"In 1983 the dancing scene of New York's working class teenagers is more alive and thriving than ever. But the style of the soundtrack and the style of the kids have changed dramatically ...The sound of the street currently in vogue dates back to the popularity of Kraftwerk in the dance clubs. That led to 'Planet Rock', which fused electronics and rap, and electronics became the beat of the street." - Richard Grabel, Burn This Disco Out, NME, May 21, 1983


Meanwhile in America...by 1983 disco was dead. In name anyway. But people still wanted to dance. In New York clubs like Funhouse and Danceteria and here too, in Stirling student discos like The Grange.

I wanted to dance. I couldn't dance, but put the needle on the record and I'd try.

In 1983 I'd cut my hair short and spiky, started wearing stonewashed jeans and a grey overcoat the girl bought me from Flip in Glasgow.

I was obsessed by two songs that year. The awkward, novelistic beauty of Cattle and Cane, by Australian band The Go-Betweens, ("I recall a schoolboy coming home/through fields of cane/to a house of tin and timber/and in the sky/a rain of falling cinders) and the giddying rush of Johnny Marr's guitar as it opens This Charming Man and that first line ("Punctured Bicycle on a hillside desolate") which electrified the bookish boy I was.

The latter would start an obsession with the band that would dominate my listening for the next four years (as might become apparent in the weeks ahead).

That year - April 13 - New Order played Stirling University. I went to see them play. They opened with Blue Monday, released the month before and the clearest sign yet that they had moved on from Joy Division. The sound of a band who had been spending their nights in those New York dance clubs. I didn't like it. I still don't really like it. In the same way I didn't like Confusion, the track they recorded with New York producer Arthur Baker that year. Maybe like is not the right word. Both of them have an appeal. Clipped and stripped, there's a stark, monotone feel to both. And they pointed the way ahead for the band and for eighties music in the way they fused white boy rock with black boy moves.

Yet neither thrilled me the way Baker's Walking on Sunshine had thrilled me the year before. Neither thrilled me the way Shannon's Let the Music Play thrilled me.

In the eighties music evolved on the dancefloor. It was there that all the different energies of the time crossbred and fused together. Hip hop, electro, later techno were a constant back-and-forth of influence and sound (later that cross-fertilisation would become even more concrete as sampling took hold). And new microgenres spun off, sometimes on a weekly basis.

"In the New York of the early 80s," David Toop wrote in Wire magazine in 1996, "Latin HipHop, or freestyle, evolved from Electro, an orgy of computer game dubbing and vocoder voices which reached dizzy heights of future-tack with the Jonzun Crew, Warp 9, Hashim and The Egyptian Lover. Discarded by rappers, Electro was turned into pop music by Latin HipHoppers - Babie & Keyes, Amoretto, Shannon - and then dubbed to smithereens."

Let the Music Play by Shannon is one of the first Freestyle tracks. Later Freestyle records would make their Latin origins more explicit but you could still hear it on this track. "Let the Music Play's electro-woodblock-and-cowbell percussion and kick-drum/snare-drum interaction sounded like a cross between Gary Numan and Tito Puente," disco historian Peter Shapiro writes in his book Turn the Beat Around.

Originally a mobile DJ from the Bronx, in 1983 the record's producer Chris Barbosa bought a Roland JX-3P and TB-303 (which would become the distinctive sound of acid house a few years later) with money given to him by his grandmother.

Working with Mark Liggett, he added Latin rhythms to the electro blueprint established by DJ/producers like Baker and John Robie. They came across a college student called Brenda Shan¬non Greene and invited her to sing on the track, then titled Fire and Ice. They then paired her vocal on the chorus with a white session vocalist Jimi Tunnell.

The sound that resulted is very early eighties, I guess. But at the time it seemed hard and fresh and new.

It made me want to dance. It still does.

Other Contenders

This Charming Man, The Smiths

Cattle and Cane, The Go-Betweens

Last Night a DJ Save My Life, Indeep

Love is a Stranger, Eurythmics

Billie Jean, Michael Jackson

Little Red Corvette, Prince

Just Be Good to Me, The S.O.S. Band

Tour De France, Kraftwerk

Coup, 23 Skidoo

Don't Talk to Me About Love, Altered Images

White Lines (Don't Do It), Grandmaster and Melle Mel

Song to the Siren, This Mortal Coil

Everything Counts, Depeche Mode

A New England, Billy Bragg

Kiss Off, Violent Femmes

China Girl, David Bowie

Relax, Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Every Day I Write the Book, Elvis Costello

Just Fascination, Cabaret Voltaire

Walk Out to Winter, Aztec Camera

Never Stop, Echo and the Bunnymen

Pills and Soap, The Imposter

Long Hot Summer, Style Council

IOU, Linx

The Crown, Gary Bird

Rockit, Herbie Hancock

Soul Inside, Soft Cell

Rip It Up, Orange Juice

A New England, Billy Bragg

They Don't Know, Tracey Ullman

Breakdown, Clock DVA

Honey at the Core, Friends Again

In the Neighbourhood, Tom Waits

The NME's single of the year: Billie Jean, Michael Jackson

John Peel's Festive 50 winner: Blue Monday, New Order

And the best-selling single of 1983 was Karma Chameleon, Culture Club