The best of 1981 mix tape
This is the second in my quest to come up with a definitive mix tape for every year of the rock and roll era. I started with 1980, but eventually I hope to cover every year from 1955 to the present. Ground rules for selection were covered here.
This week, we are smack dab in the middle of new wave in 1981, so synthesizers are everywhere. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.
Ceremony (Alt 12′ mix) – New Order
This is arguably my favorite song of the entire decade, so odds are you’ll see it on the eventual best of the 80s compilation. Marks the moment when New Order rose from the ashes of Joy Division after Ian Curtis’ suicide. This is one of the last songs he wrote before his death.
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic – The Police
So many good tracks on Ghosts in the Machine, so it was basically a toss up between this and Dehumanize Yourself for the spot on the mix. Couldn’t go wrong either way.
Just the Two of Us – Grover Washington, Jr./Bill Withers
Sometimes you just go where the music takes you, hipster dufus cred be damned. A great R&B song written by the immortal Bill Withers.
Girls on Film – Duran Duran
If you are familiar with this track in the U.S. you probably didn’t realize that it was released before Rio made them massive stars. The song and album it came from (Duran Duran) were eventually re-released on the U.S. to capitalize on their fame, but it first came out in 1981.
Takin’ A Ride – The Replacements
Just a teaser of the greatness on the way from the ‘Mats later in the decade.
Since You’re Gone – The Cars
The Cars haven’t aged particularly well, but they were downright massive in the early part of the decade.
Just Can’t Get Enough – Depeche Mode
And here come the synths. Depeche Mode at their early poppiest.
Jessie’s Girl – Rick Springfield
Remember when Rick Springfield once ruled the world? It was because of songs like this.
Gloria – U2
Listen to this. Then go listen to Songs of Innocence. Yeah, bit depressing isn’t it?
We Got the Beat – The Go Gos
A great guitar pop song from a ridiculously great pop album.
Pretty in Pink – The Psychedelic Furs
The far superior dirtier, grungier version of this song, without the saxophone added for the appearance in the John Hughes movie.
People Just Love to Play With Words – Men at Work
I unabashedly love this album and song. Still have my original vinyl copy. Lots of good tunes on there.
Stand and Deliver – Adam and the Ants
Great tune. Does anybody scream early 80s more loudly than Adam Ant though?
Don’t You Want Me – The Human League
Here come the synths again, with a vengeance. They don’t care if you’re working as a waitress at a cocktail bar.
The Unguarded Moment – The Church
Another record that I have my original copy and another personal favorite song from the decade. This one was a mixtape regular back in the day.
Spellbound – Siouxsie and the Banshees
The last song that made the cut. It came down to this and Controversy by Prince, and Spellbound won out since it fit the “tape.”
So, there you go. Apologies to Prince for the late cut, but sometimes brevity can be your friend. Here’s the list for your Spotify listening/subscribing pleasure.