This list of mine keeps changing weekly. Some of the albums I had chosen fell out only to be replaced by better long-players. Needless to say, this list tends to be a breathing document. Plus, I only take the list through 2019, so there are some potential classics from this year that will be left off.
One more thing: during this pandemic, please do me a favor and wear a mask that covers your mouth AND nose. It’s not just protection for you but for your neighbor as well. As you know by now, I have degrees in biology, with an emphasis on microbiology (the closest thing Ball State had for a microbiology degree) and a minor in chemistry. My second degree is in medical technology, which allowed me to work in clinical laboratory environments. And although I did leave that profession behind for teaching, I did not stop learning. If I am to be honest, I chose microbiology over genetics only because microbiology seemed as if I had done the subject before. Maybe I was a microbiologist in a previous life or, as I believe, I was simply wired for it. Whatever the reason, I do know that this virus, while not the Level 5 Armageddon-type of virus, is an extreme health risk. Former students of mine who are now physicians all think this is one scary virus as it actually obliterates your lungs and may cause long-term problems in your immune and cardiovascular systems, in addition to your pulmonary system (of which your nose plays an important part of). So, please wear a mask. Your personal freedoms end when you place at risk the freedoms of others.
Sorry, enough of my sermon upon my soapbox. Let’s do some music from 1982.
Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast (1982). As you all know, I am not a big metalhead, but Maiden is definitely one of the best metal bands in history. There is no denying their musicianship. And, these guys can put on a show, as my older son can attest. But, this album represents their critical and commercial breakthrough. No longer were they just another talented member of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal banner, which was a stupid name. These guys were the real deal, nimbly marrying the speed of punk, Eddie Van Halen/Thin Lizzy-twin guitar attack, pop melodies, Sabbath-like dark lyrics and a touch of Rush prog into the sound of metal for the Eighties.
Joe Jackson – Night and Day (1982). Three years prior, Jackson was following Elvis Costello and others in the angry young man rock category of punk and new wave. He released three excellent albums in this vein. Then, out of the clear blue, Jackson released an album of big band-era songs that showcased the depth of his true talent. That’s why Jackson fans were not shocked by the late night NYC jazz sound of this album. This album was the perfect tonic for the after-party crowd at two or three in the morning. It is simply a mature statement by a very talented artist.
Marshall Crenshaw – Marshall Crenshaw (1982). The world was ripe for someone to bring power pop back in a big way. And into that void comes a former member of the travelling show Beatlemania to the rescue. Seriously, I listened to this album all summer and fall of that year. It remains one of my favorite albums of 1982 and all time. This album should have been HUGE, and I still don’t understand why. All the people at the record shops I frequent back in the day were pimping the album. It plays like a greatest hits album. I would rank this album right with The Cars and Boston as the greatest debut albums of my generation.
Marvin Gaye – Midnight Love (1982). Unfortunately, as fate played out, this album was Gaye’s last album created during his life. But, he went out on top, both creatively and commercially. This album plays as a more mature view of relationships with the sensuality of Let’s Get It On. And “Sexual Healing” remains a standout song.
Men at Work – Business as Usual (1980). The world was primed for this Australian band’s pop take on The Police’s sound. They softened the punk-cum-reggae fury of The Police, added some terrific pop melodies and off-kilter lyrics that proudly showcased their Australian sensibility, and took the sound to the top of the charts. “Who Can It Be Now?” and “Downunder” remain classic Eighties songs, but the rest of the album is outstanding as well. It’s a shame they couldn’t hang on to their momentum.
Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982). Everyone knows this album and all the stories behind it. You know, the Moon Walk, the videos, the fact that Columbia Records forced MTV to play his videos which opened the doors for black artists to gain traction on the channel, yadda, yadda, yadda. What remains is a killer album. Back in college, you could not escape the dance songs on this album at parties and clubs. That’s what I focus on these days, not the other crap. As one friend used to say in back then, “Michael was the shit!” That’s right!
Pete Townshend – All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes (1982). When Townshend released this solo album, he was coming off a big success with his previous solo album Empty Glass. However, Townshend was reeling from alcoholism and the death of Who drummer Keith Moon. The Who was doing new albums and touring, but they were not the same without Moon. So, rather quietly, Townshend released this album. It wasn’t a big seller, but I rather liked it. This was a man in pain, and I found the album rather cathartic. I still love the song “Slit Skirts.” That one does not get enough love these days.
Prince – 1999 (1982). The other monster album from 1982. Record 1 of the double album was required at every party for two years running. And as great as Thriller is, that was just pop when compared to the underground feel of this album. This was the sound of Prince actually ascending to the throne. And, if we are comparing the two, Prince had everything on Jackson since he could play every instrument on his albums. For me, that was case closed.
Richard & Linda Thompson – Shoot Out the Lights (1982). So, Fleetwood Mac made their divorce album a huge hit back in 1977. However, nothing was as raw as this album by British guitar god Richard Thompson and his soon-to-be former wife Linda. This album, while beautifully played and produced, is absolutely heart-wrenching to listen to. At the time, after witnessing the dissolution of my parents’ marriage, this album was simply too much for me. Yet, I still recognized its greatness. As the years have passed, the emotions evoked on this album are still tough to swallow, no matter how exquisite it sounds. Yet, it does stand the test of time.
Roxy Music – Avalon (1982). In this age of new wave and all the other sounds Roxy had birthed a decade earlier, the band made their sound more ethereal which struck an even deeper chord with listeners my age. If you want to understand the enduring status of this album, watch the Amazon Prime series Red Oaks which is a coming-of-age story set in the mid-Eighties. It is an excellent series, and Avalon plays a role in the lives of a couple of the characters. It is just a fantastic album.
Stray Cats – Built for Speed (1982). As I have stated previously, by the time the Eighties rolled around the rules set by the Boomers were being overturned. So, it stands to reason that in the midst of all of the technology being integrated into music, there would be a band that would go back to the early days of rock and immerse themselves into rockabilly, the forerunner to rock and roll. And, that’s just what the Stray Cats did. They also went to the UK to jump-start their career before riding the MTV wave into stardom here in their homeland. This was a party album just looking for a party. There is nothing like the site of a 6-foot-5-inch, 245-pound defensive lineman going crazy dancing to “Rock This Town.” Nothing.
Talking Heads – The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads (1982). Oh, the critics just love the Talking Heads’ live soundtrack Stop Making Sense, but if you truly want to get a feel of not only the Heads as a live act but also the evolution of the unit according to the increasing complexity of their music, this is the album. I much prefer this album because the performances are less studied and more raw. This album is the live album in which to enjoy the Heads.
And that brings us to the end of Day 2 for 1982. Stay tuned for Day 3. Peace.