The 1980s were an iconic decade of popular music in the United Kingdom and around the world. Massive and often crazy hairstyles, artists wearing double denim and woman competing to have the largest shoulder pads on the planet. Underneath the flamboyant outfits were some extremely talented artists who changed the music industry with their hit songs. But can you remember which hits were the biggest of the 1980s? How many of these tunes have you heard and do you still love them today?
Do They Know It’s Christmas – Band Aid
“Do They Know It’s Christmas” was written in 1984 by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure as a reaction to the television reports of the devastating famine in Ethiopia between 1983–85. It was recorded on November 25, 1984 by a supergroup called Band Aid, which was put together by Geldof and Ure. The single was launched on December 3, 1984 and entered the UK charts at number one and stayed there for five weeks, becoming that year’s Christmas number one. The original version of the song sold a million copies in the first week and went on to hold the title of the fastest selling single of all-time in the UK, a title it held until Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind 1997.”
Relax – Frankie Goes to Hollywood
“Relax” was the 1983 hit by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, which was included on the album Welcome to the Pleasuredome. The single became one of the most controversial and most commercially successful hits of the decade, selling a reported two million copies in the United Kingdom alone. The BBC banned the playing of Relax due to its controversial and highly sexualized lyrics, although the band initially publicly denied the lyrics were sexual. Despite the ban, Relax topped the UK charts for five weeks.
I Just Called to Say I Love You – Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder released the ballad “I Just Called to Say I Love You” in August 1984 and it became Wonder’s 10th number -one in the R&B Charts, his fourth in the adult contemporary chart and reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The song is also Wonder’s only number one solo UK hit. The song spent six weeks at number one in the UK, knocking off “Careless Whisper” by George Michael and being succeeded by Wham!’s hit “Freedom.” A court case shrouded the song slightly because Wonder’s former writing partner Lee Garrett and Lloyd Chaite claimed they wrote the song and not Wonder, but a jury sided with Wonder and he has all of the rights to the cult classic.
Two Tribes – Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Not only did Frankie Goes to Hollywood have the second-best selling single of the 1980s, they also had the fourth-best selling thanks to “Two Tribes.” The song enjoyed being number one in the UK from June 16-August 11, 1984 and saw a resurgence in sale for Relax, resulting in Frankie Goes to Hollywood spending some time at number one and two in the charts simultaneously.
Don’t You Want Me – The Human League
“Don’t You Want Me” was the fourth single from the third studio album of The Human League. The song is widely recognized as the most commercially successful recording and is the band’s best-known song. Released on November 27, 1981, “Don’t You Want Me” became that year’s Christmas number one and it has gone on to sell more than 1.56 million copies, which places it in 23rd place when talking about the most successful singles in UK history.