Now That’s What I Call 1983, ITV1

by | Nov 22, 2008 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

We didn’t need this show to remind us that some of the music from 1983 was bloody fantastic, but the bands and singers who wrote those classics were absent from this bawdy jamboree. Those who did perform were those liberated from amber casing set in 1983, and were a mixed bunch from the pleasant synths of Howard Jones to the grotesquely bloated paunch of Spandau Ballet’s atrocity True.

What was good about it?

• Blue Monday, the best song of 1983, was used as the theme tune and ad break music.

• Heaven 17’s Temptation. While not even the greatest song of the era called Temptation, it sounded pretty good and Glenn Gregory didn’t slither into the same supercilious conceit of evolving the song that many of the others did. He also offered the first glimpse of the wondrous contraptions the men had concocting for disguising the fact he was bald. He wore a flat cap.

• White Lines by Melle Mel, sadly only as background music.

• All of Kajagoogoo turned up on time to perform.

• A timely reminder that ‘heavy’ metal was just as appalling in 1983 as it is today with Ozzy Osbourne, Def Leppard and Motley Crue acting as the Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance and Panic at the Disco.

• As we await the burgeoning, swollen caldera to explode the supervolcano below Yellowstone Park, we could all marvel at a similar process that has happened in people with a glimpse of Eamonn Holmes in 1983.

• Other great snippets of songs by people still too famous to appear included This Charming Man, New Year’s Day, The Cutter and Billie Jean.

What was bad about it?

• The audience. Whether or not they bought the 7” singles or if they were hearing them for the first time, it’s unimportant. What was important was the way that music from all eras is now processed with all the passion an abattoir. Music should usher you to an emotional zenith, yet here all the quirks and abrasiveness was mindlessly filed away to leave sterile automatons to be admired like background music for the audience, bedecked in party dresses or polo shirt/jeans combinations to sway side to side.

• The ‘artists’ didn’t help matters. Howard Jones’ decent New Song suffered from a synthesizer that tried to give the tune a contemporary ambience, yet ended up making it sound dated and obsolete. And he sang in an American accent.

• Jones was not alone in this desire to not present a facsimile of their hit from 25 years ago really grated. It was as if they have all been touring the country as an amorphous cloud of 80s throwbacks, crippling the charm of their songs to pander to the apathetic whims of audiences who attend a concert ‘for a good time’ or ‘for a good night out’. Perhaps it’s because both audience and performer are atrophied anachronisms, destined to forever journey along this unforked road until the grave that compels such a wan, meek surrender whereas more vivacious souls still seek out transcendent joy from music.

• Nik Kerhshaw added to the malaise with I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me. Perhaps he played it because it was the only song he released in 1983, but we would much rather he played the melancholic Wouldn’t It Be Good or the weird The Riddle from 1984 than this dreary tosh.

• Limahl of Kajagoogoo, meanwhile, adopted the style of a singer who is lucidly aware that upon his gravestone will be inscribed with the nonsense “Too shy, shy, hush, hush, eye to eye”, and so altered the vocal melody with the arrogance of a performer who is still a little embarrassed that something they wrote 25 years ago is still adored and everything else they have done since has been scorned, and so tampers with the original work to exhibit an enduing talent when it only really advertises an extinguished flame.

• Now That’s What I Call Music was termed by Denise Van Outen as “for people who liked a little bit of everything all in one place”. In fact it panders to the terminally myopic who endure the self-delusion that they like “a little bit of everything” when their adoration has the equivalent breadth of a lexicographer expressing a love of all words from A to Aardvark.

• The rather optimistic commentary that 1983 saw “debut number ones for Kajagoogoo and Men At Work”, as if they were followed by an avalanche of chart toppers.

• Twisting history with such misguided commentary as “The Smiths, who despite the support of John Peel, were having trouble making the top 10”, as though the absence of an elevated chart position alongside The Tweets, Black Lace and Phil Collins somehow diminishes the quality of This Charming Man and What Difference Does It Make?.

• “Dance music with Tony Wilson and the Hacienda,” crowed Van Outen, conveniently forgetting that in 1983 the Hacienda was as sparsely populated as the moon. While apparently “people were fed up of moody boys playing angsty songs,” she hollered before later saying “1983 saw a rock renaissance with the Clash (who were in decline) and Echo and the Bunnymen (a group so moody and angsty that Joy Division wrote a song about how intolerably miserable they were).”

• Van Outen also mocked the test card that used to be on TV screens during non-broadcast hours, ignorant that the simple sight of the young girl shyly smiling while playing noughts and crosses with a scary toy clown conveys a billion times the pathos and appeal of George Lamb on BBLB, who acts with all the intellect of teeming maggots scraped from a anthrax-ridden cattle corpse and tipped into a hollowed out body of a witless mannequin.

• Although True was the worst song of the evening, it was run close by a shocking Red Red Wine from Ali Campbell (rather than UB40) and Paul Young’s Wherever I Lay My Hat.

• Tony Hadley’s presumptuous “It’s Christmas!”

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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