1984: British Pop's Dividing Year
1984: British Pop’s Dividing Year comprehensively documents a crucial twelve months in UK popular music. It was the whole of the 80s rolled into one year: the passing of the baton from post-punk to indie; the shift from analog to digital; the last British invasion of the US charts; and with Band Aid, the beginning of pop’s obsession with global causes. It was also British music’s most political year as artists responded to the Cold War, Apartheid, the miners' strike and Thatcherism, with George Orwell’s novel providing a suitably paranoid backdrop. It was fun too: the madcap year of Frankie Goes To Hollywood and ZTT, the tabloid dramas of Wham!, Duran Duran and Culture Club; the first single by Pet Shop Boys, and debut albums by The Smiths and Sade. It was also a highpoint for indie labels like 4AD and Mute.
The book is comprehensive. Not just the usual limited group of artists who get covered in 80s surveys or compilations, but also the peripheral, often more interesting sub-genres of art rock and experimental, soul and reggae, jazz and heavy metal. And not just London, or the Manchester-Liverpool-Sheffield triumvirate, but also Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
There are chapters on the myriad genres, including the year's jazz revival; the burgeoning music video industry; music and style press; sleeve design; the growth of pirate radio and a boom in music on TV; producers, studios and the introduction of the compact disc; record labels (majors and independents). And although this is not a book about American rock and pop, it’s impossible not to refer to the huge influence it had on the UK scene and vice versa, so there’s a chapter each on mainstream and underground. As Rolling Stone magazine wrote, “From Prince to Madonna to Michael Jackson to Bruce Springsteen to Cyndi Lauper, 1984 was the year that pop stood tallest”.
The decade continues to be reassessed, reissued and occasionally reviled; the vinyl revival and 80s festivals continue unabated; many current bands ape 80s sounds and production techniques; and the deaths of 80s music icons like Michael Jackson, George Michael, Prince, David Bowie and Mark E Smith have prompted many to look back and reflect on their own formative relationship with music.
See chapter summaries in drop down menu above.
Cover design: Wolfgang Fenchel