Spillyear 1981

My first memories date from 1981: the Royal Wedding, my grandma’s dog Panda dying, going to the pantomime in the snow. I don’t remember riots. And I don’t remember any music.

Let’s make our penultimate 80s playlist

Alternative playlist URL: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSM6V5dN78_Aj_3y09o3_LqIPGFqf3fxK&jct=VZJPNMIMuub29ENodA6Woywomni2sQ



Hey, what’s my dog doing in this photo?


67 thoughts on “Spillyear 1981

  1. Don’t think I have any 1981 albums, but it looks like there were some cracking singles:

    1. The Specials – Ghost Town
    Scandalously left off the recent Zeitgeist playlist.

    2. Bow Wow Wow – Go Wild in the Country
    A fairly recent ‘Spill discovery for me, but I like to think I’d have loved it at age 3 too.

    3. Soft Cell – Tainted Love
    Freeing up a space in your top 3…

  2. Year looks a bit crap when i look at the album list, but still there were some. And as barbryn said, some cracking singles. Where was i – basic college kid, probably a junior / senior.

    U2 – Gloria
    Tom Tom Club – Genius of Love
    X – We’re Desperate

    also –

    Kim Wilde – Kids in America
    Go Gos – We Got the Beat, Automatic
    Police – Spirits in the Material World
    Rick James – Give It to me Baby, Ghetto Life
    Van Halen – Unchained
    Mission of Burma – That’s When I Reach for My Revolver
    Rolling Stones – No Use in Crying

  3. The Business – Harry May
    Cockney geezers shouting “Oi!” a lot

    Fad Gadget – Lady Shave
    Synth pop (albeit of a slightly darker variety than you would get in the Top 40)

    Echo & The Bunnymen – Over The Wall
    Epic sounding post punk moodiness

    A pretty good range of what was going on in 1981 if I say so myself

    Killing Joke were very close with Unspeakable

  4. I’ve gone to bed. No doubt lots of vinyl records in my collection from 1981. I’ll see what scraps are left for me to pick tomorrow.
    I was 23 at the time and it was the year I finally left home. Only moved from Merton Park to Putney mind you.

  5. Queen and David Bowie – Under Pressure
    Adam and the Ants – Prince Charming
    Elvis Costello – Good Year for the Roses

    Resisting the temptation to add yet another Blondie number here but donds for anyone who does

    • Won’t suggest any more possibles but there are plenty of them. Not the best year for me; two small children and one older one, not much money, stuck in the country and couldn’t drive, relied on buses when OH was at work. Got ill, you don’t want to know, got over it but was fairly incapacitated for some time. The Royal Wedding naturally sticks in the mind, kids given a rather badly transfer-printed Charles and Di mug (which I still have) and my mother-in–law knitted the eldest a kind of slip-over top with a design of crowns on it.

      • That is, the year started out with 2 children under 3 years, and 1 aged 11. Somewhat hectic! Don’t remember buying any music, but was always listening to it. I picked my first choice because it’s a classic (and appropriate, come to think of it!) the second because Adam and the Ants were something very new and different, very 80s. ‘Ridicule is nothing to be scared of.’ – worth remembering, that! The last, because it’s just a very good song, both lyrics and melody.

  6. Something from Friday Night In San Francisco by Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin & Paco de Lucía,
    something from Reckoning by the Grateful Dead, probably Cassidy
    and probably Happy Birthday by Altered Images.

    1981 was a shit year, personally and politically.

  7. A tough one to narrow down:

    Clock DVA – 4 Hours
    Associates – Tell Me Easter’s On Friday
    Holger Czukay – Ode To Perfume

  8. Total agreement with Chris re. Friday Night In San Francisco by Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin & Paco de Lucía, wonderful piece of music.
    But I feel sad for all you spillers who say what an awful year 1981 was: for me it was a wonderful year, one of the best. So good in fact that there’s no way I can choose three cuts, I can’t even choose three albums. Here’s a random list of 1981 albums, most of which I still have,

    Gregory Isaacs – Poor And Clean – African Museum
    Jimmy Riley – Love And Devotion – Taxi
    Freddie McGregor – Boby Babylon – Studio One
    Dennis Brown – Runnings – Dancsi
    Leroy Sibbles – Love And Happiness – Jam Rock
    Sheila Hylton – Beds Too Big Without You – Island
    Nigger Kojak And Lisa – Showcase – Nigger Kojak
    The Upsetters – Black Ark In Dub – White Label
    Mikey Dread – Master Showcase – Dread At The Controls
    Bunny Wailer – Sings The Wailers – Solomonic
    Leroy Sibbles – Strictly Roots – Micron
    Joe Higgs – Talk To That Man – Solomonic
    Bob Marley – Uprising – Island
    Black Uhuru – Red – Island
    Eek A Mouse – Wa Do Dem – Volcano
    Mutabaruka – Every Time I Hear The Sound – High Times
    Culture – Innocent Blood (’81 Style) – Joe Gibbs
    Jimmy Cliff – Give The People What They Want – Oneness
    Aswad – Showcase – Island
    Bingy Bunny – Young Lover – African Museum

    If I had to choose from three albums they might be;
    Gregory Isaacs – Poor And Clean
    Freddie McGregor – Boby Babylon
    Mutabaruka – Every Time I Hear The Sound
    Black Uhuru – Red
    Bob Marley – Uprising
    Culture – Innocent Blood

    Such a great year, it was the year I started my annual Sunsplash visits, four days/nights of solid reggae ’til dawn, it went on for the entire decade during which I saw every one of the above groups..

    • It sounds amazing, I don’t know all of those artists and certainly not the albums, but that’s quite a line-up.

      Of course it was the year Bob Marley died… there must have been some sadness and commemorations too ?

  9. 1981 – Age 10, going on 11.

    My aunt made took vacations back home to England every 18 months or so. Despite being told that it was only old people sitting around talking and drinking coffee and that there was no spare bedroom for me, I had nagged long enough that I wanted to go too, that they were actually considering it. My parents were okay with the idea. And I mean, I’d been camping so sleeping on a sofa was no trouble, and I could make friends in the neighborhood, right? I mean that ol’ Southern charm and all that, and I could show ’em how football was meant to be played: run, pass, throw, hike-hike, touchdown!

    Ummm…maybe not.

    My aunt died of a stroke in December 1980, so that trip never happened. Probably the last chance I ever had of traveling overseas. 😦

    How’s this for variety?

    1) David Frizzell and Shelly West – You’re The Reason God Made OklahomaShelly was my first musical crush. Still love the song, even if the song sounds exactly like “Rocky Top”

    2) Frankie Smith – Double Dutch BusI could do the illzay-billzay part to irritate my parents and make this one girl in school laugh. “You so crazy!” Two for the price of one.

    3) Generation X – Dancing With Myself The Elvis-style sneer and vocal flourishes just work perfectly here.

  10. I was finally feeling properly at home in my adopted city of Bristol at the beginning of 1981. I was working as a computer operator and earning what seemed to me at the time was lots of money, mainly overtime. When I wasn’t working, I was working hard at making what was a relatively new relationship work.

    So, what was I listening to and buying? Adam And The Ants were dominating the charts, as were The Police, who I hated then and still do now. I can still remember seeing them at The Nashville in 1978 when they were treated to a shower of beer by an audience of disapproving punks. I was playing Sound Affects by The Jam a lot. I’d had it for Christmas in 1980 and it was an album I really liked for the first part of 1981. I think I played it to death and went off it.

    Albums I bought were;

    Siouxsie And The BansheesJuju
    The Human LeagueDare
    Byrne and EnoMy Life In The Bush Of Ghosts
    Kid Creole And The CoconutsFresh Fruit In Foreign Places
    UB40Present Arms
    The BeatWha’ppen?
    Echo And The BunnymenHeaven Up Here
    Joy DivisionStill
    New OrderMovement

    King Crimson also released Discipline but I didn’t buy it, because I was unsure of their new direction at the time and I was completely unaware of The Grateful Dead‘s marvellous live setReckoning until years after.

    I got Magazine‘s Magic, Murder And The Weather and Sleep No More by The Comsat Angelsfor Christmas, so didn’t really know any of the songs on those at the time. and I didn’t buy Japan‘s Tin Drum until the following year.

    The standout singles of the year for me were New Order‘s Ceremony, Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag by Pigbag and Ghost Town by The Specials. There were a lot of great singles, though. Far too many to list out.

    So, to my three tracks. I’ll definitely have “Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag” and a couple of album tracks. So;

    Pigbag – Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag
    Siouxsie And The Banshees – Spellbound
    New Order – The Him

  11. I remember the St Paul’s riots, in Bristol, but that was 1980. The Royal Wedding saw me in Lee on Solent with my then boyfriend and his friend Neil – the shooting ranges were closed for the day so we went and sat in an old tank in the middle of the beach – somewhat worse for wear (us, and the tank). It was very hot, but the only place we could think of where there wouldn’t be crowds of people! We had escaped the dreaded street party my boyfriend’s sister was hosting, and her four kids. One of the albums I remember best from that time is Steve Winwood and “Arc of a Diver” – played it to death. Reminds me of helping to decorate my friends house in Bath – a load of us were there, all hairy and paint-spattered and hung-over, when there was a knock at the door – the Police! “Can we speak to the home owner, please?” (Various looks of panic, etc., was the music THAT loud? Had the smoke drifted like a sweetly scented cloud over the Police Station?) I was despatched to find Pete, who was smoking something interesting in the back garden … more panic … anyway, all they had come to say was that they’d found his car, which had been pinched the week before! “Thank you very much, officer … ” Anyway, long story short, my noms are:

    Steve Winwood – Arc of a Diver
    Rickie Lee Jones – Pirates
    Stray Cats – Rock This Town

    • Donds for all three.

      I’ve always loved Steve Winwood’s voice. I adore Traffic and I used to have his first few solo albums on vinyl. Perhaps I should revisit them on CD? Blue-eyed soul was going to be HUGE chartwise in the years after 1981.

      Funnily enough, when I saw this week’s year was 1981 the last thing that entered my head was the royal wedding. I know it was hot and sunny and I remember that my then partner and I went out around 11am and got very drunk in the pubs down by Cumberland basin and fell asleep in Greville Smyth Park down by the City ground at Ashton Gate.

    • I saw The Stray Cats at the old Lyceum ballroom at Aldwych, showing off my enthusiastic but unrecognisable version of rockabilly boogie-ing.

    • We watched the royal wedding on TV – in a terribly knowing and ironic fashion of course. There were subtitles for the narration/voice over and they were obviously produced very rapidly and phonetically. The BBC chap’s posh voice meant that we were watching “Lady Jah Nah” and for some reason the groom’s father was “the jew of Edinburgh”. Very odd.

  12. Donds for Ghost Town, Tainted Love and Spellbound. Also the albums, Dare and, Wha’ppen which, along with Elvis C’s Trust were played incessantly throughout 1981. Loved Madness’s Grey Day which came out that year and was rather overshadowed by Ghost Town I think.

    The Sound released their second album, “From The Lion’s Mouth” in 1981. I bought it about three years later. Second hand. I had seen them play live only once (at The Venue in London) and been quite impressed but at that stage I was more likely to see Adrian in the pub than on a stage.

    Abba released their album The Visitors in November that year which still sounds like the best thing they ever did. There was a trend at the time to embrace pop music more fully and somebody at the NME pompously labelled it “the retreat from rock”. If you say so squire.

    Anyway, I think this my (partly) retrospective choice:

    The Sound – Sense of Purpose
    Smokey Robinson – Being With You
    Elvis Costello – Shot With His Own Gun

  13. I was 19 years old, at university and enjoying life tremendously – studying natural sciences was amazing, coming from a comprehensive school to Cambridge meant I had the twin pleasures of enjoying privilege and feeling like a rebel.. The enjoyment wasn’t about the stereotypical student pleasures, though I did discover the charms of alcohol that year, having initially been deterred by the excesses of others. The Arts Cinema did a whole brilliant season of Buster Keaton films…

    If there was a sign of the growing confidence of the right wing, it was the emergence of a confident decadence and the “Brideshead Revisited” style, compared to the year before when the elite seemed a bit more reserved and the first Old Etonian I met was wearing a donkey jacket.

    My favourite album of the year I first heard visiting my best friend from school who’d stayed n London to (not) study. I think I was visiting for a gig of the band he was in, and Tempted by Squeeze came on the jukebox. My friend pointed out the Stevie Wonder-style soulful growl just before the repeat chorus near the end. East Side Story is full of brilliant songwriting and storytelling and I could easily pick a top three from there.

  14. Squeeze – Tempted

    Earth, Wind and Fire – Let’s Groove; I really didn’t like all the 1980s stuff that was starting to dominate the charts and discos, but this song made it worth going out dancing; I went with a good university friend to see them at Birmingham that year, taking advantage of a crazy free student train ticket offer.

    Madness – Cardiac Arrest; a great video on a London bus, a song featuring a crossword clue, and a message that a young man could take as a guide for life.

    In between lectures and where I lived was Cambridge Market, and on Cambridge Market was Andy’s Records. I started delving into and catching up with soul, blues and reggae music in spectacular quantities.

  15. One of the best ever years for soul, can’t pick 3 from these !

    You’re the One for Me – D Train
    I’m In Love – Evelyn King
    Never Too Much – Luther Vandross
    Let’s Groove – EWF
    Its a Love Thing – The Whispers
    Love Has Come Around – Donald Byrd
    Never Gonna Give You Up – Patrice Rushen
    Warm Weather – Pieces of a Dream
    Wait For Me – Slave
    You’re Lying – Linx
    If You Thing You’re Lonely Now – Bobby Womack
    Going Back to my Roots – Odyssey
    We’re In This Love Together – Al Jarreau
    Running Away – Maze
    Love TKO – Teddy Pendergrass

    • Oh yes, that Odyssey song is brilliant, it might’ve bumped its way into my top three ! Written by Lamont Dozier out of Holland-Dozier-Holland.

    • Seconding all of those. I still have the Intuition album by Linx. Brilliant bit of Brit funk. Could add in some Quincy Jones, Cameo, Grace Jones, Gap Band, even the Chic & Debbie Harry collabo, which sounds much better today than it did back then.

  16. 1981 was the year when I really started listening to pop music, having had a rather weird childhood with no television and very little radio. In an awful lot of ways it may be true to say that I’ve never quite left 1981, and certainly it defines pop music for me to a considerable degree. No mention yet for one of my favourite songs of all time, UltravoxVienna. OTT rock from Rainbow, I Surrender and Toyah, Thunder in the Mountains; classic avant-garde pop from Blondie with Rapture; heartbreak from Squeeze with Labelled With Love; and one of the spookiest songs ever from Godley & Creme with Under Your Thumb. Adam and the Ants, the Specials, the Jam… Hey, this is when even UB40 were great, with One in Ten. Happy days…

    • You emerged with fully-fledged diverse tastes ! Or maybe if you don’t know about genres, you just like the music…

      • Exactly; at this point I was utterly ignorant of the whole thing, just seizing on what appealed to me for whatever reason. Did manage to become a ‘proper rock’ snob by the end of the decade, but always leavened by love of great pop music.

  17. Romeo Void – Never Say Never
    The Psychedelic Furs – Pretty In Pink
    Simple Minds – Theme For Great Cities

    on the playlist I put Reward by The Teardrop Explodes; Rise Above by Black Flag; and The Unguarded Moment by The Church

    I could choose a top 300 or so…

  18. Late to this as usual (finally back home after an epic one month-plus trip back to Blighty for family and Sweden for business), where I managed to pick up a cracked rib…must be getting old!

    Donds for Specials and especially Adam and the Ants (I’m told they were my first gig). Will go for:

    Minor Threat – Straight Edge (45 seconds that launched a global youth subculture that’s still going strong 35 years later)

    Tom Tom Club – Wordy Rappinghood

    REO Speedwagon – Keep on Loving You (oh, come on, it’s ace!)

    – honourable mention for Shakin’ Stevens who as a 5 year old I was most definitely listening to at the time.

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