And on the Third Day, It Was 1987: My 1000 Favorite Albums

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Today is the first of three consecutive months of a much delayed Record Store Day 2020. I have always gone to these days since back in 2009, but this year, I am waiting for the last day of this event to be held on the last Saturday of October. The releases scheduled for today and next month really don’t interest me much, plus the pandemic is heating up in the places where I like to go. However, as much as I would LOVE to do some bin diving, I am using a laser-focused approach to RSD, which is my suggested way to attack this event. I am focused on one release in October and that’s it. But, please do enjoy the day because we need to support our independent record store owners. They have always been the lifeblood of the music industry. Plus, vinyl remains the best medium for the enjoyment of music. I know my long-time buddy Mark Kline (The man is an electronics genius, well, just a genius, but he is a huge proponent of Tidal. God bless him! I’ve always needed his expert advice in my life.) will disagree, but when it comes to my music, I prefer the old-fashioned method.

So, let’s jump into this crystal clear pool of water known as Day 3 of 1987.

8.27 The Cult - Electric

The Cult – Electric (1987). The Cult was probably the first band that metalheads and Goth kids could agree upon. And, this album, one of the first non-rap Rick Rubin productions, exploded from my speakers just begging to be cranked. Their uncanny mix of alternative trappings and Zeppelin-esque power chords propelled The Cult into a higher echelon of popularity.

8.27 The Cure - Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me

The Cure – Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (1987). They finally did it! The Cure broke through the American market for some well-deserved commercial success. Is this their best album? Not really. Remember, this is a double album, so there is a little filler. However, it contains quite possibly the quintessential Cure pop song in “Just Like Heaven.” I just smiled when the rest of the world latched unto a band I had been praising forever.

8.27 The Dukes of Stratosphear - Psonic Psunspot

The Dukes of Stratosphear –  Psonic Psunspot (1987). The Dukes of Stratosphear were actually XTC, and 1987 ended up being a HUGE year for XTC. This album represented the second release for the band. On this one, The Dukes pay homage to the psychedelic bands of the mid-Sixties, most notably the Syd Barrett-led Pink Floyd, as well as a plethora of other bands found on the Nuggets CD box sets. This is a brilliant piece of an Eighties update of a Sixties sound that LA’s Paisley Underground (a loose coterie of musicians that included The Bangles, The Three O’Clock, Dream Syndicate, The Rain Parade, among others) was doing at the time, only the Dukes were honoring the English side of things. Remains one of my favorites for the year.

8.27 The Sisters of Mercy - Floodland

The Sisters of Mercy – Floodland (1987). What can you say about a Goth band who took their band name from a Leonard Cohen song? I came for the band’s name, but there moody music made me stay. This album represents another step toward a thing called industrial rock that would become epitomized by Nine Inch Nails, though The Sisters are NOT as aggressive. This band is a harder edged Cocteau Twins.

8.27 The Smiths - Louder Than Bombs

The Smiths – Louder than Bombs (1987). So sue me! Yes, this is technically a compilation album, but of non-album singles, B-sides and other oddities. Yet, the double album plays like a studio album. It is perhaps, the band’s last great statement.

8.27 U2 - The Joshua Tree

U2 – The Joshua Tree (1987). This is the album which made U2 the kings of our generation, musically speaking. And, the megastardom was much deserved. This remains a terrific artistic statement without ever sacrificing the band’s sincerity or power. Side 1 remains as good of a side of an album as has even been put to wax.

8.27 Warren Zevon - Sentimental Hygiene

Warren Zevon – Sentimental Hygiene (1987). By 1987, Zevon was wasting his talent a bit through drink. Then, he hooked up with the members of R.E.M. to form a band they called The Hoodoo Gurus and record a few songs, most notably a terrific reworking of Prince’s “Raspberry Beret.” After that artistic success, the group went into the studio to record a Zevon album, and this is their result – the best Zevon album of the Eighties.

8.27 Whitesnake - Whitesnake

Whitesnake – Whitesnake (1987). I’ve never really been a fan of the band with the most racist/sexist name on the planet. But, this album is catchy. And, for a brief shining moment, both the band and Tawny Kittan reached superstar status. But, I do give credit where credit is due, and this guys did hit paydirt.

8.27 XTC - Skylarking

XTC – Skylarking (1987). As I said earlier, XTC had a big 1987. This album actually got the whole thing rolling as they paid homage to Sgt. Pepper on that album’s 20th anniversary by doing an updated reworked version of it. Produced by rock god Todd Rundgren, the band fulfilled all of their artistic potential on this album and followed it up with their brilliant Dukes persona. Plus, how can you deny an album that had a left field hit with a song about atheism that was originally intended as a B-side? As I will continue to say, “Only in the Eighties.”

That makes 622 albums down now. Peace.

1987, Day 2: My 1000 Favorite Albums

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If my memory serves me well, I distinctly going to the local record store in Oxford, Ohio (Long live Looney T-Birds!) in the spring of 1987 to purchase the newly released albums by Prince, U2 and New Order. Then, in September alone, one discs by John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen and Michael Jackson happened. Let that sink in for a moment. Six classic albums all were released only within a calendar year, but nearly HALF of a calendar year!

With that trivia off my chest, let’s take a second day to look at the 1987 albums on my list of 1000.

8.27 Michael Jackson - Bad

Michael Jackson – Bad (1987). By now, the cracks were showing in the life of one of the world’s most famous entertainers of all-time. Still, following the very same formula he had on his previous two albums produced by Quincy Jones, Jackson conjured up perhaps his finest collection of songs to date. Unfortunately, I found the songs lacking the innocence of those other two albums, replaced by a growing cynicism and distrust of the world. Maybe, there was a reason for all of that paranoia. Rumor has it that Jackson wanted Prince to duet on “Bad,” but Prince declined. There was another rock crossover hit song, “Dirty Diana,” in which Jackson replaced Eddie Van Halen with Billy Idol’s guitarist Steve Stevens. Might have been cooler if Jackson had employed Kirk Hammett of Metallica or Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, but still a nice touch. All in all, how can you really complain about an album that spawned six Top 10 hits?

8.27 Midnight Oil - Diesel and Dust

Midnight Oil – Diesel and Dust (1987). In the wake of The Clash and U2, the Eighties were full of earnest bands who wore their collective hearts on their sleeves. Some of the more notable were The Alarm, The Call and The Waterboys, but the best of the second tier bands was Midnight Oil. These Aussies were probably the most overtly political of all of these bands put together, plus they rocked nearly as hard as countrymen AC/DC. This time, a band not reaching its full potential was a good case. Lead singer Peter Garrett, a lawyer and social activist, parlayed his fame into a governmental position, thus actively working to make the changes he preached in his music. This album represents the band’s finest moment.

8.27 New Order - Substance 1987

New Order – Substance 1987 (1987). Okay, sue me! I know that I promised not to include compilations in my list. However, this album is the complete collection of New Order’s essential and innovative 12-inch remixes that lit up the clubs from their debut to 1987. The remixes are hot and not full of Eighties cliches as they stress the dance/rock/synthpop synthesis the band was creating. For my money, this is their best album.

8.27 Pet Shop Boys - Actually

Pet Shop Boys – Actually (1987). The Pet Shop Boys were just another synthpop band with a big hit (“West End Girls”) when they dropped this one on the public. Now, they were no longer relying upon beats for their music but fully developed electronic rhythms making their sound much more intricate, not unlike a full band. Plus, the duo gets high kudos from me for reviving Dusty Springfield’s career on their collaborative hit song “What Have I Done to Deserve This?”

8.27 Prince - Sign O the Times

Prince – Sign ‘o’ the Times (1987). After the crazy Around the World in a Day and Parade albums, which were so overblown and bordering on pretentious, Prince disbanded the Revolution and began his most prolific two years of his life. Rumor has it that Prince had four complete albums ready to be released during this time. Yet, Warner Bros. convinced him to pare down this burst of creativity to a double album. So, what we got was a complete tour de force by Prince as he covered all areas of popular music, even creating some new genres of his own along the way. Prince flexed his musicianship as he had never before and, arguably, since. With all due respect to U2, this is the album that should have won the Grammy for Album of the Year. Or as the man once reportedly said that he could make The Joshua Tree, but could U2 make Sign ‘o’ the Times? On a personal note, I cannot wait to receive my 13-LP box set of this album in a month. Finally, I will get to hear ALL of those unreleased songs from The Vault!

8.27 R.E.M. - Document

R.E.M. – Document (1987). Who knew that R.E.M. would have mainstream success in a big way in 1987? Well, I kinda had an inkling when I began hearing “The One I Love” on AOR radio a couple months after the album’s release. But, then, the song blew up and so did the band to, along with U2, assume the mantle of voice of a generation. To this day, I still love “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” and “Finest Worksong.” I love just loved how overtly political the band got on this album.

8.27 Robbie Robertson - Robbie Robertson

Robbie Robertson – Robert Robertson (1987). A full eleven years after he broke up The Band, leader Robbie Robertson finally released his long awaited solo album. But, Robertson did not go back to his bread-and-butter Americana sound of his former band, instead opting for a more alternative sound in the space between U2, R.E.M. and Dinosaur Jr. He brought in young artists such as members of U2, former Lone Justice singer Maria McKee and Milwaukee roots rockers The BoDeans for help. Robertson created a beautiful swampy mix that was both contemporary and futuristic while never leaving his past completely behind. What a record for a man who had laid low for such a long time.

8.27 Suzanne Vega - Solitude Standing

Suzanne Vega – Solitude Standing (1987). By the mid-Eighties, some young musicians were reaching back to the acoustic days of folk, forming a small neo-folkie movement. Suzanne Vega represented one of the best of the scene and even scored a Top 10 hit with a song about child abuse called “Luka.” This album is both looks backward and forward at the same time. Little did we realize that Vega was setting the stage for a bigger artist coming in 1988.

8.27 Terence Trent D'Arby - Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D'Arby

Terence Trent D’Arby – Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby (1987). By the late Eighties, the public was ready for a little soul sex symbol music. So, into that void came an arrogant former military man living in England to the rescue. Although he hyped himself to be better than The Beatles, at least he had the Otis Redding-like chops to back it up a bit. The man actually made rock songs sound downright soulful as Redding had done 20 years prior. Unfortunately, D’Arby could not capitalize on this breakthrough and faded into obscurity. But, for a brief moment, many had thought we had discovered a challenger to Prince’s throne.

Welp, that does it for another day. I’ll finish up 1987 next time. Peace.

1987, Day 1: My 1000 Favorite Albums

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In retrospect, 1987 was an excellent year for music, a year that I would place up against any other for the number of quality albums, and singles, released during a calendar year. In fact, so many great albums were released that year, that I felt the need to excise several albums in order to make room for LPs released during other trips around the Sun.

One album I would like to mention is an album released by three-fourths of the legendary Cincinnati power pop band The Raisins joined by guitar virtuoso Adrian Belew who together are known as The Bears. This obscure band released a terrific slice of power pop music in the vein of classic Todd Rundgren and the Raspberries. Unfortunately, the band did not garner the necessary label push in order to register a massive hit. However, if you can find a copy of their self-titled debut, pick it up because it is a buried classic. Next to my Reds winning a World Series title in 1990 and getting to be part of the WOXY-FM/97-X listening audience for four years, The Bears represent my finest Southwest Ohio memories outside of my family.

But, enough of that stuff! Let’s check out what albums from 1987 made my list.

8.27 10,000 Maniacs - In My Tribe

10,000 Maniacs – In My Tribe (1987). By the time the late-Eighties rolled around, there seemed to be hundreds of R.E.M.-influenced bands running around the country. Fortunately, 10,000 Maniacs were influenced by the greatest American alternative band of the Eighties that added some very poetic lyrics about various social injustices that were neither pretentious nor preachy. Lead singer Natalie Merchant became the breakout star of the band who registered such folk-pop classics as “Like the Weather,” “What’s the Matter Here?” and their cover of the Cat Stevens classic “Peace Train.”

8.27 Anthrax - Among the Living

Anthrax – Among the Living (1987). Anthrax was the fourth thrash metal band in what is now known as The Big Four of Thrash. The band expanded their lyrical content to rage against prejudice, drug abuse and violence, all the while continuing to display their humor with tributes to Stephen King and Judge Dredd. These guys played so fast that their attack verged on hardcore levels without ever sacrificing the metal. This album is my third favorite of the mid-Eighties thrash peak.

8.27 Dinosaur Jr. - You're Living All Over Me

Dinosaur Jr. – You’re Living All Over Me (1987). One thing about the musicians of my age group is that collectively they love Neil Young, especially the one we probably all discovered on Side 2 of Rust Never Sleeps. This album plays as the missing link between post-punk and grunge, which is why it was big on college rock radio of the day. Guitarist J. Mascis was the first non-metal guitar hero of Gen X.

8.27 Eric B & Rakim - Paid in Full

Eric B. & Rakim – Paid in Full (1987). In the wake of Run-D.M.C.’s success, the possibilities of hip hop seemed unlimited. So when this duo showed up with Rakim displaying a whole new way to spit his rhymes, the door was blown off its hinges. Rakim’s hypnotic vocals incorporated a jazz-influenced flow into his delivery which only raised his profile to a prophet-like status in the hip hop community. Even after nearly 35 years, Rakim is still listed as one of the greatest emcees ever. Eminem owes Rakim a huge debt.

8.27 George Michael - Faith

George Michael – Faith (1987). I can admit it! I loved Wham! But, did I ever think that George Michael’s solo career would have his name etched alongside the other Eighties immortals before this album was released? Simply put, no. Still, it was a pleasant surprise just how deeply talented this man was. Forget the so-called controversy of “I Want Your Sex,” the real story was the title song AND “Father Figure.” Those songs were two of the greatest songs of the decade, if not ever. And, the rest of the album lived up to them as well.

8.27 Guns N Roses - Appetite for Destruction

Guns ‘N Roses – Appetite for Destruction (1987). In all honesty, I think the world was ready for a band that blurred the lines between their public personas and reality, between true punk and metal influences and were not afraid to wear their warts-and-all emotions on their sleeves. Pushing aside all the plastic poseurs of glam metal, Guns ‘N Roses roared onto MTV and the radio like a combination of Aerosmith channeled through the Sex Pistols, and the world ate it up. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons (ego, drugs, booze, women, money, you name it), the band truly peaked on this debut album. But, man, what a legacy!

8.27 INXS - Kick

INXS – Kick (1987). I saw these guys open for Men at Work in 1983 and fell in love with them. But, at the time, I thought they wouldn’t amount to much. Boy! Was I ever wrong! These guys threw aside the new wave trappings, conjured up some Stones-like grit and married all of it to a dance beat. What a formula! And, it all came together on Kick. Unfortunately, the band, mainly due to changing trends in the Nineties, never really got to build upon the momentum of this album. And, then, a decade later, we lost their lead singer Michael Hutchence to a mishap, thwarting any sort of comeback the band could have made.

8.27 John Cougar Mellencamp - The Lonesome Jubilee

John Cougar Mellencamp – The Lonesome Jubilee (1987). After the massive success of John’s Scarecrow album, he decided to expand upon his Midwestern Stones-influenced sound by incorporating musicians who could play Appalachian instruments to create something of a Midwestern update of The Band’s sound. And, this was absolutely mind-blowing to me. To my ears, this album is pure Indiana through and through. This is Mellencamp’s finest moment as an artist, plain and simple. Plus, the songs take on new meanings as you age. Remember when holding hands meant everything?

8.27 John Hiatt - Bring the Family

John Hiatt – Bring the Family (1987). Here’s another Hoosier-born artist, though he no longer lives in the state. Hiatt had been around the music industry for the better part of decade earning a living as both the next big thing and the American version of Elvis Costello. But, success had always eluded his talent. Then, he too dropped the new wave pretensions, got down to the basics and joined forces with guitarist Ry Cooder, bassist Nick Lowe and session drummer Jim Keltner to create a soulful Americana sound that remains influential to this day. Still, the highlight is the songwriting, with “Memphis in the Meantime” and “Thing Called Love,” later a hit for Bonnie Raitt, were strong. But, the song that has the legs is “Have a Little Faith in Me,” a beautiful plead to a woman to stick with him sung in a voice that evokes Ray Charles. This is rock music made by adults for adults.

Well, people, that wraps up the first go-around with 1987. Check ya later! Peace.

1986, Chapter 2: My 1000 Favorite Albums

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I’m having an Eighties flashback today caused by the newly released album by seminal LA hardcore band X. I mean, this is simply an outstanding album. But, more about it later. I have heard some pretty good albums this year from Lady Gaga, Halsey, Adam Lambert, Pearl Jam, The Chicks and Paul Weller. Still, I am looking forward to new releases by Bob Mould, Weezer, Elvis Costello and The Killers (sorry, I wait for the vinyl to be released before fully evaluating them). Additionally, I would love to listen to Taylor Swift and Fiona Apple’s new albums. Finally, perhaps my biggest excitement is reserved for the remastered versions of two classic albums, Prince’s box set of everything recorded for his mighty Sign ‘O’ the Times album (13 LPs!) and Tom Petty’s fantastic Wild Flowers vinyl release that includes all the stuff he recorded for that album as well (3 LPs is the version I want).

It is shaping up to be a pretty good ending for 2020, at least musically speaking.

Anyway, let’s finish off 1986.

8.26 Paul Simon - Graceland

Paul Simon – Graceland (1986). As with Talking Heads, I loved that Simon was reaching into Africa to shine some much needed context for American music. By working with South African musicians, Simon was keenly able to bridge a cultural divide to bring this rich musical tradition some recognition. Personally, this album grows as I age. What a wondrous album!

8.26 Peter Gabriel - So

Peter Gabriel – So (1986). To be perfectly honest, I had never really listened to Genesis while Gabriel was part of the band when I was younger. As a matter of fact, I honestly discovered Genesis AFTER I had discovered a solo Gabriel. Immediately, I was taken by Peter Gabriel’s almost left-brained approach to art rock via punk’s DIY ethic. So, imagine my pleasure when the general public finally caught up to his vision. To me, there were few songs as great as “Sledgehammer,” as well as no video greater than it.

8.26 R.E.M. - Lifes Rich Pageant

R.E.M. – Lifes Rich Pageant (1986). On this album, R.E.M. made what sounded like their version of a mainstream rock album. What I mean by that was their production value was crisp and clean, since they were using John Mellencamp’s producer Don Gehman. But, everything that made R.E.M. so great in the first place were still in tact. Now, we could actually discern singer Michael Stipe’s lyrics. I may be in the minority with R.E.M. fanatics, but this remains my favorite album of theirs.

8.26 Robert Palmer - Addicted to Love

Robert Palmer – Addicted to Love (1986). After finally finding commercial success as a member of Eighties supergroup The Power Station, Robert Palmer shed his blue-eyed soul image from the Seventies and embraced the big radio-ready sound of his one-off group. He definitely expanded the vision of TPS with thicker drums and louder guitars, then added a brilliant visual for his videos. The title song and his version of “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On” remain fantastic timepieces of mid-Eighties rock.

8.26 Run-DMC - Raising Hell

Run-D.M.C. – Raising Hell (1986). Public Enemy’s Chuck D says this is the greatest hip hop album ever, and he is correct. The trio did everything the right way, from “My Adidas” to “You Be Illin'” to their remake of the Aerosmith classic “Walk This Way” (that’s right Curt, Run-D.M.C. saved Aerosmith’s career!). This album solidified the band’s vision and changed the course of rap forever.

8.26 Simply Red - Picture Book

Simply Red – Holding Back the Years (1986). Just as Hall & Oates began to run out of steam, in their place steps a Ginger from England with the soulful voice of an angel to ease their loss. That angel was Mick Hucknall and his band Simply Red. This album is much more than their mega-hit “Holding Back the Years,” but that song is golden. Plus, anyone that has the balls to cover a Talking Heads song (“Heaven”) as a soul song is okay in my book.

8.26 Slayer - Reign in Blood

Slayer – Reign in Blood (1986). 1986 was quite a year for thrash metal, as there were three of the best albums of the genre were released. And while Metallica’s Master of Puppets is considered the pinnacle, this Slayer album has got to be a half a notch below. This is more than a metal album. It is an artistic statement and a tour de force.

8.26 Steve Earle - Guitar Town

Steve Earle – Guitar Town (1986). This album represents my introduction to the southern fried rock vision of Eighties country outlaw Steve Earle. I prefer this stripped down album to any of his subsequent albums. And, I find the album way better than the much-ballyhooed Dwight Yoakam debut album, regardless of whether Yoakam opened for Hüsker Dü.

8.26 The Replacements - Pleased to Meet Me

The Replacements – Pleased to Meet Me (1986). The Mats faced their first band crisis as original guitarist Bob Stinson, brother of bassist Tommy Stinson, was let go to his deteriorating condition due to alcoholism. In his place stepped the much more professional Slim Dunlap who breathed life into Paul Westerberg’s excellent songs. This album plays like a tribute to Seventies power pop gods Big Star, even the album’s best song was named “Alex Chilton” after that band’s iconic leader. I just wish The Mats had released a sister song entitled “Chris Bell,” the actual heart and soul of Big Star. I think Westerberg left a classic on the table.

8.26 Robert Cray - Strong Persuader

The Robert Cray Band – Strong Persuader (1986). First, Stevie Ray Vaughan resurrected the long-dormant blues guitar hero role in 1983. Then, long-time blues journeyman Robert Cray upped the ante in the genre by revisiting the connection between the blues and soul music. That rediscovery made for one brilliant album.

8.26 The Smithereens - Especially for You

The Smithereens – Especially for You (1986). Unlike most power pop bands, these guys really looked like the Stones but played music that combined “Paperback Writer”-era Beatles with early Who. It was a lethal combination. I have read that if these guys had been better looking they would have been stars. That’s BS! These guys weren’t stars because they were NOT a glam rock band. They were much better than being the lowest common denominators.

8.26 The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead

The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead (1986). It makes sense that The Smiths would make their finest album the very same year R.E.M. did. The two were measuring sticks for each other. Unfortunately, The Smiths only lasted for one more album before calling it quits. But, at least they created this classic album, still considered by the UK rock press as one of the greatest albums of all-time. Who’s to say, they might be right.

8.26 Van Halen - 5150

Van Halen – 5150 (1986). So, is this a Van Halen album, or is it a Sammy Hagar album with the best backing band he would ever have? Regardless, this is a really good album no matter how you cut it. I’ve always been lukewarm toward Hagar and drawn toward Halen, but the combo worked this time. But, their shtick got tiresome for me quickly. I guess I am a DLR man.

And, that, my friends, wraps up 1986. Peace.

1986, Chapter 1: My 1000 Favorite Albums

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In July 1986, I graduated from Medical Technology School, passed my two certification exams and moved the family to Oxford, Ohio for my first job with the MT(ASCP) CLS(NCA) initials after my name. Though I would only work full time as a med tech for eight years, it would prove to remain the biggest academic influence on my professional life. None of the success I had as an educator would have been possible without that series of jobs which took me to three hospitals, on all three shifts, in all the departments and even with an entry level management position. But, that relatively short career all began in the summer of 1986 at a tiny 60-bed hospital in a very small college town in Southwest Ohio.

Since the hospital was so small, I worked in the lab with only one other tech, and we did all the blood draws and testing for the whole hospital. We were also the lucky ones who got to work one weekend a month from 9 PM to 6:30 the next morning every other Sunday by ourselves. If you could not organize yourself thoroughly, that overnight shift could absolutely kill you. And, I never got out of the lab before 8 AM because I had to finish the morning tests, while the day shift techs eased into their days.

After six months of living by the seat of my pants, I saw an ad in the Sunday paper for a med tech opening at a large teaching hospital in Cincinnati. It interested me because the position was in the Hematology department, and that was my second favorite department. Plus, the ad said they were gathering data on a cutting edge technology for Complete Blood Counts (or CBCs). So, I called to see if I could get an interview.

For the interview, I showed up to the lab for my interview with the head pathologist, an older physician who oversaw the laboratory and had held the position for a couple of decades, so he had overseen many changes, including the fact that the lab then covered the whole sixth floor of a twelve-story tower of this 1000-bed hospital. After talking with the man for about 40 minutes, he offered me the job that would substantially increase my pay, put me on second shift only for six months before moving me to day shift when the new budget took affect. All in all, it was hard to turn down, but I told him that I needed to discuss this with my wife.

Obviously, I took the job. The cool thing was that we had phlebotomists to do all of the blood draws, so I no longer had to do that. I could actually focus on my lab work, which mainly entailed working with five other techs to crank out a few thousand CBCs per shift, in addition to doing all the coagulation studies. With machines to do everything, all we had to do was a brief microscope slide scan to determine if the machine was performing the white blood cell differential correctly, which it did about 90-95% of the time. And when the machine did not work, the computer would flag the sample and you would do a manual count.

In hematology, the ability to do those counts quickly and accurately is what separates the “good” techs from the rest. And, for some reason, I could discern those cells under a microscope quickly. Just from those blood smear slides, after staining, I could quickly diagnose whether these “weird” looking cells were being caused by something mundane as mononucleosis or as exotic as a specific type of leukemia. Regardless of what I thought, you only put out preliminary results and gave the slides to the pathologists in charge of hematology to make the final determination. And, it was those two guys who had the final say as to which techs were “good” and which were average. Now, that designation never increased my pay, only my prestige within the department, as those pathologists would seek you out for troublesome blood smears, especially various types of leukemias. I have to admit that those guys briefly made me into something of a hematology expert and encouraged me to go to medical school to become a pathologist. Unfortunately, that was not my path.

Anyway, while on second shift, there were a young of wannabe medical students from the University of Cincinnati who worked at the hospital as phlebotomists, so they took their jobs very serious. Their work meant they were getting ahead of other pre-meds who were not in their positions. But, like any other college kid, they were ready to party after work. Now, being a young parent, I rarely went out with these guys, but when I did, they took me to the “cool” clubs around campus where they turned me onto some terrific music from the alternative and hip hop scenes. In other words, their direction, along with living in Oxford, kept me on the cutting edge of music a bit longer than most my age.

So, in thanks for those young people who kept me young a bit longer, here’s the beginning of the first half of my med tech career and the music I loved.

8.25 Anita Baker - Rapture

Anita Baker – Rapture (1986). After Whitney burst onto the scene the previous year, people were looking for my R&B divas. What we got instead was a confidently singing, lower register woman with a sultry voice with the name of Anita Baker. This woman took the Sade formula of jazz cool and increased the soul in the mix and gave us this delightful cutting edge Eighties R&B sound. And, if “Sweet Love” doesn’t put you in the mood for some lovin’, then you might need Viagra.

8.25 Bad Brains I Against I

Bad Brains – I Against I (1986). Bad Brains were one of the most intriguing hardcore bands from the LA scene of the Eighties. Unlike their brethren Black Flag and Dead Kennedys, these four black Americans set out of create an American version of a punk/reggae fusion similar to the UK’s ska scene of the late-Seventies/early-Eighties. Along the way, the band incorporated metal, funk, hip hop and jazz chops, which lead to this album which is their London Calling. Bad Brains, along with Fishbone and Living Colour, led a resurgence of black Americans diving headlong into the rock scene. Although those bands shared audiences with band such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Faith No More and the early version of No Doubt, they never got the big record company push of those other bands, which only proves that racism was alive and well in the late Eighties.

8.25 Beastie Boys - Licensed to Ill

Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill (1986). By 1986, rap was primed for some white guys to attempt to make inroads. The only thing was that a Vanilla Ice-type of rapper would not fly at this point. So, into the void, enter three NYC Jewish boys who were originally punk rockers but had begun to absorb hip hop culture while in college. The trio, with the help of rising producer Rick Rubin, started at Run-D.M.C.’s stripped down rock-based beats and vocal trades to bring a touch of cartoonish brattiness and a heavy dose of Gen X art into their hip hop sound. Immediately, the hip hop community embraced these white boys and the rest was history. The tour of that year was Run-D.M.C., the Beasties, LL Cool J and Whodini, and they brought hip hop to the world, much as the Sex Pistols had notoriously brought punk to the nether regions of the USA. This tour was why N.W.A and Public Enemy was under so much scrutiny afterwards.

8.25 Bon Jovi - Slippery When Wet

Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet (1986). Just when you thought that AOR had run its course, along comes the New Jersey band called Bon Jovi who were equal parts hard-working Springsteen-everyman-band, Loverboy and glam rock. The band made this album by allowing their most ardent fans to decide which cuts would be included on the final version of the album, ensuring the band to have the best collection of tunes. Of course, the whole process worked its platinum magic, paving the band’s road to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, no matter how derivative I find them. At least my older son got them out of his system before the age of two.

8.25 Cameo - Word Up!

Cameo – Word Up! (1986). Easily the funk album of the year, Cameo finally broke through for some mainstream success. The title song and “Candy” remain as fresh today as they were back in the day. Cameo made up for the fact that Prince was going in an European art direction.

8.25 Crowded House - Crowded House

Crowded House – Crowded House (1986). From the ashes of the great new wave/art Australian band Split Enz rose Crowded House, led by Enz co-leader and younger brother Neil Finn. The band dropped the art pretensions of the Enz and focused on tight pop/rock songs along the lines of early Elvis Costello or Squeeze and rode those terrific songs to the Top 10. This is a delicious record of terrific power poppish rock.

8.25 David + David - Boomtown

David + David – Boomtown (1986). I say this often, but this album is a lost classic. Sure, “Welcome to Boomtown” got some radio and MTV airplay, but the album made barely a dent on the charts, which is a shame. This album remains a great rock album, but what separates it from the radio rock of the day were the lyrics, which depicted the underbelly of the American economy of the day. Actually, the juxtaposition of the music against the characters fighting economic loss and drug abuse while failing to grab the new American yuppie dream makes the album quite chilling. After recently listening to it, I feel it is still unfortunately poignant and relevant.

8.25 Elvis Costello - Blood & chocolate

Elvis Costello & the Attractions – Blood & Chocolate (1986). 1986 was something of a creatively stellar year for Elvis as he released two albums. The first, listed as by The Costello Show, was an ornate set of ballads that touched on some Americana along the way. Mainly, Costello recorded with Elvis Presley’s old band, which he renamed The Confederates, though he did record one track with his usual band The Attractions. In response, Costello recorded this raucous second album completely with The Attractions that conjured up the anger of the past. Of the two, this is the better album, though both are essential to Costello-philes.

8.25 Game Theory - Big Shot Chronicles

Game Theory – The Big Shot Chronicles (1986). Game Theory is a major cult figure in the power pop world. And, it’s a damn shame many of you have never heard of them. The mastermind behind the band was the troubled Scott Miller, who remained the only constant throughout the band’s go around. They ended up being a bridge between the ornate Beatlesque sound of Squeeze and the Seventies pop trash compactor of Jellyfish. This band, along with Crowded House, brought back the sophisticated pop of Rubber Soul-era Beatles and Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys. And, is that a bad thing?

8.25 Janet Jackson - Control

Janet Jackson – Control (1986). After Thriller sold a gazillion copies and the success reunion tour of her brothers The Jacksons, Janet felt it was time to exert herself and take control of her singing career. So, Miss Jackson, if you’re nasty, up and left the safety of LA and her family, traveled to Minneapolis and home of her brother’s rival Prince, and joined up with former members of The Time-turned-producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Together, the trio melded everything great about the Jacksons, Prince, The Time and some thick funk to give us a new pop/dance vision. The whole album is excellent, especially the singles. And, now, Janet Jackson was being mentioned in the same breath as her brother, his Purple rival AND Madonna.

8.25 Madonna - True Blue

Madonna – True Blue (1986). After two indisputable pop/dance classics, Madonna went all in on pop music and came out with a winner in True Blue. And, in the process, Madonna became more of an artist than an auteur. Her vocal prowess grew by leaps and bounds, eschewing her Betty Boop-on-helium attack for a fuller, more throaty approach, which worked perfectly. Fortunately for us, she was just finding her artistic sweet spot.

8.25 Megadeth - Peace Sells...But Who's Buying

Megadeth – Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? (1986). This album represents an early classic in the thrash metal sweepstakes. Former Metallica guitarist Dave Mustaine leads his band in what is arguably its finest album. Few guitarists can run their fingers on a fret like Mustaine, but at least he does in this time within the confines of some great songs such as the title song, “Wake Up Dead” and the Willie Dixon standard “I Ain’t Superstitious.” Megadeth made an album that Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax had to answer.

8.25 Metallica - Master of Puppets

Metallica – Master of Puppets (1986). As soon as Megadeth dropped Peace Sells, Metallica answered with the undisputed champion album of thrash metal Master of Puppets. Unfortunately, this album marks the last one for bassist Cliff Burton, who would die in a tour bus accident in Europe while on tour for this album. Still, this album was hailed as a classic from its release and remains one to this day. Everything that made Metallica a great band can be found on this album, all the angst, all the chords and the unparalleled rhythm. This represents metal at its finest.

And, that wraps up the first day covering 1986. God willing, I will finish up the year next time. Until then, peace.

The 1985 Wrap-Up Party: My 1000 Favorite Albums

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Let’s jump right into the last day of 1985.

8.20 The Cult - Love

The Cult – Love (1985). Long underappreciated by the States, The Cult was one of the first bands to bridge the gap between new wave Goth of bands like Bauhaus and Siouxsie & the Banshees and the stadium hard rock of Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith. Although the band would reach greater heights and notoriety on the subsequent two albums, this one is the album that broke the band to the college rock crowd. “She Sells Sanctuary” remains The Cult’s signature song.

8.20 The Cure - The Head on the Door

The Cure – The Head on the Door (1985). On this album, The Cure began to shed their dark Gothic influenced sound a bit and began to sharpen the pop hooks that laid beneath their songs. This is when the band, and specifically leader Robert Smith, began a play for more commercial acceptance without sacrificing their post-punk integrity. And thank goodness since this album spawned two enduring hits, “In Between Days” and “Close to Me.”

8.20 The Jesus and Mary Chain - Psychocandy

The Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy (1985). American ears were not ready for the feedback-drenched guitar attack of The Jesus and Mary Chain. If they were, then the public would have eaten up the pop melodies that lay beneath all the noise. This was the sound of The Beach Boys, The Velvet Underground and bubblegum music colliding in a canopy of buzzsaw guitars. Not only did this album seem to spawn bands like Pixies and Nirvana, but also the whole UK shoegaze craze of the early-Nineties, especially stalwarts like My Bloody Valentine.

8.20 The Power Station - The Power Station

The Power Station – The Power Station (1985). By 1985, Duran Duran was one of the biggest pop/rock bands on Earth, so it stands to reason that the boys needed a break. Singer Simon Le Bon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes and drummer Roger Taylor formed the Duran-squared soundalike band Arcadia, while guitarist Andy Taylor and budding bass god John Taylor joined forces with Chic drummer Tony Thompson and suave Brit vocalist Robert Palmer to form The Power Station. The Power Station actually lived out the original intentions of Duran Duran’s sound – to be a combination of Chic and the Sex Pistols. Produced by Chic bassist Bernard Edwards, The Power Station laid the foundation of a hard rock/dance-funk groove that INXS would perfect. The summer of ’85 will forever be remembered for “Some Like It Hot” and their T. Rex cover “Get It On (Bang a Gong).”

8.20 The Replacements - Tim

The Replacements – Tim (1985). The previous year, The Replacements dropped a mature punk/heartland rock joint entitled Let It Be. But no one was ready for the gigantic steps this Minneapolis band would make on Tim. Everything was more professionally done, from the songwriting to the lyrics to the playing to the vocals to the production. It was as if the guys were tiring of being the drunken wannabes to actually attempting to grab the golden ring. I cannot heap enough praise on this album.

8.20 The Smiths - Meat Is Murder

The Smiths – Meat Is Murder (1985). At the time, the argument within the college rock world was who was better, R.E.M. or The Smiths? Personally, I have always been a R.E.M. fan, but The Smiths were excellent. To be honest, Meat Is Murder has always seemed like the band’s transition album, much like R.E.M.’s 1985 LP Fables of the Reconstruction. Still, the draw for me to The Smiths has rarely been Morrissey but Johnny Marr’s swirling guitar jangle. Oh, you can find the band’s timeless single “How Soon Is Now?” on this one.

8.20 The Style Council - Internationalists

The Style Council – Internationalists (1985). Once again, my British brethren are going to cry foul that I put the American version on my list as opposed the version released everywhere else around the world known as Our Favourite Shop. Regardless, this is prime Paul Weller under the guise of The Style Council. It might not reach the emotional heights of My Every Changing Moods, but it remains a very solid outing, especially on “Shout to the Top!” and “The Walls Come Tumbling Down!”

8.20 Tom Petty - Southern Accents

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Southern Accents (1985). Originally, Petty had intended this album to be a double album song-cycle about growing up in the South, along the lines of what Mellencamp did for the Midwest on Scarecrow. Instead, Tom ended up fighting with the twin demons of substances and perfectionism that very nearly ended his career when he shattered his left hand in frustration. In response, the band threw together a hodge-podge sounding collection of songs which used a variety of collaborators and producers. Still, when the Heartbreakers were on, songs like the title song, “Rebels” and the immortal “Don’t Come Around Here No More” were stunning. But, when the experiments failed, those songs splattered on the ground like bird crap. Yet, this rollercoaster ride makes the album that much more charming to me.

8.20 Whitney Houston - Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston – Whitney Houston (1985). Whitney Houston was the voice of my generation, and everyone diva-wannabe who popped up in her wake (I’m talking to you Mariah, Christina and the rest) should be bowing to her alter every day. Whitney’s combination of beauty and her voice made her an obvious choice for rock immortality, and it all began on this debut album. “You Give Good Love” made us take notice, but the following singles of “Saving All My Love for You,” “Greatest Love of All” and the transcendent “How Will I Know” were statements that this was a once-in-a-lifetime talent.

And, that, my friends, wraps up 1985. And that means I have cover 565 albums up to this point. See you next time! Peace.

1985 Was More Than Live Aid, Day 2: My 1000 Favorite Albums

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Over the decades, 1985 has been musically distilled into one event: Live Aid. And rightfully so. The concert event, that spanned two continents connected by a relatively new technology of satellite coverage, was the benchmark event of Generation X. Held in London and Philadelphia, Live Aid had performances by many of the top musical acts of the first 20 years of rock music. Oh, sure, you can ask where were The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson and his brothers, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Wham! among so many others, but it still remains a feat that has remained unmatched, though Live 8 tried.

But, there was some fine music released that year, especially if you just ignore all the benefit singles that were released. Seriously? Did we really need Hands Across America? In retrospect, rap began to move into the mainstream more and more. New wave had become simply the sound of pop music. R&B was dominated by less talented bands attempting to cash in on the brilliance of Purple Rain and Thriller. Country…well, country was lost and would continue to be lost, albeit for the occasional brilliant album, forever. Unfortunately, rock was beginning to be dominated by glam metal, but the waters of alternative music was churning faster and faster preparing to explode in a few years.

So, yeah, I hated popular music at the time, but all the good stuff was bubbling underneath. But, in the long run, 1985 was not so bad.

8.20 LL Cool J - Radio

LL Cool J – Radio (1985). Grandmaster Flash made the first consistently decent rap album three years earlier. Then Run-D.M.C. blew the roof off everything. So, in the aftermath, walked a 17-year-old budding sex symbol with his confident rhymes and his major league swagger than set out to clear a new path for hip hop. That emcee’s name was LL Cool J. All of a sudden, kids were blaring “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” from their cars. Oh, the times they were a-changing.

8.20 Lone Justice - Lone Justice

Lone Justice – Lone Justice (1985). It’s always going the first band to do something that will get lost in the shuffle. Back before there was a Counting Crows, Wilco, Uncle Tupelo or The Jayhawks, there were bands such as The Long Riders, Jason & the Sorchers, and my personal favorites Lone Justice. All of these bands did a futuristic take on country rock as they kept a foot in punk rock while giving a passing nod to Neil Young and Tom Petty. For my money, Lone Justice was the best of the bunch. They had some fantastic songs, but their cover of Tom Petty’s “Ways to Be Wicked” is revelatory. Maria McKee was a modern day Dolly Parton, with a first class band. Oh, if the public could have just embraced the greatness of the band instead of wanting to hear more Eagles retreads.

8.20 New Order - Low-Life

New Order – Low-Life (1985). New Order perfected their innovative synthpop/rock/dance fusion on this album causing ripples that are still being felt today. On this album, the band finally left behind the shadow of Joy Division to become one the most important alternative bands of the Eighties. “Love Vigilantes” sound as fresh as it did 35 years ago.

8.20 R.E.M. - Fables of the Reconstruction

R.E.M. – Fables of the Reconstruction (1985). The growth of this band from album to album is simply amazing. I still find this album to be the darkest of the career. I don’t know what kind of demons they were exorcising at the time since the lyrics are so obtuse, but it sure seems like they had much to get off their collective chests. Yet, there is something just beautiful that came out of this darkness.

8.20 Run–D.M.C. - King of Rock

Run-D.M.C. – King of Rock (1985). They changed the world of hip hop on their first album, so on this one they went after rock music. Did they succeed? Yes and no. But, they did lay the foundation for their fantastic next album. Along the way, the band dabbled a bit in synthpop and reggae, proving they were up for anything to advance the sound of rap.

8.20 Scritti Politti - Cupid & Psyche 85

Scritti Politti – Cupid & Psyche 85 (1985). This album represents state of the art intelligent pop that is based in the lessons of Motown and new wave for a heartfelt update. “Perfect Way” remains a wonderful Eighties touchstone single.

8.20 Sting - The Dream of the Blue Turtles

Sting – The Dream of the Blue Turtles (1985). After the mega-success of Synchronicity, Sting felt it was time for him to fly the coop and establish himself as a solo artist. So, he went and grabbed a band of excellent jazz musicians, including saxophonist Bradford Marsalis (Wynton’s brother), to record some excellent songs. Unfortunately, we were not getting Sting’s trademark bass, which I feel like kind of ripped us off. Still, the album was excellent, perhaps his finest solo album. Yet, I am left wondering just what this album might have sounded like if Andy and Stewart were playing on it instead of some hired hands, though I do love Marsalis’ contributions.

8.20 Talking Heads - Little Creatures

Talking Heads – Little Creatures (1985). After years of expanding the band’s sound to include some excellent Anglo-ized African and funk rhythms, the Heads pulled back to their beginnings to focus on a set of excellent pop songs. This allowed the band to showcased their musicianship they had developed over the years with the expanded live lineup. At the time, it seemed like reaching back a bit was a major leap forward, not the ending of the line the album ended up being.

8.20 Tears for Fears - Songs from the Big Chair

Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair (1985). This album was truly a left field hit. No one was as surprised by this album from a band that was making dark synthpop just two years prior. Instead, the toned down the darkness, plugged in a guitar, bass and drums to create one of the best albums of the year. Remember the hits? They were “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” “Shout” and “Head Over Heels.” And, the rest of the album is just as strong.

8.20 The Bangles - Different Light

The Bangles – Different Light (1985). In 1984, The Bangles released their endearing and promising debut album, prompting many to unfairly compare them to The Go-Go’s. Where The Go-Go’s were punk and early Sixties girl groups, The Bangles were sipping from the water fountain of Sixties psychedelic rock where you could find The Mamas & the Papas, The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield. But what these ladies added was their super power, their wonderful four-part harmony. To me, especially now that I have heard Prince’s original version of “Manic Monday,” is what made their version, and all of their songs, so very magical. These ladies can flat-out play and sing and should be taken seriously. They are no afterthought.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, that wraps up Day 2 of 1985. Day 3 will be coming soon. Peace.

A Wedding, a Baby & an Internship – 1985, Part 1: My 1000 Favorite Albums

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1985 ended up being a pretty stressful year. It began with a wedding in February, having a baby in July (yeah, I know) and starting my internship two days after my older son was born. Plus, I had graduated in May, on the very same day I was a groomsman in my former roommate’s wedding. We were all jumping headlong into adulthood, whether any of us were ready or not.

Needless to say, my album purchases were curtailed quite a bit as the need for diapers, food and all living expenses trumped my little hobby. We lived in a scary little apartment in Anderson, Indiana, as I did my year-long internship at St. John’s Medical Center School of Medical Technology. As you can imagine, though nowhere near as bad as what physicians have to do, I was totally immersed in lab work and schooling. Every day, we came in at 5:00 am to help the phlebotomists do the morning blood draws. When we completed those, it was off to our assigned laboratory department to learn all the testing done there. For six hours, we first had to do “shadow” testing on specimens which had previously been tested by your teaching tech. And, your results better be as close to the reported results as possible or your had to retest the sample all over. Of course, the tech got to do the automated technique which is quick and accurate, while we did the manual test in which the automated test was based. After completing about 10 samples accurately of each test in that department, then you got to work with the machine under supervision for a day. This went on five hours a day, five days a week. Then, we got to go to lunch, where the 11 of us sat around bitched, laughed and compared notes.

After lunch, we would return to the classroom for three straight hours of lectures on the theories behind each test; learn about the physiology, chemistry, anatomy and pathology of the testing we were doing and learn to think like a physician, even though we would rarely, if ever, use that capability in the clinical setting. Looking back, it was time-consuming and tiring and, dare I say, boring, but at least I got to go home to a family. After about six months of this routine, I took my first job in the lab. I was the person who received, logged, prepped, stained, cover-slipped, labelled and arranged PAP smears for the pathologist to read. Of course, the slides were gross, but it was a pretty easy job. Plus, I could study while the staining procedure, which was not automated back then, was going on. Overall, the whole process took three hours to complete, which meant I was getting paid way more in that time period than I would have delivering pizzas for six hours four nights per week. And, it was an impressive line on my resume. Oh, and I gained the respect of many of the same techs who would become my colleagues five years down the road.

Yet, during that year, I still read my Rolling Stone magazines and going to the local record store to hear the latest releases, even if I couldn’t purchase them. The clerks were very sympathetic to my situation. Plus, they liked it when my little rocker-in-training came in with me.

So, let’s get on with the music! 1985 it is.

8.20 aha - Hunting High and Low

a-ha – Hunting High and Low (1985). Unfortunately, in America, a-ha is considered a one-hit wonder with their great single “Take on Me.” But, this Norwegian synthpop band was much more than that song, especially on their debut album. This band had way more going for them than that great single. a-ha continues to be a huge presence in Europe.

8.20 Camper Van Beethoven - Telephone Free Landslide Victory

Camper Van Beethoven – Telephone Free Landslide Victory (1985). How does one describe Camper Van Beethoven without that description being misconstrued? Allow me to at least give it a go. If the Grateful Dead had started after the punk explosion, taken more mushrooms than LSD, grown up in Southern California, had a wicked sense of irony-based humor in the vein of David Letterman, they MIGHT sound like CVB. And, yet, that is way too limiting. CVB was a favorite of the guys in R.E.M. Part of the band became Nineties alternative darlings Cracker, whose bass player is now a part of Elvis Costello’s Imposters backing band. Personally, I’ll just let their fantastic single “Take the Skinheads Bowling” speak for itself.

8.20 Dire Straits - Brothers in Arms

Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms (1985). Dire Straits made some outstanding albums during the years between the debut and this one, but none resonated with the public as this album did. You just could not escape it. Of course, the album is remembered for “Money for Nothing” and Sting’s vocal hook “I Want My MTV.” There for a while, this album was consider to be the greatest album of all-time in England. I think the public was just a little caught up in the moment, but it is awfully good.

8.20 Eurythmics - Be Yourself Tonight

Eurythmics – Be Yourself Tonight (1985). Who said that new wave, synthpop, soul and hard rock could not coexist in a musical sound? Well, the Eurythmics made it all happen on this album. This was their most commercially successful album and spawned a handful of hit songs. But none were as cool as “Would I Lie to You?”. Though the Annie Lennox/Aretha Franklin duet on “Sisters Doin’ It for Themselves” was pretty close.

8.20 Fine Young Cannibals - Fine Young Cannibals

Fine Young Cannibals – Fine Young Cannibals (1985). In 1984, the English Beat splintered into two great bands, General Public and these guys. While General Public had the main vocalists of the former group, Fine Young Cannibals had the creative forces plus a terrific young vocalist they discovered. Of course, FYC had the bigger commercial success, however fleeting it was. I first saw these guys on the old David Letterman show doing their excellent cover of the Elvis Presley classic “Suspicious Minds” and was immediately hooked. FYC remain one of the great lost bands of the Eighties.

8.20 Heart - Heart

Heart – Heart (1985). Honestly, I have mixed feelings about this album. While it sounds great and was a big seller for a band I love, the songs were forced on the band. Oh sure, they played the hell out of these songs from outside writers and made some very sexy videos for them. Still, I was sad for these great women being made into pawns of the industry. Yet, they triumphantly complied then re-exerted themselves afterwards to show they were never complete sellouts. They were simply backed against a wall and came out kicking.

8.20 Husker Du - Flip Your Wig

Hüsker Dü – Flip Your Wig (1985). 1985 was a huge year for Hüsker Dü, with two albums and a single cover of The Byrds’ psychedelic classic “Eight Miles High.” Flip Your Wig was the band’s second album released that year. This time the band embraces their love of Sixties pop music, so this album sounds like a pop album being played as a punk album. The big song is Bob Mould’s Eighties classic that rings true today “Makes No Sense at All.” If I were Joe Biden, I’d be playing this song at every campaign stop.

8.20 Husker Du - New Day Rising

Hüsker Dü – New Day Rising (1985). The first of two classic albums released in 1985, New Day Rising represents the band honing its songs to sound even more relentlessly vicious than those on Zen Arcade. Yet, this album also stresses the songs’ melodic sides, making this something of a hardcore pop album. It was as if the band were gearing up for Flip Your Wig on this album.

8.20 John Cougar Mellencamp - Scarecrow

John Cougar Mellencamp – Scarecrow (1985). Well, John finally did it! He created an album that was both innately universal and very Hoosier at the same time. The problem is that most Hoosiers (it’s the nickname for those of us from Indiana and no one knows why) totally missed out on the condemnation of conservative principles that caused the farmers’ plight back then which continues today. Many consider this album to be his best, while I believe John was only building the foundation for the true vision he will display later.

8.20 Kate Bush - Hounds of Love

Kate Bush – Hounds of Love (1985). Finally, Americans embraced the expansive sound of the great Kate Bush. It took a fantastic single in “Running Up That Hill” for Bush to crack our market, but the rest of the album is simply downright consistently terrific. If the States could take to the campiness of Queen in the Seventies, why not the poetic art rock musing of Kate Bush in the Eighties? I’m sold!

And that wraps up Day 1 of 1985. Peace!

1984, the Second Wave: My 1000 Favorite Albums

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Let’s get rolling with the rest of my favorite albums from 1984.

8.17 R.E.M. - Reckoning

R.E.M. – Reckoning (1984). If you were expecting more abstract art rock from the Athens, Georgia boys, then you did really understand the band. In concert, these guys rocked out loud and often. In the studio, they played around with textures and soundscapes. On their sophomore release, R.E.M. got a tiny bit more direct, while still mixing their Velvet Underground/Byrds/Patti Smith fetishes with a touch of southern Gothic to create a more mature step forward. They were the musical change that sprouted big time in seven or so years.

8.17 Sade - Diamond Life

Sade – Diamond Life (1984). Little did we realize at the time that the beautiful and talented Sade would still be periodically pulling our heartstrings with her wonderful mix of jazz, Seventies soul and a smoldering coolness for decades to come. This is the album that captured us forever. Since she takes years between albums, her sound never goes out of style, but the general public unfortunately forgets about her greatness.

8.17 Sheila E - The Glamorous Life

Sheila E. – The Glamorous Life (1984). Most thought Sheila E. burst on the scene with a little help from Prince’s alter ego Jamie Starr with this album and title song. But, don’t forget that Morris Day and Jerome Benton threw her in the garbage bin near the beginning of Purple Rain, which she proved immediately was not her destiny. The cool thing about this album was that she added a Latin touch to the Prince’s Minneapolis Sound, as well as some horns. Of course, when a protege finds success, Prince finds a way to co-opt that sound and put it into his by eventually adding Sheila E. to his 1986-1989 touring band.

8.17 The Cars - Heartbeat City

The Cars – Heartbeat City (1984). After three good but not great albums, The Cars hooked up with rising star producer Matt Lange to create the second best album in their catalog. Additionally, the band upped the ante by coupling the singles on the albums with some of the most endearing music videos of their career. Not only were those videos endearing but they pushed the boundaries of rock videos to works of art in their diversity and brilliance. Unfortunately, the band was also falling apart just as they reached their commercial pinnacle.

8.17 The Pretenders - Learning to Crawl

The Pretenders – Learning to Crawl (1984). By the end of 1982, singer/songwriter Chrissie Hynde was standing with half of her band dead due to drug overdoses. And, instead of packing it in, Hynde turns around and pour her soul into the songs on this album. Turns out that Chrissie was a survivor, along with original drummer Martin Chambers. This album is all about the band finding the strength to continue onward.

8.17 The Replacements - Let It Be

The Replacements – Let It Be (1984). Back in 1984, Minneapolis was a musical hotbed, but not simply because Prince was from there. Besides the Purple One and his coterie of funkateers, there was a vibrant punk scene that included Hüsker Dü and this band of lovable drunk losers called The Replacements. On the band’s previous two albums, they dabbled in a very loose form of punk rock. And, then, this album was dropped, which had the whole Ball State campus buzzing. Of course, the band was based in punk, but they took turns dipping their toes in country, Stones-influenced rock, teenage boy humor and even a Kiss cover. The Mats were just the tonic for the Eighties.

8.17 The Smiths - The Smiths

The Smiths – The Smiths (1984). In the US, college kids had R.E.M., and, then, the UK got their jangling guitar band in the form of The Smiths. But, the Smiths were influenced more by the early-Seventies British glam rock scene than the NYC punk scene, which made for some very exciting music. Quickly, The Smiths became the English alternative rock counterpoint to R.E.M., making for a brief but media-hyped competition between the two bands. If you continue to call this music “mope rock” you are totally missing singer/lyricist’s sense of humor.

8.17 The Style Council - My Ever Changing Moods

The Style Council – My Ever Changing Moods (1984). So, Paul Weller breaks up The Jam just as they were on the cusp of taking over the world so he could dive headlong into a heady mix of Mod soul and Europop that became one of my favorite bands of the Eighties. Much like The Beatles, The Style Council’s first couple of albums were a different mix of songs than what was released on the other side of the Atlantic. Therefore, I got way too used to this order rather than that of the European version called Blue Café. Plus, this album has the version of “You’re the Best Thing” that is my wife’s and my song.

8.17 The Time - Ice Cream Castle

The Time – Ice Cream Castle (1984). So, by the time this album was released in conjunction with Purple Rain, original band members Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and Monte Moir were gone, replaced by competent albeit nondescript musicians. Still, this album blew up big time behind the immortal singles of “Jungle Love” and “The Bird.” Not a band album, but this lineup was a step down from the original.

8.17 Tina Turner - Private Dancer

Tina Turner – Private Dancer (1984). This album just might be the greatest comeback story in rock music history. Turner had gained fame as a member of the duo Ike and Tina Turner. Unfortunately, Ike was a controlling and abusive ass, so Tina bolted as a battered woman. Slowly, she worked her way back into prominence, with the help of some young hotshots like the members of Heaven 17 and Dire Straits mastermind Mark Knopfler to craft one landmark album. Seriously, any album that contains a cover of “Let’s Stay Together,” “What’s Love Got to Do with It” AND the title song deserves a place on this list.

8.17 U2 - The Unforgettable Fire

U2 – The Unforgettable Fire (1984). Seriously, was anyone anticipating U2 beginning to incorporate subtle esoteric guitar soundscapes? I mean, just last year, they were rocking nearly as hard as any metal band, and now they are going all Cocteau Twins with Edge’s guitar screeching and soaring to places never touched over a bedrock rhythm section still firmly grounded in traditional Zeppelin-ish rock. The album was mind-blowing at the time, but it set U2 up for their megastardom within a couple of years.

8.17 Van Halen - 1984

Van Halen – 1984 (1984). Van Halen was always the party band of my generation. But, now, EVERYONE was partying with them. They took metal in a non-cartoon-ish direction. David Lee Roth was more of a game show host than a lead singer, while Eddie Van Halen, fresh off his “Beat It” cameo, smiled instead of grimacing in a fake orgasm as he shredded his guitar. And, all the while, bassist Michael Anthony and drummer Alex Van Halen laid down some of the most solid rhythm ever. Once again, VH combined humor and metal with some strong pop hooks to create a timeless sound. However, I still want to punch the guy in the dorm who played “Jump” over and over and over for three straight hours! Nobody wants to hear someone do that to any song!

And, folks, that wraps up 1984. While not as deep as other years in the Eighties, it still had some very strong albums. See you next time! Peace.

My Transition to Adulthood – It’s Day 1 of 1984: My 1000 Favorite Albums

5.17 Top 1000 Albums_LI

Up through the summer of 1984, life was still pretty carefree. After that, it was the stress of graduation, marriage, my internship, my old roommate’s wedding, finding a place to live and all the other crap that comes along with “growing up.” But, man, I packed a lot of living into those first eight months of that year. Most notably, I got the experience of riding in Bike-A-Thon on a team of complete rookies that made a big statement for those two-weeks of qualification, daily interviews with the school paper and, finally, the race itself. And, all of that was awesome, but it did not compare to winning the campus intramural basketball championship.

You see, when the season started, I began on our dorm’s B team, which was okay. But, I knew I could play on the A team. Their reasoning was that these guys had been playing together for two years and felt they had a shot at the championship. So, when the tournament rolled around, I played two games early in the morning on a Saturday in January. I had two decent games, scoring 10 and 15 points in the games, but our team got ousted by some pretty good teams.

As the second game was ending, I went on an eight-point tear in the last minute to bring our team within three points as the game ended. After the game, some of the guys on the A team came up to me and asked me to play in the rest of the tournament that day because their shooting guard was injured. So, I stepped in never realizing I would be starting. We were playing the defending campus champions, and they were focusing on our 6’8 offensive lineman, who later had a cup of tea in the NFL with the Packers, and our 6’5 defensive end who would later be signed by the Kansas City Chiefs. Plus, we had a silky smooth point guard who called himself “Magic.” Our small forward was my 6′ roommate.

The great thing about playing with guys who know how to play basketball is that they understand how to move the basketball to the open player, having the confidence they will make the basket. So, when the big went into our big guys, they would kick it out. Since the other team didn’t know me, I was left open all day long. That meant I was playing horse in the driveway all by myself again. The absolutely dumbest thing is that those guys let me torch them for three quarters as I racked up 28 points. By the fourth quarter, when they finally stuck someone on me, we were up 20 points. It was then that things got fun, as I would simply give a shot fake, drive and kick to one of the bigs, and the game was essentially over. Now, it was on to the championship game.

In the championship game, the other team was way too focused on me, which left the big guys open on reverse passes. I did score in double figures but not like that first game. It was so fun to play with guys that caliber. If I am expected to be the best player on my team, we are in trouble. But, when I am the third option, that’s when I can be dangerous. Fortunately, we had four terrific athletes that took the pressure off of me. And, by playing team ball, we won the championship. The best part was the other four said they wished they had played with me all season long, which was pretty cool of them.

That happened to be the last real competitive basketball game I ever played in. Sure, I played against college kids in Oxford, Ohio, all the time, in addition to being in some leagues in my late-twenties and early-thirties. And, of course, I played with other teachers and old guys every morning for a couple of years and in student-faculty games. But, those were just to “stay-in-shape” games, not at all early-twenty-somethings going at each other. Of course, I did spend that evening in and out of ice baths trying to flush the lactic acid out of my legs. But, it was worth it, getting another championship during that junior year.

But, man, 1984 had some terrific music! After the success of Thriller, it seemed like the industry was primed for the mega-selling albums that spawned about half-dozen hit singles. Lester Bangs’ worst nightmare was coming true as rock music had become a commodity.

So, let’s get this ball rolling.

8.17 Weird Al Yankovic - In 3-D

“Weird Al” Yankovic – In 3-D (1984). Other than maybe Cheech & Chong, no other comedy person did more for rock music than did “Weird Al.” If your song was not parodied in some manner by this genius then your song did not matter in our culture. But his true brilliance was seen in the shot-for-shot parody of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” video, which, of course, was titled “Eat It.” And, this album represents Yankovic’s finest moment, though that one is truly difficult to ascertain since he has maintained his excellence throughout his career. Still, to this day, I will lobby for his “Polkas on 45” as he definitive statement as he set classic rock staples to polka music in medley form. There should be a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for the clown prince of rock, “Weird Al” Yankovic!

8.17 Bruce Springsteen - Born in the USA

Bruce Springsteen – Born in the U.S.A. (1984). There was a time when Bruce Springsteen was one of the five biggest stars in the universe, and that time lasted from 1984 through 1986. This album made him a star amongst stars, but it was the adjoining tour that sent him through the roof. Everything he had worked for came to fruition on this album that is full of great songs, great playing and great energy. And if you strip away all of the hit songs, “Bobby Jean,” his ode to Little Steven Van Zandt, who was about to depart the E Street Band for a solo career, remains the best song on the album. And, I will always have a special place in my heart for “Dancing in the Dark,” which I used to describe as The Boss doing his best Duran Duran impression. Lastly, will someone PLEASE read the lyrics to “Born in the U.S.A.”? It’s not exactly the biggest ringing endorsement of conservatism.

8.17 Bryan Adams - Reckless

Bryan Adams – Reckless (1984). You know, I will be honest. I loved Bryan Adams’ first two albums and was excited for this one to be released. Initially, the album let me down. Then, for some reason, maybe it was just the whole Heartland Rocker moment, but this album blew up. And, now that we are sneaking up on 40 years onward, I find the album to be pretty good. And, I have always loved that he teamed up with Tina Turner on “It’s Only Love.”

8.17 Cocteau Twins - Treasure

Cocteau Twins – Treasure (1984). For the uninitiated, Cocteau Twins are a English band that was integral in the development of a strain of alternative music now referred to as “dream pop.” Their music is ethereal and relaxing, yet with enough of an edge to engage some of the most ardent hard rockers around. This band has not received the notoriety they deserve, as the cracked open a door that was followed by diverse artists as the Jesus & Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Lush, and to a lesser extent, Sixpence None the Richer. They were definitely swimming against the sounds of the time by creating something absolutely timeless.

8.17 Daryl Hall & John Oates - Big Bam Boom

Daryl Hall & John Oates – Big Bam Boom (1984). The dynamic duo of the Eighties concluded their unprecedented run of high quality music with this hip hop-influenced album. Maybe the boys were simply worn out by this point, but you can tell they were ready to pull back a bit and reduce the craziness that had been created around them. In retrospect, when compared to the other albums during this fantastic run, this album seems like they relied upon studio wizardry to cover up some songs be a little below their standards. Regardless, “Out of Touch” remains a milestone.

8.17 Echo & the Bunnymen - Ocean Rain

Echo & the Bunnymen – Ocean Rain (1984). The Bunnymen made a great debut, then experimented a bit on their sophomore release by adding some Cocteau Twins-like touches. But, everything came together beautifully on this third album. The cut to remember is the majestic and haunting “The Killing Moon,” which throws a large shadow over the rest of the album, however unfair that is. This is an ornate and intricate album that has subdued guitars, evocative strings and the Jim Morrison-like vocals of Ian McCullough.

8.17 Frankie Goes to Hollywood - Welcome to the Pleasuredome

Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Welcome to the Pleasuredome (1984). Through 1983 and into 1984, the Liverpool band Frankie Goes to Hollywood was making the largest musical waves since the Sex Pistols nearly a decade earlier. The band had released two classic singles in the Eighties milestone “Relax” and the overtly political “Two Tribes,” all of which were produced by the scolding hot Trevor Horn. Additionally, the band was something of a cultural phenomenon across the pond with their “Frankie Says…” T-shirts selling like hotcakes. So, when it was announced that the band’s debut album would be a double album, critics were immediately decrying this album before it every hit the retail market. Now that the dust has settled over the past 35+ years since its release, this is a pretty good album. Although it reeks of parachute pants, cocaine (though I have no idea what cocaine smells like), AIDS-era condoms and Eighties technology, it does so in nostalgic way.

8.17 Husker Du - Zen Arcade

Hüsker Dü – Zen Arcade (1984). The rock opera of the Eighties created by a hardcore band who never lost touch with their pop side. This was the first album that described the underbelly of white America as trickle-down economics swept the world. This is a brilliant album that fuses the sonics of thrash guitars with the speed of punk on amphetamines AND crack, while still remaining in touch with their inner Knack. Not a fun album at all, but one based in reality.

8.17 Los Lobos - How Will the Wolf Survive

Los Lobos – How Will the Wolf Survive? (1984). Talk about a left-field hit! Even for the Eighties, who would have predicted that a band from East LA, who were predominantly Hispanic, would bring together a mix of Tex Mex, Americana, the bastardized rockabilly of X and pure Mexican culture to the mainstream? And, this represented the band’s full-length debut. Fortunately for fans of the band, this album was only a starting point for the band, as they went on a trajectory that is most comparable to Radiohead in its breadth. I really cannot say enough about Los Lobos.

8.17 Madonna - Like a Virgin

Madonna – Like a Virgin (1984). This was the album that broke Madonna into the stratosphere. After this one, every little girl around the world was dressing like her. All of a sudden, we collectively let go of our Cyndi Lauper fixations and realized that Madonna would be our queen during the Eighties and beyond. Oh, and who produced this album? Nile Rodgers, of course!

8.17 Metallica - Ride the Lightning

Metallica – Ride the Lightning (1984). During a time when glam metal was beginning to exert its dominance over the rock world, along comes this little San Francisco metal band who played a new kind of sound that people called thrash metal. They sped up the Motörhead sound, put wild guitar playing into it, and simply rocked our minds. And, although their 1983 debut, Kill ‘Em All, caught the ears of the metal underground, this album was the one that propelled the band a bit above ground. This is the sound of Rush being sped up, steroided up and played very loud.

8.17 Minutemen - Double Nickels on the Dime

Minutemen – Double Nickels on the Dime (1984). Minutemen were yet another West Coast band that based their whole vision in the punk aesthetic. They were a very nimble trio of musicians who were able to shift from punk to the blues to jazz to all other kinds of noise. Unfortunately, they never got the opportunity to see their careers into the alternative age they spawned as an automobile accident ripped guitarist D. Boon way too early from this world. During a stellar year for music from the underground by the likes of R.E.M., Los Lobos, The Smiths, The Replacements, Hüsker Dü and so many others, Double Nickels on the Dime still leads the way for me.

8.17 Prince & the Revolution - Purple Rain

Prince & the Revolution – Purple Rain (1984). My goodness, was their ever such a cultural measuring stick than what Prince wrought with this album, movie and set of singles? Honestly, not since The Beatles had a musical artist unleashed such a powerhouse move. This was the moment to which His Purple Badness had been working his whole life. And, then he had attained everything. What was next? The freedom to follow his muse in any direction he felt fit. Of course, the bandwagon jumpers and other hipsters left him the moment he did not release Purple Rain II. But, those who recognized his genius were in for the musical trip of all-time. And, for a moment, Prince was the largest star in a big year for musical stars (I’m talking about Michael, Madonna, The Boss, Van Halen, Wham!, etc.).

And that wraps up Day 1 for 1984. Until next time, follow the words of the prophet Casey Kasem when he said, “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.” Peace.