Post Punk New Pop / The Sugared Pill 1979 - 1984


1979 - 1981


01. M: " Pop Muzik" Released: March 1979 Chart peak: UK #2

02. Gary Numan: "Cars" Released: September 1979 Chart peak: UK #1

03. Japan: "I Second That Emotion" Released: February 1980 Chart peak: UK N/A

04. John Foxx: "Burning Car" Released: July 1980 Chart peak: UK #35

05. Orange Juice: "Blue Boy" Released: August 1980 Chart peak: UK N/A

06. Adam & the Ants: "Dog Eat Dog" Released: September 1980 Chart peak: UK #4

07. U2: "I Will Follow" Released: October 1980 Chart peak: UK N/A

08. Orchestral Manouvres In The Dark: "Enola Gay" Released: October 1980 Chart peak: UK #8

09. Visage: "Fade To Grey" Released: December 1980 Chart peak: UK #8

10. Bow Wow Wow "W.O.R.K. " Released: March 1981 Chart peak: UK #62

11. Duran Duran: "Careless Memories" Released: April 1981 Chart peak: UK #37

12. Heaven 17: "I’m Your Money" Released: May 1981 Chart peak: UK N/A

13. Spandau Ballet: "Chant No. 1" Released: July 1981 Chart peak: UK #3

14. Echo & The Bunnymen: "A Promise" Released: July 1981 Chart peak: UK #49

15. Human League: "Love Action" Released: July 1981 Chart peak: UK #3

16. Scritt Politti: "The 'Sweetest' Girl" Released: August 1981 Chart peak: UK N/A

17. Altered Images: "Happy Birthday" Released: August 1981 Chart peak: UK #2

18. Scars: "All About You" Released: August 1981 Chart peak: UK N/A

19. Teardrop Explodes: "Passionate Friend" Released: September 1981 Chart peak: UK #25

20. Depeche Mode: "Just Can't Get Enough" Released: September 1981 Chart peak: UK #8  

21. Human League: "Open Your Heart" Released: October 1981 Chart peak: UK #6


1982 - 1984


01. Associates: "Party Fears Two" Released: February 1982 Chart peak: UK #9

02. ABC: "Poison Arrow" Released: February 1982 Chart peak: UK #6

03. The Wild Swans: "The Revolutionary Spirit" Released: Mar 1982 Chart peak: N/A

04. Associates: "Club Country" Released: May 1982 Chart peak: #13

05. Depeche Mode: "Leave In Silence" Released: August 1982 Chart peak: UK #18

06. ABC: "All of My Heart" Released: September 1982 Chart peak: UK #5

07. Soft Cell: "Where The Heart Is" Released: November 1982 Chart peak: UK #21

08. Simple Minds: "Someone Somewhere (In Summertime)" Released: November 1982
Chart peak: UK #36

09. Aztec Camera: "Oblivious" Released: January 1983 Chart peak: UK #47

10. Orange Juice: "Rip It Up" Released: February 1983 Chart peak: UK #8

11. Wah!: "Hope (Faded)" Released: February 1983 Chart peak: UK #37

12. New Order: "Blue Monday" Released: March 1983 Chart peak: UK #9

13. Echo & The Bunnymen: "Never Stop" Released: July 1983 Chart peak: UK #15

14. Icicle Works: "Love Is A Wonderful Colour" Released: October 1983 Chart peak: UK #15

15.Bourgie Bourgie: "Breaking Point" Released: February 1984 Chart peak: UK #48

16. Scritti Politti: "Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)" Released: March 1984 Chart peak: UK #10

17. Propaganda: "Dr Mabuse (A Paranoid Fantasy)" Released: March 1984 Chart peak: UK #27

18. Art of Noise: "Close (To The Edit)" Released: May 1984 Chart peak: UK #51

18. Frankie Goes To Hollywood: "Two Tribes" Released: June 1984 Chart peak: UK #1


   It could be argued that the true harbingers of New Pop were M’s ‘Pop Muzik’, #2 in May 1979, and The Buggles ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ ,#1 October 1979. Both songs embraced the possibilities of new technology; both were exercises in hyper production and insane catchiness; both exploited video to the hilt and crucially, both were exercises in pop about pop. The Buggles came from outside the punk narrative so don’t feature here, but M, or rather Robin Scott, had close connections to McClaren and Adam Ant, which is why they do.

   If new pop had an architect it was Paul Morley, NME writer supreme at a time when the weekly music press mattered more than ever. In December 1980, reacting against post punk’s percieved miserablism and doomy seriousness, Morley called for an ‘overground brightness’ to ‘bring life back to the radio, to make the single count’. In reality of course new pop, even if it hadn’t been defined as such, had already emerged in various disjointed strands of post punk; in the early electro pop of John Foxx, Numan, and OMD; the Postcard Records indie pop ideal; the New Romantics shift from punk reality to escapism; the Big Music of The Bunnymen, U2 and Simple Minds; in Malcolm Mclaren’s playful celebration of sun, sea and cassette piracy.

   Suddenly, following Morley’s manifesto, the ‘pop’ word was everywhere and groups began to espouse the healthiness of pop, rather than the darker conditions of post punk. Thereafter, the peak of new pop came incredibly quickly, a horde of new pop terrorists siezing control of the mainstream in a glorious 18 month stretch between the Spring of 1981 and the Autumn of 1982, non stars went supernova if only for a minute,  innovation went down with a spoonful of sugar and all the old babies were thrown out with the bath water.

   To varying degrees all of these new groups had grasped the importance of image, its power to seduce and motivate, and they had all coated their music in a commercial sheen, some pursuing a ‘sugared pill’ strategy while others revelled in sonic luxury for the sheer glam thrill of it all. While on the surface they may have appeared as a ‘punk never happened’ scenario, a retreat into escapism, they were infact furthering punk’s original mission albeit in a much transformed context.

   New Pop sounded utopian and it was, but like most utopias it sowed the seeds of its own destruction. In the early months of 1983 there was a dawning sense that the new dream had already turned sour. The creative bright sparks who had pioneered it all; ABC, Human League, Soft Cell, The Associates, had been displaced by the clones, careerists and opportunists who weren’t ideas or ideals driven, and had little or no connection to punk. The utter deluge of  Wham’s, Culture Club’s, Flock Of Seagulls, Kajagoogoo’s and Tears For Fears diluted the impact and new pop became too shiny, too false, and too meaningless, chiming with the ‘I’m alright Jack’ philosophy sweeping the nation as advocated by Thatcherism.

   In the end, new pop’s ultimate prank as well as its ultimate undoing came from Frankie Goes To Holywood. An apocalyptic gay disco army, they were new pop with a punk hard-on, yet their reign would be shortlived. They were far too intense and brazen for Thatcher’s children who, once again began to feel the comforting pull of terminal mediocrity. All of a sudden Howard Jones, Nik Kershaw, Paul Young and starving children in Africa seemed a much safer bet.  


July 2012