Five 1980’s Singles You Thought You’d Forgotten

I’m nearly aged 50, folks! That means I hit my teenage years in the 1980’s. My first foray into music as a 1970’s toddler is best forgotten about. OK, Pinky and Perky and The Wombles… Then in 1977 I remember monopolising my uncle’s birthday copy of ABBA’s Arrival, and from then onwards it was ABBA, ABBA, ABBA until they got too depressing for words in 1981.

The 1980’s saw my musical taste progress from Adam Ant, through Gary Numan, Duran Duran, Japan, Prince and David Sylvian. Then I plummeted the depths and bought a Rick Astley tape. Oh all right, I fancied him.

But here, to make you either cringe or smile from ear to ear are five corker ear-worms of 1980’s singles you er, thought you had forgotten… (You might get a bit of a history lesson too.)

1. Marlene On The Wall – Suzanne Vega (1985)

Margaret Thatcher had revolutionised (euphemistically speaking) the stock market, and this spawned a generation of shoulder-padded, bouffant hair-do’ed, Filofax-wielding so-called Yuppies. This was the young, upwardly mobile generation. Their musical tastes were frankly rather boring, ranging from Dire Straits to Sade to Phil Collins to, er… Dire Straits. In an effort to relieve the boredom, I mean relieve the yuppies of their cash, even Fleetwood Mac made a rather good comeback, 1987’s Tango In The Night album. For it was albums these guys were into. Anything they could play on their Philips CD players that no one else could afford. Into this scene did wander Suzanne Vega, a-warbling rather matter-of-factly and a-strumming her guitar. Her debut self-titled L.., alb…. I mean CD, yah, spawned this single. Now the younger trendies of the 1980’s might have cringed and thought that a woman and her acoustic guitar belonged back in 1972, and indeed Ms Vega did look and sound like a librarian. But not so the Yuppies, and this single caused quite a splash in the UK charts. And it’s really rather good. I even bought the album to play on my personal stereo. (And the follow-up, and the follow-up to that.) But I hid the tape case so none of my fellow students thought I was a Yuppie.

2. Call Me – Spagna (1987)

Aaaah, what would the 1980’s have been without the annual flood of Euro summer hits? I thought 1987 was the year that the pop charts became a bit boring, but the synth hook, nearly as phat as Ms Spagna’s frightwig, burst in and brightened even my cynical soul. Plus her accent had me chortling and imitating it from dawn to dusk.

3. Kissing With Confidence – Will Powers (1983)

There was once a photographer called Lynn Goldsmith. A google search will reveal that she was responsible for some of the most iconic photos of some of the most iconic rock stars of the 70’s and 80’s. Then she decided she wanted to be a pop star, and gathered all her music chums to record an LP called Dancing For Mental Health. She used new-fangled sampler technology to make her voice as deep as a man’s, and invented a pseudo-psychologist thingy whom she called Will Powers. The album was not exactly brilliant, but it did contain one gem – the aforementioned UK Top 20 single, Kissing With Confidence. It’s a corker! One play will have you singing the hook ad-infinitum like a Hare Krishna. Added to which, Carly Simon guests on vocals, and there is no better reason to give a single a spin than that.

4. Could Have Told You So – Halo James (1989)

The dent they made on the UK Charts at the end of the 1980’s may not have been entirely significant, but after my affair with Rick Astley, my new-found gay rampant lust knew no bounds and shows no signs of slowing down, even as I approach half-a-century. I ADORED Christian James, the lead singer of Halo James. And what a pair of tonsils he had! Sadly they were one-hit-wonders, a bit too old-skool relative to the trip-hop Aceeeeed records that were then disgracing our charts. This choon is bangin’ – it gets better with every bar –  and deserves a revival.

5. Shaddup You Face – Joe Dolce (1981)

Just DON’T EVEN GO THERE!! Oh all right you can, at your own peril.  This novelty single made number 1 with Dolce’s faux-Italian accent and jaunty chorus.  Just don’t blame me if you then explore his back catalogue via your favourite streaming service.  It’s actually quite good.

Mark Pearce 26th July 2018

By Mark Pearce

Mark Pearce is the author of the YouTube Channel MarkPMus. Check it out if you're interested in Hi Fi, songwriting and music reviews. Nuggets include 2 series of ABBA Gold Anomalies / More ABBA Gold Anomalies, the Magical Musical Moments series and Hi Fi 101. You'll also find examples of the author's songwriting and photography.


  1. Ahem, well, hmmm. I was in my 30’s during the 1980 and I never heard any of these songs. I have heard of Vega, but never even heard of the other artists.

    1. Ah ha well I had my 12th birthday in 1980 so I was watching TOTP religiously throughout the 80’s. I promise all of these songs were ones I taped on my mono radio-cassette during the charts show when Radio 2 FM finished broadcasting Sing Something Simple at 5pm on a Sunday evening and gave way to Radio 1 to broadcast the charts show!

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