Top 100 Singles of the 80s: 70-66
Someone somewhere should compile one of those petrol-station compilations called Smooth Driving Sounds Volume 90 and fill it only with Toto’s Africa, on a loop, because nothing tops this when it comes to a synth-drenched power ballad. Reaching number three in the UK (and number one in the US and Canada), it was notable for the band’s own production, so deftly done that – 32 years later – it hardly seems to have dated at all.
Depeche Mode: Leave in Silence
The first of an impressive six entries for Depeche Mode in our Top 100, this was one of the lowest scoring of their early hits and is barely remembered by the world at large. But the group have reactivated it recently, with Martin Gore singing a version on tour since 2006 – which, by that stage, was the first time the group had tackled a track from their A Broken Frame album in more than 20 years.
The Human League: (Keep Feeling) Fascination
Featuring vocals from four members – Phil Oakey, Susanne Sulley, Jo Catherall and Jo Callis – this was a UK number-two hit for The Human League (or, rather, The Human League Red, as the group had taken to releasing dance tracks under their Red, and pop tracks under their Blue sub-brands). This and Mirror Man bridged the gap between two very different chapters for THL: 1981’s Dare album and 1984’s Hysteria.
The Housemartins: Happy Hour
By 1986, The Housemartins had already released two feisty, fiery singles in the shape of Sheep and Flag Day, but had failed to break through to the mass market. But that all changed with Happy Hour. The lyrics were still as razor- sharp, but they took the music up a gear into almost throwaway, jangly territory. Add to that a plasticine video – which seemed to be de rigeur in 1986 – and they had the first of a string of hits on their hands.
Strawberry Switchblade: Since Yesterday
Jill Bryson and Rose McDowall – who, as Strawberry Switchblade, were like a gothic version of Shampoo – deserved to have more than one massive hit. But the fact that they didn’t is made up for by Since Yesterday being like a condensed, three-minute “best of” of all their ideas: from the intro pinched from Sibelius to the 1960s harmonies; from the churning beatbox backing to the classy, Tim Pope-directed video.