Today, we burst into the Top 20 of my favorite New Wave albums. I hope this ride has been as enjoyable as it has been for you as it has been for me. Each album represents a small stroll down memory lane for me, back to a simpler time. Well, let’s just jump into the countdown!
20. The B-52’s – The B-52’s (1979). This album was THE party album of 1979, while opening the door to a fantastic music scene down in Athens, Georgia with bands like R.E.M., Pylon and others. Supposedly, this album inspired John Lennon to re-enter the whole rock life. Lennon thought The B-52’s signified that rock music had finally caught up to his wife’s, Yoko Ono’s, music. “Rock Lobster” was the hit, but this album is stuffed full of party tunes.
19. David Bowie – Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) (1980). That’s right! The Godfather of most Eighties music released his best new wave album near the beginning of the show. This album is a slightly more commercial version than the three previously released albums known as “The Berlin Trilogy.” An album that contains “Ashes to Ashes” AND “Fashion” has got to be a great album. And, this album is great.
18. Various Artists – Times Square Soundtrack (1980). Back in 1980, Robert Stigwood was on a something of a roll with movies and their soundtracks, like Saturday Night Fever, Grease and, to a certain extent, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Stigwood had the idea to base a movie around a nice collection of fantastic New Wave tunes from the likes of XTC, Talking Heads, Gary Numan and so many other great artist of the era. Too bad the movie was terrible because the soundtrack is timeless.
17. Tom Tom Club – Tom Tom Club (1981). After Talking Heads released their seminal world music-influenced Remain in Light album, the four heads went on to make great albums on their own. David Byrne and Brian Eno continued their foray into African music-rock and roll fusion on their terrific My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, while the versatile Jerry Harrison released his outstanding Red and Black album. The married rhythm section of drummer Chris Franz and bassist Tina Weymouth formed their own band that took the lessons from Remain in Light and set it to fun lyrics, while loosening the reigns on the musicians to create the highly influential Tom Tom Club album. At the time, rock radio said this band sounded “too black” (how racist!) for their playlists, yet, as if we are living through a revisionist’s history, their first single “Genius of Love” is played quite often on the radio in Central Indiana now. It should too! It’s one of the more sampled songs in rock history.
16. Culture Club – Colour by Numbers (1983). While working in Wisconsin, Culture Club’s “Time (Clock of My Heart)” was riding high on the charts here in the States. A group of young Brits had just arrived to work at the resort the week that a whole bar sang “Time” together during the weekly “Talent” Show after party. I remember a young man from the British group telling me that if I like “Time”, then I will LOVE Culture Club’s next album. Boy, was he correct! This was a Motown-update tour de force. “Karma Chameleon” is the timeless hit. “Church of the Poisoned Mind” was a huge hit at the time. But, “Victims”, the closing song, is the heart and soul of the album. Unfortunately, the band never lived up to the expectations laid down by this album, as singer/songwriter Boy George succumbed to the dreaded drug monster. Still, Colour by Numbers stands as a testament to the greatness of this band.
15. Duran Duran – Rio (1982). This album kicked off the whole “Beatles of the Eighties” thing. This album is arguably Duran Duran’s finest moment. And, coupled with their cutting edge videos, the singles “Hungry like the Wolf” and “Rio” stand out. Video-wise, the band might have been the Pink Floyd of the video era in that Duran-squared pushed the medium as much as the Floyd pushed the aural aspects on their albums. This album is ground zero for the Duran Duran-mania that followed.
14. The Knack – Get the Knack (1979). This album has gotten a raw deal over the years. The whole “Knuke the Knack” thing was funny, but not meant to put a hex on the band. I’m sure the Baby Boomers were not ready for New Wave to push their tired artists, such as Zeppelin, the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. But, for a glorious two months during the Summer of 1979, The Knack ruled the charts, as both the album and their timeless single “My Sharona” topping the charts for extended periods of time. Of course, their management screwed up their whole career (who in the world tells the hottest band in the whole not to perform at the Grammys or on Saturday Night Live!), but this album is proof The Knack had the goods.
13. The Cure – Disintegration (1989). Throughout the Eighties, I had fun calling the great music created by The Cure “mope rock.” You have to realize that I feel in love with this band’s music the moment I heard it for the first time after we moved to Oxford, Ohio, back in 1986. But, I always enjoyed their compilation Staring at the Sea more than their individual album, at least, until they released Disintegration. This album represents leader Robert Smith’s finest moment, as he balanced all of his dark moods with the lighter sides of life. This album is immortal if only for their sexy song “Lovesong” (and, no, Adele did NOT improve this song!), but the whole album is a great statement.
12. Devo – Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo (1978). Like I have said before, everything changed for me the moment I saw Devo on Saturday Night Live. This band was made for the video era. But, you don’t need to see them to enjoy Devo. While the band created some outstanding albums, this one remains the game-changer. Plus, where else can you hear their version of the Stones’ immortal hit “Satisfaction” (this one really pissed off the Boomers!), as well as “Uncontrollable Urge”, “Jocko Homo” and the totally un-PC “Mongoloid”. This is a classic worthy of the word.
11. New Order – Substance 1987 (1987). Yes, this is technically a compilation album. But, it is a compilation of this alternative dance band’s 12-inch remix songs. And the remixes all pump more life into already lively songs. “Bizarre Love Triangle” remains my favorite New Order song, not matter how it is edited. The same goes for “True Faith” and “Celebration” and “Perfect Kiss” and “Blue Monday” and…
Whew! Those ten albums are STRONG! How did they not get into my Top 10? I really think I sat on this list a while, so I think you will like the Top 10 if you liked today’s list. Finally, wish me luck as I begin an endeavor to lose weight. As a sufferer of chronic pain, I can no longer run or play basketball or lift weights or anything much more than walking my small dogs about 100 to 200 meters (track and science people think in the metric system!). So, NutriSystem, here I go! Keep on rockin’ in the free world!