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Music

Matt Healy picks his favourite albums of the 1980s

Matt Healy is arguably one of pop’s most divisive stars. Adored by many, hated by plenty others. Love him or loath him, Healy has clearly done something right in the world of pop to make his band, The 1975, one of the most listened to acts of the past ten years.

Healy is the son of actors Tim Healy and Denise Welch, and he grew up in Newcastle before moving to Cheshire, where he would meet future The 1975 band members Adam Hann, Ross MacDonald and George Daniel at Wilmslow High School.

The 1975 employ a range of genres and styles to appeal to what is primarily a young fanbase, including pop rock, new wave, rock, jazz, soul and ambient. Ultimately though, The 1975 are a funky synth-pop with roots in the music of the 1980s. In a 2016 interview with Vulture, Healy actually revealed his seven favourite albums of the ’80s. Although he confessed: “This is really hard! I’ll think of one and then I’ll be like, ‘Oh, fuck I forgot another one!’” 

The band’s 2016 full-length release, I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It, was in many ways a nod to the influences many 80s acts had on Healy and his fellow band members. On this, Healy simply said, “All the ’80s elements are more ’80s. The pop elements are poppier.”

To give us more of a clue as to The 1975’s influence, Healy commented on each of his favourite ’80s records. We have compiled them below.

Matt Healy’s favourite albums:

Hats – The Blue Nile (1989)

Championed early on by the likes of Peter Gabriel, The Blue Nile released Hats to critical acclaim, though there was a long delay with the album’s release, during which time a whole album’s worth of recording was scrapped, and the band started from fresh. It was the band’s most successful album and reached number 12 on the UK album charts.

“This is the best record of the ’80s. Well, actually, fucking hell … no, that is my favourite record of the ’80s! The Blue Nile are my favourite band of all time. They’re fucking amazing. Musically, they’ve inspired me so much. There’s so much drama. It’s perfect nighttime music. It’s beautiful, romantic music with British sensibilities. The sounds on it are just amazing. And it’s called Hats! What a fucking cool name for a record!”

Loveless – My Bloody Valentine (1991)

The album that pretty much brought about the ruin and bankruptcy of Creation Records. The band ended up hiring 19 different studios and ended up spending a well-over-budget sum of £250,000 between 1989 and 1991. Valentine leader Kevin Shields experimented with alternative tunings and was rumoured to change his guitar strings every hour of recording.

“It’s an ’80s album although many don’t consider it an ’80s record. I got into My Bloody Valentine massively when I was like 16 or 17. I was heavily into ambient music then — Sigur Rós was really happening; I was really into Boards of Canada and Four Tet — and that, of course, led me to the roots of all that stuff. That’s when I started listening to My Bloody Valentine. I remember also that Kevin Shields created the music for Lost in Translation and when I saw that movie it was this really big thing for me.”

A Flock of Seagulls – A Flock of Seagulls (1982) 

The debut album from the new wave band formed in Liverpool in 1979 featured the band’s most successful single, ‘I Ran (So Far Away), which reached the top ten in the States and New Zealand and number one in Australia. Beloved music critic Robert Christgau said it was “so transparently, guilelessly expedient that it actually provides the hook-chocked fun most current pop bands only advertise.”

“I just love ‘Space Age Love Song’,” said Healy, “It was such a massive song for me when I was 16. It was one of those songs for me that soundtracked those apocalyptic romantic experiences you have.”

Let Me Be Yours – Lilo Thomas (1983)

Lilo Thomas was actually a competitive sprint runner early in his life, though he retired from the sport in 1984 following a car crash in Brazil. He released Let Me Be Yours in 1983 on Capitol Records, which reached number 23 on the R&B album charts in America. Thomas, in fact, toured with Eddie Murphy in 1985 and is now an accomplished painter.

“Lilo Thomas was an Olympic athlete turned New Jack Swing ’80s-pop sensation. The title track on that record is an absolute fucking banger!”

Life’s Too Good – The Sugarcubes (1988)

The debut album by the Icelandic alt-rock outfit was released by One Little Indian. The album was a success and launched a successful solo career for lead singer Björk. There was massive hype surrounding the band following the release of the record’s lead single ‘Birthday’, despite the band not actually ever believing they would be taken seriously. The album’s title is a mockery of the optimism of pop music in general.

“That’s a great record. I’ve got my eyes closed and I’m picturing my record collection and that one definitely stands out to me. It’s got ‘Birthday’ on it. That record’s heartbreaking. And I love Björk. She’s amazing.”

Optimo EP – Liquid Liquid (1983)

The third EP by the American dance-punk group. It was the band’s final release prior to a compilation album delivered in 1997. It features the band’s best-known track ‘Cavern’, which was used on Grandmaster Mel’s ‘White Lines’. Mel’s recording band performed the bassline on a traditional bass guitar, and singer Salvatore Principato was initially pleased, saying, “We felt a combination of flattery, excitement and bewilderment”. Though he was less pleased when ‘Cavern’ fell out of radio rotation, being replaced by the wildly popular ‘White Lines’.

“I love how seminal disco was and I love how seminal punk was and I love that space in-between,” he added. “That No Wave, New York thing. There was something studious about Liquid Liquid. Their music makes you want to have been there. It’s got that really, really dirty vibe, with that one bass line that just keeps repeating itself. It’s the really early foundation for dance music. That fucking beat, man! It gets your blood pumping!”

Speaking in Tongues – Talking Heads (1983)

Following a split with their producer Brian Eno, Talking Heads released their fifth studio album in 1983 on Sire Records. It ended up being the band’s commercial breakthrough effort and featured a top ten hit in ‘Burning Down the House’. A tour of the album was the subject of Jonathan Demme’s documentary Stop Making Sense in 1984, which itself generated a live album of the same name.

“The album has those post–Liquid Liquid house beats and uptightness with white-boy funk guitars,” Healy explained. “We’ve got a lot of that. There will be even more of that on our next record. Also, the front cover for the album is also awesome. David Byrne is one of those people that lyrically I don’t understand a lot of the time but I give him the benefit of the doubt. That speaks volumes of what he is an artist. It’s a weird thing to say but I’m thinking you probably know what I mean.”