I mentioned the Festive 50 from 1981 in passing yesterday. Here it is, in its full glory, from the unplayed 60-51 and then those which were aired, ten at a time, on 23, 24, 28, 29 and 30 December.

60: Siouxsie & The Banshees: ‘Hong Kong Garden’
59: Sex Pistols: ‘Pretty Vacant’
58: Fire Engines: ‘Candy Skin ‘
57: Special AKA: ‘Gangsters’
56: Fall: ‘Totally Wired‘
55: Anti-Pasti: ‘No Government‘
54: New Order: ‘In A Lonely Place‘
53: Magazine: ‘Shot By Both Sides‘
52: Bauhaus: ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead‘
51: Joy Division: ‘She’s Lost Control‘

50: Altered Images: ‘Happy Birthday’
49: Siouxsie & The Banshees: ‘Switch‘
48: New Order: ‘Procession’
47: Fall: ‘Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul’
46: Echo And The Bunnymen: ‘Over The Wall’
45: Killing Joke: ‘Psyche‘
44: Joy Division: ‘Isolation’
43: Joy Division: ‘Twenty-Four Hours’
42: Dead Kennedys: ‘California Uber Alles’
41: Only Ones: ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’

40: Siouxsie & The Banshees: ‘Icon’
39: Pigbag: ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag’
38: Sex Pistols: ‘God Save The Queen’
37: Siouxsie & The Banshees: ‘Israel’
36: B-Movie: ‘Remembrance Day’
35: Siouxsie & The Banshees: ‘Jigsaw Feeling’
34: Laurie Anderson: ‘O Superman’
33: Fall: ‘How I Wrote Elastic Man’
32: Stiff Little Fingers: ‘Suspect Device’
31: Ruts: ‘In A Rut‘

30: Fall: ‘Fiery Jack’
29: Heaven 17: ‘No Fascist Groove Thang’
28: Killing Joke: ‘Follow The Leaders’
27: Killing Joke: ‘Requiem’
26: Public Image Ltd: ‘Public Image’
25: Theatre Of Hate: ‘Legion’
24: Stiff Little Fingers: ‘Johnny Was’
23: Jam: ‘Going Underground’
22: Scritti Politti: ‘The Sweetest Girl’
21: Specials: ‘Ghost Town’

20: Undertones: ‘Get Over You’
19: Birthday Party: ‘Release The Bats’
18: Clash: ‘Complete Control’
17: Sex Pistols: ‘Holidays In the Sun’
16: Stiff Little Fingers: ‘Alternative Ulster’
15: Altered Images: ‘Dead Pop Stars’
14: Joy Division: ‘Transmission’
13: Jam: ‘Down In The Tube Station At Midnight’
12: Damned: ‘New Rose’
11: Joy Division: ‘Dead Souls’

10: Clash: ‘(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais’
09: Dead Kennedys: ‘Holiday In Cambodia’
08: Cure: ‘A Forest’
07: Joy Division: ‘Decades‘
06: Undertones: ‘Teenage Kicks’
05: Joy Division: ‘New Dawn Fades’
04: New Order: ‘Ceremony’
03: Joy Division: ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’
02: Sex Pistols: ‘Anarchy In The U.K.’
01: Joy Division: ‘Atmosphere’

I suppose I do have to make the claim that this was the greatest chart rundown of all time given just how many of the songs have appeared on t’blog(s) in the past.

There’s no doubt you could make many a decent indie compilation LP in a ‘perm any 10 from 60 sort of way’.  This would work well I reckon….


mp3 : Public Image Ltd – Public Image
mp3 : The Clash – (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais
mp3 : Magazine – Shot By Both Sides
mp3 : Stiff Little Fingers – Alternative Ulster
mp3 : Specials – Gangsters


mp3 : Undertones – Get Over You
mp3 : Scritti Politti – The Sweetest Girl
mp3 : Joy Division – Transmission
mp3 : The Only Ones – Another Girl, Another Planet
mp3 : The Cure – A Forest



  1. Teenage Kicks at #6? I know it was based on listeners’ votes, but surely our John might have exercised some of his influenced and seen to it that his fave record of all time occupied pole position? (I know it came out 3 years earlier and probably topped previous F50s, but still…)

  2. To be fair….music today remains great and in 30-40 years time there will be middle-aged folk looking back and reminiscing in the same way as we presently do. I think however, what makes the ’81 Festive Fifty so special is the fact that so many of the songs have proven to be timeless and enduring.

  3. The year afterwards Peel made a chart of only songs released in that year (as the all-time version was becoming a bit predictable). If you apply the same rule to the 1981 list the top songs of year come out as follows:

    1. Birthday Party: ‘Release The Bats’
    2. Specials: ‘Ghost Town’
    3. Scritti Politti: ‘The Sweetest Girl’
    4. Killing Joke: ‘Follow The Leaders’
    5. Heaven 17: ‘No Fascist Groove Thang’
    6. Laurie Anderson: ‘O Superman’
    7. B-Movie: ‘Remembrance Day’
    8. Pigbag: ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag’
    9. Killing Joke: ‘Psyche‘
    10. Echo And The Bunnymen: ‘Over The Wall’
    11. Fall: ‘Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul’
    12. New Order: ‘Procession’
    13. Altered Images: ‘Happy Birthday’
    14. Anti-Pasti: ‘No Government‘
    15. Fire Engines: ‘Candy Skin ‘

  4. Hmm. Lots of classics, but almost no love for us Yanks. Dead Kennedys and Laurie Anderson — that’s it?

  5. Truly a great listing. I remember listening to much of that year’s rundown, aged 15, on my tiny (and indeed, tinny) radio with the white earpiece, and trying to write it down in the dark. I was pleased that B-Movie made the cut and gutted that Decades didn’t come top.

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