30 Years of Rock – 1980 – 1984


In 1985 Radio 1 broadcast 30 Years of Rock, which comprised a repeat run of 25 Years of Rock plus five new programmes looking at the music and events from 1980 to 1984.

The introduction in the first edition was extended to include some of the main events and records of the early eighties, but the records don’t really represent the era. Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and the Everley Brothers represent the fifties, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who and Scott McKenzie represent the sixties, David Bowie, Queen and the Sex Pistols represent the seventies. But Irene Cara, Dire Straits, and John Lennon who died in 1980, don’t really represent the eighties.

The new programmes did feel a bit tacked on, and the pop scene in the mid-eighties was less interesting than in the early seventies, it was a period when the pop scene went from post-punk to “like punk never happened”, although the new events are no less interesting. But the series couldn’t have had a better note to end on.


Don’t Stand So Close To Me – the Police

Speech by Jimmy Carter

Atomic – Blondie

Mount St Helens volcano in Washington erupts

Ashes to Ashes – David Bowie

Robert Mugabe elected president of Rhodesia. Speech by Robert Mugabe.

Redemption Song – Bob Marley and the Wailers

Interviews with white Rhodesians

Could You Be Loved – Bob Marley and the Wailers

Rhodesia becomes Zimbabwe. Speeches by Robert Mugabe and Prince Charles.

Master Blaster (Jammin’) – Stevie Wonder

Gdansk Agreement signed in Poland

Food For Thought – UB40

Unemployment figures in UK rise to over two million. Ian MacGregor appointed chairman of British Steel Corporation. Interview with Ian MacGregor.

Going Underground – the Jam

Interview with new Labour Party leader Michael Foot

Baggy Trousers – Madness

Mods, rockers, punks, skinheads and teddy boys cause trouble on beaches over Easter weekend

Geno – Dexy’s Midnight Runners

Britain’s first nudist beach opens in Brighton

Echo Beach – Martha and the Muffins

Iranian hostage crisis continues. Jimmy Carter cancels rescue operation.

Mirror in the Bathroom – the Beat

Iranian Embassy siege in London

Another One Bites the Dust – Queen

Alan Minter becomes world middleweight boxing champion. Bjorn Borg beats John McEnroe in Wimbledon men’s singles final

Use It Up and Wear It Out – Odyssey

Margaret Thatcher calls for British boycott of Moscow Olympics. Interview with Sebastian Coe.

Games Without Frontiers – Peter Gabriel

Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe win gold medals

Coming Up – Paul McCartney

Interview with Jeremy Lloyd on Captain Beaky

Captain Beaky and His Band – Keith Michell

Prince Charles seen out with Lady Diana Spencer

The Tide Is High – Blondie

Peter Sellers dies. Riots at funeral of Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador

The Winner Takes It All – Abba

Jimmy Carter runs for re-election. Ronald Reagan runs for election. Ronald Reagan elected president.

One Day I’ll Fly Away – Randy Crawford

Andy Peebles interviews John Lennon and Yoko Ono

Just Like Starting Over – John Lennon

John Lennon shot dead

Woman – John Lennon

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament revival

Stop the Cavalry – Jona Lewie

This was the first of the new programmes. On its first broadcast this was where 30 Years of Rock reached the current decade. Some of the music and events in this programme happened while 25 Years of Rock was being broadcast for the first time. The first three programmes begin with the best selling single of the year, and the last two programmes end with the best selling single of the year.

In 1980 people were still listening to the Police, Blondie and the Jam. There’s a lot of reggae in this programme (and surprisingly little reggae in the sixties and seventies programmes). There was a mod revival in the early eighties.

One of the news stories in the last edition of 25 Years of Rock was the election of Abel Muzorewa of prime minister of Rhodesia. In 1980 Rhodesia formally became Zimbabwe. The new decade saw the start of another new era in American politics. One of the most memorable news stories in Britain was the Iranian Embassy siege. The assassinated Archbishop Romero was in the news again in 2018 when he was made a saint.

The biggest new story in pop music in 1980 was the murder of John Lennon, and the programme includes some extracts from an interview he did for Radio 1 with Andy Peebles just days before he died. But the programme doesn’t end with the death of John Lennon, instead it plays out with Stop the Cavalry by Jona Lewie.


Tainted Love – Soft Cell

Ronald Reagan inaugurated. Iranian hostage crisis ends. Jimmy Carter welcomes hostages home.

Planet Earth – Duran Duran

Space Shuttle Columbia launched

Once in a Lifetime – Talking Heads

Assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley Jnr

In the Air Tonight – Phil Collins

People’s March For Jobs. Speech by Ken Livingstone. Interview with marcher.

Chant No 1 (I Don’t Need This Pressure On) – Spandau Ballet

New Cross Road fire. Interview with Darcus Howe of the New Cross Massacre Action Committee.

Under Pressure – Queen and David Bowie

Riots in Brixton

Ghost Town – the Specials

Race riots in Southall. Interview with witness. Riots in Toxteth, Liverpool. Rolling Stones have successful tour of USA. Interview with Keith Richard and Mick Jagger.

Start Me Up – the Rolling Stones

England win the Ashes. Ian Botham named man of the match.

O Superman – Laurie Anderson

John McEnroe argues with umpire

John McEnroe sketch – Not the Nine O’Clock News

Shaddap You Face – Joe Dolce Music Theatre

Interview with Adam Ant

Prince Charming – Adam and the Ants

Prince Charles gets engaged to Lady Diana Spencer. Interview with Prince Charles and Lady Diana.

Being With You – Smokey Robinson

Prince Charles marries Princess Diana

Romeo and Juliet – Dire Straits

Anwar Sadat assassinated

Invisible Sun – the Police

IRA prisoner Bobby Sands dies after hunger strike. IRA bomb British army barracks. Ian Paisley calls for Loyalists to fight IRA.

Can You Feel It? – the Jacksons

First London Marathon

Physical – Olivia Newton-John

Body Talk – Imagination

Bob Marley dies. New Romantics craze. Interview with Steve Strange.

Vienna – Ultravox

Margaret Thatcher celebrates birthday at Conservative Party conference

Happy Birthday – Altered Images

Roy Jenkins announces the formation of the SDP. Shirley Williams wins Crosby by-election. Interview with David Owen.

Endless Love – Lionel Richie and Diana Ross

Bill Haley dies

This Old House – Shakin’ Stevens

Bucks Fizz win Eurovision Song Contest. Commentary by Terry Wogan.

Making Your Mind Up – Bucks Fizz

Wojciech Jaruzelski declares martial law in Poland. Ronald Reagan supports Solidarity.

Don’t You Want Me – the Human League

Needless to say this programme begins with the inauguration of the new American president. The Iranian hostage crisis ended the same day. And the programme ends with Ronald Reagan wishing everyone a happy Christmas.

It was a new era for British politics with the foundation of the SDP. (Without the SDP there probably wouldn’t have been the Coalition government in the 2010s.) There’s no mention of the Rubik’s Cube.

And as with That Was the Week That Was in the early sixties, and Monty Python in the early seventies, so Not the Nine O’Clock News was the top satire show of the early eighties.

The early eighties were the tail end of the punk/new wave era. In 1981 there was the new romantics movement, which was a self-conscious attempt to be the next thing after punk. Electronic music was becoming more popular with Soft Cell and the Human League, and two-tone was still popular. The programme includes some of the artier records from Talking Heads and Laurie Anderson.

30 Years of Rock didn’t do Adam and the Ants justice considering how big they were in 1980-81. Prince Charming neatly segues into the Royal Wedding, the most remembered event of the year, and Ghost Town by the Specials is played over news of the riots that took place in Britain during the summer of 1981, and they include the wind blowing at the end of the record.


Come On Eileen – Dexys Midnight Runners

Mary Rose raised

Abracadabra – Steve Miller Band

Laker Airways goes bankrupt. Interviews with passengers and Freddie Laker.

Pass the Dutchie – Musical Youth

John DeLorean arrested for drug trafficking. The Jam split up. Interview with Paul Weller.

A Town Called Malice – the Jam

Argentina invades the Falkland Islands

Mad World – Tears For Fears

Britain sends armed forces to the Falklands. Interview with Margaret Thatcher.

Private Investigations – Dire Straits

General Belgrano sunk by British submarine. HMS Sheffield sunk. Argentina surrenders.

Shipbuilding – Robert Wyatt

Pope John Paul II visits Great Britain

Love Plus One – Haircut One Hundred

Michael Fagan breaks into Buckingham Palace and enters the Queen’s bedroom. Queen opens London’s Barbican Centre

House of Fun – Madness

Prince Andrew goes on holiday in Mustique with Koo Stark

The Look of Love – ABC

Women stage anti-nuclear demonstration at Greenham Common Airbase

Happy Talk – Captain Sensible

Interview with Captain Sensible. National Union of Mineworkers vote against strike action. Interview with Arthur Scargill.

Da Da Da – Trio

Chariots of Fire wins Oscar for best picture

Chariots of Fire – Vangelis

England knocked out of World Cup. Interviews with Michael Foot and Norman Tebbit on new Employment Act

Fame – Irene Cara

Musicians Union call for ban on synthesisers. Interview with Midge Ure.

Living on the Ceiling – Blancmange

Lebanon War

Save a Prayer – Duran Duran

IRA bombings in Hyde Park and Regents Park

Theme from Harry’s Game – Clannad

Princess Grace of Monaco dies after car accident. Solidarity demand release of Lech Walesa

Eye of the Tiger – Survivor

Prince William born

It Started With a Kiss – Hot Chocolate

Defence Secretary John Nott walks out of interview with Robin Day

Do You Really Want to Hurt Me? – Culture Club

Interview with Boy George. Yuri Andropov becomes head of state of Soviet Union following death of Leonid Brezhnev

Young Guns Go For It – Wham!

In Britain 1982 is remembered as the year of the Falklands War, Pope John Paul II’s visit to Britain, and the birth of Prince William (the only royal birth in the series). In fact most of the news stories are British stories. The 1955 and 1964 programmes included the start of ITV and BBC2, so it’s surprising that the 1982 programme didn’t include the launch of Channel 4.

1982-83 was when what most people think of eighties style really came in. The pop music scene was once again moving from rock to pop with the arrival of groups such as Culture Clubs and Wham. Blancmange were a forerunner of the indie groups of the later eighties, and Dexys Midnight Runners provided the summer’s biggest hit.

Incidentally the version of the theme from Fame which got to number one in 1982, and the version featured in this programme, is Irene Cara’s recording from the original 1980 film, and not the one used in the 1982 tv series. Although Irene Cara’s version was released as a result of the hit tv series.


New Year’s Day – U2

Speech by Ronald Reagan. Cruise missiles housed at Greenham Common Airbase. Speech by Margaret Thatcher.

War Baby – Tom Robinson

Ronald Reagan announces. Strategic Defence Initiative. Space Shuttle Challenger begins six day mission. Interview with America’s first space woman, Sally Ride.

Every Breath You Take – the Police

Stephen Warldorf shot and injured by police after being mistaken for criminal David Martin

Is There Something I Should Know – Duran Duran

Margaret Thatcher calls general election. Interview with Michael Foot. David Owen and Francis Pym on Any Questions. Conservatives win election by a landslide. Robin Day interviews Margaret Thatcher.

I’m Still Standing – Elton John

Michael Foot resigns as Labour leader. Interview with Neil Kinnock. Owen Edwards declares Neil Kinnock elected as new Labour leader.

All Night Long – Lionel Richie

Jonathan King reviews Michael Jackson’s performance at Tamla Motown concert

Bille Jean – Michael Jackson

Stern magazine publishes Hitler Diaries, which later turn out to be a hoax

True – Spandau Ballet

American troops invade Grenada following military coup

Undercover of the Night – the Rolling Stones

Korean Air Lines plane shot down over Soviet Union

Blue Monday – New Order

Cecil Parkinson resigns from cabinet when his secretary, Sarah Keays, reveals she is pregnant with his child

Wherever I Lay My Hat – Paul Young

Britain has hottest July of the century

Red Red Wine – UB40

BBC launches Breakfast Time. Diana Moran “the Green Goddess” presents exercises.

Let’s Dance – David Bowie

Interview with David Bowie

China Girl – David Bowie

Prince and Princess of Wales take Prince William on tour of New Zealand

Down Under – Men at Work

Ian MacGregor appointed chairman of National Coal Board. Interviews with Ian MacGregor and Arthur Scargill.

Only You – the Flying Pickets

IRA bomb explodes outside Harrods

Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler

First compact discs go on sale

Sweet Dreams Are Made of This – the Eurythmics

Lech Walesa wins Nobel Peace Prize. Jane Torville and Christopher Dean win World Figure Skating Championships

Uptown Girl – Billy Joel

Tracey Ullman as Roz on Three of a Kind

They Don’t Know About Love – Tracey Ullman

British pop acts dominate American chart

Karma Chameleon – Culture Club

What better way to start off a look at the year 1983 than U2’s New Year’s Day? There’s a lengthy couple of minutes with no music when they look at the 1983 general election. In 1983 it was predicted that compact discs would make vinyl obsolete, but vinyl made a comeback in the twenty-first century.

The Hitler Diaries hoax was still remembered in 1985, but is largely forgotten now, so these last five editions of 30 Years of Rock are more useful now than they were when they were originally broadcast.

Since these programmes were broadcast the music has become nostalgia fodder. The last new story is about the boom in British pop music. (This was the year that saw the start of the Now That’s What I Call Music albums.) We don’t hear the Thompson Twins, Thomas Dolby or Billy Idol, but we do hear Culture Club and Duran Duran. Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet were associated with the new romantics craze, but by 1983 had gone for a more mainstream sound.

As well as the new groups acts who’d been big since the sixties and seventies, such as the Rolling Stones, Elton John and David Bowie, were still having hits, and Jonathan King’s review of Michael Jackson’s performance of Billie Jean is what 30 Years of Rock is about.

Oddly enough this is the only edition of the series in Radio 6’s repeat run to include the preview of the next programme.


Radio Ga Ga – Queen

Relax banned by the BBC. Interview with Trevor Horn.

Relax – Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Frankie Goes to Hollywood release different mixes of their records and “Frankie Says” tee-shirts. Interview with Paul Morley. Ronald Reagan inadvertently makes joke announcement

Two Tribes – Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Arthur Scargill calls miners’ strike.

When Doves Cry – Prince

Elton John marries Renate Blauel. Richard Branson launches Virgin Airlines

Like a Virgin – Madonna

Soviet Union boycotts Los Angeles Olympics. Daley Thompson wins second gold medal for decathlon. Sebastian Coe and Steve Cram win silver and gold medals. Mary Decker knocked out of 3000 metres by Zola Budd.

Hole in My Shoe – Neil (Nigel Planer)

Prince Charles reads The Old Man of Lochnagar on Jackanory. Interview with viewers.

I Fell For You – Chaka Khan

Breakdancing craze. Pete Townsend joins anti-drugs campaign

White Lines – Grandmaster and Melle Mel

John DeLorean found not guilty of drug offences. Sarah Tisdall jailed for leaking government documents to the Guardian

Careless Whisper – George Michael

WPC Yvonne Fletcher shot dead outside Libyan embassy in London. Interview with General Gadaffi.

What’s Love Got to Do With It? – Tina Turner

Marvin Gaye shot dead by his father

Free Nelson Mandela – Special AKA

Nelson Mandela has spent twenty years in prison. Desmond Tutu awarded Nobel Peace Prize. Interview with Desmond Tutu.

Your Love Is King – Sade

British Telecom becomes privatised

I Just Called To Say I Love You – Stevie Wonder

Unsuccessful attempt to get Umaru Dikko back to Nigeria

Wouldn’t It Be Good? – Nik Kershaw

Indian army invades Golden Temple in Amritsar. Indira Ghandi assassinated. Clashes between Sikhs and Hindus. Rajiv Ghandi succeeds his mother as prime minister of India.

Love Resurrection – Alison Moyet

Gas leak at pesticide factory in Bhopal.

Hello – Lionel Richie

Ronald Reagan re-elected as president

Theme from Ghostbusters – Ray Parker Junior

Striking miners clash with police. Arthur Scargill speaks out against non-striking miners. Taxi driver killed by striking miners. Margaret Thatcher condemns their action.

Everything Must Change – Paul Young

IRA bomb Brighton hotel during Conservative Party conference. Norman Tebbit injured. Interview with Margaret Thatcher.

Drive – the Cars

Michael Buerk reports of famine in Ethiopia. Bob Geldof and Midge Ure announce plans to make record in aid of famine. Interview with Bob Geldof.

Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid

Do They Know It’s Christmas? becomes all time best selling single. Various quotes from the past thirty years

One of the main stories in the last programme was the miners’ strike which was still going on in 1985. One of the main stories throughout the whole series was the Cold War, and in 1984 the Soviet Union led a boycott of the Los Angeles Olympics following the United States’ boycott of the Moscow Olympics. As well as major stories such as the assassination of Indira Ghandi and the Brighton bombing, they managed to find room for Prince Charles reading his own book on Jackanory.

The programme makers managed to pick out two new acts who would still be big many years later, Madonna and Prince. Just as the 1969 and 1977 programmes included the previously banned Je t’Amie and God Save the Queen, so the 1984 programme included the previously banned Relax. (Record label founder Paul Morley is now a well known tv presenter.) And Pete Townsend remembers some of the rock stars who died during the last thirty years.

Criminally the Smiths were ignored.

There is one more record which deserves a special mention. As with the original twenty-five part series, 30 Years of Rock ended with the last number one record of the previous year. (It’s tempting to think that Radio 1 decided to do the updated series because of this record.) The last news story in 25 Years of Rock was the Ayatollah banning western pop music, but the thirty part series ends on a more positive note, with pop music being used for some good.

The last news story is Michael Buerk’s report of the Ethiopian famine which prompted Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to write Do They Know It’s Christmas? and form Band Aid. Band Aid led onto Live Aid, and in fact 30 Years of Rock had to come off the air for one week to make way for Live Aid. (The inclusion of Drive by the Cars suggests that the programme was completed after Live Aid.)

30 Years of Rock ends with the best selling British single with everyone on it, and they couldn’t have had a better place to end on.

band aid

2 thoughts on “30 Years of Rock – 1980 – 1984

  1. Three records that should have been included in the 1980 programme were Antmusic (they didn’t do Adam and the Ants justice), To Cut a Long Story Short (Spandau Ballet’s best single by a long way), and Oops Upside Your Head by the Gap Band. The last of these wasn’t a record that I particularly like, but it was a big dance craze at the time, and it’s still popular.


  2. And speaking of history repeating itself. I’ve just learned that seven MPs have resigned from the Labour Party to form a breakaway group.


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