Fame was a film directed by Alan Parker, a serious auteur (some would say overly serious, especially in light of the work that came later) who designed the film for posterity, and the same attitude carried over the music. Yes, the production techniques often do sound dated – the over-reliance on state-of-the-art synthesizer ironically now sounds helplessly tied to the year of its creation – but the music by Michael Gore is dynamic, varied, and alive, sung with real passion and vigor, and it still retains its essential spark 23 years after it was a pop culture phenomenon. Sure, it's glitzy and glossy, sounding like show tunes, but that's the tradition of this music, and it was done better than most Broadway tunes and movie soundtracks of the '80s. Years later, this still has the spark and vitality of kids trying to make their big break, no matter the kind of music they're singing, and that's one of the main reasons (along with Gore's fine compositions) Fame retains its power and entertainment value years later.
After the debacle that was the making of 1982's Groovy Decay, Robyn Hitchcock briefly retired from music, and when he returned it was with an album that offered a thoroughly uncompromised vision of Hitchcock's imagination. Released in 1984, I Often Dream of Trains was a primarily acoustic set with Hitchcock handling nearly all the instruments and vocals by himself; the tone is spare compared to the full-on rock & roll of his recordings with the Soft Boys or his solo debut, Black Snake Diamond Role, but the curious beauty of Hitchcock's melodies is every bit as striking in these stripped-down sessions, and the surreal imagery of "Flavour of Night," "Trams of Old London," and the title song comes to vivid and enchanting life. Hitchcock's off-kilter wit has rarely been as effective as it is on this album; the jaunty harmonies of "Uncorrected Personality Traits" are the ideal complement for the song's psychobabble, "Sounds Great When You're Dead" manages to be funny and a bit disturbing at once, and the drunken campfire singalong of "Ye Sleeping Knights of Jesus" was joyously sloppy enough to inspire a cover by the Replacements.
With four successful albums behind them in nearly as many years, and despite the fact that they were in the beginning throes of the bitter end of the band, Heatwave brought their fifth album, Current, to bear in 1982 and scored another Top 30 U.S. hit to boot. With producer Barry Blue again at the helm and with another clutch of Rod Temperton-penned songs behind their substantial R&B chops, Heatwave was able to add one final feather to a cap that history continues to seriously underrate.