It should be clear, from some of my previous entries, that I love music.
Not all music, obviously. Rap is mostly dreadful, I’m not that keen on reggae, dance music (and all its many ridiculous variations) is almost entirely crap, and the less said about the likes of Queen and Abba the better. But generally, yeah, I like my tunes.
I love nothing more than getting a new CD or download, seeing a band live, discovering artists I had not previously heard of, re-discovering forgotten albums, and making my own playlists for the car.
This got me thinking about which of the three decades that I have lived through has produced the best music, and so I decided to come up with my top 10 albums from each decade – starting with the 1980s. I have to say, I was pretty surprised by the results.
As with the Bond films countdown a few months ago, this is my personal selection, and is by no means intended to reflect the greatest albums of the decade. I know some of my choices would not feature in most people’s lists, and would be even less likely to crop up in one of those pompous music magazines, but each and every one of them is special to me for a reason.
That’s why I love music. I can barely remember what I did last week, let alone years ago, but nearly every album I own will stir a specific memory. So much so, I could probably tell you where I bought each and every one of the hundreds of CDs I have in my collection. Six by Mansun? Music Zone in Stockport (listened to a few tracks first, on those free headphones they used to have, before paying £10 for it and getting ridiculed by my mates). Pablo Honey by Radiohead? Got that in a ‘3 for £20’ deal at Our Price in Oxford, during a Sixth Form day trip to the University… You get the idea.
You don’t get these kinds of memories with downloads though, which is why I will always prefer CDs. It’s not quite the same to fondly recall purchasing a download: “Oh yeah, I remember where I was when I downloaded that…. at home, drunk, in my pants.”
Anyway, for each of my selections, I will not only explain why I love the album so much, but will try to justify it with a personal memory, and reveal my favourite song. This may be extremely self-indulgent of me (and boring for you) but, well, fuck it.
10. Thriller (Michael Jackson – 1982)
Ok, so as soon as I’ve explained that some of my choices are a little random, I’ve immediately included the biggest selling album of all time. However, it’s not my favourite Jackson release, as you will see shortly, and some of the slower tracks (such as Baby Be Mine and The Girl Is Mine), are bloody awful, so it’s not getting any higher than tenth place.
Memory: Watching the brilliantly-choreographed Thriller video and, despite being young at the time, I was not even remotely scared by it. In fact, the only creepy thing in the whole film is a pre-werewolf Michael trying to ‘romance’ that poor girl. The signs were there, that’s all I’m saying.
Best song: Beat It
9. So (Peter Gabriel – 1986)
If this album was any more 1980s, it would have a mullet. I’m not even a big Peter Gabriel fan, and this is the only album of his that I own, but it’s a belter. Even having Kate Bush on Don’t Give Up hasn’t ruined it. There are some tracks I’m not as keen on, but Sledgehammer (and it’s fantastically bizarre Python-esque video) more than makes up for that.
Memory: Singing Sledgehammer in the car just to annoy my wife, and getting louder and more exuberant with each protest.
Best song: Erm… Sledgehammer
8. Permanent Vacation (Aerosmith – 1987)
Aerosmith will always be special to me, as they were the first band I ever saw live, way back in 1997 when it was still the Nynex Arena in Manchester. Well, technically the first band I saw live were Shed Seven, Aerosmith’s odd choice of support act for the evening, but you know what I mean. Permanent Vacation represents the re-birth of Aerosmith, following years of drug-fuelled albums which were largely dreadful, and this was the first release of theirs that I actually liked.
Memory: Playing Championship Manager ’93 in my room, and listening to this album on repeat.
Best song: The title track, Permanent Vacation (still the only song I own with steel drums in it)
7. Bad (Michael Jackson – 1987)
I am almost certainly alone in my opinion that Bad is superior to Thriller, and most music journalists would have a fit when faced with such a statement, but I have never been one to follow general consensus (I don’t care what anyone says, Jedi is better than Empire, and the drummer was the hottest sister in The Corrs). Anyway, not only does Bad include my favourite Jackson song of all time, but more importantly it was released when I was seven (compared to Thriller coming out when I was two), so it had more of an impact on my musical upbringing.
Memory: Watching Moonwalker and wondering why Michael Jackson was talking to an animated rabbit on a motorbike, before being amazed by the dancing in Smooth Criminal.
Best song: The Way You Make Me Feel
6. The Stone Roses (The Stone Roses – 1989)
Strangely, although this album was released in the (admittedly rather late) 1980s, it has a distinctly ‘90s sound to it, and more or less set the scene for the Britpop bands which followed. But, even though we can largely blame The Stone Roses for the likes of Oasis (I don’t actually mind some of their music, but the Gallagher brothers – and Liam in particular – are the most odious morons to ever grace the music scene, and I’m not just saying that because they are City fans), I really like this album.
Memory: Sitting in my friend’s lounge with some mates from school, drinking Fosters (it was acceptable back then) and playing She Bangs The Drums on his parents new stereo system. We then got a Chinese takeaway and watched Goldeneye – which is about as good as an evening gets.
Best song: I Wanna Be Adored
5. Green (REM – 1988)
This is by no means my favourite REM album, but is certainly my preferred choice from those released in the 1980s. Green was REM’s first album since signing to Warner Bros. Records, and whilst I do like the stuff that preceded it, I much prefer everything they released from this album onwards.
Memory: Air-drumming like a lunatic to Orange Crush whilst at school
Best song: Orange Crush
4. Taking On The World (Gun – 1989)
This is perhaps where my list takes a more obscure turn. It was actually Gun’s second release, Gallus (released in the 1990s, hence its absence here), which I heard first and fell in love with, but I then went back and picked up a copy of this debut album and instantly liked it too. Sadly, Gun released three very good albums, before deciding to adopt an unusual rock/pop/dance-fusion approach to their fourth release, and it was utterly shit.
Memory: Discovering a rare EP in the small music store that used to be above the carpet shop in Poynton. It has a version of Inside Out from this album, mixed with a cover of So Lonely by the Police.
Best song: Money (Everybody Loves Her)
3. When The World Knows Your Name (Deacon Blue – 1989)
Despite being released in the same year as The Stone Roses, which has a very ‘90s sound, this album is firmly fixed in the ‘80s, and I love it. I only own three Deacon Blue albums (well, two plus the excellent, if poorly titled, The Very Best Of Deacon Blue), but this was the first CD I purchased of theirs, and could happily play it all day.
Memory: Testing out my new wireless headphones a few years ago, wandering around the house with Queen Of The New Year playing at potentially ear-damaging volume.
Best song: Love And Regret
2. Hysteria (Def Leppard – 1987)
Those who know me, will not be surprised that Def Leppard have made their way onto the list. This 1987 album spawned seven hit singles, and came slap-bang in the middle of a traumatic time for the band – it was released three years after the drummer lost an arm in a motorcycle accident, and four years before guitarist Steve Clark died of an overdose. Tragedy aside, it’s a cracking album.
Memory: Playing it over and over whilst revising for my GCSEs at my Nan and Grandad’s house.
Best song: Hysteria
1. Man Of Colours (Icehouse – 1987)
This album, quite simply, is my childhood. Few people outside of Australia – and certainly those of my age or younger – have even heard of Icehouse, but I grew up listening to this album on family holidays to Wales, and remember loving it despite being very young at the time. This is ‘80s pop-rock at its very finest, and remains one of my favourite albums of all time.
Memory: Aside from those family holidays, two other memories stand out – both from my days at university. I vividly remember discovering this album from my childhood, for just £6 at the indoor market in Lancaster, and being the most excited I have ever been to purchase a CD and dash home to play it. Then, the following year, I overheard Crazy from this album being played in B&Q, which was extremely random, but it made my day.
Best song: Crazy
I said at the outset that I was surprised by the results of this top 10. What has struck me is that, with the exception of Man of Colours, I wouldn’t consider any of these albums to be among my all time favourites. In fact, they wouldn’t even make my Top 20. I like them all, obviously, but not anywhere near as much as others in my collection.
It’s not that I necessarily prefer the music of the ‘90s or ‘00s either, as I still consider myself a big fan of the ‘80s, so the only explanation is that I like a number of songs from that decade, without necessarily owning albums by those artists. I can quite easily list twenty songs from the 1980s that I absolutely love, without either owning an album by that artist, or liking it enough for it to beat any of the other ten in my countdown:
- The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary (1985)
- Hall & Oates – Out of Touch (1984)
- Dire Straits – Walk of Life (1985)
- Don Henley – The Boys of Summer (1984)
- Go West – We Close Our Eyes (1985)
- Guns N’ Roses – Sweet Child O’ Mine (1988)
- The Housemartins – Happy Hour (1986)
- Huey Lewis And The News – The Power of Love (1985) – from the greatest film ever
- Genesis – Invisible Touch (1986)
- New Order – True Faith (1987)
- Prefab Sprout – The King Of Rock ‘n’ Roll (1988)
- Roachford – Cuddly Toy (1988)
- Starship – We Built This City (1985)
- Whitesnake – Here I Go Again (1982)
- Bananarama – Cruel Summer (1983)
- Paul Simon – You Can Call Me Al (1986)
- The La’s – There She Goes (1988)
- Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’ (1981)
- Toto – Africa (1982)
- Madness – Wings Of A Dove (1983)
And that’s just off the top of my head (well, the dates weren’t), so there are bound to be many more. Anyway, I shall leave you with this 1980s/Daily Mail themed joke:
Bloody Foreigner, coming over here, demanding to know what love is.
(Ooh, I’ve just spotted the word count: 1987)