The idea is stolen wholesale from Mark Radcliffe’s Reelin’ in the Years which I finished last week (I’ve since also polished off Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray if you’re interested).
Having committed myself to the enterprise with 1980, it would probably make some sense to slouch towards 1981.
It must have been a pretty dismal time being a music fan in 1981. To be honest I’m glad I was only one at the time. At least that way I had toy blocks and the joy of slotting shapes into holes to divert my attention from ‘The Birdy Song’, ‘Shaddup Your Face’ and ‘In the Air Tonight’.
Had I been 21, 31 or 41 at the time I would, most likely have had very different ideas.
So, when it comes to choosing a year defining song for 1981, the choice is very, very difficult. I was too young to appreciate anything in particular, but there doesn’t seem to be much to have appreciated anyway.
Despite all of that, there is one song that does grab the attention from the second year of the 80s. Tom Tom Club’s ‘Wordy Rappinghood’ blusters around with plenty of energy, toying with its own gimmickiness but knowing enough to ensure it doesn’t drown in its own contrived novelty.
Opening with the evocative clatter of typewriter keys before lunging into that squelchy bassline and building towards those vocals and those lyrics for which the words kooky and quirky surely had to be invented, it’s a triumph for the medium and the message.
And that’s all the more impressive when you bear in mind that the medium in this case is a fairly primitive form of rap as performed by middle-class white Americans.