My 80s Plus in music: 30 albums and the life I lived between them by Eddy Temple-Morris (Part 1)

Virgin Radio

13 Dec 2022, 09:52

(Left) Eddy Temple Morris, (top right) The Specials, (bottom right) The Cure

Credit: Getty

The 1980s were absolutely stuffed full of innovative, eclectic and powerful albums that defined not only genres, but also the entire era. 

To celebrate the launch of Virgin Radio 80s Plus, we asked presenter, and all-round music maestro, Eddy Temple-Morris what his top albums of the decade were, and he’s treated us to an incredible walk down memory lane with the records he loves, and how they’ve impacted his life. 

In the first of three parts, Eddy shares his favourite albums, and the life he lived between them. Read part one below, and you can read part two here.

Trigger warning: Suicide/Depression/Addiction

Tubeway Army - Replicas, 1979

I have so much love for this station and this era of music, so to reflect that, I wanted to write more than a dry album review list. It feels important to convey the sometimes breathless and giddy excitement that came from buying, playing and feeling these records on vinyl. It was, and remains, such a holistic experience, for sometimes the album covers alone blew my mind before the needle even came down to the edge. And there were the sleeve notes, the lyrics, the inner sleeve, thank you list and the often treasure trove of information about the recording, the audio, the engineers…I am the product of hundreds of sleeve notes. 

The context of hearing these records is often so vital, so I’ve included plenty, to help paint a picture of where I was at the time. 

So with that in mind…

Just like Virgin Radio 80s Plus starts in the late seventies, so will I. Here is where the story begins, at Malvern College, where I was heartlessly dumped by my parents, and with the first synth wave record I ever bought. At the time, it was an other worldly sound that we now know are Moog synthesisers. I can fully appreciate how Gary Numan’s mind was blown when he discovered this incredible machine that seemed to have a soul, and I’ve talked to Gary at length about this relatively recently when we became friends in 2013. The reason we met starts here. 

My copy of Replicas, to this day, has ‘ED’ ‘printed’ on the cover, in jet black capital letters, from one of those transfer sheets we had as kids in 1979. You know, those pieces of wax paper with the alphabet, big A, little a, big B, little b, etc. We called them ‘transfers’. We could rub the back of them with a coin or a pencil and they would transfer onto flat surfaces so we could effectively print - not very much - onto things we owned. I only had one capital E and one capital D on this sheet. But I had many more records. So I had to choose my most treasured album at the time to receive the naming on the front. I chose this album. 

I told this story to Gary’s people when they asked for pitches to do a few interviews with the eighties icon in around 2010. They came back to me to say that Gary was so moved by my story that he’d agreed to come and co-host my three hour show in its entirety. Suffice to say that we got on about as well as anyone can get on with somebody that has Asperger syndrome and we grew closer over the years, especially as I met his amazing wife Gemma and we became friends too. She ended up saving my life when I was suicidal a few years later, so my love for the Numan goes deep, and it all starts with this groundbreaking album. 

I remember being so happy when Are Friends Electric became a number 1 hit. But this album is so much more than that song. Listen to Down In The Park. The depth of Gary’s vision is extraordinary. He invented a whole other world and wrote about it. It’s a work of true genius. 

Here I was in 1979, listening to the sound of the future. This was prophetic. This was how this decade would largely sound, not in terms of this album’s emotion or it’s songwriting or its incredible atmospheres, but the pure sonic imprint, the literal sound of that Moog and synths like it, by Roland, Korg and Yamaha would echo across the era and is still heard in records made now by everyone from Calvin Harris to Kanye West. 

It’s a game changer, an eye opener, a life alterer, and this is where my life in music began. 

The Specials - The Specials, 1979

As Replicas was momentous with its sonics, this was equally influential in a different way. I was already a big Bob Marley fan, that princely Jamaican’s music filled my heart with joy. But I was unaware of the roots of it. Of rocksteady and ska, which existed before reggae did. I found these, the family tree of Jamaican pop music, because of The Specials. They were such a huge deal culturally. The first band I became aware of which had both black and white members. UB40 appeared around this time too, from nearby Birmingham and had a similar inspiring cross-cultural thing going on. I talked to two of UB40 about this recently. It all seemed so normal to them. They grew up together. Children of the Windrush from the Caribbean hanging with their white neighbours. In those days, however, it was extraordinary, almost unheard of, to have mixed race bands, and The Specials did it the best. They had a swagger about them, a kind of punk vibe which really meshed with what was going down in the UK post-Sex Pistols. As soon as I was able, I bought one of those black and white checked pencil-thin ties so I could wear my love of The Specials and of 2 Tone Records on my chest. 

I remember newspapers being outraged that they mentioned contraception in a song (Too Much Too Young) of course their most resonant song - Ghost Town - had yet to be released, but they were laying foundations for that here. The hidden gem for me is Blank Expression, a gloriously loose limbed song that lollops along with a restrained beat and fabulous energy from the interplay between vocals, drums and guitar. 

If you’ve not heard this for a while, put it on as soon as you can. It’ll blow you away. 

This has to be one of the greatest debuts of all time and what a heart warming indicator of the quality of this era that there are quite a few debuts on this list. 

Pretenders - Pretenders, 1979

Speaking of debuts, we have The Pretenders entry point to British music culture. Their singer, Chrissie Hynde, was already used to life on the edge of immortality. She was a key player in the Sex Pistols story, and might even have joined the band, had Steve Jones not had the presence of mind to keep her out in favour of Sid, because he felt strongly that she was destined for something bigger and better. Not in terms of the cultural forest fire and new growth from it, but in terms of band longevity and musicianship. 

My family had moved to Herefordshire by now, my dad had become the MP for Leominster and we lived just outside Hereford. This album was a huge deal for anyone young from Hereford because everyone behind and alongside Chrissie, including the ill-fated James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon were from that sleepy midland market town.

The astonishing songwriting maturity of Chrissie Hynde was evident right at the start. Brass In Pocket is one of the best songs ever penned. It feels like a song by a band on their third LP, when they know who they are and how they roll. This was a debut and while the album may not have had the depth of many on this list, the presence of that song alone was a reason to buy and love it. 

It’s also worth noting that when The Pretenders blew up, they found themselves at number one on both singles and album charts, they toured the UK with UB40. Chrissie had seen them play at The Rock Garden in London and asked them to come on tour as support. Playing to these sold out venues was the spark that UB40 needed to propel them into the charts with their debut single, which charted during the tour. Chrissie Hynde. Hats off. 

Japan - Gentlemen Take Polaroids, 1980

Now we are in the 80s proper and really in, sonically and aesthetically, with the first band I ever really fell properly in love with.  

Inspired by Japan’s first three albums, 1980 was when I bought a red leather jacket that would have to be surgically removed by 1983. It was the same jacket David Sylvian, the lead singer of Japan, wore on the cover of their genre-defining third album, Quiet Life. On the left lapel, I had a Japan badge. On the right lapel, a Van Halen one. These were my two favourite bands in the world, but Japan were the first band I became properly obsessed with. 

I knew everything about everything about them. I bought it, borrowed every magazine that had even a line about them, never mind an interview. I would have happily given up school and just followed them around the world but I was chained to a toxic and repressive boarding school and 1980 was when things started getting really bad for me.

My housemaster, a rabid born-again Christian, confiscated the covers of albums that he deemed to be unwholesome, David Sylvian’s enthusiastic use of make up - something I would copy as soon as I left school and move to London - offended his extremist sensibilities and this was one of the covers he took off me. 

I think most Japan fans would cite Quiet Life as the better record, and it certainly was one that seemed to capture that new romantic style that I loved and which defined a generation of foppish fringed, heavily made-up man-boys, but this fourth album was the one that crystallised that whole movement for me. 

The production, maybe the over-production, was something that really spoke to me. The rhythm section of the record drew me in. Mick Karn’s extraordinary, otherworldly playing, dancing liquidly over Steve Jansen’s muscular drumming inspired me more than anything I’d ever heard. It took everything I had to keep up with Mick’s bass playing on the title track. I tried again and again but it was so hard. I couldn’t make my bass sound like that, so I asked a boy several years older why, and he enlightened me. My bass had frets. Mick’s was fretless. I knew then that I wanted to be a bass player when I grew up.…and that I needed more than one bass. 

The Teardrop Explodes - Kilimanjaro, 1980

Music was such solace in those days. I had a tiny transistor radio with a little earpiece and that was enough to get Radio One when John Peel was on. That was the lifeline, and it was on John’s show where I first heard this Liverpool band that sounded like nobody else. I remember where I was standing when I first heard Reward, I think by then, Peely had moved on from Teardrops, they’d crossed over into the mainstream and it was on daytime radio. 

That frenetic, accelerated northern soul beat and those bonkers horns! Nobody in the post punk world had horns like that.

Yes, Dexy's Midnight Runners had great use of a horn section, but they were giving a modern twist to classic soul arrangements. Teardrop Explodes were a proto-indie band, so this was pioneering. The incredible influence they had is best illustrated via a conversation I had with Paul Weller on a Virgin Radio album special. I drew his attention to a paragraph of Julian’s fascinating autobiography, Head On, in which he cites that The Jam used the same studio as The Teardrop Explodes, during or shortly after Reward was recorded and that it was obvious to him that the Jam had been influenced by Teardrops. Those are big words so I asked Paul directly, and he held his hands up and said that he was influenced by so many things back then and that Teardrop Explodes record was certainly one of them. 

Siouxsie and The Banshees - Kaleidoscope, 1980

Punk needed a female icon to balance Sid Vicious. There was Debby Harry but she was from New York City. We needed one of our own and my god did we get one. Siouxsie was right on the edge of the Sex Pistols explosion and already a key character in their wider story. It was no surprise that her band was signed by a major label and that she went on to become the poster girl for the punk generation. 

But the Banshees were about much more than just their front woman. Like The Police, these were phenomenal musicians behind and alongside her. Budgie’s drumming, tribal and tight, a formidable groove when Steve Severin layed down his textured basslines. Their guitar player was John McGeoch, from Magazine, already a veteran and capable of transformative playing. He’s been cited as one of the most influential British guitar players ever.

Kaleidoscope was their record that bewitched me the most. Pushing past the obvious anthems, works of chart-bound post-punk glory, like Happy House and Christine (I must have worn out at least one diamond stylus on this song along) are little album track gems like the angular Hybrid, which must have informed Britpop stalwarts like Longpigs, and the spooky and synth heavy Lunar Camel.

This was a line in the sand to say punk is over, time for punks to do something more skilful and profound. 

The Clash - Sandinista, 1980

Two years before this came out, I was 13, freshly dumped in a boarding school I hated being in, and I was impressionable. I was looking for heroes. Both in the records that I listened to and in those I looked to for inspiration. One of these closer to home heroes was a kid called Brian Stapleton. I say kid, and he was, then, but he was a school prefect and four years older than me. One night, as all the kids in the dormitory he was keeping an eye on were supposed to be sleeping, I caught sight of Brian walking past in a pair of brand new, pillar box red, patent leather bondage trousers. I’d never in my life seen anything so glamorous. 

“Brian!!!” I shout-whispered and he stopped and turned around. “Where are you going?” I asked, my jaw on the floor. “To see The Clash” he smiled and turned and loped off, the crepe soles of his brothel creepers making a superb squeaking sound on the vinyl runway through the dorm. 

“OMG. The Clash!” I was so jealous and yet so happy for him. That moment started a lifelong love for statement wardrobe items and solidified a love for one of England’s greatest bands. 

If another signal was needed to herald the death of punk rock as prescribed by Malcolm McLaren, it was The Clash’s magnum opus. The very idea of a triple album was outrageous. It was almost a middle finger up as much to McLaren as it was to the prog rock establishment. 

It’s worth saying that the generosity of three records in one album was by no means lost on me. It’s easy to forget now, but the only music we had (save radio) was the music we had! The records we owned or borrowed. That was it. So three albums, for the price of one, was a godsend. The magnificence of The Magnificent Seven, the opening track, cannot be underestimated. The punk anchored rowdiness of Police On My Back was a reminder of their roots, but the roots went deeper and more literal. 

Songs like One More Dub was a heart worn on their sleeve and a signal to us that this was a white rock band with a huge love for and debt to the underground music from Jamaica, the likes of Lee Scratch Perry, which wobbled the woofers of so many sound systems at the Notting Hill Carnival. I loved the indulgence of it. I couldn’t tell you how many times I lifted the needle to the start of Lightning Strikes for that hilarious radio station phone-in skit. 

There are so many hidden gems here but the jewel in this crown for me is Charlie Don’t Surf, by now I knew I wanted to be a bass player. I bought the cheapest bass in the UK at the time, by mail order. It was an Encore, which somebody told me later was Woolworth’s brand. I learned this bass line pretty quickly on that short scale piece of rubbish and it’s been in my head ever since. 

The Human League - Dare, 1981

In 1981, there were two Sheffield albums I was obsessed with and there is a strong link between them. Dare by The Human League could not be more eighties sounding. Phil Oakey, had just lost the band’s co-founders, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh, who’d left to form Heaven 17. Their last album, Travelogue, produced by John Leckie, who would later attain god-like status for producing The Stone Roses, was still a relatively underground affair. 

Losing two thirds of a band might have been disastrous for most but it’s a credit to Phil for dusting himself off, hiring two girl backing singers, and to Virgin Records for believing in the project. The A&R (artist and repertoire) department of a label are the guys responsible for signing and developing bands and artists. It’s them who decide which producers they should hire to get the best chance of a hit. Whoever A&R’d this record should be given a medal. They put Phil in with a Reading music scene stalwart called Martin Rushent. He’d worked with The Stranglers, The Buzzcocks, Generation X and Altered Images, helping them have hits. He had his own studio and he was much loved by the A&R guys running the business at the time. Martin knew very well how to get the best out of a song. 

I met him once. He wandered into a live radio broadcast at an awards show I was doing from a huge nightclub, I thought he was a vagrant! There I was thinking he was there to nick a microphone and I almost fell over when someone hugely influential introduced us. He was there to pick up a lifetime achievement award and had been sent to my studio for an interview but he was too modest to tell me who he was or why he was there. 

So I got to interview him and I remember being completely starstruck. He produced the first album I ever bought (Stranglers) and he produced this stone cold Sheffield classic. I don’t think there exists a better album than this for my money. It’s the distillation of everything that’s great about the 1980s, synthesisers and eighties pop. 

I was really upset when Martin died, way younger than he should have. Not least because I had come to know his son, James. The apple never falls far from the tree. James is also a brilliant producer and the driving force behind Reading indie electro stalwarts Does It Offend You, Yeah? I wouldn’t mind betting James has the gold record for this album on his wall. 

From the opening song, The Things That Dreams Are Made Of to Don’t You Want Me, which closes it, it’s all so unbelievably strong. There’s no filler. No stodgy album tracks. It’s just brilliant song after brilliant song, produced with such panache and with such clarity of vision. 

Everything, everyone, is firing on all cylinders, chiming together perfectly. 

I had this on a cassette tape and I remember playing it and letting the automatic repeat function on my paint splashed mono radio cassette player just replay it again and again while I drew and painted in the arts centre, the only academic building I was happy in. 

It is in no way an exaggeration to say that in my opinion this is one of the greatest albums ever made. 

Heaven 17 - Penthouse and Pavement, 1981

The Human League founders must have left the band for something good. Phil was coming into his own and might have left them for dust, except this happened. 

Completely independent of each other, they both came up with era-defining records. But this one was rooted in Sheffield and proudly said that on the cover. Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh had split with Phil Oakey and hooked up with the more debonair Glen Gregory, more into power dressing than the power fringe. Together they fashioned a corporate image, pinstripe suits and gleaming glass fronted offices in skyscrapers. They wanted us to believe they were taking over the world, via boardrooms and corner offices, and I believed them! 

It was the cover of this album that spurred me to buy my first ever suit. From the punk fashion focal point, Kings Road, in London, of course. It had thin lapels, it was charcoal, with white pinstripes and I bought it, directly inspired by this album cover. I was now dressed for eighties success (I didn’t achieve any but I was certainly suited and booted for it) and this album was the soundtrack to this non-success. I had a bunch of Portuguese and French friends from other boarding houses that I loved to hang out with and this album was one we all knew all the words to. Like our motley crew, this had such an international vibe. It felt like Heaven 17 had taken a leaf out of Steely Dan’s book, hiring the best musicians they could. I was dazzled by the bass playing. I could play along with almost anything in my collection but the title track absolutely floored me (so did the opening track!)

I swear I left blood on the fretboard trying to master this song. It reflected the classy vibe of the cover. Lush, wide screen, with expensive sounding soulful girl backing singers and long arrangements that we could really immerse ourselves in. In Glen Gregory they had a white, blonde soul singer who could beautifully croon over their stunning productions. It’s no surprise that one of its creators, Martyn Ware, would go on to produce one of the greatest debut albums ever made, yes, it’s on this list, of course, but you’ll have to wait until 1987 and there are some astonishing albums between now and then, so we must press on. 

The Cure - Pornography, 1982

I drank my first beer to Three Imaginary Boys. Faith and Seventeen Seconds soundtracked my falling in love, in a brotherly way, with Charlie, a Hereford boy who would instantly become my best friend and we would be inseparable for years. 

The Cure meant so much to me, and all of those albums were, in their own ways, remarkable, phenomenal, defining for a goth movement which would absorb me a few years later, but this was the album that I became something of a dark obsession. 

It was the first time in my life that I became aware of the concept of depression. I had read in one of the music magazines, NME, Sounds or Melody Maker, all of which I poured over weekly, that Robert had written this record at the same time that he lost a good friend. It is bleak and morbid, but that’s where my head was at this difficult time. I was finding school really tough. My religious extremist housemaster was making my life hell. He told me he thought I was ‘the antichrist’ and treated me accordingly, confiscating anything that brought me joy. Confining me to my boarding house when everyone else could come and go as they pleased. I felt miserable, so this album spoke deeply to those feelings. It was a much needed dose of empathy.  

In those days, much more routinely than now, young men didn’t talk about their feelings. I just snuck to the bushes by the art centre for countless cigarettes, I’d become addicted to tobacco, and wrote terrible poetry, by way of catharsis. And this album saw me through, because it allowed me to understand relativity. I was feeling bad, but there was clearly somebody here who was feeling worse. 

It was now that I started to get to grips with the sonics of records. I could hear an effect running through the album, which made the sound kind of bend, as if I was cupping my ears and slowly releasing them. I discovered this was a flanger, a pedal or rack effect they put their guitars and bass and sometimes the whole kit and kaboodle, through to make it sound wavily distorted. 

Now I knew I wanted to go beyond playing on a record. I knew I wanted to make a record. 

You can read part two of Eddy's top 30 albums here, and look out for part three on Friday!

You can listen to Virgin Radio 80 Plus HERE. You can also listen on DAB+ in London and Central Scotland and on smart speakers across the UK, as well as via the Virgin Radio UK app.

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