Released: November 1987
Extraordinarily, ‘Push It’ started out as a B-side to ‘Tramp’, relegated by a grind around an Otis Redding sample. Everyone saw sense soon enough and this pumping, hollering groove topped charts all over the globe. It’s Spinderella’s record, scratching and diving between the proto-rave synths, while Salt-n-Pepa limit themselves to the occasional quickfire verse.
Released: August 1980
The song that John Peel played after announcing Ian Curtis’s death is unbearably close and brooding, but allows the occasional shaft of light. Stephen Morris’s pattering drums rouse ‘Atmosphere’ from troubled slumber, while Bernard Sumner’s glittering, chiming keyboards give it a bright beauty. It’s a shimmer that remains even as Curtis grips the microphone with increasing intensity.
Released: November 1982
The track that sent ‘Thriller’ interstellar casts Jacko as an unlikely daddy in the dock – far-fetched, but apparently based on a real accusation from a crazed fan. Still, we all know it’s just a chance to air those patented hiccups, brutally stark beats and an immortal bassline from Louis Johnson. Quincy Jones didn’t want the song on the album, which shows what he knows. Quite a lot, but you get the idea.
Released: August 1986
It’s all about Richie Sambora’s talk box really, isn’t it? The guitarist rescued the tool from mid-70s Peter Frampton ignominy, to give us the “ooh-wa ooh-wah” sound that ate the world. But props, too, to Jon Bon Jovi and Desmond Child for their colossal chorus and some “gritty” blue-collar lyrics straight out of Springsteen for Dummies. Hair metal’s unimpeachable high point.
Released: April 1989
None of that quiet-loud stuff here – ‘Debaser’ is full throttle throughout, celebrating Black Francis’s new favourite thing, Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali’s surrealist, eyeball-slicing movie Un Chien Andalou. But he didn’t like the sound of “Andalou” so switched it to “Andalusia”. The switch works, as does the mesh of guitars, ringing and scratching, manic as Francis’s delivery.
Released: June 1987
Only Neil Tennant could wedge his tongue so far in his cheek to set a rousing defiance of his Catholic upbringing to hi-NRG opera. ‘It’s A Sin’ is a riot of thunderclaps, chanting monks and villainous synth riffs from Chris Lowe, but that’s only half the story. Although Tennant was not openly gay at this stage, hindsight reveals what that perpetual “sin” was. You cheer him on all the more.
Released: October 1983
Where it all got going. The Smiths’ second single succeeded where ‘Hand In Glove’ had failed, piercing the Top 30 and getting a bunch of gladioli on Top Of The Pops. It introduced us to a chap with NHS specs, a superfluous hearing aid and a way with words not heard in British pop since – ooh – Ray Davies? Alongside Moz, Johnny Marr invents the indie jangle and drops metal knives on his Telecaster.
Released: April 1987
JAMC’s second album ‘Darklands’ proved they’d tidied up since the thrilling mess of ‘Psychocandy’. With Bobby Gillespie gone, they’d switched to crisp drum machine beats and ‘April Skies’ was almost conventional in structure. But look at that Jesus Christ pose on the sleeve, listen to the talk of “sacrifice” – there was more going on here, and a killer middle eight to boot.
Released: November 1989
The signs had been there in the clattering jam that ended ‘I Am The Resurrection’, but this was still a seismic shift for the Roses. Ian Brown served up some mystic baloney while the rest of the band did the heavy lifting – Mani leading the tune, John Squire going all Sly and the Family Stone with his wah-wah licks, and Reni giving a ‘Funky Drummer’ masterclass that rendered all other baggy redundant.
Released: July 1981
This is Phil talking, and he believes what the old man said. Bizarrely, that “old man” was Lou Reed but that’s the only trace of the past on a supple and deceptively complex slice of synthpop. ‘Love Action’ boasts at least three warring synth riffs – from Ian Burden, Philip Adrian Wright and Jo Callis feeding his guitar through a Roland 700 – each of which could fuel a Top 3 hit by itself.