By the end of this blog entry, I will have listed 511 albums in this list of 1000 LPs. That means there will be 489 albums from 1984 through 2019. It seems unfair, but I do believe the foundations of today’s popular music can be found in the past. It’s like a genealogy tree for a family. You can find bits and pieces from the past that influence how the current generations act. Plus, Eighties music simply ruled!
Anyway, let’s get this thing rolling.
Stevie Ray Vaughan – Texas Flood (1983). SRV burst onto the scene with the hot licks he added to David Bowie’s Let’s Dance album. But, he made even bigger waves by turning down a featured place in Bowie’s touring band that would have given Vaughan major exposure. The sticking point? Stevie wanted to be the opening act to pimp this very able. Bowie, probably fearing being upstaged by this young hotshot blues guitarist or maybe feeling SVR was making the correct career choice, said no. So, SRV went out on his own and the rest is history. Sadly, Stevie Ray Vaughan would be dead, and his blues rock revival that he was single-handedly spearheading went dormant until Gary Clark Jr. finally came along.
The Pointer Sisters – Break Out (1983). You know, The Pointer Sisters just don’t get enough love from history. Initially, this group had four sisters who were combining disco with Forties-styled vocal group. Then, a few years later, sister Bonnie left for a successful solo career, but it was the trio that remained who really tore up the charts. First, they hit with a smoldering cover of a Springsteen cast-off song called “Fire.” After that, the hits began to roll in, until they released this appropriately titled album, and break out they did. The sisters had huge hits, such as the altered vocals, which made them sound like Stevie Wonder, on “Automatic” and the unofficial 1984 Olympics anthem “Jump.”
The Police – Synchronicity (1983). Here’s the commercial peak of The Police, as well as their swansong. Once they conquered the world, they simply imploded. Yet, if you read the lyrics to many of the songs on this album, you can hear impending doom, At the time, you felt the lyrics were about personal relationships, and maybe they were. But, as hindsight can be, maybe they were describing the tensions within the band itself. Either way, it made for great art. While it may not represent their best album, it is their most mature and confident statement of their illustrious career.
The The – Soul Mining (1983). Now, we kind of look at this album as a bit pedestrian within the context of this band’s experimental dance/pop/rock catalog. However, back in 1983, let me tell you this was cutting edge new wave being married to dance beats and post-punk rock indifference. And, even though this band is really a studio concoction of Matt Johnson’s genius, I was taken aback by his pop instincts on this album. Of course, later albums would be much more mind-blowing, but the cult status of The The had to begin somewhere and this is the place.
Tom Waits – Swordfishtrombones (1983). After having gone as he could with his latter day version of Hoagy Carmichael shtick, Waits purged his management, label and sound for a more experimental sound that was sparse and eerie. Waits had come under the spell of musician Kurt Weill and vocally began channeling Howlin’ Wolf via Captain Beefheart to create a how new sound. This album represents the change in direction as he left behind the nighttime barflies that dominated his lyrics in the past for a far darker and more surreal set of characters who all challenged what was “normal” in the music of the day. It’s simply haunting and beautiful all at the same time. But, then again, I do have a very dark side despite my love of sunny pop music.
U2 – War (1983). It was on this album that U2 positioned themselves, unknowingly at the time, to fill the void that The Clash were about to open. The sincerity that rang through the band’s first two albums started to be pointed directly that themselves and their beloved Ireland. This was a band who were not only idealistic but pissed off as well. They took stock of their environment and were pointing their collective fingers at everyone, including themselves. “Two Heart Beats as One” showed the band’s softer pop side. And we all know how righteous and urgent the band sounds on “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “New Year’s Day.” But, the heart of the band generally, and this album specifically, can be found in the song “40,” a musical rendering of Psalms 40. This is a band actually wearing their hearts on their sleeves without any sense of irony during a time of high irony.
UB40 – Labour of Love (1983). This album of reggae cover songs made a big critical splash at the time. It was actually one of the first reggae albums in my collection. I remember playing this album for people when we were simply sitting around and talking, making fantastic socializing music. Initially, my biggest surprise was discovering that their cover of “Red Red Wine” was actually that song by Neil Diamond that had been reworked Jamaica-style by Tony Tribe, whose version UB40 thought they were covering. However, the biggest surprise for me was that it took FIVE years before “Red Red Wine” took off commercially. I was happy and pissed at the same time. Happy that this great band was finally being discovered but pissed because they had released many terrific albums and songs that got overlooked by the public in the interim. Go figure!
Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes (1983). I came home from Wisconsin in August 1983 just singing the praises of this Milwaukee band called the Violent Femmes and their classic eponymous debut album. And, basically, it fell upon deaf ears. I’m not sure why because this acoustic-based punk album was perfect fodder for the disaffected youth of America, especially the males. Today, you heard “Blister in the Sun” everywhere, but back in the day, you couldn’t get a radio station to play the band. My wife hates this album, but she was never the band’s target audience. Let’s just say that a movie like Superbad could have never been made without this album coming first.
Yes – 90125 (1983). So, Asia had hit the big time with a streamlined Prog rock sound the previous year, and Genesis was following a similar path. King Crimson had added new guitarist Adrian Belew of Frank Zappa and Talking Heads’ touring bands, to update their sound. So, instead of fading into the background, Yes made a similar move by bringing in a young fan-turned-guitar whiz in Trevor Rabin who helped the band forge a path with an updated sound along with help from former Buggle and Yes member-turned-producer Trevor Horn. Together, Yes became a major act again by embracing Eighties production techniques and technology and, once again, streamlining their musical meanderings. Believe it or not, this music tweak paid off in spades for Yes.
ZZ Top – Eliminator (1983). Are you beginning to catch on to the common thread running through this spate of Seventies bands who found much success once again in the Eighties? It was all about discovering how to incorporate new technologies into their music. Many Prog rock bands were the first to do this and find commercial and financial success. But, it was absolutely mind-blowing and shocking to hear one of the great blues bands ever embracing synthesizers in order to rework the calculus behind their music. And, ZZ Top pull it off in spectacular fashion with this fantastic album of space-age blues.
And, that, my friends, wraps up 1983. Next, we are on to 1984, which becomes the transition year for me personally from unruly, irresponsible man-child to a about-to-graduate-and-become-an-adult man. So, until next time, peace.