Welcome – and so it goes like this: “This is the kind of game you either love or hate. It uses the computer to simulate a ‘real-life’ situation, illustrating how the computer can help you to make decisions about a complex situation. The game makes you the leader of a small kingdom, which you must rule and protect against the ravages of floods and the ever-present danger of attacks from bands of thieves. On top of all this you must keep an eye on the population level of your kingdom and balance that against how much food you have in store. This may sound complicated, but the aim of the game is quite simple – you must survive as long as possible.”
1983 was the year I caught the home computer bug. It came in the form of a ZX81 that Christmas. My next door neighbour had received one for yuletide ’82 and we were enthralled by Psion’s Fantasy Games namely Perilous Swamp and the more complex Sorcerer’s Island. He ditched his wobbly RAM pack for a 48K Spectrum in October and we spent hours sharing typing duty on games from ZX Computing. At the same time, other school friends were getting in on the act. One Paul had an Oric-1, another Paul went for the Vic 20 while the dude with the US-style house had a Commodore 64.
That brings me to Pat Doyle’s BBC Micro B with its most durable keyboard. A real snip at IR£450. In the autumn of 1983 we spent a number of (after school) sessions on it and the game we enjoyed most was Kingdom. Lowdown: the player takes the role of ruler of a small kingdom and in each round / turn must decide how many acres of land to buy or sell, how many bushels of grain to feed the population with, and how much grain to plant. Each decision affects the state of the kingdom as do randomly occurring events like disasters, weather, etc. Our soundtrack on those cosy afternoons was K-Tel’s Chart Hits ’83 which was owned by one of his older sisters. Its iconic ghettoblaster sleeve also brings back to those days; you needed to place volume 2 beside volume 1 to see the full image.
Chart Hits ’83 contains 30 tracks spread over two LPs which represents a decrease of three from the previous year. This meant that early fades would be kept to a minimum. As it was meant to encompass all of 1983, people who had purchased previous compilations found themselves with 18 overlapping songs (60%) which had first appeared on the following:
Hotline: Men At Work – Down Under.
Chart Runners: Forrest – Rock The Boat.
Chart Encounters Of The Hit Kind: Toto – Africa, Thompson Twins – We Are Detective.
Chart Stars: Bananarama – Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye, The Beat – Can’t Get Used To Losing You, Fun Boy Three – Our Lips Are Sealed, Galaxy featuring Phil Fearon – Dancing Tight.
Hits On Fire: Tom Robinson – War Baby, Flash and The Pan – Waiting For A Train, Blancmange – Blind Vision.
Headline Hits: KC and The Sunshine Band – Give It Up, Yazoo – Nobody’s Diary, Paul Young – Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home), Depeche Mode – Everything Counts, The Kinks – Come Dancing.
The Hit Squad Chart-tracking: New Edition – Candy Girl.
The Hit Squad Nightclubbing: Club House – Do It Again / Billie Jean.
Chart Hits ’83 was compiled in association with the following record companies:
Arista, Carrere, CBS, Chrysalis, Decca, Ensign, Flair, Island, MCA, Motown, Mute, RCA. It’s styled as “The very best music of the year” – as a review of 1983, I consider it a most impressive selection with five number ones and a wide selection of quality hits. There are also uncredited sleeve notes for all tracks which I have reproduced below.
KC and The Sunshine Band – Give It Up: “The 12th and so far biggest hit for KC. After a few years without a hit, this was one of the key summer records of 1983. No. 1 for three weeks and played constantly on every juke box in the country. A superb disco track and a great pop single.”
Toto – Africa: “Quite simply one of the best songs of the year. For years Toto have been a major act in America and this single really established them in the UK. After this No. 3 hit they achieved further success with Rosanna (a No. 1 in America) but Africa remains their biggest hit in Britain.”
Tom Robinson – War Baby: “What an amazing comeback! Tom Robinson’s biggest hit since his debut single in 1977, 2-4-6-8 Motorway. Released on his own independent Panic label, War Baby reached No. 6 making it one of the top indie hits of the year.”
Musical Youth – 007: “Musical Youth were the sensation of 1982 with Pass The Dutchie. They have been almost constantly in the charts since. 007 is their 4th hit this year and definitely their best.”
Ryan Paris – Dolce Vita: “An instant smash all over Europe. Climbed to No. 5 in Britain. This is another example of the recent impact of European artists on our charts, though nearly always re-recorded in English.”
David Grant – Watching You, Watching Me: “David Grant (ex-Linx) continues to make great soul records. Watching You, Watching Me is his highest solo hit so far getting into the top 10 in August and staying in the top 50 for 10 weeks.”
Bananarama – Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye: “Consistent hitmakers since their initial success with the Fun Boy Three on It Ain’t What You Do. Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye was originally a top 10 hit for Steam in 1970 but an even bigger hit for Bananarama.”
Yazoo – Nobody’s Diary: “Yazoo only made four singles in their year together – all superb. Only You, Don’t Go, The Other Side Of Love and their final hit Nobody’s Diary. The music of Vince Clarke and Alf Moyet was one of the highlights of 1982/3.”
Men At Work – Down Under: “What more can be said about Men At Work? Down Under has been a No. 1 hit all over the world (staying there for three weeks in the UK) and their first album is the biggest selling debut ever. An Australian band with an appropriate anthem – Down Under.”
Paul Young – Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home): “A truly great No. 1 single. This marvellous version of a little known Marvin Gaye B-side gave Paul Young (ex-Q-Tips vocalist) his first solo hit. Now with a No. 1 album and a No. 1 single, he is firmly established as a major star.”
Club House – Do It Again / Billie Jean: “A strong contender for the most ingenious single of the year. This superb meshing of two songs – the traditional Do It Again (performed here á la Steely Dan) and the monster hit Billie Jean (originally by Michael Jackson, of course). Another European single, this one was made in Italy, but it kept the disco floors warm all over Europe.”
Depeche Mode – Everything Counts: “Depeche Mode continue to make superb hits. This hugely ironic song has re-established them as a major force and is certainly their best single since Clarke left to form Yazoo.”
Nick Heyward – Take That Situation: “The second of his three hits since he left Haircut 100 and so far, also his biggest hit, reaching No. 11. Take That Situation is a return to a more funky sound after the ballad Whistle Down The Wind.”
Flash and The Pan – Waiting For A Train: “A disco smash and one of the most unexpected hits of the year. Waiting For A Train is a brilliantly quirk song that insinuated itself into everybody’s brain. Flash and The Pan are another great Australian band beginning to enjoy worldwide success.”
Blancmange – Blind Vision: “Blancmange are now established as one of Britain’s most prolific hit makers. Blind Vision gave them their second top 10 single and was their 5th chart entry all in the space of 12 months.”
F.R. David – Words: “A hit in Britain only after it had been a hit all over Europe. Words is one of the increasing number of Euro hits making an impact on the charts in this country. Reached No. 2 and stayed in the top 50 for 12 weeks.”
Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse Of The Heart: “An obvious No. 1 from the very first note. Written and produced by Jim Steinman, famous for his work with Meat Loaf, this is one of the most powerful singles of 1983, and the video is almost apocolyptic. No. 1 for two weeks – one of the definitive singles of the year.”
The Beat – Can’t Get Used To Losing You: “A smash in May which brought The Beat’s hit tally to 12. This great version of a song originally a hit for Andy Williams proved to be their biggest success reaching No. 3. The single is actually a remix of a track recorded by The Beat on their first album a couple of years ago.”
Thompson Twins – We Are Detective: “What a great year the Thompson Twins had in 1983. Love On Your Side gave them a first top 10 hit and the magnificent We Are Detective was an even bigger hit reaching No. 7. A great live act and a really exciting prospect for 1984.”
Will Powers – Kissing With Confidence: “Will Powers is actually the voice of American photographer Lynn Goldsmith suitably disguised by various electronic devices. If you listen hard you can also pick out the voice of Carly Simon.”
Black Lace – Superman (Giaca Jouer): “English version of an Italian smash hit. A new dance craze sweeps the country: sleep, wave, hitch, sneeze, walk, swim, ski, spray, macho, horn, bells, ok, kiss, comb hair, wave, wave and Superman! Black Lace’s only other chart entry was with Britain’s Eurovision entry in 1979.”
Herbie Hancock – Rockit: “Herbie Hancock is back! Rockit launched itself to No. 8 making it Herbie Hancock’s biggest ever hit. Herbie Hancock now has four hit singles to his credit, all featuring his unique fusion of jazz and disco.”
Fun Boy Three – Our Lips Are Sealed: “One of the most infectious hits of the year. Written jointly by Terry Hall of Fun Boy Three and Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Gos. Amazingly not a major hit for The Go-Gos in the UK (reached only 47) but did gain them a No. 1 hit in America. The vibrant Fun Boy Three version reached No. 7 in the UK in May.”
Forrest – Rock The Boat: “A disco smash. Originally a hit for the Hues Corporation in 1974 but an even bigger hit for Forrest. Forrest went on to have further success with a remake of another soul classic – Feel The Need In Me.”
New Edition – Candy Girl: “A No.1 hit that took the country by storm. Along with Musical Youth and the Rock Steady Crew, New Edition are part of the new younger generation of chart stars. On Candy Girl, New Edition have captured a vitality reminiscent of the Jackson 5 at their peak.”
Eurythmics – Love Is A Stranger: “What a single! An instant hit? Amazingly it wasn’t – it only reached No. 54 when released in November 1982. However, after the success of Sweet Dreams, Love Is A Stranger soared to No. 2 and the Eurythmics are now firmly established as hit makers. Interestingly the video of this single was censored in the USA.”
JoBoxers – Just Got Lucky: “Easily one of the best singles of the year. JoBoxers’ style is based very much on a Brando Waterfront type image and the music is in the northern soul idiom. There are also interesting comparisons with the early music of Dexy’s Midnight Runners. JoBoxers – definitely one to watch in 1984.”
Galaxy – Dancing Tight: One of the most danceable tracks of the year, and one of the best selling 12″ singles of the year. A chart entry in April; it stayed in the top 50 for 10 weeks. Galaxy are one of the outstanding newcomers to the charts in 1983.”
The Kinks – Come Dancing: “Phenomenally successful in the 60s (10 top 5 hits between 1964 and 1970), it was over 10 years since The Kinks had a top 20 hit in the UK, although continuously in the charts in America. Now that’s all changed with Come Dancing which reached No. 12 and The Kinks look set to re-establish themselves in the UK.”
Gary Byrd and The GB Experience – The Crown: “Reached No. 6 and was only available as a 12″ single. The song is a brilliant rap, complete with a terrific chorus, and the unmistakeable voice of Stevie Wonder. The song has the most interesting and pertinent lyrics of any single this year.”
Chart Hits ’83 also sees the first appearance of two songs that would shortly end up on Now That’s What I Call Music: Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse Of The Heart, Will Powers – Kissing With Confidence. The former, the ultimate power ballad is a classic, reeking of desperation and lovelorn husky hysterics. The video features Bonnie Tyler clad in white, dreaming about her students in a boys’ boarding school. Young men are seen dancing and participating in various school activities and singing in a choir. Meanwhile Kissing With Confidence is a commanding curio, written by Lynn Goldsmith, Jacob Brackman, Nile Rodgers, Todd Rundgren, and Steve Winwood. She used a voice recorder to sound like a man. The single was mixed by Rundgren and yes, Carly Simon is the uncredited singer.
“The most enduring and archetypal rude boy song” is what they said about Desmond Dekker’s 007. Musical Youth used it to kick off their second LP Different Style. 10 more reggae tunes but the R&B heat is turned up to woo the US market. It’s a total flop but the single is a decent cover. Next comes Ryan Paris and the evocative Italo chic of Dolce Vita. David London says: “This was a hit during my first ever trip to Paris as a 16 year old: it was a time before mobile phones, the internet, when you had to buy French francs from a bank before even arriving. I practiced my schoolboy French at street cafes, had my portrait painted in Montmartre and flirted with beautiful French girls who were far too sophisticated for me. Unforgettable happiness. I went back again last month, 33 years later and almost cried at the way it’s changed.”
David Grant pulls off some stalker soul on Watching You, Watching Me. Voyeurism was in – you also had the Thompson Twins’ Watching and The Police’s deeply sinister Every Breath You Take. Later on, the brassy flourish of Nick Heyward’s Take That Situation, the Top Of The Pops appearance memorable for the buxom dancer. One for when the sun goes down – F.R. David’s deeply affecting Words, a sun holiday memory and soundtrack to romantic interludes all over Europe. To the holiday camps and school discos we get Black Lace’s shuddering Superman. All together now – jump off those youth centre chairs!
Bend over, I’ll drive. The sleek, throbbing sound of Love Is A Stranger, another notch for Eurythmics which built on the success of Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This). Not these. Stewart as the chaffeur, Lennox as a prostitute. And then – a squeeze of Madness and a pinch of Dexy’s: the stomping sound of JoBoxers and their second #45, Just Got Lucky. Boom! Herbie Hancock’s Rockit: the first recognised popular single to feature scratching and other turntablist techniques, performed by GrandMixer D.ST.
Finally The Crown, the most supreme of them all. Gary Byrd and the GB Experience initially released the track on 12″ only – running for 10:35. A 7″ edit came later. Written by American DJ Byrd and Stevie Wonder; it presents a wide-ranging historical narrative of human progress (starting with a discourse on the ancient Egyptians and continuing to 1983) with an emphasis on African heritage. It featured raps by Byrd with one verse sung by Wonder and Crystal Blake. I’ll leave the last words on The Crown to Byrd:
“The idea is not that black, white or anyone is better, but that we all have our place. We’ve all made contributions – and mistakes too. Wearing the crown is reaching the top of your potential. You could be a writer or you could be a mechanic, but you can still wear the crown.”
Blancmange – Blind Vision
Ryan Paris – Dolce Vita
Gary Byrd and The GB Experience – The Crown
Flash and The Pan – Waiting For A Train
Lest we forget
JoBoxers – Just Got Lucky