1981 in Music

1981 was the piñata blast of rock’s grand carnival, with the reinvigorated UK unleashing starbound sensations (Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Heaven 17, Sheena Easton, Soft Cell, Spandau Ballet), radical transformations (Genesis, King Crimson, Pete Shelley, Renaissance, Rupert Hine, The Stranglers) and crowning celebrations (The Human League, Japan, Landscape, Ph.D., The Psychedelic Furs, The Teardrop Explodes).

The rhythmic-minded played it slick (Atmosfear, Chaz Jankel, Imagination, Level 42, Shakatak) and strident (A Certain Ratio, Delta 5, Medium Medium, Rip Rig & Panic, Thompson Twins); the moody were both surreal (Bill Nelson, Experiments With Ice, I’m So Hollow, Schleimer K, Thomas Leer) and ethereal (Echo & the Bunnymen, Eurythmics, Eyeless In Gaza, Henry Badowski, Modern Eon); the voluminous came on feisty (The Adicts, Def Leppard, Girlschool, Splodgenessabounds, Vice Squad) and fierce (Demon, Gaskin, Legend, Raven, Saracen), whilst sounds conjured the imagery of trench coats (Modern English, Section 25, This Heat, UK Decay, Wah!), tuxedos (Albania, Data, Dramatis, Linx, Modern Romance) and tiaras (Altered Images, The Belle Stars, Bette Bright, Bow Wow Wow, Kim Wilde).

America was as plentiful as ever, with axe-men exhibiting dynamism (Balance, Billy Squier, Mayday, Shooting Star) and dexterity (Expresso, Proteus, Schon & Hammer, Yellowjackets); abstractionists mining intricacy (Cartoon, Holding Pattern, However, Netherworld) and instability (Curlew, The Lounge Lizards, Material, Swollen Monkeys); sophisticates both singular (Dwayne Ford, John O’Banion, Lee Ritenour, Paul Davis) and in sets (Franke & the Knockouts, Novo Combo, Quarterflash, Shot In the Dark); eccentrics both crafty (Oingo Boingo, Polyrock, The Suburbs, Suburban Lawns) and cunning (Comateens, Our Daughters Wedding, Slow Children, Wall of Voodoo); funksters showing face (Bernard Wright, Rick James, Teena Marie, The Time) and hitting the bass (BB&Q Band, Change, Dazz Band, SOS Band); while Canucks molded the margins (Ceramic Hello, Dalbello, Jane Siberry, UZEB) and manned the mainlines (Ian Thomas, Loverboy, Red Rider, Wrabit).

Germany, France and Scandinavia unveiled sounds both entangled (Rozz, Syncrisis; Dün, Eider Stellaire; Kultivator, Myrbein) and newfangled (Croox, Palais Schaumburg; Artefact, Marquis de Sade; De Press, Elegi); displays of tapestry (Burning Candle, Ego On the Rocks; Angiepatch, Terpandre; Isildurs Bane, Octopus) and mad-hattery (Bleibtreu Revue, Goebbels & Harth, Iris; Agathorn, Grace, Ståålfågel); pluckers sitting still (Aigues Vives; Emeraude, Noetra; Anssi Tikanmaki, Mosaik, Nya Ljudbolaget) and techies sending chills (Ami Marie, Asmus Tietchens, Mekanik Kommando, Tyndall; Mathematiques Modernes, Video Liszt).

Benelux and the landlocked nations reveled in weirdness (Snowy Red; Grauzone, Starter, Yello, Zyx) and wonderment (Lethe, Pythagoras, Taurus; Gandalf, Steppenblüte), whilst club faces (Alice, Giuni Russo, Glamour) and concert graces (Arpaderba, Formas, Labanda) lined the Mediterranean Sea. Behind the Iron Curtain, freedom rang through density (Boa, Combo FH, Kaseke, Synkopy) and intensity (Film, Haustor, Riblja Corba, Transsylvania Phoenix).

Across the Pacific, Japan embraced daintiness (Ippu Do, Nomiya Maki, Virgin VS, Wha Ha Ha) and dazzle (Dada, Joji Hirota, Kenso, Logic System), while Australasia flung itself northward once and for all (Icehouse, Men at Work, Mondo Rock, Swingers, Rick Springfield).

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