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The Ultimate Music Year

THE 1980s

The decade that saw the rise of the New Romantic movement, Live Aid, Synth-Pop and House,  and much more.

John Lennon

John Lennon is shot dead, after the death of John Bonham, Led Zeppelin call it quits and Ian Curtis of Joy Division commits suicide.

Phil Oakey

The New Romantic movement takes off with Duran Duran, Ultravox and Vienna and Adam and the Ants, Bob Marley dies, MTV begins broadcasting in the US , changing the way music is marketed forever and Don't You Want Me by the Human League becomes the biggest selling single of the year.

Boy George

Culture Club perform their first UK No. 1 on Top of the Pops. Boy George's look provokes outrage from the establishment, Thriller is released, becoming the most-successful chart album of all time, selling 50 million copies, the CD format is unleashed on the world, revolutionising music and saving the music industry.

New Order

New order release their signature hit, Blue Monday, Wham! Release their debut album, Fantastic, the first ever Now That's What I Call Music! Compilation is released, revolutionising compilations, Bowie 's Let's Dance became his most-successful album.

Holly Johnson

Radio 1 bans Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Relax following a one-man campaign by DJ Mike Read, U2's Unforgettable Fire album debuts at the UK no.1 slot and 36 artists gather to record Do They Know It's Christmas? for Bob Geldof.

Live Aid

It's the year of Live Aid, Artists Against Apartheid record Sun City , Do They Know It's Christmas? recharts this Christmas at No. 3.

Neil Tennant 69

The synth-pop Pet Shop Boys hit the top of the singles and album charts with West End Girls and Please, Paul Simon's Graceland introduces African music to the mainstream, Wham play their final concert, Walk This Way merges rap and metal.

Kylie Minogue

Kylie leaves her neighbours to release The Loco-Motion, Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up is the biggest single of the year, both are produced by the hit-making machine of Stock, Aiken and Waterman and Dire Straits' Brothers In Arms becomes the biggest-selling album of all time in Britain.


Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston & Tracy Chapman perform at Nelson Mandela's 70th birthday concert at Wembley, The Smiths split, Cliff richard's 100th single, Mistletoe and Wine becomes the biggest-selling single of the year, Roy Orbison dies.

Stone Roses

House emerges from Manchester, Madonna releases her controversial Like A Prayer single, De La Soul combine hip hop and psychedelia on 3 feet High And Rising and Band Aid II is released.

Critical List

Find out more about the music of this decade with the help of some related Radio shows.

Tell us which you think is the best year in Pop and Rock now.

Have your say!

We'd like to know why you thought the 1980's was your decade of choice.  Did you have a wedge?  Let us know.

Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.

Read what others have said..

Tim Taylor - Nuneaton
I had a pink shirt with one of those big button up flaps on the front, not to mention trousers with zips down the edge with red silk inside - I've still got my patent leather shoes - can still see my face in the shine, although the reflection has changed a bit since i last had them on !

Dean, Scouser exiled in Northampton
It has to be 1983, with classic one hit wonders from H20 (I Dream To Sleep), the eponymous Jimmy The Hoover and The Lotus Eaters (The First Picture Of You). U2 were still raw, Big Country burst from The Skids and we all wore those fantastic New Romantic clothes now that Human League were mainstream. But above all, it has to be 1983 because of one band. Hearing aids, flowers in the pocket, pained love songs, just like marmite, they were loved or hated, with nothing in between. 1983 was the year that gave the world The Smiths.

Mark Occomore Crawley Sussex
My music tastes are the 80s..That electro feeling...those music videos by likes of Duran Duran and Music Artists which Stock Aitkin and Waterman made into Pop heroes. I enjoyed music from those Nutty Boys (Madness ),The Police, a-ha, Culture Club, Level 42 to Madonna. Also those one hit wonder music artists which we still remember likes of Dexy's Midnight Runners and Kajagoogoo. A lot of Heavy Metal bands made an appearance in that decade too......What a unforgettable decade. Oh and I left school in 1986.

james brodrick from Worthing Golden oldies 23/11/0
The 80's were the best because they learned everything from the 60's and 70's and straight from glam you can see a burst of action from every scene and plenty of experimental electronic music. Jackson at his best and THE SPECIALS wow what a link with cultures!

Darren Simmons, Ex-Pat in SanFranCisco
As a teenager in the 80's this has to be my favourite decade and 1985 the best year, what a summer with Level 42 and Simple Minds (once upon a time) blasting out of the stero in my first car and being at Live Aid....ah what a year that was!

Alan, Glasgow
It has to be the 80's solely from the hugh variety of different sounds being played from the last of the punk revolution to the highs of the Madchester, New Romance and SKA and the nutty boys. It also was the generation when the record industry was willing to take a chance. Money seemed to be a secondary force to the artists and the executives.It didn't matter what you listened to, it was there for you. My personal year of the 80's is 1984. When I found nyself listening to The Smiths, Duran Duran and everything in between, and loving it all.

Jon, Dartford
The introduction of electronic music was exciting and fresh. Self indulgent 70s rock bands were sidelined. Great young music from america was coming to our attention - hiphop, electro and chicago house. And Acid House had a profound influence on what we listened to, how we danced, what clothes we put on and the mixing of cultures under one big roof.

maxine buck from East Sussex
i was a teenager in the '80s so naturally i would consider the 80's, particularly the early 80's as the best decade. If you can have a split i would say the late 70's/early 80's were pretty spectacular. no doubt the argument is well made for the 50's not only because of elvis presley but also for Miles Davies, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Chet Baker etc.. the 50's were great for the development of Jazz - so i am torn between the 80s and 50s

Steve Bristol
By far the best decade, the last where you could live out and dress like your musical hero's,as you could the 50's 60's and 70's. But i choose the 80,s as this is when i grew up discovered drink women fast cars and spending most of my money on frankie says and choose life tee shirts. Unforgetable

gareth north west london
In my school there were mods, skinheads, casuals and soul boys and the charts were full of records which catered for everyone and it all came under the title of POP MUSIC!!! Nowadays they are coming up with so many ridiculous labels. Most kids probably dont even know wot RnB stands for!!!! It's gotta beeee nineteen eightee threeeeee!!!

Pauline McBride Glasgow
The 1980's is my favourite decade because that was when the Wet Wet Wet came on the sceene, they were one of first groups ever, to do a free concert in Glasgow, in front of 70 thousand people.

Chris, Dorset
I think we saw a revolution in music in the 80's. Many original groups like Culture Club and Adam Ant made the music scene different from the norm,along with the fashion statements of the time it was proper music to dance too.

Guy Petersen, Plymouth
Like with most people who are now in their 30s, it was the decade I spent growing up so you tend to "dig" everything more at that stage of your life than during any other and nothing more so than the music of the time! Going on from being introduced to pop music in the 1970s to really encapsulating it during the rich variety of a decade that was the 1980s, makes it my no.1 choice for the best decade, though the 1990s runs it very close!

Zoe Carter-Brown, Barnsley
The 1980's had REAL music, now its all catagorised SEVERLY! Moshers, Chavs, Indie, Ravers. Then it was Its all good. THey had music you could dance to, not just jump up and down to, they had lyrics that you could and can sing to not particulary well but we can all try! heehee.

Gary, London
It has to be 1987. As usual with this kind of thing, no mention of Goth music. But this year saw the second wave of Goth hit out as an alternative to the bland chart-fodder, with fantastic album releases and tours by the likes of Fields Of The Nephilim, The Mission, All About Eve, The Sisters Of Mercy (and The Cure).

Glenn Lennox, Nottingham
The music came thick and fast in the 1980's - so much so that I am still discovering music from that decade that is fantastic but just didn't make it to the mainstream chart because there was so much other good stuff competing against it. Musicians got more adventurous, music videos were amazing. Artists could actually write their own music AND perform live. We had intelligent artists with things to say - these days we have pretty kids with no opinions and no talent who just exist for being famous and nothing else. We don't nurture songwriting anymore and record companies have ruined the charts by hyping everything for 6 months before it's released. It used to be exciting to watch a song go up the charts, now it goes in at number 1 then drops out the next week. Record companies got greedy for results and killed the charts which will eventually kill music sales altogether.

Steve Fricker, Warsash, Southampton, UK
My favourite era for music is 1978-1983, and it was really difficult for me to pick a single year. However, after some umming and ahhing, I decided that 1982 was the best year, pipping 1981 very marginally. Groups like Soft Cell, Yahoo, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Talk Talk and Spandau Ballet were all in their infancy and they produced their best stuff then. I used to listen avidly to the Top 40 every Sunday (I think it was the Top 30 back then, not sure) but I remember just about every song released in that year was a catchy, memorable one. Even 'old hands' like Cliff Richard released good songs around that time, like Wired for Sound (even though that was '81). And decent, expensive videos were taking off too, like Thriller which went on to help the album by Michael Jackson go on to become the biggest selling record of all time. I doubt the 50m copies sold will ever be matched. So, if I was stuck on a desert island with just one year's worth of music, it would have to be 1982, but I'd be equally happy with any of the years I mentioned, above.

Melvin Metcalfe Gloucester
I enjoyed the 1980's for a number of reasons. I was still a kid then, young and carefree. You felt that the law was on your side back then. And Lastly, the music was great, especially in the early 80's. I would like to nominate 1981 as my favourite year. It was the best for pop music in my view, and it seemed to have an atmosphere to it. I appreciate however, that it wasn't a good year for everyone.

Lorenzo Manti, Naples, Italy
I wonder why you have overlooked Dire Straits. I think Mark Knopfler's one of the greatest guitar player ever and he's in fact in excellent shape still these days (heard of Shangri-La?), which cannot be said of many of the so-called icons you assembled in your opinable shortlist...

Bruce Acton, Winchester, UK
The 1980s saw an incredible variety of new and rapidly changing sounds, especially the first half of the decade. When the 70s finished, we were still listening to punk and disco. Then came electronic music, new wave, the development of ska and the peak of the mods as groups like The Jam matured. Through it all, old stalwarts like David Bowie, Elton John, Tina Turner and Rod Stewart continued to reinvent themselves. We saw the arrival of U2 and Simple Minds and British music led the world. Remember our domination of the US charts? Mind you, there was a minor bit of talent from across the pond- some girl called Madonna I think and a funny-looking bloke called Michael Jackson. And I've still only got to 1983!! A stunning period for music!

Debbie, Nottinghamshire
The 1980's is my decade of choice because that was when Wet Wet Wet started out, had their first Number One (With A Little Help From My Friends) and, in my opinion, were the best act on the bill at Nelson Mandela's Birthday Tribute concert in 1988.

Mike McMenamin - Yorkshire
I grew up and met my first real girlfriend in this year - so the music carrys many memories. 1985.

Shaky Fan
I don't see any mention of the most successful singles act of the 80's - Shakin' Stevens. Still touring and recording 25 years after his first hit!

I love the Madchester sound! 1989 for me.


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