Music has a lot of emotional power, and the 1980s was a decade that produced some incredible music. Trinity College Public Face Graham Kelly unearths some hidden gems.

We most all have hobbies or interests that we can rely on to help put us back in a better mood when we’re feeling down, and for me music is something that can kind of help transport me to a bit of a different world when I want to get out of my own head. Music from the 1980s has a certain charm about it that other decades often simply can’t match, and for a sizable portion of the student population, I’d wager there’s been many a late-night existential surf across YouTube or Spotify, nostalgic for a decade we haven’t actually lived through. 

Wouldn’t you just love to be out on a yacht now, with some classic rock background music, sipping on cold, probably-alcoholic beverages with your friends, soaking up the sun like some kind of solar sponge, just off the California coast? Or what about driving to school in your muscle car for American football, or band practice, like you’re bang out of The Breakfast Club

“You might have long hair and a passion for hairspray, glasses with thick rims, or a guitar, but only these albums will make you from the 1980s.”

So, you’re a student, in Dublin. Realistically, you don’t have a private jet, to go flying off into the sunset in, nor any particular reason to imagine yourself selling out a large New York City-based stadium any time soon. You might have long hair and a passion for hairspray, glasses with thick rims, or a guitar, but that in itself does not make you from the 1980s. Listen to these albums, though, and you will suddenly find yourself deleting Spotify in favour of MTV. 

(Note: this list comes from my own personal taste in music, and are albums which I think in full contain a lot of very good songs and not very many bad ones, and therefore, should be rated higher. Of course, music taste is very subjective, so if you disagree, then the author considers your opinion wrong).

An Innocent Man – Billy Joel

An Innocent Man, released in 1983, falls perhaps in the shadow of his later work 1989’s Storm Front, but the former contains more empirically-confirmed Solid Bangers. These include ‘The Longest Time’, one of my personal favorites ‘Tell Her About It’ (love a good fast jazzy song, I do) and the Dancefloor-Filler royalty, ‘Uptown Girl’. This album exudes a New York-upbeat-jazzy charm, and is well worth a listen. 


IV – Toto

‘Africa’ by Toto. That’s on this album. So pat yourself on the back, you know one of the songs, do you want a medal? Well let me tell you that you’ll have a delve much further into this album to find true class, sweetie. An album, (released in 1982) in which every single song is incredibly listenable (and perhaps, actually fairly recognisable), I would advise the discerning listener to simply listen to the entire album through, and be swept away in the catchy, anthemic songs. Highlights on this musical voyage through good music taste include ‘Rosanna’, ‘Afraid Of Love’ and ‘Lovers in the Night’, although honestly every song is just as good as the last. 


Making Movies – Dire Straits

My plans to actually include another Dire Straits album, Communiqué, in this list were scuppered by my discovery that it was actually released in 1979. Luckily, Making Movies – released in 1980 – just sneaks in. The album admittedly steadily gets worse as it goes on, but that’s coming from a very high bar. It’s only got seven songs in the first place which anyone’s attention span should be able to handle, and the first four are so good that it ranks as one of my all time favourite albums. The British band Dire Straits were often characterised by their flowing, meditative guitar instrumentals, accompanying strong narratives in the lyrics. The ornate guitar solos and the rich lyricism (which makes the heart of this English undergraduate sing) make this album a real jewel. The best songs include ‘Romeo and Juliet’, ‘Tunnel of Love’, and ‘Skateaway’ (a song in which you can just completely get lost, it’s in its own world). 

These albums are just a few which I’ve been listening to recently, and I hope you look one or two of them up and find some music you’re into! I find that listening to music quietly really helps me to concentrate when I’m studying, and it can really help raise my mood when I’m feeling a bit down – that’s definite ‘Uptown Girl’ territory, I must say. If you’re ever feeling down, don’t forget you can give NiteLine a call – either by phone or over Instant Messaging on our website – and a volunteer (a student, like you and me), will be there to provide a listening ear! In the meantime, have fun bopping along to some of these classic 80s songs 🙂 

Graham joined NiteLine in 2019, and is NiteLine Public Face for Trinity College Dublin. His undergraduate was in English and he is currently studying a masters in Management.