30 Years of Albums in My Wheelhouse: 1994

Was 1994 crazy or what?!?! Generation X lost its voice when it was announced that Nirvana singer/songwriter/guitarist Kurt Cobain had committed suicide back in Seattle after disappearing from an LA drug rehab facility. Next, you throw in the Olympic skating scandal after American ice princess Nancy Kerrigan was knee-capped by some bumbling associates of American figure skater Tonya Harding. And to top off the craziness of the year, O.J. Simpson, America’s sports hero of the Seventies, was arrested in the grisly murders of his former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and friend Ronald Goldman in what many thought was a passion killing involving a steroids and cocaine rage. And those events all took place by the end of June!

Scott Weiland and Stone Temple Pilots

Of course, the music of 1994 reflected this insanity. Things were all over the place. Alternative music was running out of steam at this point and beginning to mutate in many different directions. Also, hip hop was coming out of its gangsta rap and jazz-influenced stage and moving into the era of the East Coast versus the West Coast. From the time that N.W.A burst onto the scene in the late-Eighties, rap was dominated by the sounds emanating from the West Coast thanks to Dr. Dre and the whole Death Row crew put together by Suge Knight. Yet, back on the East Coast, particularly in New York City where the whole phenomenon started, Bad Boy Records and its founder/producer/impresario Sean “Puff Daddy” (or is it “Puff,” “P Diddy,” “Diddy,” whatever!) Coombs picked up the reigns with Mary J. Blige and The Notorious BIG. All of a sudden, the hangers-on of the two scenes began a beef that would end tragically in a couple of years.

The Cranberries

All kinds of other genres were competing for the mighty US dollar. Phish and the Dave Matthews Band were selling out concerts with their jam band sounds. Punk finally went mainstream in the US with Green Day and a whole bunch of pop punkers in their wake. Heavy sounds were being made in electronic music in the hands of The Prodigy. Plus, there was teeny bopper pop, metal, nu metal, power pop and post grunge music all becoming popular. Hell, even country music was flexing its muscles as it began to incorporate classic rock sounds into their formulas, explaining the success of acts like Garth Brooks.

Jeff Buckley

Perhaps the biggest sign of the schizoid nature of 1994 was the out-of-nowhere success of Hootie & the Blowfish. The band consisted of some genial college buddies who played commercialized music influenced by all the right artists such as R.E.M., Gin Blossoms and Toad the Wet Sprocket. Their music was a terrific pop/rock  mix that offend few, not unlike The Doobie Brothers back in the Seventies. Unfortunately, the boys were only able to touch the zeitgeist once and have not been anywhere near the Top 40 ever since. But, in 1994, Hootie & the Blowfish captured lightning in a bottle and subsequently gave America just the tonic it needed during its Lollapalooza hangover.

Mary J. Blige – MJBD

As I said, 1994 was a crazy year. In my household, I finished up my student teaching assignment at a small rural high school in central Indiana in the spring, clearing the last hurdle in my attempt to change careers. In August, I took my first teaching job at another rural high school to teach biology, botany and environmental science, which I did there for two years before switching over to chemistry. But the insane part of this career change was that I took a 50% annual salary pay cut, all the while putting in WAY more hours of work as I coached three sports. All of a sudden, I went from a well-paid 7-to-3:30 laboratory job to teaching teens biology then coaching cross country, basketball, baseball or track for a few hours after school. Still, the change saved my sanity even though I did not get to stay in the field as long as I hoped I would.

The Velvet Crush

And, there you have it, a small taste of 1994 from my perspective. Now, let’s check out my Top 50 albums for the year.

50. Dave Matthews Band – Crash

49. Pink Floyd – Division Bell

48. Sebadoh – Bakesale

47. Pantera – Far Beyond Driven

46. Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain

45. Brandy – Brandy

44. The Prodigy – Music for the Jilted Generation

43. The Black Crowes – Amorica

42. Korn – Korn

41. Blues Traveler – Four

40. Veruca Salt – American Thighs

39. Manic Street Preachers – The Holy Bible

38. Portishead – Dummy

37. Bush – Sixteen Stone

36. Live – Throwing Copper

35. Morrissey – Vauxhall and I

34. Pulp – His ‘n’ Hers

33. The Rolling Stones – Voodoo Lounge

32. Aaliyah – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number

31. Neil Young – Sleeps with Angels

30. Oasis – Definitely Maybe

29. The Offspring – Smash

28. Seal – Seal

27. Tori Amos – Under the Pink

26. Alice in Chains – Jar of Flies

25. Boyz II Men – II

24. Madonna – Bedtime Stories

23. OutKast – Southernplayalisticadillicmuzik

22. Blur – Parklife

21. The Cranberries – No Need to Argue

20. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Let Love In

19. Beck – Mellow Gold

18. Jeff Buckley – Grace

17. Mary J. Blige – My Life

16. Stone Temple Pilots – Purple

15. Pearl Jam – Vitalogy

14. Nine Inch Nails – Downward Spiral

13. Hole – Live Through This

12. Hootie & the Blowfish – Cracked Rear View

11. Nas – Illmatic

10. The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die

9. R.E.M. – Monster

8. TLC – CrazySexyCool

7. Soundgarden – Superunknown

6. The Velvet Crush – Teenage Symphonies to God

5. Tom Petty – Wildflowers

4. Beastie Boys – Ill Communication

3. Nirvana – MTV Unplugged in New York

2. Green Day – Dookie

1. Weezer – Weezer [a.k.a. The Blue Album]

30 Years of Albums in My Wheelhouse: 1993

Welcome to 1993 in my 30-year retrospective. 1993 was the year in which Bill Clinton became the 42nd President of the United States, but it was also the year of two tragic events. The first of those events took place days after Mr. Clinton took office, the bombing of the World Trade Center by some Middle Eastern radicals. At the time, the buildings escaped major damage with the blast contained to the parking garage area. The other tragic event was the whole Waco debacle surrounding David Koresh’s burning alive of his members of the cult known as the Branch Davidians.

Janet Jackson

As far as the music world was concerned, rap and alternative music were firmly entrenched as the leading sounds in popular music. But, the rock world innocence was once again lost when the world’s premiere entertainer and musician Michael Jackson was accused by a thirteen-year-old of being fondled by the King of Pop. These dour events, along with the pessimistic lyrics in the popular music of the time led one to believe that the world was in a moral decay. Little did we know that this craziness would be exponentially raised in another 25 or 30 years.

Liz Phair

Across the Atlantic Ocean, the UK was experiencing their very own and unique musical revolution that came to be known as Britpop. The movement was spearheaded by the one-two punch of Oasis and Blur, followed by Pulp, Supergrass, Suede, Elastica and a host of others. The sound of Britpop had its beginnings of The Beatles’ “Penny Lane,” the 60s British-oriented narratives of The Kinks and the mod/punk sound of The Jam. If I were to liken Britpop to something similar here in the States, it would be as if power pop took over the charts more thoroughly than it ever did in 1972, 1979 or 1982, the last years of the genre making inroads on the US charts.

The Wu-Tang Clan. Clockwise from left: Ol’ Dirty Bastard, the GZA, the RZA, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah. Center, from left, Method Man and U-God.

Personally, I honestly discovered Britpop a good decade after it all ended, so I’ve been playing catch up with the bands of that era. However, if the genre had just dented the charts with more than Oasis, I too might have been a huge Britpop fan at the time as I continue to unearth gems from the era.

Sheryl Crow 

As Wall Street and Main Street continued to co-opt the style of the alternative and hip hop worlds, the market was becoming saturated with crap, much like what happened to disco. And when that happens, you can tell that a movement is running out of steam. In two years, gangsta rap and alternative rock will have become passé.


Yet, today, I have frozen the year of 1993. So, let’s peruse my countdown of my Top 50 Favorite Albums from that year.

50. Salt-n-Pepa – Very Necessary

49. Candlebox – Candlebox

48. Toni Braxton – Toni Braxton

47. Pet Shop Boys – Very

46. Uncle Tupelo – Anodyne

45. Dinosaur Jr. – Where You Been

44. Cypress Hill – Black Sunday

43. Radiohead – Pablo Honey

42. Tool – Undertow

41. Björk – Debut

40. Melissa Etheridge – Yes I Am

39. Rush – Counterparts

38. Mazzy Star – So Tonight I Might See

37. R. Kelly – 12 Play

36. Tony! Toni! Tone! – Sons of Soul

35. Aimee Mann – Whatever

34. Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell 2: Back Into Hell

33. Crash Test Dummies – God Shuffled His Feet

32. Billy Joel – River of Dreams

31. The Afghan Whigs – Gentlemen

30. Urge Overkill – Saturation

29. Cracker – Kerosene Hat

28. 2pac – Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.

27. Duran Duran – Duran Duran [a.k.a. The Wedding Album]

26. PM Dawn – The Bliss Album…?

25. Aerosmith – Get a Grip

24. Sting – Ten Summoner’s Tales

23. Mariah Carey – Music Box

22. The Posies – Frosting on the Beater

21. Blur – Modern Life Is Rubbish

20. New Order – Republic

19. The Breeders – Last Splash

18. Suede [a.k.a. The London Suede] – Suede [a.k.a. The London Suede]

17. The Cranberries – Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We

16. Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

15. Lenny Kravitz – Are You Gonna Go My Way

14. Depeche Mode – Songs of Faith and Devotion

13. Janet Jackson – janet.

12. PJ Harvey – Rid of Me

11. Liz Phair – Exile in Guyville

10. Snoop Doggy Dogg – Doggystyle

9. A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders

8. Counting Crows – August & Everything After

7. Pearl Jam – Vs.

6. Sheryl Crow – Tuesday Night Music Club

5. U2 – Zooropa

4. Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dreams

3. Nirvana – In Utero

2. Paul Weller – Wild Wood

1. Jellyfish – Spilt Milk

30 Years of Albums in My Wheelhouse: 1992

What can I say about 1992? There have been all kinds of documentaries made about the year. It all seemed to begin with the four white LA police officers being acquitted in the Rodney King beating which launch the city of LA, and the Watts and South Central neighborhoods specifically, into several days of rioting. Later, former Reagan cabinet member Caspar Weinberger was indicted for his role in the Iran-Contra affair. US President George HW Bush and Russian leader Boris Yeltsin put a formal end to the Cold War. And two Southerners by the name of Bill Clinton and Al Gore were nominated for, and, eventually, elected President and Vice President of the USA.

En Vogue

And in music, 1992 was the year in which the underground became the mainstream. All of a sudden, everything that I had been listening to had become popular with teenagers across the country. As a man closing in on his thirties, it was comforting to hear the strains of Dr. Dre, Beastie Boys and R.E.M. blasting from the windows of the dorm rooms across the Ball State campus. Alternative music was so hot that even my early-80s stalwarts such as XTC and The Cure were having pop success in the States.


Now, the music of MY twenties was cool. And the second Lollapalooza tour blew the doors off the pop cultural phenomenon. We had Time magazine with Pearl Jam’s lead singer Eddie Vedder on the cover. Additionally, I went into a Kohl’s department store only to see tattered flannels being displayed everywhere as if this were some fashion trend they could cash in on. Even Top 40 radio was picking up the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, Dre, Ice Cube and any other flavors of the moment. The only thing that allowed these artists radio airplay was the fact that they began to release edited versions of their “hits” to be played on the air, a practice still in use today. Remember, NONE of us cuss.


However, as you get older, you know this trends will never last forever. Sure, they upset the cart, but eventually the horse learns to pull that cart, then the revolution is over. In this case, the horse is Wall Street. And when they see that money is to be made, they will go into every scene and suck the life out of it. For example, all kinds of Seattle bands started to be signed to the major labels. In the wake of the city’s Big Four’s success (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains), all the bands starting hooking their careers up to the industry gravy train. One by one, these little punk bands from the grunge scene were picked off. First, Mudhoney, then Tad, Screaming Trees, until, when the dust finally settled, a new lesser band called Candlebox and the unrelated-to-the-scene Presidents of the United States of America were signed.

The Lemonheads

And, the signings did not quit. No Wave noisemakers Sonic Youth was with a major label, as were Ice-T’s thrash metal band Body Count and even way-out-of-the-mainstream The Butthole Surfers were signed. It got to be ridiculous to read about all the stupid signings taking place at the time. But, that’s how the US economy works; suck it until the well’s dry.

Canada’s own The Tragically Hip

However, for the next three to five years we were blessed with some outstanding music. But, at the same time, rock music may have been killed in the process, giving way to Nu Metal, teen music, pop punk and some other last gasps of the old way of doing things. Unfortunately, the music scene really has not recovered from this feeding frenzy. That era of gangsta rap and alternative music has given way to whatever is being pimped on YouTube and Spotify. All of each have replaced a city’s unique scene with its own sound. Perhaps, one day, we will get back to that. Yet, you have to admit that the pandemic has set things back a bit. Still, after observing the enthusiasm people displayed at the recent Elton John concert I saw a couple of weeks ago, people are itching for a communal experience. Personally, I hope that experience is for live music and won’t settle for the DJ culture of electronica, which is a nice little genre, even though I feel it has run its course.

With all of that said, let’s take a look at 1992 in all of its glory with my countdown.

50. Pharcyde – Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde

49. Body Count – Body Count

48. Blind Melon – Blind Melon

47. Pavement – Slanted and Enchanted

46. Bruce Springsteen – Lucky Town

45. Ministry – Psalm 69

44. Pantera – Vulgar Display of Power

43. They Might Be Giants – Apollo 18

42. 4 Non Blondes – Bigger, Better, Faster, More!

41. TLC – Ooh…on the TLC Tip

40. L7 – Bricks Are Heavy

39. White Zombie – La Sexorcisto!

38. Suzanne Vega – 99.9°F

37. Morrissey – Your Arsenal

36. k.d. lang – Ingenue

35. PJ Harvey – Dry

34. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Henry’s Dream

33. Ice Cube – The Predator

32. The Tragically Hip – Fully Completely

31. The Black Crowes – The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion

30. Phish – A Picture of Nectar

29. Various Artists – The Bodyguard [The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]

28. Tori Amos – Little Earthquakes

27. Bruce Springsteen – Human Touch

26. Sonic Youth – Dirty

25. Madonna – Erotica

24. Mary J. Blige – What’s the 411?

23. Annie Lennox – Diva

22. Faith No More – Angel Dust

21. Los Lobos – Kiko

20. Arrested Development – 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life of…

19. Sade – Love Deluxe

18. Stone Temple Pilots – Core

17. Peter Gabriel – Us

16. The Cure – Wish

15. XTC – Nonsuch

14. Alice in Chains – Dirt

13. The Jayhawks – Hollywood Town Hall

12. Beastie Boys – Check Your Head

11. En Vogue – Funky Divas

10. The Lemonheads – It’s a Shame About Ray

9. Neil Young – Harvest Moon

8. Prince & the New Power Generation – (Love Symbol)

7. Various Artists – Singles [The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]

6. Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine

5. Gin Blossoms – New Miserable Experience

4. Sugar – Copper Blue

3. Paul Weller – Paul Weller

2. Dr. Dre – The Chronic

1. R.E.M. – Automatic for the People

30 Years of Albums in My Wheelhouse: 1991

My goodness! It sure has been awhile since I’ve written an entry. It’s been a bit hectic in the family lately, headlined by my daughter-in-law having some postpartum complications that put her in the hospital for a few days. But, my son stepped up to take care of the girls, especially the baby, so we were pretty happy to see that he handled this crisis with calm and great leadership. He made me a very proud papa to witness that. She is better but still being monitored. Fingers crossed.

Mariah Carey

I hated this delay because I was kind of excited to cover 1991, perhaps one of the last classic years for music in my ears. As far as I was concerned, 1991 marked the year in which my type of music finally became popular with the masses. Over the previous 15 years or so, I had been yelling into the wind about artists like Patti Smith or Black Flag, only to be ignored by those around me. Yet, one day I awoke to the news that Nirvana had knocked Michael Jackson from the Number One slot on the Billboard Album Chart around Christmas of 1991, suddenly and abruptly signaling a change in the collective musical tastes of a nation.

Smashing Pumpkins on 5/10/91 in Chicago, Il. (Photo by Paul Natkin/WireImage)

Suddenly, the underground was becoming mainstream. The cartoonish bands of the late-80s, like Poison and Mötley Crüe, were being knocked off the charts and being replaced by artists from the alternative scene like Metallica, Pearl Jam and A Tribe Called Quest. This change was seismic in nature and very unexpected at the time, causing rock radio programmers to decide whether AOR rock should add a band like Red Hot Chili Peppers or go full-on into Classic Rock programming. Gen X assumed the role of tastemakers of modern music, pushing the Boomers out of their long-held position. For the first time in the rock and roll era a new generation was exerting its power and youthful rebellion to the rock genre and change was in the air.

Teenage Fanclub

Gen X was not beholden to the blues- and country-based influences that the Boomers enjoyed in their rock sounds. Now, Gen X had around 35 years of blues, jazz, punk, metal, rap, funk, jazz, post punk, avant garde and whatever else piqued their interest to influence their vision of rock music. The canvas upon which these artists would paint was wide open and even three-dimensional as the internet opened more exposure to sounds from all over the world. And MTV, along with a cheap technology called the Compact Disc (CD), were poised to push this generation’s music to even greater heights stylistically and commercially.

PM Dawn

It’s crazy to go back through old magazines (Millennials and Gen Ys, they are those book-like things at Walmart in which older people like me buy to read articles about rock stars our ages or older which are printed on glossy pages with color photographs, or pics.) to see just how sudden this change was because it was not limited to the music, but also affected fashion, photography, art, film, hell even body art and piercings find their ground zero in this change. It was cool to witness in real time as I was back in the college classroom studying to change careers from being a medical technologist to becoming a high school chemistry and biology teacher, so I observed my younger brethren of my Gen X nation butting up against the status quo of the moment.

Material Issue

Unfortunately, like all music-based pop cultural revolutions, it was short-lived. The whole alternative/grunge look and sound was quickly assimilated by the larger population and watered down until all that was left were a few artists attempting to grow beyond their original sound or burning (or checking) out until all that was left were the lesser bands like Creed and Nickelback who co-opted the sound but not the attitude. Plus, all revolutions face a backlash, which came in the form of the pop-based teen girl princesses and the boy bands, which all were studio concoctions, followed by the singing shows and the rise of YouTube that led to the demise of MTV and the rock artist.

A Tribe Called Quest

Perhaps, we really needed this long streak of boring prefabricated music to influence my grandchildren’s generation to pick up their instruments to create a totally new version of rock music. Maybe, my modest album collection could become the source of influence upon a new group of rockers. That, along with my dream of one of my decedents becoming a member of the SNL cast are my dreams, replacing the siring of a great Olympic athlete. 

A man’s gotta dream! Now, let’s do the countdown!

50. Skid Row – Slave to the Grind

49. Spin Doctors – Pocket Full of Kryptonite

48. Marc Cohn – Marc Cohn

47. Queen – Innuendo

46. The KLF – The White Room

45. Paula Abdul – Spellbound

44. Amy Grant – Heart in Motion

43. Mudhoney – Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge

42. Dinosaur Jr. – Green Mind

41. Pixies – Trompe le Monde

40. Naughty by Nature – Naughty by Nature

39. DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince – Homebase

38. Cypress Hill – Cypress Hill

37. Seal – Seal

36. De La Soul – De La Soul Is Dead

35. Julian Cope – Peggy Suicide

34. Van Halen – For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge

33. Massive Attack – Blue Lines

32. Talk Talk – Laughing Stock

31. Boyz II Men – Cooleyhighharmony

30. Public Enemy – Apocalypse 91

29. Lenny Kravitz – Mama Said

28. Mariah Carey – Emotions

27. Ice-T – OG: Original Gangster

26. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik

25. Sting – The Soul Cages

24. Bonnie Raitt – Luck of the Draw

23. PM Dawn – Of the Heart, of the Soul & of the Cross

22. Ice Cube – Death Certificate

21. Smashing Pumpkins – Gish

20. Temple of the Dog – Temple of the Dog

19. Soundgarden – BadMotorFinger

18. Simply Red – Stars

17. Saint Etienne – Foxbase Alpha

16. Matthew Sweet – Girlfriend

15. My Bloody Valentine – Loveless

14. Prince – Diamonds & Pearls

13. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Into the Great Wide Open

12. Material Issue – International Pop Overthrow

11. Michael Jackson – Dangerous

10. Guns N’ Roses – Use Your Illusion II

9. Guns N’ Roses – Use Your Illusion I

8. Primal Scream – Screamadelica

7. A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory

6. R.E.M. – Out of Time

5. Pearl Jam – Ten

4. Metallica – Metallica (a.k.a. The Black Album)

3. U2 – Achtung Baby

2. Nirvana – Nevermind

1. Teenage Fanclub – Bandwagonesque

30 Years of Albums in My Wheelhouse: 1990

As I write this, I am slowly beginning to come out of a four-month funk that was starting to spiral out of control. Fortunately, my appointment earlier this week with my family doctor listened to my concerns and made some medication adjustments to help me. Maybe it was a very difficult talk with my wife last night, or it is simply a placebo effect of taking a new medication? Either way, who cares, because I feel a little bit better. Not perfect, but not being suffocated by dark clouds either.


And, then again, I could be excited about the new addition family that should be announced any minute now as we are expecting Grandchild #4 (GC4, or Spaghetti as her older sister calls her) today, a little girl. Needless to say, this is an exciting day. The crazy thing is that all but GC2 were born via a C-Section. Both of the girls were breach (that mom is tiny and a former ballet dancer) while the GC3 was born under emergency circumstances due to him about killing his mom (she’s a taller but very thin young lady), which scared the crap out of my younger son, her hubby.


People have asked me if I hope any of them were athletes like me and my younger son. We all say no. Both of us have had some long term problems due to injuries from our playing days, so none of us are going out of our way to encourage them to pick up a sport. That’s the child’s decision. Personally, I hope they develop some musical skills and are kind to everyone with whom they come into contact during their lives. I hope they all laugh heartily at the ineptitude of humans and hopefully do not inherit my depression genes. In short, I wish them happiness and fulfilling lives.

C+C Music Factory

Now, from my perspective, 1990 was a strange year. The Eighties were crashing head on into the Nineties. Things were changing all around us, and the music reflected that change. With that in mind, music was wide open. Old Skool Hip Hop was butting up against the initial strains of all the new variations coming forth. The post punk era had ended years prior but its influence was being felt all over the place. Pop music had a plastic, disposable feel to it. George Michael was demanding that people took his music seriously (as if his true fans weren’t at that moment), and Sinead O’Connor had ascended the mountain to take her place among the immortals of music, only to speak the truth about child molestations taking place in the Catholic Church at a time when people would not believe such an allegation (history has proven her correct, even though few have acknowledged it).

Wilson Phillips

I, for one, kind of enjoy those years which music goes schizoid. This was one of those years in which the singles list would probably have much more depth than the albums. But, it makes for interesting listening when researching these different years. Still, I had a little more perspective at the time and felt we are on the precipice of something new. Little did I realize that it would have over the course of the next two or three years.

Digital Underground

Looking back, there was an abundance of young artists who really only made a mark in 1990, then all kind of faded into history. I’m talking about promising artists like Digital Underground, Deee-Lite, Jane’s Addiction, Extreme, Midnight Oil, Concrete Blonde, Tony! Toni! Tone!, The La’s, and so many others. But, as you realize the older you get, history is litter with rock casualties like those listed. And even though they only had enough special sauce for one to five years, they still left their influence on all that listened to them at the time. I know they enriched my life.

Cocteau Twins

[Note: I just received word from my older son that GC4 is here! And, she’s beautiful, as if that were ever going to be a problem since my boys got much of their mother’s looks and married beautiful women. Both Mom and baby are doing great! That’s a relief and much excitement for the family. I’m pretty lucky.]

This all means that it’s time for a countdown. Let’s do it!

50. Enigma – MCMXC A.D.

49. The Vaughan Brothers – Family Style

48. Madonna – I’m Breathless

47. C+C Music Factory – Gonna Make You Sweat

46. Social Distortion – Social Distortion

45. Damn Yankees – Damn Yankees

44. The Sundays – Reading, Writing and Arithmetic

43. The Breeders – Pod

42. Uncle Tupelo – No Depression

41. Prince – Graffiti Bridge

40. M.C. Hammer – Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em

39. Gary Moore – Still Got the Blues

38. En Vogue – Born to Sing

37. Tony! Toni! Tone! – The Revival

36. Living Colour – Time’s Up

35. Pixies – Bossanova

34. AC/DC – The Razor’s Edge

33. Megadeth – Rust in Peace

32. They Might Be Giants – Flood

31. Paul Simon – Rhythm of the Saints

30. Fugazi – Repeater

29. Alice in Chains – Facelift

28. World Party – Goodbye Jumbo

27. Wilson Phillips – Wilson Phillips

26. Salt-n-Pepa – Black’s Magic

25. Concrete Blonde – Bloodletting

24. Digital Underground – Sex Packets

23. Bell Biv DeVoe – Poison

22. The Happy Mondays – Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches

21. A Tribe Called Quest – People’s Instinctive Travels

20. Queensrÿche – Empire

19. The La’s – The La’s

18. Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Ragged Glory

17. Deee-Lite – World Clique

16. Midnight Oil – Blue Sky Mining

15. INXS – X

14. Sonic Youth – Goo

13. Extreme – Pornograffiti

12. Public Enemy – Fear of a Black Planet

11. Mariah Carey – Mariah Carey

10. Cocteau Twins – Heaven or Las Vegas

9. The Black Crowes – Shake Your Money Maker

8. Ice Cube – AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted

7. Jane’s Addiction – Ritual de lo Habitual

6. LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out

5. Daryl Hall & John Oates – Change of Season

4. Sinead O’Connor – I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got

3. George Michael – Listen Without Prejudice

2. Depeche Mode – Violator

1. Jellyfish – Bellybutton

30 Years of Albums in My Wheelhouse: 1989

1989 was full of action. My younger son was born, Pete Rose was forced to resign as player/manager of my beloved Cincinnati Reds due to gambling allegations, the Cold War was slowly coming to an end and some peaceniks in China attempted to protest the government in Tiananmen Square only to be squelched a couple of weeks later. Personally, I had dipped my toes into an education class at Miami University and loved it. I was on my way to become a teacher a scant five years later.

Taylor Dayne

And the music world was still riding the wave that began with the 1987 tsunami of classic albums. 1989 was a fairly solid year. Prince made a commercial comeback of sorts riding on the coattails of the Batman blockbuster phenomenon with his kind of dopey “soundtrack” album of the same name. In the Prince catalog, Batman is nowhere near his best LP, but it may not be his worst either. To this Prince fanatic, I just simply ignore the album these days.

Faith No More

On a positive note, the alternative rock of the Eighties, either known at the time as college rock (since the music was first played on college radio stations) or modern rock (as the commercial radio stations named this type of music), was peaking both commercially and influentially. Some stellar albums were released in 1989 by the likes of The Cure, Pixies, Love & Rockets, The Cult and The Stone Roses. However, most of this music was relegated to MTV’s alternative music program 120 Minutes and not played much in regular rotation.

The Stone Roses

Also peaking creatively and commercially was the pop/dance and pop/rock mixes of the day. Pop/dance was led by Taylor Dayne, Janet Jackson, Madonna and others, while pop/rock slice was in the hands of Enuff Z’Nuff, The Bangles and all kinds of hair metal bands. Plus, the teenybopper sect were buying albums and singles by the bulk from the likes of New Kids on the Block, Debbie Gibson and Tiffany.

De La Soul

All in all, 1989 was a pretty solid year for music. My Top 10 is a very solid group of albums, with some just outside that group which might have been Top 10 albums in other years, like the one to follow 1990.

Well, let’s do this! Time for the countdown!

50. Skid Row – Skid Row

49. The Rolling Stones – Steel Wheels

48. John Cougar Mellencamp – Big Daddy

47. Aerosmith – Pump

46. 2 Live Crew – As Nasty as They Wanna Be

45. Prince – Batman

44. Don Henley – The End of Innocence

43. Queen Latifah – All Hail the Queen

42. Enuff Z’Nuff – Enuff Z’Nuff

41. John Lee Hooker – The Healer

40. Bonnie Raitt – Nick of Time

39. Lisa Stansfield – Affection

38. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Mother’s Milk

37. Lou Reed – New York

36. The Cult – Sonic Temple

35. Chris Isaak – Heart Shaped World

34. Roy Orbison – Mystery Girl

33. Soul II Soul – Club Classics Vol. One (Keep on Movin’)

32. Stevie Ray Vaughan – In Step

31. Mötley Crüe – Dr. Feelgood

30. New Order – Technique

29. Neil Young – Freedom

28. Tears for Fears – Seeds of Love

27. Kate Bush – The Sensual World

26. The Smithereens – 11

25. Soundgarden – Louder Than Love

24. Lenny Kravitz – Let Love Rule

23. Elvis Costello – Spike

22. Love and Rockets – Love and Rockets

21. Nirvana – Bleach

20. XTC – Oranges and Lemons

19. Simply Red – A New Flame

18. Paul McCartney – Flowers in the Dirt

17. Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine

16. Neneh Cherry – Raw like Sushi

15. Fine Young Cannibals – The Raw & the Cooked

14. The Bangles – Everything

13. Faith No More – The Real Thing

12. Taylor Dayne – Can’t Fight Fate

11. The Replacements – Don’t Tell a Soul

10. De La Soul – 3 Feet High and Rising

9. Tom Petty – Full Moon Fever

8. Madonna – Like a Prayer

7. The Cure – Disintegration

6. The B-52’s – Cosmic Thing

5. The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses

4. Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique

3. Janet Jackson – Rhythm Nation 1814

2. Bob Mould – Workbook

1. Pixies – Doolittle

30 Years of Albums in My Wheelhouse: 1988

Some of the creative trends that began in 1987 continued the following year. While 1987 was a music year for the ages, 1988 will go down as a very good year, the vein of 1982 and 1983. 1988 did not have the abundance of classic albums of the previous year, but it saw the release of several essential albums. All of the trends that burst forth last year were the big commercial story of 1988.

Cowboy Junkies

In 1987, many sub-genres got their starts in 1987. While 1988, many of those very same sub-genres became big sellers on their own. For instance, gangsta rap had the seminal N.W.A, while neo-folk had Tracy Chapman. Guns N’ Roses, U2, Michael Jackson, George Michael, Paula Abdul and INXS all spread their success from 1987 into 1988. Seeing many of the sub-genres of rock music reaching their commercial zeniths was gratifying to see. Unfortunately, my lack of experience witnessing the bigger ebb and flow of tastes in popular music held me back since I thought this would last forever. In reality, these trends will have pretty much run out of steam by the end of 1989 and 1990.


I should have been able to recognize this slow evolution after going to see two of my Top 10 artists of all-time in concert that summer. First, my wife and I saw Daryl Hall & John Oates at Riverbend in Cincinnati. The biggest-selling duo of all time were re-uniting after a four-year hiatus during which the guys let go of most of their backing band and took a break from each other. When they got back together for the 1988 album Ooh Yeah and their big tour, I should have realized that their time was now over. Still, I held out hope. While their new band was outstanding in concert, their new material was a new low for them.

Paula Abdul (Getty Images)

The other artist we saw that summer was Prince on his 1988 Lovesexy Tour, promoting his new album of the same new as the tour. If you are familiar with Lovesexy, you may realize that Prince had lost none of his magic, only that he now was afforded the opportunity to record any type of music his talent led him toward. And, basically meant that Prince was rejecting the mass adoration of his talent and attempting to become an artist for the ages and not just the flavor of the month.

Tracy Chapman

While the music of both artists have stood the test of time, in both cases the artists basically pulled back from huge crowds in order to seek growth in their craft. Whereas we could contrast the actions of those two with what U2 began to do in 1988. In 1987, U2 stood on the mountain top of the artists with what appeared to be the pinnacle of their success. Immediately, the band first searched for inspiration by incorporating the tradition roots of rock music found all over the USA while attempting to tinker with their trademark sound as documented on the Rattle and Hum soundtrack album and corresponding film of the same name. At times, this experiment was successful (“Desire” comes immediately to mind) and both messy (their cover of “Helter Skelter” or their gospel reading of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”). The experiment, while both neither successful nor permanent, still made for a compelling listen, if only to hear our heroes struggling with their success. The great thing is that the band will come out on the other hand with their struggle in another three years.

Public Enemy

In all honesty, I had finally come to grips with the fact that nothing in rock and roll is permanent, neither its current stars nor its current sounds. As we near the end of the Eighties we have witnessed the following musical trends all bursting into prominence only to fade unto whence it came. It happened to punk, disco, new wave, glam rock, hair metal, thrash metal, quiet storm R&B, East Coast rap, power pop, dance pop, funk punk, college rock, neo-folk and so many others. And over the next few years we will witness the rise and fall of grunge and the whole alternative nation, gangsta rap, grunge, nu metal, industrial rock, new jack swing, new country, boy bands and the like that our collective heads will begin to spin. And there will continue to be new sounds to replace the old ones.


The big trend will be how we listen to our music. During the Seventies, people listened to their music on the radio, vinyl albums, 8-Track tapes, reel-to-reel tapes and cassette tapes. Then, the Eighties saw cassettes overtaking albums in sales then both losing out to the Compact Disc, or CD. By the end of the Nineties, the internet will push mp3s to the forefront, as well as players like the iPod. Today, generally, the population streams the music, along with most everything else from films to television shows. Yet, quietly, the turntable and vinyl album have been gaining traction with the music purists who believe this analog method still gives the listener the purest sound. What most do not realize is that as Gen X gets older, their collective eyesight diminishes, leaving the bigger album much better for them to read the liner notes and see the tracklisting on the back cover.

Still, I will contend that 1988 was a pretty solid year for music, and this countdown is the proof.

50. The Style Council – Confessions of a Pop Group

49. Robert Plant – Now and Zen

48. Melissa Etheridge – Melissa Etheridge

47. Cheap Trick – Lap of Luxury

46. Lita Ford – Lita

45. They Might Be Giants – Lincoln

44. Dinosaur Jr. – Bug

43. Keith Richards – Talk Is Cheap

42. Anita Baker – Giving You the Best That I Got

41. DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince – He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper

40. The Pogues – If I Should Fall from Grace with God

39. Pet Shop Boys – Introspective

38. The Jungle Brothers – Straight Out the Jungle

37. Morrissey – Viva Hate

36. Pixies – Surfer Rosa

35. My Bloody Valentine – Isn’t Anything

34. EPMD – Strictly Business

33. Sade – Stronger Than Pride

32. The Sugarcubes – Life’s Too Good

31. Talking Heads – Naked

30. Slick Rick – The Great Adventures of Slick Rick

29. Prince – Lovesexy

28.Traveling Wilburys – Traveling Wilburys, Volume 1

27. Paula Abdul – Forever Your Girl

26. Talk Talk – The Spirit of Eden

25. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – Up Your Alley

24. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Tender Prey

23. Ice-T – Power

22. Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers – Conscious Party

21. Salt-N-Pepa – A Salt with a Deadly Pepa

20. Taylor Dayne – Tell It to My Heart

19. Living Colour – Vivid

18. Van Halen – OU812

17. Eric B. & Rakim – Follow the Leader

16. Boogie Down Productions – By All Means Necessary

15. Jeff Healey Band – See the Light

14. Queensrÿche – Operation: Mindcrime

13. Siouxsie & the Banshees – Peepshow

12. The Church – Starfish

11. Metallica – …And Justice for All

10. U2 – Rattle and Hum

9. Jane’s Addiction – Nothing’s Shocking

8. Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

7. Cowboy Junkies – The Trinity Sessions

6. R.E.M. – Green

5. Bobby Brown – Don’t Be Cruel

4. Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation

3. N.W.A – Straight Outta Compton

2. The Waterboys – Fisherman’s Blues

1. Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman

30 Years of Albums in My Wheelhouse: 1987

Over the course of preparing for this series, certain years just seem to pop out you as being great. In my mind, as far as the years that I have covered thus far, 1977, 1979, 1983 and 1984 are examples of years in which the music was absolutely deep with great albums. Unfortunately, those classic years are very rare, but, to me, that’s what made the Eighties so special since I feel like there were three of those types of years. And 1987 is the next extraordinary year as far as music is concerned.

Suzanne Vega

However, I feel as though there was no other year in which the quality of my list of 50 albums is so very deep. When you see my countdown, I feel fairly confident that an album in my Top 20 could be number one for most any other year. Seriously. I distinctly remembering even realizing during April of 1987 that it was going to be one of those classic years. By that time, U2 and Prince had released two of their best albums of their careers, while I was reading in Rolling Stone and Spin magazines that more were to come, such as Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen, not to mention George Michael, John Mellencamp and so many others.

Def Leppard

Plus, by 1987, I was 24, so I had some experience with these classic years so I knew that I needed just to enjoy the music. Yet, I was still young enough to still feel music in new exciting ways. It seemed as though EVERYONE and EVERY GENRE was blowing up at the same moment in time. Hard rock had new saviors with Guns N’ Roses. Hip Hop had Eric B & Rakim. Alternative Rock had U2, R.E.M., Depeche Mode, The Cure and so many others. There was Neo-Folk with Suzanne Vega, Americana with John Hiatt and Robbie Robertson and Pop had George Michael, Michael Jackson and so many others. Springsteen and Mellencamp were growing into Rock’s elder statesmen, mantles they would fully assume during the Nineties. Teeny boppers had Debbie Gibson and Tiffany. Hell, even Christmas music made a triumphant commercial comeback with the great A Very Special Christmas album. It truly was a magical year in which all possibilities were being fulfilled while new ground was being made on new frontiers.

Guns N’ Roses

Other music trends that began happening in 1987 were the first sounds of genres such as gangsta rap, grunge and true alternative rock were all coming up from the underground, along with hi-NRG dance and acid house across the pond in the UK and Europe. This were evolving seemingly at a break-neck pace that this cultural atomic bomb dropped during 1987 continues to ripple through music today. Samples were being used at such a rate that the legal system spent the better of a decade revamping copyright laws in response. Of course, in the middle of this Gen X-induced explosion along the musical landscape was our unofficial national radio station, MTV. They played the videos, and we bought the LPs, cassettes and CDs, seemingly by the boatloads.

Midnight Oil

Unfortunately, there really won’t be too many classic years after 1987. Yet, I would argue that 1987 has got to stand as one of the five deepest years for music, proudly standing right next to 1957, 1965, 1967 and 1977 (and, spoiler alert! 1991) with pop music historians and critics.

Eric B. & Rakim

One day, I need to dive deeper into 1987, in addition to the other classic years, in order to determine exactly which year truly is the best year in rock history. But, that idea is yet another line in the book of future topics.

Terence Trent D’Arby

In the meantime, just savor this Top 50 of mine. Honestly, I had a helluva time paring down my list from 120 initial albums down to just 50, so I know that I probably some of your favorites from that year. I believe that only reinforces my contention as to just how great this year was.

Now, let’s raise your glasses in praise of 1987’s music while running through this countdown.

50. Aerosmith – Permanent Vacation

49. George Harrison – Cloud Nine

48. Whitesnake – Whitesnake/1987

47. Alexander O’Neal – Hearsay

46. Pink Floyd – A Momentary Lapse of Reason

45. Pet Shop Boys – Actually

44. Squeeze – Babylon & On

43. Belinda Carlisle – Heaven on Earth

42. Ice-T – Rhyme Pays

41. Fleetwood Mac – Tango in the Night

40. LL Cool J – Bigger and Deffer

39. Jody Watley – Jody Watley

38. Dinosaur Jr. – You’re Living All Over Me

37. Whitney Houston – Whitney

36. Jennifer Warnes – Famous Blue Raincoat: The Songs of Leonard Cohen

35. Public Enemy – Yo! Bum Rush the Show

34. The Smiths – Strangeways, Here We Come

33. Grateful Dead – In the Dark

32. Anthrax – Among the Living

31. Sisters of Mercy – Floodland

30. Los Lobos – By the Light of the Moon

29. Sinéad O’Connor – The Lion and the Cobra

28. Suzanne Vega – Solitude Standing

27. The Cult – Electric

26. Boogie Down Productions – Criminal Minded

25. The Jesus and Mary Chain – Darklands

24. Echo & the Bunnymen – Echo & the Bunnymen

23. Sting – …Nothing Like the Sun

22. 10,000 Maniacs – In My Tribe

21. The Style Council – The Cost of Loving

20. Depeche Mode – Music for the Masses

19. Various Artists – A Very Special Christmas

18. Hüsker Dü – Warehouse: Songs and Stories

17. The Replacements – Pleased to Meet Me

16. Def Leppard – Hysteria

15. Terence Trent D’Arby – The Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby

14. Midnight Oil – Diesel and Dust

13. The Cure – Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me

12. John Hiatt – Bring the Family

11. Robbie Robertson – Robbie Robertson

10. Michael Jackson – Bad

9. INXS – Kick

8. Eric B. & Rakim – Paid in Full

7. Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel of Love

6. R.E.M. – Document

5. Guns N’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction

4. George Michael – Faith

3. John Cougar Mellencamp – The Lonesome Jubilee

2. U2 – The Joshua Tree

1. Prince – Sign ‘o’ the Times

30 Years of Albums in My Wheelhouse: 1986

By July of 1986, I was no longer a student/intern in the School of Medical Technology in association with Ball State University delivering pizzas for Pizza Hut at the beginning of the calendar year, I was a graduate of said school with my second degree. Additionally, I got to quit the pizza job in February to become a laboratory technician in the hospital’s lab with the evening part-time job of staining Pap smears for the cytologist and pathologists to scan diagnostically. Before I graduated, I was honored with the Indiana Society of Medical Technologists scholarship for the year. And even though I set the school record for a student’s score on microbiology portion of our certification exam, I was not our class’s student of the year.

The Bangles

Despite not getting that award, I was not having the trouble getting a job set up for after graduation as the other eleven in my class did. The economy was still depressed in Indiana in 1986, so my wife and I were willing to move away from Central Indiana. When the dust settled in late June 1986, I had three job offers from which to choose, all for second or third shifts at tiny sub-100 bed hospitals in the Cincinnati area. After visiting the three small towns, we settled on the college town of Oxford, Ohio, home of Miami University. That town has around 3,000 residents, until the university students arrive which swells the town’s population to nearly 20,000. While there in Oxford, I was exposed to many great sounds, thanks to the then-independently owned WOXY-FM, 97.1 FM (“97X, bam! The future of rock & roll!” That quote was an actual promo on the station and then used in the Tom Cruise/Dustin Hoffman film Rainman.) and a fantastic independently owned record store called Looney T-Bird’s.


Due to those two musical institutions of the Eighties, my tastes in music went from the pop/rock/new wave into the burgeoning alternative nation. Suddenly, I was exposed to the artists whose music I had longed to hear, from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to The Cure, from Siouxsie & the Banshees to the Sisters of Mercy. Suddenly it was like I had access to music as if I were in some sort of pre-Napster musical nirvana. No longer was I having the latest effort by soundalike artists such as the hair metal coterie or their AOR counterparts, nor was I stuck with the latest dance/pop sensations. Now, due to these two influential businesses, I was being immersed into weekly programs pimping reggae, metal, hip hop, industrial and nearly any other alternative music that Boomer radio programmers refused to play. For the next four years, those two places, one on my programmed car radio dial, and the other just a few blocks from my place of employment.

Bad Brains

In retrospect, we made a wise beyond our years decision to move there. At the time, we were long distance phone calls away from our parents, although only a 30-minute drive to my in-laws’ home, which was great for our older son as he was a toddler. The university offered an excellent laboratory preschool in which our older son got to learn in. He had constant exposure to the latest in preschool education theories during his time there. My wife and I got to grow up a bit being on our own as well. When it became obvious that for me to become a teacher down the road, I was able to take a class or two at Miami that Ball State told me would transfer. The great part about that was the hospitals at which I worked during that short time paid for any college classes I took, so I went to Miami U for free, before we moved back.


My older son perhaps has the fondest memories of Oxford. He remembers singing R.E.M.’s “Superman” to a bunch of college students in a T.C.B.Y. when he was three. Or, buying comic books in a little store where college students thought it was “so cute” to see this little four-year-old reading Batman to them. Or, perhaps most importantly, how he fell in love with two songs: Camper Van Beethoven’s “Take the Skinheads Bowling” and The Sicilian Vespers’ “Baccala.”

Anita Baker

Just because I could go on and on about our time in Oxford, there really was some terrific music that was not alternative rock as well. 1986 was a very solid year, in my humble opinion, much like 1982 was harbinger of the classic years of 1983 and 1984, 1986 plays much the same role. When I think of 1986, I think of Beastie Boys and Run-DMC, Bon Jovi and Poison, Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon, The Bangles and Prince and her “name ain’t baby! It’s Janet, Miss Jackson if you’re nasty!” But, mostly, I associate R.E.M.’s classic Lifes Rich Pageant. Yet, this is the setup year to what’s about to occur over the next two to three years.

With that said, let’s do the countdown!

50. Stryper – To Hell with the Devil

49. Megadeth – Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?

48. Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet

47. Steve Winwood – Back in the High Life

46. Public Image Ltd. – Album

45. Cameo – Word Up!

44. Bad Brains – I Against I

43. Billy Joel – The Bridge

42. Robert Cray Band – Strong Persuader

41. Slayer – Reign in Blood

40. Talking Heads – True Stories

39. The Costello Show/Elvis Costello – King of America

38. Bruce Hornsby & the Range – The Way It Is

37. Queen – A Kind of Magic

36. The Housemartins – London 0 Hull 4

35. David Lee Roth – Eat ‘Em and Smile

34. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Your Funeral…My Trial

33. Duran Duran – Notorious

32. Eurythmics – Revenge

31. The Smithereens – Especially for You

30. Georgia Satellites – Georgia Satellites

29. Belinda Carlisle – Belinda

28. Elvis Costello & the Attractions – Blood & Chocolate

27. Tina Turner – Break Every Rule

26. Van Halen – 5150

25. Genesis – Invisible Touch

24. Talk Talk – The Colour of Spring

23. Lionel Richie – Dancing on the Ceiling

22. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – Live/1975-85

21. Pet Shop Boys – Please

20. Cyndi Lauper – True Colors

19. Madonna – True Blue

18. David & David – Boomtown

17. Depeche Mode – Black Celebration

16. Anita Baker – Rapture

15. Hüsker Dü – Candy Apple Grey

14. New Order – Brotherhood

13. Crowded House – Crowded House

12. The Bangles – Different Light

11. Metallica – Master of Puppets

10. Janet Jackson – Control

9. Peter Gabriel – So

8. The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead

7. Prince & the Revolution – Parade

6. Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill

5. Run-D.M.C. – Raising Hell

4. Paul Simon – Graceland

3. Daryl Hall – Three Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine

2. XTC – Skylarking

1. R.E.M. – Lifes Rich Pageant

30 Years of Albums in My Wheelhouse: 1985

Before doing a rewind to 1985, let’s take a quick look at my life during the past week. Basically, you can boil it all down to a single important action: Shingles vaccine #2. A week ago, I got my shot. Now, I’m 59, so my age says that my immune system is slowing down. Fine, I guess. But, when you throw in my chronic back pain and spasms issues, well, it seems as though my immune system now mores at a more glacial pace with a greater whiplash effect. Of course, my limited medical and microbiology training was searching for side effects during the rest of the week. What I never expected was that my body decided to wait until Saturday (of course!) to kick in with every ounce of response.

New Order

Actually, I guess the response began Friday night when I felt abnormally tired. Then, I slept from 10 pm to 8 am, got up for an hour and went back to bed, until 2 pm! Of course, when I awoke, my “calor” system (heat) was in full force, resulting in a sweaty wardrobe change (I’m still an athletic wear type of guy), then back to sleep for another two hours, at which time I forced my sorry butt out of bed and into my chair. Unfortunately, my malaise meant I was going to miss yet another family function to eat dinner, mingle with my boys and their families and, or course, watch the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four games. Instead, I got the privilege of sleeping in my recliner through the first half of the first game. And when I awoke, I now had cold-like symptoms, which lasted until midnight.

When I awoke on Sunday morning, I was fine. Very drained, but fine. And now, I have built a better immune response to the chickenpox virus which cause Shingles, which I NEVER want to get. I’ve witnessed way too many people suffering from it to ever want a case of that. So, I will take my Saturday over Shingles any time. Which leads me to announce that I will be getting my fourth COVID vaccine within the next month, so I will probably be looking at another wasted day like this past Saturday. But, in my medically-trained mind, one uncomfortable day is better than a week in the ICU from which I may never leave alive. Nope, give me a shot and let me suffer for 24 hours for the ability to fight off a more severe infection. If I were healthy, as my wife is, I wouldn’t have even had as bad of a day as I did. No, she had to take an hour nap break from watching Bridgerton for her suffering from her second COVID booster, poor baby!

LL Cool J

Now, none of that crap has anything to do with 1985, except I did say “my wife.” We got married in early 1985, having known each other a whopping 8 months. Of course, we were blessed with a son in July of that year, a very healthy nearly 8-pound “premature” baby. No, he really wasn’t a preemie, we just say that sarcastically. Hell, we’ve stayed married for 37 years, and it was not been easy. But, we continue to half-ass our way through life. And, considering that a few former “friends” and frat “brothers” tried to talk my wife into NOT marrying me, well those guys have all had to eat crow. Funny, about half of them have been divorced at least once. I guess my wife didn’t buy their expertise about me. Anyway, the old burning competitor in me has told them all to “F@*k off!” many times.

So, the music of 1985 was not as deep as the three previous years. However, the music at the top of my list has stood up pretty well over the decades. While Top 40 music was becoming pretty sterile sounding, some of the finest music was not being heard by the masses as both radio AND MTV were relegating artists like Hüsker Dü and the Replacements to the underground. Yet, for all my perceived musical slights, a few artists began to make some commercial headway.

Simply Red

First, English chanteuse Kate Bush finally got an American Top 40 hit with her sublime “Running Up That Hill” from her classic Hounds of Love LP. Next, John Mellencamp, then still using that Cougar moniker as a middle name, was in the middle of a terrific run of a trilogy of albums and becoming the voice of middle America that he seemed destined to become. Arising from the wreckage of one of my all-time favorite bands, Sting released a stellar debut solo album. And, taking its cue from the English fundraising and awareness-garnering collection of English pop stars called Band Aid, came the American version of USA for Africa with “We Are the World.”

But, I personally was all about the music that was for the biggest part being ignored. In addition to the aforementioned artists, I was all about still-underground bands such as R.E.M., The Smiths, New Order, The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Cure. This was a great moment in music where the post-punk and new wave scenes were morphing into something that would initially be called college rock, then as the Nineties approached, modern or alternative rock. All were stupid names that Boomers coined in order to separate the new sounds appealing to Generation X from the so-called “classic” sounds that were from the Sixties and Seventies and those created that did not sound as foreign to their ears in the Eighties. All of that stuff began to be immediately marketed as “Classic Rock,” an obvious ploy to make a nod toward the stupidity of the year’s largest marketing disaster known as “New Coke.”

Hüsker Dü

So, in an effort to keep the nation’s largest population segment’s money rolling in, Boomers were marketed that the best music was made by their generation, while anything new was never going to be able to hold its own over time. And, thus, the radio cleavage of music continued to the point where no one wants “Rock” music tainted by anything that doesn’t resemble the music developed in the Sixties to fall outside of that limited definition. But, that it a theme for another time.

Perhaps the biggest pop cultural milestone took place on the very day my older son was born, July 13. It was Live Aid, a single day musical event that alternated acts in London’s Wembley Stadium with those in Philadelphia’s JFK Stadium connected via a new technology called satellite television and beamed across the world reaching an estimated audience of over one billion people. This event was the culmination of Bob Geldof’s vision to feed starving people in Africa on a herculean scale. Naïve, yes. Short-lived, unfortunately again, yes. But, for one day in 1985, the world actually acted as one, minus the cynics of course.

John Cougar Mellencamp

In retrospect, 1985 might mean more to me as a cultural moment of the possibility that music could change the world. Unfortunately, now 37 years later, I see it was one shining example in a world full of brightness on a microscale, and darkness on a macroscale. But, when the music was good that year, it was transcendent.

Here’s the countdown.

50. John Fogerty – Centerfield

49. Mr. Mister – Welcome to the Real World

48. Aretha Franklin – Who’s Zooming Who

47. The Family – The Family

46. Bob Dylan – Empire Burlesque

45. Tom Waits – Rain Dogs

44. Simple Minds – Once Upon a Time

43. Mick Jagger – She’s the Boss

42. a-ha – Hunting High and Low

41. Arcadia – So Red the Rose

40. Sheila E. – Romance 1600

39. Mötley Crüe – Theatre of Pain

38. Miami Sound Machine – Primitive Love

37. Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam with Full Force – Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam with Full Force

36. The Fall – This Nation’s Saving Grace

35. Phil Collins – No Jacket Required

34. The Pogues – Rum, Sodomy & the Lash

33. Robert Palmer – Riptide

32. Run-D.M.C. – King of Rock

31. The Power Station – The Power Station

30. The Hooters – Nervous Night

29. The Waterboys – This Is the Sea

28. The Cult – Love

27. INXS – Listen Like Thieves

26. Heart – Heart

25. Lone Justice – Lone Justice

24. Scritti Politti – Cupid & Psyche 85

23. Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms

22. Simply Red – Picture Book

21. Whitney Houston – Whitney Houston

20. The Outfield – Play Deep

19. The Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy

18. LL Cool J – Radio

17. Hüsker Dü – Flip Your Wig

16. Eurythmics – Be Yourself Tonight

15. The Replacements – Tim

14. Sade – Promise

13. Talking Heads – Little Creatures

12. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Southern Accents

11. The Smiths – Meat Is Murder

10. The Style Council – Internationalists

9. R.E.M. – Fables of the Reconstruction

8. Kate Bush – Hounds of Love

7. New Order – Low-Life

6. Prince & the Revolution – Around the World in a Day

5. Sting – The Dream of the Blue Turtles

4. Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair

3. John Cougar Mellencamp – Scarecrow

2. The Cure – The Head on the Door

1. Hüsker Dü – New Day Rising