My recollections of 1983 being as great a year as there has ever been in terms of the singles charts and the 45s truly standing the test of time must have, more or less, wiped out the fifth month of the year, certainly judging by the final chart of the last full week of the month, 22-28 May.
For the most part, the best of the songs were those that had featured in March and/or April and were thus on their way falling down or out of the charts – Heaven 17 (#4), Fun Boy Three (#9), Human League (#15), Tears For Fears (#18), New Order (#32), Kissing The Pink (#36) and David Bowie (#37).
Spandau Ballet‘s four-week run at #1 was ended by American pop/R’n’B act New Edition, whose Candy Girl was enjoying its sole week at the top. It would be replaced at #1 in the chart of 29 May by this:-
mp3: The Police – Every Breath You Take
The highest new entry on 22 May 1983 at #7. It’s one that has, to many, became annoying due to over-exposure both at the time and since, but I still reckon it’s a great and subversive piece of pop music, as evidenced by it being a much requested first-dance by new brides and grooms despite it being clearly unsuited for such a purpose.
Another mid-tempo tune with a melancholic subject matter was just one place below at #8:-
mp3 : Yazoo – Nobody’s Diary
The lead single from the duo’s second album would, in later weeks, provide them with their third Top 3 single after the success in 1982 of Only You and Don’t Go. Nobody realised at the time that Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet had reached the end of their tethers in terms of working together, and Nobody’s Diary would prove to be their final 45, although the album, You and Me Both, would reach #1 on its release in July 1983, despite no second or further 45s to assist with promotion.
The rest of the Top 10 was made up by The Beat (with an appalling cover of an easy listening number originally released by Andy Williams in 1963), Wham!, Galaxy and Hot Chocolate, which makes the chart feel like some sort of visit to a sweet shop.
Just outside the Top 10 were a couple of 45s that I recall buying at the time:-
mp3: Bob Marley & The Wailers – Buffalo Soldier (#11)
mp3: The Style Council – Money Go Round (Part 1) (#12)
Bob Marley had passed away in 1981, and this was the first, but far from the last, posthumous single issued by Island Records. Buffalo Soldier would eventually climb to #4, which was the highest ever position any of the Wailers singles ever reached.
This was a new entry for The Style Council‘s second ever 45 but, unlike debut Speak Like A Child, it didn’t manage to crack the Top 10.
JoBoxers, a band that was largely made up of musicians who had previously been The Subway Sect, and backing band to Vic Godard, were enjoying their second hit 45 of the year:-
mp3: JoBoxers – Just Got Lucky (#16)
The bottom end of the Top 40 was largely made up of songs/acts that I genuinely can’t recall – F.R. David, Forrest, D Train, Flash and The Pan, and MTune – or those I wish I could forget – Hall & Oates, Modern Romance, George Benson, Men At Work, Rush and Cliff Richard.
But down in the 30-somethings there were a couple of tunes that are well worth recalling:-
mp3: Big Country – In A Big Country (#34)
mp3: Robert Wyatt – Shipbuilding (#35)
Big Country‘s second hit single would eventually reach #17 and an extended version would be included on their debut album ,The Crossing, which went Top 3 and spent a remarkable 68 successive weeks in the Top 100 after its later release in August 1983.
Robert Wyatt‘s poignant and moving take on Elvis Costello‘s anti-war number had originally been released in August 1982 but had failed to trouble the charts, largely as it wasn’t aired on any radio stations. Come the end of the year, and most music papers had it listed high on the various lists of ‘single of the year’, and Rough Trade Records took the decision to reissue it in April 1983 to mark the first anniversary of the outbreak of the Falklands War, the event that had led to Elvis composing the song. #35 was as high as it got in the charts, and it had taken four weeks to do so. It was only the second time Robert Wyatt had enjoyed a solo hit single, and it came almost nine years after his cover of I’m A Believer had reached #29.
I’ll end today with a single from the month of May 1983 that didn’t hit the high end of the chart, but is one I really associate with the time as it was aired regularly at the alternative disco held each Friday and Saturday in the student union:-
mp3: The B52s – Song For A Future Generation
It was the third single to be lifted from the album Whammy!. The two previous 45s, Legal Tender and Whammy Kiss, had been total flops, but Generation wriggled its way to #63 and helped the parent album briefly breach the Top 40.
But then again, this time 40 years ago, I was had a new 45, along with its b-side, on very very very heavy rotation. Not sure if I bought it on the actual day of its release on 13 May 1983, but it would certainly have been there or thereabouts.
mp3: The Smiths – Hand In Glove
mp3: The Smiths – Handsome Devil
The b-side has been recorded live at The Hacienda, Manchester on 4 February which was just a few weeks in advance of the studio session in Stockport at which the self-produced a-side was laid down.
It didn’t breach the Top 100, but it eventually reached the Indie Singles Chart where it hung around for many months, thanks to Rough Trade being happy enough to periodically order up more repressings, eventually peaking at #3.
Once again, R.I.P., Andy Rourke. Just 19 years old when the band became a success.