Spillyear 1983


Let’s have another year ending in 3, shall we? What music was worth listening to the year that Jeremy Corbyn entered parliament?

Listen to the playlist here

Add your top 3 here

(I tried to find a more user-friendly playlist creator than b00mbox, but no dice. So please add your tracks with care, and sorry if you want to listen on a mobile.)

86 thoughts on “Spillyear 1983

  1. Not the first 80s year where these three make up my top 3, and probably not the last:

    1. The Smiths – This Charming Man
    2. REM – Perfect Circle
    3. The Go-Betweens – Cattle and Cane

  2. Hmmm.. I think I bought a lot of singles and albums in that year but all on vinyl of course. I think this would be my top three:

    New Order – Blue Monday
    Grandmaster and Melle Mel – White Lines
    Yazoo – Ode to Boy

    but plenty of other tracks by the same artists plus Billy Bragg, Michael Jackson, Womack and Womack, Talking Heads, Elvis Costello etc.

  3. A year of mutation:


    Mark Stewart + Maffia – Learning To Cope With Cowardice

    23 Skidoo – Coup

    Shriekback – My Spine (Is The Bassline)


    Bunnymen – Porcupine
    Chameleons – Script From The Bridge
    Clock DVA – Advantage

  4. best not to think about this too much, or like shane i’ll get confused. some great stuff in ’83 – soul mining, get out and walk, script of the bridge, fetisch, violent femmes, smiths & sisters singles, the cutter, PIL. I didn’t get in script at that time but i’ll still have to pick one from it. I can remember hearing a DCD session on Peel which included tracks that became “Avatar” and “In power”, two of my favourite tracks. I bought every version of this charming man with my meagre weekend earnings. I used to sing perfect off soul mining to myself on my way to work on cold winter saturdays. i’d probably go back tomorrow if I could.

    alice – sisters of mercy
    geheimnis – xmal deutschland
    don’t fall (or any really) – the chameleons

  5. Age 12 going on 13. I thought for years that this was the best musical year ever. It still ranks up there. I spent a lot of time listening to the radio in solitude that year. My dad’s depression and insomnia were taking their toll and made life miserable for everyone in the house. The neighbourhood was becoming dangerous and most of my friends had long since moved away. We would do the same the following year.

    Suicidal Tendencies – Institutionalized – Truer words have never been spoken. Just kidding Mom and Dad, you knows I luv ya.

    Herbie Hancock – Rockit – Those scratching sounds were like nothing I’d ever heard before.

    The Kinks – Come Dancing – Of all the ’60s acts who made ’80s comebacks, this one still stands the test of time. Especially relevant to me because at that time, my sister (born Dec. 1967) was becoming something of a handful for our parents to deal with.

    Honourable mention: Quiet Riot – Metal Health, Pretenders – Back On The Chain Gang, Mötley Crüe – Shout At The Devil, Robin Gibb – Juliet, ZZ Top – Got Me Under Pressure

  6. Heck of a year, some major albums that year. I graduated college that year. Was listening to the mainstream stuff –

    U2- New Year’s Day

    Police – Synchronicity 1, but tough to pick off of a massive album with many very good tunes.

    Talking Heads – Girlfriend is Better. Which is probably cheating, as i picked the live version for another year. Burning down the House doesn’t make my top 3 though, but it’s shortlisted. So –

    Elvis Costello – Every Day I Write the Book (also Shipbuilding)

    No Bowie for me this year, or REM. A lonely shout for Spandau’s True. A nod to Tears for Fears’ Mad World, but i vastly prefer the covers. UB40’s Neil Diamond cover. Brian Eno’s Apollo, which i wasn’t listening to at the time. Guilty Pleasure – Pyromania hits.

  7. No! 1983 is just TOO difficult. I agree completely with Shane, except that I was 18, and it was my A-level summer, followed by my exposure to a whole new world at Uni.
    So whilst my old/core rocker self would instantly think of
    ZZ Top (almost anything from Eliminator),
    Big Country (quite a few from The Crossing),
    Genesis – Mama,
    Thin Lizzy – Thunder And Lightning and the awesome Reading headline / farewell,
    UFO – Diesel In The Dust from the otherwise frankly rubbish Making Contact,
    Def Leppard – Too Late For Love,
    Iron Maiden – Flight Of Icarus,
    Bryan Adams – Cuts Like A Knife
    (yes, really),
    Brian May’s Starfleet Project and more,

    my pop/chart ear was unable to escape
    Altered Images, Paul Young, Madonna, UB40, Depeche Mode, The Eurythmics, Bowie, Simple Minds, Talking Heads, The Fixx, The Belle Stars, Heaven 17, U2 etc.,

    as I was in Liverpool at the time, I was getting ‘sponged’ by
    China Crisis, Dalek I Love You, Echo & The Bunnymen, Frankie Goes To Hollywood

    and once I got to Uni, I found these being played out of my new housemates’ bedrooms:
    New Order (I immediately liked Your Silent Face),
    Toy Dolls – Nellie the Elephant,
    The Birthday Party, Cocteau Twins, R.E.M., Bauhaus
    Need I go on?

    But to pick a couple of oddballs that I loved in 1983:
    Rickie Lee Jones – My Funny Valentine,
    Tom Waits – In The Neighbourhood, and
    Robert Wyatt – Shipbuilding (which I’d missed first time round in 1982.

    • Donds of course for Diesel in the Dust.

      Two others I’ve added to the playlist

      Marillion – Forgotten Sons. They were still wearing their influences on their sleeves at this point, sounding like Genesis’ “The Knife” crossed with Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”, but it still packs an intense punch.

      Rainbow – Firedance One of two songs from “Bent Out Of Shape” that were on the shortlist for my Ritchie Blackmore Ten of the Best piece, though neither made the final cut (The other was the instrumental “Anybody There”)

    • Damn! Bloody English keyboard. Now I’m safely back on a Finnish keyboard! Where was I? Oh! Some lame joke about Billie Jean and Flashdance and All Night Long. Anyway, a top three from ’83 that is valid for about five seconds before I change my mind

      The Creatures er The Glove er….Dexy’s FB3, Aztec. Three O’clock…… Ah! Stuff I played this week.

      R.E.M. – Radio Free Europe
      The Rain Parade – This Can’t Be Today
      Echo and the Bunnymen – Never Stop (Discotheque)

      It was a year when E&tB, Bowie, The Cure, U2 Axtec Camera made my collection a hit with the sixth form girls but I stole a best friend’s girl instead; she didn’t like Bauhaus. Blackpool was still a popular resort and you could get in any nightclub if you looked at least 16, could even get membership cards! Swapping cassettes with friends, exchanging bodily fluids, lots of chemical imbalance. Lots of work. Lots of partying – too much. Not enough studying. A new world for me, but a pretty normal life. Great year.

  8. Lots to choose from here. I was only 6 or 7 years old. I remember going with my mum and brother to buy some new school shoes (Clarks of course!) and there was a promotion on at the shop where you could get a free Top Ten single from the charts with each pair of shoes. You chose it and then had to wait several weeks for them to be posted. I chose KC and the Sunshine Band “Give it Up” and my brother got “IOU” by Freeez – fine choices I’m sure you’ll agree!

    I’ll go for:

    Metallica – “Whiplash” (off of “Kill ‘Em All” a real game changer for metal and still a classic – it’s spinning on the player as I type this!)

    Minor Threat – Out of Step (DC hardcore was just beginning to go past it’s prime, but MT and Bad Brains were still keeping it true)

    Toto – Africa (someone had to….!)

    • Donds for the loud and fast stuff. IOU is also a great 83 tune. I have the 12″ version somewhere. Also have that KC track on a compilation somewhere. I read/heard that a lot of DC hardcore was inspired by people seeing The Ruts play two shows in a night there. From the same promotion I think I got War Babies by Tom Robinson.

      • Tom Robinson is a far cooler choice!

        Yeah, that sounds familiar about the Ruts, I think all those most English of English punk bands (Sham 69 etc) had an unlikely influence on DC hardcore that made it stand out from everything else in the US at the time. The Monkees’ “…Steppin’ Stone” only became a DC staple thanks to the Pistols’ cover…

      • Ooh yes, War Baby. I was thinking that it was a 1984 track, but I see that it was a single in 1983 and was then an album track the year after. Great song, though.

      • Yet another! Amazing really – i’m sure there’s a moderately interesting article in there somewhere.

        For me it was the first record I owned, except for “20 All-Time Junior Hits” and I have to admit I do still have a soft spot for KC and her band of sunshine!

      • Put another way, though: is there likely to be anyone who was in early teens in 1983 who *didn’t* wear Clarks Shoes, at least for school, and didn’t need a new pair every year?

      • true, true. I bet if the Guardian did a blog post about it, claiming it had been a life-changing musical catalyst for the lives of a load of b-list musicians/celebrities, they would get a lot of comments from people claiming the same….like me!!

  9. Back from two years in the deserts of Sudan and off to do my PGCE in hometown Newcastle. Saturday afternoons spent getting legless in the Bigg Market and ending up in HMV spending my grant on albums. Home with a curry from Brighton Grove and a listening session.

    Echo & The Bunnymen – The Cutter
    King Sunny Ade – Synchro System
    SOS Band – Just be good to Me

    Big Country almost made it with In a Big Country.

    As always, I find it difficult to find anything I don’t particularly like on these lists. Impeccable taste, the lot of you.

    • Back from two years in the deserts of Sudan and off to do my PGCE in hometown Newcastle.

      Is that what you were doing in ’83, or where you’re at now? If the latter, are you coming to the RR Social in London this Sat?

      • If only it were now! No, that was what I was doing in 1983. I’m in the UAE now, and won’t be able to make the Social, much as I’d love to. I will be thinking of you all, though, and may well raise a glass to the event.

  10. In can remember many things about 1983. It was the year that The Clash fell apart, after Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon sacked Mick Jones. That seemed like the end of an era. Spandau Ballet were riding high in the charts and the whole New Romantic thing had mutated out onto the High Street and become the new mainstream. It was all glossy, shiny and ultimately pointless. Chart dross personified, the soundtrack for the Thatcher age.

    What was I listening to, though? What was I buying?

    I know that I bought Van Morrison‘s Inarticulate Speech of the Heart but I can also remember being disappointed with it. I doubt that I’ll be picking anything from it. I’ve not heard it in decades but I can remember it sounding like wine bar music.

    I was rather into The Eurythmics at the time and I really liked their Sweet Dreams album, so I will pick a track from that. I also bought Elvis Costello‘s Punch The Clock So that is in too. For my third choice, I think I have to go with Let’s Dance from David Bowie. It was a monster hit that year and I think it still stands up, mostly. To my mind, it was his last decent record.


    The Eurythmics – This City Never Sleeps
    Elvis Costello – Shipbuilding
    David Bowie – Cat People

    • Apologies, I have posted two different versions of “Cat People”,/i>. The first isn’t the version on the Let’s Dance album. I put it on Boombox before listening to it. Not sure if it can be deleted.

  11. I’d moved to MK the year before and was already struggling with my teaching job – my first paid job ever, and I couldn’t do it. To cheer myself up a bit I joined the drama group that was based at the school and used their (proper) theatre. The first play I was in was The Burston School Strike – I noticed the other day that the bloke whose photo’s at the top of the column had attended a rally to commemorate the anniversary of the event the play’s about. Anyway, at one of the earliest rehearsals the director said “right, we need a song about summer for this scene – who knows one?” and I said “how about Lovely Joan? and he said “well, sing it to us then”. So I stood up in front of all these people I didn’t know and sang Lovely Joan. it was a good start for me.

    That’s a folk song…what folky type albums came out in 1983? Well (keeping it political) there was Dick Gaughan’s A Different Kind Of Love ong from which I’ve picked Your Daughters And Your Sons – I expect Jeremy would approve of that one. RT had an album out called Hand Of Kindness and on it was his rumbustuous show-closer Tear-Stained Letter. And on the non-folky side, Any Trouble released a self-titled EP (which RT played on – who knew?) from which I’ll pick Touch And Go to celebrate JC’s first go at PMQs this afternoon.

  12. It seems that 1983 was a great year for music I still like and listen to, I’m going to avoid artists already chosen and go for
    1. The Lovecats by the Cure
    2. Billy Idol – Rebel Yell
    3. Death Cult – Horse Nation

    Loads to choose from though, what a great year!

  13. This was the last year I lived in the UK, albeit for 2 months at the beginning of the year and one university term at the end. Inbetween was spent in Germany as an au-pair, where I was introduced to the works of J.S. Bach, plus a stint working on a campsite in the Vendée (why did I ever leave there? It was beautiful). While I was in France both Dire Straits and Mike Oldfield were on tour, and tickets were provided for some, but not all, of the responsables – I missed out both times, but I’ve a feeling that may have been voluntary on my part because I had more exciting things to do. At any rate, that year was the beginning of my being out of synch with the rest of the pop world because the people I was hanging out with were generally listening to older music – and this was back in the day when music took longer to ‘travel’ from the UK or the US. The song I immediately associate with 1983 is ‘Say It Ain’t So Joe’ by Murray Head, because one of the blokes at the camping site had that playing on the cassette recorder he used to carry with him everywhere (I don’t think music was travelling THAT slowly, though, he just liked the song).

    Love Is A Stranger – Eurhythmics
    Shadow on the Wall – Roger Chapman & Mike Oldfield
    Owner of a Lonely Heart – Yes (my German boyfriend was a great fan)

  14. Real life was far too involving (for both good and bad reasons) for me to be exploring music in 1983, so I can only pick these from a soundtrack that was playing somewhere in the background:

    Men At Work – Down Under
    Michael Jackson – Billie Jean
    The Thompson Twins – Hold Me Now

    • I would have picked Who’s That Girl, had there not been so many great Eurhythmics’ tracks already. I still have my vinyl copy of Touch.

  15. Most of my picks have already gone. I’m struggling to remember 1983 – I was 24, commuting to Cardiff everyday and living in a small, cold flat (good excuse to go to the pub). My local was in Totterdown, run by a couple called Sane Joan and Mad Ernie – Ernie was a drummer, and would charge round the pub occasionally, drumming as he went – optics, heads, crash helmets, cars outside – anything, really. One Easter, he came in dressed as Jesus, complete with full-scale cross over his shoulder. The pub I frequented in Cardiff was called The Brain Surgery, I think (can’t imagine drinking at lunch-break these days.). My. How times change. Anyway, I’ve scraped together these three:

    Paul Young – Love of the Common People
    Valentine Brothers – Money’s too Tight to Mention
    Hall and Oates – Family Man

  16. Just realised that I picked White Lines for both 1983 and 1984. Der… It was a hit in the UK in 84 although originally released in 83 in the USA. Hmm. If I can pick another not already taken, I’ll go for Billy Bragg’s New England from his “Life’s a Riot” mini album.

  17. 1983 always sticks in my head as the year I really started to get into music in a big way. I’d started buying records the year before and 83 was when I had the radio on pretty much constantly. I could claim it was always John Peel but it wasn’t , it was Peter Powell, David “Kid” Jensen and the Annie Nightingale Request Show. The last two were a good mix of mainstream and alternative and I discovered all sorts of stuff. My favourite band were obviously Dexys, but they promptly vanished. I listened to U2 and Big Country, with a bit of Bunnymen. I also went through a belated Gary Numan phase. Gary Numan in 83 was my first ever gig. Unless you count a gig at a local school featuring a Human League knock-off band, a Thin Lizzy/Dire Straits covers band, and Sadist who were the first punk band I ever saw. They were laughably bad, and I thought the Lizzy/Straits covers band were much better. Strange looking back.
    Pretty much any record that got a reasonable level of airplay in the UK in 83 brings on instant nostalgia.

  18. Tried posting this three times last night, and it kept swallowing the text when I was almost finished; just to make things more awkward, every time I re-write it I think of more songs, as this was a great year for music (maybe not quite as great as the previous couple, but still) and moreover, like wyngate and others, this was a crucial time in my own musical development; having started very late, I was now, at fourteen, getting to grips with loads of different if not contradictory genres all at once in a completely unsystematic way, driven above all by the radio. Very difficult indeed to narrow this down…

    (1) First single – and arguably the one record in this list with real, lasting credibility. I did already have various albums – they always seemed a much better deal, giving more songs for your money – but someone (Clarks Shoes, I think, but it might have been breakfast cereal) had a special offer whereby you could get a copy of a Top Ten single. The song I really coveted seemed to be hanging around in the region of 11 without rising any higher, and so I very nearly gave up and asked for Rod Stewart‘s Baby Jane (also pretty great), but in the end took a gamble; I don’t actually know whether this song then made it into the Top Ten – we went on holiday the week after, and I never got round to checking – or the people running the offer just took pity on me, but I got it, and it remains a favourite: Robert Plant, Big Log. Knew nothing about Plant or his previous music, just loved the melancholy, wide open spaces feel. [Having now checked, it was indeed the case that Big Log peaked at No.11. So, thanks to Clarks Shoes or whoever it was for not enforcing their rules too strictly…]

    (2) It was also at this time that I started to listen to what the cool kids – or at least a particular set of cool kids – were into: classic rock and prog. Very close to nominating another Def Leppard song, but I think I have to go with GenesisHome By The Sea. I was so proud to be the first person to buy the new ‘shapes’ album, on a family trip to Brighton – and then had a very awkward week, as the tape turned out to be faulty, we weren’t going back to Brighton for months, and various of the cool kids wanted to borrow it… In the end went into the local record shop and claimed that I’d bought it from them, and they gave me another copy; I still have no idea if this was massively illegal, but I assume they could still send it back and reclaim the money even if they hadn’t sold it in the first place.

    (3) And then there was the pop, that I learnt from an early age not to discuss with the cool kids. I am really torn here. On the one hand, there’s the magnificently epic Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler; on the other hand, one of my memories from this year is listening to the US charts on Saturday afternoons – perhaps because they were ‘mine’, whereas the Top 40 on Sundays was a more family affair – and my favourite song from those was and is Pat Benatar‘s Love Is A Battlefield. If I absolutely had to choose, I think it would be the latter – perhaps just because I remember Lemmy outing himself as a fan when he was guest host on the Friday Rock Show…

  19. Not played for a while but can’t resist 1983:

    Malcolm McLaren: Double Dutch
    Eurythmics: No Fear, No Hate, No Pain, No Broken Hearts (donds of course to all Sweet Dreams suggestions – I’d throw in I Could Give You A Mirror)
    Tracey Ullman: They Don’t Know

  20. * Tommy James ~ Three Times In Love
    went #1 on adult contemporary chart.
    I admit bias, / my cousin was on keyboard for this & the LP.
    Luther Vandross / background vocals.
    * Only natural that we were excited, and proud of ‘cuz’.
    Got to attend some sessions, which was a nice experience.

    Flashdance – She’s a Maniac
    Freeze ~ I.O.U
    Billy Joel ~ Uptown Girl
    Lionel Ritchie ~ All Night Long

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