I'm a pop song junkie, and I owe it all to 1983 -- the year I started buying music. Hard to believe 30 years have passed. 1983 was a rare year where many of the finest singles actually ended up at #1: "Billie Jean," "Every Breath You Take," "Total Eclipse Of The Heart," "Come On Eileen," "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)," "Let's Dance," "Down Under," "Africa," "Flashdance," "Maniac," "Baby Come To Me," "Maneater" -- tuneful, innovative productions that still sound fresher than most of 2013's pop playlists.
With MTV's 24/7 music video onslaught, 1983 was also a year when previous decade's acts had to assimilate or become quickly irrelevant. Thankfully many of them (The Kinks, Bowie, Stevie Nicks, Billy Joel, Yes, Donna Summer, Robert Plant to name a few) reached fresh musical heights in the face of the new wave invasion.
Highlighted by a colorful sea of debuts, here are 20 noteworthy acts (in no order) that made their first stateside mark in 1983...
Though Culture Club took '83s Best New Artist Grammy, Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart should've walked home (in matching suits) with the award. "Love Is A Stranger" (#23, November) was the dark electro-dessert that followed the main course of "Sweet Dreams," which fueled Eurythmics around the world and the seven seas. This video was initially banned for Lennox's then-shocking androgyny.
"Love Is a Stranger"
In the short span of three and a half years, Boy George and his band shook the music world -- and placed 10 singles in the U.S. Top 40 including "Time" (#2) which The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ranked as one of the 500 most influential singles in the rock era.
"Time (Clock of the Heart)"
At the end of '83, Lauper's instant splash on MTV grew into a pop culture tsunami as her debut LP, She's So Unusual, sold 16 million copies worldwide. Shot on Manhattan's lower east side, "Girls" features cameos by her mother, brother, attorney, manager, wrestler Captain Lou Albano, and secretaries pulled from her label's offices.
"Girls Just Wanna Have Fun"
"Unlike the others I'll do anything. I'm not the same. I have no shame. I'm on fire." With these words, Madonna set her stage. The edgy, punk-infused "Burning Up" (#3 U.S. dance) was the second single from her self titled debut, which (at only eight songs deep) still holds up as one of her best albums.
Recording four terrific proper albums before splitting in 1987, The Smiths, with their literate, melodic singles, and lead singer Morrissey's penchant for the dramatic, paved the way for the guitar-driven sound that dominated British rock in the 1990s.
"This Charming Man"
1983 saw the Australian group's first U.S. tour, and chart hits, "The One Thing" (#30) and "Don't Change" (#80) from their breakthrough LP, Shabook Shoobah
"The One Thing"
Mary Jane Girls
Rick James launched the funktastic Mary Jane Girls in '83 with a gold selling self titled LP and influential R&B hits, "Candy Man," "Boys," and the widely sampled "All Night Long" (#8, Dance). Each Mary Jane Girl had their own persona and style -- a concept The Spice Girls would market like mad 13 years later.
"All Night Long"
Rap pioneers Run-D.M.C. took their debut single to #15 on the R&B charts in 1983, originating a sound that would prove to be a blueprint for all hip hop artists to come.
"It's Like That/Sucka MC's"
Certainly not pop, but still a debut well worth mentioning, Metallica's blazing Kill Em All peaked at #120, selling a modest 300,000, but as the band's popularity grew, so has Kill Em All's sales, which now total over three million copies in the U.S.
An apocalyptic tale wrapped in German lyrics building to a breakdance beat -- Nena's one glorious hit remains a unique pop treasure. Debuting in '83s final weeks, Nena proved new wave wasn't all British. Danke schoen!
Most remember blue eyed Brit soul crooner, Paul Young for '85's "Everytime You Go Away" or the opening lines of "Do They Know It's Christmas?," but for me his crown jewel was "Come Back & Stay" (#22), a grandiose plea of lost love complete with church bells, wailing women, echoing synths and handclaps.
"Come Back And Stay"
The U.K. duo of Naked Eyes placed four synth-driven hits in the U.S. Top 40 including "Promises Promises" (#11) and a percussive reinvention of the Bacharach/David chestnut "Always Something There To Remind Me" (#8) before vanishing by mid-decade.
The Blue Nile
The painterly soundscapes and sophisticated pop compositions of Glasgow's The Blue Nile are highlighted by two masterpiece albums: '83's A Walk Across The Rooftops and '89's Hats.
"Stay (And I Will Understand You)"
Tears For Fears
Tears For Fears' debut, The Hurting, was a musical ode to the misery-drenched family histories of band members, Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith set to pulsing rhythms and stirring melodies.
Art Of Noise
An avant garde sound-collage ensemble of British composers whose innovative methods of sampling and electronic experimentation created musical tapestries both industrial and weirdly romantic. 1983's sensuous epic, "Moments In Love" became an unlikely hit on R&B, pop and jazz radio.
Imaginative and cinematic, synthesizer wizard Thomas Dolby's debut, The Golden Age of Wireless -- a concept record about science, radio and modern technology -- prompted Musician Magazine to call it "The best damned synth-pop record ever, period."
"One Of Our Submarines"
Scotland's Aztec Camera led by musician Roddy Frame, debuted with the acclaimed, High Land, Hard Rain, and this jangling gem of a single.
Britain's Matt Johnson essentially is The The. His legacy is a string of beautiful and biting rock albums, beginning with '83's Soul Mining and its underground pop hits, "This Is The Day" and "Uncertain Smile."
One of '83's most promising new rock acts, Scotland's Big Country featured bagpipe-like guitars, and Stuart Adamson's passionate vocals. Their Celtic-inspired anthems were a bold departure in the pop landscape at the time.
"Fields Of Fire"
Only four years before they were filling stadiums, REM was stretching the boundaries of rock with their atmospheric, understated full length debut, Murmur, which Rolling Stone ranked as the best album of '83.
The Grammy Award for 1983's Best New Artist as presented by Rodney Dangerfield and Cyndi Lauper (Lauper would win this category for 1984)...
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