When Elvis Costello brought out an album of country cover versions in 1981 – remarkably, his sixth album in four years – my music world was turned upside down.

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People were shocked when Grace Jones performed her “One Man Show” at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in October 1981. Including me.

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The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel was not the first hip-hop hit but it was a landmark in the emergence of rap upon its release in 1981 – and the first hit to use scratching.

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This song sounds as strange today as it did when I first heard it on the John Peel Show in 1981. It always does. An a capella song eight and a half minutes long, based on an operatic aria from a century earlier, it was the unlikeliest of hit singles. And yet… Such was its unique appeal that it reached No.2 in the UK charts.

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Chant! Chant! Chant! were working-class lads from the northside of Dublin and were Ireland’s answer to Joy Division: at least that’s what their publicist would have said if they had one.

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This was the first funk I ever really “got” – I remember first hearing it in a pub on the Mile End End where there was a DJ who span tunes far removed from my usual New Wave and postpunk fare.

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Sticking with the No Wave post-disco sound of Ze Records, here is the weird, eclectic and infectious debut single by Was (Not Was).

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This is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. I never tire of hearing it, with its shimmering echo from speaker to speaker, Green Gartside’s romantic vocal and Robert Wyatt’s syncopated piano.

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Jamaican dancehall star Ini Kamoze started out singing roots reggae long before he topped the charts with his signature song Here Come The Hotstepper.

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Pablo Gad – Hard Time

27th September 2023 · 1980, 1980s, Reggae

I’m not the only one who loves this slice of vintage reggae by Pablo Gad. This song, Hard Time (sic), might be better known for being sampled by The Prodigy in their take on Arthur Brown’s classic Fire.

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