FEATURE: Both Sides Now: The Split Cassette: 1983 (The Year of My Birth)/1989 (Personal Musical Revelations)




Both Sides Now



The Split Cassette: 1983 (The Year of My Birth)/1989 (Personal Musical Revelations)


I might turn this into a regular feature...


but I have been thinking about pivotal musical years in my life. In the first (if only) part of the feature; I am concentrating on the popular albums and sounds from 1983 and 1989. I was born in 1983 so am compelled to explore a year when I arrived into the world – and what was popular as I was taking my first breaths and motions. The other, 1989, is very special. It is a year when music started to sink in and stay in the mind. Albums, songs and artists were filling my ears and it was an exciting and revelatory time in my life. I am compelled by 1989 because of the sheer range of music and the fact mainstream Pop and the rise of Hip-Hop were nestling aside one another. Like a split cassette; here are two different sides with their own flavour and tone. I have looked at 1983 and 1989 and what was happening then; the biggest ten albums and the definitive record; which song was at number-one at the start and end of each year – I end with a playlist compiling the best tracks of each year. Maybe these years in music will resonate and bring back memories but, for me personally, 1983 and 1989 are vitally important. Sit back, relax and enjoy a couple of music years that...


PACKED a hugely impressive punch.

ALL PHOTOS/IMAGES (unless credited otherwise): Getty Images


A-SIDE: 1983


This was the year of my birth and, in the first half of the 1980s, many sort of write things off. Most of the celebrated and notable albums from the 1980s arrived later in the decade and, in general, there is a lot of snobbish behaviour when looking at a wonderful decade. There was some cheese and bad years that decade (1986 has been highlighted as a low point) but 1983 is important for so many reasons. I think it is important to look at the year you were born and the music that was coming out at the time. The things that stick out about 1983 is that move away from the Hard-Rock and Classic-Rock brilliance of the 1970s – when the likes of Led Zeppelin were ruling – and a new era. Pop was a more dominant force in the early years of the 1980s and, with Michael Jackson’s Thriller arriving in 1982; it helped spark something that would change the scene. I am especially fond of the album and, whilst the hype it was still receiving in 1983 is not in my memory; I know the record was very popular and still being drooled over. Alongside Michael Jackson’s rise and genius was another Pop icon – one making her first steps. Madonna’s debut album, Madonna, was released in 1983 and, if that is not reason enough to mark a year then I do not know what is!


 IN THIS PHOTO: Madonna in 1983

I think her debut is very underrated and, when you compare it to the other Pop albums of 1983, it stands above them and provides real nuance. Tracks such as Borderline and Holiday are stunning singles but, to be fair, there was more than that to get the critics interested. It is a fantastic record packed with personality and life and was the start of a remarkable career. Culture Club’s Colour by Numbers was released in 1983 and is seen as one of the year’s very best. I love that album but especially love Karma Chameleon. If you wanted proof that Pop was in spectacular health and flexing its muscles then you only need one spin of that track! I know for a fact Spandau Ballet’s True was top of the British charts on the day I was born (9th May) and there were these new type of musicians, New Romantics, that were providing something fresh. It may seem a bit lame compared with the Punk of the 1970s and Grunge of the 1990s but many modern artists have been inspired by the New Romantic movement. Legends like David Bowie and New Order were producing some of their finest work in 1983. It was an eclectic, busy and memorable year that shows the 1980s was a fantastic decade.


Popular Trend: Classic music C.D. had become popular among listeners.

Musicians Born in 1983: Carrie Underwood, Future; Cheryl and Amy Winehouse

Musicians Who Died in 1983: Dennis Wilson and Karen Carpenter  

The First Number-One Single of 1983 (U.K.): Phil CollinsYou Can’t Hurry Love

The Last Number-One Single of 1983 (U.K.): The Flying PicketsOnly You

The First Number-One Album of 1983 (U.K.): Various ArtistsRaiders of the Pop Charts

The Last Number-One Album of 1983 (U.K.): Various ArtistsNow That’s What I Call Music!

Notable Groups Formed in 1983: Bon Jovi, The Cult; Del Amitri, The Farm, The Flaming Lips; The Housemartins, Inspiral Carpets; My Bloody Valentine, Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Waterboys

Notable Groups Disbanded in 1983: Altered Images, Gang of Four; Simon & Garfunkel, Sly and the Family Stone and Yazoo


Big Albums of 1983:


The PoliceSynchronicity

Elvis Costello and the Attractions Punch the Clock

Tom WaitsSwordfishtrombones

David BowieLet’s Dance


Talking HeadsSpeaking in Tongues



Paul SimonHearts and Bones

Big CountryThe Crossing


Biggest Album of 1983:

Culture ClubColour by Numbers


B-SIDE: 1989


Whereas 1983 is pivotal because it was the year I was born; 1989 is where music started to really form in the mind and, as I was making my way through primary school, it was a very formative time. I associated 1989 with the sheer clash of styles and genres. Hip-Hop was born, let’s say, in 1986 and 1988 saw some huge albums from Public Enemy (It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back) and N.W.A. (Straight Outta Compton). Even though there is only six years between 1983 and 1989, the way music changed is amazing! The New Romantic wave was pretty much dead but a harder-edged sound was taking hold. Iconic and big albums from the likes of Sonic Youth, Pixies and Metallica were sitting alongside the new pioneers of Hip-Hop. There was still a lot of great Pop music around and artists who had started their careers in 1983, such as Madonna (her first album as opposed single), were hitting their peak. For me, it remains a huge year because of the changes and what was being prepared for the 1990s. Whilst I have music memories earlier than 1989; this was the year when I was really starting to discover music and get to grips with everything. I was six (by May) and music was starting to become a part of my social life at school.


 IN THIS PHOTO: De La Soul on Long Island in 1989/PHOTO CREDIT: Janette Beckman

The sheer weight and eclectic nature of music in 1989 was sensational and Hip-Hop, especially, was starting to take huge steps. I do not know what caused the big changed between the Pop and sounds of the early-1980s and the very different landscape of the late-1980s. Trends and movements came and went and, if anything, U.S. music was playing a bigger role than British sounds – that would change in the first half of the 1990s. I cannot state how incredible the music of 1989 is and, again anyone who thinks the 1980s was weak and a bit naff needs to do their homework and see what was being put out! I have used the word ‘cassette’ in the headline/title of this article and that ‘technology’ was really important. I can recall holding cassettes and, despite its flaws, you could not beat having something in your hand that was easily portable and could be shared with friends. It was a wonderful time and a very important year for me. I am excited to reveal all the stats and great albums from 1989 – showing how different music was then compared with 1983. There would be better years for music coming up (including 1991, 1994 and 1998) and, in terms of impact and influence, 1994 is higher up the rankings. I love 1989’s music because it accompanied me through my early school days and defined the vibe in the playground. From U.S. Alternative and Rock to the changing face of Pop music; a very wide-ranging and inspiring year. Have a look at what was happening in 1989...


 IN THIS PHOTO: New Kids of the Block (circa 1989)/PHOTO CREDIT: Michel Linssen/Redferns

Popular Trend: To the kids of 1989, the summer belonged to New Kids on the Block - an exciting Pop sensational who were sweeping the charts in the U.S.

Musicians Born in 1989: Chris Brown, Taylor Swift; Bebe Rexha and Joe Jonas

Musicians Who Died in 1989: Irving Berlin  

The First Number-One Single of 1989 (U.K.): Kylie Minogue and Jason DonovanEspecially for You

The Last Number-One Single of 1989 (U.K.): Band Aid IIDo They Know It’s Christmas?

The First Number-One Album of 1989 (U.K.): Various ArtistsNow That’s What I Call Music! 13

The Last Number-One Album of 1989 (U.K.): Phil Collins...But Seriously

Notable Groups Formed in 1989: 4 Non Blondes, Black Box; The Breeders, The Cranberries; Culture Beat, Mercury Rev; Neutral Milk Hotel, Ocean Colour Scene; Orbital, Pavement; Powderfinger, Slowdive, Suede and Teenage Fanclub

Notable Groups Disbanded in 1989: The Bangles, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions; The Jackson 5 and The Style Council


Big Albums of 1989:


The CureDisintegration

De La Soul 3 Feet High and Rising

MadonnaLike a Prayer

Tom PettyFull Moon Fever

New OrderTechnique

Soul II SoulClub Classics Vol. I

Janet JacksonJanet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814

Nirvana Bleach

Neneh CherryRaw Like Sushi

Kate BushThe Sensual World

Soundgarden Louder Than Love


Biggest Album of 1989:

Beastie BoysPaul’s Boutique