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.
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.
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.”
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