Released today in 1982: Mirror Man

Virgin VS522

Virgin VS522

It takes years of hard work to become overnight success, or so they say. The Human League, for example, had been going for five years when they won the award for Best British Newcomer, also known as Best British Breakthrough Act, at the first annual BPI Awards (now The BRITS) in February 1982. The Human League had had hits in 1980, albeit minor ones, and had released their first LP the year before, so were not really new faces. However, there had been changes in personnel and musical direction for the group before they started to have Top 10 singles in 1981, the year that provided the justification for the BPI award.

‘Breakthrough’, then, is a better description for the category. It’s particularly appropriate in the case of the 1990 winner, Lisa Stansfield, who was being recognized for her first hits in the final year of the 1980s. Stansfield, an artist often associated primarily with the 90s, had been working in the music industry throughout the 80s, despite her young age at the start of the decade. She won a talent contest sponsored by the Manchester Evening News called ‘Search For A Star’ in 1980 and released her first single, aged 15, in early 1982. A handful of singles and a couple of years later, she started to front a band called Blue Zone, whose album Big Thing appeared in November 1988 after many delays (confusingly, just a couple of weeks after Duran Duran released an identically titled collection). The following year, she provided guest vocals on a couple of singles for Coldcut. They were her first hits (Blue Zone having come close a couple of times, but never quite making it) and so it was reasonable to say that this was the year of her ‘breakthrough’. The hits paved the way for her debut solo album Affection, released in the last few weeks of the 80s, which went on to sell over a million copies.

Another singer serving a long apprenticeship before receiving his ‘newcomer’ award was Paul Young, who won in 1984. The twelve months prior to the award ceremony at the end of February 1984 had seen his first hits as a solo artist, after years fronting bands like Q-Tips. He launched his solo career in 1982, the same year that two groups who were also winners in this category at the BPI awards were formed: Go West in 1986 and Wet Wet Wet in 1988. The other winners during the 1980s were Yazoo (formed in the late 1981, won in February 1983), Frankie Goes To Hollywood (probably formed around 1980, won in 1985), The Housemartins (established late ’83, won ’87) and Bros (discovered circa 1986, won 1989.)

NEW SINGLES on sale from Nov. 12
1980
ORANGE JUICE (Edwyn Collins) Simply Thrilled Honey (Postcard 80-6)
1982
JAPAN Nightporter (Virgin VS554)
The HUMAN LEAGUE Mirror Man (Virgin VS522)

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