Once the calendar changed to 1982, things changed for me. Early in the year, I now had a quarter and a half of college under my belt, so I was totally immersed in the environment. And, most of the best music was becoming popular as well, especially as MTV’s influence was being felt. Popular music was undergoing a massive shift in demographics, as Generation X became the target audience, much to the chagrin of older Boomers. So, with a new demographic comes a whole new set of musicians to enter the world. And, the message to the older acts was to adapt or get left behind.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that 1982 introduced to us the mega-selling album that would spawn not just a hit or two, but multiple hits. The shortlist for 1982 releases include Thriller, 1999, American Fool, Asia and Business as Usual. Not only that, but 1982 was the year of Prince and his stable of artists, The Time and Vanity 6.
Let’s take a look over the next few days at the albums of 1982.
ABC – The Lexicon of Love (1982). One trend of the early MTV days will be how many artists will repackage the classic Sixties Motown sound for a whole new generation. ABC was one of the first acts to crossover with this updated sound. The band also through in touches of disco and rock to make the whole package fresh. This album is a tour de force, but the band would try to constantly move beyond this sound in the future only to realize this was their wheelhouse. Just watch what follows in their wake over the next couple of years.
Adam Ant – Friend or Foe (1982). So what’s a man to do when your former manager, Malcolm McLaren of Sex Pistols fame, steals your rhythm section for a new band called Bow Wow Wow? Well, you circle the wagons, write some excellent songs, and bust out on MTV with a little ditty called “Goody Two Shoes.” that’s what.
Asia – Asia (1982). The much-hyped first supergroup of the Eighties actually lived up to the hype. Asia consisted of former members of Yes, King Crimson, Emerson Lake & Palmer and new wavers The Buggles (via Yes), and what the band created was a streamlined version of prog rock. Gone was the instrumental noodlings that the music of the post-punk era was reacting against, and in its place was a watered-down version of Rush’s Moving Pictures. And, it was a very successful move. Unfortunately, the band kind of moved into self-parody on subsequent albums. But for one glorious summer, they represented the sound of the future.
Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska (1982). As the Seventies ended, America was left tattered and out of confidence. Society was in the middle of a seismic shift that was going to fundamentally change its landscape. And, when you are The Boss, you recognize it and chronicle it. Therefore, this album reflected this new reality more starkly than ever before, mainly because Springsteen mostly left his E Street Band off the record. Basically, we got his first acoustic-based version of his songs of the underbelly of the American Dream. Finally, someone from the mainstream was drawing the same conclusions as much of the rock underground saw: this new America was using an economic version of Darwin’s natural selection to push the “undesirables” further down. This album actually set the stage for his mega-stardom in a couple of years.
Daryl Hall & John Oates – H2O (1982). By the time this album rolled around, Daryl and John could have released an album of farts and it probably would have sold millions. Fortunately, the duo was still at the top of their game and gave us arguably what might have been their last truly fantastic album. Here, they relied on their band’s outstanding chemistry, terrific songwriting and their standard clean production to create some enduring rock and soul classic songs, such as “Maneater,” “One on One” and “Family Man.”
Dexys Midnight Runners – Too-Rye-Ay (1982). Unfortunately, here in the States, you hear the band name of Dexys Midnight Runners, and a vast majority will think one-hit wonder. That’s right! “Come on Eileen” is that hit song from the album. Unfortunately, that song’s enduring popularity has overshadowed what a fantastic album it comes from. Seriously, leader Kevin Rowland concocted a sound that married American soul with some Celtic folk and mysticism that recalled Van Morrison at his very best a decade ago. Hell, they even had to the audacity to cover Morrison’s “Jackie Wilson Said (I’m in Heaven When You Smile)” to perfection. Take your damned REO album from that year off your turntable and throw this one on. You will NOT regret it.
Donald Fagan – The Nightfly (1982). So, by 1982, Steely Dan was on indefinite hiatus. So, Fagan threw together a little solo album that reminded everyone how great Steely Dan was. The difference was that this was a streamlined sound (there is a theme here, isn’t there) and the lyrics were more wistful and less cynical. Whatever the formula changes were made, they were truly magical.
Duran Duran – Rio (1982). The Beatles of the Eighties made quite an album here. This was cutting edge dance pop/rock at the time. And, of course, the little girls understood, as did the boys who were hitting on those girls at the time. But, you know what? This album stills sounds great today. The synths are icy in the right places, the bass pulses with danceable fluidity and the lyrics were definitely post-modern. And, there are just too many hits to list here.
Elvis Costello & the Attractions – Imperial Bedroom (1982). When I saw Elvis a few years ago, he was playing many of these songs from this album. He was talking about how much anticipation this album faced and even sarcastically called it the “Summer’s Feel-Good Album of 1982.” This album is Elvis’ Blood on the Tracks album, done with the elegance and grace of an English man with a cynical wit, a poisoned pen and a encyclopedic knowledge of music could only do. It’s not the punk sound of half a decade ago, but the fury is still present in the lyrics. You can cut the tension on this album with a knife.
George Clinton – Computer Games (1982). What happens when drugs make your empire crumble? Well, you start hanging out with younger guys who are in touch with the new technologies of the day, turn them loose in the studio to sample and create loops, and learn how to funk in the cocaine haze of the Eighties. And, what we got was the rebirth of a funkmaster. I still love to blast “Atomic Dog” out of my Escape as much as I did with my Volkswagen Rabbit back in the day.
Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five – The Message (1982). Here we go people! This is the first rap album worthy of inclusion. Hip hop was a singles category until Flash & the Five unleashed this album. Of course, the album is known for the title song, and rightfully so. “The Message” is arguably the most important hip hop song of all-time, but this album is full of great music. This band is so important to rock, not simply hip hop. After this great album, the world got turned on its collective head.
And, that brings us to the end of Day 1 of 1982. Catch ya later! Peace.