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Music

Far Out 40: The 40 best songs from 1982

For many of you, the 1980s was the decade that should be conveniently forgotten. It was neither as gritty as the 1970s, nor as stylish as the 1990s, but was a time of yachts, yellow jackets and mullets that somehow managed to grow longer the more you looked at it. It was a time of disappointment, and not even the marriage of a Prince and his fairytale Princess managed to paper over the widening cracks between tricky and poverty, as Britain was led by a Prime Minister of questionable values and intent.

Wars were springing all over the world, John Lennon was shot dead and the Chernobyl disaster took place. While stocks soared, living standards fluctuated, providing a rich bed of nutrient-rich soil from which great music could grow.

The decade’s musicians were determined to sing out their truths, over a cascade of drum machines and pummeling riffs. Much like their fans, these artists were a group searching for an identity, carefully piling together their ideas into a musical continuum that saw them cry out for their identity, yearning for richer textures to compensate for the soulless, singular policies their country was now seemingly espousing in an effort to compensate for its lack of substance.

Eddy Grant sang at the rise of crime that surrounded Britain, The Stranglers detailed the pleasures of love in a world of poverty and pain, and Dexys Midnight Runners celebrated the unconquerable spirit of the Irish diaspora, wherever they were fortunate enough to stand.

Rock provided the rhetoric for the artists who were happy to sing out their perspective of truth, never ceasing to the pressures of the decade, or falling victim to some of the fashions of the decade. It was growing harder for solo Beatles to stay relevant, but Paul McCartney did so with Tug of War, arguably the last of the essential Beatle albums and George Harrison also had his moments, especially on the strangely beautiful ‘Mystical One’.

The decade that began with the murder of a Beatle couldn’t silence the others, and by the close of the decade, Ringo Starr emerged triumphantly, leading the All-Starr Band through a variety of stellar concerts across the USA.

1982 was a time of great change for music, not least because it was a time of forward-thinking, and introspective forms of expression. Simple Minds launched themselves as a more palatable alternative to Dublin born U2, while Echo and The Bunnymen prided themselves on maintaining a foothold in the abstract.

Elsewhere, Culture Club used their platform to champion Jewish, Irish and black musicians, creating a band that was as much a melting pot as it was a feisty group of players. The tightly knitted group managed to put together a ballad of tremendous beauty and pathos, every note sung with great passion and persuasion, never underestimating the lyric at hand.

We’ve reduced this list to 40, keenly understanding that we could have put in 100s and 100s. Madonna didn’t really get going until 1983, so she didn’t make the cut; The Boomtown Rats were running on empty by 1982, so they’re absent from the list, and there’s no Ricky Springfield because we’ve just come out of a pandemic, and don’t wish to inflict more unnecessary pain on the unsuspecting world. The only other paradigm we’ve enforced is that no artist can appear twice on this list, meaning those wishing for doubles are to be sadly disappointed. Here is our 40:

40 best songs released in 1982:

  • ‘Wanderlust’ – Paul McCartney
  • ‘Come On Eileen’ – Dexy’s Midnight Runners
  • ‘The Look of Love’ – ABC
  • ‘The Back of Love’ – Echo and the Bunnymen
  • ‘Sexual Healing’ – Marvin Gaye
  • ‘Golden Brown’ – The Stranglers
  • ‘Town Called Malice’ – The Jam
  • ‘Shock The Monkey’ – Peter Gabriel
  • ‘1999’ – Prince
  • ‘Eminence Front’ – The Who
  • ‘Crazy’ – Pylon
  • ‘Spaceage Love Song’ – A Flock of Seagulls
  • ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me’ – Culture Club
  • ‘Gloria’ – Laura Branigan
  • ‘Glittering Prize’ – Simple Minds
  • ‘It Started With A Kiss’ – Hot Chocolate
  • ‘It Ain’t What You Do It’s The Way That You Do It’ – Fun Boy Three with Bananarama
  • ‘The Message’ – Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five
  • ‘Back On The Chain Gang’ – The Pretenders
  • ‘Beat It’ – Michael Jackson
  • ‘Back Chat’ – Queen
  • ‘Cat People (Putting Out Fire)’ – David Bowie
  • ‘Chariots of Fire – Titles’ – Vangelis
  • ‘Come Dancing’ – The Kinks
  • ‘Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)’ – Elton John
  • ‘Ghosts’ – Japan
  • ‘Mad World’ – Tears for Fears
  • ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go’ – The Clash
  • ‘Old Town’ – Phil Lynott
  • ‘Wearing and Tearing’- Led Zeppelin
  • ‘Edge of Seventeen’ – Stevie Nicks
  • ‘Rip It Up’ – Orange Juice
  • ‘You’ve Got Another Thing Coming’ – Judas Priest
  • ‘You Got Lucky’ – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  • ‘Ain’t No Pleasing You’ – Chas & Dave
  • ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going ‘ – Jennifer Holliday
  • ‘Temptation’ – New Order
  • ‘Electric Avenue’ – Eddy Grant
  • ‘Shake It Up’ – The Cars
  • ‘Mystical One’ – George Harrison
  • ‘Number of The Beast’ – Iron Maiden