40 photos that prove the 80s were the best decade

Set your calculator watches for 1980 and join us on a trip deep into the BBC’s picture archives – the realms of Top of the Pops, Saturday Superstore and many a striking photoshoot.

This was the era of voguish shoulderpads, voluminous hairstyles and smouldering stares, all heralding a daring new streak of ostentation. For the fans, it was a gift of dress-up glamour that brought escape from the humdrum. Embracing the rapid rise of a new electronic era, it played with the concept of the high gloss, semi-synthetic human.

Those who rode the crest of the New Wave, glittered in the discotheques or found love with the New Romantics – we salute you.

Kelly Marie

Spandex – check. Lipgloss – check. Here’s Scottish singer Kelly Marie, who scored a No.1 hit in 1980 with disco track Feels Like I’m In Love. Hear it on Sara Cox’s Sounds of the 80s playlist.

Toto Coelo

Kaleidoscopic quintet Toto Coelo savaged the charts in 1982 with I Eat Cannibals, a love-hungry number (sample lyric: “Intake, home bake, you’re the icing on the cake / Full up, can’t stop, dicing on a chop chop”) that would sadly prove to be their only hit.

Central Line

This distinctive disco-funk combo went by the name Central Line, and that magnificent instrument by the name “the serpent” – a distant relative of the tuba. Hear them on Craig Charles’ The Funk & Soul Years – 1981.


After depleting global stocks of hairspray, Leighton Buzzard boys Kajagoogoo strike a pose in the Top of the Pops studio, 1983. Too Shy, the band’s biggest hit, features on our TOTP: The Story of 1983 playlist.

Break Machine

The sweatband – perhaps the definitive item of 80s headwear. Here it’s sported in style by US rap trio Break Machine, pictured backstage on Top of the Pops, 1984. Hear them on Sara Cox’s Sound of the 80s playlist.

Dolly Dots

Although never big in the UK, Dutch girl group Dolly Dots enjoyed such success across Europe that they even had a TV series and film (Dutch Treat) to their name. Fact fans: Anita Heilker (front middle) is the voice of the Dutch Donald Duck.


They said It Ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It), and Bananarama have been doing it since 1979, albeit with a couple of line-up shuffles. Here they’re pictured in 1985 on the Kenny Everett Television Show, shortly before Venus went No.1 worldwide. Find out more about their recent reunion.


Acid house outfit S’Express perform Mantra for a State of Mind on Top of the Pops in 1989. Can you guess why they appear in our 10 strange quirks in pop songs you won’t be able to unhear?


Just look at those cheekbones. Post-punk quartet Bauhaus, pictured here in 1983, can be heard on Stuart Maconie’s magnificent Freaky Tracks To Hear Before You Die playlist.