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Andy Sullivan: Against the Grain

Everyone knows about the British Invasion of the ‘60’s: The Beatles, Dave Clark Five, etc.  You might not know this: there was a second British Invasion.  In the 1980’s, there were loads of British bands on pop radio. The AXS Top 10 show I watch regularly ranked the top 10 on a recent episode.   First up is Tears For Fears.

Tears For Fears formed in 1981 after the breakup of their first band called Graduate.  The re-formed band found their rhythm with the release of their second album in 1985 called Songs from The Big Chair in 1985.  The band called it quits in 1991 but reconciled in 2000 and went on tour.

Coming in at #9 is Wham/George Michael.  Little-known fact: “Careless Whisper” is a George Michael song.  However, it was released within a Wham album, leading many to think it was the duo’s song.  There was no denying, however, that the song was George’s.  This was the first song George wrote and produced himself.  Wham called it quits in 1986 after three albums of hits.  

Coming in at #8 is Dire Straits.  Lots of British music in those days of the second British Invasion were electronic based.  Dire Straits were straight-up Rock & Roll.  They cared more about the music than looks.  Lead singer and guitarist Mark Knopfler hated making music videos.  Their 1985 album Brothers In Arms, which included their smash “Money For Nothing” is the 8th biggest selling album of all time in the U.K.  Formed in 1977, the band certainly wouldn’t follow MTV’s trends, as their blend of country, folk and rock produced a standout sound and quality songs.

Ranking #7 is Culture Club.  Like Tears For Fears, Culture Club formed in London in 1981.  The band became leaders of the New Romantic movement with songs such as “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me”.  They were a major part of the second British Invasion.  And much like Wham with George Michael, Culture Club’s lead singer, Boy George, would go solo.

Coming in at #6 is Def Leppard.  This band already had three successful albums under its belt when they released the wildly successful Pyromania album on January 20, 1983.  The album was produced by the legendary Robert John “Mutt” Lange, ex0husband of Shania Twain.  

Coming in at #5 is the late, great Robert Palmer.  Lots of people my age were introduced to Palmer via his classic videos to hits “Addicted To Love”.  It was so important in that day and age to have eye-catching videos.  Palmer had plenty of those.  They’re still imitated to this day.  Remember Shania’s “Man! I Feel Like A Woman”? Total imitation of “Simply Irresistible”.  However, a video will only get you so far.  He had great songs.  “Simply Irresistible” and “Addicted To Love” are everyone’s go-to.  I would also recommend some of his stuff from the 1970’s: 1977’s “Every Kinda People”, 1973’s “Sneaking Sally Through The Alley” and 1978’s “Can We Still Be Friends” are just a few early ones to get you started.

Coming in at #4 is Depeche Mode.  Their hit “Personal Jesus” was so cool that even the late, great Johnny Cash covered the song.  When Depeche Mode started in 1980, they had a different songwriter and sound than today.  Vince Clark was the leader of the band when they started.  Clark wrote upbeat pop synthesizer hits such as “Just Can’t Get Enough”.  Clark soon left the group, leaving room for other band members to show off their songwriting skills.  

Coming in at #3 is Duran Duran.  This band fully embraced the music video landscape of the 1980’s.  They owned MTV for a period.  These guys were everywhere! That’s how popular they were.  The band was dismissed for being “too pop”.  Clearly opinions softened, as the band was recently inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

If you put punk, pop, reggae and jazz in a blender, the result would be our #2 Brit group, The Police.  From “Roxanne” to “Message In A Bottle” to “Every Breath You Take”, it seemed like every song was a different style.  That’s why they lasted as long as they did.  The fact that this dynamite music was coming from a trio was incredible.  Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Sumner were each incredible performers in their own right.  Put them together and you got magic.  As classic as their songs are, would you believe that “Every Breath You Take” is their only #1? I couldn’t believe it, either.  It’s true.

That leads us to our #1 artist in the second British Invasion: William Albert Brode.  You and I know him better as Billy Idol.  His stage name is inspired by a teacher who described him as idle.  He liked the word but didn’t want his last name to be the same as Eric Idle of Monty Python so he changed the spelling to “Idol”.  Billy Idol was born.  Billy Idol would go onto have hits with a cover of Tommy James’ ‘60’s hit “Mony Mony” as well as his own like “White Wedding”, “Dancing With Myself”(which was recently covered by Maren Morris) and “Rebel Yell” are just a few of his hits.  

I hope you’ve enjoyed this countdown of modern British Invasion bands.  Below are the links to my podcast, Blendertainment. 


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