When the Secret Pleasures virus swept across the UK, a generation of forty something’s found the excuse they’d always needed to buy that Abba or

A-Ha greatest hits. Suddenly, pop as in popular was all the rage and we could all admit to liking the odd single by Spandau Ballet, Nick Heyward or China Crisis without feeling in the least bit ashamed.


What none of us realised at the time was that buried deep within the Secret Pleasures concept and it’s dizzy rush of middle age hedonism, there lay a disturbing truth revolving around punk and the powerful rejection of its various cultural anathema’s that led to a refusal by my generation to enjoy anything not perceived as cool. And it wasn’t just punks who fell for it. A jaded self-consciousness swept British culture so absolutely and successfully it has continued ever since.


Coming straight after punk, the eighties was the first decade to suffer. Despite the plethora of truly remarkable music that evolved over those ten years, to this day pop criticism sticks rigidly to just two schools of thought. One complains that the eighties was all crass, commercial crap, breathing a sigh of relief that we made it through that shit while the other celebrates the cheesy fun of it all, the naïve silly singles, bad haircuts and big synthesizers.


Both of these rather narrow views seem intent on reducing the whole decade to simple nostalgic fodder, ghettoizing an era that in reality was rich in innovation, brilliant one hit wonders, oddities and inexplicable flukes. It could even be argued that the eighties was the last great era for pop singles, the last time singles really mattered and the last time something totally unexpected captured the imagination.


In fact, the decade’s best songs offer some of pop history’s finest Secret Pleasures. That’s why you will never find aged rockists making arguments for its numerous benefits like they do for the saintly sixties or seriously rock seventies. I’ve never been able to take any of those Neanderthal’s seriously. After all, surely anyone can hear the beauty in records like ‘The Day Before You Came’, ‘Feels Like Heaven’, ‘Duel’ and ‘Driving Away From Home’ and how they match those by their more lauded contemporaries. It may have only been pop, but it was pop of the most brilliant kind!


01 ULTRAVOX ‘Sleepwalk’ (A Side January 1980)

02 SPANDAU BALLET ‘Chant No 1’ (A Side July 1981)

03 ABBA ‘The Day Before You Came’ (A Side October 1982)

04 NICK HEYWARD ‘Whistle Down The Wind’ (A Side March 1983)

05 THOMAS DOLBY ‘Hyperactive!’ (A Side December 1983)

06 FICTION FACTORY ‘(Feels Like) Heaven’ (A Side January 1984)

07 LLOYD COLE & THE COMMOTIONS ‘Forest Fire’ (A Side August 1984)

08 PROPAGANDA ‘Duel’ (A Side April 1985)

09 CHINA CRISIS ‘King In A Catholic Style’ (A Side June 1985)

10 PREFAB SPROUT ‘When Love Breaks Down’ (A Side November 1985)

11 TALK TALK ‘Life’s What You Make It’ (A Side January 1986)

12 IT’S IMMATERIAL ‘Driving Away From Home (Jim’s Tune)’ (A Side April 1986)

13 PETE WYLIE ‘It’s Sinful’ (A Side May 1986)

14 BLACK ‘Wonderful Life’ (A Side September 1986)

15 A-HA ‘I’ve Been Losing You’ (A Side September 1986)

16 THE CHURCH ‘Under The Milky Way’ (A Side October 1987)

17 DEACON BLUE ‘Dignity’ (A Side January 1988)

18 EIGHTH WONDER ‘I’m Not Scared’ (A Side February 1988)

19 VANESSA PARADIS ‘Joe Le Taxi’ (A Side February 1988)

20 TEARS FOR FEARS ‘Sowing The Seeds Of Love’ (A Side September 1989)