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”.
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