Few people could argue against 1984 being one of history’s finest years for pop music. Above all else, the mighty Frankie Goes To Hollywood came and gave pop a hefty kick up the arse with a combination of great tunes and greater controversy. They were the first band since the 60s to score three #1 hits in a row, but each one – ‘Relax’, ‘Two Tribes’ and ‘The Power of Love’ were deserving of their success. Each one sounds as good as ever and in the case of ‘Two Tribes’, there’s still a real edginess you’d think would be long gone.
In terms of pop, 1982 was a strong year: Madness took a further step towards songwriting sophistication with their album ‘The Rise & Fall’, Prince made a huge breakthrough with his ‘1999’ double platter of much filthiness and Phil Collins showed us that the previous year’s ‘Face Value’ wasn’t just a one-off solo success when his “tricky second album” spawned a #1 hit single and a few of his best solo tunes.
Looking back, the three years between the disco and pop oriented sounds of 1976 and the majestic jumble of influences that fill 1979 are a huge gulf. By 1979, disco was on it’s last legs, punk had firmly given airtime to what we now think of as new wave and the pop music of the day was about as strong as it had been since 1975.
We’ve reached the end of 2015. It hasn’t been as thrilling a year for new music as 2014 had been, but there has been plenty to entertain. We’re still waiting on the proposed deluxe edition of Prince & The Revolution’s classic ‘Purple Rain’ (we could be waiting a long time) and those promised UB40 deluxe editions. Another year has passed without the arrival of Real Gone favourite Mick Terry’s second album. Lots of people in the UK have been (over)-excited by Steven Wilson’s ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase.’, but most of what’s impressed us the most at Real Gone – as is so often the case – is often just a little more underground.
Here are our year’s top picks…
We appear to be living in an ever more digital age. On the one hand, this is good as it allows so many DIY bands and musicians an outlet to get their material out there whereby previously the costs of getting records made would have been prohibitive. On the other, we’re living in a world where the market has been flooded by music; a lack of quality control means there’s a potential for so much good stuff to go unheard and – to paraphrase the great Brian Wilson – appear like little more than a cork in the ocean.