The History of Pop Music – 1981

Featured song:

Squeeze – Labelled With Love
This is a series of articles looking at pop music from 1955 when in my opinion proper pop music began up to 1999 when they stopped making it. One article for each year.

I am only going to select one featured song for each article, which makes it hard. I am going to try and select a different artist for each year.

For many people, and I include myself, you tend to still like the tunes you heard during childhood, which your parents often played. So rather than just pick the top 10 hits of each year, I shall let you know what they were, but also the tunes of that year not necessarily in the top 10 or so, what were in my view classics.  I also add a couple of events in history for that year, it helps bring back memories, and hopefully happy ones.

Not everyone will like my choices of course, and you may remember some from each particular year that you feel should have been included, so do please post a link to the song.

So, on we go with memories from 1981: (Thank you Wiki)

This year was about:  Riots, lots and lots of them.  Yorkshire Ripper caught and sent to jail, mass unemployment, IRA hunger strikes.  Charles & Di getting married. A pretty dismal year again really.

What was I doing in this year?  – I was 25.  In the Army, just been posted to Gibraltar.  I liked the place and had a good time, but the Spanish border was shut, so you had to travel there via Morocco.  Used to do cave tours in Lower St Michael’s cave to pass the evenings away. It was nice.  I was glad I was not in the UK.

TV programmes included:

Debut of the BBC1 soap Triangle, a twice-weekly series set aboard a North Sea ferry and filmed on location using outside broadcast cameras. It is axed after three series, was pretty dire.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the television version of Douglas Adams’ radio comedy of the same name debuts on BBC2.

Tom Baker makes his final appearance as the Fourth Doctor in Part 4 of Logopolis. Peter Davison makes his first appearance as the Fifth Doctor at the conclusion of that story.

The UK wins the Eurovision Song Contest with the song “Making Your Mind Up”, sung by Bucks Fizz.

24 million viewers watched Ken and Diedre marry in Corrers.  Though 30 million watched Charlie and Di get married 2 days later.

BBC One airs the first episode of the popular comedy series Only Fools and Horses.  Was not that big a success at first, but still funny today.


Prime Minister – Margaret Thatcher (Conservative)

5 January – Peter Sutcliffe, a 34-year-old lorry driver from Bradford arrested on 2 January in Sheffield, is charged with being the notorious serial killer known as the “Yorkshire Ripper”, who is believed to have murdered thirteen women and attacked seven others across northern England since 1975.

25 January – The Limehouse Declaration: four right-wing Labour MPs, Shirley Williams, Roy Jenkins, William Rodgers and David Owen (the “Gang of Four”), announce plans to form a separate political party – the Social Democratic Party (SDP). On 26 January, nine more Labour MPs declare their support for the new party.

13 February – The National Coal Board announces widespread pit closures.

18 February – The Government withdraws plans to close 23 mines after negotiations with the National Union of Mineworkers.

5 February – Margaret Thatcher arrives in Washington, D.C. for a four-day visit to U.S. President Ronald Reagan.  This was a special relationship; we need this back.

5 March – The ZX81, a pioneering British home computer, is launched by Sinclair Research, going on to sell over 1.5 million units worldwide.

21 March – Unemployment now stands at 2,400,000 or 10% of the workforce

28 March – Enoch Powell, Ulster Unionist MP (formerly a Conservative until 1974) warns of “racial civil war” in Britain.

4 April – Bucks Fizz representing the United Kingdom win the Eurovision Song Contest with the song Making Your Mind Up.

10 April – Bobby Sands, an IRA member on hunger strike in the Maze prison, Northern Ireland, is elected MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone in a by election.

11 April – More than 300 people (most of them police officers) are injured and extensive damage is caused to property in the Brixton riot.

29 April – Peter Sutcliffe admits to the manslaughter of 13 women on the grounds of diminished responsibility, but the judge rules that a jury should rule on Sutcliffe’s state of mind before deciding whether to accept his plea or find him guilty of murder.

5 May – Bobby Sands, a 27-year-old republican, dies in Northern Ireland’s Maze Prison after a 66-day hunger strike.

7 May – Ken *Hitler* Livingstone becomes leader of the GLC after Labour wins the GLC elections.

22 May – Peter Sutcliffe is sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommendation that he should serve at least 30 years before parole can be considered.

3 June – Shergar wins the Epsom Derby.

3–14 June – More than 80 arrests are made during clashes between white power skinheads and black people in Coventry, where the National Front is planning a march later this month, on the same day as an anti-racist concert by The Specials.

20 June – Rioting breaks out in Peckham, South London.

3 July – Hundreds of Asians and skinheads riot in Southall, London, following disturbances at the Hamborough Tavern public house, which is severely damaged by fire.

5 July – Toxteth riots break out in Liverpool and first use is made of CS gas by British police. Less serious riots occur in the Handsworth district of Birmingham as well as Wolverhampton city centre, parts of Coventry, Leicester and Derby, and in the Buckinghamshire town High Wycombe.

7 July – 43 people are charged with theft and violent disorder following a riot in Wood Green, North London.

10 July – Rioting breaks out in London, Birmingham, Leeds, Leicester, Ellesmere Port, Luton, Sheffield, Portsmouth, Preston, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Derby, Southampton, Nottingham, High Wycombe, Bedford, Edinburgh, Wolverhampton, Stockport, Blackburn, Huddersfield, Reading, Chester and Aldershot.  – Two days of rioting in Moss Side, Manchester, end, during which there has been extensive looting of shops. Princess Road, the main road through the area, will be closed for several days while adjacent buildings and gas mains damaged by rioting and arson are made safe.

13 July – Margaret Thatcher announces that police will be able to use rubber bullets, water cannons and armoured vehicles against urban rioters. Labour leader Michael Foot blames the recent wave of rioting on the Conservative government’s economic policies, which have seen unemployment rise by more than 70% in the last two years.

15 July – Police clash with black youths in Brixton once again, this time after police raid properties in search of petrol bombs which are never found.

29 July – The wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer takes place at St Paul’s Cathedral. More than 30 million viewers watch the wedding on television.

20 August – The tenth IRA hunger striker, Michael Devine, dies in prison.

24 August – Mark David Chapman is sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for killing John Lennon. I do not think he will ever be released.

Early September – Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp set up.

3 October – Hunger strikes at the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland end after seven months. The final six hunger strikers have been without food for between 13 and 55 days.

15 October – Norman Tebbit tells fellow Conservative MPs: “I grew up in the thirties with an unemployed father. He didn’t riot. He got on his bike and looked for work and he kept looking until he found it”

26 October – Rock band Queen release their Greatest Hits compilation album; it becomes the all-time best-selling album in the United Kingdom.

8 December – Severe snow storms hit the UK as temperatures plummet to the lowest in any December on record since 1874 and the heaviest snow falls since 1878. The snow storms continue in waves until 26/27 December.

12 December – The first case of AIDS in the UK is diagnosed.

19 December – An opinion poll shows that Margaret Thatcher is now the most unpopular post-war British prime minister and that the SDP-Liberal Alliance has the support of up to 50% of the electorate.

The Top 10 Singles with a You Tube hyperlink on the title:

Top tip: Right-click and open in new tab)

Top Hits of 1981
   1 Soft Cell Tainted Love
   2 Adam & The Ants Stand And Deliver
   3 Adam & The Ants Prince Charming
   4 Shakin’ Stevens This Ole House
   5 Ultravox Vienna
   6 Bucks Fizz Making Your Mind Up
   7 Michael Jackson One Day In Your Life
   8 Joe Dolce Music Theatre Shaddup You Face
   9 The Tweets Birdie Song
   10 Shakin’ Stevens You Drive Me Crazy

Great year for Adam and the Ants, Soft Cell and Shakey.  Some quite good new romantic stuff coming out as well.  It was close between Adam, Shakey and Squeeze for the featured song.  I just think Squeeze went on to perform some wonderful songs and still do today.

Not much to say about the actual song, Labelled with Love, other than it is superb.

More writings on this band here:  Squeeze

In my view the best songs of the year, after the featured track and most of the above top ten are below (best to right-click and open in a new tab)

Tenpole Tudor – Swords Of A Thousand Men – Perhaps this should be our new national anthem if we still have not left the EU (date of writing 8th April 1019)

Electric Light Orchestra – Hold On Tight

The Specials – Ghost Town

Squeeze – Labelled With Love

Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin – It’s My Party

Coast To Coast – (Do) The Hucklebuck – Love this, great toe-tapper

Queen & David Bowie – Under Pressure – This song just gets better and better.

The Human League – Don’t You Want Me Baby

OMD – Joan of Arc

Dire Straits – Romeo and Juliet – Awesome

Adam & The Ants – Antmusic

The Police – Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic

Tight Fit. – Back to the 60s – Nice medley of tunes here,

Abba – One Of Us

Bob Marley – No Women No Cry – Classic

Shakin’ Stevens – Green Door

Alvin Stardust – Pretend – I like Alvin, sadly missed.

The Human League – Love Action

REO Speedwagon – Keep on Loving You

Blondie – Rapture

Adam & The Ants — Kings Of The Wild Frontier – Really like the dual drums.

Smokey Robinson – Being With You – I like a bit of Smokey

Shakin’ Stevens – You Drive Me Crazy

Roxy Music – Jealous Guy – Superb as ever.

Champaign – How ‘Bout Us – A most pleasant little ditty.

Dianna Ross – Why Do Fools Fall in Love – Great song, but she does murder this one somewhat.

Stars On 45 – Stars On 45 – There was quite a few of these coming out this year, I liked them.

Stars On 45 – Stars on 45 Vol 2

Odyssey – Going Back To My Roots

Kim Wilde – Kids In America

Aneka – Japanese Boy

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Souvenir

Ennio Morricone – Chi Mai (From ‘Life and Times of David Lloyd George’) – Not exactly pop music, but I liked it.

Altered Images – Happy birthday

Ottawan – Hands Up

The Pointer Sisters – Slow Hand

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – Hooked On Classics Parts 1 – Some good tunes here.

Fun song: Bad Manners – Can-Can

Fun Song: Fred Wedlock – Oldest Swinger In Town

I have not included some dirges by John Lennon, such as Woman, Imagine, Happy Christmas war is over and Starting Over, as they are awful (but I loved him (in a manly sense) as part of the Beatles).

39 songs for 1981 in my favourite lists.

Hat tips to:  these give the top 100 selling charts for each year   these give the top 10 songs for each year  you know them.

Next Time 1982

© Phil the test manager 2019

The Goodnight Vienna Audio file