30 Years of Albums in My Wheelhouse: 1984

Looking back, my goodness! Was 1984 ever a whirlwind!?!?

I began the year still dating a young lady with whom the cracks in our relationship were beginning to show up to most of the world except for us. By March, we were drifting apart, until I finally ended the relationship in May, only for her to keep trying to get me back for a month longer before giving up. Yet, by the time she threw in the towel on us, I had met the love of my life and moving full steam ahead with her, the woman who ended up being my wife.


Before meeting my soon-to-be-bride, I was living the life of a carefree college junior man-in-training. That first half of the year, I was my fraternity’s president, co-captain of the fraternity bicycling team that qualified 13th in the field of 33 team in Ball State’s version of Indiana University’s “Little 500,” which was called by the uninspiring name of “Bike-a-Thon.,” and was voted 1st runner-up in the “Trike-a-Thon” (we have a way with names at Ball State) King Contest (I was supposed to dress up like Boy George for the photo session but chickened out at the last moment – thank goodness my friends used their coins collected throughout the year to vote for me, otherwise I would have never gotten a vote).


Additionally, I played on a dormitory basketball team that wasn’t too good but was moved up to the “A” team right before the tournament. Before my arrival, the “A” team had won only 5 games. But, for some reason, we jelled together quickly and won the whole thing. It helps when your frontline includes two guys who were drafted in the NFL draft back in 1986 or 1987 and were 6’8″ and 6’5″ respectively. The difference was that I was a consistent outside shooter who could keep the opponents from packing their defense in on them. I hit enough shots to open things up for our studs to win every game for us.

Tina Turner

That summer, I took summer school classes only because I did not want to go home anymore. So, I took a single day each month to visit Mom and my brother that summer. Little did I realize that those visits were nearly my last as a single person. Now, if you really want to have fun college, then take summer school classes. The classes last longer and meet every day, but you are done with them in six weeks or so. Perfect for the person with ADHD, like me. Then, you spend your evening drinking beer on the front porch, with the TV pulled out there to watch the NBA Finals (Celtics vs. Lakers – Bird vs. Magic!) or baseball (game of the week or the All Star Game), music blaring to attract people to stop by to talk or hanging out with the girls who moved in next door that summer, one who ended up becoming my wife.

Prince & the Revolution

When the fall rolled around, I was busy getting ready for graduation (I did not participate – I hate those ceremonies!) and interviewing for my medical technology internship at an area hospital. The only class I really remember much about from college was my immunology class that year, which was the most challenging class but the most interesting at the same time, all because we learned about the immune system by studying a new virus that was causing a silent pandemic at the time, human immunodeficiency virus or HIV. Today, students probably have been studying the immune response to COVID-19, which only makes the course so much more pertinent to you at the time.

The Style Council

For the most part, the music of 1984 was impeccable. Let’s name drop a few of the artists whose careers exploded into the stratosphere that year with critically acclaimed albums: Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Wham! and Van Halen. And while all of that was happening, these artists were debuting with outstanding music: The Smiths, Sade, Los Lobos (technically, their second release but their first full-length album), Sheila E. and Run-D.M.C., just to get the ball rolling.

The Smiths

Falling a year like 1983 is difficult, but the mega-selling album was the big story of the year. Purple Rain, Born in the U.S.A., Private Dancer, Can’t Slow Down and Make It Big were just a few of the titles that dominated the album chart. Plus, there were so many great singles in 1984 that it becomes difficult to narrow one’s list to 50 songs. Finally, I got to see some great artists live in concert like Genesis, Billy Idol, Stray Cats and The Cars.

As I said, I was living the dream in 1984. That means it’s time for the countdown!

50. Twisted Sister – Stay Hungry

49. Simple Minds – Sparkle in the Rain

48. Don Henley – Building the Perfect Beast

47. Ratt – Out of the Cellar

46. Julian Lennon – Valotte

45. Chicago – Chicago 17

44. The Art of Noise – Who’s Afraid of The Art of Noise

43. The Bronski Beat – The Age of Consent

42. Meat Puppets – Meat Puppets II

41. Glenn Frey – The Allnighter

40. INXS – The Swing

39. Joe Jackson – Body and Soul

38. Thompson Twins – Into the Gap

37. The Jacksons – Triumph

36. New Edition – New Edition

35. Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Welcome to the Pleasuredome

34. Whodini – Escape

33. Sheila E. – The Glamorous Life

32. Stevie Ray Vaughan – Couldn’t Stand the Rain

31. The Cocteau Twins – Treasure

30. Steve Perry – Street Talk

29. Bryan Adams – Reckless

28. Lindsey Buckingham – Go Insane

27. The Bangles – All Over the Place

26. Depeche Mode – Some Great Reward

25. Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense

24. The Time – Ice Cream Castles

23. Wham! – Make It Big

22. General Public – …All the Rage

21. The Replacements – Let It Be

20. Run-D.M.C. – Run-D.M.C.

19. Metallica – Ride the Lightning

18. Los Lobos – How Will the Wolf Survive?

17. The Cars – Heartbeat City

16. Minutemen – Double Nickels on the Dime

15. Chaka Khan – I Feel for You

14. Hüsker Dü – Zen Arcade

13. The Pretenders – Learning to Crawl

12. U2 – The Unforgettable Fire

11. Echo & the Bunnymen – Ocean Rain

10. Tina Turner – Private Dancer

9. Sade – Diamond Life

8. Van Halen – 1984

7. The Smiths – The Smiths

6. R.E.M. – Reckoning

5. Daryl Hall & John Oates – Big Bam Boom

4. Madonna – Like a Virgin

3. The Style Council – My Ever Changing Moods

2. Bruce Springsteen – Born in the U.S.A.

1. Prince & the Revolution – Purple Rain

30 Years of Albums in My Wheelhouse: 1983

Overall, 1983 may have been my favorite year during my schooling years. So much happened that year that I could almost write a half-way interesting book just about what happened that year. I spent about two-and-a-half months working at a southern Wisconsin resort as a substitute waiter and busboy. There, I met all kinds of people from all over the eastern half of the USA, as well as college students from France and the UK. It was a great experience to be 20 and faraway from home.


That summer, while bussing tables, I met former Chicago White Sox and Bulls front office man Jerry Reinsdorf. Although he treated and tipped me well, the man was a dick to many of my friends who worked his table all week. Maybe it was my ability to discuss the Pacers’ and Bulls’ rosters intelligently that day that got me the good tip. Still, I walked away without a reference for front office job with either organization. Go ahead and think about the fact that Michael Jordan and I could have joined the Bulls the same year. What could have been.

The cool thing about being near Milwaukee is that the city had a vibrant music scene and radio, which probably is due to its proximity to Chicago although that never help Indy. In 1983, I learned all about Milwaukee’s fantastic Summer Fest. Unfortunately, I really don’t remember too much about it due to the lower drinking age at the time in Wisconsin. Though, somehow I came away with a Def Leppard concert T-shirt, whom I really didn’t care for at the time and to this day. So, when I woke up the next day, I spray painted a red circle around the Pyromania LP cover artwork on the front and sprayed a line through it all. It was my little punk statement.


Yet, while there, I did learn of a great new band from the city called the Violent Femmes. Immediately, the band found favor in the underground alternative scene and eventually became moderate stars within the alternative nation. The band had an album release party, and we were there. I was so impressed with the Femmes’ set that I purchased their self-titled debut album, much to the 38-year chagrin of my wife.

1983 was another one of those transition years in which we see many new artists popping on the scene to make a lasting impression. In addition to the Violent Femmes, debuts were made by big names like Madonna, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Quiet Riot, Cyndi Lauper, New Edition, Eurythmics, Metallica, Mötley Crüe, Tears for Fears, among others. It was a very good year for debuts, albums and singles, as if the best music was also the most popular which doesn’t really happen all of the time.

Cyndi Lauper (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)

Additionally, 1983 was the first year during which we all felt MTV flexing it muscles. All of a sudden, whatever MTV was embracing in its programming was directly reflected by the playlists of radio nearly across the board. Suddenly, radio felt similar to the early Sixties when black, white and all skin colors were coexisting in radio formats in the forms of rock, pop, jazz, alternative, dance, R&B, rap, reggae and country. For a very short time I was lead to believe that maybe our racial differences were being bridged by music and sport, but, unfortunately, I was just naïve. Sadly, we may be in a worse place today than we were back in 1983. Then, again, I was still living in a fairly vanilla environment and not fully understanding just how easy I had it at the time because of the color of my skin.

Culture Club

Another thing that started to make a comeback, which will come to fruition over the rest of the decade, was the multi-artist movie soundtrack album. Flashdance was the biggest of the year, even knocking Michael Jackson’s Thriller out of the top spot on the Billboard album chart. Another significant soundtrack was the one for the film Valley Girl. At the time, the movie just kind of came and went. But it struck a chord with some young Gen X-ers with its teen Romeo and Juliet romcom themes set to the music of some pretty impressive new wave artists like Modern English (“Melt with You”), The Plimsouls (“A Million Miles Away”), The Producers and others, while we watched a you Nicholas Cage in one of his first leading roles chasing a rich girl who was out of his league.

New Edition

The most notable event of the 1983 was the second US Festival held out in the desert of California yet attended by over 300,000 people in my age group. While not as memorable as Live Aid held in 1985, the US Festival was the first attempt in a very long time to hold a multi-day music festival. It was dubbed the “Woodstock of the Eighties” by Boomers in the press, although it was much more commercial and clean than Woodstock. During the three days, concert goers witnessed performances by Van Halen, The Clash, Men at Work, Stevie Nicks, Ramones, U2 and many others, both revered and forgotten. Unfortunately, once again, the music was fairly whitewashed and lack diversity.

Now that the introduction to my version of 1983 is over, let’s get to the countdown.

50. John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band – Eddie & the Cruisers OST

49. Yes – 90125

48.  ZZ Top – Eliminator

47. Huey Lewis & the News – Sports

46. Journey – Frontiers

45. Men at Work – Cargo

44. Big Country – The Crossing

43. Whodini – Whodini

42. Tom Waits – Swordfishtrombones

41. Elton John – Too Low for Zero

40. Stevie Ray Vaughan – Texas Flood

39. Spandau Ballet – True

38. UB40 – Labour of Love

37. The The – Soul Mining

36. The Fixx – Reach the Beach

35. Herbie Hancock – Future Shock

34. New Edition – Candy Girl

33. Quiet Riot – Metal Health

32. Bryan Adams – Cuts Like a Knife

31. Duran Duran – Seven and the Ragged Tiger

30. Midnight Star – No Parking on the Dance Floor

29. Aztec Camera – High Land, Hard Rain

28. Various Artists – Flashdance OST

27. Tears for Fears – The Hurting

26. The Stray Cats – Rant ‘n’ Rave with the Stray Cats

25. Def Leppard – Pyromania

24. Elvis Costello & the Attractions – Punch the Clock

23. Lionel Richie – Can’t Slow Down

22. Mötley Crüe – Shout at the Devil

21. The Pointer Sisters – Breakout

20. Echo & the Bunnymen – Porcupine

19. X – More Fun in the New World

18. Metallica – Kill ‘Em All

17. Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)

16. Billy Idol – Rebel Yell

15. Genesis – Genesis

14. Billy Joel – An Innocent Man

13. U2 – War

12. Marshall Crenshaw – Field Day

11. Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes

10. David Bowie – Let’s Dance

9. Eurythmics – Touch

8. Madonna – Madonna

7. Cyndi Lauper – She’s So Unusual

6. John Cougar Mellencamp – Uh-Huh

5. Talking Heads – Speaking in Tongues

4. New Order – Power, Corruption & Lies

3. The Police – Synchronicity

2. Culture Club – Colour by Numbers

1. R.E.M. – Murmur

30 Years of Albums in My Wheelhouse: 1982

Looking back, 1982 was one helluva of year for me and for music. MTV debuted in both Muncie and Anderson, so I got to view this new phenomenon at my fraternity house and home. MTV played a HUGE roll for people my age in exposing us to all kinds of new music, although the channel was so very slow to add black artists to its playlist.


Surprisingly to me, I was being thrust into leadership roles with the fraternity, my dorm and even in the science department. It was as if I had stepped into some bizarre world in which adults and my peers both appreciated my skills and talents without judgement, which was a total 180-degree turn from my perceived status within my high school. Likewise, college women suddenly took an interest in me. Needless to say, college was a totally different experience than high school.

Instead of being kept out of pickup basketball games during open gym situations back home, I was getting picked by the best teams to run with them. It got to the point during the intramural basketball season that I jumped from one of the worst teams from the dorm to the best team by the end of my freshman year. It got to the point after a tournament that a Ball State assistant coach ended up asking me to try to be a walk-on with the actual men’s team. I thought long and hard about it. If I had realized that I really wanted to be a coach back in college, I would have walked on to the team. Anytime you have college basketball experience, you have a leg up on everyone else that wants a coaching position. Stupidly, I still did not believe in my talents and skills, or myself, enough to believe that I might be a Division I college talent. That single decision might be one of my biggest regrets. You see, I still remembered everything that had been said about me throughout high school, and I could not deprogram myself back then.

Dexys Midnight Runners

On the other hand, I was having a grand time making party mixtapes for frat parties and doing some freelance dj jobs in which I only played the music not the kind of creative process that position does today. But, I was mixing rudimentary sounds together with some interesting results. Mostly, I was in Cooper Science building taking enough biology, chemistry and physics classes to choke a horse. Still, I would always pick up my paycheck for my work in the dormitory cafeteria every other Thursday, walk down to my college bank, deposit some money in my account and take a twenty into the local record stores to check out this week’s new release albums.

It was in 1982 during which I made my second greatest single day purchase of music in my young life. It was October 1982, and Ball State’s newspaper, The Daily News, had an advert for a new discount store in the Village (Discount Den) that was pimping their albums for $3.99 a piece. So, that day I went down there after classes, walked in to check out their inventory for the first time. That day I walked out with four terrific albums: Hall & Oates’ H2O, Night and Day by Joe Jackson, Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly and Security (also known as Peter Gabriel 4) by Peter Gabriel. All four had been released around the same time.


What I honestly remember about 1982 was the plethora of great new artists releasing outstanding music, first getting exposure on MTV, then actually getting radio play. It seemed as if overnight that Culture Club, Duran Duran, Prince, Michael Jacksons, and the like were replacing Neil Diamond, Eagles and REO Speedwagon. It was an exciting time because this new music actually was representing people around our age.

It was such a fun time because I felt as if my mixtapes were reflecting these changes as I was having Grandmaster Flash butt up against Foreigner while old Motown songs were programmed next to some budding hair metal band. Shoot, even the Dead Kennedys sounded great next to Prince followed by “Atomic Dog” followed by “Crazy Train” then “Blowfly’s Party.” It was eclectic, but it worked! It was no wonder that the great and influential NYC DJ Afrika Bambaataa became influenced by Kraftwerk only to sample their music on his futuristic hip hop classic “Planet Rock.” It was as if many of us from the late-Boomer/early-Gen X generations were bored with the status quo being reflected in the Wonder Bread-esque new radio format planning.

Them, you throw all of this great music into the soundtrack of your daily life of a nineteen-year-old, then you know that 1982 was a great year to be alive. Plus, during the calendar year of 1982, I got to see a few concerts: The Police with opening act Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Heart with a pretty popular Hoosier playing Indy for the first time since he hit the big time named John Cougar Mellencamp and Queen on their last American tour with the perfect opening act Billy Squier. Sure, I did not attend many concerts back then, but I was also fairly picky about which artist I wanted to see. The Police were great, but Joanie was an added bonus. Then, I went to see Mellencamp, but left the legendary Market Square Arena a HUGE Heart fan. Finally, the first two artists in which I was seeing for the second time each, both Queen and Billy Squier were outstanding. Now 40 years later, I still cannot believe that Queen, coming off a sold-out concert during the summer of 1980, could not sell out MSA again two years later. It did not make sense to me other than Freddie Mercury had recently come out as gay while Hoosiers at the time were offended by that. I thought it was so stupid because the band was actually playing its most challenging music of their career. Maybe people were also offended the band was creating a unique dance/rock hybrid that was a little ahead of its time. Regardless, it was just stupid all the way around. Now, I get to hear how lucky I was to get to see Queen twice. When, in reality, those same people might have been boycotting Queen because of Freddie’s sexuality and afraid of the dance part of the band’s newest music. Today, we’d call it homophobia.

So, let’s check out my memories in today’s countdown.

50. Rick Springfield – Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet

49. Laurie Anderson – Big Science

48. Pete Townshend – All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes

47. Squeeze – Sweets from a Stranger

46. Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five – The Message

45. A Flock of Seagulls – A Flock of Seagulls

44. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Long After Dark

43. Frida – Something’s Going On

42. Lionel Richie – Lionel Richie

41. Rush – Signals

40. The Alan Parsons Project – The Eye in the Sky

39. The Misfits – Walk Among Us

38. Toto – Toto IV

37. Pat Benatar – Get Lucky

36. The Go-Go’s – Vacation

35. Billy Squier – Emotions in Motion

34. ABC – The Lexicon of Love

33. Dire Straits – Love Over Gold

32. Billy Joel – The Nylon Curtain

31. Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast

30. Donald Fagen – The Nightfly

29. Richard & Linda Thompson – Shoot Out the Lights

28. Asia – Asia

27. Billy Idol – Billy Idol

26. Culture Club – Kissing to Be Clever

25. X – Under the Big Black Sun

24. The English Beat – Big Beat Service

23. Peter Gabriel – Security (Peter Gabriel IV)

22. Adam Ant – Friend or Foe

21. John Cougar – American Fool

20. Marvin Gaye – Midnight Love

19. XTC – English Settlement

18. Men at Work – Business as Usual

17. Yazoo – Upstairs at Eric’s

16. The Cure – Pornography

15. Elvis Costello & the Attractions – Imperial Bedroom

14. Duran Duran – Rio

13. The Psychedelic Furs – Forever Now

12. Talking Heads – The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads

11. The Clash – Combat Rock

10. George Clinton – Computer Games

9. Joe Jackson – Night and Day

8. The Time – What Time Is It?

7. Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska

6. Daryl Hall & John Oates – H2O

5. Roxy Music – Avalon

4. Dexys Midnight Runners – Too-Rye-Aye

3. Michael Jackson – Thriller

2. Marshall Crenshaw – Marshall Crenshaw

1. Prince – 1999

30 Years of Albums in My Wheelhouse: 1981

After graduating in May of 1981, I had until September before I started college so I needed a job. Back at that time, at least in Central Indiana, we were facing a massive recession. My county had been tied to General Motors for a very long time, so when people started to be laid off from the supply companies in town our area was actually in a depression. Suddenly, jobs were drying up as all the other places around town began squeezing their staffs. However, I lucked into one of the easiest jobs I have ever had.

Back in the day, people (teenagers) were hired to walk down the rows of cornfields of companies like Pfizer to pull the tassels out of the cornstalks in order to keep the corn pure. After working at a Dairy Queen the previous summer, I was prepared to detassle corn. Fortunately, fate intervened. When it comes to detassling, someone is hired to call all of the kids to make sure the bus is full and to meet the bus in the morning and afternoon to check the kids on and off the bus. That job was held by a young female teacher down the street. However, she was pregnant with her first child, so she asked me if I was interested. Of course, I jumped on it.

The Go-Go’s

Since the area was depressed, it was easy to fill the two buses, one for boys and one for girls. I had took a couple of hours to make calls to the kids, writing that time down on my timecard. At 6 AM the next morning, I was there to check kids onto their respective buses and sat in my mom’s car until the buses pulled out. Then, I met those buses again around 4 PM, checked the workers off the bus, talked to the bus drivers about problems (like did anyone get fired, any fights, anyone quit, that sort of thing). I then waited around until all the kids got rides home, breaking up any fights that might happen. Then I would go home, take an hour to the next group of kids to fill any vacancies for the next day.


What I did not realize until I turned my first timecard that I had originally short-changed my work hours. You see, I also got paid for the time the kids were transported on the bus and worked in the field. While the workers were paid while in the field, I was paid from the moment I arrived at the school to check in the kids to the moment I left the parking lot at the end of the day, and all time in between, even if I was at the swimming pool, playing basketball or mowing Mom’s lawn. Hell, I could spend the day with a girl or working another job, if I could find it, and still get paid for the detassling job.

Rick James

Needless to say, I made great money that summer for little work. In reality, I did feel a little guilty about how I was paid, but that was the system that was set up by the state of Indiana. I never quite figured out why I was hired by the state of Indiana to work for Pfizer in order to find THEM workers. But, every seed company and private farmer who dabbled in field of pure seeds worked in the same manner. Regardless, 1981 was my second year in a row not to work in the field. In 1982, I would go back to the field but as a supervisor, which would become my second easiest job I ever held. But, 1981, the year in which my area was in an economic depression with unemployment around 30%, I had my easiest job.

When I wasn’t goofing off, I was using a portion of my newly found wealth to go to the local record store to “work” on my collection, which was then just going over the 100 mark. Within a year, my collection will double in size. By the end of my college days and internship, my collection would be in the 250-range. During the summer of 1981, I organized all of my albums, by keeping index cards for each album like they were library checkout cards. I did this in case someone in my dorm wanted to “check out” one of my albums. You wouldn’t believe how much of a deterrent that system was to people borrowing my albums. After six weeks at Ball State, people stopped asking to borrow any of them.

Tom Tom Club

To be honest, I feel like 1981 was kind of a boring year for music. We were now two years removed since the exciting summer of new wave in 1979. Sure, MTV debuted on August 1, 1981, but most of the country was still a year or so away from feeling its full impact. Instead, yacht rock was dominating the radio. I realize that yacht rock is another popular musical relic from the past, but when you are still in your teens, a male and full of piss and vinegar, you tend to want to hear aggressive music, not romantic soft rock. And, if you preferred alternative rock like I did, well, you were, as the farmers around here say, “just shit out of luck.”

So, that’s why my album collection grew, and continues to grow today as I take chances on albums that receive good reviews even if I have not heard any songs on them. That strategy paid off well with Marshall Crenshaw, The Jam, Nirvana and many other punk/new wave/alternative bands over the years. Sure, there was plenty of album oriented artists on the radio like Billy Squier, Journey and Foreigner. But, if you wanted to hear “Superfreak” by Rick James, you had to put on your own record because he wasn’t played on rock or pop radio in Indiana. And if you wanted to hear any of the artists who part considered part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal like Motörhead or Iron Maiden, you might hear them a hand full of their tunes on a rock radio station late at night.

Black Flag

In the pre-MTV and internet days, you found out about new music in two manners: radio and print press, specifically rock magazines and fanzines. And, if you were like me and desired to listen to music other than what is on the radio, then you read magazines. All through the 70s, I read Creem, Circus and Hit Parader in order to discover new artists. In early 1980, I discovered Rolling Stone and enjoyed it for its pop culture status, but the others remained as my entry way into the alternative world.

Yet, if you were doing the work, you could discover many more creatively satisfying artists than what the radio was spoon-feeding us. With that said, let’s do the countdown thing.

50. Saga – Worlds Apart

49. Grace Jones – Nightclubbing

48. Sammy Hagar – Standing Hampton

47. Devo – New Traditionalists

46. AC/DC – For Those About to Rock We Salute You

45. Soft Cell – Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret

44. The Psychedelic Furs – Talk Talk Talk

43. Luther Vandross – Never Too Much

42. The Cars – Shake It Up

41. The Stray Cats – The Stray Cats

40. Quarterflash – Quarterflash

39. Elvis Costello & the Attractions – Trust

38. Mötley Crüe – Too Fast for Love

37. Electric Light Orchestra – Time

36. Triumph – Allied Forces

35. Pat Benatar – Precious Time

34. The Rolling Stones – Tattoo You

33. Kraftwerk – Computer Love

32. Duran Duran – Duran Duran

31. The Tubes – The Completion Backwards Principle

30. X – Wild Gift

29. Genesis – Abacab

28. Journey – Escape

27. Billy Joel – Songs in the Attic

26. Echo & the Bunnymen – Heaven Up Here

25. The Moody Blues – Long Distance Voyager

24. Rick Springfield – Working Class Dog

23. Loverboy – Get Lucky

22. Lindsey Buckingham – Law and Order

21. The Time – The Time

20. Rickie Lee Jones – Pirates

19. Black Flag – Damaged

18. Phil Collins – Face Value

17. Dan Fogelberg – The Innocent Age

16. Tom Tom Club – Tom Tom Club

15. The Human League – Dare!

14. Squeeze – East Side Story

13. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – I Love Rock & Roll

12. Stevie Nicks – Bella Donna

11. Foreigner – 4

10. Prince – Controversy

9. Rick James – Street Song

8. Brian Eno & David Byrne – My Life in the Bush of Ghosts

7. Billy Squier – Don’t Say No

6. Daryl Hall & John Oates – Private Eyes

5. Rush – Moving Pictures

4. The J. Geils Band – Freeze Frame

3. The Go-Go’s – Beauty and the Beat

2. The Police – Ghost in the Machine

1. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Hard Promises

30 Years of Albums in My Wheelhouse: 1980

Finally, the Eighties have arrived. Or, have they? Dare I open this version of Pandora’s Box? You know the dilemma, does a new decade begin when the year ends in zero? Or, is the old decade ending? In all honesty, I understand that 1980 is actually the last year of the Seventies, but who doesn’t love making all years with an 8 in the tens place as part of the decade called “The Eighties”? Therefore, using that illogic, let’s include 1980 in the Eighties.

Dead Kennedys

While many of us alive at the time were excited to begin a new decade, the music of 1980 did not seem as exciting as the music from the previous year was. To be perfectly honest, 1980 was a better year from the Yacht Rock sounds rather than the post-punk music we were listening to the previous year.

Peter Gabriel

Many of the artists who were in the underground a scant five years early were now reaching new commercial heights. So, in that respect, 1980 was a cool year during which to be a fan of artists such as AC/DC, Queen, Bruce Springsteen, The Police, The J. Geils Band and Hall & Oates all beginning to reach their commercial zenith. Unfortunately, radio did not reflect much of this change.

While radio was making the average listener think that music of 1980 was nothing but soft rock artists, there was some interesting sounds popping up all over the world. Yet, radio did not reflect that, bucking the cutting edge tradition radio had nurtured just a decade earlier.

Popping up in the UK, the New Romantics were bridging the pop R&B strains of Motown with a liberal sprinkling of David Bowie to create a haunting pop sound. Yet, in the scroungy inner city of Los Angeles, and young people, influenced by the original punk sounds of the New York City and London, were gathering to make their own annoying noise which came to be called hardcore. That music was never intended for the faint of heart. Perhaps, most significantly, 1980 was significant for one band in particular. U2 released its debut album.

Of all the debuts in 1980, U2 was probably one of the last artists that critics would have chosen to become one of the defining voices of the Eighties. However, this little garage band from Ireland did work hard for all of the success they achieved during that decade and well beyond. Yet, somehow, U2 was the band that filled the vacuum left behind after The Clash imploded. U2 actually became “the only band that matters.”


Unfortunately, the singular moment of 1980 happened in New York City near the end of the year. The incident was the assassination of John Lennon, and it occurred outside of Lennon’s and wife Yoko Ono’s apartment, The Dakota. Mark David Chapman, a trouble young man with huge mental health issues who had asked the couple for autographs earlier in the day, popped out of the crowd and fired several shots into John’s body. A short time later, announcer Howard Cosell of Monday Night Football told a shocked nation that the former Beatle had been killed, which set off mourning throughout the world.

Lennon’s assassination affected my peers in a strange manner. All of a sudden, our youth and innocence had been ripped from us, leaving us a little more cynical. I wrote a research paper about Lennon’s assassination in college, and I ended the paper that Lennon’s death represented two things. First, his death signaled that the Sixties were over. And, since the Sixties were now done, by the transitive property, the Baby Boomer’s time as the arbiter of taste was waning. That meant that those of us born in the Sixties, the first of Generation X were all about to exert their muscles.

Indy’s very own The Late Show

The second thing that Lennon’s death represented was that if a Beatle was not immortal, then none of us were. Even though my grandfather had died in early 1975, I guess I never really looked at my mortality until Lennon’s death. Now, I was certain that I would not live forever.

So, in the meantime, while I am still alive, let’s take a look at yet another year of music. Time to begin the countdown for 1980.

50. Steve Winwood – Arc of a Diver

49. Adam & the Ants – Kings of the Wild Frontier

48. Pete Townshend – Empty Glass

47. REO Speedwagon – Hi Infidelity

46. The Romantics – The Romantics

45. Blondie – Autoamerican

44. Split Enz – True Colours

43. Pat Benatar – Crimes of Passion

42. The Rolling Stones – Emotional Rescue

41. U2 – Boy

40. Genesis – Duke

39. Billy Idol – Glass Houses

38. Ramones – End of the Century

37. Various Artists – Times Square OST

36. Donna Summer – The Wanderer

35. John Lennon & Yoko Ono – Double Fantasy

34. Journey – Departure

33. X – Los Angeles

32. The Clash – Sandinista!

31. The Jacksons – Triumph

30. The Soft Boys – Underwater Moonlight

29. The B-52’s – Wild Planet

28. Jim Carrol Band – Catholic Boy

27. Kurtis Blow – Kurtis Blow

26. Queen – The Game

25. Motörhead – Ace of Spades

24. Elvis Costello & the Attractions – Get Happy!!

23. Judas Priest – British Steel

22. Ozzy Osbourne – Blizzard of Ozz

21. The Late Show – Portable Pop

20. Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables

19. Devo – Freedom of Choice

18. Dire Straits – Making Movies

17. Dexys Midnight Runners – Searching for the Young Soul Rebels

16. Diana Ross – Diana

15. Echo & the Bunnymen – Crocodiles

14. Squeeze – Argybargy

13. Stevie Wonder – Hotter Than July

12. The J. Geils Band – Love Stinks

11. The Jam – Sound Affects

10. Rush – Permanent Waves

9. Joy Division – Closer

8. The Police – Zenyatta Mondatta

7. Bruce Springsteen – The River

6. Daryl Hall & John Oates – Voices

5. David Bowie – Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)

4. AC/DC – Back in Black

3. Prince – Dirty Mind

2. Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel (III)

1. Talking Heads – Remain in Light

30 Years of Albums in My Wheelhouse: 1979

In so many ways 1979 was both the precipice of the Eighties and the bookend of the Seventies. Pink Floyd, the Eagles and Led Zeppelin appeared to be bowing at the time, while new wave, post-punk, hip hop and a new guy from Minneapolis named Prince all began producing some pretty exciting and long-lasting sounds. All in all, we were experiencing an exciting clash and crash of competing sounds that all stemmed from the basics of the rock & roll attitude while continuing to push the genre forward.

Donna Summer

Unfortunately, this era began a conservative view of rock music, causing a few powerful and highly influential radio consultants to develop programming methods that reduced the type of music then played on “rock” radio. Looking back on the era, it is easy to see how this change fit in perfectly with the political climate sweeping the nation. Also, with the help of 40+ years of perspective, we can see that this narrowing definition of “rock” music has led to some of the institutional racism that most whites really don’t recognize because of its subtle nature.

Back when The Beatles were recording their first few albums, the Fab Four actually did not have a large library of written songs, nor did they, as an unknown English band, have access to new material being churned out in the Brill Building in NYC, any of the experienced writers in Nashville or the songsmiths on the west coast. So, the young lads from Liverpool, England, instead turned their attention to some of their favorite songs in which they played during their shows in the clubs, most famously The Cavern. Of the several cover songs they recorded for their first couple of albums, they did score a hit with The Isley Brothers’, an up-and-coming R&B group from the USA, “Twist and Shout.”


And The Beatles were not the only English band that revamped the music of black artists for hits. Artists like The Rolling Stones, all phases of Eric Clapton’s career, The Animals, just to quickly name a first from the original British Invasion. Not only were these artists, as well as a whole generation of British empire rock aficionados, were not only cutting their teeth on the sounds of American R&B, blues and gospel artists of the day, they were also diving head first into other American musical sounds like country (or as they used to call it, “hillbilly” music), jazz, big band and the rock & roll pioneers of the Fifties. And those original British Invasion artists took all of those disparate influences, putting a new spin on them and selling all of the originally American music back to the teens of America. And, since radio was attempting to reflect this music known as rock & roll would play all things. Those AM radio stations of the day, playing what we would consider to be the Contemporary Hits of the Day, had playlists with artists like Patsy Cline, The Shirelles, the Motown artists, The Beatles and Stones all co-existing on the radio. And this continued until the mid- to late-Seventies.

The Knack

Today, this change in radio programming has led to the belief that all music is segregated, even though the concept of rock & roll was way more inclusive and all about breaking down racial barriers in the beginning, today has been white-washed into genres such as rock, hard rock, heavy metal, rap, R&B, pop, alternative rock, hip hop, etc., and thou shall not mix any of them together. Never mind that Linkin Park, Korn and Kid Rock all have made careers out of incorporating the sounds and rapping of hip hop into their metal-based rock sounds, they are rock while the much more aggressively sounding and rapping of Public Enemy is not. What’s the difference? All I know is that the first three are considered rock (is it because they have lighter skin?) and PE is rap, and the tween shall not mix. Hell, PE and Anthrax collaborated together on each band’s songs showing there is little difference between the two bands. And that was back in the Nineties. Then, in the Aughts, Linkin Park and Jay-Z mashed their songs together on a collaborative album, thus seemingly trying to ending this separation. Yet, it continues. Unfortunately, that may be the most subtle legacy of 1979: the segregation of music.

I say it is a legacy of 1979 since the largest display in favor of the segregation of music occurred in the summer that year in a baseball stadium in Chicago. That summer, at Comiskey Park, home of the Chicago White Sox. A rising DJ of the day, Steve Dahl, upset that he was fired by a radio station that had changed from a rock format to a disco format. After Dahl was hired by a more prominent rock radio station in Chicago, he became one of the biggest voices in the anti-disco movement. That summer, somehow, he convinced the management of the White Sox to hold a “Disco Demolition Night” in which the Sox would give attendees a discount ticket if the fan brought a disco album that would be blown up between games of the doubleheader.


Unfortunately, according to people who worked the gate that day, attendees were not only bringing disco albums, but any album with a black artist on it regardless of the genre. So, it appeared to the black employees of the Sox that this promotion was turning into a white power moment.

Eventually, the first game ended, during which the fans were becoming unruly after spending the first game getting drunk and high. When Dahl and his people got onto the field for “festivities,” the crowd was ready for a rumble. Then after a short bit, Dahl flipped the switch and the records started flying. On cue, the crowd charged the field, damaging the field and causing the Sox to forfeit the second game of the doubleheader to the Detroit Tigers. Afterwards, “Disco Destroyer” t-shirts became big sellers with mainly teenaged white kids across the nation. Unfortunately, I was one of those stupid 16-year-olds who purchased one mainly because I did not want anymore disco songs released by The Beach Boys or Ethel Merman or albums that entitled Disney Disco, although I was purchasing the latest albums by the likes of Chic, Donna Summer and the Village People. That one t-shirt continues to be a thing I try to remember as an example of my shortcomings in regards to race relations. Fortunately, I have grown past that innocent nonchalance toward the racial meaning of that viewpoint.

Kool & the Gang

Yet, through that black eye, there sure was some long-lasting music released that year. Unfortunately, I have come to associate a racist action leading to this whole Rock & Roll Hall of Fame controversy surrounding Dolly Parton’s nomination this year. It’s simply so unfortunate that many people believe that rock & roll consists of those artists found on classic rock radio stations because if you listen to everything you get a better view of the history of rock & roll.

So, this take a look at my 50 favorite albums from 1979.

50. The Whispers – The Whispers

49. ZZ Top – Degüello

48. Stevie Wonder – Journey Through the Secret Lives of Plants

47. Smokey Robinson – Where’s There Smoke

46. Kiss – Dynasty

45. Diana Ross – The Boss

44. Electric Light Orchestra – Out of the Blue

43. Kool & the Gang – Ladies Night

42. The Slits – Cut

41. Foreigner – Head Games

40. Madness – One Step Beyond

39. Gary Numan – The Pleasure Principle

38. The Specials – The Specials

37. Commodores – Midnight Magic

36. The Records – The Records

35. Funkadelic – Uncle Jam Wants You

34. Van Halen – Van Halen II

33. Frank Zappa – Sheik Yerbouti

32. Sister Sledge – We Are Family

31. Fleetwood Mac – Tusk

30. Graham Parker & the Rumour – Squeezing Out Sparks

29. The Jam – Setting Songs

28. Gang of Four – Entertainment

27. Pretenders – Pretenders

26. The Police – Regatta de Blanc

25. Blondie – Eat to the Beat

24. Bee Gees – Spirits Having Flown

23. The Cure – Three Imaginary Boys

22. Pat Benatar – In the Heat of the Night

21. Joe Jackson – Look Sharp!

20. The Cars – Candy-o

19. The Kinks – Low Budget

18. Led Zeppelin – In Through the Out Door

17. Earth, Wind & Fire – I Am

16. Donna Summer – Bad Girls

15. Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Rust Never Sleeps

14. Prince – Prince

13. Cheap Trick – Dream Police

12. AC/DC – Highway to Hell

11. Chic – Risqué

10. Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures

9. Michael Jackson – Off the Wall

8. Elvis Costello & the Attractions – Armed Forces

7. The B-52’s – The B-52’s

6. Talking Heads – Fear of Music

5. The Knack – Get the Knack

4. Supertramp – Breakfast in America

3. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Damn the Torpedoes

2. Pink Floyd – The Wall

1. The Clash – London Calling

30 Years of Albums in My Wheelhouse: 1978

Now, overall, while high school was not a great experience for me, 1978 was a fun year. Most of what happened in 1978 that made it so special was my experience in sports (I ran cross country and track while also playing basketball and baseball). A few of the special things that happened athletically that year includes three of my running friends and me winning the state AAU Junior Olympics championship in the mile relay (a major upset when that happened), making the Babe Ruth all-star team in baseball, developing a life-long friendship with my Junior Varsity basketball team (God rest his kind soul), becoming at the time the youngest sports editor on my high school newspaper, earning a couple more varsity letters in cross country and track and, capping it all off, going to Colorado State University for the National Explorer Olympics where I met many college coaches from various sports, played lots of basketball with future college players AND most importantly met the great Jesse Owens. Oh, yeah, I also met a girl from Colorado Springs with whom I kept in touch for a year. All in all, it was a great year.


Yet, it was the music that made the biggest impression. Punk was waning, yet there was this post-punk thing and all of its permutations, a more poppier version of punk that was called new wave and disco was resuscitated by Saturday Night Fever and started to be incorporated into the music of artists from all walks of life such as the Stones, Grateful Dead, Cher and the like. Some rock got bigger and more bloated, while some got leaner and more streamlined. Funk and a dance/rock amalgamation were everywhere. To say the least, 1978 was an exciting musical year in which to be a 15-year-old boy which led to a great soundtrack to one’s life.


Things were grooving so well for a guy without any responsibilities that I made one of my greatest single day album purchases ever without spending over $15!  Oh, and these albums were all brand new too! The three albums I purchased on that warm sunny June day were Foreigner’s Double Vision, Some Girls by The Rolling Stones and an album by a little known artist at the time called Meat Loaf and his debut album called Bat Out of Hell. Of the three, the only known commodity to me was Foreigner, while The Stones’ album was a new release so I had little exposure to “Miss You” yet, and bought Meat Loaf only because it was on fire on the English Album Chart according to Billboard that week. To keep that hot streak going, I bought The Cars’ debut album a month later before I left for Colorado. Not a bad summer musically speaking.

The Cars

Think about all the artist who debuted in 1978. The short list includes the aforementioned Cars and includes Van Halen, Devo, The Police, Dire Straits, Steve Perry as the lead singer of Journey, Chaka Khan as a solo artist, and the list could go on. Upon closer look, that sampling shows the depth of the new artists of 1978, as most of them are enshrined in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, while Devo and Chaka being nominated often. And while 1978 was a great year for music, which followed a legendary year in 1977, 1979 was absolutely amazing. But, that’s a topic for another blog entry.

Van Halen, before they played Jeff Spicoli’s birthday party

Another thing for which 1978 is known is the number of quality movie soundtracks released during that calendar year. All of a sudden, film producers and the music industry noticed the lasting success of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack throughout 1978. All of a sudden, the music purchasing public was bombarded with soundtracks that were compilations of music by various artists. Take a look at this listing of the great soundtracks released in 1978: Grease, FM, Thank God It’s Friday (Yes, the movie sucked, but the music was terrific!), Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Was this one really great Scott? You’re correct, it was not. But, it has a certain campy fun to it that I like. What can I say?), Midnight Express (an influence on synthpop), The Last Waltz, Up in Smoke, Animal House, and arguably the greatest parody film and soundtrack of all-time The Rutles. All of this soundtracks set the stage for every compilation soundtrack that was released in the years since. Personally, this is a subtle yet significant development in music whose ball got rolling during 1978, whether we like it or not.

Indy’s own Roadmaster

At the time, 1978 seemed like just another lame year for music. Yet, in retrospect, it stands on its own as a pretty solid year that set the stage for many of the things for which the Eighties ended up being known. Simply put, 1978’s greatness is since in the more subtle aspects of the whole music business.

Now, it’s time for the countdown.

50. Raydio – Raydio

49. Gerry Rafferty – City to City

48. Foreigner – City to City

47. Boston – Don’t Look Back

46. Public Image Ltd. – Public Image First Edition

45. Bootsy’s Rubber Band – Bootsy? Player of the Year

44. The Who – Who Are You

43. Cheryl Lynn – Cheryl Lynn

42. Billy Joel – 52nd Street

41. The Clash – Give ‘Em Enough Rope

40. Donna Summer – Live and More

39. Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – Stranger in Town

38. Parliament – Motor Booty Affair

37. Thin Lizzy – Live and Dangerous

36. X-Ray Spex – Germfree Adolescents

35. The Blues Brothers – A Briefcase Full of Blues

34. Burning Spear – Marcus’ Children

33. Joe Walsh – But Seriously Folks

32. Kraftwerk – The Man Machine

31. Styx – Pieces of Eight

30. Neil Young – Comes a Time

29. Chaka Khan – Chaka

28. Heatwave – Central Heating

27. Journey – Infinity

26. Big Star – Third/Sister Lovers

25. Commodores – Natural High

24. The Jacksons – Destiny

23. Dire Straits – Dire Straits

22. Warren Zevon – Excitable Boy

21. Patti Smith Group – Easter

20. Little Feat – Waiting for Columbus

19. Queen – Jazz

18. AC/DC – If You Want Blood You’ve Got It

17. Talking Heads – More Songs About Buildings and Food

16. A Taste of Honey – A Taste of Honey

15. Roadmaster – Sweet Music

14. The Police – Outlandos d’Amour

13. Cheap Trick – Heaven Tonight

12. The Jam – All Mod Cons

11. Devo – Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo

10. Funkadelic – One Nation Under a Groove

9. Ramones – Road to Ruin

8. Blondie – Parallel Lines

7. Chic – C’est Chic

6. Elvis Costello & the Attractions – This Year’s Model

5. Van Halen – Van Halen

4. The Rolling Stones – Some Girls

3. Bruce Springsteen – Darkness on the Edge of Town

2. Cheap Trick – At Budokan

1. The Cars – The Cars


30 Years of Albums in My Wheelhouse: 1977

In 1977, I finished up my middle school career, began my four-year stay in high school and spent my first year without my dad in the house to buffer my relationship with my mom. The academic portion of school was easy to navigate, but the social aspect was a disaster. All of a sudden, many of my so-called friends and peers were off doing God-knows-what, while I felt even more isolated from others. You see, I have always been one to walk to the beat of my own drummer which often made me misunderstood by my peers. Whenever Mom asked me why I was home yet again, I would give her the same reply, “No one really talks to me about social gatherings.”

The Jam 1977 Bruce Foxton, Rick Buckler and Paul Weller (Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage)

So, due to this awkward situation, which Mom assured me would change in college (I have to endure this for FOUR years?!?!), I dove more inward instead of outward. Now, I do have trouble reading body language, so this situation could have been my fault, but, hell, few people were communicating with me. Hell, as I discovered later on, even my so-called “sister” down the street was not telling me about any parties happening either! Since I was iced out on a high school social life, I spent my time reading books on Ivy League reading lists, memorizing sports stats and diving into rock music full tilt.


So, I have never looked back upon my high school days particularly in a good light. I think I have developed better relationships with my former classmates as adults than as a teen. Of course, not many high schoolers would get up in the morning to run before school (only a two-mile shakedown), shoot 500 baskets and practice my ballhandling skills, but that became my life after I realized it was futile to try to develop friends in high school. So, what many probably saw as aloofness was simply a defense mechanism in order not to get burned by “friends.”


Let’s just say that things made a 180-degree turn in college, and I developed many close friends during those four years that remain to this day.

Talking Heads

Appropriately enough, 1977 was a transitional year musically speaking. All of a sudden, just as many were becoming bored with arena rock, whose popularity would not peak until the early-80s, punk rock popped up in the clubs first in New York City, then after Patti Smith’s and the Ramones’ tours of the UK, in London. It was very exciting to see and hear newer artists such as Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Jam, Devo and others getting on SNL, Tomorrow, the radio and other outlets. Plus, the scenes seemed to be the exclusive coverage of Creem magazine, who’s writers seemed to be born to cover these exciting artists.

Reminder: Never let your Meat Loaf!

After reading about the seeming excitement of these scenes, I began to eschew the traditional Kansas or Black Sabbath albums in order to hear these newer artists and their exciting sounds. Now, I was obsessed with punk, disco and funk, while also discovering that these sounds were truly part of the rock & roll movement that started when black artist first began twisting gospel, blues, jazz, hillbilly, Cuban, salsa, ska, R&B and folk musics into this new energetic sound called rock & roll, which was the term was appropriated from African-Americans’ slang for the act of sexual intercourse. So, if the term rock is based upon black culture slang and the subsequent music is an amalgamation of many American and foreign sounds, how can we not celebrate all forms of music in a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? But, once again, I digress.

So, let’s get the ball rolling with the exciting sounds of 1977.

50. Kansas – Point of Know Return

49. Brian Eno – Before and After Science

48. Wire – Pink Flag

47. Foreigner – Foreigner

46. Bootsy’s Rubber Band – Ahh…The Name Is Bootsy, Baby!

45. Eddie & the Hot Rods – Life on the Line

44. Kraftwerk – Trans Europe Express

43. Rush – A Farewell to Kings

42. Blondie – Plastic Letters

41. Richard Hell & the Voidoids – Blank Generation

40. Pink Floyd – Animals

39. The Damned – Damned Damned Damned

38. The Heartbreakers – L.A.M.F.

37. The Alan Parsons Project – I Robert

36. Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel (I)

35. Electric Light Orchestra – Out of the Blue

34. AC/DC – Let There Be Rock

33. Heart – Little Queen

32. Bob Marley & the Wailers – Exodus

31. Eddie Hazel – Game, Dames & Guitar Thangs

30. Suicide – Suicide

29. Dennis Wilson – Pacific Ocean Blue

28. Ramones – Leave Home

27. Commodores – Commodores

26. David Bowie – Low

25. Iggy Pop – The Idiot

24. Jackson Browne – Running on Empty

23. Kiss – Love Gun

22. Randy Newman – Little Criminals

21. Queen – News of the World

20. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Street Survivors

19. Television – Marquee Moon

18. Styx – The Grand Illusion

17. Iggy Pop – Lust for Life

16. The Jam – In the City

15. Parliament – Funkentelechy vs. Placebo Syndrome

14. David Bowie – “Heroes”

13. The Clash – The Clash

12. Billy Joel – The Stranger

11. Cheap Trick – In Color

10. Steely Dan – Aja

9. Chic – Chic

8. Cheap Trick – Cheap Trick

7. Meat Loaf – Ball Out of Hell

6. Ramones – Rocket to Russia

5. Talking Heads – Talking Heads: 77

4. Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols

3. Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True

2. Bee Gees & Others – Saturday Night Fever OST

1. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

30 Years of Albums in My Wheelhouse: 1976

The bicentennial. My Lord! The whole first seven months of the country bicentennial birthday was my first true experience with massive hype from the media. Red, white & blue was everywhere leading up to that Independence Day on July 4 that year. It was kind of cool that year because somethings were being done in creative ways.

The Runaways (left to right): Joan Jett (guitar/vocals), Lita Ford (guitar/vocals), Cherie Curie (lead vocals), Jackie Fox (bass/vocals) and Sandy West (drums).

For example, American Top 40 did a special countdown of the number one songs on July 4 running from 1937 to 1976. That was the first special edition of the show that I remember hearing. Additionally, I heard many songs on that countdown for the very first time, consummating with Casey ending the show with what was the current number one song on July 4, 1976, which was Wings’ “Silly Love Song.”

Boz Scaggs

There were other special programs and such, but I don’t care how big a television screen is, fireworks just do not work on TV. In past years, most July Fourths were spent in the neighborhood as everyone pooled their fireworks together to produce a low quality explosives show. One father was a Vietnam veteran with what now call PTSD, so he would be sweating out the night in his home. I have developed so much more sympathy for what he went through those nights each year. Another father placed himself in charge of lighting the fireworks as he held a blowtorch in one hand and martini in the other. And his gem of a wife would continue to keep that martini shaker ready for his next drink. Little did we know that the martinis were an every night thing.


For me, the Fourth of July highlight of 1976 was the high school party that took place that year right next door to my bedroom window. Since it was summer, my two windows were open, most importantly, the window that faced the neighbor’s converted-garage-family room. In that magical space, the high school teens of the house of a blended family held many a party over the years while their parents worked second shift at the factories in town. When a thirteen-year-old me looked out the window, the wonders see did he. Let’s simply end this paragraph knowing that this writer has some serious images of the beautiful high school women from the neighborhood in various states of dress. I was like that little kid in the film Animal House thanking God when a Playboy bunny was thrown into his room.


1976 was also the year in which I discovered rock magazines. I began to devour the pages of Creem, Circus, Hit Parader, Billboard and, to a lesser extent for  another three years, Rolling Stone. Truth be told, Creem was my go-to rock rag of the day. For the next three years, that magazine would guide me with the development of my musical tastes. Through the pages of that magazine, along with the writings of stalwart rock journalist such as Lester Bangs, Dave Marsh, Jaan Uhelzszki, Cameron Crowe, Lisa Robinson, among many other giants within the field of rock journalists and critics.

 Peter Frampton

I cannot emphasize enough how important Creem was to the development of my musical tastes. Through that magazine, I learned about many album oriented rock artists, as well as heavy metal, funk and punk artists. Because of that magazine alone, I bought albums by the likes of Styx, Parliament, Ramones, Sex Pistols, The Clash, Cheap Trick, among so many others. That magazine opened a world of possibilities in music to me.

So, with all of that said, let’s get to the important part of this entry, the countdown.

50. Bootsy’s Rubber Band – Stretchin’ Out in Bootsy’s Rubber Band

49. ABBA – Arrival

48. Elton John – Blue Moves

47. Jeff Beck – Wired

46. Blue Öyster Cult – Agents of Fortune

45. Rose Royce – Car Wash

44. Wings – Wings at the Speed of Sound

43. The Rolling Stones – Black and Blue

42. Parliament – The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein

41. The Modern Lovers – The Modern Lovers

40. Rod Stewart – A Night on the Town

39. Graham Parker – Howlin’ Wind

38. Kansas – Leftoverture

37. Bee Gees – Children of the World

36. Warren Zevon – Warren Zevon

35. Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band – Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band

34. Kiss – Rock & Roll Over

33. Daryl Hall & John Oates – Bigger Than Both of Us

32. Bob Dylan – Desire

31. Alice Cooper – Alice Cooper Goes to Hell

30. Peter Tosh – Legalize It

29. Rainbow – Rising

28. Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes – I Don’t Wanna Go Home

27. Bob Marley & the Wailers – Rastaman Vibration

26. Blondie – Blondie

25. Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak

24. Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – Live Bullet

23. Aerosmith – Rocks

22. Electric Light Orchestra – A New World Record

21. KC & the Sunshine Band – Part Three

20. Eagles – Hotel California

19. Lynyrd Skynyrd – One More from the Road

18. Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – Night Moves

17. Eddie & the Hot Rods – Teenage Depression

16. Peter Frampton – Frampton Comes Alive

15. Jackson Browne – The Pretender

14. The Runaways – The Runaways

13. Steve Miller Band – Fly like an Eagle

12. AC/DC – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

11. The Flamin’ Groovies – Shake Some Action

10. Rush – 2112

9. David Bowie – Station to Station

8. Boz Scaggs – Silk Degrees

7. Heart – Dreamboat Annie

6. Ramones – Ramones

5. Kiss – Destroyer

4. Boston – Boston


3. Queen – A Day at the Races

2. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

1. Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life

30 Years of Albums in My Wheelhouse: 1975

If there was one year during which I transitioned from a person who was enthusiastic about music to one with an obsession, it was in 1975. All of a sudden, I was a middle school student as a sixth grader, listening to the seventh and eighth graders talk about albums in the locker room after school or in the lunch room during lunch. Our middle school had a jukebox that we could play in the gym during lunch so I had another outlet.

Earth, Wind & Fire

Another influence came from my sisters from different parents down the street, Kim and Lori Dunwiddie. At the Dunwiddies’ house, the three of us could listen to the radio on their parents’ console stereo or run through one of our latest album purchase. Eventually, as we all got older, other people (friends, love interests, etc.) would show up as if That 70s Show were somewhat based on us and bring their musical influences in as well.

Bruce Springsteen

The final influence of the middle school years was the student-ran radio station that the local high school still has, WEEM 91.7 FM. Back in the beginning of the station, the students were allowed to play whatever the on-air personalities wanted to. Since the station was broadcasting school information to the southern third of the county in which we lived, not too much the same sized area to the south of us which were the northern parts of three counties. Needless to say, the adults of these farming communities simply did not care to hear Black Oak Arkansas, Blue Öyster Cult or Kiss during school hours. However, those ten or so high school kids’ musical tastes would play a role on Friday and Saturday nights in the development of my own.


Within the span of the 1975 year, I discovered Kiss, Rush, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Black Oak Arkansas, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Bay City Rollers, KC & the Sunshine Band, Donna Summer, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith and so many others because I paid attention to people’s discussions about music. And, in 1975, I discovered that music would address all of my insecurities and qualms about being a teen. And, that was the final hook. In so many ways, my albums and singles were becoming my best friends and influencing me to take up writing, since it was quickly becoming so very apparent that I had absolutely no musical talent.


The great thing about 1975 was listening to I believe 16 hours of radio programming with the countdowns of the Top 100 Songs of 1975 from American Top 40 and on WLS-AM Chicago. In both cases, I listened intently to both programs, as AT40 was split into two programs run on consecutive weekends sandwiching New Year’s Day. All the while WLS ran their countdown on New Year’s Eve, beginning at 4 in the afternoon and ending around midnight. That night, my longtime buddy, Mike Bond, and I would run back and forth from my bedroom to write down the current song and artist on the radio and the family room to watch Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve 1975. On a personal note, I was the one driving my parents crazy as I ran back and forth during what ended up being their last NYE together as a couple. Little did I know that I was six months away from my dad moving out of the house.

Patti Smith Group

Of course, I remember the excitement of all the learning I was able to do as a near-teenager about what was actually becoming a nearly fifty year obsession. I miss that excitement of learning about something new and alien.

Now, let’s get this countdown rolling.

50. Tom Waits – Nighthawks at the Diner

49. ZZ Top – Fandango

48. Elton John – Rock of the Westies

47. Bob Seger – Beautiful Loser

46. Nazareth – Hair of the Dog

45. Brian Eno – Another Green World

44. The Meters – Fire on the Bayou

43. Jeff Beck – Blow by Blow

42. Rufus featuring Chaka Khan – Rufus featuring Chaka Khan

41. Eagles – One of These Nights

40. The Who – The Who by Numbers

39. Willie Nelson – Red Headed Stranger

38. The Staple Singers/Curtis Mayfield – Let’s Do It Again

37. Foghat – Fool for the City

36. Burning Spear – Marcus Garvey


34. Donna Summer – Love to Love You Baby

33. Bob Marley & the Wailers – Live

32. Supertramp – Crisis? What Crisis?

31. Neil Young – Zuma

30. Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes – Wake Up Everybody

29. Fela Kuti & Africa 70 – Expensive Shit

28. Kiss – Dressed to Kill

27. Ohio Players – Honey

26. Smokey Robinson – Smokey Robinson

25. War – Why Can’t We Be Friends?

24. Dr. Feelgood – Down by the Jetty

23. Elton John – Captain Fantastic & the Brown Dirt Cowboy

22. KC & the Sunshine Band – KC & the Sunshine Band

21. Electric Light Orchestra – Face the Music

20. Bob Dylan/The Band – The Basement Tapes

19. Alice Cooper – Welcome to My Nightmare

18. Neil Young – Tonight’s the Night

17. Earth, Wind & Fire – Gratitude

16. Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks

15. Patti Smith – Horses

14. Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti

13. David Bowie – Young Americans

12. Aerosmith – Toys in the Attic

11. Earth, Wind & Fire – That’s the Way of the World

10. Bee Gees – Main Course

9. Roxy Music – Siren

8. Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

7. Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac

6. Parliament – Mothership Connection

5. Paul Simon – Still Crazy After All These Years

4. Kiss – Alive!

3. Daryl Hall & John Oates – Daryl Hall & John Oates

2. Queen – A Night at the Opera

1. Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run