We Love the Eighties: My Top 100 Albums of 1988


Succinctly, 1988 was a crazy year for music. Rap music was finally moving away from being something of a novelty genre into a powerful new voice for Gen Xers all over. First, MTV debuted one of its most successful programs ever, Yo! MTV Raps began bringing this most threatening new brand of music out of the ghettos of big cities and into white suburbia. And, sales quickly followed. This genre quickly became THE voice of Generation X, with artists such as Run-DMC, Public Enemy, N.W.A, Beastie Boys, Eric B. & Rakim and Boogie Down Productions leading the way, even though teen rap sensations DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince won the first Rap Grammy Award.

5.24 Metallica - And Justice for All

Now, outside of that glorious half-hour of Yo!, MTV was basically the realm for hair metal. No longer was MTV the smorgasbord of musical genres, but an outlet for money-making artists. That decision would end up causing the network to nearly self-destruct until the Alternative Nation and Gangsta Rap pushed the network into its second Golden Age of videos. But, back in 1988, music was beginning to get in a rut. Baby Boomers were still running things, so hair metal was less of a stress for them to program on their radio stations than any alternative music or rap artists’ music. Even my radio hero, Casey Kasem, would not allow rap songs on his Top 40 countdown show only to move on to the next non-rap song in the countdown. And, Cincinnati was the same way, except for the last great radio station I ever heard, WOXY-FM, 97-X, 97.7 FM in Oxford, Ohio, who would play alternative music, reggae, thrash metal and rap all of the time. Really, these last couple of years of the Eighties were interesting as the radio world was playing catch up to the generational shift of interests in music, just as things happened in the Fifties at the beginning of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

5.24 Lita Ford - Lita

In essence, we were witnessing a cultural shift from the Boomers to the Xers, as represented by the shift in music toward alternative music and hip hop. At the time, I was so frustrated with music, that I was constantly creating mixtapes for my hour-long car trips from my home in Oxford down to Good Samaritan, along the section of Highway 27, known as the Highway to Heaven due to all of the fatal car accidents that have occurred over the years. Fortunately, I survive my daily two hours of driving on this road. The cultural shift was easy to see in retrospect, as Neil Young stage one of his infinite number of comebacks with the MTV Video of the Year for his “This Note’s for You,” a video that was banned on MTV for depicting artists “selling out” for allowing corporations to play their music in advertisements. The video was a scathing indictment of MTV for its role in this perversion of rock music. But, that attitude was left over from the Age of Aquarius, while Gen Xers saw nothing wrong with the artist finding more ways to exert control over their own music. Nowadays, no one blinks when you hear the latest Black Keys or Lady Gaga single in a commercial between segments of Modern Family. But, back then, the Boomers were still trying to hold rock to some ideal that these pieces of art were all extensions of the artwork from the Renaissance instead of a commodity the artist can control for his or her personal gain.

5.24 Neil Young - This Note's for You

In 1988, my beloved Cheap Trick staged a comeback. It was perfect timing for the band to comeback since they had a hand in the creation of hair metal, as well as alternative music. But, their company forced the band to start recording songs written by outside songwriters, including a power ballad that was totally uncharacteristic of the band. The band resisted for as long as they could, so they did a sarcastic performance of the song that the label loved. That song was “The Flame,” the only number one song in their career. To this very day, it is rare for them to play it live in concert. I remember that I was so disappointed when I heard that song and felt so betrayed that they had become a hair-metal-power-ballad-playing band.

5.24 The Sugarcubes - Life's Too Good

On the other hand, N.W.A and Public Enemy each released cultural milestones. Both groups brought the viewpoint of a young black man’s point-of-view to the world. It was as if a nuclear bomb had been dropped. And, personally, I loved it! This was as significant of a moment when these two albums dropped as when the Ramones or the Sex Pistols released their debuts. It was an exciting time, watching how my nephews and me could drive their fathers up a wall by playing rap music around them, listening to these Boomers try to tell me that no one would remember any of them. Last time I looked, both bands are members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I guess rock was really an evolving animal.

5.24 Cheap Trick - Lap of Luxury

Still, remember, all of these lessons have been learned in retrospect. At the time, I was angry that radio was not playing some great music, forcing some teeny bopper groups like Tiffany and New Kids on the Block, but teen idols have always been around and will always be there for the little kids. But, there was loads of lame dance music that was good for a song or two but couldn’t keep it flowing for an album. And, I cannot emphasize enough that I hate a majority of the hair metal thing.

Well, let step down from my soapbox now. But, take a look at what I have been ranting about with my Top 100 Albums of 1988.

5.24 1.N.W.A - Straight Outta Compton

5.24 2.Public Enemy - It Takes a Nation

  1. N.W.A – Straight Outta Compton
  2. Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
  3. Joy Division – Substance 1977-1981
  4. Prince – Lovesexy
  5. Metallica – …And Justice for All
  6. Traveling Wilburys – Traveling Wilburys, Volume 1
  7. R.E.M. – Green
  8. Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman
  9. The Waterboys – Fisherman’s Blues
  10. Jane’s Addiction – Jane’s Addiction
  11. Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation
  12. The Church – Starfish
  13. Living Colour – Vivid
  14. The Smithereens – Green Thoughts
  15. Fishbone – Truth and Soul
  16. Cowboy Junkies – The Trinity Sessions
  17. Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers – Conscious Party
  18. Pixies – Surfer Rosa
  19. The Pogues – If I Shall Fall from Grace with God
  20. The Style Council – Confessions of a Pop Group
  21. Pet Shop Boys – Introspective
  22. Boogie Down Production – By All Means Necessary
  23. Talk Talk – Spirit of Eden
  24. The Smithereens – Green Thoughts
  25. Camper Van Beethoven – Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart
  26. Graham Parker – The Mona Lisa’s Sister
  27. Mudhoney – Superfuzz Bigmuff
  28. Eric B & Rakim – Follow the Leader
  29. Queensrÿche – Operation Mindcrime
  30. U2 – Rattle & Hum
  31. Guns N’ Roses – G N’ R Lies
  32. Slick Rick – The Great Adventures of Slick Rick
  33. Bangles – Everything
  34. Talking Heads – Naked
  35. Sade – Stronger Than Pride
  36. My Bloody Valentine – Isn’t Anything
  37. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – Up Your Alley
  38. Dinosaur Jr. – Bug
  39. Too $hort – Life Is…Too $hort
  40. Lita Ford – Lita
  41. Keith Richards – Talk Is Cheap
  42. Megadeth – So Far, So Good…So What?
  43. Morrissey – Viva Hate
  44. The Posies – Failure
  45. Guy – Guy
  46. King’s X – Out of the Silent Planet
  47. Bobby Brown – Don’t Be Cruel
  48. Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians – Globe of Frogs
  49. Information Society – Information Society
  50. Jeff Healey Band – See the Light
  51. The Sugarcubes – Life’s Too Good
  52. Richard X. Heyman – Living Room!!
  53. Edie Brickell & New Bohemians – Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars
  54. Anita Baker – Giving You the Best That I Got
  55. Ice-T – Power
  56. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Tender Prey
  57. They Might Be Giants – Lincoln
  58. The Pursuit of Happiness – Love Junk
  59. Siouxsie & the Banshees – Peepshow
  60. Steve Winwood – Roll with It
  61. Neil Young & the Blue Notes – This Note’s for You
  62. The Godfathers – Birth, School, Work, Death
  63. Cheap Trick – Lap of Luxury
  64. Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man
  65. Van Halen – OU812
  66. EPMD – Strictly Business
  67. Robert Plant – Now and Zen
  68. The Go-Betweens – 16 Lovers Lane
  69. Ministry – The Land of Rape and Honey
  70. UB40 – UB40
  71. Soundgarden – Ultramega OK
  72. Rick Astley – Hold Me in Your Arms
  73. Brian Wilson – Brian Wilson
  74. The Jungle Brothers – Straight Out of the Jungle
  75. Violent Femmes – 3
  76. Melissa Etheridge – Melissa Etheridge
  77. Steve Earle – Copperhead Road
  78. Billy Bragg – Workers Playtime
  79. Kylie Minogue – Kylie
  80. Danzig – Danzig
  81. DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince – He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper
  82. Paula Abdul – Forever Your Girl
  83. Robert Cray Band – Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
  84. Cocteau Twins – Blue Bell Knoll
  85. Happy Mondays – Bummed
  86. The Proclaimers – Sunshine on Leith
  87. New Edition – Heartbreak
  88. Big Daddy Kane – Long Live the Kane
  89. Crowded House – Temple of the Low Men
  90. Salt-n-Pepa – A Salt with a Deadly Pepa
  91. Poison – Open Up and Say…Ah!
  92. Ultramagnetic MC’s – Critical Beatdown
  93. Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock – It Takes Two
  94. Taylor Dayne – Tell It to My Heart
  95. New Kids on the Block – Hangin’ Tough
  96. Roxette – Look Sharp!
  97. Enya – Watermark
  98. Lucinda Williams – Lucinda Williams
  99. Bon Jovi – New Jersey
  100. Winger – Winger

5.24 Mudhoney - Superfuzz Bigmuff

5.24 Poison - Open Up and Say...Ahh

Now that 1988 is a wrap, we only have one more year to celebrate in the Eighties: 1989. See ya tomorrow!


Author: ifmyalbumscouldtalk

I am just a long-time music fan who used to be a high school science teacher and a varsity coach of several high school athletic teams. Before that, I worked as a medical technologist at three hospitals in their labs, mainly as a microbiologist. I am retired/disabled (Failed Back Surgery Syndrome), and this is my attempt to remain a human. Additionally, I am a serious vinyl aficionado, with a CD addiction and a love of reading about rock history. Finally, I am a fan of Prince, Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, R.E.M., Hall & Oates, Springsteen, Paul Weller & his bands and Power Pop music.

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