After three excellent volumes from the non-Now years, the 1983 instalment sees a move into more familiar territory as we now overlap with both the main Now series and its 10th Anniversary editions. Key events of the year include the following:
1 January: ZTT Records is founded.
8 January: The UK singles chart is tabulated from this week forward by Gallup.
2 March: Compact discs go on sale in the United States. They had first been released in Japan the previous October.
1 September: Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon issue a press statement announcing that Mick Jones has been fired from The Clash.
25 December: Marvin Gaye gives his father, as a Christmas present, an unlicensed Smith & Wesson .38 special calibre pistol so that he could protect himself from intruders. A few months later, Gaye Sr would use it to shoot his son dead.
The stories of 1983’s pop tunes have been told in reviews of the following records:
Raiders Of The Pop Charts: Madness – Our House.
Hotline: Joe Jackson – Steppin’ Out.
Chart Runners: U2 – New Year’s Day.
Chart Encounters Of The Hit Kind: Eddy Grant – Electric Avenue.
Chart Stars: Fun Boy Three – Our Lips Are Sealed, Heaven 17 – Temptation*.
Hits On Fire: Freeez – IOU, Mike Oldfield – Moonlight Shadow*.
Headline Hits: Yazoo – Nobody’s Diary, KC and The Sunshine Band – Give It Up*.
The Hit Squad Chart-tracking: Bananarama – Cruel Summer, New Edition – Candy Girl*.
The Hit Squad Hits Of ’83: Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes – Up Where We Belong.
Now That’s What I Call Music: UB40 – Red Red Wine, Culture Club – Karma Chameleon, Duran Duran – Is There Something I Should Know, Human League – (Keep Feeling) Fascination, Tina Turner – Let’s Stay Together, Peabo Bryson and Roberto Flack – Tonight I Celebrate My Love, Kajagoogoo – Too Shy, Tracey Ullman – They Don’t Know, The Cure – The Love Cats. NB – songs marked with an * above were also included on this first Now album – 13 in total.
Chart Trek: Tears For Fears – Pale Shelter.
Now That’s What I Call Music II: Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax.
Now That’s What I Call Music 3: Nik Kershaw – I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.
Now That’s What I Call Music 1983: Elton John – I’m Still Standing, The Jam – Beat Surrender, Level 42 – The Sun Goes Down (Livin’ It Up), Spandau Ballet – True, Siouxsie and The Banshees – Dear Prudence, Style Council – Speak Like A Child.
“For information only. These were the other number ones of 1983.
Michael Jackson – Billie Jean.
David Bowie – Let’s Dance.
Spandau Ballet – True.
The Police – Every Breath You Take.
Billy Joel – Uptown Girl.” (Blurb on original Now That’s What I Call Music sleeve)
Two down (Spandau Ballet, The Police) so three to go. Two more are here. The first of these – Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl – also kicks off the first CD. Inspired by Frankie Valli and The Seasons with the subject of the lyrics centering on two supermodels. Either / or Elle McPherson and Christie Brinkley. The parent album – An Innocent Man – traces Joel’s musical history through his teenage years in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Doo wop and soul provide the DNA and the album cover artwork was taken on the front steps of 142 Mercer Street, just north of the intersection of Mercer and Prince Street in the SoHo neighborhood in New York City. While it’s somewhat overplayed today, I still have a huge fondness for its retro feel that seemed so out of step back in 1983/1984. Seven singles were released from the LP, so it’s effectively Joel’s Bad / Hysteria equivalent.
After a relatively quiet 1982 (two singles: Cat People and Little Drummer Boy), 1983 saw David Bowie return with a new album on a new label (EMI). Let’s Dance was co-produced by Nile Rodgers with the remit to create a record that had “an original party-funk cum big bass drum sound greater than the sum of its influences.” Listening to it today – in the wake of absorbing myself in the recent A New Career In A New Town box – it sounds very different to the previous home run of classic LPs. A slick production with a commercial feel, it’s a rather radical departure what saw the usual hipster critics turn up their noses – then and now. I really hate elitist pop snobbery like this: “The record had a great deal in common with Wham! and Phil Collins.” (Ed Power, Irish Examiner)
The music video for Let’s Dance was filmed in Australia namely a bar in Carinda (New South Wales) and the Warrumbungle National Park near Coonabarabran. In the beginning it featurs Bowie with a double bass player inside the one-room pub at the Carinda Hotel and an Aboriginal couple dancing “to the song they’re playin’ on the radio”. Bowie’s calling “put on your red shoes” recalls the Hans Christian Andersen’s tale. The singer later confirmed “The red shoes are a found symbol. They are the simplicity of the capitalist society and sort of striving for success – black music is all about ‘Put on your red shoes’.” Stevie Ray Vaughan played guitar and it topped the UK charts for three weeks.
New Order’s Blue Monday was released on 7 March 1983 and subsequently became the greatest selling 12″ single of all time. Running for 7:29 and a crucial link between disco and house, its influences come from five primary sources:
1) Arrangement: Klein + M.B.O. – Dirty Talk.
2) Signature bassline with octaves: Sylvester – You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).
3) Beat: Donna Summer – Our Love.
4) Choir sound: Kraftwerk – Uranium
5) Long keyboard pad on intro and outro: Kraftwerk – Geiger Counter.
In 1999 it was my favourite song of all time. The throbbing synth bass line, the dead pan vocals, the melody that sounds out of sync, the glorious outro. The sleeve was designed by Peter Saville and resembles a 5.25 inch floppy disc. The inner was silver and die-cut. The money facts: It cost so much to produce that Factory Records actually lost money on each copy sold. Matthew Robertson remembers that “due to the use of die-cutting and specified colours, the production cost of this sleeve was so high that the single sold at a loss.” Tony Wilson noted that it lost 5p per sleeve “due to our strange accounting system.”
This Is What You Want… This Is What You Get is one of the most unpleasant albums of all time. It’s definitely a blot on PIL’s copybook and one I try to actively avoid listening to. It contains a re-recorded version of This Is Not A Love Song, probably the most palatable song on the LP. And that’s what is included, not the original 7″. Thankfully normal service would be resumed in 1986 and 1987 with Album and Happy? There’s no Squeeze but we do get Orange Juice. Rip It Up is synth meeting disco with a choppy Chic guitar effect. The Roland TB-303 makes its chart debut here. The 7″ sleeve depicted a US P-40 Warhawk fighter plane (decorated with eyes and teeth) partially submerged, tail first, in the sea. It was drawn by Edwyn Collins. Zeke Manyika bangs the drums. When I was younger I used to confuse him with The Police album Zenyatta Mondatta.
Two of the biggest stars of 1984 were Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Nik Kershaw. To accommodate appearances on this edition and the next one, two of their hits which originated in 1983 but peaked the following year are included now. Relax was released on 24 October and finally reached #1 three months later. ZTT initiated its ad campaign with two quarter-page ads in the British music press. The first ad featured images of Rutherford in a sailor cap and a leather vest, and Johnson with a shaved head and rubber gloves. The images were accompanied by the phrase “ALL THE NICE BOYS LOVE SEA MEN” and declared “Frankie Goes to Hollywood are coming … making Duran Duran lick the shit off their shoes … Nineteen inches that must be taken always.” The second ad promised “theories of bliss, a history of Liverpool from 1963 to 1983, a guide to Amsterdam bars.”
Relax came in a variety of formats and versions:
7″ (Move) ZTAS 1. The standard one. Came in a non-picture sleeve too.
7″ Picture disc (Move) P ZTAS 1.
12″ (Sex Mix) 12 ZTAS 1. Over 16 minutes of action.
12″ Picture disc (Sex Mix) P 12 ZTAS 1. This actually plays the US Mix.
12″ (US Mix) 12 ZTAS 1. Also known as the Long Mix.
MC (From Soft To Hard – From Dry To Moist) CTIS 102.
12″ (Disco Mix). Greece only.
12″ (Long Version). US only. Plays the US Mix.
I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me was originally written as a folk song but Kershaw’s manager signed him up to Peter Collins and Pete Waterman’s Loose Ends production company, so it became a pop anthem in the studio. Although released in mid-September, the song was written during the latter part of the Cold War period when nuclear war between Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States was still a very real concern. It was the era of films like The Day After and Threads. The lyrics reflect a satirical view of politics and the threat of war with lines such as “old men in stripey trousers, rule the world with plastic smiles”, and “forefinger on the button, is he blue or is he red?”
I’ll leave the last word to Nik:
“It’s probably not immediately obvious but I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me is about The Bomb, or rather about people taking responsibility for what they do generally. It’s saying that it probably won’t do much good for one person to shout about these things but I’m going to anyway.” (Number One magazine, September 1984)
David Bowie – Let’s Dance
Billy Joel – Uptown Girl
Orange Juice – Rip It Up
The Jam – Beat Surrender
Lest we forget
New Order – Blue Monday
Missing tracks and other thoughts
The Millennium Series 1983 is another well-sequenced volume. Massive pop classics like Uptown Girl and Karma Chameleon give way to new wave and synth pop with a mini dance ‘n’ funk selection at the end of CD1. The second half begins on a romantic vibe before settling into pop gems like Cruel Summer, Too Shy and They Don’t Know. The last third or so is taken up with an alternative set that – PIL aside – is a cracker. Comparisons with its 10th Anniversary rival are inevitable. There are 22 overlapping tracks between the two sets – UB40, Culture Club, Duran Duran, KC and The Sunshine Band, Human League, Heaven 17, Tina Turner, Mike Oldfield, Kajagoogoo, New Edition, Tracey Ullman, Elton John, U2, The Jam, Joe Jackson, Freeez, Level 42, Yazoo, Spandau Ballet, Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, Siouxsie and The Banshees, Style Council. The Nik Kershaw track can also be found on Now That’s What I Call Music 1984. There was just one Now album released in 1983 and 13 of its tracks are featured on this Millennium entry.
17 songs reached the top of the UK charts during 1983. Nine of them are here while Phil Collins’ You Can’t Hurry Love can be found on the 1982 edition. Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean is notable by its absence – a legacy of the difficulties in licensing his music – while Rod Stewart’s Baby Jane, Paul Young’s Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home) and Men At Work’s Down Under are the three others that fail to appear on either annual round-up. Elsewhere I’d like to make plugs for Ryan Paris – Dolce Vita, The Beat – Can’t Get Used To Losing You, Herbie Hancock – Rockit and take your pick from JoBoxers, Nick Heyward and the Thompson Twins. And as an finale, The First Picture Of You by the Lotus Eaters would have been a perfect sign-up to an absolutely brilliant year of pop.