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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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