My 80s Playlist: T’Pau’s Carol Decker chooses her favourite 80s songs from Blondie to Dire Straits

Virgin Radio

18 Nov 2022, 15:30

Steve Denyer with Carol Decker

T’Pau singer Carol Decker is an 80s legend in her own right, but what are her favourite songs of the decade?

Finding international success with hits like China In Your Hand, Heart and Soul and Valentine, T’Pau were a staple of the era, releasing a number one album and three records in total during the time. 

Carol had some solo success in the 1990s, but continues to tour with T’Pau to this day. They even hit the road for a 25th anniversary tour in 2013 with original bandmate Ronnie Rogers. 

This week, Carol sat down with Virgin Radio 80s Plus presenter Steve Denyer to go through her ultimate 80s playlist, and as expected, there are some undeniable classics, and some forgotten gems too. 

Mirror in the Bathroom - The Beat

Punk band The Beat brought out their ska hit, Mirror in the Bathroom, in 1980, direct from their debut album, I Just Can’t Stop It. 

It reached number four in the singles chart, and is often regarded as one of the best rock tracks of the decade. 

For Carol, Mirror In The Bathroom is all about nostalgia. She explained: “You said pick songs that resonated with me in the 80s and so I was at art school.  It was in the very early 80s and Ska was huge then, absolutely huge. The Beat, and this song comes from The Beat were one of the most successful bands. I love Dave Wakeling’s voice. I absolutely loved it. And I love the fact that [Ranking] Roger always had his shirt off.”

When asked how it makes her feel all these years later, Carol added: “Young again, back at art school, carefree I was a student you know just happy, happy days.

Irene - The Photos 

New Wave band The Photos, led by Wendy Wu, released Irene in 1980, and were often compared to another female-fronted punk band in the same era - Blondie. 

“I kind of got that,” Carol admitted. “I've read that they weren't very happy about that. Because everybody likes to be an individual, don't they? If I could be compared to Blondie, I'd kill for it. I was very fascinated by women that fronted bands. I thought Wendy was fantastic. I loved her voice, this is a really punchy, early 80s sort of indie pop song and it's Irene.”

Talk Of The Town - The Pretenders 

Inspired by the London nightclub scene, Chrissie Hynde and her band, The Pretenders had a top ten single in 1981 with Talk Of The Town. 

Carol’s admiration for Chrissie comes from not just her voice, but also her style. 

The singer elaborated: “I chose The Pretenders because again, huge admiration for Chrissie and she's a girlboss which I love. Amazing voice, I love her voice and I loved her guitar playing. I loved her tomboy style, which I really identified with. I feel more comfortable than you know the leather pants and bomber boots and I really loved the way she looked.”

Atomic - Blondie

1980’s rock banger Atomic by Blondie came from their fourth studio album, Eat To The Beat, and quickly became the band’s third number one in the UK. 

As most artists of the Blondie generation and beyond, Carol described front woman Debbie Harry as an inspiration, with her striking look and unique vocals. 

She shared: “They crossed that kind of pop, rock and even into disco, you know, with some of this stuff like Rapture and the track that I've picked as well. I just love the way she looked and how individual she was. She's just a massive source of inspiration, I think to many. 

“I guess you don't even have to be a girl. Just somebody who just wants an inspirational front person for a band. She's just, epically cool. I can't even use the word I want to describe her with effing cool.”

Tunnel of Love - Dire Straits

1981 classic, Tunnel of Love, by Dire Straits, appeared in the third album from the prog-rockers, and was also featured in Richard Gere’s 1982 hit film, An Officer and a Gentleman. 

Dire Straits are somewhat of a guilty pleasure for Carol, who admitted she feels the band suffered a lot of the same critique as T’Pau did for being a “poppy, glossy” production. 

On her experience with the song, she said: “I bought the album and I think Mark Knopfler is one of the most brilliant guitarists ever. And this song is beautiful. The outro lead break is just epic. I was like, going to all the cool gigs and curling my lip and trying to be cool and everything but secretly at home I was playing Dire Straits and absolutely loved it. I love them.”

White Wedding - Billy Idol 

One of the most recognisable songs from Billy Idol, White Wedding was released in 1982, and reached number six in the UK when it was re-released in 1986.

It’s a particularly special one for Carol, who walked down the aisle to the punk rock tune. 

“I love this track,” she enthused. “It was an absolutely massive hit. Then when I got married in 2006, my husband put a playlist together and my brother walked me down the aisle to White Wedding. 

“I assume he's being ironic, but we just loved it. My husband loved the song. We were both big fans, and we thought it was perfect.”

Drive - The Cars 

Drive, by The Cars, featured on their fifth album, Heartbeat City, and became their highest charting single around the world. 

It also found a home at 1985 Live Aid event, where it was performed by bassist Benjamin Orr at the Philadelphia event, and then used over a montage of the Ethiopian famine during the equivalent event in London. 

It’s another one that has stuck with Carol, who said: “[It] was used for Live Aid, which was so emotive. Yeah, and so beautiful.”

Run To You - Bryan Adams

Released in 1984, Run To You was the lead single from Bryan Adams’ fourth album, Reckless. The track landed in the UK charts at number 11, and made it to the top of the US Rock Tracks list.

For Carol, the tune comes with some great memories of touring with Bryan. 

She shared: “Apart from being a fan and the song that I chose, it's just an epic song. I loved listening to it when he recorded it again. One of the biggest breaks of my career was being selected to power his opening act to be on the Into The Fire tour around Europe.

“It was absolutely amazing. I learnt a lot from him and his band. He was so generous with their time with us. They mentored us a lot.”

Wouldn’t It Be Good - Nik Kershaw

Singer-songwriter Nik Kershaw released Wouldn’t It Be Good as the second single from his debut album, Human Racing.

It landed at number two in the UK, becoming his highest-charting single to date, and the track brings back even more touring memories for Carol. 

“Before I was with Bryan Adams on tour, the first big break of our career was to be selected to be Nick Kershaw's opening act on his Radio Musicola tour,” explained Carol. 

“Nick picked us, he’s an absolute superstar at the top of his game. Another amazing…I think Harvey Goldsmiths was the promoter. Happy, happy days. It was a great feather in our cap. This is one of my favourite tracks and we have become firm friends, actual proper mates.”

Thriller - Michael Jackson 

Forty years ago, almost to the day, Michael Jackson dropped the iconic music video for Thriller, changing the music industry forever. 

Carol was one of countless people who dropped everything to watch the music video and reminisced about watching the game-changing mini-movie. 

“So the reason I picked this song, it was the premiere of the video… we were all at the blew your mind! The choreography, the makeup… it was a movie. It wasn't a pop video, it was a movie so for me again it's another I'll never forget where I was the first time I saw that. 

“Quincy Jones’ production is still sounds so fresh, even today. It was just everything came together perfectly. He was amazing. The dancing, the filming, the production, it was perfect. In a big moment in all our young lives.”

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