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.
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.
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.
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