If I don't dance, it's not in...

I’ve chosen my top ten songs to accompany Music Love Drugs War. The list is by no means definitive, and it’s been a struggle, but I believe these sum up the feel of the time, for me anyway. 

Feel free to disagree and collate your own sounds of l981.

1. It’s Gonna Happen by The Undertones

Right at the point where everything changes for Liz, Kevin, Paddy, Orla, Peter, Sinead and Christy, this song was charting in the UK. The Undertones appeared on Top of the Pops on the same day Bobby Sands died; Damian O’Neill wore a black armband and I remember feeling conflicted and confused about the politics of it, thinking are we supposed to be part of this now? It all became very serious.

2. Could You Be Loved by Bob Marley and the Wailers

When I hear this song, I am back in the Cave, standing in the middle of the bar. The overall memory is of air hung with thick smoke, people everywhere and the Wailers pulsing off the walls.

3. Don’t You Want Me by The Human League

This just edged into the top ten, pushing Love Action out, because of the story telling and the video. It was the song of Christmas, 1981. Who cared about Phil Oakey? Susan and Joanne looked like us, they were having a laugh and I wanted to be them, very badly - I tried to master that eyeliner, failing each time. 

4. To Cut a Long Story Short by Spandau Ballet

Not strictly within the time line if Music Love Drugs War, but, when Spandau Ballet appeared on Top of the Pops in November 1980, it was a new dawn –the New Romantics had arrived. Woolly jumpers, socks and kilts. I had my hair cut in the long one-sided fringe – very cool. My friend got her mother to make her a mini kilt! Great song.

5. Dread Beat and Blood by Poet and the Roots

Linton Kwesi Johnston spoke to us, that’s for sure. There is something about this track that really captures a sense of the time – one of danger, Thatcher’s Britain, a darkness that we related to. Played to death then and still played to death.

6. Kings of the Wild frontier by Adam and the Ants

Adam Ant, too dangerously gorgeous to be ignored. Jaws dropped, everywhere.

7. Love Like Anthrax by The Gang of Four

We girls weren’t only interested in the likes of Adam and the Ants or The Human League. This was very serious music, listened to on the big brother’s bedroom floor. The album, Entertainment, is featured in Music Love Drugs War. It hasn’t left the stack of vinyl in our living room since back in the day. 

8. Light My Fire by The Doors

Ah, Jim Morrison. I lusted after this dead rock star like only a girl of seventeen could. There was a certain irony in our fascination with the Sixties and the Vietnam war, while we did our best to avoid the violence playing out around us. 

9. Runaway Boy by The Stray Cats

The Stray Cats exploded in 1981, bad boys from America, channelling the spirit of Fifties rock and roll before it was sanitised and cleaned up. That opening line, “Get kicked out for coming home at dawn, Mom and Dad curse the day you were born…”  Yep, that was us! It’s a total teenage anthem.  

10. Going Underground by The Jam

The Jam were on their ‘A’ game in 1981, so there was competition for this slot. It could have been Eton Rifles, but I’ve chosen Going Underground. The pace and ultimate optimism, the anger and the fashion – it’s still incredibly exciting. When Paul Weller was a genuine fashion influencer, this was a call to arms.

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