The Essential Soundtrack to Pop's Greatest (and Gayest) Year

2.26.2014

By Aaron Hicklin

A Musical Primer to 1983 (if there was a better year for music, we'd like to hear it).

June:
One of the first new wave groups to receive mainstream success, The Police release Synchronicity and hit number 1 in the United Kingdom and the United States, where the album will sell 8 million copies. Although heavily influenced by reggae, it was the most synth-laden album the band put out.

July:
Wham!’s debut album, Fantastic, marks the arrival of one of the decade’s most spectacular successes, with more than 25 million record sales in the four years from 1982 to 1986.

You and Me Both, the second and final album by Yazoo (or Yaz in the United States), is released, featuring the hit single “Nobody’s Diary.” Was there a more influential champion of synthpop than Vince Clarke, a founding member of Depeche Mode, Yazoo, and Erasure? Although Yazoo’s tenure was brief, the band’s reach was long. On an episode of NPR’s Fresh Air, Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons recalled that the objective of the self-titled debut album by Hercules and Love Affair, on which he’d guest-starred, was to “sound as much like Yazoo as we can.”

Madonna, by Madonna, released on July 27, will soon rewrite history, sending the pendulum back in the direction of U.S. pop and establishing one of the most enduring careers in music. But her debut album takes many of its cues from the synthpop invasion, drawing heavily on the latest technology — Moog bass and the Oberheim OB-X synthesizer beloved by electronic pioneer Jean Michel Jarre.

Tags: Music
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