Top 100 Singles of the 80s: 50-41
By Classic Pop | March 17, 2014
Our Top 100 Singles of the 80s countdown continues…
Soft Cell: Say Hello, Wave Goodbye
By reaching number three in the UK charts in 1982, Say Hello, Wave Goodbye was the single that proved Soft Cell weren’t just about erotic cabaret or exotic dancing (although they were pretty good at those, too). On the A-side, Marc Almond wallowed in 50 shades of pathos as he thought aloud through the ultimate break-up. On the B-side, Dave Ball chipped in with an equally spellbinding instrumental version.
Nik Kershaw: The Riddle
Was this much-maligned single about a tree, a river or a hole in the ground? Or even an old man of Arran going round and around? You might’ve guessed, three decades later, that it was about none of these things. “The Riddle is nonsense,” explains Kershaw. “It’s bollocks, the confused ramblings of an Eighties pop star.” But that’s not to deride the song’s hook, which has endured long enough to give this single a respectable halfway position in our Top 100.
Depeche Mode: Strangelove
Depeche never managed to settle on a definitive version of Strangelove – a mid-period hit single – but it clearly has a strong place in our hearts. Maybe that’s why: because it’s the group’s unfinished symphony. First there was the upbeat single version in 1987, which the group now look down upon in favour of Daniel Miller’s slower album version. Then came Bomb The Bass’ Strangelove ‘88, matching its predecessor’s chart position in the US of number 50.
The Smiths: How Soon Is Now?
A Smiths single that brought in a whole new audience after the band ripped up the melancholy/jolly, Morrissey/Marr musical formula and replaced it with a harsh guitar loop. This track actually started off as a B-side (of 1984’s William, It Was Really Nothing), before taking its own turn in the limelight on the A-side, reaching number 24 in the UK a year later. That great loop also became the basis for tracks by Pop Will Eat Itself and Soho’s Hippy Chick.
Depeche Mode: New Life
EDM… EBM… the seeds of modern electronic pop music can be traced back to here: Depeche Mode’s breakthrough single. Their second, it was released in June 1981 and followed the the misfire of Dreaming Of Me. With New Life, the band secured a spot on Top Of The Pops for the first time – complete with Martin Gore in leather and lace, Vince Clarke at the controls and Andy Fletcher, well, just having a good boogie. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Associates: Party Fears Two
Associates’ biggest hit – this one reached number nine in the UK in February 1982 – it’s since lasted a generation, not for its posturing production or its noodling melody, but for Billy Mackenzie’s dramatic, heartfelt plea of a lead vocal. Billy passed away in 1997 and, at a memorial concert in London several years ago, Heaven 17 took this single and reworked it into a simple piano/vocal ballad. A real tearjerker, it was a more-than-fitting tribute.
Yazoo: Don’t Go
Yazoo had such a short life-span, with less than two years between their first and last singles. But – thanks to the power of Alison Moyet’s vocals, the quality of Vince Clarke’s songwriting and the power of primitive synth-pop – they’re extremely fondly remembered. Both for dance tracks like this one and ballads (more of which to come). Their second single, Don’t Go was Yazoo’s biggest hit, reaching number three in the UK (and number one in Belgium!).
Prince: When Doves Cry
Cinematic in the extreme, When Doves Cry was written in just one night, to fill a gap in the soundtrack of the Purple Rain movie. It’s since enjoyed bit
parts in Lost In Translation and Romeo + Juliet, and been covered and sampled by artists ranging from MC Hammer to Razorlight. Prince’s second entry in this rundown, this single was his first US number one, where it stayed for five weeks in 1984, becoming that year’s biggest-selling single.
The third of Madonna’s entries in our Top 100 countdown, it’s heartening to see this one still rank so high after all these years. That’s because it wasn’t about the hype, the religion, the exposed navel (shocking back in the day) or even the toe-sucking (weird even now); it was about the beat, the pulse and the bassline of New York City life, circa 1983. That and the fresh hip-hop video, and the talents of John “Jellybean” Benitez on the mix.
Don Henley: The Boys of Summer
MOR soft rock but still perfect pop, The Boys Of Summer was cut from the same cloth as Toto’s Africa. Henley – then very much ex- of The Eagles – lamented the passing of youth and the dawning of middle age; and the passing of American counter- culture and the dawning of the yuppie era. It was pure Americana but with a video that was pure nouvelle vague, courtesy of French director Jean-Baptiste Mondino (whose other classics include Neneh Cherry’s Manchild).