An in depth look at the UK music scene in the 1980s
Information on selected Artists with some external links
Neneh Marianne Karlsson Cherry (born March 10, 1964 in Stockholm) is a musician. Cherry blended hip hop with other influences, and experienced some mainstream success with several of her recordings.
New Kids On The Block (later NKOTB) was a successful boy band of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Assembled in Boston in 1984 by producer Maurice Starr; the members consisted of brothers Jordan Knight and Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg and Danny Wood. The group went on to sell over 70 million albums worldwide, generated hundreds of million of dollars of concert revenues, and roughly paved the way for acts like Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC.
New Order is an English electronic and rock group formed in 1980 by the remaining members of Joy Division following the suicide of singer Ian Curtis. Melding post-punk and electronic dance music, New Order became one of the… more here
Born Nicholas David Kershaw in Bristol, England on March 1, 1958 (although brought up in Ipswich), Kershaw played guitar and sang in a number of underground bands before deciding on a career as a songwriter. However, he ended up performing his own songs rather than giving them to others, and signed a deal with MCA Records in 1983, which spawned a debut single, “I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”… more soon.
Nu Shooz was a 1980s dance music group fronted by husband-and-wife duo John Smith and Valerie Day, based out of Portland, Oregon. In 1986 they scored two major pop/R&B/dance hits: “I Can’t Wait,” which climbed to #3 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. Its follow-up, “Point Of No Return,” also topped the dance chart and hit #28 on the Hot 100. Their final pop chart entry was “Should I Say Yes?” which hit #41, but they had two more dance hits, one of which, “Are You Lookin’ For Somebody Nu,” topped out at #2 on the dance charts in 1988.
Olivia Newton-John AO OBE (born September 26, 1948, Cambridge) is an English-born Australian singer and actress. Newton-John is the granddaughter of Max Born, a German Nobel prize-winning physicist who fled from Germany with his wife in the 1930s in order to avoid persecution due to Born’s Jewish heritage and his wife’s part Jewish descent (although Olivia herself is a Christian). Olivia’s father, Brin Newton-John, originally from Wales, was an MI5 officer attached to the Enigma machine project at Bletchley Park, and the officer who took Rudolf Hess into custody when he parachuted into Scotland in May 1941. After World War II, he became a professor of German at the UNSW annex at Tighes Hill in Newcastle, Australia.
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (often abbreviated to OMD) are a synth pop group whose founder members are originally from the Wirral Peninsula, UK. OMD record for Virgin Records (originally for Virgin’s DinDisc subsidiary). The group was founded by Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys… more here.
Paul Hardcastle (born December 10, 1957, in London) is an English composer and musician specialising in the synthesiser. In the early 1980s he performed in the dance music groups Direct Drive and First Light, before going solo. He achieved some acclaim for his early singles, notably the instrumental Rainforest 1984, but came to greater prominence in 1985 with the groundbreaking “19”, a dance record featuring samples of television narrator Peter Thomas from the 1984 television documentary Vietnam Requiem, which was about Vietnam veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (and for which Hardcastle was sued by ABC). It was a number one hit in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands and was a significant hit in many other countries. However Hardcastle and his manager Simon Fuller never saw much of the royalties as the song was sampled without permission and were sued. Fuller would later adopt the song title for his management company.
Paula Julie Abdul (born June 19, 1962) is an American dancer, choreographer, singer, and television personality. In the 1980s, her career rose rapidly, from being a cheerleader for the Los Angeles Lakers to being a sought-after choreographer at the height of the music video era, then to being a pop music singer with a string of top hits in the late 1980s and early 1990s. After that she suffered a series of reverses in her professional and personal life, until she found renewed fame and success in the 2000s as a judge on the highly rated television series American Idol.
Peter Brian Gabriel (born February 13, 1950, in Chobham, Surrey, England) is an English musician. He first came to fame as the lead vocalist, flautist, and percussionist of the progressive rock group Genesis, went on to a successful solo career, and more recently has focused on producing and promoting world music and pioneering digital distribution methods for music. In addition he has been involved in various humanitarian efforts.
Phyllis Nelson (born on 3 October 1950 in Indiana – died 12 January 1998 in Los Angeles), was an American singer. Nelson worked and recorded for several years from the late 1970s into the mid 1980s without achieving much success. Her records were usually dance tracks, and she had also recorded quite a number of records during the disco era.
The Pogues are a popular London Irish band. They reached international prominence in the 1980s and 1990s before breaking up in 1994. The band began performing together again in 2001, though they have yet to record new music. They merged traditional Irish music with contemporary punk, essentially inventing Celtic Punk. They were also highly influential on the larger Celtic Fusion scene. Frontman Shane MacGowan described their style as “playing Irish music to a young rock audience”.
Pointer Sisters are an American R&B group and recording act from Oakland, California that achieved great success during the 1970s and 1980s. Spanning four decades together between 1969 and the recent date, their repertoire has included diverse genres as R&B, jazz, bebop, country, soul, funk, disco/dance and rock.
The Police were a three-piece British Rock band, which was strongly influenced by ska and reggae. Coming to prominence in the wake of the punk rock phenomenon, they rose to become one of the most popular groups in the world in the early 1980s… more here.
Stewart Copeland Official site
The Pretenders are an Anglo-American rock band known for innovative songwriting and charismatic performances. The original band consisted of group founder, songwriter, vocalist, and rhythm guitarist Chrissie Hynde, lead and rhythm guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, bassist Pete Farndon, and drummer Martin Chambers. This band was fractured by drug-related deaths and numerous subsequent personnel changes have taken place over the years, with Hynde as the sole constant.
The Primitives were a British alternative rock, indie pop band from Coventry formed in 1985 by Keiron McDermott (vocals), PJ Court (born Paul Jonathan Court, on 27 July 1965) (vocals, guitar), Steve Dullaghan (bass) and Pete Tweedie (drums). Keiron was soon replaced by Tracy Tracy (born Tracy Cattell in Australia), whose blonde good looks and distinctive voice helped the band to achieve great success for a brief period. Their career was also boosted when The Smiths singer Morrissey named them as one of his favourite bands. After a successful first album, which presented them with their UK Top 5 hit single “Crash” (and made the U.S. Top 3), their career began to fade in the early 1990s. They split in 1992 following the commercial failure of their final album, 1991’s Galore. Their major rivals within the ‘bubble pop’ scene were Transvision Vamp and The Darling Buds, both of whom bore a similar sound.
Desiree Heslop (born 27 November 1961) is an English singer, who is using the stage name “Princess”. In the late 1970s she worked with the group, Osibisa. Her first solo album Princess (1986) was composed and produced by Stock Aitken Waterman. Her second album All For Love (1987), was produced by a group of: Ballard and Magness, Richard Burgess, Fox and Drinkwater.
The Proclaimers are a Scottish band composed of identical twins Charlie and Craig Reid. They are best known for their songs “Letter from America” and “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” which became the theme song to the film Benny & Joon, and to the charity event the Terry Fox Run, as well as a Labatt’s Blue commercial.
Richard Noel Marx (born September 16, 1963 in Winnetka, Illinois) is an adult contemporary singer, songwriter and record producer. He had a string of successful hit singles in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including “Right Here Waiting,” “Hazard,” “Endless Summer Nights” and “Hold On to the Nights.” Although most of his successful songs were slow ballads like these, many of his songs had an upbeat, classic rock style, such as “Don’t Mean Nothing,” “Should’ve Known Better,” “Satisfied,” and “Too Late to Say Goodbye”. Marx placed himself in the record books by being the first solo artist to have his first seven singles hit the top 5 on the US charts.
Richard Paul Astley (born February 6, 1966) is an English singer, songwriter and musician. He was born in Newton-le-Willows, St Helens, Lancashire, England. In 1985, Rick Astley was playing the club circuit as a singer with a soul band named FBI, when he was seen by the record producer Pete Waterman… more soon.
Robin Beck (born on 7 September 1954, in Brooklyn, NY) is an American female singer. She topped the singles charts in the UK and Germany during 1988 with her single “The First Time”, which had come to the public’s attention via its use in a Coca-Cola commercial. Coca Cola Great Britain had tapped the 34 year old American jingle singer because of her solid vocal performance on the 1987/1988 USA “Coca Cola Is It” radio commercial in the USA (although Coca Cola spun her age to the UK press as 27).
S’Express (pronounced ess-express; sometimes spelled S’Xpress or S-Express; otherwise known as Victim of the Ghetto) were a British dance music act from the late 1980s who had one of the earliest commercial successes in the acid house genre. “Theme from S’Express”, based on Rose Royce’s “Is It Love You’re After”, was also one of the earliest recordings to capitalize on sampling culture and it topped the UK Singles Chart as well as the Hot Dance Club Play chart in the United States (also scraping into the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 at number ninety-one).
Salt-N-Pepa is an American R&B and hip hop group, consisting of Cheryl James and Sandy Denton (“Salt” and “Pepa”, respectively), and Deidra “Dee Dee” Roper (DJ Spinderella). They debuted with “The Show Stopper”, an answer record to Doug E. Fresh & Slick Rick’s “The Show”. It was an underground hit and Salt-N-Pepa signed to Next Plateau. Their debut LP was Hot, Cool & Vicious (1986, which was produced by Salt’s then-boyfriend, Hurby Azor, the group’s manager, and he received songwriting credit for the album, though this was later disputed. It also featured DJ Pamela Green as the original Spinderella  though they do not include her in their list of credits, and neither does the album sleeve, but her face is included on the album cover.
Sam Brown (born Samantha Brown, on 7 October 1964, in Stratford, London, England), is the daughter of the rock’n’roll star Joe Brown and singer Vicki Brown. She is an English female singer-songwriter best known for her work in the late 1980s, although she has continued to release material since then.
Samantha Karen “Sam” Fox (born April 15, 1966 in Mile End, London) is an English former glamour model and dance-pop singer. Sam Fox came from a family of market traders. She had a keen interest in the theatre from an early age, and first appeared on a theatre stage at the age of three, and was enrolled in the Anna Scher Theatre School from the age of 5. Her first television appearance came at the age of 10, in a BBC play entitled No Way Out. Following on from this, she started at the Judy Dench Mountview Theatre School at the age of 11.
Shakin’ Stevens (born Michael Barrett, March 4, 1948) is a Welsh rock and roll singer born in Cardiff, who has the distinction of being the top selling UK singles artist of the 1980s. He began his career fronting Shakin’ Stevens and the Sunsets, a 1950s influenced rock’n’roll outfit. An early break for the band arrived when they were given a support slot for the Rolling Stones in December 1969… more here.
Sheena Easton (born Sheena Shirley Orr on 27 April 1959, Bellshill, North Lanarkshire, Scotland) is a Scottish-American pop singer. Sheena became famous for being the focus of the United Kingdom television programme The Big Time, a late-1970s reality TV series which recorded her attempts to gain a record contract and got her a deal with EMI.
Sinitta Renet Malone (b. October 19, 1966 in Seattle, Washington) is the daughter of singer Miquel Brown. Young Sinitta already starred in the movie Shock Treatment in 1981, and sung in the musical Cats in 1983. She then played a role in the musical Mutiny in 1984. After lead singing for the band Hot Gossip, she released her first solo recording Never Too Late, which was mixed by Jellybean (Madonna, E.G.Daily). Further singles like “So Macho”, “Cruising” and “Feels Like The First Time” and “Toyboy” were major club hits, “So Macho” spending 18 weeks on the British Singles Chart, peaking at Number 2. In 1984 she particpated in A Song for Europe, the UK heat of the Eurovision Song Contest, with the song Imagination which came 4th.
Sister Sledge is an American musical group from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, formed in 1972 and consisting of four singers, all of whom are sisters: Kim, Debbie, Joni, and Kathy Sledge. First entering the UK Charts in 1975 with Mama Never Told Me, their career went into decline before it revived under the magisterial production skills of Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of CHIC. This association gave them their biggest successes which came in 1979: the popular disco anthems “We Are Family” (#1 R&B, #2 Pop in the USA) and “He’s the Greatest Dancer” (#1 R&B, #9 Pop in the USA). Both songs were included on their 8-song 1979 album We Are Family. Their follow up album was 1980’s Love Somebody Today, which included the songs Got to Love Somebody (#6 R&B and #64 Pop in the USA, #34 Pop in the UK) and Pretty Baby.
Sly Fox was a short-lived 1980s pop duo consisting of: Gary “Mudbone” Cooper ? African American funk session musician noted for his work with George Clinton, Sly Stone and Bootsy Collins Michael Camacho ? a Hispanic a capella vocalist The duo was assembled by British producer Ted Currier and presented as wholesome, clean living teen idols; an image that contrasted sharply with the sound of their lone hit. “Let’s Go All The Way”, released on Capitol Records, became a Top 10 hit in both the USA and UK in 1986. Propelled by an unusual mechanical-sounding “zhum zhum zinna-ninny” rhythm and deadpan vocals, the song sounded more like the moody New Wave music of Depeche Mode than any of Cooper’s earlier funky collaborations. The song’s title was often interpreted as a euphemism for sexual intercourse, though nothing else in the lyrics hinted at anything carnal. The lyrics were actually strongly resemblant of Phil Collins’s rock-oriented efforts of the era – echoing a sense of frustration and disillusionment with an increasingly violent and dehumanizing world. The follow-up singles “Stay True” and “Don’t Play With Fire” marked a return to their clean-cut teen idol image, but sold poorly and the duo disbanded shortly afterward.
Snap! are an electronic music project created by German producers Michael M? and Luca Anzilotti. However, due to the general public’s preconceived notions of German music as “cheesy”, they decided to credit their work as Benito Benites and John “Virgo” Garrett III, and, as Frank Farian had done with Boney M and Milli Vanilli, hired different singers to front the group’s live appearances.
Soft Cell was an English synthesizer duo during the early 1980s (currently re-formed). They consisted of Marc Almond (vocals) and David Ball (synthesizers). Their lyrics often focused on love and romance as well as the darker side of life, with subjects such as kinky sex, transvestism, drugs and murder. They had a huge world-wide hit in 1981 with a cover version of “Tainted Love”. They became the prototypical synth duo and were initially associated with other New Wave scenesters dubbed “New Romantics” by the British Press. Other bands associated with this scene included Visage, Duran Duran, and Spandau Ballet, but the darker nature of their music also made Soft Cell darlings of the emerging Goth scene.
Sonia Evans (born 13 February 1971), better known as just Sonia, is an English pop singer from Liverpool, who was popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Her singing career was launched by the music producing trio Stock Aitken Waterman in 1989; she had several hits in the UK Singles Chart over the following years, including the UK number one single “You’ll Never Stop Me Loving You” and a hit “You’ve Got a Friend” (credited to Big Fun & Sonia featuring Gary Barnacle), plus many other Top 20 hit singles, including “Can’t Forget You” and “You To Me Are Everything”.
Spagna (born Ivana Spagna, on 16 December 1956, in Verona, Italy), is an Italian singer and songwriter. Spagna started her career singing in English, and her first dance song “Easy Lady” (1986) was a hit throughout Europe. In 1987 she released her second successful hit, “Call Me”. It ranked 1st in the European Top Chart, hit Number Two in the UK singles chart (and it is still the highest position ever achieved by an Italian singer in the UK), and made #13 in the Billboard Dance Chart.
Squeeze were an English rock music band that came to prominence in the New Wave period of the late 1970s. The group formed in London in 1974. They are known for their hit songs “Cool For Cats,” “Up The Junction,” “Tempted,” and “Hourglass,” among many others.
Stock, Aitken & Waterman, sometimes known as SAW, were a British songwriting and record producing trio who had great success during the mid-late 1980s and early 1990s with many of their productions. The three can be considered to be the most successful songwriting and producing partnership of all time, scoring over 200 top 40 UK hits in the mid 1980s to early 1990s. The trio consisted of Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman. On January 15, 1984, shortly after meeting Aitken and Stock, Waterman asked them to work with him and his recently formed production company, Pete Waterman Limited (PWL). Their initial style was Hi-NRG with a cover version of “You Think You’re a Man” by Divine (#16 UK Jul 1984) and “Whatever I Do” by Hazell Dean (#4 UK Jul 1984). They struck gold in March 1985 when “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” by Dead or Alive reached number one in UK. However, Pete Waterman has said in interviews that the trio were still in dire financial straits at the time.
This success, and the trio’s unique sound attracted the attention of female pop group Bananarama, Siobhan Fahey (Bananarama member), wanted to record a cover version of Shocking Blue’s “Venus”. The result was a Hi-NRG reworking which became a worldwide chart hit, achieving the coveted number one spot in the U.S Billboard Hot 100. Bananarama went on to make Stock Aitken and Waterman their main producers, and would collabarate with them on some of their biggest hits, including “Love in the First Degree”, “I Can’t Help It”, and “I Heard a Rumour”.
Following their early success, their style evolved into a more mainstream bubblegum synth pop, with attractive singers. They typically worked by writing the songs, although many of their early acts (such as Hazell Dean, Dead or Alive, and Bananarama) wrote their own material, recording the music with extensive use of synthesizers, drum machines (drums were often credited to “A Linn”, a sly reference to the Linn brand of drum machine) and sequencers, and then bringing in a singer solely to record the vocal track. Their prodigious, production line-like output led to them being referred to as the hit factory (not to be confused with the record label of the same name) and attracted criticism from many quarters. However, Pete Waterman defended their style by comparing it to the output of Motown in the 1960s.
Jefferson Airplane was an American rock band from San Francisco, a pioneer of the LSD-influenced psychedelic rock movement. The band’s August, 1969 performance at Woodstock is widely considered ‘one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most memorable moments’. In 1984, Kantner (the last remaining founding member of Jefferson Airplane) left the group, but not before taking legal action over the Jefferson name against his former bandmates, who wanted to continue as Jefferson Starship. Kantner won his suit, and the name was reduced to simply ‘Starship’, marking the third incarnation of the band. Freiberg, who had been increasingly marginalized, left as well. In 1985, Starship released Knee Deep In The Hoopla and immediately scored two #1 hits. The first was “We Built This City”, written by Bernie Taupin, Martin Page, Dennis Lambert, and Peter Wolf, and inspired by Bay Area power-rock station KSAN-FM; the second was “Sara”. No previous incarnation of the Airplane had ever had a #1 hit. The album itself reached #7, went platinum, and spawned two more singles: “Tomorrow Doesn’t Matter Tonight” (#26), and “Before I Go” (#68). In 1987, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” was featured in the film Mannequin and hit #1, although only Slick and Thomas (plus Craig Chaquico’s guitar solo) appeared on it. This song made Slick the oldest female vocalist to sing on a number-one Billboard Hot 100 hit, at the age of 47. (She held this record until Cher broke it at the age of 53, in 1999 with “Believe”.) The following year, the band’s song “Wild Again” (which reached #78 on the Billboard singles chart) was used in the movie Cocktail.
Stephen Anthony James Duffy (born May 30, 1960 in Birmingham, West Midlands, England) is a British songwriter, vocalist and guitarist. He has recorded as a solo act under several different names, and is the lead singer for the group The Lilac Time. He has also co-written many songs with Robbie Williams, and Steven Page of Barenaked Ladies.
The Stranglers are an English rock music group, formed on September 11, 1974 in Guildford, Surrey. They were originally called The Guildford Stranglers and operated from an off-licence in the town. They also based themselves in the nearby village of Chiddingfold for a while… more here.
The Style Council were an English musical group formed in 1983 by ex-The Jam singer and guitarist Paul Weller with keyboardist Mick Talbot. Both Weller and Talbot had played a significant part in the Mod Revival. The Style Council also featured a singer called Tracie Young who had solo hits with “The House That Jack Built” and “Give It Some Emotion”. The permanent lineup grew to include drummer Steve White and Weller’s wife/vocalist Dee C. Lee (now divorced). Other musicians, including a horn section, were brought in as required… more soon.
Suzanne Nadine Vega (born July 11, 1959) is an American songwriter and singer known for her poetic lyrics and eclectic folk-inspired music. Suzanne Vega was born in Santa Monica, California, but, at the age of two and a half moved with her mother (a computer systems analyst) and her stepfather (a writer from Puerto Rico) to New York City, where she grew up in a socially problematic area (Spanish Harlem and the Upper West Side). At the age of nine she began to write poems; she wrote her first song at age 14. Later she attended the New York City High School of the Performing Arts (the school seen in the feature film musical Fame), where she studied modern dance.
Swing Out Sister is a British sophisti-pop musical group best known worldwide for their 1986 song “Breakout”, which was their only song to reach the US top 10. Various listeners have classified their sound as everything from smooth jazz to cool jazz to acid jazz. Although Swing Out Sister is currently a duo, they began as a trio in the UK. The group was formed by Andy Connell (keyboards) and Martin Jackson (drums), and were later joined by Corinne Drewery (vocals). (The name came from a 1945 movie starring Arthur Treacher, called Swing Out, Sister.) Both Connell and Jackson had been playing in other bands prior to forming SOS, while Drewery was actually a fashion designer before she became the band’s lead vocalist.
T’Pau was a late-1980s rock group led by singer Carol Decker. They had a string of Top 40 hits in the UK, and several hits in the United States and Europe. T’Pau formed in 1986. The members originated from the towns of Shrewsbury and Wellington in central England and took their name from a Star Trek character… more here.
Talk Talk were a popular English music group that was active from 1981 to 1991. The group is known for their early synthpop/New Wave singles, including the international hits “Today”, “Talk Talk”, “It’s My Life”, “Such a Shame” and “Life’s What You Make It”. They are also recognised as forerunners to the post-rock genre for their later experimental albums.
Talking Heads was an American rock band existing between 1977 and 1991, composed of David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth, and Jerry Harrison. Talking Heads married punk rock sensibilities with poppy sounds, clipped funk, art school intellectualism, and later, world music. In David Byrne, they had one of the most distinctive front men of the period; they remained popular during their lifetime, and their concert film Stop Making Sense (which was made at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood, and directed by Jonathan Demme) is widely acclaimed as one of the finest examples of the genre.
Tanita Tikaram (born August 12, 1969) is an English pop/folk singer/songwriter best known for the enigmatic hits “Twist in My Sobriety” and “Good Tradition” from her 1988 debut album, Ancient Heart. Successive releases failed to meet with similar commercial success although she has continued to release recordings as recently as 2005. Her style is based on her husky voice, acoustic guitar and quirky, poetic lyrics.
Taylor Dayne (real name Leslie Wunderman), (born on March 7, 1962 in Baldwin, Nassau County, New York), is a hugely successful American pop vocalist and dance artist. Dayne came to prominence in the late 1980s and remained at the top of the charts through the 1990s, her most recent U.S. dance chart number-one being in 1999. She continues to remain a pop favorite in the U.S. and abroad.
Tears for Fears are a successful English Synth Pop band formed in the early 1980s by Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, which emerged after the dissolution of their first band, the mod-influenced Graduate. They were initially associated with new wave and the New Romantic movements, but quickly branched out into mainstream chart success. The duo’s name is derived from the Primal therapy treatment developed by Arthur Janov. During Primal therapy, the patient re-experiences early feelings even perinatal ones; hence the name “Tears for Fears”. Tears for Fears have sold more than 30 million albums worldwide… more soon.
Sananda Maitreya (formerly known as and born Terence Trent Howard on March 15, 1962) is an American-born singer-songwriter currently living in Milan, Italy. He is recognizable through his trademark voice resembling that of Sam Cooke, and the fact that, like such artists as Stevie Wonder, Todd Rundgren and Prince before him, he produces his own albums and plays most of the instruments… more here.
Texas is a pop music band from Glasgow, Scotland. They were founded by Johnny McElhone (formerly of the bands Altered Images and Hipsway) in 1986 and had their performing debut in March 1988 at Scotland’s University of Dundee. They took their name from the 1984 Wim Wenders movie Paris, Texas. Their musical sound went from blues rock from their debut album Southside, via blue-eyed soul of White on Blonde to the disco pop of Red Book.
Then Jerico were a British rock band from the late 1980s who enjoyed limited success with two albums, While regarded by some members of the British music press of the time as a teen band, Then Jerico produced two outstanding albums of creative songwriting, instrumentation, arrangement and production. The singles “Big Area” and “Sugar Box” being especially memorable. The song “Big Area” was featured in the 1989 science fiction film “Slipstream” starring Mark Hamill.
The Thompson Twins were an English New Wave/pop band normally associated with the 1980s. The band formed in April of 1977, and disbanded in May of 1993. Massively popular in the mid 1980s, the band scored a string of hits in the UK, broke into the USA and Canada and enjoyed huge popularity around the globe… more here.
Tiffany Renee Darwish (born October 2, 1971 in Norwalk, California; sometimes mistakenly reported as being born in Oklahoma, where she has some relatives), professionally known as Tiffany, is an American singer who had a number of teen pop hits during the late 1980s. Tiffany grew up in Norwalk with parents James Robert Darwish (of part Lebanese descent) and Janie Wilson (of mostly Irish and some distant Cherokee descent). Her parents divorced when she was very young. When Tiffany was four years old, she learned the words to the song Delta Dawn, and she started singing it often. In 1977, Tiffany’s mother married Dan Williams, and in 1979, Tiffany’s half-sister Falicia Williams was born. In 1981, Tiffany made her first professional singing show, with a country music band at a country and western spot. She passed a hat along the crowd afterward, and collected US $235 in what would be her first career earnings. Tiffany was singing at a Los Angeles club named El Palomino when she was discovered by Hoyt Axton and his wife Mae Axton. Mae took her to sing in Nashville, Tennessee, where she performed at the Ralph Emery Show. In 1982 Tiffany toured several cities in Alaska, earning US $3000 for the tour. Also that year, she was an opening act for Jerry Lee Lewis and for George Jones. During this period, Tiffany also appeared on the syndicated television show Hee Haw, singing Juice Newton’s “Queen of Hearts” and Tammy Wynette’s “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad”. In 1983, Tiffany’s other half-sister, Charessa Williams, was born. Ronald Kent Surut became her manager that year.
Tina Turner (born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939) is a Grammy Award-winning American pop/rock singer, Buddhist and occasional actress. She was born of African American, Navajo, and Cherokee ancestry in the Haywood Memorial Hospital in Brownsville, Tennessee and raised in Nutbush, Tennessee… more soon.
Toyah Ann Willcox (born May 18, 1958 in Kings Heath, Birmingham) is an English actress and singer. Toyah Willcox trained as an actress at the Old Rep Drama School in her home town of Birmingham and first became well-known during the punk rock era, her appearances in Derek Jarman’s 1977 film Jubilee and 1979’s Who album-inspired Quadrophenia, launching her as a provocative and anti-establishment figure, an image she eventually threw off… more soon.
Transvision Vamp were a popular UK alternative rock group. Formed in 1986 by Dave Pasons (formerly of the punk band The Partisans), they enjoyed a brief period of success in the late 1980s, fusing elements of punk, art rock and the “big band” sound of Phil Spector. Wendy James, the lead singer and focal-point of the group, generated a great deal of attention with her sexually-charged and rebellious image. They were eventually signed up by MCA and released a cover single of the Holly and the Italians song “Tell That Girl To Shut Up”, in April, 1988, which was a minor hit. It was follow up single “I Want Your Love” a month later, with its pop/punk crossover appeal that proved their big break, going Top 10 in the United Kingdom. They went on to release the hit album Pop Art in October.
U2 is an Irish rock band formed in Dublin, featuring Bono (Paul David Hewson) on vocals, rhythm guitar and harmonica; The Edge (David Howell Evans) on lead guitar, keyboards and backing vocals; Adam Clayton on bass guitar; and Larry Mullen, Jr. on drums and occasionally backing vocals… more here
UB40 are a British dub / reggae pop music band formed in 1978 in Birmingham. The band is one of the world’s most culturally diverse dub reggae bands with musicians of English, Scottish, Irish, Yemeni and Jamaican parentage… more here
Ultravox (formerly Ultravox!) was one of the primary exponents of the British electronic pop music movement of the early 1980s. The band was particularly associated with the New Romantic movement, although it both pre- and post-dated New Romantic by several years, drawing inspiration variously from punk, the artier side of glam rock, pub rock and latterly straightforward synthpop… more here
Voice of the Beehive are an Anglo-American college radio/alternative band, formed in London in 1987 by Californian sisters Tracey Bryn and Melissa Brooke Belland.
Wax was a 1980s pop group consisting of Andrew Gold and Graham Gouldman of 10cc. Wax is best known for the hit singles “Bridge To Your Heart” and “Right Between The Eyes”. The partnership released three albums: Magnetic Heaven, American English and 100,000 In Fresh Notes between 1986 and 1989. Andrew Gold and Graham Gouldman continued to work together on projects for several years afterwards. A collection of out-takes and rareties, Wax Bikini was released later through Gold’s website.
Wet Wet Wet were a successful Scottish pop band of the 1980s and 1990s and scored a number of hits in the British charts, and around the world. They were formed in Clydebank, Scotland in 1982. They took their name from the Scritti Politti song, Gettin, havin’ and holdin’ … more here.
XTC are an influential new wave band from Swindon, England. First coming together in 1972, the core duo of Andy Partridge (guitars & vocals) and Colin Moulding (bass & vocals) went through many band names (including The Helium Kidz and Star Park) over the next five years. As the Helium Kidz, they featured in a small NME article as an up and coming band from Swindon. Drawing influence from the New York Dolls and the emerging New York punk scene, they played glam rock with homemade costumes and slowly built up a following. Drummer Terry Chambers joined in 1973. Keyboard player Barry Andrews followed in 1976, and the band finally settled on a name: XTC. By this time, the punk rock movement was in full swing, and XTC had found their style, a unique brand of hyperactive pop mixed with funk, scrapheap, punk, ska, reggae, and art rock.
Yazz (born Yasmin Evans in Shepherd’s Bush, London on May 19, 1960) is a British pop singer who remains best known for her successful 1988 dance track, “The Only Way Is Up”. After a spell as a catwalk model, she scored a number of club hits after recording with group, Biz, in 1983. Her first commercial success came in early 1988, when she supplied the vocals on Coldcut’s “Doctorin’ the House”. She soon launched a solo career on Big Life records, a label set up by her future husband Jazz Summers, releasing her debut single “The Only Way Is Up” in the summer of 1988. It went on to spend five weeks at the top of the chart, eventually becoming the biggest selling UK single of the year. Suddenly one of Britain’s biggest pop acts, her follow up was another big hit, whilst her debut album went top ten. She continued to have hits into 1989 but has since recorded only sporadically, releasing one single during 1990 and not releasing another until 1992. She returned to the charts in 1993, performing with Aswad on the top 40 hit “How Long”. She continued to release singles well into the 1990s, including a cover version of The Jackson 5’s “Never Can Say Goodbye”. In 1997 she recorded the album Natural Life, which was only released in some parts of Europe and Asia.
Yazoo (known as Yaz in North America for legal reasons involving Yazoo Records) were a British synthpop duo from Basildon, Essex, England, consisting of former Depeche Mode member Vince Clarke (keyboards) and Alison Moyet (vocals). The duo formed in late 1981 after Clarke responded to an advertisement Moyet placed in a UK music magazine, although the pair had known each other since their schooldays.
Over the next 18 months the duo made two albums, Upstairs at Eric’s and You and Me Both, which received critical acclaim for their production, particularly the blending of Clarke’s synthesizer melodies with Moyet’s blues– and soul-influenced vocals. Yazoo enjoyed worldwide success, particularly in their home country where three of their four singles reached the top three of the UK Singles Chart and both their albums made the top two of the albums chart. In North America they are best known for the song “Situation“, originally only a B-side in the UK but which was a club and airplay hit in the US and Canada before being released as the band’s debut single in North America.
Despite their success, the duo split acrimoniously in May 1983 due to a combination of Clarke’s reluctance to make more records under the Yazoo name, a clash of personalities, and a lack of communication between the pair. Clarke went on to form Erasure, another successful and longer-lasting synthpop duo, while Moyet embarked on a highly successful solo career. Although their musical career was short, Yazoo’s combination of electronic instrumentation and soulful female vocals has been cited as an influence on the house music scene that emerged in the mid-1980s, as well as bands such as LCD Soundsystem(who name-checked them on their debut single “Losing My Edge“), Hercules and Love Affair (whose leader Andy Butler has said that “Situation” was his biggest musical inspiration as a child), La Roux, Shiny Toy Guns and Blaqk Audio.
In 2008, 25 years after splitting up, Clarke and Moyet reconciled and reformed Yazoo to play a successful tour of the UK, Europe and North America in support of the reissue of Yazoo’s two studio albums and a box set of their material. The pair briefly reunited again in May 2011 to play three Yazoo songs at a music festival organised by their record label.
Yello is a popular Swiss electronica band consisting of Dieter Meier and Boris Blank. They are probably best known for their singles “The Race” and “Oh Yeah”, which featured a rich mix of electronic music and manipulated vocals. “Oh Yeah” became famous after being featured in the American movies Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Secret of My Success, and more recently Soul Plane. The song is used on The Simpsons as the theme for the Duffman character. “The Race” is well-known in Germany as the theme music to the Eighties pop show Formel Eins and was also used in the movie Nuns On The Run.
ZZ Top, affectionately known by their American fans as “That little ol’ band from Texas”, is an American blues rock band formed in 1970 in Houston, Texas. The group members are Billy Gibbons (guitar and vocals), Dusty Hill (bass guitar and vocals), and Frank Beard (drums). They hold the distinction of being one of the few rock groups still composed of its original members after more than 35 years, and until September 2006 the same manager/producer, Bill Ham. They reached the peak of their commercial success in the 1970s and 1980s, scoring many hit songs during that era; but they remain together today and are still touring and releasing albums. ZZ Top was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 15, 2004. Summarizing their music, Cub Koda wrote, “As genuine roots musicians, they have few peers; Gibbons is one of America’s finest blues guitarists working in the arena rock idiom … while Hill and Beard provide the ultimate rhythm section support.” Their song lyrics often feature sexual innuendo and humor.
Click here for Part 1 (A-Z Index) of our detailed look at The 1980s Music Scene.
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