My 80s Playlist: Su Pollard chooses her favourite 80s songs from The Knack to Madonna

Virgin Radio

10 Mar 2023, 10:45

Su Pollard with Steve Deyner at Virgin Radio studios

Actress and singer Su Pollard became the icon we know and love today after becoming a household name in 80s sitcom Hi-de-Hi! 

She starred in the hilarious series for its entire run, and kept audiences captivated on stage too, having appeared in over 35 stage plays and over 40 pantomimes. 

Not only that, but Su had her own chart success with Starting Together in 1986, and released debut album, Su, in 1986. 

All this week on Virgin Radio 80s Plus, Su has been giving out her top 80s hits on My 80s Playlist with host Steve Denyer, and she included hits from the likes of Madonna, The Knack and George Michael. 

Tracey Ullman - They Don’t Know

Singer and comedian Tracey Ullman made a success out of Kirsty MacColl’s They Don’t Know in 1983. 

It reached number two in the UK and was part of her debut album, You Broke My Heart in 17 Places. 

Su worked with Tracey had worked with the Tracey Ullman Show star on the West End in Grease, and recalled to 80s host Steve: “The first day of rehearsal, there was Tracey. I’d seen her around at auditions, like you always do, they drag the same people out for the same things. So that's how we met and we worked together.

“Afterwards, we went on tour. So we worked together quite well. We had some fun together and then we kept in touch. Then it was great because this was when I was living in Finsbury Park…I think it reminds me because she phoned me up and she said, ‘Sue, you'll never guess what? I've been offered this audition to go and do something like Good Morning America in New York.’ Then of course, she ended up doing The Tracey Ullman Show in LA.”

The Knack - My Sharona

LA rock back The Knack came out of the gate swinging with their 1979 debut single My Sharona. 

Inspired by lead singer Doug Fieger’s crush on one Sharona Alperin, the single became their breakout hit, and it’s said that the rock and roll track inspired Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson to make Beat It. 

Even with all the prestige, for Su, My Sharona is just a perfect track to dance to. She said: “It's just like Peter Kay, in that sketch he did when you go to a party, and there's your uncle dancing on the way to the dance role before you actually got to the real beat. I was the old uncle. Every time it comes on now, to me it's iconic. It's the perfect tune for the start of a fabulous, not necessarily rock and roller, wonder what you call it? It's not really rock and roll, it's pop.”

Michael Jackson - Billie Jean

1983 single Billie Jean is potentially one of the biggest tracks Michael Jackson released in the era, and helped his album, Thriller, to become the best-selling album of all time. 

From the beat, to the music video and the moonwalk, Billie Jean was instrumental in cementing Jackson’s status as a pop icon, and that’s a sentiment shared by Su.

“Michael Jackson, I just think, is the epitome of a very, very good vocalist,” she explained.  “He was inventive. He was really…when you take away the equalisation that they use now sometimes, to make sure their note is perfect. They didn't have that then or if they did it was just starting in the music industry. So you know the fact that he was a perfectionist. He also made his videos really vital. They were fantastic to look at and there's certain things in any record that you still listen out for, like a great chorus.”

Wham! - Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go

Wham’s 1984 single, Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, became the duo’s first UK and US number single, and often finds itself on the best-of lists from the decade. 

The lyrics were reportedly inspired by George Michael’s bandmate Andrew Ridgeley and a note he wrote for his parents, in which he accidentally wrote another ‘go’. 

The Wham! classic brings up a lot of good memories for Su, who added: “That's another fantastic tune to it. Straight away, it's inviting you to the party. I first heard this. I believe it was that Heaven nightclub. Wow. It was just fantastic."

George Michael - Faith

Speaking of George, he had a runaway hit with 1987’s Faith, taken from his debut album of the same name. 

It almost never made it out as a single, but the late singer decided to extend the now infamous track with a guitar solo. 

“It's another fabulous whammy of a song," Su said. "He's a great singer, the lyrics were terrific. Everything about it was just a great pop song. I love the fact that this is just slightly going off the fact that I really admired him and liked him because he was true to himself. He didn't kind of push it down anyone's throat about what he wanted for himself in life.

Culture Club - Karma Chameleon

Part of their 1983 album Colour by Numbers, Culture Club had a number one hit on their hands with Karma Chameleon. 

It became the UK’s biggest selling single of that year, and put Boy George and the gang on the pop map forever. 

Boy George’s head-turning look in the day and his impact, gives him the title ‘icon’, according to Su, who added: “That look I think was the very start of people being encouraged to have their own look, be innovative, if you want to put different materials together, if you want to look like that…

“He was so handsome and I loved his makeup. I just thought he wasn't afraid…he did a great service to the music industry. The video was still marvellous is still, he's still beautifully thought of now still making music.”

Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson - I Know Him So Well

1984’s I Know Him So Well, sung by Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson, was part of the concept album by Tim Rice and ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus.

Also part of the musical Chess, the song focuses on two women, a Russian chess champion’s estranged wife and his mistress, as they come to terms with their feelings for him. 

Despite being a fictional love story, it was always on the mark for Su, who explained: “They sang it absolutely brilliantly, note for note. Nobody was out of sync, either of them. They knew their stuff. That was probably one take. They both knew this chap. One was married to him, one was his mistress. Let's face it. It still goes on now.”

Kenny Loggins - Footloose

Movie theme tunes really did hit in a different way in the 80s, and one perfect example of this was Footloose by Kenny Loggins. 

Released in 1984 for the film of the same name, it became Kenny's only US number one, and almost took home the Oscar for Best Original Song. 

“It has the most fantastic introduction,” Su shared. “The whole way through is fabulous, joyful. There was some dancing. I love the video. I just love the idea that in the film you see the characters, the mums and dads had never seen anything like this… you're going to get all sorts of music now as well.”

Rick Astley - Never Gonna Give You Up

It would be a struggle to think of the 80s musical landscape without including Rick Astley’s debut single, Never Gonna Give You Up. 

Released in 1987, the chart topper was written and produced by Stock Aitken and Waterman, and became Astley’s signature track throughout his career. 

Su had some very sage advice with her review, telling host Steve: “What a beautiful, rich voice. But you know what it was? It was the verse, the verses were so terrific. ‘I'm never going to do anything to hurt you, I'm always going to love you. I promise you that you can rely on me really.’ You don't hear that a lot from a lot of guys, and when you do, guys out there, please understand that these lyrics, if a woman or a bloke loves you, never take that for granted.”

Madonna - Like A Virgin 

Finally, Madonna’s 1984 single Like A Virgin was just the start of the fledgling superstar’s ability to push the boundaries of sexuality and femininity. It also paid off, with the single landing at number one in the US, Canada and Australia.

For Su, Madge will always be a legend, no matter that she does, adding: “I think what she has got, she's still got the talent. She's got the absolute will to work, she can foresee things, she actually is a visionary that can say, ‘no, no, I need this sort of background, I need to have this.’ I think she directs her own videos, or she certainly has a great input, and she's also got a terrific fan base.”

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.