I cannot believe how enjoyable this countdown has been for me. Usually when I tackle a countdown, I begin my research a couple months in advance. I pull out my old albums. I listen to CDs. I even, against my growing disdain for the format, listen to music on my computer and iPod. And, lately, I have been using a streaming service in order to find obscure music. Still, I prefer my music in the physical form. I guess, according to researchers on such topics, that preference for an album on vinyl or CD points to the fact that I am getting old, since older folk prefer their music on physical means.
But, I started my modest collection when I was in grade school, so I should not be surprised that I prefer my music in a physical form. When you have an album in vinyl or CD form, you also get all of the information that I enjoyed reading: lyrics, recording credits and, most importantly, a track list. I guess that’s the historian in me. Needless to say, my collection is dominated by New Wave and Power Pop music, which, back in the late-Seventies, were lumped together under the New Wave banner. So, in honor of that great music, let’s get back to the countdown! Today, we are covering numbers 21 through 30. Roll tape!
30. Nick Lowe – Jesus of Cool (known in the USA as Pure Pop for Now People) (1978). Most of remember Nick Lowe for his terrific hit single from 1979 “Cruel to Be Kind”. But, his solo career began with this flawless album that for reasons unknown to me never really produced a top single, although this is full of great songs such as “So It Goes.”
29. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll (1981). Back in 1981, Joan Jett was a dominant creative force at the time behind this album and the number one single title song, which was a cover of The Arrows’ Glam song. This the album that established Jett as the biggest female rocker at the time, along with The Go-Go’s and Pat Benetar.
28. Cyndi Lauper – She’s So Unusual (1983). Lauper was the perfect woman to a represent New Wave: she was quirky; had a unique singing voice; and had a television presence that all worked together to blast her into the stratosphere. Many of us felt Lauper would have been the more successful singer when compared to Madonna back in the day. That didn’t happen, but, at least, we have She’s So Unusual as proof of that assertion.
27. Joe Jackson – Look Sharp! (1979). Is there ever been a hit song that summed up the frustrations of being a teenaged boy than “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” And, Look Sharp! is full of so of universal teen angst terms. This album was a great reason for all of the Elvis Costello comparisons.
26. Orange Juice – Rip It Up (1982). Orange Juice was a popular New Wave band from the UK. Unfortunately, this terrific album was nearly totally overlooked here in the States. Yes, I am a Johnny-come-late-to-the-party with regards to Orange Juice. But, as the cliche goes, better late than never. This album will only improve with age. This is British power pop at its finest.
25. Billy Idol – Rebel Yell (1983). Idol perfected his punk/metal/pop mix on this album. Although I will always associate Billy Idol with his great remake of his old band’s, Generation X, hit “Dancing with Myself”, Rebel Yell is stuffed with hits like the title song, “Eyes Without a Face” and “Flesh for Fantasy.”
24. Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair (1985). This English duo switched from a synth pop sound to a more sweeping, panoramic arena rock sound to great success as this album topped the US Album Chart. This terrific album had two number one hits on it with the power pop “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and “Shout”.
23. Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures (1979). Most of us here in the States did not learn about this band until after lead singer Ian Curtis’ suicide. But, once we heard this band’s brand of darkness, we were hooked. Yet, the was some glimmer of light shining through this haunting music.
22. The Human League – Dare (1981). This album and its big hit, “Don’t You Want Me”, was an example of a synth pop album that really sounded like a rock album. It’s almost as though The Human League were trying to make their own Dark Side of the Moon, except the League left off the strange voices.
21. Peter Gabriel – So (1986). This is the album during which the world finally caught up with Peter Gabriel. No longer would Gabriel be a cult artist. Now, he has a number one album (this one), number one song (“Sledgehammer”) and one of the five greatest rock videos of all-time (“Sledgehammer”). And, I haven’t even mentioned “In Your Eyes,” “Big Time” and “Don’t Give Up.”
Oh boy! We are getting close to the top. Just hang on for two more days! See you all tomorrow!