The 80s – The Album Of The Decade (EMI, 1989)

80s Album Of The Decade

80s Album Of The Decade r

The 80s – The Album Of The Decade was released by EMI during 1989 and includes 32 UK number ones. It was compiled by Ashley Abram for Box Music Limited while the cover design and artwork is credited to Quick On The Draw. It’s a Now spin-off in all but name [even the sleevenotes are written in the traditional style] and a good companion set to Now That’s What I Call Music – Smash Hits despite the five shared tracks [Come On Eileen, Red Red Wine, Careless Whisper, True and West End Girls].

We open with the first chart topper of the 1980s – Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2). One of my earliest pop memories; we were in second class and the chorus was sung all around the school yard of the CBS primary. There was an unforgettable promo video as well which really takes me back when I watch it now. It’s great to have the 7″ edit which means a cold start and not The Happiest Days Of Our Lives preceding it. Pink Floyd spent five weeks at the summit and were dethroned by The Pretenders’ third single Brass In Pocket which is also the second track here. Spiky new wave with a mean guitar riff from the late James Honeyman-Scott. The third song from 1980 is Call Me, Blondie’s triple pure rhythm – harmony – melody. Ace.

The chronological flow is disrupted at this point with a jump to 1982. Survivor’s Eye Of The Tiger was the theme song for Rocky III which also starred Mr T. That and its sequel Rocky IV were key cinematic memories for me. A packed Ritz with extra chairs [uncomfortable wooden ones from the Youth Centre]. Disco staple Come On Eileen is next [sadly no fiddle intro] and is followed by the complete sound of Madness and House Of Fun. Ubiquitous UB40 next, their cover of Neil Diamond’s Red Red Wine before a glorious 1-2 punch from 1981. The Police’s driving Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic and Roxy Music’s plaintive cover of John Lennon’s Jealous Guy. We don’t get the full length version of the latter which is a nice surprise; instead it’s the shorter 4:54 take that appeared on the 1986 Street Life compilation.

Macca’s first #1 of the decade [and Stevie Wonder’s first one ever] was the Ebony And Ivory duet. It’s no Say Say Say. 1984 was a massive year for Wham! and George Michael. Three #1s between them and two of them are here. The smooth jazzy regret of Careless Whisper was a shoe-in but the inclusion of not-so-well-remembered Freedom is most welcome. An infectious slice of pop and as reader Feel The Quality has pointed out, better than Wake Me Up Before You Go Go. A triple play from Now That’s What I Call Music follows: Duran Duran’s non-album smash Is There Something I Should Know?, the evergreen Karma Chameleon and Paul Young’s Wherever I Lay My Hat with no early fade. Fellow 1983 gold medallist True brings down the curtain on the first half. Epic and soulful.

While disc 2 contains many marvellous songs, it’s worth noting that all of them were more familiar to me and had all been included on various compilations during the second half of the decade. The 1980 – 1982 period was not as well-documented and consequently my favourite picks are all from those years. Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas gets us underway before the timeless urban paranoia of West End Girls. Can’t wait for a 30th anniversary Please. The heavy-hitters follow with Feargal Sharkey’s mature adult rock of A Good Heart, Billy Ocean’s knockabout pop of When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going and Diana Ross’ massive comeback 45 Chain Reaction. Then we’re into 1987: Rick Astley’s booming Never Gonna Give You Up and M/A/R/R/S’ sample fest Pump Up The Volume. Fusion aggregation was the way forward.

This was also one of the first compilations to feature the 7″ version of Paul Hardcastle’s 19 on CD. The musical montage of events in the Vietnam war remains as vital as ever. Then we get seven #1s from 1988. A glorious playlist of pop and dance. Four of them had featured on that year’s Now albums – I Should Be So Lucky, Theme From S-Express, With A Little Help From My Friends and The Only Way Is Up. Then there’s three tracks that were originally snared by the Hits series – Perfect, Don’t Turn Around and Orinico Flow so their inclusion is welcome here. The closing track is the sole number one from 1989. Marc Almond and Gene Pitney’s Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart hit the spot on my 17th birthday. A most appropriate soundtrack to teenage lust and mixed emotions.

“Something’s invaded my night
Painting my sleep with a colour so bright”

Favourite tracks
Pink Floyd – Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)

The Pretenders – Brass In Pocket

Roxy Music – Jealous Guy

The Police – Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic

Lest we forget
Wham! – Freedom

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12 Responses to The 80s – The Album Of The Decade (EMI, 1989)

  1. Feel the Quality says:

    Thanks for the mention! A funny thing I remember about the vinyl version, Side one has nine songs and ends with Roxy Music and Side Two has seven tracks. Not exactly earth-shattering but thought I’d mention it, although judging by your paragraph break before (shudder) Ebony and Ivory, you already knew that.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      You’re welcome. Yes, unusual to sequence 9 – 7 – 8 – 8. I suppose there were four tracks on side 2 that were close to or more than five minutes [Freedom, Careless Whisper, Wherever I Lay My Hat and True] which contrasted with a few three minute tunes on the first side.

  2. Chris Brown says:

    Glad I’m not the only one who saw this as a Now album in all but name. Maybe it was supposed to be a Now Eighties until Polygram pulled out or something?

    Of course only including Number Ones is a dubious way to tell the story of the decade – Pink Floyd and Roxy seem especially out of place. And the semi-chronological ordering is just weird, as if somebody made a mistake and they didn’t notice in time.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      That’s a possibility Chris. Although there doesn’t appear to be Virgin involvement either. The sequencing is odd – half-right, wrong and then chronological again.

      • Chris Brown says:

        Oh yeah, you’re right about Virgin – I’d misremembered when EMI bought them.
        It may be a little outside your remit but I also have an EMI compilation called That’s The Seventies which seems a bit too coincidental a title, though the artwork isn’t especially Now-like.

  3. nlgbbbblth says:

    Think I know it – mid 1990s with The Faces starting it off? Not sure if I will delve into too many 70s selections; still debating whether to tackle Indie Top 20, The Indie Scene and Shine later on this year. I think this project could take some years to complete. . .

    • Chris Brown says:

      1995 yeah. Although even if the date wasn’t on the cover you could work it out quite easily because it includes a Gary Glitter track with a sleevenote that mentions Oasis.

      Simon Tyers tried to do a blog of the Shine albums a while ago, but he ran out of steam somewhere in Now 4. Mind you, I think it was on Tumblr which doesn’t help. Part of the reason I didn’t start doing the Now albums in order was to avoid there being a specific notion of it being completed that I could fail to do. That said, I am toying with starting off on another series of albums in order (and I would have done the Shines if Simon hadn’t beaten me to it).

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