Top Ten - 1981
The concluding part of Channel 4's season marking 20 years since the wedding of Charles and Diana, this Top Ten special hosted by Suggs counts down the definitive top ten music acts of 1981 and reflects on the major news stories, trends and cultural icons of the time.
As much a gang as a band, Madness, whose biggest hit in 1981 was It Must Be Love, were criticised for the type of audience they attracted. Indeed their gigs were seen as a recruiting opportunity for the far right. Front man Suggs explains, "We were very naïve and, er, yeah we had some problems with skinheads and all that - and it took us a little time to realise that we were going to have to be a bit more serious about what we thought."
The Police produced arguably their most sophisticated album, Ghost In The Machine. Struggles for creative control ensued between Sting and Stuart and the video for their hit, Invisible Sun, was banned by the BBC. Despite earning a reputation as a one man hit machine, Sting admits he is not without limitations, "When I perform I generally can't write and when I'm writing I generally can't perform - so I'm not that clever."
This was the year that Phil Oakey and his crack unit of synth commandoes swept through the charts like an electro-pop storm. The Human League's infamous opening line to their hit Don't You Want Me, "You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar, when I met you" was in fact, as PHIL admits, borrowed from someone else: "I read a trashy magazine, had a little story with almost those lines first, so I wrote them down."
Oscillating rock 'n' roll throwback Shakin' Stevens recalls when his career wasn't quite producing hit after hit, "I had a ten year span of flops - I think we [Shakin' Stevens And The Sunsets] made what, six albums." Indeed, until the death of ELVIS and the subsequent west end tribute, which proved to be the 'big break', Shaky was planning to come off the road to hold down a regular job - he went on to have numerous hits including the unlikely rock 'n' roll standards This Old House and Green Door.
Whether you thought she was the Bridget Bardot of music or just a woman with a mullet, KIM WILDE ruled the pop charts. Kim attributed her unique style to a number of interesting influences including ABBA, wanting to be Lindsay De Paul and even Linda Mccartney because she "thought her hair cut was really cool."
Dave Ball, Mark Almond's other half from avant-garde electronic band Soft Cell, recalls, "the weirdest thing I can remember from that period was coming back from New York on Concord and going back to my bed sit in Leeds that cost, like, sixteen quid a week."
Bucks Fizz managed to provoke outrage with their performance on the Eurovision Song Contest. Terry Wogan remembers, "The Irish of course maintained that one of the girls wasn't wearing any knickers - which is very Irish."
The top ten (in alphabetical order) are: Adam Ant, Bucks Fizz, Human League, John Lennon, Kim Wilde, Madness, Police, Shakin' Stevens, Soft Cell and Toyah.
Produced by : Chris Hill/Mark Hickin
Series Editor : Steve Gowans
Production Company : Chrysalis Television
Running Time: 95 minutes (approx)
Database last updated: 29 May - 06:32