunch of American hits - including an all-star charity record. Plus, back-to-back singles produced by an up-and-coming hit factory. See you in a few days.

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