1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die…Or Not: 1989 – 1990

18 May
1001_Jane's-Addiction_RitualComparatively speaking, we’re going to breeze through this period. There’s a revolution of sorts on the horizon. At this point, recording artists are either making records that sell, or they aren’t making records.

There will be fewer suggested alternatives simply because 1001 AYMHBYD already named most of the Must Hear records. You could almost skip both 1989 and 1990 and not miss much. Almost.


Strikethrough indicates what you probably think it does
Green indicates highly recommended listening
Underlined indicates questionable but ultimately acceptable record
Blue bold italic indicates ABSOLUTELY MUST HEAR BEFORE YOU DIE
Note: Suggested alternatives are from the same year as the contested entry unless otherwise indicated
Also, anything in Red generally indicates hazardous material

  1. 808 State – 808:90 (1989)

1001_808-StateManchester acid house music is a perfect example of why I have never taken the drugs ecstasy or MDMA. If this is the kind of music people want to hear when they are “rolling,” count me out. You don’t need to hear 808 State, either, because there will be more acid house coming your way. And you already heard Saturday Night Fever.

  1. Aerosmith – Pump (1989)

To everybody’s surprise, Aerosmith got off drugs and they actually sound better. I’m always partial to messy, fucked-up cocaine records, but it’s nice when a dinosaur from the 70s not only avoids extinction, but makes an exceedingly respectable rock n’ roll record – certainly an album this jaded suburban never-was didn’t see coming.

1001_Aerosmith_PumpPump contains a trio of legitimately classic jams in “Love in an Elevator”, “Janie’s Got a Gun”, and “The Other Side”. The rest of the LP is pretty tight, too.

In contrast, the Rolling Stones released their own dinosaur comeback album, Steel Wheels around the same time, which was good, but not really great. Thus, there’s really nothing of Pump’s kind – mainstream hard rock – that really stands out as the superior alternative. One might argue that Motley Crue – Dr. Feelgood is a pound-for-pound contender. I don’t have a dog in that fight.

Half-Hearted Kinda-Sorta Suggested Alternative:
Motley Crue – Dr. Feelgood

1001_Motley-Crue_Dr-Feelgood-frontNow matter how banal, mundane, corn-or-cheese ball, it’s very hard to deny the catchy sing-a-long chorus of a pop metal toe-tapper, which, generally speaking, is Motley Crue’s bread and butter. It may be coincidental, but Dr. Feelgood is also an allegedly “sober” album. There are also three classic jams on here; classic in the sense of age and wonder. “Kickstart My Heart” is probably the best straight ahead “Train Kept a-Rollin’” hard rock jam of the year. Definitely NOT Must Hear, but if you’re in the neighborhood, you’re always welcome to stop by.

  1. Baaba Maal & Mansour Seck – Djam Leelii (1989)

You’d never know it by looking at me, but I’m a huge fan of Senegalese folk music, and it all begins with this bewitchingly spare and magical record from the two most prominent figures on the Senegal music scene.

  1. Barry Adamson – Moss Side Story (1989)

This is one considered one of the quintessential movie soundtracks without a movie, and a perfectly delightful instrumental music listening experience.

1001_Barry-Adamson_MossI’m told overall style is reminiscent of the work of Angelo Badalamenti who often collaborates with director David Lynch. Furthermore, Adamson has serious credibility as a former member of Magazine and the Buzzcocks. Plus, Moss Side Story contains a couple of Adamson’s signature jams including “The Man With the Golden Arm”.

However. It’s a double album, clocking in around 55 minutes, give or take a few ticks. That’s an hour of your life you’re never gonna get back. This is one of those housecleaning records. Put it on and go do something else.

  1. Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique (1989)

1001_Beastie-Boys_Paul'sBoutiqueOne of the most entertaining records ever made, regardless of genre. The Beastie Boys never once stopped being funny and sincere, and hence, relevant.

  1. Bonnie Raitt – Nick Of Time (1989)

May the rock n’ roll guitar gods forgive me for what I’m about to say, but I’ll take Britney Spears’ slutty cheerleader porn soundtrack over Bonnie Raitt’s bluesy country soccer mom choogle any day of the week. And don’t give me any nonsense about slide guitar being a difficult technique to master. Rubbish. It’s almost easier than opening a door.

Suggested Alternative:
Fanny – Fanny (1970)

Here’s another record (and artist) that I completely whiffed on in the early 70s. Never heard of ‘em. Almost everybody swung and missed on these girls. And then a couple of months ago, during the 70s section of 1001 AYMHBYD…ON, I found Fanny and their first three albums, so I added them to the queue of potential alternatives, and promptly spaced them completely. Until today.

1001_Fanny_First-albumFanny was one of the first American all-female hard rock bands active in the early 1970s, and the first to release an album on a major label (in 1970). They scored two top 40 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 and released five albums.

In 1969, Filipino-American sisters June (guitar, vocals) and Jean (bass, vocals) Millington formed a series of all-female bands with Alice de Buhr (drums) in Sacramento, CA, before moving to Los Angeles as Wild Honey, playing mostly Motown covers. Discouraged by the male-dominated rock scene, Wild Honey disbanded in 1969, but not before impressing producer Richard Perry, who had been looking for an all-female rock band to mentor.

1001_Fanny_Band-2Perry arranged for Warner Brothers to sign the band, still known as Wild Honey, to Reprise Records. Before recording their first album, the band changed their name to Fanny, and recruited keyboardist Nickey Barclay, who was also a member of Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour band. Perry produced the band’s first three albums: Fanny (1970), Charity Ball (1971), and Fanny Hill (1972). The title track “Charity Ball” from the second album reached #40 on the Billboard Hot 100. The members of the band also worked as session musicians, most notably on Barbra Streisand’s 1971 album Barbra Joan Streisand.

Here they are on Sonny & Cher.

Their fourth album, Mother’s Pride (1973), was produced by Todd Rundgren, and the band toured worldwide, opening for Slade, Jethro Tull and Humble Pie, finding their peak of popularity in the United Kingdom.

After Mother’s Pride, June Millington and Alice de Buhr left the band. Patti Quatro (sister of Suzi Quatro) joined on guitar, and Brie Brandt (who had played with the Millingtons in their early band The Svelts) returned on drums. This lineup signed with Casablanca Records and released the final Fanny album, Rock and Roll Survivors, in 1974. Brandt was briefly replaced by Cam Davis, but the band soon disintegrated even as “Butter Boy” became their biggest single, reaching #29 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 1975.

1001_Fanny_Fanny-HillIn a 1999 interview with Rolling Stone, David Bowie said:
One of the most important female bands in American rock has been buried without a trace. And that is Fanny. They were one of the finest… rock bands of their time, in about 1973. They were extraordinary… they’re as important as anybody else who’s ever been, ever; it just wasn’t their time. Revivify Fanny. And I will feel that my work is done.

The debut album is my favorite, but Fanny Hill and Mother’s Pride are just as listenable.

Also, their version of “Ain’t That Peculiar” is Chilly Willy cool, and frankly, crushes Bonnie Raitt like a ginger grape.

  1. Coldcut – What’s That Noise? (1989)

What’s that noise, you ask? Why, that’s the sound of a drum machine and a sampler. And who invited that silly drag queen Lisa Stansfield? You kids have to the count of ten to get your stupid electronic equipment off my property.

  1. De La Soul – 3 Feet High And Rising (1989)

1001_De-La-Soul_3FeetComparing hip-hop groups to rock bands, Public Enemy is the Clash, and De La Soul is the Cars. Both bands were crucial to the development of the genre, and pretty much the best at what they did. Meanwhile, 3 Feet has been called by at least one reputed source “the Sgt. Pepper of hip-hop,” but I think that’s going a little overboard.

  1. Faith No More – The Real Thing (1989)

1001_Faith-No-More_RealIt’s fairly clear that been I’ve all over the map on this Must Hear gambit. Sometimes I give free passes to questionable albums for one reason or another. Other times, I shit-can major releases of the era, c.g. Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1983).

Above all, an album has to have had some kind of enduring influence on bands that follow. Here we have arguably the first mainstream blockbuster fusion of hard rock, alternative, metal, funk and rap. And thanks in part to this variety of styles, The Real Thing is a cool record. Very cool for the era.

Mike Patton is one of the most talented rock vocalists of all-time, and certainly the most interesting and unique in rock since Robert Smith. He steals a big part of the show here, especially on “Zombie Eaters” and the cover of Sabbath’s “War Pigs”. If The Real Thing contained 11 versions of “Epic”, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation. However, track 4 “Surprise! You’re Dead!” sounds like a very good quasi-new-metal modern rock band from 1999. This is some serious Back to the Future shit, i.e. name a band that doesn’t have a shtick if not for Faith No More? For example, Linkin Park.

  1. fIREHOSE – Fromohio (1989)

1001_fIREHOSE_fromohioDespite being one of my personal favorite bands, fIREHOSE’s third LP is the one that you Must Hear. The first two records are fantastic works of genius as well, but this one really comes together nicely. In fact, if I were introducing someone to fIREHOSE, I’d drop the dime on Fromohio. No question.

For struggling young musicians, trying to put a band together, and more importantly, making things happen, there was no greater inspiration than Minutemen and fIREHOSE.

  1. Janet Jackson – Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989)

I wouldn’t have gone near this album wearing a hazmat suit in 1989, but after hearing it all the way through for the first time 26 years after the fact, I have to say, it’s outstanding for what it is: a slick amalgamation of dance-pop, R&B, funk, lightweight industrial, quiet storm, and adult contemporary styles derived from synthesizers, drums, tape loops, and sampled guitars; also regarded as new jack swing. No wonder it sold 10 million copies. Adolescent females went bananas over this kind of radioactive waste.

1001_Janet-Jacson_Rhythm-NationOrdinarily, I would dismiss a record like Rhythm Nation based on its concept, which Jackson said “contained my views about what was going on in the world and the problems we have trying to educate kids. The idea was to give them some hope.”

Janet, honey? Come here, sit down, have a cookie and a nice big glass of Shut the Fuck Up.

The hubris, false philanthropy, and audacity of the entire Jackson family continues to amaze me. Don’t think for one minute that there’s any moral high ground for this artist to be standing on. The only thing Janet Jackson and her record company cared about was moving units at Kmart; and on the world tour, putting butts in the seats and selling t-shirts. Simple as that. She saw the “State of the World” from the comfort of a private jet.

On the other hand, the two best jams on the record are the bulky funk-pop workout “Miss You Much”, and the surprisingly solid hard rock jam “Black Cat”; neither of which make any substantial social statement that Janet Jackson has no business yammering about.

  1. John Lee Hooker – The Healer (1989)

Wow. My heart just triple-pumped. We’ve been through 35 years of popular music and we haven’t heard any John Lee Hooker? This is an outrage!

1001_John-Lee-Hooker_HealerTo be fair, we have heard John Lee Hooker, in a way. His songs have been covered by Must Hear artists such as including Cream, AC/DC, ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, and the Doors.

I suspect that one of the reasons we haven’t had a Must Hear album from this cat is the sheer number of albums to choose from.

Including compilations, JLH has at least 100 albums spanning his career: the Detroit Years (1948-1955), the Chicago Years (1955-1964), the Folk Years (1959-1963), the ABC Years (1965-1974), and the Rosebud Years (1975-2001).

Unfortunately, The Healer comes very late in Hooker’s career and features collaborations with Bonnie Raitt, Charlie Musselwhite, Los Lobos and Carlos Santana, among others. Fortunately, it peaked at #62 on the Billboard 200 and won a Grammy award, raking in enough cash to allow Hooker to live out the end of his life in comfort. The Los Lobos collaboration (“Think Twice Before You Go”) is pretty solid; the rest is not-so-great. It’s not Must Hear caliber, even if it is John Lee Hooker.

1001_John-Lee-Hooker_Folk-BluesSuggested Alternative:
John Lee Hooker – Original Folk Blues

For my listening dollar, Original Folk Blues (released in 1964 or 1967, depends on who you ask) is the Must Hear.

  1. Jungle Brothers – Done By The Forces Of Nature (1989)

All right, for this one, I’ve enlisted some heavyweights. This type of music is not my forte.

1001_Jungle-BrosThe Jungle Brothers pioneered the fusion of jazz and hip-hop and also became the first hip-hop group to use a house music producer. Done By has been considered a classic of hip hop’s golden age and one of the most influential albums in hip hop.[13][14] It has also been described by critics as an “underrated classic”.[13][15] Michael Azerrad, writing in Trouser Press, said that it was “largely overlooked,” but is “one of rap’s finest hours” with a “highly musical hip-hop” that “radiates upbeat spirituality”.[16] The Chicago Tribune‍ ’​s Rick Reger called it a “masterpiece … one of hip-hop’s most imaginative, engaging records”.[17]

In retrospect, Rolling Stone‍’​s Nathan Brackett wrote “At their prime in the late ’80s, the Jungle Brothers reflected all of hip-hop’s potential – their second album, 1989’s spiritual, street-wise Done by the Forces of Nature, was as conscious as it was funky and stands out as one of the most overlooked rap albums of that decade.”[18] The Rolling Stone Album Guide comments that the “Jungle Brothers were ahead of their time” with the album and cites the track “Doin’ Our Own Dang” as “the definitive Native Tongues posse cut”.[6] Rolling Stone placed it thirty-seventh on its list of the 50 Coolest Records of All Time.[19] In 1998, Done by the Forces of Nature was selected as one of The Source‍ ’​s 100 Best Rap Albums.[20]

  1. Kate Bush – Sensual World (1989)

1001_Kate-Bush_SensualThere has to be justification – a standard of influence – and the fact that I hate something with every fiber of being, for whatever arbitrary reason, is simply not a valid reason to scratch an album from a list, especially when nobody asked.

Kate Bush is the partial baroque pop embodiment of fey, and I don’t mean funny like Tina.


(fā) adj.

1a. Over-refined, exaggerated, or affected: “She said the word in a deliberately fey and pretentious manner, striking a pose” (Jenefer Shute).

1b. Effeminate: “a fey snap of the wrist” (Michael Eric Dyson).

2a. Having or displaying an otherworldly, magical, or fairy like aspect or quality: “She’s got that fey look as though she’s had breakfast with a leprechaun” (Dorothy Burnham).

2b. Having visionary power; clairvoyant.

2c. Appearing touched or crazy, as if under a spell.

Bush knocks it out of the park for both definitions 1a and 1b. She definitely has a certain angelic appearance, so she nails 2a. There is no way of knowing whether or not Bush a gifted medium, so 2b is no dice. And 2c is vague and unclear, quite like the music on The Sensual World.

  1. Lenny Kravitz – Let Love Rule (1989)

1001_Lenny-Kravitz_LetStevie Wonder meets John Lennon. Chocolate and peanut butter. Lenny Kravitz is the Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup of rock. You like it, but it’s not the first candy bar you reach for at 7-11. Reece’s ain’t no Snickers bar, or even Twix. Christ, remember Charleston Chew? Even though 75% of this Let Love Rule is shamelessly derivative – stocked with lifted riffs and poached melodies – you can’t deny Lenny’s soulful croon. He was great for a couple of records.

  1. Madonna – Like A Prayer (1989)

I’m confident that I will be on the right side of history concerning Madonna and her fourth album, Like a Prayer.

1001_Madonna_PrayerDespite a super-cool duet with Prince (“Love Song”), Like a Prayer proves that most of Madonna’s best work is behind her by this point. She’s found a formula, and she’s sticking with it. She’s the Kiss of dance music. She has maybe five songs that she will constantly recycle for the next two decades. Of course, she will go on to sell 20 million copies of Ray of Light, but Like a Prayer is the red-headed stepchild of Like a Virgin (1984).

Was this one of the best-selling records of 1989? Yes.

Did it have some hit singles? A bunch of ‘em.

But we’re approximately six years and four albums into Madonna’s career, and she still hasn’t had a Must Hear. And it’s funny that Robert Dimery and the 1001 list-makers waited this long to include something from her catalog. That alone should tell you something. It should scream: “Best of collection!

So I’m not saying Madonna isn’t a Must Hear artist, she just never made a Must Hear album.

  1. Neneh Cherry – Raw Like Sushi (1989)

Madonna Jr. with a singular fun jam “Buffalo Stance”. The rest is nonsense.

  1. New Order – Technique (1989)

This band made nine identical albums, Technique being their fifth consecutive serving of tepid alternative dance rock, so I would dare any casual listener to describe any remarkable difference between this and, say, Low-Life (1985), an album which was given a cautious green light. It was yellow-green.

  1. Pixies – Doolittle (1989)

1001_Pixies_DoolittleEverybody’s favorite post-punk noise pop alternative indie rock band. And this is not just probably their most influential record, and the album that more or less opened the flood gates of alternative rock. When you started hearing “Here Comes Your Man” and “Monkey Gone to Heaven” on modern rock radio, you had to know big trouble was a-foot.

  1. Queen Latifah – All Hail The Queen (1989)

Women in hip-hip have been under-represented thus far, and Queen Latifah isn’t fucking around. But the whole album? Jeez…I dunno. Not me.

  1. R.E.M. – Green (1989)

1001_R.E.M._GreenNever mind that Green was released in November 1988, just prior to the U.S. Presidential election, which was no coincidence. Green does not contain anything quite as political as “Exhuming McCarthy” from 1987’s Document, but it gets up on the soapbox in a hurry with “Orange Crush.” You could and very well should listen to this record if you’re a fan. However, for these purposes, it’s not essential because there’s no game-changer on here. And I loved this record when it came out, and it contains a couple of my favorite jams (“Hairshirt” and “Turn You Inside Out”). However, it also contains what I consider the first crack in their armor: an ironic pop song, “Stand”, which became their biggest hit to date (#6 Billboard Hot 100).

For anyone who was paying attention, R.E.M. was headed in an unpleasant direction.

  1. Soul II Soul – Club Classics: Vol. One (1989)

Um…OK. This is some very serious British electronica meets R&B, and like Rhythm Nation, one of the early new jack swing records.

  1. Spacemen 3 – Playing With Fire (1989)

1001_Spacemen-3_PlayingProto-shoegazing and brilliant minimalist psych-pop that gets better with each listen. Loads and loads of bands were influenced by this group. Mogwai doesn’t exist without Spacemen 3.

  1. The Cure – Disintegration (1989)

This album represents more than its music. In terms of the alternative genre, we are now knee-deep in the mainstream, where several unlikely bands made albums that sold five million copies worldwide, and produced a string of Top 40 hits  still on permanent rotation. Like R.E.M., the Cure was destined for multi-platinum records, stadium tours, and international super-stardom.

1001_The-Cure_DisintegrationDisintegration announced Robert Smith’s arrival as a cultural icon, and as somewhat of a triumphant and thematic return to the black and maudlin aesthetic that he’d explored in the early 1980s, the culmination of nearly every musical direction the Cure had ever explored. Consequently, this is it for the Cure. They don’t make another Must Hear record.

  1. The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses (1989)

1001_The-Stone-Roses“Madchester” developed in England towards the late 1980s and into the early 1990s. The music that emerged from the Manchester music scene mixed alternative rock, psychedelic rock and electronic dance music. Artists associated with the scene included the Happy Mondays, the Stone Roses, the Inspiral Carpets, James, and the Charlatans. At that time, the Haçienda nightclub was a major catalyst for the distinctive musical ethos in the city, lest you’ve forgotten, also the home of the Smiths and Joy Division. The “baggy” scene was characterized by psychedelia and acid house-influenced guitar music, often with a “funky drummer” beat, and the scene itself was named after the loose-fitting clothing worn by the bands and fans.

And now you know.

  1. The Young Gods – L’Eau Rouge (1989)

Post-industrial snoozing from Switzerland.

  1. A Tribe Called Quest – People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm (1990)

1001_ATCQ_PeopleI don’t even know what to say about this record except there has never been anything like it. ATCQ is next-level shit.

  1. Cocteau Twins – Heaven Or Las Vegas (1990)

Eh. Sophsti-pop. See Everything But the Girl (1988).

  1. Deee-Lite – World Clique (1990)

We are now getting into certain musical genres that distress me to the point of irrational aversion. Writing about my hatred of disco and bossa nova was actually kind of cathartic and fun. But now, as we venture into the clubs, particularly in large cities, we’re going to be hearing house music, which I can’t even bear to talk about. It makes me physically ill.

1001_Dee-liteDeee-Lite’s best-known single “Groove Is in the Heart” is on World Clique, and notably features funk n’ roll godfather, Bootsy Collins on bass and spoken word. That’s it. The rest is rubbish.

Suggested Alternative:
Betty Davis – They Say I’m Different (1974)

It’s not every day that you stumble upon the third album from one of Miles Davis’ ex-wives, so when you do find yourself nose-to-nose with an artist like Betty Davis (Mabry), you are going to sit up and take notice.

Brace yourself, what you are about to hear is some of the raunchiest, grungiest, nastiest funk ever made. Too Live Crew and Lil Kim got NUTHIN’ on Betty Davis. Check it, and I do mean check it all the way through.

  1. Depeche Mode – Violator (1990)

I told you last time that we are done, capital-D done with synth pop, but I was wrong. This is a Must Hear Album precisely because it transcends ordinary synth-pop, and I don’t even like these cats.

  1. Digital Underground – Sex Packets (1990)

Hip-hop could be corny, too. It wasn’t all gun battles and baby mama drama.

  1. Fugazi – Repeater (1990)

1001_Fugazi_RepeaterChampions of indie rock.

  1. George Michael – Listen Without Prejudice: Vol 1 (1990)

Considering what I had to say about Faith (1988), do you really think I’m going to do a 180 on this cat? Let George Michael blow some cool smoke up my ass and give me a reacharound? Ain’t gonna happen. This joker made Phil Collins seem edgy and dark. And who the fuck’s responsible for the sudden omnipresence of gospel choirs in throwaway pop music?

Suggested Alternative:
1001_Ween_GodWeenSatanWeen – GodWeenSatan: The Oneness
  1. Happy Mondays – Pills ‘N’ Thrills And Bellyaches (1990)

Musically, the Mondays layered indie pop guitars on top of house, funk and northern soul beats. In terms of style and dress, they updated the hippie look to include ridiculously over-sized hats and pants. Much of their music was remixed by popular DJs, emphasizing the dance influences even further. Culturally, the Mondays started off as a strictly British phenomena. Americans didn’t really “get” them, mainly because MDMA hadn’t reached its apogee of popularity. What we did “get” was a Monday’s knock-off called Jesus Jones, who went to the top of the charts with “Right Here, Right Now.”

Pills N’ Thrills has been the most difficult record to sit through since Nick Cave and the Birthday Party, for different reasons, clearly. Not my cup of tea, guv’ner.

  1. Ice Cube – AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted (1990)
  2. Jane’s Addiction – Ritual De Lo Habitual (1990)

1001_Ice-Cube_KKKYes and yes. Obviously, for very different reasons.

  1. LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out (1990)

You should hear the title track, and that’s plenty.

  1. Megadeth – Rust In Peace (1990)

You’d be hard pressed to find a better straight up metal record released in 1990. Honestly, you really shouldn’t be looking for one at this point, either.

Suggested Alternative:
1001_Gwar_ScumGWAR – Scumdogs of the Universe

This gets my vote for greatest metal lyric of all-time, from “The Salaminizer”

Here’s a little something from a God to a slave
I never shoulda been let out the fucking microwave!
We’re on this planet and we’re running a-muck
I should give a shit but I don’t give a fuck!
Ever since I was a scumdog, I blew a cum-wad
I need a mother-fucking suckadickalickalong!
Burning a mall or two, blowing the load I spew
You don’t wanna fucking fuck me? I’ll fuck you!
This is your ass, and I’m in it
My man sexy will fuck you up in a minute
With an axe, sword, mace, pike your limbless
Then I’ll fuck your ass till its rimless!
Oh! You humans always screaming!
Oh! As you suckle on my semen!
Oh! And the shit is always steamin’
A drunk, a pervert, a junkie and a sodomizer
But you can call me the Salaminizer
Give unto give unto give unto give unto
My life is a luxury, so filled with hate
I got fifty slaves heaping maggots on my plate
From my fortress in Antarctica I watch the world die
On my Sony Trinitron that’s switched to channel 5.
Back on the road, its no lie….
Stupid fucking humans pay money to die!
Crushed in the pit, nailed to the stage
I only suck the souls that are underage
I need more, I need more
Bleed out, bleed out
This deli tray is unacceptable

I swear to God, stick around to the end of the jam, or just fast forward to the part where Oderus Urungus (Dave Brockie) says, “This deli tray is unacceptable.”

  1. Neil Young With Crazy Horse – Ragged Glory (1990)

1001_Neil-Young_RaggedThere’s a song on Ragged Glory called “F*!#in’ Up” in which Neil Young warbles the refrain, “Why am I always fuckin’ up?” And every time I’ve ever heard the song, it triggers an involuntary mental response that goes something like, “I don’t know, Neil. Why are you always fuckin’ up? You’ve got everything. You’re a rock star and a millionaire twenty times over. Why can’t you get your shit together? Meanwhile, lot of good it’s doing ya, askin’ me. The fuck am I, some kind of wizard-genie? No, Neil. Fuck you. I don’t care about your problems. Get it together or get out of here. Why am I always fuckin’ up? Maybe because you’re an untalented hack, who happened to be at the right place at the right time on a couple of occasions.” Meanwhile, as a backing band, Crazy Horse proves the adage that you’re only as strong as your weakest link, which happens to be the main guy.

Something like that.

Suggested Alternative:
“Delirious” by Luka Bloom

This is what one guy with a guitar should sound like in 1990.

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Behaviour (1990)

Wow. Our first red double strikethrough. Even Frankie Goes to Hollywood didn’t get dissed that hard.

  1. Pixies – Bossanova (1990)

Doolittle II, and sometimes that’s a really good thing. Sometimes, bands should make the same records twice.

  1. Public Enemy – Fear Of A Black Planet (1990)

For my money, this is the best hip-hop record ever made. Ever. Fear is the London Calling of hip-hop. Twenty-five years later, it’s just as pointed, vital, and engaging. It’s also nice to know that there was a period of time when Flavor Flav actually had something cookin’ that didn’t involve a crack pipe.

  1. Ride – Nowhere (1990)

1001_Ride_NowhereThis is one of those records I hadn’t heard since, gosh, 1990. So, it went on right after Fear of a Black Planet. Probably not my smoothest listening transition. Chuck D had me pretty riled up. Anyway, I specifically remember reading an article or two about Ride’s brilliance, so revisiting Nowhere was certainly if nothing else, a typical nostalgic experience. These cats got lumped in with a bunch of other shoegazing bands, but I think they’ve got a lot more noise going on here. Shades of Syd Barrett, Revolver-era Beatles, and early Who.

  1. Sinead O’Connor – I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (1990)

1001_SineadOK, so she had a couple of smash hits. And the girl could sing, no doubt. Is she important though? Her public notoriety has long since eclipsed her talent. Is she the direct ancestor of Ani Difranco and Riot Girls? Probably. She did fuckloads more for women in music than Whitney Houston ever did.

  1. Sonic Youth – Goo (1990)

If it’s my record collection and I’m limited to only one album from each artist, Goo is the Sonic Youth record I would select, not because it’s necessarily their best work – I happen to think that it is, but nevertheless, the album has a nostalgic and emotional stigma that none of their other records have, which is, I was really into Goo when it came out, as in, bought a copy and played it often. Meanwhile, it contains arguably their most accessible-to-the-mainstream song “Kool Thing”, which…is partially based on a back story I’m reluctant to get into, but here goes.

1001_Sonic-Youth_GooSometime prior to the recording of Goo, bassist Kim Gordon interviewed rising rap star LL Cool J for Spin. LL was promoting his new album Walk Like a Panther, which is not a terribly remarkable record, and the interview is only a curious read because it’s Kim Gordon interviewing LL Cool JJ – two people on opposite ends of the popular music spectrum. Anyway, LL seems to be cooperating, but he flashes moments of grandeur. If anything, Gordon sets him up to look kind of phony and clueless, and above all, demonstrates that he’s really dedicated to the LL Cool J brand and character. Unfortunately, very early on, when asked a nebulous question about his sex symbol status, LL dropped the ball.

Kim Gordon: What about women who are so into you as a sex object that they take your picture to bed with them and their husbands or boyfriends start freaking out?
LL Cool J: That’s not my problem. A guy has to have control over his woman. She has to have enough respect for you to know not to do those things. It’s how you carry yourself.

That’s…probably…not…really…something… you should say to Kim Gordon. But it gets a little more cringe-worthy. When asked his opinion of rock music, LL says he relates to Bon Jovi for singing about the working man, when just moments earlier he boasts about owning “a Benz, a BMW, an Audi, and a Porsche,” and a mansion that he’s never really lived in.

  1. The Black Crowes – Shake Your Money Maker (1990)

1001_Black-Crowes_ShakeFucking finally! Someone picked up the rock n’ roll scepter where Rod Stewart and the Faces fucked off to make disco records and sad adult contemporary infomercials.

  1. The KLF – White Room (1990)

Is a party not technically a party until someone is dancing? I know it’s definitely not a party until someone gets hurt.

1001_The-KLF_WhiteThe KLF are those ridiculous characters who physically and literally burned a million dollars as a P.R. stunt in 1992. They filmed it, of course. I’ve never seen it. Following a controversial and brief career, these dudes “retired” and burned what was left of their earnings as the KLF. The music is by turns house, techno, acid house, hip hop, alternative dance, ambient house, and avant-garde.

Here’s my brief rant about dance music. Today, dance music is exclusively for dancing, not for listening. You could listen to it, but you won’t hear much. At no time will anyone wonder what key they were in. Of course, this is completely by design. These guys are just an extension of Kraftwerk. However, house music only plays at art; it’s still strictly for dancing. This had not been the case (in popular music) until the advent of the drum machine. Now these kids have MIDI sequencers. At this point it’s no longer music – it consists of sounds that accompany and often compel rhythmic exercise known as dancing.

All that said, because I’ve been yammering about this “standard of influence” bullshit, White Room is a Must Hear album for one reason, and one reason only. This record is directly responsible for the Great Popular Music Garbage Patch.

The Great Popular Music Garbage Patch, also described as the Global Rubbish Vortex, is a gyre of shitty dance music on every sound system located between the Arctic and Antarctic Circles, roughly 66°N and 66°N. The patch extends over an indeterminate area, with estimates ranging very widely depending on the degree of shitty dance music used to define the affected area, which is generally confined to a spontaneous, drug-fueled dance party called a “rave” and contaminated with potentially lethal levels day-glo accessorizing and nitrous oxide. Or, as it is currently known, aerobics class.
1001_Rave_aerobics-raveThe patch is characterized by exceptionally high relative concentrations of trance beats, synthesizer sludge, and other laptop performance artifacts that have been hijacked by the currents of the North Pacific Drum and Bass Gyre. Despite its enormous size and density (4 DJs per cubic meter), the patch is not visible from satellite photography, nor is it necessarily detectable to casual listeners or musicians in the area, as it consists primarily of mindless background noise.
  1. The La’s – The La’s (1990)

Bloody ‘ell, the La’s are doing John Cougar and Neil Diamond covers with Scouse Liverpool accents? Fuck that, mate, it’s daft.

  1. The Shamen – En-Tact (1990)

I don’t have anything cute or clever to say about this bullshit, sorry.

Suggested Alternative:
Bungee jumping, rock climbing, reading, sleeping, surfing the internet, posting dank memes to Reddit.

Net reduction of albums from the period: 19
Suggested alternatives: 7
Running AYMHBYD total: 804

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die…Or Not: 1987 – 1988

7 May
If 1985-86 is a dead zone for Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, then 1987-88 is a black hole. Mainstream popular music was more about hairspray and pastel colors than artistic achievement.

1001_Bruce-WillisHow bad was music in 1987? It was Bruce Willis – The Return of Bruno bad. It was Whitesnake and Tawny Kitaen on the hood of a Jaguar dreadful. It was Richard Marx unspeakable. It was Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine doing “Rhythm is Gonna Get You” on a recursive loop. You get the idea, I reckon.

But I know some of you must be perplexed. What’s a Whitesnake? So here’s a quick legend to the map.

Bruce Willis = marginally talented American television and film actor; wise guy David Hasselholf-type with roughly the same lack of musical talent
Whitesnake = unapologetic, derivative hair metal from a guy (David Coverdale) who used to be in Deep Purple
Tawny Kitaen = wildly sexy and provocative model-aspiring-actress type who was banging Coverdale at the time
Richard Marx = the American Phil Collins without an art rock pedigree, but with a full head of hair and a sweet mullet
Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine = the ultimate Latin wedding band

1001_Tawny-WhitesnakeBut was it all bad? Didn’t certain alternative and indie bands make fabulous records? Weren’t a select number of rap and hip-hop artists allowed to cross over into the mainstream? Wasn’t the heart of rock n’ roll still beating in Cleveland?

The most successful and important rock record of this era was Guns N’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction, but the rock record you couldn’t afford to miss was Jane’s Addiction – Nothing’s Shocking. Either way, there’s still a lot of good music to hear from this period, just not quite as much as we’re used to.


Strikethrough indicates what you probably think it does
Green indicates highly recommended listening
Underlined indicates questionable but ultimately acceptable record
Blue bold italic indicates ABSOLUTELY MUST HEAR BEFORE YOU DIE
Note: Suggested alternatives are from the same year as the contested entry unless otherwise indicated
Also, anything in Red generally indicates hazardous material

  1. Anthrax – Among The Living (1987)

1001_Anthrax_AmongWe take our son to play and socialize at a local park, and there’s a rotating crew of kids and parents that you may or may not see on a regular basis. Anyway, there’s this one father whose uniform consists of t-shirt, shorts, black socks and blue Crocs. My wife Janice cannot fathom why he would wear black socks with shorts and sandals, and it bothers her to the point where she tells me that he looks awful. And these socks aren’t scrunched down at his ankles, either; so my response is, “It’s free comedy.” Like dudes who tuck their shirts into their slacks, which are pulled halfway up their torsos. I call ‘em High Riders. That shit is fucking hilarious.

Anthrax is the black socks and blue Crocs of rock music. They played some of the most fashionably unfashionable thrash metal with the same number of fucks given by the guy at the kid’s park: Zero.

Suggested Alternative:
Death – Scream Bloody Gore
King Diamond – Abigail

juke 4-Abigail_(King_Diamond_album)Death – the metal band from Orlando, and not the protopunk group from Detroit – are a trip, and Scream Bloody Gore is considered one of the first death metal albums, but I’ve nothing but indifference about them. Meanwhile, you either think King Diamond is a genius and you love his whole shtick, or Abigail is going to be some of the most terrible shit you’ve ever heard in your life.

  1. Astor Piazzolla & Gary Burton – The New Tango (1987)

1001_Gary-BurtonThink of one good reason you’re interested in tango music and write it down on a piece of paper. This reason has to be Capital-G good. Like, “I grew up a couple of miles from Ástor Piazzolla International Airport (MDQ) in Mar del Plata, Argentina, a city 200 km south of Buenos Aires. Tango… it is in my blood!

Or, “I studied vibraphone at Julliard and met Gary Burton on several occasions. I have all his albums.”

Suggested Alternative:
Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatics – Maggots: The Record

1001_Plasmatics_MaggotsEasily one of the most out-of-its-everlovin’-mind albums I’ve ever heard. Considered the first thrash metal opera, Maggots is a concept album set 25 years in the future, where environmental abuse and the burning of fossil fuels have created a greenhouse effect, leading to an end of the world scenario. The album features various scenes of the White Family over the course of three days. The family is devoured while watching a TV game show. Valerie, the girlfriend of hot-shot television reporter Bruce is devoured by three massive maggots while lying in her boyfriend’s bed. The final scene of the record shows the entire human population is headed for imminent annihilation.

You snooze, you lose on this one, kids.

  1. Butthole Surfers – Locust Abortion Technician (1987)

1001_Butthole-Surfers_LocustBrace yourself for probably almost definitely the very first grunge album, which, generally speaking, gets tedious after a while. I wouldn’t blame you for bailing out after 20 minutes or so, precisely because that’s how far I’ve ever gotten.

  1. Def Leppard – Hysteria (1987)

1001_Def-Leppard_HysteriaThe next time your drummer loses his left arm in a self-inflicted auto wreck, and following the accident, declares his intention to return to the drum kit despite his disability, using a combination electronic/acoustic kit with a set of MIDI pedals, DO NOT discourage or dissuade him. Simply hand him a copy of this record and say, “This is what we don’t want to do.”

  1. Depeche Mode – Music For The Masses (1987)

1001_Depeche-Mode_Music-for-the-MassesThe pinnacle of curiously over-emotive yet brooding synth pop. It doesn’t get any better, but it certainly gets a lot worse. Dial up this LP and you never need to hear another note of the stuff.

  1. Dinosaur Jr. – You’re Living All Over Me (1987)

One of THE classic alternative rock albums. Post-punk noise pop with gnarly guitars and whining vocals. They sound exactly like the 1987 high school version of Neil Young and Crazy Horse. I don’t know how or why these guys ever became such a big deal, but they did. I like them now more than I did 28 years ago.

1001_Dinosaur-Jr_LivingMy brother Bobby Camp recently passed away, and I cannot forget that it was Bobby who absolutely adored Dinosaur Jr., and dragged me kicking and screaming to Cabaret Metro to see the band on the Bug tour (1989). And it was Bobby who wanted to be right up front, within arms reach of J. Mascis, where the mosh pit was unhinged. It was at the time, the most offensively loud musical performance I had ever attended, and I walked away from it absolutely cursing J. Mascis for his assault on my senses.

  1. Dolly Parton With Linda Ronstadt & Emmylou Harris – Trio (1987)

Are you planning on knitting a sweater for your granddaughter this evening? Maybe light a fire in the hearth, brew a pot of tea, and soak your feet in hot water and Epsom salts? Later, I’ll make some hot cocoa with pillowed marshmallows and we can nibble on butter cookies and snuggle under a quilt.

1001_Dolly_TrioLook, I have nothing inappropriate to say about these three artists. However, having all three of them on one record is like putting Buffalo chicken wings on a birthday cake, frosted with a salmon icing and sprinkled with Flintstone Chewables. The fuck are you going to do with that?

Nudge. Wink. Flintstone Chewables. Haha. Anything but Wilma!

  1. George Michael – Faith (1987)

Faith won the Grammy for Album of the Year in 1989 (that’s not a typo) and sold 11 million copies in the U.S. alone.

1001_Flintstones_VitaHow great were the odds against the former lead singer of dry-fart pop duo Wham! making an album anybody Must Hear? There were no odds, but there was a gun to George Michael’s head. He was going to make one of the most successful and enduring pop records of all-time, or he was going the way of Boy George and Adam Ant. And you can’t say the guy got lucky; he knew how to produce an adult contemporary masterpiece. Credit where credit is due, Michael wrote and produced every track and played nearly every instrument on the record.

Faith stayed in the top 10 for 51 weeks, spent 12 weeks at #1, and produced five #1 singles. I feel that recommending this album as a Must Hear is like encouraging someone eat nothing but Hostess Twinkies for a week straight. Why not just start using heroin? Or crack? Or try snorting those bath salts from the Dolly Parton knitting incident?

Suggested Alternative:
Minutemen – 3-Way Tie For Last

  1. Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction (1987)
  2. Hüsker Dü – Warehouse: Songs And Stories (1987)

1001_Husker-Du_WarehousePlease refer to this episode of Jukebox Antagonist for my complete thoughts on Appetite.

Warehouse is one of the rare double LPs worth a contiguous listen, i.e. almost every track is killer.

  1. John Zorn – Spy Vs. Spy: The Music Of Ornette Coleman (1987)

You should be acquainted everything this record represents: avant-garde free noise jazz. I don’t know that you’re really going to make it all the way through this album, or even the first two minutes of track 1: “WRU”, but now you know what it is. Your work is done here.

1001_John-Zorn_GundownAt any rate, John Zorn is someone you should be familiar with, and I suck for not suggesting his The Big Gundown (1985), which featured reworked covers of tracks by the Italian film composer Ennio Morricone. That’s the record you really Should Hear.

  1. Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Shaka Zulu (1987)

1001_Ladysmith_ShakaThere isn’t going to be another Must Hear a cappella record, and these guys nail it.

  1. Laibach – Opus Dei (1987)

Martial industrial is a lonely flank of post-industrial noise, dark ambient, neo folk, dark wave and neoclassical orchestrations mixed with military marches, historical speeches and political, apolitical or metapolitical lyrics. Unlike other post-industrial genres, martial industrial is more interested propagandizing a worldview or philosophy than pure experimentalism, i.e. making music. Does that sound like some shit you want to sit through?

Suggested Alternatives:
Ministry – The Land of Rape and Honey (1988)

Remember Einstürzende Neubauten’s Kollaps from back in 1982? And remember how I said they would spawn a phalanx of industrial bands? This is the fruit of their loins. Former dance party circus chimp Al Jourgensen fell back in love with rock and heavy metal guitar riffage. And “Stigmata” may be the only industrial track that gets my toes-a-tappin’.

  1. Michael Jackson – Bad (1987)

Here’s a whole bunch of no. The biggest no comes in response to the question: “Is this even decent dance pop music?” No, it’s calculated, mechanical, recycled bullshit, and an embarrassing, stale artifact of the time. Just look at the album cover.

1001_Michael-Jackson_BadI don’t care that Allmusic gives it 4.5 out of 5 stars. It makes no difference whether or not Robert Christgau calls Bad “the strongest and most consistent black pop album in years.” Christgau has never been the final arbiter of good taste, and the answer is still no. It came out in 1987, and frankly, 1987 sucked.

Like Jackson’s previous effort, Thriller, the value of this album has been gauged by record sales instead of artistic merit. And thanks to a relentless promotional media campaign, it wasn’t a record you could choose to ignore. Only the record label wonks know how much money they spent jamming this “Who’s Bad?” nonsense down our throats.

If anybody other than MJ put out Bad, it wouldn’t have made a dent in the charts. Lionel Ritchie makes this record and his career is over. Dude couldn’t dance like Mike.

Suggested Alternatives:
Suzanne Vega – Solitude Standing

1001_Suzanne-Vega_SolitudeMaking good on an earlier promise to get some Suzie V. on the turntable, Solitude contains both of her Must Hear hits, “Tom’s Diner” and “Luka”. [Please note that it’s not the DNA remix of “Tom’s Diner” (1990).]

John Cougar Mellencamp – The Lonesome Jubilee

A couple of rock-solid heartland toe-tappers on here. And kudos to the Coog for staying true to his rock n’ roll roots; unlike Springsteen, the Coog avoided the trendy ruts of mainstream modern rock. The Coog blazed his own trail, m’er f’ers. There isn’t a synthesizer within a country mile of this LP.

That said, Lonesome Jubilee deliberately employed traditional folk and country instruments in order to make his audience aware of the “once-familiar social landscape” of folk music. That’s…kind of presumptuous, isn’t it, John? Because I was your audience in 1987, and I wasn’t so fucking clueless that I needed a history lesson. For chrissakes, Bob Dylan, yo. Anyway, The Lonesome Jubilee is a far more genuine example of artistic expression than anything Michael Jackson ever did.

  1. Napalm Death – Scum (1987)

1001_Napalm-DeathBefore you drop the needle on Scum, ask yourself a question. “How interested am I in sub-genres of 80s extreme metal?” Napalm Death is fairly deep down the punk thrash death grindcore metal rabbit hole. And Scum is another one of those albums you can look at and think, “I’ve got a pretty good idea what these cats sound like.”

The really neat thing about Napalm Death is that they didn’t linger over the jam. Half of the 28 tracks on Scum clock in at less than one minute. One minute! That’s insane. The best thing about this record is that as soon as you get bored with a riff, it’s over.

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Actually (1987)

1001_Pet-Shop-Boys_ActuallyLook, if you’re into the Pet Shop Boys, then you aren’t going to be interested in 98 percent of the albums on this list, and have no intention of joining us on the quest to reveal a definitive catalog of Must Hear Albums. You’re wasting your time here. Go away.

For everybody else, you know what’s up with this crap. It’s disco by another name. Even the guy on the album cover is yawning.

Suggested Alternative:

We’re gonna get at least two records from these guys, but this may be the best one. Punk, funk, and free jazz, all in one place.

  1. Prince – Sign ‘O’ The Times (1987)

1001_Prince_SignOTheTimesThere’s a lot to like about this record because there’s 80 minutes of music, at least half of which is as good as anything Prince ever did. There’s also some stuff not to like. That said, we are forced to threaten to invoke the curse of the Double LP Syndrome on one of my personal favorites, but we’re not actually going to follow through with it. There really is one phenomenal album here. And for the record, “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker” is by far my all-time favorite Prince jam.

  1. R.E.M. – Document (1987)

Mmmmm. [Pause; slurping sounds] I just made quesadillas and I need to finish this glass of wine before I can continue. Chicken, by the way. Tomato, Monterey Jack cheese, almost El Paso refried beans, avocado, hot sauce, sautéed onion, diced jalepeno-carrot mix, dried garlic, and last but not least, served with a side of sour cream, which is fucking outrageously expensive! Almost $10 for a 16 oz. tub of sour cream. The fuck do you do with 16 oz. of sour cream? I welcome your suggestions.

1001_REM_DocumentR.E.M. had a long and illustrious procession to the mainstream – six years or so. Five LPs. And Document is a phenomenal record. “Finest Worksong” might be the culmination of all great R.E.M. songs. Document might be their BEST ALBUM, and as much as I like it, you’ve already heard at least one LP from the list. Nevertheless, you pretty much have to be familiar with “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”. Bonus points if you can recite the lyrics from start to finish.

  1. Sonic Youth – Sister (1987)

Mmmmm. [Chewing noises] Very Joy Division/New Order clatter, slashing, and jumble [swallowing sound] that never really comes together as a transcendent listening experience. God, I can’t tell you how much I missed sour cream. I’m thinking baked potatoes tomorrow night.

  1. Talk Talk – The Colour Of Spring (1987)

Maybe. There’s an underground-type legend that Talk Talk made a couple of the most incredible modern progressive art rock albums of all-time. Is this one of them? You tell me. I dunno.

  1. Terence Trent D’Arby – Introducing The Hardline According To Terence Trent D’Arby (1987)

1001_D'Arby_Introducing-HardlineThis is a very insubstantial and polished soul pop record from one of the more narcissistic artists to make the list. You should hear “Wishing Well” and “Sign Your Name” and that’s it.

  1. The Cult – Electric (1987)

1001_The-Cult_ElectricNot a true Must Hear, but wait. Filling the void created by AC/DC’s inability to make entertaining records, the Cult evolved into a dependably mainstream hard rock outfit. Four on the floor, ham-fisted riffage. Delusional lead vocalist. Songs about women, fire, and smokestack lightning, whatever that is. Nobody saw the irony in this record’s biggest hit: a cover of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild.”

  1. The Jesus & Mary Chain – Darklands (1987)

Nope. Nuh-uh, no way. I gave you Psychocandy last year. That’s plenty.

  1. The Sisters Of Mercy – Floodland (1987)

IF you needed to hear one their records it would have been First Last and Always (1985). Floodland is everything mundane about gothic rock: Gregorian choir arrangements and walls of Wagnerian synthesizer. I barely even know what that means.

  1. The Smiths – Strangeways, Here We Come (1987)

1001_Smiths_StrangewaysNope. I love the Smiths and fanatics will huff and puff and threaten to blow the house down, but my gut tells me that we’ve heard enough of this band.

  1. The Triffids – Calenture (1987)

1001_Triffids_calentureAt this point in 1987, I was 19 years old. If somebody made a great record, I would have heard about it one way or the other. There are very few hidden gems from the 80s on forward. So it doesn’t matter that the Triffids are one of Australia’s most loved post-punk outfits. Eh, post-punk is taking things a bit too far.

As I listen with my eyes closed to the opening track of Calenture, “Bury Me Deep in Love”, I hear a well-produced alternative Christian jangle pop rock song with a chump-change chorus. The rest of this record is either adult contemporary folk rock for the evangelical set, or very poor imitations of U2 and R.E.M.

Suggested Alternative:
Midnight Oil – Diesel and Dust

1001_Midnight-Oil_DieselThis suggested alternative is something of an apology for what some may perceive as a lack of respect for Aussie rock that isn’t AC/DC. I suppose we could toss a Hoodoo Gurus LP in the shopping cart if we weren’t on such a tight budget.

  1. U2 – The Joshua Tree (1987)

Enjoy it while you can.

  1. American Music Club – California (1988)

In the past, I have unfavorably compared AMC to Hootie and the Blowfish, and I think that’s unfair to Hootie.

1001_AMC_californiaAfter several spins of California, I finally found what I had been missing. I get it now. This is American indie slowcore, characterized by bleak lyrics, downbeat melodies, slower tempos and minimalist arrangements. Of the standout moments, “Laughingstock” is sublime elegance and “Bad Liquor” actually threatens to rock. Fans of Galaxie 500, Low, Grandaddy, Iron and Wine, Palace Brothers, Red House Painters, and Sun Kil Moon will love this. But then, you already knew that.

Is California a Must Hear? That’s up to you.

  1. Cowboy Junkies – Trinity Session (1988)

1001_Cowboy-Junkies_TrinityThis record is at least remarkable for the fact that it was recorded live in a church with one stereo microphone direct to tape—a single Calrec Ambisonic microphone to 2-track RDAT. That’s bold. The music might crawl at a snail’s pace, and the mood might take you to places you aren’t interested in visiting, but this album has an undeniable character that I believe you Must Hear.

  1. Dagmar Krause – Tank Battles (1988)

I really didn’t know what to expect. I try to do a little bit of homework before I sit down to listen to an artist’s work for the first time. So I knew that Ms. Krause was a prominent figure on the German avant-rock scene, best known for her work with Henry Cow and Slapp Happy. Raise your hand if you’ve heard a note of Henry Cow.

1001_Dagmar_TankOK, so, Tank Battles is a collection of 26 songs by German composer Hanns Eisler sung by Krause in English. Hanns Eisler (1898 –1962) was an Austrian composer, best known for composing the national anthem of the German Democratic Republic, and also notable for his long artistic association with Bertolt Brecht. To jog your memories, remember what I said about Holger Czukay’s Movies (1979)? Probably not. I said that I had a sweet spot for vocals by non-native English speakers. I think it’s cute. At least, I used to think it was cute. That was before I sat through Tank Battles, and I sat through the whole thing.

As you might imagine, there’s a certain amount of ennui that settles in during my listening and writing processes, which most often but not always run concurrently. If you wanted to cross an aforementioned military march with a Broadway show tune, then Tank Battles is not a bad record at all, but it’s not something the average listener Must Hear.

  1. Dinosaur Jr – Bug (1988)

1001_Dinosaur-Jr_BugGoddammit. [Sigh] To my shock, awe, disdain and frustration, these kids made another great record.

All told, my brother Bobby made me attend three Dinosaur Jr. shows between now and 1993-ish. It wasn’t that he threatened bodily harm if I refused to go, but he would say, in his infamous and inimitable way, “Come on, chief! You gotta come to the show with us.” While I hated every minute of the band’s set, these concert excursions were always a drug and alcohol-fuelled mating ball of trouble – something crazy went down, guaranteed. Good and bad times were had by some and not by others. At the same time, seeing the band live gave me something to stand on when I would say to people, “I’ve seen Dinosaur Jr. live, and they are legitimately terrible.”

From my best recollection, “The Post” was Bobby’s favorite jam from Bug, and I can see us flying down I-55 with the sunroof open, singing along:

She’s my post to lean on
and I just cut her down
So I’m out to land on somethin’
Hopefully a girl will come between me and the ground
  1. Dwight Yoakam – Buenas Noches From A Lonely Room (1988)

One of my all-time favorite quotes happens to be from actress Sharon Stone, who said, “Even a shit sandwich is better than Dwight Yoakam.”

  1. Everything But The Girl – Idlewild (1988)

1001_Everything-BTG_IdlewildSophisti-pop is a subgenre term retrospectively applied to pop that flourished in the UK between the mid-1980s and early 1990s, incorporating elements of soft rock, jazz, new wave, and blue-eyed soul. Music so-classified often made extensive use of electronic keyboards, synthesizers, and polished arrangements, particularly horn sections. Acts were influenced by the work of Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry’s solo work. According to Allmusic, major artists included Sade, The Style Council, Basia, Swing Out Sister, Prefab Sprout, and the early work of Everything but the Girl.

Completely irrelevant.

  1. Fishbone – Truth And Soul (1988)

1001_Fishbone_TruthUpon a cursory look, Truth and Soul, despite being a great record, was not a Must Hear Album, mainly because they have another completely amazing album coming soon. And then I got to thinking and it occurred to me that we haven’t heard the new breed of alternative funk rock yet, c.g. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Theolonius Monster, 24-7 Spys. Fishbone has to be the first.

  1. Happy Mondays – Bummed (1988)

1001_Happy-Mondays_BummedAnother record that initially was a no-go but wound up Must Hear. The Mondays might have been massive in the U.K. and Europe, but this stuff wouldn’t find an American audience for a couple of years. In terms of the Manchester sound, the Stone Roses won’t make sense if you haven’t heard Bummed.

  1. Jane’s Addiction – Nothing’s Shocking (1988)

1001_Janes_Nothings-ShockingThis was Appetite For Destruction for the alternative crowd.

  1. KD Lang – Shadowland (1988)

In full disclosure, I’ve heard this album at least a hundred times. In the mid 90s, I waited tables in a joint that had Shadowland and Harry Connick Jr.’s She on permanent rotation, and at some point, I experienced a Stockholm Syndrome-type of affection for both records. However, this is not the KD Lang album you need to hear.

  1. Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man (1988)

Granted, it’s been 20 years since The Songs of Leonard Cohen, and we missed Various Positions (1984) which contains Cohen’s crowning achievement “Hallelujah”, and the album that inspired a quote from Columbia Record boss Walter Yetnikoff, who told Cohen, “Look, Leonard; we know you’re great, but we don’t know if you’re any good.”

There are several best of Leonard Cohen collections. Get one.

  1. Living Colour – Vivid (1988)

1001_Living-Colour_VividNot the first African-American metal band but the first and last African-American metal band to achieve mainstream platinum success. They’re really good, but they don’t really explain why there’s never been another African-American metal band.

  1. Metallica – … And Justice For All (1988)

1001_Metallica_JusticeMan, it must have been tough. They lost Cliff Burton and they had to follow-up Master of Puppets. That’s a tall challenge. And they almost kind of met the challenge, too. But they didn’t. This album is marred by poor production, stale riffs, and predictable songwriting. The trauma of Burton’s loss stunted this band’s growth. They never made another metal record. They did, however, make one more Must Hear Album.

You could live 1,000 lifetimes and never hear …And Justice For All and you will have still lived a full and rewarding life.

  1. Morrissey – Viva Hate (1988)

1001_Morrissey_Viva-HateNuh-Uh. You’ve heard the Smiths. Morrissey didn’t do anything with his solo career that he didn’t do with the Smiths. Case closed. I’m probably going to be repeating this a few times over the next few years.

  1. Mudhoney – Superfuzz Bigmuff (1988)

Keep your eyes on Seattle, let us not forget, home of the Sonics.

  1. My Bloody Valentine – Isn’t Anything (1988)

1001_My-Bloody-Valentine_AnythingThis record literally made people jump out of their skin. In one shot, My Bloody Valentine managed to announce the arrival two new alternative sub-genres: dream pop and shoegazing, while maintaining a solid guitar-driven alternative rock sound.

  1. NWA – Straight Outta Compton (1988)
  2. 1001_Pixies_SurferPixies – Surfer Rosa (1988)
  3. Public Enemy – It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back (1988)
  4. Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation (1988)

Of course, all four are Must Hear. End of.

  1. The Go-Betweens – 16 Lovers Lane (1988)

If you’re going to get a full bug of jangle pop, it isn’t going to be from these cats.

Suggested Alternative:
Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians – Globe of Frogs

Nowhere near Robyn Hitchcock’s most popular or acclaimed record, it did have one minor college radio hit with “Balloon Man”.

  1. 1001_Sugarcubes_LifeThe Pogues – If I Should Fall From Grace With God (1988)
  2. The Sugarcubes – Life’s Too Good (1988)
  3. The Waterboys – Fisherman’s Blues (1988)
  4. Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman (1988)

You could totally cherry pick an album’s worth of Must Hear jams from these four records.

Net Reduction of Albums from the Period: 19
Suggested Alternatives: 9
Running AYMHBYD Total: 823

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die…Or Not: 1985 – 1986

30 Apr

Dedicated to my brother, Bobby Camp (1969-2015) who introduced me to more bands than I can count.

Frank Zappa (among others) once said something along the lines of writing about music is like dancing about architecture.

1001_Jerry-Shatzberg-Frank-Zappa-HimselfThat’s wrong. If listening to music is an experience, then writing about said experience is just as valid as writing about a trip to India. You can write about anything you want.

More to the point, Zappa was responding to criticism of his own work, and the real gist of what he said is that music critics just don’t get it –“it” being his latest album of guitar solos and nothing but guitar solos.

On a certain level, the incongruity of dancing about architecture may be relevant in this context. There are dozens if not a hundreds of records on the 1001 Albums list that I just don’t get, and thus, there is very little I can write except to acknowledge the fact that their essence escapes me, very much like the appeal of every boy band since Menudo.

However, on an artistic level, the only thing I enjoy as much as making music, is listening to music, reading and/or writing about music. It’s impossible to estimate how many of my favorite artists were discovered by first reading about them. There are several records from 1985-86 that I never would have heard if not for reading an album review in Rolling Stone.

That said, 1985-86 is a minefield for Albums You Should Never Hear Before You Die…For Real. As I perused the extraneous lists of albums released during this period, half the time I was thinking, “Christ, nobody should have to listen to that.” Allow me to toss out a few zero-star examples.

Albums You Should Never Hear Before You Die…For Real: 1985-86


1001_Phil_Collins_-_No_Jacket_RequiredPhil Collins – No Jacket Required

Screw death metal, man. This is the most hurtful, sinister, malicious, hostile, bitter, pernicious, malevolent, spiteful, baleful, injurious, cancerous, virulent, metastatic, and irremediable quasi-rock album ever released…

David Hasselhoff – Night Rocker

…except for this one.

1001_HasselholfYou know where Hasselhoff was popular? Germany – the Japan of Europe. Night Rocker went to #1 in Austria and #30 on the German charts. Der Hoff’s fourth album Looking For Freedom (1989) was his first #1 in Germany. It’s really no fun hating on this guy because he is what he is: Der Hoff. And I bet he’s a great guy and very charming in person. He had that pathetic drunken YouTube clip incident back in 2006, but he’s reprising his role in Sharknado 3, coming soon to a theater near you. Raise your hands if you saw either Sharknados 1 or 2. And you know what, I dug Knight Rider. The talking car satisfied my appreciation for animatronics on television, which is also why I loved ALF. Anyway, der Hoff’s music is Scheiße.

Mick Jagger – She’s the Boss
USA For Africa – We Are the World

1001_USA-forAfrica_we-are-the-worldEverybody involved with the making of these two albums deserves at the very least to have their car towed from the studio parking lot. Or have their luggage lost at LAX. Or have their smart phone slip down through the grating of a storm drain. Some kind of material misfortune that isn’t going to cause any physical harm per se, just a taste of heartache.

How many people are we talking here? Not including record company wonks, the following:

She’s the Boss

1001_Mick-JaggerMick Jagger, Wally Badarou, Jeff Beck, John “Rabbit” Bundrick, Ray Cooper, Aïyb Dieng, Sly Dunbar, Bernard Edwards, Steve Ferrone, Anton Fier, Anton Fig, Guy Fletcher, Bernard Fowler, Jan Hammer, Herbie Hancock, Colin Hodgkinson, Bill Laswell, Chuck Leavell, Ron Magness, Eddie Martinez, Alfa Pickett, Lenny Pickett, Daniel Ponce, Nile Rodgers, Robert Sabino, Robbie Shakespeare, Michael Shrieve, G. E. Smith, Tony Thompson, Fonzi Thornton, and Pete Townshend

We Are the World

Dan Aykroyd, Harry Belafonte, Lindsey Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac), Kim Carnes, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Sheila E., Bob Geldof, Hall & Oates, James Ingram, Jackie Jackson, La Toya Jackson, Marlon Jackson, Michael Jackson, Randy Jackson, Tito Jackson, Al Jarreau, Waylon Jennings, Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, Huey Lewis and the News, Kenny Loggins, Bette Midler, Willie Nelson, Jeffrey Osborne, Steve Perry, The Pointer Sisters, Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson, Kenny Rogers, Diana Ross, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder

1001_The-Clash-cut-the-crapDead or Alive – Youthquake
Heart – Heart
Starship – Knee Deep in the Hoopla
Mike + the Mechanics – Mike + the Mechanics
The Clash – Cut the Crap
Aerosmith – Done With Mirrors

Six of the worst records ever made. It’s also ironic because the one thing Joe Strummer and the Clash sans Mick Jones didn’t cut was the crap. They left the whole log in the bowl, for all of us to enjoy.


1001_Black-Sabbath-seventh-starBlack Sabbath – Seventh Star

This is a Tony Iommi solo record with Glenn Hughes on vocals, and it’s peerlessly awful. Who the fuck is Glenn Hughes? Good question. Iommi is a Greatest of the Great Ones, which makes an album like this even more hurtful and disappointing.

Van Halen – 5150

You’d call them Van Hagar either dismissively or lovingly, and as Sammy Hagar points out in his book, Red: My Uncensored Life In Rock, Warner Bros. asked them to consider renaming the band in like manner.

1001_Sammy-Hagar-Red_book_coverMy general beef with Sammy preceded his tenure in Van Halen, and I don’t hold him responsible for records like 5150, the first in a long line of heart-breakingly terrible Van Halen records. But I have a fair question: Would the bulk of 5150 sound as bloated, slick and phony with David Lee Roth on vocals? Probably. Maybe. I don’t doubt it, and it’s possible.

For my listening dollar, it’s not really about Hagar vs. Roth, though I’m clearly on Team DLR. This record blows for several other reasons; most importantly, it marks the spot where the band began to take itself seriously. Won’t you tell me, where have all the good times gone? Love him or hate him, Roth didn’t just show up to party; he was the party. Hagar showed up and invited a bunch of meatheads out to the parking lot to goon over his ’67 Mustang.

Van Halen were inherently cornball, which, including EVH’s smug fretboard showboating, was clear from the get-go. Dave did the shuck n’ jive with his tongue in cheek, and it was good, cornball fun. The minute you take the humor out of their music, it becomes a stale confection. At the same time, maybe the reason you didn’t like Van Halen before 5150 is precisely because DLR pushed the envelope on the Jim Dandy routine. Moreover, you liked Sammy’s solo work. “I Can’t Drive 55” was your hot jam. Then this record would have given you legitimate reason to like it.

1001_VanHalen_5150_fcoverAbove all, 5150 features not one but two cringe-worthy power ballads that most likely would not exist if DLR was still in the band: “Love Walks In” and “Dreams”.

Finally, aside from the title track, the forgettable riffs and ho-hum hooks are few and far between. Eddie Van Halen may have officially run out of ideas on guitar. He’s still flying up and down the neck and being silly with the whammy bar, but the underlying rhythms are predictable, plodding and unremarkable. That’s where Sammy, a respectable but choogle-driven guitar player in his own right, stepped in. How many of these songs were partially composed by Hagar is anybody’s guess, but with its new pop sensibility, 5150 went straight to the top of the charts. And they’d make three more records in the vein of 5151, 5152, 5153, before Sammy’s wheels came completely off the Van Halen bus.

And more than any rock record of the period, 5150 is the most polished turd you’ll ever encounter.

New Kids on the Block – New Kids on the Block
Europe – The Final Countdown
Journey – Raised on Radio
1001_Genesis_InvisibleGenesis – Invisible Touch

Other than Jefferson Airplane-Starship, it’s hard to name a band that over the course of its lifespan went from heroes to zeroes like Genesis. In other words, very few bands evolved from specialized, exquisite art-prog to peddling satanic adult contemporary in less than a decade. Plenty of other bands went down the tubes and wound up in places they later regretted. Invisible Touch is the first (but not last) Genesis record with zero redeeming qualities, i.e. traces of when they were good, and the core trio of Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins remain unrepentant millionaires and quite proud of their achievements in banality. Fuck them. Zero stars forever.

Steve Winwood – Back in the High Life
Poison – Look What the Cat Dragged In
Boston – Third Stage
Toto – Fahrenheit
Elton John – Leather Jackets
Cheap Trick – The Doctor

1001_Cheap-Ttrick_The_DoctorYikes, what happened to Cheap Trick?

Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic stated “If any one record sums up all the ludicrous indulgence of ’80s record-making it’s The Doctor. Cluttered with cacophonic electronic drums and clanking with cheap overdriven synths, the record is cavernous and hollow, every instrument echoing endlessly in a fathomless digital stage. As sonic archaeology, this holds some interest, as it contains every bad record production idea of the mid-’80s – it’s as garish as its record cover.”

Allmusic gave The Doctor 1 of 5 possible stars, and as a lifelong fan who has actually sat through this record, I’m thinking that Allmusic was being too generous, and I’m taking that one star back, making The Doctor a true zero-star effort.

We now resume regularly scheduled programming.

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die…Or Not: 1985-1986


Strikethrough indicates what you probably think it does
Green indicates highly recommended listening
Underlined indicates questionable but ultimately acceptable record
Blue bold italic indicates ABSOLUTELY MUST HEAR BEFORE YOU DIE
Note: Suggested alternatives are from the same year as the contested entry unless otherwise indicated
Also, anything in Red generally indicates hazardous material

  1. Abdullah Ibrahim – Water From An Ancient Well (1985)

1001_Abdullah-Ibrahim_Water-From-an-Ancient-Well-1985-FLACI can’t be the only one who’d never heard of this South African pianist and composer until today. His music reflects influences ranging from traditional African songs to gospel, ragas, modern jazz and other Western styles. Maybe we need some of that right now.

  1. A-Ha – Hunting High And Low (1985)
  2. Dexys Midnight Runners – Don’t Stand Me Down (1985)

You have a finite amount of time in this life. Remember that. And seriously, this is like the third or fourth Dexy’s Midnight Runners album to make the book, and it’s absolute nonsense to say that anything other than their smash hit single “Come On Eileen” is Must Hear music.

Suggested Alternatives:
1001_Husker-Du_New-Day-RisingHüsker Dü – New Day Rising
Meat Puppets – Up on the Sun

I’m not even going to get started on the riff about “How could they leave these two albums off the list and yet, recommend a band like A-Ha in good faith?”

  1. Dire Straits – Brothers In Arms (1985)

No matter what I have to say about this album, if you like Dire Straits, you’re gonna keep listening to them, come hell or high water. And I can take my snotty opinion and stuff it. Well, that’s fine. But let’s get something straight.

1001_Dire-Straits_Brothers_in_ArmsMark Knopfler did not write a song that name-checks MTV, released it on a major label, and thought nobody would notice. The wonks at MTV went bananas when they heard “Money For Nothing”, especially when it featured a cameo from Sting, who just so happens to be reciting the MTV slogan (“I want my MTV”) to the tune of “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.” That sound you hear is money being printed with several snaps of several fingers.

And I couldn’t care less about the video, but according to various sources, Knopfler was “anti-video” and thought that “videos would destroy the purity of songwriters and performers.” And yet, what happened? They made a video. And it was a huge success. If you didn’t have a reason to dislike Sting, you did now.

1001_MTVWhen an artist essentially writes a jingle for the very same company that’s going to help sell 15 million copies of their latest album, it should be released with a disclaimer on the cover. Sponsored by MTV, Coca-Cola, Nike, etc. Make musicians wear NASCAR jumpsuits with the logo patches of every sponsor. You can talk about songwriting and musicianship all you want. There’s selling out and then there’s what Dire Straits did with “Money For Nothing”.

Now, the rest of Brothers In Arms exemplifies and contains everything I hate about modern rock-based choogle in four-minute servings. Dire Straits are everything that sucks about music and the music industry. Brothers in Arms is the most generic, banal, zero-sum, ambitionless, disposable product since rock music had a name.

Suggested Alternatives:
Celtic Frost – To Mega Therion

1001_Celtic-FrostHaving shared practice spaces with death metal bands, I’ve often wondered what kind of nut you could crack by playing in a death metal band. It’s exhaustive shit. On one hand, it’s nice that these Swiss kids in Celtic Frost took a serious interest in what they were doing and weren’t fucking around. Kudos. On the other hand, there’s not much you can do with it.


If you’ve ever played in a band with a practice space, odds are pretty good that you’ve had a death metal band in the building. I’ve had them as upstairs, downstairs, next door, and across-the-hall neighbors, and those downstairs cats generally played at jet engine levels and rarely took breaks. It was an incredibly unpleasant tsunami of sound. There were times when we couldn’t hear ourselves with everybody’s amps on 11 and the drummer using the butt end of his sticks. Eventually, we figured out their practice schedule and stopped coming in on Tuesday nights. It just wasn’t worth effort to battle against them. And what’s funny is that we talked to other bands in the building and they did the same thing. From that point forward, I always assumed that the main ambition of the average death metal band is to play so unbearably loud that you get the whole building to yourself.

  1. 1001_DFW_Everything_and_More_coverKate Bush – Hounds Of Love (1985)

I have long suspected that I’m wired to dislike things that I don’t understand. For instance, I detest all things mathematic because I never got around to understanding algebra, algorithms, calculus, or trigonometry, or even why those applications might be useful later in life. They haven’t been useful or necessary by any stretch of imagination, but it’d be nice to have a decent grasp of Set Theory if you were desperately trying to get through Everything and More: A Concise History of by David Foster Wallace. Which I’ve been doing for five, seven years now? I hate math and I just don’t get it, so I cannot have an opinion about it.

1001_Kate-Bush-Hounds-of-LoveOnly when I understand something can I have an opinion. When Kate Bush is considered “art rock, experimental pop”, I’m dumbstruck.

Moreover, it’s not like I go out of my way to badmouth clearly photogenic women like Kate Bush; on the other hand, I will go out of my way to avoid her music. I hear it and I think, “Oh Christ, it’s Enya”, even though she’s ahead of Enya on the time table, and doesn’t really sound like Enya, or vice versa. There’s a quality of emotion in her music that I just. Don’t. Get.

Some people have a fantastical musical repartee with the Grateful Dead. Not me. But I understand that people find something remarkable about Kate Bush, and you could literally hit me over the head with it and I still wouldn’t hear it. I dunno. I feel like I’m defending myself.

Hounds of Love contains Bush’s signature cut, “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” which may or may not be the gist of my problem with this music. Perhaps it contains a smidgen of art rock in the sense that it doesn’t exactly follow a traditional song pattern. And Bush sings like a bird, too. But this is adult contemporary music with a new wave edge, and I object to lumping this type of beautifully-tortured-soul music into the same genre as King Crimson, Genesis and Yes. Let’s call this what it is: Soccer Mom Boogie.

Suggested Alternatives:
The Cult – Love
Prince and the Revolution – Around the World in a Day

1001_Breakfast-ClubI was tempted to suggest The Breakfast Club soundtrack. Just for snicks. But seriously, Love is a solid hard rock recording and IMHO more of a Must Hear than their next album (Electric, 1987). The Cult deserve props for finding their groove and sticking to it.

1001_Prince_AroundAround the World in a Day is my second favorite Prince record, (Purple Rain is not my favorite, by a long shot), and probably the Purple One’s only foray into deep psychedelic rock. Anyway, the big hit from this record is the 60s psych-pop gem “Raspberry Beret” but “Pop Life” is the true hot jam. “Condition of the Heart” is very Bitches Brew meets Pet Sounds with Sherman Hemsley and Peabo Bryson, if you’re into that kind of thing.

  1. Mekons – Fear And Whiskey (1985)
  2. New Order – Low-Life (1985)
  3. Prefab Sprout – Steve McQueen (1985)

1001_New-Order_LowAll three of these records have potentially redeeming qualities. Fear and Whiskey is considered one of the first alternative country albums. Meanwhile, Low-Life is considered one of the first post-punk alternative dance albums. And finally, Steve McQueen is considered the second Prefab Spout album. And all three sound like 1985 is jumping out of the speakers.

Suggested Alternatives:
Run-DMC – King of Rock

Articulation is saying what’s necessary to connect a couple of unrelated dots.

More Suggested Alternatives:
R.E.M. – Fables of the Reconstruction
The Dukes of Stratosphear – 25 O’Clock

1001_Dukes_25oclockBoth of these records serve as potent reminders that not every band was rocking the sequencers and pastel neon jumpsuits.

  1. Scritti Politti – Cupid And Psyche 85 (1985)
  2. Simply Red – Picture Book (1985)
  3. Suzanne Vega – Suzanne Vega (1985)

Hell no. Scritti Politti is negligible synth-pop at best. AT BEST! Simply Red is adult contemporary easy listening rubbish. And Suzanne Vega, well, Joan Baez, here you go. OK, Suzie V. does make a decent or album or two in her time. Her debut isn’t it. Besides, it doesn’t contain her two signature songs, “Tom’s Diner” and “Luka”, both of which are on a record that came out in 1987 and we’ll get to it in due time. This one? No. Nope.

Suggested Alternative:
1001_The-Cure_The-HeadDoorThe Cure – The Head on the Door

By far the most influential pop rock record of 1985.

  1. Tears For Fears – Songs From The Big Chair (1985)

Shout, let it all out. These are the things I can do without. Come on, I’m talking to you. Come on.

I loved The Hurting, but I choked on this record. “Shout” was OK, but “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and “Head Over Heels” both crossed the fruity line for me.

  1. The Fall – This Nation’s Saving Grace (1985)

Eh, shit. I listen to it every so often. I like some of it. Mostly, I feel obligated to listen.

  1. The Jesus & Mary Chain – Psychocandy (1985)
  2. The Pogues – Rum, Sodomy And The Lash (1985)
  3. The Smiths – Meat Is Murder (1985)
  4. Tom Waits – Rain Dogs (1985)

1001_JAMC_PsychocandyStraight-up, I can’t stand the Jesus & Mary Chain, but… Psychocandy is exceedingly capable. You should hear some of it. The Pogues are also not my bag, but Rum is a good place to drop a dime. I have serious reservations about Meat is Murder being Must Hear unless…you’re talking about the American version that contains “How Soon is Now?” which appeared as a B-side to “William, Was It Really Nothing?” If that jam is on the record, then yes, full speed ahead. And finally, if I could only recommend one Tom Waits record, Rain Dogs would be a nice choice.

  1. Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force – Planet Rock: The Album (1986)

Extremely influential record in hip-hop. In case there’s ever a time in your life when you wonder, “What are some of the most influential albums in hip-hop?”

  1. Anita Baker – Rapture (1986)

Dear Wikipedia:

Might you explain “quiet storm”?

1001_Quiet-Storm-Web-ModuleQuiet storm is a radio format, musical style, and subgenre of R&B, featuring soulful slow jams, pioneered in the mid-1970s by then-station-intern Melvin Lindsey at WHUR-FM, in Washington, D.C. Smokey Robinson’s like-titled hit single, “A Quiet Storm”, released in 1975 as the title track to his third solo album, lent its name to the format and to the radio program that introduced it to the public. Encompassing a mix of African-American music genres, quiet storm music is distinguished by understated, mellow dynamics and relaxed tempos and rhythms. It can be soothingly pensive, or express romantic sentiment. Quiet storm music is similar to soft rock and adult contemporary styles, but it is more closely and unmistakably rooted in R&B and soul music, often with jazz extensions.

Today, quiet storm is a broad term given to an array of mellow, slow-groove contemporary R&B, soul and smooth jazz offerings of the type featured on Melvin Lindsey’s WHUR program, and on myriad other stations that followed his lead—most notably KBLX-FM in San Francisco, which in 1979 became the first radio station in the U.S. to present a 24-hour quiet storm format (which lasted 32 years, until the station was acquired in April 2011 by Entercom Broadcasting and converted to straight-ahead Urban AC format).

According to music journalist Jason King, quiet storm developed as a subgenre analogous to soft rock because it emphasized the more tender qualities of R&B:

“Sensuous and pensive, quiet storm is seductive R&B, marked by jazz flourishes, ‘smooth grooves,’ and tasteful lyrics about intimate subjects. As disco gave way to the ‘urban contemporary’ format at the outset of the 1980s, quiet storm expanded beyond radio to emerge as a broad catchall super-genre.”

Ben Fong-Torres of Rolling Stone called the genre a “blend of pop, jazz fusion, and R&B ballads – all elegant and easy-flowing, like a flute of Veuve Clicquot champagne”. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t need that kind of aggravation.

  1. 1001_Bad-Brains_I-againstBad Brains – I Against I (1986)
  2. Beastie Boys – Licensed To Ill (1986)
  3. Big Black – Atomizer (1986)

You’ve been on the Bad Brains tip since Rock for Light (1982) so you might sleep on I Against I. Don’t do that.

Most aficionados will pooh-pooh Licensed to Ill, but you cannot underestimate its cultural influence and role in hip-hop’s crossover to white, middle class America.

1001_Big_Black_AtomizerBig Black is one of the seminal post-punk noise rock bands, and Atomizer is probably their most “fun” record. It’s too bad that I didn’t get turned on to this record when it came out. I suppose it was too indie or hipster or underground or arty for my crew. Anyway, it will be one of the most influential albums of the decade. Ever heard of the Pixies? Nirvana? And speaking of writing about music, Steve Albini is infamous for more than his fair share of literal spew.

  1. Billy Bragg – Talking With The Taxman About Poetry (1986)
  2. Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet (1986)

There is no Must Hear Album with “poetry” in the title. Period. End of.

Bon Jovi is just one more reason to avoid mainstream hard-ish rock in this era. They were merely a symptom of a much larger problem in rock: aiming for the lowest common denominator. However, to paraphrase Rob Tyner of the MC5, you’re either part of the problem, or part of the solution.

Suggested Alternative:
David Lee Roth – Eat ‘Em and Smile

The irony of praising Big Black while also suggesting a David Lee Roth album is not lost on me. However…

1001_DLR_Eat_Em_And_Smile_CoverAfter releasing the surprise hit EP Crazy from the Heat in early 1985, and subsequently parting ways with Van Halen, Roth recruited a new backing band: bassist Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big); drummer Gregg Bissonette (Ringo Starr and Elton John, among others); and guitarist Steve Vai, who had worked previously with Frank Zappa, PiL and Alcatrazz. Basically the hottest players at their chosen instrument in the business. The ultimate hired guns.

Eat ‘Em and Smile featured a hard rock sound, comparable with that of early Van Halen, albeit featuring eclectic forays into lounge, jazz, and speed metal. It was pure DLR. Both a critical and commercial success, Rolling Stone wrote that no song on Eat ‘Em and Smile was “as slick as any of the singles from Van Halen’s 5150 album,” and also avered that Eat ‘Em and Smile was much more “trashy fun”. Indeed, many of the reviews of Eat ‘Em And Smile compared it favorably to Van Halen’s synth-heavy 5150.

  1. Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Blood And Chocolate (1986)

I dunno. I don’t feel like I needed to hear this. I’ll tune in when he does that record with Paul McCartney. I’m thinking that might be a good time.

Suggested Alternatives:
Love & Rockets – Express
They Might Be Giants – They Might Be Giants

Two of the THE cool kid college dormitory records in 1986.

  1. Megadeth – Peace Sells … But Who’s Buying? (1986)
  2. Metallica – Master Of Puppets (1986)

1001_Metallica-Master-of-Puppets_coverUm. OK. Metal. Wow. Um. Gosh. Like. Riffs. Riffage. Violence. Death. We are a long way from “All I Wanted Was a Pepsi, and She Wouldn’t Give it to Me.” But… Yeah. Rockin’. Um. Fast. Juhga-hugga-hugga-juhga-jigga-jugh-jugha. Yeah. Screaming. Sounds like shit went in sour in your life, son. Changes. Changes. Three note riffs. Capital R riffs. Abundant. Solos. Modes. Um. OK. Both. Records. Yikes. Yeah. Metal, man. Metal as fuck.

Master of Puppets is the superior record, but don’t snooze on Megadeth. Peace Sells has several redeeming qualities, most notably a lead guitar player (Dave Mustaine) who could fly. Kirk Hammett used to operate a rickshaw service out of Carlos Santana’s auto body repair shop.

  1. Nanci Griffith – The Last Of The True Believers (1986)

Sure, why not?

  1. Paul Simon – Graceland (1986)
  2. Peter Gabriel – So (1986)
  3. Run-DMC – Raising Hell (1986)
  4. Slayer – Reign In Blood (1986)
  5. Sonic Youth – Evol (1986)

1001_Slayer_ReignAll six of the above records are Must Hear and if you need qualification, I suggest you do your homework and stop depending on me to sort things out. Just kidding. I’m hesitant to pull the trigger on Sonic Youth here because they have a couple of great records coming up.

  1. Steve Earle – Guitar Town (1986)

Hmm. Guitar Town. I wonder what kind of activities take place in Guitar Town? A lot of zzzz’s and hammer-downs? It only figures that the sheriff and his deputy are going to be involved. We’ve reached the Can You Blame Him? stage of singer-songwriters. Dude puts the cunt in country music, while taking the ock out of rock.

Suggested Alternative:
R.E.M. – Life’s Rich Pageant

1001_R.E.M_Lifes-RichNot getting enough fiber in your diet? The whole grain of Steve Earle isn’t producing solid results? R.E.M. has your heartland colon blow right here, recorded at John Cougar’s studio in Belmont, Indiana. By far my least favorite of their pre-Out of Time (1990) work, there are a couple of sweet cuts here, and a couple of clunkers that sound thrown together, exposing their songwriting limitations. “What If We Give It Away?” being the prime example. On the other hand, “Fall On Me” set a course for the Top 40. The guitars are big and tuff. The drums are bombastic. Michael Stipe’s voice is noticeably prominent in the mix for the first time in their discography. It’s the polar opposite of their previous record. While the success of Life’s Rich Pageant cleared their path to alternative rock dominance, it came at the expense of the R.E.M. mystique. No more making up your own words to songs. No more guessing at cryptic meanings. No more fun, basically. Here’s where R.E.M. starts to take themselves seriously.

  1. The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead (1986)

The debut album and The Queen Is Dead are the Smiths’ bookends on a brief but magical career. Yes, I know there’s another record coming (Strangeways, Here We Come, 1987), and it might even be a Must Hear. This is a slam dunk. The title track contains some of the best lyrics I’ve ever seen or heard.

Farewell to this land’s cheerless marches
Hemmed in like a boar between arches
Her very Lowness with her head in a sling
I’m truly sorry but it sounds like a wonderful thing
I say Charles don’t you ever crave
To appear on the front of the Daily Mail
Dressed in your Mother’s bridal veil?
So I checked all the registered historical facts
And I was shocked into shame to discover
How I’m the 18th pale descendent
Of some old queen or other
Oh has the world changed, or have I changed?
Oh has the world changed, or have I changed?
Some nine year old tough who peddles drugs on the street
I swear to God, I swear I never even knew what drugs were
So I broke into the Palace
With a sponge and a rusty spanner
She said, “Eh, I know you, and you cannot sing”
I said, That’s nothing – you should hear me play piano”
We can go for a walk where it’s quiet and dry
And talk about precious things
But when you are tied to your mother’s apron
No-one talks about castration
We can go for a walk where it’s quiet and dry
And talk about precious things
Like love and law and poverty
These are the things that kill me
We can go for a walk where it’s quiet and dry
And talk about precious things
But the rain that flattens my hair
These are the things that kill me
Pass the pub that saps your body
And the church who’ll snatch your money
The Queen is dead, boys
And it’s so lonely on a limb
Pass the pub that wrecks your body
And the church, all they want is your money
The Queen is dead, boys
And it’s so lonely on a limb
Life is very long, when you’re lonely
Life is very long, when you’re lonely
Life is very long, when you’re lonely
Life is very long, when you’re lonely
  1. The The – Infected (1986)

1001_XTC_SkylarkingConsidering the impending AIDS epidemic, this is an unfortunate album title, don’t you think?

  1. Throwing Muses – Throwing Muses (1986)

Not yet with these kids.

  1. XTC – Skylarking (1986)

Another gorgeous, simply phenomenal record You Must Hear Before You Die…Produced by Todd Rundgren.

Net Reduction of Albums from the Period: 13
Suggested Alternatives: A bunch of ’em
Running AYMHBYD Total: 842

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die…Or Not: 1983 – 1984

20 Apr
https://blacksunshinemedia.comTo be honest, I didn’t know what the hell was going on in 1983-84, and I was hoping that 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die was going to bring some clarity to my confusion.

Generally speaking, the self-awareness of a 16-year-old boy is limited to his immediate sight and grasp. At least, that’s how it was for me.

What I do know about the period is that music was as much a part of my life as it was my identity. All groups form on a certain commonality, and high school is nothing but a laboratory experiment in social stratification. My school had maybe six main social groups based on music (more or less, for the purpose and definition of this essay).

Gatekeepers – Basically the bulk of the student population, most of whom showed zero inclination toward music, didn’t wear concert t-shirts or claim a strong affiliation with a band, genre, or social clique, and never missed the honor roll. They were heavily involved in academics, sports, clubs, and student government, though you might spot one or two at a weekend party.

1001_fleetwood-mac-01Generally speaking, Gatekeepers were all very nice kids who never caused any trouble and got into the college of their choice and went on to be successful in whatever it is they did. I would imagine they are now the same people who pony-up tall cash for special VIP passes to see Fleetwood Mac (which includes a Meet n’ Greet with the band).

1001_Party-MonsterParty Monsters aka Jocks – The upper echelon of the high school caste system, these kids were generally but not always from well-to-do families whose parents were out of town all the time and didn’t care if their son threw a keg party or two. Many of these kids were also star athletes and top students. They rocked the mainstream buzz bands: Styx, R.E.O. Speedwagon, Van Halen, the Who, the Police, or just about any rock band in the Top 10 of the album charts; and they went to all the big shows. Music was more part of an event than the event itself, which meant there was a time and place for Kool and the Gang, too. Sporting events, for example. Anyway, PMs were a vain, capricious and selective bunch of characters, but you’d be a fool to bail on an invitation to one of their swingers.

1001_StonersStoners – These stereotypically peaceful cats had several different but interchangeable factions, depending upon who had the weed. Other than being high 95% of the time, they had a tendency to look down on “the straights,” but didn’t cause much trouble. Generally speaking, these kids were also on the cutting edge of music, because what else was there to do during a Thursday night bong session except listen to the new Grateful Dead bootleg? They also attended shitloads of concerts and concert tees made up a third of their wardrobe. The rest of it was denim – jackets and jeans, sometimes with patches sewn into the pockets. Stoners were notorious for blowing off class and getting high in the parking lot, or walking off campus to someone’s house nearby. They tended toward Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and Pink Floyd, but also had a working knowledge of Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart.

1001_Judd-NelsonBurnouts – The bad-ass Stoner contingent who had parental permission to puff cigarettes between classes in the outdoor smoking area, also known as “The Cage”, which is partially where the “burnout” reference came from. Many Stoners had this privilege as well, but managed to avoid Burnout status. Anyway, some of these cats were literally scripted from the 1970s, with long hair, driving muscle cars, carrying chain wallets in the back pockets of their bell bottoms, and steel toe boots that would kick your ass all over 75th Street if you crossed them. A whole bunch of these dudes and chicks wound up being incarcerated at some point in their lives. Several while still in high school. Musically, they rep’d for bands like Rainbow, Dio, Krokus, Dokken, and Motorhead, but really, any hard rock would do for them.

1001_PunksPunks – This group encompassed several scenes, particularly the theater kids (read: gays), the art nerds, and the super-genius students who were either having difficulty at home, or came from a broken family. These were generally speaking the bravest kids in school, and they took a lot of shit for showing up with a blue Mohawk or wearing a Dead Kennedys t-shirt. Many of the Punks didn’t actually wear punk fashions or get pummeled in the mosh pit. They lurked on the periphery, but identified nonetheless. Many of them became the original 90s hipsters, and I hope they’re proud of that.

1001_HS-BandBand Guys – Anyone who was part of the school’s music program. These kids were fiercely loyal to their band associates, but also free to mingle in other groups. Generally straight-laced, a small percentage of Band Guys were also Gatekeepers, Party Monsters, Punks, and Stoners. They could also talk at length about the stylistic differences between Pat Metheny records, as well as the current line-up of Manhattan Transfer.

1001_OutsiderOutliers – These cats could be part of any one of the above groups at any time, often simultaneously, but never claiming affiliation. Often times, a group of outliers would form and create a sub-clique. Generally speaking, these kids were on par with Stoners in terms of knowledge and appreciation of music. They loved everything from the Stray Cats to Springsteen, and everything in between, including punk, new wave and metal. Most outliers were fairly responsible cats who managed to keep their academics in line, but many were ne’er-do-well, under-achieving potheads who started bands and later dropped out of college to pursue a career in music.

As an outlier who mixed with all of the above groups, even friendly with some of the Burnouts, I belonged to a very small but changeable clique of like-minded dudes who were into two, call it three things: Music, partying, and chicks. That’s all 1983-84 means to me, mostly the chicks. And if I had to spike my hair, pierce my left ear, and do my best Billy Idol impression in order to make something happen, then so be it.


Strikethrough indicates what you probably think it does
Green indicates highly recommended listening
Underlined indicates questionable but ultimately acceptable record
Blue bold italic indicates ABSOLUTELY MUST HEAR BEFORE YOU DIE
Note: Suggested alternatives are from the same year as the contested entry unless otherwise indicated
Also, anything in Red generally indicates hazardous material

  1. Culture Club – Colour By Numbers (1983)

1001_Culture-ClubThis is one of those albums you can absolutely judge from its cover. You don’t need to hear Culture Club’s lightweight drag queen pseudo-soul bullshit any longer than absolutely necessary, meaning the six minutes it will take to suffer through their two really big cuts “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” and “Karma Chameleon” while sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. God help you. Capital T-trust me. Or better yet, trust your eyes. Look at that album cover again. If that’s not enough, trust science. Studies have shown that anything beyond the Culture Club two-song threshold may increase your risk of everything bad in the world happening to you and you alone.

Suggested Alternative:
Billy Idol – Rebel Yell

1001_Billy-Idol_rebelyellalbumRight here is the heartbeat of the average American teenage male. The chicks dug him, too. Everybody wins. What’s more, Rebel Yell is actually a decent new wave hard rock record with a couple of infectious jams; of course, the title track, and the surprisingly tender-turns-tuff “Eyes Without a Face”; both of which were MTV staples.

At the same time, Rebel Yell marks the spot where “punk” became accessible to the mainstream. Billy Idol made it cool for dudes to rock that certain “punky” look, whereas a couple of years ago, you’d have gotten your ass beat for showing up to school looking like this cat on the cover. I’m telling you right now that yours truly got some Scooby Snacks as a direct result of this record.

  1. Def Leppard – Pyromania (1983)

1001_Def_Leppard_-_PyromaniaThe term “heavy metal” (also stylized as metal) has been around for well over a decade at this point, and up until recently, metal has been nothing more than very hard rock.

The old folks considered Scorpions, Zeppelin and Sabbath to be heavy metal, but anyone under the age of 30 knew better. Motörhead was the first band to bridge the straits of hard rock, punk and metal. In the late 70s, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest led the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM), which included relatively unsung groups like Saxon, Tank, Diamond Head, Magnum, Venom, and believe it or not, Def Leppard.

1001_Def_Leppard_-_High_'n'_DryPyromania was THE hard rock-slash-heavy metal album of 1983, and stands the test of time…kind of, in a way. We’ll get deeper into the question of whether or not this is really a heavy metal record – it’s not – but it’s distinction as the best-selling hard rock record of the year means one thing: MTV had a lot to do with Def Leppard’s success. Honestly, their previous album High n’ Dry (1981) is what I’d be reaching for if someone ever came over and said, “Hey, ya got any Def Leppard?” That has never, not once, ever happened, but I believe I’ve called Pyromania the best AC/DC record since Back in Black (1980). Something like that. Above all, it’s really good at what it does, and contains a couple of sweet cowbell riffs.

1001_Mutt-LangeI’m not really in the mood to wax poetic about producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange, except to say that the man knew how to make a rock n’ roll record, he really did. As I’m scrolling through the 1001 Albums list, it occurs to me that Pyromania is one of two Must Hear hard rock records from the 1983-84 period. Two? That number seems low, because I was there, and I remember several great records, some of which might even be Must Hear. Didn’t anybody else make a killer hard rock/heavy metal record in 1983? Maybe they did. Let’s take a closer look.

Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums Released in 1983*

*None of these albums are Must Hear unless otherwise indicated in blue bold italic (for Must Hear) and bold underline (for Maybe Must Hear)
Quiet Riot – Metal Health

1001_MetalHealth_Quiet-RiotThe “other” big hard rock/metal record of 1983; unfortunately, Metal Health has NOT stood the test of time. Party Monsters loved this album for a couple of months, and then it was on to better things. The cover of Slade’s “Cum On Feel the Noize” was pretty infectious though, and MTV stuffed Quiet Riot down the gullet of American youth like they were farming us for foie gras.

Dio – Holy Diver

1001_Dio_Holy-DiverYou know, Ronnie James Dio seemed like a straight-up cat, and he gets credit for popularizing the now ubiquitous “Devil horns,” but only Burnouts and Stoners got Holy Diver. The rest of us were like, “Huh?”

Metallica – Kill ’em All

1001_Metallica_killemall_lgHere’s the first of the Probable Must Hear Albums that didn’t get any love from the coffee table book, and by far the most accessible progressive-thrash metal album of the year. Kill ‘em All had a few of the standard hard rock trappings (long hair, guitar solos, shouted and growled vocals) but Metallica was the first great metal band since Motörhead that doesn’t have a dedicated front man who did nothing but preen, prance and sing. And that’s one of the nicest things I have to say about them.

Meanwhile, they were the Led Zeppelin of metal. Whereas Zeppelin flat-out poached riffs from blues cats and gave them a hard rock spin, Metallica stole riffs from proto-metal bands and gave them a punky twist.

Loudness – The Law of Devil’s Land

1001_LoudnessThey were loud, for sure, and almost every song contains the phrases “rock n’ roll”, “go crazy” and “evil in the night.” Honestly, I’ve no fucking clue what these cats were on about – it’s mostly in Japanese. But I’ve grown to like them a whole bunch. The Law is not a solid Must Hear, but it is light years ahead of most metal records from the period.

Triumph – Never Surrender
Streetheart – Dancing With Danger

Oh Canada. Sigh.

UFO – Making Contact
Thin Lizzy – Thunder and Lightning
1001_Krokus_HeadEurope – Europe
Marillion – Script for a Jester’s Tear
Saxon – Power & the Glory
Molly Hatchet – No Guts…No Glory
Krokus – Headhunter
Fastway – Fastway
Foghat – Zig-Zag Walk
Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind
Kix – Cool Kids
Magnum – The Eleventh Hour

The only album of this bunch that even comes close to a Must Hear is Peace of Mind, but it’s not. On the other hand, Magnum is funny as shit.

Uriah Heep – Head First
Blackfoot – Siogo
Motörhead – Another Perfect Day
Tank – This Means War

Tank was formed in 1980 by bassist Algy Ward, formerly of The Damned. The band’s jumbly, punk-ish metal was often compared to Motörhead. This Means War is pretty funny, too, but unlike Magnum, in a good way.

Twisted Sister – You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll
Nazareth – Sound Elixir
Kansas – Drastic Measures
1001_Black-Sabbath_born_againBlack Sabbath – Born Again

Another Perfect Day more or less marks the spot where Motörhead crossed over into speed metal. Born Again is Sabbath’s only album with Ian Gillan (Deep Purple) on vocals, and an Album I Wish I’d Never Heard Before I Died.

Queensrÿche – Queensrÿche
AC/DC – Flick of the Switch
Ratt – Ratt
Rainbow – Bent Out of Shape
Raven – All for One
Saga – Heads or Tales
Dokken – Breaking the Chains
Kiss – Lick It Up
1001_Motely-Crue_ShoutMötley Crüe – Shout at the Devil

Shout at the Devil has a couple of fun jams. Those guys make me laugh, though I’m pretty sure that wasn’t their objective. If there is a Must Hear album in the Mötley Crüe catalog, this might be it. As for the rest of these albums, I’m not telling you how to live your life, but if you’re looking for listening magic, you aren’t going to find any here.

Brian May + Friends – Star Fleet Project

If I can’t find anything nice to say about a record that features Brian May and Eddie Van Halen exchanging guitar solos for half of the total time, then it’s got to be an exceptional record. This joins the list of Albums I Wish I’d Never Heard Before I Died.

Michael Schenker Group – Built to Destroy
Diamond Head – Canterbury
Y & T – Mean Streak
The Joe Perry Project – Once a Rocker, Always a Rocker
Aldo Nova – Subject: Aldo Nova

It’s always a challenge to find new ways of saying these records suck. The title of the Joe Perry LP is awful on its own; you don’t even need to see the track list. I mean, I want to be nice here. Diamond Head? If you’re curious, sure, go ahead, knock yourself out. Might as well give ‘em all a quick spin. But be forewarned, Subject: Aldo Nova does not contain “Fantasy”.

1001_Mercyful-Fate_Melissa_albumMercyful Fate – Melissa

Probably Most Definitely a Must Hear…maybe…I dunno. This is heavy metal music. And they’re upstaging Metallica, I’ll tell you what. King Diamond wasn’t messing around. At the very least, if you were browsing in a record store and picked up Melissa, flipped it over and read the track list, there would not be a single DOUBT in your mind that this was a metal record.

Side one

  1. “Evil”
  2. “Curse of the Pharaohs”
  3. “Into the Coven”
  4. “At the Sound of the Demon Bell”

Side two

  1. “Black Funeral”
  2. “Satan’s Fall”
  3. “Melissa”
Alcatrazz – No Parole from Rock ‘n’ Roll
Girlschool – Play Dirty
Blue Öyster Cult – The Revölution by Night
Hawkwind – Zones
Loverboy – Keep it Up

Haha, Loverboy was never anything more than third-rate Canadian rock, but they did give us “Workin’ For the Weekend.” Just wanted to remind everybody to say, “Thanks, Canada.” Otherwise, the Alcatrazz LP features Yngwie Malmsteen on guitar, and if light-speed guitar solos are your thing, here ya go.

Status Quo – Back to Back
1001_Ozzy_Bark_at_the_moonOzzy Osbourne – Bark at the Moon

Unfortunately, Jake E. Lee could never fill the shoes of Randy Rhodes, and thus, Bark at the Moon is yet another Album I Wish I’d Never Heard Before I Died.

Witchfynde – Cloak and Dagger
Night Ranger – Midnight Madness
Slade – The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome
1001_Slayer_MercySlayer – Show No Mercy
Accept – Balls to the Wall

Witchfynde is considered one of the pioneers of NWOBHM. I made it about two minutes into the first track of Cloak and Dagger before bailing out. Night Ranger? Fuck off. I like Slade a whole bunch but there’s nothing about The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome that makes me want to hear it again. Slayer is just getting started on their debut album, and thus, Show No Mercy is amateur night. Balls to the Wall is straight-up AC/DC. But let’s get one thing straight: AC/DC was never heavy metal music.


Pyromania marks the spot where the concept of heavy metal went mainstream, but the music didn’t necessarily follow. Metal splintered in several different directions: progressive, thrash, and hair metal to name a few. That’s right, hair metal. Def Leppard signaled the arrival of a potentially toxic type of pop metal, which is a nice way of saying hair metal (also known as glam metal, but I think that’s giving bands like Poison and Warrant far too much credit).

I’m actually listening to Pyromania for the first time in probably 25 years or more, and I’m dumbstruck by how “poppy” it is, meaning, the sophistication of the songwriting and production is off the charts. And it instantly brings me back to 1983, when this album specifically turned me against mainstream hard rock.

  1. Duran Duran – Rio (1983)

1001_Duran-Duran_RioThis is mainstream new wave; nothing more than well-crafted pop music with a beat and a saxophone solo here and there to remind you where you are. It’s 1983. What Duran Duran looked like was as important as what they sounded like, which was post-modern pop. Without the videos in heavy rotation on MTV, nobody would have cared, and by nobody I mean all the chicks, cuz these cats were as big back then as One Direction is now. These dudes soiled panties at the drop of their name. The jams are negligible new wave exercises in writing a pop song. Sometimes it works.

Suggested Alternative:
Bad Brains – Rock for Light


Produced by Rick Ocasek (the Cars), Rock for Light is an incomparable smorgasbord of reggae jazz punk metal. DO NOT sleep on Bad Brains.

  1. Echo & The Bunnymen – Porcupine (1983)

Some people think this is an influential record. On the other hand, I think.

Suggested Alternative:
Tears For Fears – The Hurting

It boggles my mind that the genius team behind 1001 Albums would leave The Hurting off the list while jamming us with another LP from a band that was simply Not. That. Influential. The Hurting is by far the best new wave album released in 1983, and reached number one on the UK Albums Charts.

1001_Tears-for-Fears_The_HurtingDrum machines and MIDI sequencers were two big things that happened to music in the early 1980s. Otherwise known as rhythm programming, all of a sudden you didn’t necessarily need a drummer in the studio, and if you were a songwriter, drummers tended to be the bane of your existence. Plus, MIDI allowed for a baffling amount of complexity within song structure and instrumentation.

I hate programmed music in general, but The Hurting is one of maybe a dozen “drum machine” records that I can love without prejudice. Furthermore, Roland Orzabal is terribly under-rated as a songwriter and guitar player.

  1. Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) (1983)

Sigh. I’m not happy about it for a couple of reasons, even though once upon a time ten years ago, I recorded a home demo version of “Here Comes the Rain Again”. But man, I was fucking full-time sky high. This record reminds me of being a sophomore in high school, which probably says more about me than Sweet Dreams, but wouldn’t you expect something better than that? You should.

  1. Hanoi Rocks – Back To Mystery City (1983)
  2. Malcolm McLaren – Duck Rock (1983)

Neither of these two records deserves an explanation for why they are not Must Hear albums. Plus, I detailed my views on Hanoi Rocks during the introduction.

Suggested Alternative:
Shonen Knife – Burning Farm

1001_Shonen-Knife_FarmChrist, I didn’t stumble upon this record until 30 years after its release, and now I’m really kicking myself for snoozing on Shonen Knife and Cibo Matto for all these years. I adore this album and if you were to check my browser history, you would find that I have listened to this record more than any other in the last 12 months. Whenever I find myself between artists and albums, for instance, having ripped through all those metal records, and I need something to refresh my ears, I click over to Burning Farm. It never fails to reset my listening parameters and at the same time, put me in a good mood.

  1. Meat Puppets – Meat Puppets II (1983)
  2. Minor Threat – Out Of Step (1983)

1001_Meat-Puppets_IIWell, hello there! I do believe we’ve met the future of indie rock.

  1. Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Architecture And Morality (1983)
  2. Paul Simon – Hearts and Bones (1983)

Another surprising but welcome relief is that the 1001 Albums list so far hasn’t included any Paul Simon records except for his first eponymous solo album (1972). This means Dimery & Co. agree that you don’t need to hear There Goes Rhymin’ Simon (1973), Still Crazy After All These Years (1975), or One Trick Pony (1980).

1001_Paul-Simon_hearts_and_bonesEven though some of Simon’s solo work tasted the rainbow of critical praise, it’s still not Must Hear stuff. You’ve heard Simon & Garfunkel. Look, Paul Simon is a fantastic songwriter and a monster on finger-picked acoustic guitar. But his post S&Garf work is soft, shitty, soft rock. To spare you the clicking and searching, here’s what I said about Paul Simon’s solo work (from 1972-1974):

I think you’ll find that I’m going to be exceedingly harsh on Paul Simon’s solo career, not only because I have always been an Artie vs. Paul guy. In my mind, for a big chunk of Simon’s post-Garfunkel career, up to One Trick Pony or so, he wasn’t doing anything he couldn’t have done with S&Garf. When they spilt, Simon took the songs and Garfunkel left with the heavenly voice and redeeming qualities.

That said, Hearts and Bones has an interesting back story. The album was written and recorded following the S&G Concert in Central Park in 1981, and the world tour of 1982-83. Some of the songs to be included on Hearts and Bones were previewed on tour, and Garfunkel worked on some of the songs with Simon in the studio. The finished product was intended to be a S&G album. Ultimately, Garfunkel left the project, and none of his contributions were included in the final mix.

So Hearts and Bones was supposed to be my personal dream record: the S&G studio album that never happened.

Suggested Alternative:
Blue Sunshine 1The Glove – Blue Sunshine
The Cure – Japanese Whispers

Why the hell not? And I’m speaking more toward Architecture And Morality. If you really want to hear some freaky fucking new wave music, Blue Sunshine will deliver the goods. If you want to hear some pissy, inconsequential techno, then you reach for OMD. Besides, pretty much anything with Robert Smith in 1983 is going to be listenable.

  1. R.E.M. – Murmur (1983)

As mentioned in 1981-82, I didn’t dig this record the first few times I heard it, mainly because I never liked the opening track “Radio Free Europe” until maybe two or three years ago when I sat down and dissected the song. Hearing and seeing them play it live was different story. R.E.M. was one of the most believable live rock bands I’ve ever seen. Their lack of pretense was refreshing and unquestioned. Anyway, eventually I came around to Murmur, and even though I tend to skip the first track, this album is, as many critics have said, timeless. You would have no idea it was recorded in 1982-83 unless you read the liner notes.

  1. The Police – Synchronicity (1983)

1001_Police_SyncTHIS is their darkest album if you ask me.

  1. The The – Soul Mining (1983)

Why do you need to hear The The? I dunno. Maybe you’re not sure what post-punk new wave synth-pop is supposed to sound like. Soul Mining contains a track that more or less sums up the disposable state of alternative music, “This Is the Day”.

  1. Tom Waits – Swordfishtrombones (1983)

If I was a deckhand on a clipper ship captained by Tom Waits in the late 19th century, I’m pretty sure that the last thing I’d want to hear is a bunch of sea shanties. Most of all, I’d get real tired of Tom Waits’ voice, which is good-to-awesome for one or two jams in a row, and then I need to hear somebody who can sing. Spoken word is great, but I don’t want a short story on Track 2. Hasn’t anybody heard of Jim Carroll? Tom Waits has.

Besides, you’ve already heard two Tom Waits records and you’re gonna hear one more. Chill out.

Suggested Alternatives:
1001_Stray-Cats_RantTalking Heads – Speaking in Tongues
The Fixx – Reach the Beach
The Stray Cats – Rant N’ Rave with the Stray Cats
John Cougar Mellencamp – Uh-Huh

All four of these records deserved consideration for Must Hear status. And all four were on the turntable (or in the cassette deck) at my crib in 1983. Rant N’ Rave is probably my pick of the litter.

  1. U2 – War (1983)

1001_U2_WarFinally, a band that brings an infectious broth of self-important, preachy, post-punk, new wave, and over-the-top rock histrionics to the mainstream. War redesigned the rock n’ roll landscape. Everybody get down on your knees and worship the cult of U2.

I haven’t heard this album in at least 25 years and I’m cool with that.

  1. ZZ Top – Eliminator (1983)

ZZ Top went from heroes to zeroes within the first four bars of the drum intro to “Gimme All Your Lovin’”. It always bothered me, why would these guys resort to using drum machines and sequencers when they had a perfectly rock-solid drummer in Frank Beard? Sure, they used synths on El Loco (1981), but this…this is just…

And then…the Internet. Now I can tell you why. They wanted to make the most radio and consumer-friendly album possible, which is why ALMOST EVERY SONG’S TEMPO IS SET AT 120 BPM (beats per minute). Meanwhile, they made a series of cartoonish videos for MTV and the story is over. Goodbye, ZZ Top, we hardly knew ye.

Suggested Alternative:
The Psychedelic Furs – Forever Now (1982)

1001_Forever_Now_(the_Psychedelic_Furs_album_-_cover_art,_1982_US_release)OK, I admit it; I missed this one. For whatever reason, maybe because I didn’t own this record until 1983, I didn’t bother to check its release date. Sucks to be me. Seriously, that’s like the worst feeling, when I’ve spent more than a hundred words bitching about the exact same issue with the official 1001 Albums list. And so when it comes time to puff up this album, bam! I check the details, and guess what, fucker? You’re wrong.

Anyway, Forever Now is IMHO (in my humble opinion) the best Furs record and one of the best new wave albums ever made. Produced by Todd Rundgren, featuring background vocals from Flo & Eddie (The Turtles, Frank Zappa), Forever Now is the rare top-to-bottom listening experience. There isn’t a stinker on either side of this disc. Every song is a keeper, including one of if not their biggest hit(s): “Love My Way”, which I can still hear today and think, “Man, that’s really good.”

Extra Credit:
Flo & Eddie (Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan)

1001_History_flo_eddie_turtlesIf these guys are guest starring on your album, the chances of it being a decent album just tipped in your favor. In addition to Zappa and the Turtles, they appeared on records for an impressive roster of artists including John Lennon, T.Rex, Roger McGuinn, Hoyt Axton, Ray Manzarek, Stephen Stills, Keith Moon, David Cassidy, Alice Cooper, Blondie, Bruce Springsteen, The Knack, The Psychedelic Furs, Sammy Hagar, Burton Cummings, Paul Kantner, Duran Duran, and the Ramones.

The History of Flo & Eddie and the Turtles (1983) is a Must Hear only for serious students, aficionados and so forth, mainly because the three-LP box set has never been reissued on CD, thus, it’s only available on vinyl ($33.99) from Amazon. It’s not on iTunes.


Before we even get started on 1984, there are three major, critical rock albums that you Must Hear Before You Die that didn’t make the book, and I’m here to tell you that any discussion of 1984 in music has to include these three records.

U2 – The Unforgettable Fire

1001_U2_The_Unforgettable_FireComing off the breakthrough success of War, the band could have made More War, or try something new, go forward, expand their horizons, E-T-C. They chose the latter, and what you’re hearing is probably the best record the band ever made.

At the same time, The Unforgettable Fire is the record that pushed them over the edge of commercial success. At this point in time, they were the biggest band on the planet, and this was the most anticipated record of the year. And because it defied a lot of expectations, a lot of people panned The Unforgettable Fire; they didn’t get it. “Too experimental. Unfocused.” People can be wrong sometimes.

Hüsker Dü – Zen Arcade

If you’ve never wondered what an album might sound like if it was made by a formerly hardcore punk band under the influence of LSD, you haven’t been pondering the greater questions of life. What do you get when you cross the Monkees with Motörhead? Hüsker Dü, that’s what.

I’m going to let Wikipedia take over for a second.

“Originally released as a double album on two vinyl LPs, Zen Arcade tells the story of a young boy who runs away from an unfulfilling home life, only to find the world outside is even worse. The album incorporates elements of jazz, psychedelia, acoustic folk, pop, and piano interludes, concepts rarely touched on in the world of hardcore punk.

Zen Arcade and subsequent Hüsker Dü albums were instrumental in the creation of the alternative rock genre; the band would later abandon the hardcore aesthetic entirely in favor of a post-hardcore style of melodic, guitar-driven alternative rock. While not commercially successful, the influence of Zen Arcade has stretched beyond the underground music sphere. It is frequently included on lists of the all-time best rock and roll albums and it continues to have a cult following.”

1001_Husker-Du_ZenCouldn’t and wouldn’t have said it better myself. Go on, please.

“The band began rehearsing in preparation for the album during the summer of 1983, in a church-turned-punk squat in St. Paul, Minnesota. The band entered the Total Access studio in Redondo Beach, California to record with SST producer Spot. The band recorded 25 tracks, with all but two songs (“Something I Learned Today” and “Newest Industry”) being first takes, in 40 hours. The entire album was then mixed in one 40-hour session; the entire album took 85 hours to record and produce and cost $3,200. The band collaborated with underground contemporaries during recording; “What’s Going On” contains guest vocals from ex-Black Flag vocalist Dez Cadena.”

Now, about the urban legends that this record was recorded in one 40-hour session, and under the influence of LSD and amphetamines… Unfortunately, both turn out to be myths. First, they recorded in two 24-hour sessions. Second, Grant Hart has repeatedly dispelled the rumor that LSD was involved, telling a writer from Gadfly Magazine that he’d never known Bob Mould to admit taking hallucinogens. “So that’s obviously a myth,” Hart said. But it sure as hell sounds like they’re tripping, that’s for sure.

R.E.M. – Reckoning

1001_R.E.M._-_ReckoningReckoning is the second of what will turn out to be a total of six fantastic records from a group that will eventually be America’s best rock band prior to 1988-89-ish. For my money, Reckoning is a much more enjoyable record than Murmur, and even though it didn’t top the charts or get played anywhere but on college radio and a few alternative stations, it was probably the most listened-to record at home.


1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die…Or Not: 1983-84 Resumed

  1. Blue Nile – A Walk Across the Rooftops (1984)

Haha, Blue Nile. Too little, too late, fuckers. Your brand of post-Bowie spacey lounge jazz-wave didn’t cut it in the marketplace, and it won’t stand the test of time, either. You want to know why? Your bass player was a funky slapper, and your singer had too much of an ego to double-track his vocals.

Suggested Alternative:
Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense

You know, I almost included Stop Making Sense as the fourth big record of 1984 that has to be part of any topical discussion. In the end, I decided against it on the strength of the concert film this album was based on, making it somewhat more of a total audio/visual experience than strictly musical, which is what 1001 Albums is all about. We’ve got to stay true to our roots. That said, it’s a great semi-live album.

  1. Bruce Springsteen – Born In The USA (1984)

beldone-2-born-in-the-usaMy absolute favorite thing about this record is that the majority of “people” bought into the reverse jingoism of the title track, i.e. they thought it was a strong patriotic statement. My absolute least favorite thing about this record is also its biggest hit, “Dancing In the Dark.”

My good pal Cheech Beldone summed it up quite nicely during one of our 20 Question sessions.

I spent many many years worshipping at the Altar of The Boss, Bruce Springsteen. There was a while where I would have told you in dead seriousness that if I couldn’t be Springsteen, I didn’t want to be anything. Along came Born in the U.S.A. And, specifically, “Dancing in the Dark.”

In Canada, the song was premiered on MTV with the video, on a Friday night. Watching that abomination unfold before my eyes, it was like walking into the skankiest, grottiest, most depraved snakepit of a club in an alley off Patpong, and seeing your little sister up on the stage juggling ping pong balls with her hoo-haa.

The worst part was that the Boss’ People mobilized such a pervasive campaign to convince the world that the new record was The Best Work He’s Ever Done.

A guy like me felt like it was my fault; that the revulsion and horror I felt was the result of something lacking in my perception or appreciation.

  1. Cyndi Lauper – She’s So Unusual (1984)
  2. Cocteau Twins – Treasure (1984)

Fuck Cyndi Lauper and her one-hit-wonder.

Cocteau Twins are the Siouxsie Lite Presidential Package. You know that fucking massive hit song “Zombie” by the Cranberries? It’s on here! It’s called “Every Song on the Album.” This band made interesting records that I have no interest in ever hearing again. Your mileage may vary.

Big Country, Steeltown (1984)

Suggested Alternatives:
Simple Minds – Sparkle in the Rain
Big Country – Steeltown

Slow down there, Speed Racer. We’re not getting out of here without a jawbone about Simple Minds and Big Country. I’m going to keep it as brief as possible. How about in bullet format? A lil sumthin diff’nt:

  • Both records were produced by Steve Lilywhite, who produced a staggering number of great records. He’s on par with Roy Thomas Baker and Mutt Lange.
  • Sparkle in the Rain is one major stepping stone between alternative and stadium rock.
  • Steeltown may be the most under-rated guitar record of the era, and the songwriting is pretty damn good, too.
  1. Echo & The Bunnymen – Ocean Rain (1984)
  2. Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Welcome To The Pleasuredome (1984)
  3. Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Rattlesnakes (1984)

My vocabulary may be too limited to accurately describe the pure quality of contempt that I have for Frankie Goes to Hollywood and everything they stand for. First, the band is named after Frank Sinatra, the anti-Christ. Next, disco has been dead for at least five years, but these people either didn’t get the message, or they figured now was as good a time as any for a disco revival. You couldn’t pay me to sit through Welcome to the Pleasuredome, but I am now accepting bids.

Lloyd Cole is the Aussie version of John Cougar, who made far better records.

1001_The-SmithsSuggested Alternative:
The Smiths – The Smiths

Once again, I’m shocked that The Smiths doesn’t rate as Must Hear but Lloyd fucking Cole does? Frankie Goes to Hollywood!?!?! There really shouldn’t be a need for me to argue this one. Anybody in their right mind knows the Smiths are at the pinnacle of mid 80s alternative music, and this album is as good if not better than Murmur, or any other record of the genre.

  1. Minutemen – Double Nickels On The Dime (1984)

1001_Minutemen_doublenickelsonthedimeI don’t know of a band to which the term “independent” or “indie” ever applied with more veracity than the Minutemen.

  1. Prince & The Revolution – Purple Rain (1984)
  2. Run-DMC – Run-DMC (1984)
  3. Sade – Diamond Life (1984)
  4. The Replacements – Let It Be (1984)

I don’t have anything to say about Purple Rain except you must purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka, and that ain’t Lake Minnetonka.

1001_Prince_Purple_Lake-11001_Prince_Purple_Lake-2Run-DMC brought rap to the mainstream rock and pop market, i.e. white people. They made hip-hop just white enough while maintaining its integrity. You can’t go wrong with their debut album.

If you’re asking me personally if you need to hear Shar-day’s Diamond Life, I’m gonna say no fucking way, man. Tell you what, have a listen to “Smooth Operator” and tell me whether or not it’s Must Hear material.

1001_The_Replacements_Let_It_Be_coverLet It Be is by far my favorite Replacements record and contains three of my all-time favorite songs from the period, “I Will Dare”, “Androgynous” and “Sixteen Blue”. Their version of Kiss’ “Black Diamond” is probably the Number One Rock n’ Roll Cover Version That Crushes the Original Like a Grape. If that wasn’t enough, it contains my favorite broken-hearted-boy lyric of the era: “How do you say goodnight to an answering machine?” Let’s hear it for Paul Westerburg, ladies and gentlemen!

  1. The Style Council – Café Bleu (1984)
  2. Tina Turner – Private Dancer (1984)

You’ve already heard the Jam, so you’ve already heard the best of what Paul Weller has to offer. Besides, this isn’t even the Style Council record You Might Want to Hear.

I’ve got nothing but love for Tina Turner, and I’m glad she finally got away from Ike and found success on her own. But this is capital P-pussy adult contemporary soft rock bullshit.

Suggested Alternatives:
1001_The_Cure_-_The_TopThe Cure – The Top
Siouxsie and the Banshees – Hyæna

Robert Smith is the Cure, and he deserves every bit of credit he gets for defining certain aspects of alternative rock, and transcending those aspects at a later date. The Top is my favorite album recorded under the documented influence of LSD, my favorite Cure album, and a complete turnaround from the synth-pop new wave of Japanese Whispers (1983), which was another 180 from Pornography (1982).

When John McGeoch left Siouxsie and the Banshees, they asked Robert Smith to take over on guitar. Hyæna is one of two Siouxsie recordings with Smith in the band which are as close to Must Hear as anything else.

  1. Van Halen – 1984 (1984)

1001_Van_Halen_-_1984Let’s say this about Van Halen albums; they never lingered. Their longest LP since the debut happens to be 1984, which clocks in at 33:17, about 10 minutes shorter than the average album of the day, and only 2 minutes short of Van Halen I’s running time. To be fair, they pack a lot of fucking jams into a half hour of music. Very little VH time is wasted.

Drummer Alex Van Halen doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being a “guitar drummer” and I’ve put the phrase in quotations because I’ve never heard it before. Alex VH plays drums to whatever his brother is playing. It’s clear that he’s not setting the tone or the tempo. He’s listening to what EVH is doing, and everything is based off that. Most drummers in rock should be listening to the bass player, I mean, that’s the rhythm section, right? Those two should be in sync. Not so with VH. I’m guessing that AVH didn’t even have Michael Anthony in his monitor mix.

Anyway, other than the only number one single of the DLR era (“Jump”), 1984 is hard rock ambrosia, and made last year’s top-selling LP, Pyromania, obsolete.

  1. Youssou N’Dour – Immigres (1984)
1001_Wham_Make-it-bigSuggested Alternative:
Wham! – Make It Big

Yeah, I said it. Make It Big is easily more of a Must Hear before Youssou N’Dour, and not because it’s good. No, this record is a far more accurate representation of pop music in 1984 than any of the above records. This is the shit you heard everywhere you went; it was inescapable. You couldn’t turn on MTV without these two cats prancing and mincing across the screen like it was one long chewing gum commercial. So I reckon that if I had to sit through this entire album more times than I can count, you should, too. Feel my pain, kids. Feel it.


Net Reduction of Albums From the Period: 17
Suggested Alternatives: 20
Running AYMHBYD Total: 855

Only in Taiwan – Episode 6: Seven Years a Laowai

12 Apr
Lonely Planet MandarinIt was seven years ago this week that I arrived in Taipei with a Lonely Planet Mandarin phrasebook, a suitcase and a laptop. The only people I “knew” in town were my former landlord’s parents, whom I’d met several times during their visits to San Francisco. They were super nice people, but the language barrier prevented us from communicating without an interpreter; I had their phone number just in case of emergency. Otherwise, I didn’t know anybody, and my entire knowledge of Taipei and the country of Taiwan had come from the pages of a travel guide.

Of all the mistakes I made before arrival, not learning more than ni hao in Mandarin was probably the most consequential. However, Lonely Planet Taiwan said that English was widely spoken in Taipei, and I read that as: Foreigners can get by without ever speaking a word of Chinese. The book was basically right. Of course, I was essentially wrong. And now, with an expensive amount of hindsight, the first thing I should have done was ditch the phrasebook and take some Mandarin lessons. And I didn’t and wouldn’t ever do that. But I would write a book about the experience, The Lazy Bastard Guide to Mandarin (2012).

http://wp.me/P2ALYk-fEThose first few months in Taipei were chaotic and exciting and I don’t remember a time that I ever felt so “alive.” Nourished by adrenaline, I had little need for food. Everything was important in the moment, but then again, it wasn’t.

No matter what happened, I knew that even though it was the last thing I wanted to do, if shit didn’t pan out in Taipei, I could always go back to S.F. My old job and my old apartment were waiting for me. So as I made my way through the trials of finding a gig and a place to crash, I conducted myself with a certain amount of indifference, particularly in the face of frustration and confusion.

If I had to describe my self and my situation in one word, that word would be “lucky.”

Casino_LuckyI’m not Casino Lucky, I’m Dodged a Bullet Lucky. It all starts with the conditions of my birth and doesn’t ever stop. At least half of being where I am today is the result of fortunate circumstances that no one including myself ever saw coming. In the grand scheme of things, my time in Taiwan is split down the middle: half balls, half luck. Unfortunately, luck doesn’t factor into the culture shock of moving half way across the world “on a wing and a prayer.”

The language barrier was only one part of the overall culture shock. Dealing with people now took on a whole new meaning and procedure. Above all, getting acclimated to a new place means getting used to how they do things. I may have been slightly naïve to under-estimate how difficult it would be. Eventually, the culture shock began to fade, the adrenaline slowly started to wane, and I felt my feet on the ground. That didn’t necessarily mean that I liked being in Taipei; it could have been any city in any country.

IM000133.JPGAt some point, I had cobbled together enough phrasebook Mandarin to make a couple of things happen without assistance, particularly in taxi cabs and restaurants. The rest of life was either conducted in gestures or in English. But that didn’t stop me from going to places where English wasn’t an option. At the same time, I made some friends and had sort of a social life; at least, it was ten times more social than I’d ever been in S.F., where other than band practice and the occasional show, all I did was basically stay home, get loaded, and write songs.

https://blacksunshinemedia.comTaipei and Taiwan are almost different places altogether. You don’t always see the real Taiwan until you get out of Taipei. Generally speaking, city people are nice and they tolerate foreigners to a generous degree. Out in the mountains and seaside communities, people are quite friendly and welcoming. But the money is in Taipei, and ultimately, that’s what I’m here for. It wasn’t always that way; in the beginning it was simply about adventure. My goal was to have no goal, and I was doing a really good job of reaching my goal.

My story in a nutshell is that I came to Taiwan on a 60-day visitor visa and I never left. Of course, I’ve left and leave Taiwan all the time. I have 33 pages of entry and exit stamps in my passport(s). But I’ve always returned, and back in the early years before I was married and had a kid, returning to Taiwan was almost always a happy occasion full of relief, gratitude and humility. This is definitely true for trips to mainland China. Taiwan was home. If you live somewhere for seven years and still don’t call it “home” then something is wrong with the picture.

Nowadays, Makati is home and Taipei is away, though a very familiar and safe place to be for extended periods of time. It is a home of sorts.

Clearly, I have done the required amount of adjusting in order to fit in a certain parameter of Taiwanese society, though I will never truly belong, and that’s fine. I’m rather comfortable with my infinite outsider status. However, certain changes brought about by adaptation have made me a different person, perhaps permanently, and that’s to be expected in such a situation.

Taipei-Police-rainOne thing I’ve noticed is that I have lost all apprehension of law enforcement, not that I ever had that much of it to begin with. Other than one unfortunate time I decided to leave S.F. city limits, every interaction with the police was literally amicable during my decade in the Bay Area.

Only in Taiwan

I had some scraps back home in the suburbs of Chicago, but I was just a punk kid who kinda chuckled at court dates for speeding tickets. They threw me in the drunk tank a couple of times, too. Eventually, I grew up and learned my lessons. You want to live a happy life? Stay away from the cops. I mean, it wasn’t like I was ever doing anything terribly wrong, other than being in possession of a controlled substance. Sure, I had to break a few other laws in order to acquire those drugs, too, but really, it was illegal, not wrong.

In my business, you learn how people put statistics together to frame their conclusions, and learn to spot their strategies. The outcome of any survey is dictated not by raw data, but by the factors in which you choose to apply the data. Thus, Taipei is the safest major city I’ve ever visited in Asia, and according to several sources, Taiwan is the second safest country in Asia behind Japan. Taiwan’s bottom-barrel crime rates are most notable in the violent and vice-related crimes category. From that perspective, specifically gun violence, I would agree. Mugging, burglary, and robbery are almost unheard of. At least, I never hear about them and I can’t imagine these types of crime being more than an occasional anomaly.

Only In TaiwanIn addition to never feeling threatened by the populace, the sight of a Taipei police officer registers thusly: Oh. It’s a cop on a scooter. Shrug. Go on with my bad self. When I see a cop in the street and he’s giving me a look-see, there’s no paintball of panic in my chest cavity. My pulse rate doesn’t spike out of the measurable spectrum. What I am afraid of is getting run over by some jackass in a Lexus blowing through a red light, because in terms of pedestrian safety, Taipei can be a dangerous place. Unless you understand how everything works. You don’t cross any street without looking both ways twice.

Above all, I’m grateful to the people of Taiwan who have allowed me to live and work with a minimum of hoops to jump through. I’ve met a lot of truly awesome people in Taiwan, who have enriched my life immeasurably. They have welcomed me into their homes, and almost without exception have treated me with decency and respect. In return, I’ve filled a specific need in society, however slight; but I’ve given something back, and acknowledged my gratitude. While there are many things about Taiwanese culture and society that I will never be able to reconcile, and vice versa, I think we’ve been happy to let each other co-exist in peace.

Asia_MAP-mdA lot of people couldn’t find Taiwan on a map. It’s a tiny island approximately the size of Belgium (or the state of Maryland) with a population of 23 million people, making it the 13th most densely populated country on the planet. And depending upon your sources, Taipei is either the 7th most densely populated city in the world, or at roughly 15,000 residents per square mile, it’s not even in the top 50. Either way, it sure feels crowded and it amazes me that so many people are able to get on so peacefully. You really have to be looking for trouble in Taiwan.

Yesterday at noon, a letter arrived in the office addressed to me from the good people at the National Immigration Agency (NIA). Three weeks earlier, I had applied for my permanent residency, equivalent to a Green Card in the U.S. There was never really any doubt that I would be approved, since I had all my ducks in a row, but you never know how things might shake out behind the scenes. It’s good to never think something is a slam dunk until it is in fact, a slam dunk.

Anyway, the puzzling aspect of the letter’s arrival immediately struck a twinge of fear in my heart. During the application process, the clerk specifically said that it would be 6-8 weeks before I would be notified of my status – unless there was a problem and they needed additional paperwork to make it happen. But then, she said, they would most likely call me, or my employer directly. The whole process was supposed to be 8 weeks, we’re on Week 3. So it certainly didn’t ease my anxiety that the letter was entirely in Chinese, too. This didn’t look good at first glance.

There’s a dude in the office who more or less acts as an agent for these types of situations, although I’m the only foreigner in the company. In past years, when my ARC (Alien Resident Certificate – the Blue Card) needed to be renewed, this dude did all the in-between work, mainly because the ARC is tied to employment. That’s not important. What is important is that he speaks excellent English and he’s familiar with the folks down at NIA. So I put the letter in front of him and said, “What does this say?”

ARC_sampleDude read the letter and mumbled a couple of times before finally saying, “I don’t know what this means.”

“Does it mean my Green Card is approved or not?”

He re-read the letter and said, “I think so.”

“Can you translate the letter to me in real-time? What exactly does it say?”

Dude shifted his position and said, “OK, I’ll read it.”

The letter said that according to law number 666, my application for permanent residency has been approved. And that’s all it said, basically. Dude was perplexed.

“It says you’ve been approved, but it doesn’t say when. It should have the date when you’re supposed to visit the NIA and pick it up. But it doesn’t. That’s strange.”

The words “you’ve been approved” felt good to hear, but I still wasn’t completely satisfied. “So…what does this mean?”

Dude said, “I’ll call them after lunch.”

Those were two of the longest hours of my life in Taiwan.

Just before 2:00 p.m., Dude came in my office and said, “Sir, you’re all set. You can pick up your Green Card on April XX.”

“That was fast.”

https://blacksunshinemedia.comWhat the Taiwan version of a Green Card means to me is two-fold. First, it means residency and work permits are not required to be sponsored by my employer (or anybody else, for that matter). This also means I can work for whomever and wherever I choose. Next, it means that I never have to leave Taiwan unless I want to. They can’t kick me out for overstaying a visa, or letting my prior residency certificate lapse, or moonlighting as a freelance writer, or really, anything that I might have done (but didn’t do) wrong prior to having a Green Card.

Other than putting in the time and jumping through a couple of minor bureaucratic hoops, getting my Green Card was simple, thanks to the NIA’s expedience and accommodation. They make it really fucking easy for us. Anyway, it feels good to finally get the card. It’s like Taiwan has said, “Hey, you’re cool. You can stay.” And that’s nice, because you should always be where you are wanted; or at the very least, tolerated.

Taiwan now joins the lists of places that were once and will always be a “home.” No matter how irritated or frustrated I may get by some of the ticky-tack shit that happens on a daily basis, Taiwan is truly an easy place to be as a foreigner. They may call us waiguoren (outside people; foreigner) and laowai (old ghost), but these terms are echoes of the past. Considering the history of the island, we are all of us waiguoren and laowai, even if you were born here and speak mellifluous Mandarin. Taiwan is not China. I’ve been to China. It’s not Taiwan.

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die…Or Not: 1981 – 1982

7 Apr
Every so often, it’s important to stop, take a look around, stare out the window for a while, change the channel, get up and stretch your legs. The last four years in popular music have witnessed a series of sea changes, which ultimately sank a bunch of ships.

https://blacksunshinemedia.comThe disco backlash has reached critical mass, and the genre is now relegated to the adult contemporary and gay hemispheres, respectively; disco belonged to your parents and real-life Village People, or Village Dudes. People still wanted to dance, just in a different way. Less John Travolta and more Jello Biafra, I reckon. Now we’re talking the Pogo vs. the Hustle. Spoiler alert: Pogo wins!

In 1981, glam, folk, psychedelic, jazz-fusion and art rock are now relatively passé. Hard rock and metal have been forced to re-think their strategies. Southern rock is literally dead. Punk and new wave have (or soon will have) spawned a series of sub-genres including synth-pop, electronic, ambient, industrial, and hardcore, pop, and post-punk; all of which will at some time be considered alternative rock. And look out, people! Hip-hop and rap are on the loose, and they’re headed for radio stations and dance clubs near you.

1001_80s-fashion22Most of all, everybody is sporting an updated look; no more bell bottom jeans. Dudes cut their hair, started using gels and sprays to make weird shapes; suddenly, eyeliner on a dude is not just tolerated, it’s expected on some scenes; album covers start to look like they were designed by some kid in high school who just discovered Dadaist art. It was called “modern” at the time. Perhaps the story of popular music in the early 80s is a tale better told by the dry fart of synthesizer.

John Lennon1980 ended in the worst way possible with the senseless murder of John Lennon. For a lot of kids at the time, this was our JFK moment. This is the one time I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard that Lennon had been killed.

With the earlier deaths of Keith Moon and John Bonham, I personally felt like a certain part of rock music was dead – forever. Now, it’s important to consider that the vast majority of popular musicians at the time were also fans of John Lennon; thus, they too felt the impact. More and more, we are going to see extraordinary social situations and circumstances become part of the popular lexicon, which essentially started with the Vietnam War.

Anyway, it’s important to look beyond the charts and radio station play lists. What was really happening in 1981? What were the movers and shakers up to?

Here’s a sample of music headlines from the first quarter of 1981.

January 10 – A revival of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Pirates of Penzance opens at Broadway’s Uris Theatre, starring Linda Ronstadt and Rex Smith.

1001_pirates-rex-smithDid your high school theater department stage at least one production of The Pirates of Penzance? Because I know mine did.

Some years back, I was jawboning with an old friend and somehow we got on the subject of Keith Richards, which led to Hunter S. Thompson and Johnny Depp, and I mentioned that I remember seeing my sister perform in a high school theater department production of The Pirates of the Carribean, and my friend said “that’s impossible” because The Pirates of the Carribean wasn’t even a movie in the early 1980s. In fact, it was a theme park ride attraction at Disneyland from 1967 to 1983. “You’re thinking of The Pirates of Penzance.”


January 18 – Wendy O. Williams of The Plasmatics is arrested in Milwaukee for simulating masturbation with a sledgehammer on stage. In a scuffle with the police, Williams was wrestled and pinned to the ground, receiving a cut above the eye requiring twelve stitches.

1001_wendy-o-mug-shot-368x414Sounds about right. Wendy O was my kind of front woman, tell you what. Meanwhile, it was pretty hard for a white woman of any persuasion to get arrested in Milwaukee in 1981, unless you were masturbating with a sledgehammer in public.

January 24 – Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler is injured in a motorcycle crash that leaves him hospitalized for two months.

Is there anything Steven Tyler can’t do? Apparently. But anyway, I just saw this video of him and Joe Perry doing “Dream On” and I have to say, much respect.

February 9 – Phil Collins releases his first solo album.

Some may see this as a sign of the anti-Christ. Others may see this as an opportunity to hear Another Side of Phil. The soft side. The truly insidious side.

February 14 – Billy Idol leaves the band Generation X to begin a solo career.

1001_Gen-x-album-coverToo bad. Gen X had some poppy-punky moments. But this is great news for 50% of American high school students who are trying to figure out how to be punk, yet still play football and get good grades. Billy’s going to make it OK to wear eyeliner, parachute pants and wrestling shoes.

March 14 – Suffering from bleeding ulcers, Eric Clapton is admitted to United Hospital in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Clapton’s 60-city tour of the U.S. is cancelled, and he remains in hospital for a month.

Bad news for concert promoters and Clapton fans; shrug-worthy news for the rest of us. I’ll give you one guess what’s the leading cause of stomach ulcers. Funny, but it’s also the same day Steven Tyler was released from the hospital.

March 27 – Ozzy Osbourne bites the head off a dove at a CBS record label gathering in Los Angeles.

1001_Ozzy_DoveFrom the day this story broke, and this shit made more than just the newspaper, my reaction has been, “Of course he did. He’s fuckin’ Ozzy Osbourne. I would have accepted nothing less.”

April 1 – The Go-Go’s sign to IRS Records.

One of many landmarks for women in rock. The Go-Go’s would be the biggest girl band yet. You also gotta hand it to IRS Records. They picked a couple of winning horses in the 80s.

April 4 – British pop group Bucks Fizz wins the 26th Eurovision Song Contest, held at the RDS Simmonscourt Pavilion, Dublin, with the song “Making Your Mind Up”.

1001_Bucks_Fizz_1981Hmm. Fascinating. Have you ever heard Bucks Fizz? I hadn’t until a few minutes ago. Let’s just set this on the table, slice it up, and serve it as is. The Eurovision Song Contest is a fucking joke. You know who else has won? ABBA, Celine Dion, and Katrina and the Waves. Which is convenient since Bucks Fizz was Britain’s answer to ABBA.

April 11 – Van Halen’s lead guitarist Eddie Van Halen marries actress Valerie Bertinelli.

1001_valerie-eddieI wasn’t sure how to feel about this. On one hand, EVH was the greatest guitar player on the planet. Did that mean he’s entitled to the hottest actress on prime-time television? I guess so. And to me, that was a spoil of riches. My favorite guitar player marrying one of the few non-Playboy centerfolds I’d ever masturbated to? That ain’t fair. But you know, that’s life.

April 18 – Yes announce that they are breaking up.

Liars! It’s about fuckin’ time, but it’s a bald-faced lie. Just another fake retirement announcement. Yes will be back, sadly.

April 20 – The Mamas & the Papas’ John Phillips is sentenced to five years in jail after pleading guilty to drug possession charges. Phillips’ sentence would be suspended after thirty days in exchange for 250 hours of community service.

1001_John-PhillipsEven though I’ve absolutely nothing invested in John Phillips or his music, there was a time when I was keen to write for a website that specializes in the obscure and relatively unknown elements of popular arts and culture. One of the first things I considered sending them was the John Phillips solo LP Pay Pack and Follow (2002), produced by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Outside of John Phillips’ family, friends and diehard fans, and super-core Stones fans, nobody has heard this record. And it’s one of the more atrocious records I’ve ever heard from a so-called “superstar.”

April 22 – Eric Clapton is taken to the hospital suffering from bruised ribs and a lacerated shin, following a car accident in Seattle, Washington.

The fuck is this cat doing out of the hospital?

April 27– Ringo Starr and Barbara Bach marry, in London, England.

1001_ringo-starrIf it weren’t for the sex, I’d have married Ringo. He seemed like a fun guy. Always happy, chipper, and quick with the wit. Dude knows everybody. He was Ringo. The fuck did he care? No matter what he did for the rest of his life, he had it made. The Beatles money may never run out. Meanwhile, Barbara Bach may have been insanely good-looking, but she was no dummy.


1001_MTVAnyway, there was one other major, enormous, gigantic development in popular music in 1981-82. It was called MTV (Music Television) and it changed the way we perceived, reacted to, and ultimately purchased popular music. That really doesn’t have anything to do with 1001 Albums, except that almost every successful band from 1981 to 1996-ish(?) had videos in Heavy Rotation on MTV. Or they weren’t successful. Nowadays, MTV is Jersey Shore, I dunno. No clue. The point is, I’m not going to spend a lot of time carping about music videos and whatnot, except when we get to Michael Jackson – Thriller. Stay tuned.

Strikethrough indicates what you probably think it does
Green indicates highly recommended listening
Underlined indicates questionable but ultimately acceptable record
Blue bold italic indicates ABSOLUTELY MUST HEAR BEFORE YOU DIE
Note: Suggested alternatives are from the same year as the contested entry unless otherwise indicated.
Also, anything in Red generally indicates hazardous material

  1. ABBA – The Visitors (1981)

1001_Dorothy-HamillABBA did for popular music what U.S. Olympic figure skater Dorothy Hamill did for women’s hairstyles in the late 1970s. Do I mean they made every woman look like a teenaged boy you wouldn’t want to fuck? Maybe.

Suggested Alternatives:
Duran Duran – Duran Duran
The Plasmatics – Beyond the Valley of 1984
The Police – Ghost in the Machine

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m not gonna lie to you people. I owned all three of these records at some point within a year of their release. In fact, I think the Duran Duran record is the best thing they ever did. I still put it on every now and again, especially after I’ve been listening to Wesley Willis. “Girls on Film” hits a soft spot with me, I dunno. Side one is great.

I’ll never forget the day. The same kid Robert who traded me his relatively rare Japanese import of Cheap Trick – At Budokan for my entire collection of Kiss albums and memorabilia, came over for another record swap. He had the swindler’s look in his eye, but I was way ahead of him on this one. It turned out that in return for my entire collection of Ted Nugent albums, (a total of six LPs) which I really wasn’t listening to any more, Robert matched it with his entire collection of punk and new wave records. I got four albums out of the deal, most notably Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks, but also the Damned, the Romantics, and the Plasmatics. Score!

1001_Police_Ghost_In_The_Machine_coverGhost in the Machine has been mistakenly described as the “darkest” Police album, and I think that if it’d been released with say, a pale green cover, instead of the now iconic black cover, this wouldn’t be the case. Sure, there is one really dark jam (“Invisible Sun”) and one genius Steward Copeland track (“Darkness”), but generally speaking, there are more good vibes than anything else. At any rate, Ghost is easily more of a Must Hear than anything ABBA ever did.

  1. Bauhaus – Mask (1981)
  2. Black Flag – Damaged (1981)

1001_Black-Flag-Damaged-LPI don’t even like Bauhaus or goth rock in general, but Mask is great. Besides, this might also qualify as Love & Rockets, Tones On Tail, plus Peter Murphy, so we’re killing multiple birds with one stone. Kind of like brushing more than one tooth at a time. These kids aren’t shoegazing or hiding behind black bridal veils. Whenever I hear someone say “[somewhere] is an oppressive, grim, dull grey place to be,” I always think, “Sounds like Bauhaus.”

Damaged is Black Flag’s first studio album with Henry Rollins on vocals, and it’s quite impressive. One listen to this record and you’ll never wish for a mosh pit. One will appear magically in your mind. Humor is fairly important in punk, but sing-a-longs, audience participation, and the Monkees, are generally not the first things that come to mind. Except whenever I listen to Damaged, that’s what I’m feeling.

  1. Bobby Womack – The Poet (1981)

1001_Bobby-WomackThis is a phenomenal record if Stevie Wonder didn’t exist. He does.

OK, so maybe you’re thinking, “Man, the R&B charts are severely under-represented on this list. You don’t have Teddy Pendergrast, Lou Rawls, or Bobby Womack.”

This is very true on several accounts.

  1. Contemporary R&B in 1981 was the following artists (reasons for exclusion from the list in ALL CAPS):
1001_LakesideEarth, Wind & Fire – DISCO
The Four Tops – CONFUSED, SAD
The Gap Band – DISCO
Rick James – FONK
Chaka Khan – DISCO FONK
Evelyn King – NO IDEA
Kool & The Gang – DISCO
Ray Parker Jr. & Raydio – SEE LAKESIDE
1001_Yarbrough-and-PeoplesRoger – NO CLUE
Diana Ross and Lionel Richie – DEATH
Frankie Smith – NEVER HEARD OF HIM
A Taste Of Honey – A TASTE OF DISCO
Luther Vandross – HE A’IGHT
Yarbrough & Peoples – PROBABLY NOT A LAW FIRM

Funk = James Brown, The Meters, Parliament, Funkadelic, Stevie Wonder, Prince

Fonk = Rick James, Chaka Khan, Labelle, Brides of Funkenstein, Klymaxx

  1. The only exciting artist in the world of R&B, funk and soul, is Prince, and trust me, you’re gonna be fucking capital D-done with Prince after Sign O’ the Times (1987). It’s just the way it is. Lovesexy (1988) is a personal favorite, but by the time you get to Graffiti Bridge (1990) you’re gonna be saying, “All right, dude. We get it.”
  1. 1001_Rick_James_-_Street_SongsRick James, bitch! To be honest with you, Street Songs (1981) is a notable record, and not a Must Hear. Plus, he’s an unsavory character now immortalized by Dave Chappelle. Look at those fuckin’ boots. I’m not having it. I wasn’t having it in 1981, and I’m not having it now. Plus, have you ever actually listened to the lyrics of “Give It to Me, Baby”? Uhhhhh. To be frank, Rick James and Prince were essentially making the same music in 1981. Prince just had a better way of phrasing things. And he didn’t have that stupid weave.
  1. Bobby Womack? You can’t be serious. Yes, he was Sam Cooke’s guitar player, and yes, a sideman for the Rolling Stones; and he had a couple of hit records on the charts, none of them memorable. Film buffs will know that his 1972 jam “Across 110th Street” is featured in a Quentin Tarantino movie, Jackie Brown. Never saw it. Can’t be sure.

Having listened to The Poet start to finish, I have one recommendation. If you really want to know about Bobby Womack, I highly recommend his memoir, Midnight Mover (2006; John Blake Publishing. ISBN 978-1844541485). Tons more juicy, salacious druggy fun than what’s going on here.

Suggested Alternatives:
The Rolling Stones – Tattoo You
The Stray Cats – Gonna Ball
Prince – Controversy

Hey hey! The Stones made an OK album in 1981. I thought we’d lost them to disco on Emotional Rescue (1980).

1001_Stray-Cats_Gonna_Ball_coverThe Stray Cats are one of the few throwback revivalist groups I can stomach, and new wave rockabilly sounds really fucking sweet when the guitar player is Brian Setzer. Holy Christ, can that guy play!

Prince Rogers Nelson may have been one of the few black dudes on the planet who had a hard-on for Todd Rundgren, and I don’t mean that in a sexual way. At least, I don’t think I do. Anyway, Prince is a direct descendant of the mighty Runt, who himself was influenced by Philadelphia soul. So there’s kind of a Human Centipede thing going on. Must Hear? Nah. See Prince live in 1981-82? I’ve seen video. My God! Screw his albums. Live was the way to get your Prince on.

1001_Prince_ControversyOf course, we’re going to get at least two Must Hear albums from Prince, in addition to the three I’ve already suggested as alternatives. So this is kind of a push. It’s just here to reinforce the Bobby Womack strikethrough. Don’t get me wrong; I like Controversy and its questionable, frothy mix of funk, soul and new wave. Oh, and sex. Lots of sex. I think it’s the only album in history that contains the lyric: “Come down to my neighborhood / I’ll jack you off.” But for that reason, Controversy is pretty far down on my list of albums I want to hear.

  1. Brian Eno & David Byrne – My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts (1981)

1001_My_Life_in_the_Bush_of_GhostsIt’s not very often that a record exudes pretension before you get it out of the wrapper. Titled after Amos Tutuola’s 1954 novel of the same name, of which neither Eno or Byrne had read, My Life was critically regarded as a “pioneering work for countless styles connected to electronics, ambiance, and Third World music.” The extensive use of drum loops, samples and soundscapes are stuff that we really take for granted now, but which was unheard of in all but the most progressive musical circles at the time.

Therefore, if you’re familiar with a current “artist” like for instance, Four Tet, you absolutely Must Hear this LP, cuz Four Tet ain’t happening unless Eno & Byrne make My Life. I fucking hate it, and refuse to even review it for the purpose of this entry, but I have heard it start to finish at least three times.

  1. Einsturzende Neubauten – Kollaps (1981)

1001_Einstuerzende_Neubauten-KollapsAfter sitting through Kollaps for the second time ever this evening, I had to constantly remind myself that this is important music for a couple of reasons. Whether I like it or not, industrial music is a thing, and these cats are incomparably influential on a disturbing wave of bands that are going to flood the airwaves in 5-7 years, such as Ministry and Nine Inch Nails. Additionally, bands like My Life With the Thrill Kill Cult, Skinny Puppy, and Marilyn Manson, as well as groups like Slipknot, probably wouldn’t exist if not for this album. That’s just a guess. We’ll never know.

At any rate, if you’re game for 39 minutes of avant-garde industrial noise rock, Kollaps has you covered.

Fun Fact: Sometime in the 2000s, I waited on a table of four that included Einsturzende Neubauten vocalist Blixa Bargeld (who maintains a residence in S.F.). He was a super nice guy and talked about some project he was currently involved with. I’d heard of him (as a member of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds) but didn’t recognize him except for the fact that he oozed rock star (of some sort). It was actually kind of fun to hear this record after the fact, and I can see why it was so critically influential. Nobody else was making records like this, except…

1001_PIL-Flowers-Of-Romanc-440976Suggested Alternative:
Public Image Ltd. – Flowers of Romance
  1. Heaven 17 – Penthouse And Pavement (1981)
  2. Motorhead – No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith (1981)

Heaven 17 was something special for maybe one year and one hit single? You never saw anybody wearing a Heaven 17 t-shirt. I don’t even know how to categorize their sound. Affected plastic depression? Synthesizer cosmetics? It sounded incredibly “gay” to me at a time when I was trying to figure out which side of the sexual fence I was on. This type of music became an aversion. Heaven 17? Nope, no thanks. Not this time.

1001_Heaven-17_penthouse-and-pavementMotorhead didn’t ever go through stylistic changes – they went through drummers. Their music varied slightly depending upon the recording budget, I reckon.

Suggested Alternative:
Van Halen – Fair Warning

Despite being the band’s slowest-selling album to date, among aficionados, Fair Warning is generally regarded as the Holy Grail of the David Lee Roth era. Dark, mean and nasty, there are few “fun” moments on the record, and a total absence of the pop element found on their previous three records. At the same time, it does contain “Unchained”, selected the number one favorite VH song (by Rolling Stone readers) and a jam I wouldn’t argue with. In fact, it got me to thinking. What are my 10 favorite VH cuts? (parent album in parenthesis):

  1. 1001_Van_Halen-Fair_WarningBeautiful Girls (Van Halen II)
  2. Runnin’ With the Devil (Van Halen I)
  3. Unchained (Fair Warning)
  4. Secrets (Diver Down)
  5. Drop Dead Legs (1984)
  6. Hot For Teacher (1984)
  7. Little Guitars (Diver Down)
  8. Dirty Movies (Fair Warning)
  9. And the Cradle Will Rock (Women and Children First)
  10. Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love (Van Halen I)

Fair Warning probably isn’t a Must Hear, but it is a worthwhile listen, and recommended for any fan of hard rock music, even if you think DLR was a dick. I know you’re out there. And I can see your point.

  1. 1001_Rush_Moving_PicturesRush – Moving Pictures (1981)
  2. Siouxsie & The Banshees – Juju (1981)

Moving Pictures would probably get my vote for best hard rock album of 1981.

1001_Siouxsie_JujuIn case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been jamming you with Siouxsie records in the Suggested Alternative category, for a couple of reasons, but reason numero uno is guitarist John McGeoch, one of the most under-rated guitarists in rock, who influenced nearly every post-punk, alternative and indie rock guitar player from this point on out. Ask Johnny Marr, Peter Buck, Robert Smith, Dave Navarro, John Frusciante, and Johnny Greenwood. [Note: McGeoch played in Magazine (see 1977-78) during their “classic” line-up years, and is really the only great thing about that band.]

Juju also happens to be my favorite non-live Siouxsie record, and contains my favorite Siouxsie track, “Monitor”. Seriously, I just listened to the entire album, nodding my head, tapping my toes, and singing along the whole time.

  1. Soft Cell – Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret (1981)

Two classic, fruity alternative radio hits on this record, and the rest of it stinks.

“Whoa, that’s a hasty generalization, isn’t it?” you say. Trust me on this one.

Suggested Alternative:
Adam and the Ants – Prince Charming

1001_Adam_and_the_Ants_Prince_CharmingHere’s a dude/band that probably had a double LP worth of songs, but chose to go with the single disc. Kudos. If only they had re-thought the album cover.

If Dirk Wears White Sox (1979) is their best, most vital work, and if Kings of the Wild Frontier (1980) is their most accessible and significant, then Prince Charming is by far, their most over-the-top, ambitious and delightful. Delightfully.

  1. The Go-Gos – Beauty And The Beat (1981)
  2. The Gun Club – Fire Of Love (1981)
  3. The Human League – Dare (1981)
  4. The Psychedelic Furs – Talk, Talk, Talk (1981)

1001_gun-club-fire-of-love-album-cover-artTo be honest, this four-album set is going to start out all girlish good-vibes with the Go-Go’s, and by the time the Gun Club is finished with you, the last thing you’re gonna wanna hear is the fucking Human League. But you gotta do it. Dare is an important landmark. Talk, Talk, Talk isn’t going to change your life, but it is the Furs’ best album, almost. That’s coming in 1983, so proceed with caution.

  1. Tom Tom Club – Tom Tom Club (1981)

1001_Tom-Tom-ClubNonsense. This record has one jam, one groove, one idea, and it’s called “Genius of Love”, which has been used in Kia car commercials and a boatload of movies including Pie in the Sky (1996), Lars and the Real Girl (2007), Towelhead (2007), You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (2008), Tower Heist (2011), Shame (2011), The Family (2013) and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013). You’re gonna hear this song whether you like it or not.

  1. X – Wild Gift (1981)
  2. ABC – The Lexicon Of Love (1982)

1001_ABC-The_Lexicon_of_LoveBrian Ferry and Roxy Music really fucked everybody in terms of bringing Scott Miller and lounge-lizard faux glam soul to the alternative party. ABC and Spandau Ballet are two great examples of shit bands that wouldn’t have existed without Brian Ferry and his increasingly greasy croon. Or Scott Miller for that matter.

Suggested Alternative:
XTC – English Settlement
  1. Associates – Sulk (1982)

1001_Associates_SULKI wanted to love this band. I just don’t think the world was ready for Yamaha synthesizers, lead bass guitar and Rob Halford’s boyfriend in the same band. And apparently, the record-buying public in 1982 agreed with me.

  1. Birthday Party – Junkyard (1982)

Honest, this is the first time I’ve ever sat through this record. We’re going to do it together. At some point in life, you’ve been appointed to a task and you say, “I know this is gonna suck,” and then it’s even worse than you imagined. Like, ten times worse than you could have possibly imagined, while on crack, even though you’ve done things similar to this before. I feel like that’s about to happen to me right now.

1001_BirthdayPartyJunkyardHoly shit, this Nick Cave dude really, really takes himself seriously. I was thinking, “He’s very Shakespearian” and then I look at the play list and track 4 is “Hamlet”. OK, that makes sense. Meanwhile, I’m hearing Captain Beefheart all over the place, and that’s great, cuz I love Beefheart, but this is not Beefy. It’s more jerky than beef. At any rate, at least there was a band out there who was following in the great Captain’s footsteps, I reckon. Whatever this second track is called is fucking killing me. I hate this.

To be frank, I’m not surprised that I’d never heard this entire record before. It’s goth plus rockabilly? Gothabilly? The Cramps did that way better than anyone ever will. Who the fuck does this guy think he is, Jim Morrison? Fair enough, he’s good-looking and whatnot. Jesus, the guitar players ought to have stayed in the jazz-fusion band they quit in high school. I would love nothing more than to skip through the rest of this. Oh, OK, here we are at track 4, “Hamlet”.

1001-birthday-party-nice-caveYes, they’ve obviously heard the first two Public Image Ltd. records. I have to keep reminding myself that Nick Cave is a novelist. Unfortunately, there’s nothing remotely Shakespearian about “Hamlet”. I was in the mood for a soliloquy. Where is Rush when you need them?

We’re at the 17-minute mark and I’m getting antsy. It’s not like I ever wondered where Jesus Lizard came from, but now I’m convinced. The Butthole Surfers probably loved this band. Track 5 confirms what I thought before: these dudes listened to a lot of Doors records. And apparently, Adam and the Ants. At the 23-minute mark now. He’s howling at us. Couldn’t care less what he’s going on about. I wish he’d stop.

OK, here’s what seems like it might be a toe-tapper, “Kiss Me Black”? I was just thinking about the time my…never mind. This record would make good Musak for a BDS&M club. It sounds like walking into the Smart Bar on a Saturday night in 1990. What the fuck is that smell? It’s like rubber cement and feces. Where are we? Minute 32 of 39.

So I’ve never done ecstasy the drug, folks. At least not that I’m aware of. I think someone spiked me one time, but I was so fucking drunk that it either didn’t take or I didn’t notice, until the next day when I was pissing burnt copper. From what you tell me, ecstasy is a “love drug.” You want disco, glow rings, and lots of hugging. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted any of those things, especially disco and glow rings. Now that I’m a husband and father, I want to be a hug machine. But that’s me under the influence of love.

1001_nick-cave-235815This record sounds like it’s under the influence of whatever is the opposite of ecstasy. It’s not hate. I believe these to be non-linear emotions. Ecstasy by definition is an outpouring of an ecstatic emotional energy. This shit sounds like a kid is being impregnated with bad vibes. Injected with a dose of despair. He’s clearly raging against a machine, but I think the machine might have been his dad?

Over now. Sheesh. Fucking Nick Cave. I should read one of his novels and see what his problem is.

Speaking of which, I recently came across a BBC documentary about one the pervy-est Russian novelists of all-time, Vladimir Nabokov, who turns out to be nowhere in the vicinity of perversion. He was a straight-up lunatic, and forget his books, listen to some of the things he has to say about life in general. (From the opening montage, in case you miss it.)

“I loathe such things as jazz…I don’t belong to any club or group. Progressive schools. I don’t fish, cook. I especially loathe the vulgar moolies, homosexuals. I don’t get drunk, go to church. Brutes, bores, swimming pools. I don’t go to analysts. Music in supermarkets. I don’t endorse books, sign books. Fake thinkers, puffed-up poets. Freud, Marx. Frauds and charlatans.”

Suggested Alternative:
The Clash – Combat Rock

1001_Clash_Combat-RockSure, it was not well-received in critical circles, but Combat Rock was a step back toward London Calling while maintaining an element of Sandinista! All in all, I’m disappointed its not a Must Hear.

  1. Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska (1982)

1001_SPRINGSTEEN_NEBRASKAOften times, the stories that accompany the actual making of an album become part of the album’s mythology. We’ll talk more about that when we get to Husker Du – Zen Arcade.

I know I can’t be the only dude on the planet with a personal vendetta against anyone who blows into a harmonica. But clearly, Bruce the Boss is making a statement. “I can write songs without an E Street Band.” Or is he? I dunno, and I don’t care. Nebraska is a great time-killer, especially if you’re on a long flight or drive. Put it on; forget it’s there.

  1. Dexys Midnight Runners – Too-Rye-Ay (1982)
  2. Donald Fagen – The Nightfly (1982)
  3. Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Imperial Bedroom (1982)

1001_Costello_BedroomImperial Bedroom is kind of important, isn’t it? Christ, I have to look it up. I think this is the one of his “piano” albums? He isn’t rocking very hard at this point, that’s for sure. Goddamnit. This is NOT the same cat who made This Year’s Model.

You should probably hear this for reference. About 50% of indie rock bands in existence dreamed of losing their virginity to this album. Death Cab For Cutie based their whole shtick on “Beyond Belief”. I don’t like it, but you might.

Suggested Alternatives:
Blue Oyster Cult – Extraterrestrial Live
Oingo Boingo – Nothing to Fear

1001_BOC_ExtraWhaaat!?! A double LP B.O.C. record? Hey, it’s got all the hits such as “Godzilla”, “Don’t Fear the Reaper” and “Burnin’ For You”, plus all the deeper cuts. Why not? If you’re 15 years old, this is fucking Valhalla.

  1. Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – The Message (1982)

Is this the first hip-hop record? I dunno. What I remember is that the cool clique of rich girls in my school we’re all over this shit. There was this pack of chicks that all lived in Burr Ridge and our junior high school revolved around them. They essentially set the trends. They loved the Go-Go’s and the B-52s. They wore Topsiders, Gloria Vanderbilt jeans and Mother Kerens jackets. The Preppy Handbook was required reading if you wanted a shot at these girls.

1001_GrandmasterAt some point, we were hanging out at this one girl’s house and someone put on The Message. Me and my best friend Kevin, the only two dudes present, were absolutely horrified, but what could we say? What could we do? You know what we were there for. The chicks were shaking it, and we were hoping for a little nookie to fall off the truck. It didn’t, but we sat there and listened to this record for what seemed like a week. Later, as we rode our bikes back to my house, Kevin said, “I don’t know about you, but I think that Grandmaster Flash stuff is a load of bullshit.” And I said, “I’m with you, brother.”

Suggested Alternative:
The Sugar Hill Gang – Sugar Hill Gang

1001_Sugar-HillThe rich girls were HUGE into the Sugar Hill Gang. There were a couple of them in particular who championed this record, and everyone at Gower Middle School had at least heard this fucker all the way through whether they liked it or not. There are some parts of “Rapper’s Delight” that are still with me to this day. “Hotel, motel, Holiday Inn.” I’ll never be clear of that shit.

  1. Haircut One Hundred – Pelican West (1982)

Why not Roman Holiday?

  1. Iron Maiden – The Number Of The Beast (1982)

1001_Iron-Maiden_the-number-of-the-beastThis is really it for Iron Maiden. They may have put out a dozen more records, but this is the apogee of their career, and one of the keystones of 80s metal.

  1. Kate Bush – The Dreaming (1982)

For the life of me, I cannot understand why people rave and gush about Kate Bush. Her work strikes me as lackluster and mundane.

Suggested Alternative:
Adam Ant – Friend or Foe

This is basically it for one of our favorite cats. The Allmusic Guide says it better than my lazy ass ever could.

Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

1001_Adam_Ant_-_Friend_Or_FoeAdam Ant and Marco Pirroni ditched the rest of the Ants not long after the release of the widely derided Prince Charming [Edit: WHAT!?!?!], which provided them with the perfect opportunity for a new statement of purpose in the first Ant-less album, 1982’s Friend or Foe. They had already begun moving away from Burundi beats and Indians on Prince Charming, but here they ditch any pretense at the underground, favoring big, glitzy glam pop. There’s still residual artiness, of course, since Adam and Marco are post-modernists that love to paste together seemingly incongruous strands of pop culture in an attempt to craft something new. The difference is, they’ve wrapped this instinct in big, big production and cheerful, unabashed pop hooks, best heard on “Place in the Country” and the hits “Friend or Foe,” “Desperate But Not Serious,” and “Goody Two Shoes,” the latter becoming Adam’s biggest hit in the U.S. Since these are deliberate pop trifles, several critics laughed off Ant as a silly lightweight, but that’s missing the point — these are intentionally tongue-in-cheek tunes, delivered with an excess of flair and good humor. Though Friend or Foe does lose momentum on the second side and the cover of the Doors’ “Hello, I Love You” falls a little flat, this is good, giddy fun, one of Ant’s best records and one of the best new wave albums.

This may be my favorite song on the record, “Here Comes the Grump”.

  1. Madness – The Rise And Fall (1982)

1001_Madness“Our House” is on here. These kids were MASSIVE in Britain and Europe. It’s cool, fun music.

  1. Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982)

You don’t need to hear Thriller. I’m fucking dead serious. If there’s ever been an album that should have been titled The Emperor’s New Clothes, this is it. There are two timeless jams on this record (“Billie Jean” and “Beat It”), two mediocre rump-shakers (“Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” and the title track) and the rest is the R&B equivalent of choogle, sung by a cartoon character, and I’m sorry, but that’s exactly what this kid turned out to be. It’s sad, but I don’t know his life.

juke 7Michael_Jackson_-_ThrillerThis is not me being a dick and hating on the best-selling album of all-time. This is me being reasonable and saying if you do sit through Thriller from start to finish, you clearly have nothing better to do, and in which case, a drug habit isn’t nearly as expensive as you might think.

MTV sold Thriller, as in door-to-door, like a magazine subscription. But if you had never seen the video, you’d dismiss this record for what it is, over-produced bullshit. If the goons who managed Michael Jackson were smart, he should have done an MTV Unplugged record at this point. Instead, he went Hollywood. The songs and the videos were so tailored together, that I’m fucking serious, neither could have existed without the other.

All that said, you will or have already heard most of this album, regardless.

Suggested Alternative:
Van Halen – Diver Down

1001_Van_Halen_-_Diver_DownIf Fair Warning is the Holy Grail of DLR era VH LPs, then Diver Down is the viper that bit Cleopatra. This is the only record of the period of which people said, “Nuh-uh. This shit doesn’t fly.” This shit they’re referring to is the cover of Martha and the Vandellas “Dancin’ in the Streets”, by far the most danceable VH jam since “Dance the Night Away” and a perfect example of what many of us considered to be DLR’s disco influence, since we all knew Eddie Van Halen hated the disco shit. Diamond Dave, on the other hand, had no qualms about doing the hustle. I’ve read his autobiography. Zero qualms.

Anyway, all that said, Diver Down remains one of my favorite VH records for all the jams that aren’t “Dancin’ in the Streets.” Hell, I don’t even mind that song. I was excited when it came out. It was like, whoa, didn’t see that coming, at all!

  1. Orange Juice – Rip It Up (1982)


1001_R.E.M._-_Chronic_TownSuggested Alternative:
R.E.M. – Chronic Town
  1. Prince – 1999 (1982)


  1. Simple Minds – New Gold Dream (81, 82, 83, 84) (1982)

Aaaaannnnnnnd…we have a first of its kind – a strikethrough underline.

It’s a Must Hear because it’s pretty good for what they were doing, which is what half of rock bands in 1982 were trying to do – get comfortable with a synthesizer. Forget about that “(Don’t You) Forget About Me” crap. They were good before that.

It’s not a Must Hear because these cats shouldn’t have more than one record on a Must Hear list, and Sparkle in the Rain is coming out next year. Now, if U2 had released an LP in 1982, it would have been easy-squeezy. We’d go with the Irish kids for anthemic post-punk new wavey type rock that takes itself quite seriously.

guilty-2-U2 - OctoberSuggested Alternative:
U2- October (1981)

Going out of sequence for a suggested alternative is allowed as long as it’s noted and explained. For whatever reason, I really like this album, which doesn’t get the respect it deserves (as far as early U2 records are concerned). This is another one of those records with a good back-story.

  1. The Cure – Pornography (1982)

The Cure is credited with helping to establish goth rock, which is somewhat misleading. On the surface, the band certainly looked the part. Every goth kid wanted to look like Robert Smith. But the Cure, above everything else, was a pop band. Er, maybe pop-post-punk-rock band. They’re actually very hard to pin down, because their first six albums are markedly different, both from each other, and from record to record. The only constant was Robert Smith’s oddly appealing warble – some called it ‘sad, morose whining.’

pornographyThe group that made Three Imaginary Boys is hardly the same bunch of lads who made Pornography, which is unquestionably one of the most dark, tormented, existential and challenging albums ever made in the rock genre. It’s almost impossible to imagine this same band would make The Head on the Door. In between all that, you have flirtations with synthy-dance rock (“Let’s Go to Bed”) and fluffy, throwaway pop (“The Lovecats”).

Pornography is almost the anti-thesis of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper in terms of a psychedelic experience. Whereas Pepper was decidedly a positive, carefree trip, Pornography was a nightmare batch of tainted acid. Having been on a bad trip or two in my day, Pornography is exactly what it sounds like. And what I like most about the album is its relentlessness. It starts off in a shitty mood and it never, ever lightens up. It’s nothing but funhouse mirrors and creepy shadows from start to finish.

  1. Venom – Black Metal (1982)

I’m still laughing at this one. Venom. But then I took into consideration what’s lurking around the corner, i.e. Metallica, etc. These Venom cats were way ahead of the curve on all things metal. I gave it a spin.

guilty-1-Judas_Priest_Screaming_for_VengeanceSuggested Alternatives:
Scorpions – Blackout
Judas Priest – Screaming for Vengeance
More Suggested Alternatives:
Billy Squier – Don’t Say No
Devo – New Traditionalist
Robert Plant – Pictures at Eleven
Bad Brains – Bad Brains
Flipper – Album: Generic

EDITOR’S NOTE: Release dates get spaced in the surf from time to time on the official 1001 Albums list, which I’ve occasionally bitched about and tried to set straight, but I’m human, too. Sometimes I don’t catch mis-dated records, or I forget to mention an essential Suggested Alternative; neither of which I believe you care about. What difference does it make if the release date is off by a year? Very little. A precedent was set with the Tom Petty record, where I didn’t realize it had been mis-categorized in 1977, and I suggested it as an alternative in 1976, because I knew it was fucking released in 1976. This means two things. First, I’m writing these one at a time. I’m not looking forward to see what’s next. I’m staying in the now. Second, a mistake confessed is half redressed. Therefore, when these discrepancies occur, I will not go back and edt; they will simply be recognized post-publish. This situation is applicable to the next entry, which was released in 1983, a fact that doesn’t change anything about the album or my comments withstanding.

  1. Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes (1982)

1001_Violent-FemmesOf all the big albums that influenced my growth as a musician, Violent Femmes probably had the greatest impact upon my vision of making a band happen. I looked at them as a perfect example of how anyone could pick up a guitar, roust a couple of his buddies to play along, write some catchy tunes, and by the sheer dint of verve and good fortune, basically make it happen, from nothing.

The story goes that the Femmes were discovered by the Pretenders’ guitarist James Honeyman-Scott when the band was busking on a street corner in front of the Oriental Theatre, the Milwaukee venue that the Pretenders would be playing later that night. They so impressed Chrissie Hynde that she invited them to play a brief acoustic set after the opening act.

1001_violent femmes 650Meanwhile, this album marked another milestone in my musical education. It was the first “alternative rock” album I ever discovered on my own. The vast majority of my musical influences were handed down from the older kids or shared by friends. In fact, I was in a record store right after Violent Femmes came out, and the store was playing it on the PA. So I went over to the clerk and said, “What the fuck is this?” and he told me. I bought the cassette on the spot. Nobody in my social circle had heard of it, and a couple of knuckleheads who shall remain anonymous actually teased and taunted me about the blatantly “gay” name of the band. And so, it was the first time I ever had a scuffle with someone over music and perceived sexual orientation.

I’m telling you, there isn’t a bad spot on Violent Femmes. It remains one of the most thoroughly engaging and entertaining albums from start to finish. Even though it bears no audible resemblance to John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band, it shared one incredibly brilliant quality: Simplicity. It’s three dudes in a half circle around one microphone, singing these catchy little tunes.

Net Reduction of Albums From the Period: 12
Suggested Alternatives: 10
Running AYMHBYD Total: 872

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die…Or Not: 1979 – 1980

31 Mar
1979-1980 is the first period of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die…Or Not in which I had heard every record prior to writing the associated essay. In some cases, I was listening to the record for only the second time, but there were no surprises, only disappointments and hasty generalizations.

On the other hand, this period also has the fewest strikethroughs and the highest omission rate of probable Must Hear albums since way back in 1956-66. Spoiler alert: The following blockbuster albums did NOT make the original list, nor will they be discussed as Suggested Alternatives.

1001_Queen_The-GameBlondie – Eat to the Beat
Supertramp – Breakfast in America
Bob Dylan – Slow Train Coming
Molly Hatchet – Flirtin’ With Disaster
The Eagles – The Long Run
Queen – The Game
The Clash – Sandinista!
R.E.O. Speedwagon – Hi Infidelity
1001_Clash_SandinistaStyx – Cornerstone
Billy Joel – Glass Houses
Bruce Springsteen – The River
Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band – Against the Wind
Ted Nugent – Scream Dream
Van Halen – II
Van Halen – Women and Children First
Black Sabbath – Heaven and Hell

Now, if you have any knowledge of late 70s – early 80s popular music, a couple of those have to jump out and punch you in the spleen. However, to be honest, I agree with each and every omission. Unfortunately, this is just a shortened list of the albums that weren’t selected. Read on.

Strikethrough indicates what you probably think it does
Green indicates highly recommended listening
Underlined indicates questionable but ultimately acceptable record
Blue bold italic indicates ABSOLUTELY MUST HEAR BEFORE YOU DIE
Note: Suggested alternatives are from the same year as the contested entry unless otherwise indicated. Also, anything in Red generally indicates hazardous material

  1. AC/DC – Highway To Hell (1979)

Ten years ago, my main drug dealer in San Francisco was a woman named Judy who swore on her mother’s grave that she saw AC/DC open for Cheap Trick at the Civic Auditorium in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1979. And it was the “best rock show” she’d ever seen and AC/DC played “every song from Highway to Hell.”

1001_AC-DC_highwaytohellAnd I said, “Pictures or it didn’t happen.”

“Pictures?!?” Judy cried. “Nobody was taking pictures in 1979.”

“No? What were they doing to capture the moment in those days, daguerreotype? I’m pretty sure people had Polaroid cameras by then.”

“Fuck you, I was there.”

“Let’s see a ticket stub.”

“Ticket stub?!? The fuck? I’m going to cut off your courtesy drops if you keep busting my balls like this. Ticket stub,” she snorted, “fuckin’ dick.”

Judy probably wasn’t lying about her attendance at the show, which happened July 10, 1979, but it was the other way around: Cheap Trick opened for AC/DC. And neither band played anything from Highway to Hell, but I think that would have been cool as hell if the bands had switched set lists for a night.

According to the official AC/DC website, setlist.fm, and several other sources, this is the set list from the July 10 show in Omaha.

Live Wire
Problem Child
Sin City
Bad Boy Boogie
The Jack
Whole Lotta Rosie
Let There Be Rock
Dog Eat Dog

1001_ACDC_If_You_Want_Blood_You've_Got_ItThe interesting bit about the AC/DC set list is they played 9 jams – essentially everything from If You Want Blood, You Got It, which also happened to be the album they were touring to support. The band toured constantly, and their set lists tended to be dominated by whatever record was out at the time. After checking several sources, their sets during this tour tended to be 45-50 minutes. Other songs they played on this particular tour, which is somewhat important, included “High Voltage”, “If You Want Blood”, and occasionally “Highway to Hell”.

Anyway, perhaps the greatest gift of an internet search engine is its ability to settle an argument, or in this case, put some closure on a dispute.

  1. 1001_Fleetwood_tusk-album-coverChic – Risque (1979)
  2. Crusaders – Street Life (1979)
  3. Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Armed Forces (1979)
  4. Fleetwood Mac – Tusk (1979)

OK, I was so excited that the Eagles – The Long Run was not included on the list, that I started crossing off albums in a willy-nilly manner. Therefore, I would entertain arguments in favor of Armed Forces and Tusk. Both have their merits.

1001_Fleetwood_TuskTusk is a perfect example of the Special Double LP Failure Formula: Follow-up your breakthrough record with the most indulgent, overblown double LP anyone has seen or heard since; the kind that makes record company executives say “career suicide.” Think: Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995). Except Mellon Collie didn’t feature the USC Marching Band; not that the Pumpkins couldn’t have spared the expense. And both records were massive hits, which is subjective.

1001_USCTusk failed to replicate the 15-million copy success of Rumours, and thus, considered a “failure.” In the case of Mellon Collie, the shark is considered to be sufficiently jumped.

1001_jump-the-sharkThe collective works of Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks are nice additions to the adult contemporary catalog, and if you want to sell shitloads of records, you’d want them in your band. While Fleetwood Mac is hardly the first or only group to release a sprawling, ambitious record just because they could; just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Tusk covers more musical ground than just about any other record in 1979 – a lot of it soft rock territory – but ultimately goes nowhere. Tusk is what happens when the record company writes the band a blank check and says “Don’t fuck it up” while handing the check to the biggest cokehead in the band, i.e. all of them, but mainly Lindsey Buckingham.

1001_Mellon-Collie-and-the-Infinite-Sadness-by-the-Smashing-PumpkingsLike Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, the highlights are flooded by the bullshit; other than the title song and Stevie Nicks’ rainy-day, maudlin “Sara”, Tusk is bereft of hits. But in the end, I don’t think anyone involved in the making of Tusk is feeling sorry for the revenue generated by 9 million copies sold to date.

Here’s the caveat. In 2002, Camper Van Beethoven recorded and released a song-for-song remake of Tusk (on Pitch A Tent Records), which is ten times more interesting than the original. I’m not saying it’s a Must Hear, either. Just sayin’. What I’d like to hear is Fleetwood Mac doing Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.

1001_The-Knack_Get_The_KnackSuggested Alternatives:
Squeeze – Cool For Cats
The Knack – Get the Knack
Devo – Duty Now For the Future
The Who – Quadrophenia

All four of these suggestions could be Must Hear selections. If you were in the mood for a double LP, Quadrophenia is a far better listening experience than Tusk. At least there was a movie explaining why they needed to make a double LP out of it.

  1. Gang Of Four – Entertainment! (1979)
  2. Gary Numan – The Pleasure Principle (1979)

1001_GaryTwo artists make variably different types of new wave music. Both awesome, both Must Hear.

  1. Holger Czukay – Movies (1979)

Had to pinch myself at this entry. Really? The bassist from Can merits a solo album You Must Hear? I think not, even if it is basically another Can album.

There’s something cute when non-native English speakers sing in English. It’s especially adorable when it’s a 40-year-old German dude scatting and doot-doot-dooing his way though a bouncy, quasi-disco joint (“Cool in the Pool”). However, Czukay is not nearly so cute when noodling his way through a two-note exercise in relatively ambient but decidedly monotonous semi-jazz music (“Oh Lord, Give Us Money”) and another example of anti-climax in music; something that threatens to happen, but never does. I guess that’s why there’s a cinematic reference in the title?

1001_Czukay_MovieslThis Holger Czukay record came to my attention in the mid 00s, on the recommendation of a record store clerk who encouraged my post-art rock explorations. While I balked at the $30 price tag for an obscure, used LP, I shrugged and didn’t want to be put on the spot, so I bought it. Upon the first listen, at the 3-minute mark of the opening track, I said out loud, “Something better happen with this jam or I’m going to be pissed.” Fortunately, the cute German dude started singing again. At the 10-minute mark, shaking my head. By the time the album was over, I was fucking furious. So mad, I wanted to jet down to Amoeba and throttle that kid who recommended it. That was the last time I ever asked a record store clerk for his or her opinion of anything.

Suggested Alternative:
https://blacksunshinemedia.comRush – Permanent Waves

No other band epitomized the genre of progressive rock in 1979 as well as Rush. The whole concept of progressive music is that you start off in one place, and end up in another. Progress. Permanent Waves doesn’t sound exactly like the same band that made 2112 (1976), but it’s clearly a step in a more modern direction. Rush was one of the few 70s hard rock bands who didn’t implode upon the emergence of punk and new wave – they adapted. Apparently, that wasn’t an easy trick to perform. Just ask Yes, Marillion, Hawkwind, ELO, Jethro Tull, Foreigner, Genesis or Boston. The general public still wasn’t interested in one-minute guitar solos unless they were really, really good, and served the song, not unlike the solos on “The Spirit of Radio”, “Freewill” and “Jacob’s Ladder”.

  1. Japan – Quiet Life (1979)
  2. Joy Division – Unknown Pleasure (1979)
  3. Marianne Faithfull – Broken English (1979)

1001_Japan_QuietQuiet Life is the best Duran Duran album I’ve ever heard. It’s also the weakest of the post-Eno Roxy Music albums. I dunno. Don’t try to tell me that David Sylvian is doing his best Bryan Ferry and I won’t tell you that Simon LeBon is doing his best David Sylvian.

Joy Division is a post-punk Michael Jordan taking-off-from-the-top-of-the-key slam dunk.

I honestly believe that yours truly and the record industry could finally agree on one thing in 1979. It takes a very special woman to make it in rock music. It’s not a feminine sport, even though it’s loaded with queers who took more dick than Pamela Des Barres. Marianne Faithful couldn’t, wouldn’t, shouldn’t ever be a Must Hear; and if you don’t believe me, ask Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Look at her closely; she looks like she was in the Stones, not the other way around. And she made terrible fucking music, too.

1001_Tom-Petty_DamnSuggested Alternatives:
Siouxie and the Banshees – Join Hands
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Damn the Torpedoes

Come on Dimery and Co.! You guys really dropped the ball in the late 70s.

  1. Michael Jackson – Off The Wall (1979)
  2. Neil Young With Crazy Horse – Rust Never Sleeps (1979)
  3. Pink Floyd – The Wall (1979)
  4. Pretenders – Pretenders (1979)
  5. Public Image Ltd – Metal Box (1979)

1001_PiL_MetalOff the Wall is the only quasi-disco record I feel vaguely comfortable saying You Must Hear. First of all, M.J. was a dancing fool since who knows when? The Jackson 5 predate disco by at least two years. Anyway, Off the Wall is never going to be duplicated. Enjoy!

Neil Young & Crazy Horse don’t get any better than Rust Never Sleeps.

The Wall was a massive, systemic, and fundamental influence on contemporary American bong culture. The movie is pretty cool, too.

Chrissie Hynde was by no means the first rock front woman, but considering her competition (Pat Benatar, Heart) she was certainly the most vital straight-up rock singer in 1979. The Pretenders is fantastic.

1001_PiL_SecondPublic Image Ltd. is probably the most anti-jazz band on the entire list. These cats were hardly what you call “proficient” at their instruments, yet they were able to communicate, inspire and confound, nonetheless. And that’s the point. Perhaps this record has grown on me over time, but Metal Box is definitely one of the few double LPs I would be happy to sit though on any given day. To the average listener, it’s going to sound like nonsense; but I implore you to see beyond the poor production and lack of songwriting. There’s truth in here. Find it.

[Note: Metal Box’s original packaging consisted of a metal 16mm film canister embossed with the band’s logo and containing three 12″ 45rpm records; in 1980, the album was reissued as a more traditional double LP gatefold, Second Edition.]

  1. Sister Sledge – We Are Family (1979)
  2. Talking Heads – Fear Of Music (1979)

As I was saying about Fela Kuti. “Cities” may be my favorite Talking Heads jam, but Fear of Music is the weakest of their early work.

Suggested Alternatives:
1001_The-Cure_ThreeXTC – Drums and Wires
The Cure – Three Imaginary Boys
Joe Jackson – Look Sharp!

If 1975 was an odd time to be alive, 1979 was an intriguing and slightly anxious time to be alive. Another three albums that should be Must Hear; but for whatever reason, didn’t rate over Sister Sledge, and a mediocre Talking Heads LP.

[Note: The Cure – Three Imaginary Boys was released in the U.S. as Boys Don’t Cry (with a slightly different song sequence).]

  1. 1001_Damned_MachineThe B-52s – The B-52s (1979)
  2. The Clash – London Calling (1979)
  3. The Damned – Machine Gun Etiquette (1979)
  4. The Fall – Live At The Witch Trails (1979)
  5. The Germs – GI (1979)
  6. The Police – Regatta De Blanc (1979)

Wow. OK, so the Germs are arguably one of THE seminal Southern California punk bands. Their regional influence is undeniable. GI is a really tough listen, though.

  1. The Slits – Cut (1979)
  2. The Specials – Specials (1979)
  3. The Undertones – The Undertones (1979)

https:blacksunshinemedia.comCut joins an elite group of potentially life-changing albums You Must Hear Before You Die, but probably wouldn’t unless someone pointed it out and said, “Hey, listen to this fucking Slits record.” First of all, The Slits were an all-female British punk band. How many of those can you name off the top of your head? And how many of them were as good as the Slits? I’m guessing the answers are zero and none.

The Specials represent ska. At some point, you’re going to wonder how we wound up with Barenaked Ladies. Here’s the fertilization of the egg.

The Undertones will forever be associated with the 1978 single “Teenage Kicks”, which isn’t on this album…unless you get the version that was reissued in 1980, or one of several best of compilations. If you want to go with the best of what the band has to offer, The Undertones isn’t it.

  1. AC/DC – Back In Black (1980)
  2. Adam & The Ants – Kings Of The Wild Frontier (1980)

1001_AC-DC_backinblackIn case you hadn’t heard, punk is dead. But it truly lived up to its hype. Live fast and leave a good-looking corpse. Have you heard of this New Romantic thing?

  1. Dexys Midnight Runners – Searching For The Young Soul Rebels (1980)

The influence of Van Morrison in popular music seems to have been relegated to a group of insufferable Irish egomaniacs who heard Astral Weeks and said, “I can do better than that.” Just because you wear the costume, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a clown. Likewise, owning a few Motown and Stax records doesn’t make you a soul group.

Suggested Alternative:
Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel (Melt)

PGMeltFor my money, this is THE Peter Gabriel solo album. I’m looking around and nobody had really reached this level of “art” in a bonafide rock record. “Intruder” features the first use of Phil Collins’ famous “gated drum” sound (heard on “In the Air Tonight”). The distinctive sound was identified via experiments by producer Steve Lillywhite, Phil Collins and Hugh Padgham, in response to Gabriel’s request that Collins and Jerry Marotta not use cymbals on the album’s sessions. The sound has been noted by Public Image Ltd as influencing the sound on their album Flowers of Romance (1981).

  1. Echo & The Bunnymen – Crocodiles (1980)

1001_Echo_CrocoTough call here. You should probably hear E&TB, but I’m not convinced this is the record. I’m learning toward a greatest hits collection with these kids. However, the U.S. album version contains a couple of extra jams including “Do It Clean”.

  1. Iron Maiden – Iron Maiden (1980)
  2. Joy Division – Closer (1980)
  3. Judas Priest – British Steel (1980)
  4. Killing Joke – Killing Joke (1980)
  5. Motorhead – Ace Of Spades (1980)
  6. Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel (III) (1980)

1001_Ace_of_Spades_Motorhead_album_coverCan’t really muster an argument against any of these albums, especially Motorhead, but I will say this: Don’t feel obligated to sit through both Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, since their differences are negligible when considering the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). Most of it boils down to cover art and the sexual orientation of the lead singer. Most importantly, the above albums are 100% choogle-free.

  1. Steve Winwood – Arc Of A Diver (1980)

1001_Steve-Winwood_ArcThis guy is one of the most talented musicians on the planet. His previous work in Blind Faith, Traffic, and the Spencer Davis Group is undeniable. Arc of a Diver marked Winwood’s re-self-re-invention as the white Stevie Wonder; a musician capable of (and compelled to) playing every instrument himself; and signals the beginning of a prolific and profitable solo career in the adult contemporary format. There were times in Winwood’s career where he rocked; just not after 1977. That said, the album is as well-crafted and produced as any other record made in 1980, i.e. it’s soft rock. Shitty soft rock.

Suggested Alternative:
Siouxsie and the Banshees – Kaleidoscope

1001_Siouxsie_&_the_Banshees-KaleidoscopeGet with the Siouxsie program or get out of popular music. This woman and her band paved the way for more than gender. Their impact on music and culture is sublime, but potent. You’re going to hear more about this, I promise.

  1. Talking Heads – Remain In Light (1980)
  2. The Circle Jerks – Group Sex (1980)
  3. The Cramps – Songs The Lord Taught Us (1980)
  4. The Cure – Seventeen Seconds (1980)

1001_Circle_Jerks_-_Group_SexI care about you, people. Just wanted to make that clear. For whatever reason, I am deeply invested in your listening choices. Additionally, I see myself as a sort of no-nonsense but compassionate hall monitor in the school of popular music; or perhaps a very strict but wise student advisor, who goads you into making the right kind of music listening choices that will have bearing and consequence in your future. Above all, and again, I can’t say why, it has always bothered me to distraction when people listen to shitty music.

I didn’t have such firm yet benevolent guidance growing up. I learned a lot of stuff the hard way, and I’m here to tell you, it’s not always the best way. Sometimes, it is. Take fire, for instance.

1001_CrampsFrom the time we are born, we are constantly told that fire is hot, and if you fuck around with it, bad things will happen. But nearly every single one of us had to learn the hard way and put our hands over the gas burner, or set little paper fires in a trash can with a lighter you found in the glove compartment of your father’s car, in order to learn first-hand the dangers and results of playing with fire. Once that lesson is learned, it’s hardly ever repeated. Unless you’re a pyro. And then you have real problems.

Granted, it was good to know in advance that flammable activities generally resulted in unfavorable circumstances, but we never quite appreciated the warnings – until we’ve been burned or have burned something to the ground. Capital E-T-C.

Smoke FireOn the other hand, there are far more things I didn’t need to learn the hard way, some of which may be genuinely tragic, or at least sad, and of the regrets I have, many could have been avoided if I’d just listened to what someone, usually my parents, had told me.

As a freshman in high school, I joined the radio station, and it was there I met a girl named Annette, a sophomore. She was one of the few “punk-ish” girls in school yet also a star track athlete. Annette was unique in many ways, but what I remember most was her blunt and sometimes brutal honesty, especially when it came to music. She was the first person in life to question my musical tastes, c.g. the first to say, “You’re listening to R.E.O. Speedwagon? What the fuck is wrong with you?”

1001_The-Cure_Seventeen_SecondsAnnette also had an amazing ability to predict what new bands and records you would like, and whether or not you should waste your time listening to them. R.E.M. – Murmur was released in the second semester of 1983, and Annette brought in a copy to the radio station. A kid named Dave had first dibs on the R.E.M. record, and the next day he was ebullient. “This is the best record I’ve ever heard,” he claimed, while handing it off to me. Annette said, “You’re not going to like it. What you should be listening to is this” and handed me a copy of The Cure – Seventeen Seconds.

1001_R.E.M._-_Chronic_TownShe was right. Upon first listen in the radio station, I didn’t really dig the R.E.M. record. They sounded like old men; the music was kind of dull. The Cure, on the other hand, were dark, edgy, and kind of creepy, which was starting to be more to my liking. I took Seventeen Seconds home, played it, loved it, played it for my friends, and within a week owned every record the Cure had put out to date. It wasn’t until a year later that another friend turned me on to the Chronic Town EP and I began to appreciate R.E.M. The point is, Annette saved me from learning the hard way.

Music criticism has never been attractive to me, yet I’ve clearly read and written a lot of music criticism over the years. At the same time, I don’t always consider what I do straight-up criticism. It’s more of a critical “appreciationism.” I don’t know that I’ve written an album review in the style of Robert Christigau, Lester Bangs, or Stephen Thomas Erlewine. I’m not even in the Neil Strauss or Jim DeRogatis hemisphere. But on the other hand, I’m not a cattle appraiser who walks into the corral, takes a quick look at the livestock and says, “Some good cows here. And some not so good ones, too.” I’ve milked or branded every cow, steer and bull on the ranch.

juke 5 Van Halen 1978Here’s something you probably didn’t know about me. If it came down to one of those gun-to-the-head situations, I would say that David Lee Roth era Van Halen (1978-85) is my favorite rock band of all-time. There are several reasons why I would choose them over Cheap Trick, the Beatles, or even the Cure. Most of it has to do with timing. Van Halen hit me at a very specific period; the onset of puberty. Many bands were on the turntable during this time, but none played along to my circumstances. In some ways, Van Halen is the musical equivalent of reaching puberty.

1001_Van_Halen_-_Women_and_Children_FirstEven though Van Halen is my favorite band, I’m not going to sit here and say that you Must Hear either of the two records they released in 1979-80, Van Halen II (1979) and Women and Children First (1980). You don’t. Those albums could also be called More of the Same and Even More of the Same But Not Quite As Good. Even though I personally love those records, and wish they made a thousand more just like ‘em, that doesn’t make it your best interest to seek these records out, unless, like me, you love DLR era Van Halen. And then I’m preaching to the choir.

So the next time I piss on your favorite band, remember: I piss on mine, too.

  1. The Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables (1980)

1001_Dead-Kennedys_FreshIt’s impossible to say how much you know about punk rock. It’s also impossible to estimate how punk rock – specifically Never Mind the Bollocks – changed the landscape of popular music. The Dead Kennedys were by far the most overtly political band since the MC5, and these kids took themselves seriously. Fortunately, their cross-pollination of psycho-surf rock and topical soapboxing made for enjoyable toe-tapping, skateboarding and whatnot. Haha. Just kidding. This shit is better than Led Zeppelin.

  1. The Jam – Sound Affects (1980)

1001_The_Jam_-_Sound_EffectsAw, man. No. It isn’t necessary. I mean…yes, it is. Dammit! So few decent bands were influenced by the Jam precisely because they had a monopoly on the Kinks/Who cover band market. The Jam traveled from town to town via Vespa scooter, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But behind closed doors, they listened to the Steve Miller Band and Cliff Richard. Do you like Oasis? If yes, this is a Must Hear. If no, good for you and have a nice day.

Ah, fuck me. “That’s Entertainment” is one of the best songs in which you’ll never know what the fuck the dude is talking about without consulting Cliff’s Notes.

  1. 1001_Soft-Boys_undewatermoonlightcoverThe Soft Boys – Underwater Moonlight (1980)
  2. The Specials – More Specials (1980)

Holy Christ, is Underwater Moonlight one of the most under-appreciated, under-rated, under-everything albums of the era? Yes. It is. And it’s also one of the first neo-psychedelic records, if not the most influential. R.E.M., the Replacements, Minutemen, and the Pixies were all over the Soft Boys, a band who also believed the best part of Pink Floyd was Syd Barrett. Meanwhile, L.A.’s Paisley Underground was raised on a steady diet of this album (and their debut, A Can of Bees). Drop the needle on “I Wanna Destroy You”. Thank me later.

Of course, the band broke up after making Underwater. Main songwriter Robyn Hitchcock went on to greater solo success, and we may hear one of his records, while bassist Kimberly Rew formed Katrina and the Waves (“Walking On Sunshine”), which we won’t be listening now or anytime in the foreseeable future.

Suggested Alternative:
1001_U2_BoyU2 – Boy

It’s unbelievable that the official 1001 Albums list leaves this one off. Inconceivable. Boy is absolutely one of the most important records of the era, and a hell of a way to start the decade.

  1. The Teardrop Explodes – Kilimanjaro (1980)

1001_Teardrop-Explodes-KilimanjaroMore post-punk, new wave. Not essential, but not bad. There are some extremely catchy jams on this record, and some queasy-cheesy moments, too; but I can’t think of a time when I’ve said, “I’m in the mood for the Teardrop Explodes”. However, Kilimanjaro does explain Simple Minds, the Fixx, and Jane’s Addiction, believe it or not. This is just one more branch on the tree. Oh, and Julian Cope. Some people think he’s something special.

Suggested Alternative:
Ozzy Osbourne – Blizzard of Ozz

BlizzardUndeniable proof that punk may be “dead”, but hard rock is alive and well. This is one of those records I’d want if I was stranded on a desert isle.

  1. The Undertones – Hypnotized (1980)

1001_Purple-GatoradeYou know how Gatorade has several different colors, and the colors imply a particular flavor? Red = fruit punch. Purple = grape. Yellow = lemon-lime. But there’s really nothing fruity or punchy about Red Gatorade. It’s a confounding, salty-sweet beverage that leaves a pinkish ring around your mouth. Purple Gatorade has the slightest, wispiest hint of grape juice. Yellow has as much lemon-lime as I do patience for bad manners.

Of course, Gatorade has official flavor names for these beverages, but when someone makes a run to 7-11, you never say, “Hey, grab me a grape Gatorade.” You say, “Grab me a Purple Gatorade.”

Can't Stop BeatSuggested Alternative:
The English Beat – I Just Can’t Stop It

By far, light years, the best record of 1980. Sexy, sharp, accessible; undiminished by time.

  1. Tom Waits – Heartattack And Vine (1980)
  2. UB40 – Signing Off (1980)

1001_UB40_Signing-offLook, if you’re at an event and some guy or girl starts talking about reggae music, mention Signing Off and wait for the response. If they say, “Phenomenal record”, then you can be friends. If they say, “‘Red, Red Wine’ is one of my favorite songs ever!” You know they can’t be trusted. UB40 obviously didn’t invent punk reggae, but they did it better than anyone in 1980.

Net Reduction of Albums From the Period: 13
Suggested Alternatives: 11
Running AYMHBYD Total: 883

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die…Or Not: 1977 – 1978

24 Mar
Rock music is about to get interesting. I’m excited. Good stuff is about to happen.

Strikethrough indicates what you probably think it does
Green indicates highly recommended listening
Underlined indicates questionable but ultimately acceptable record
Blue bold italic indicates ABSOLUTELY MUST HEAR BEFORE YOU DIE
Note: Suggested alternatives are from the same year as the contested entry unless otherwise indicated. Also, anything in Red generally indicates hazardous material

  1. Billy Joel – The Stranger (1977)

1001_Billy-Joel_StrangerYeah, hang on to the above thought. Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame singer-songwriter Billy Joel is yet another artist best experienced through a greatest hits collection. He has some undeniably good jams, two of which are on The Stranger – “Anthony’s Song (Movin’ Out)” and “Only the Good Die Young” – also considered by many fans and critics to be his best work. Ultimately, you Must Hear something/anything by this dude, just not The Stranger. Ever wondered who Ben Folds wanted to be when he was a kid? Wonder no more.

On the other hand, B.J. has some seriously unforgivable jams, including the two royal soft rock stink bombs on the record, “Just the Way You Are” and “She’s Always a Woman”. This being a zero sum game, we’re back at square one.

1001_andy-griffith-show-season-1-title-screenTrack two “The Stranger” features a whistling bit in place of what probably should have been a David Sanborn sax riff, I dunno, but the rest of the song is B.J. trying to out-faux-funk Steely Dan, and he fails. Whistling was dead and buried in rock music by this point. John Lennon and Lynyrd Skynyrd made short work of it, hadn’t they? And I’m haunted by The Andy Griffith Show theme song. If Billy Joel wanted to impress me, he should have tried Tuvan throat singing, or Gregorian chanting. I dunno. Whistling = jackass.

Meanwhile, “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” is trite, bloated and mundane. And then, the album ends up with a six-minute reprise of the title cut. Or whatever is happening on the back end of this album, I dunno. I suppose that’s the point. There’s nothing really happening with this guy, other than the fact that, aaayyhhheee, even his piano has a New York accent. And he’s wearing a suit because fuggetabbottit.

  1. Bob Marley & The Wailers – Exodus (1977)

The second half of this album is phenomenal.

  1. Brian Eno – Before And After Science (1977)

1001_Eno_ScienceIf Eno’s solo career was a sinking ship, this is where all the rats like me would be diving overboard. It strikes me as a poor analogy, since Eno’s career has been remarkably buoyant; however, ambient music is helpful in film and theater, but in almost every other context, it’s Muzak for your life. I don’t want life to sound like it’s taking place in a hotel lobby or an elevator.

There’s an imaginary line between popular and avant-garde, not unlike the Tropic of Cancer, which you may cross without even knowing it. It’s safe to assume that Eno knew what he was doing.

  1. Chic – C’est Chic (1977)

This is the one record you would ever need to hear in order to understand disco. Not that you need to understand disco. Nevertheless, this is what people were dancing to in…wait a minute. C’est Chic wasn’t released until August 1978, so I don’t know what the fuck it’s doing here. Their first album, the one with “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)” was released in 1977, and there’s no way you Must Hear that one.

Suggested Alternative:
1001_TheBeeGeesSaturdayNightFeveSaturday Night Fever – The Original Movie Sound Track
File this under: Shit I Can’t Believe I’m About to Write.
At this point in the whole deal, I’m getting picky about albums that were overlooked by Dimery and the 1001 Albums crew. The fact that Saturday Night Fever – The Original Sound Track (1977) is NOT included on the list was a welcome discovery, but puzzling as well. Surely, if the idea is to give people an idea of what was cookin’ in 1977, Chic is a fine example of disco; however, Fever, partially due to its movie tie-in, goes above and beyond a simple representation of a genre. Its cultural impact cannot be understated as the best-selling soundtrack album of all-time until surpassed by Whitney Houston’s soundtrack to The Bodyguard (1993).
While it’s erroneously considered a Bee Gees album – they wrote and produced 8 of 17 tracks – I refuse to absolve them of the blame. All the big hits are Bee Gees’ cuts. To be clear, I despise the movie and the soundtrack as much as possible, and there is one thing on here that’s worse than disco—it’s called “How Deep Is Your Love” performed by the Bee Gees; it may be the softest soft rock song ever, and that’s saying a lot. That means it has to be worse than “Muskrat Love”. And it is. Nevertheless, Fever is one of a handful of albums I think You Must Hear even though I really don’t think You Must Hear.
  1. David Bowie – Heroes (1977)
  2. David Bowie – Low (1977)

HeroesBased on precedent (Exile on Main Street, from 1969-1971), I’m going to make one awesome album out of two occasionally brilliant but ultimately lackluster records. We’ll call it Herlows.

From ‘Heroes’:
  1. ‘Heroes’
  2. Sons of the Silent Age
  3. Sense of Doubt
  4. The Secret Life of Arabia
1001_Bowie_LowFrom Low:
  1. Speed of Light
  2. Sound + Vision
  3. Always Crashing the Same Car
  4. Warszawa

Listen, David Bowie fanatics. Many of you consider these two albums part of the ‘Berlin trilogy’; hence, some of Bowie’s best work. There is absolutely some great stuff happening here. But the rest of it sounds like Disco Dave is taunting someone from the other side of town. The bottom line is the average listener does not need to hear these records. They could and they should, but it isn’t necessary.

  1. Electric Light Orchestra – Out Of The Blue (1977)

1001_ELO-Out_of_the_Blue_LpThis one has it all: pop, rock, psych, soul, and disco, and it sounds great, too. Sadly, production values are all too often window-dressing for mediocre songwriting. Generally speaking, Out of the Blue is laboring, tiresome, and often insufferable music, best heard during a Couple’s Skate at a roller rink. And if you’re old enough to get that reference, you’re old enough to skip this record entirely.

“Turn to Stone” and “Mr. Blue Sky” are the highlights, but Double LP Syndrome claims another victim. In fact, if you were going to sit through any mid-to-late 70s ELO album, A New World Record (1976) is the one to hear. And I’m telling you, it doesn’t take very long before those fucking cellos are cheese-grating in effect, and my brain is a block of Parmesan.

Suggested Alternative:
1001_Queen_News_Of_The_WorldQueen – News of the World (1977)
I wasn’t surprised that the disappointing A Day at the Races (1976) wasn’t included on the unofficial 1001 Albums list, and I didn’t suggest it as an alternative, either. However, the cultural impact of “We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions” was on par with Saturday Night Fever, and the rest of the album is pretty solid, too.
  1. Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True (1977)
  2. Fela Kuti & The Afrika 70 – Zombie (1977)
  3. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (1977)

She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie. Cocaine.

1001_Elvis-Costello_AimBecause the 1001 Albums list is arranged alphabetically by year, not that it would be a fantastic pain in the ass to arrange these albums in chronological order, although don’t think for a second that I didn’t consider it, Elvis Costello appears before the Sex Pistols.

There were two major developments in rock music in 1977: punk rock and new wave.

Elvis Costello represents new wave. I’m not a fan of his work, but every time I hear a track from this or his second (and superior, IMHO) album, This Year’s Model, it’s a positive reaction: skinny ties, amphetamines, Raymond Chandler and pale blue Fender Jaguars. What could go wrong?

1001_Fela_ZombieNow that I’m intimately familiar with Fela Kuti’s main body of work, it’s safe to say that I almost wish I weren’t. There is a time and a place, within a specific context, that Kuti’s music is appropriate listening. I’m not really sure I can tell you exactly when that time is. I don’t know your life. As far as his influence on Western pop music, there are a handful of people in the world music genre who have probably ripped this guy off from here to Lagos, Nigeria. Ahem, Talking Heads? Otherwise, very few people who made records showed any influence whatsoever. Go ahead and point out some examples. I don’t care.

Fleetwood Mac, sigh. You should probably hear Rumours.

  1. Ian Dury – New Boots And Panties! (1977)
  2. Iggy Pop – Lust For Life (1977)
  3. Iggy Pop – The Idiot (1977)

Above all, I suppose I have as much respect for Ian Dury as any other Great One. People loved Ian Dury. Is he a Hall-of-Famer? Probably not. Anyway, he must have been something special over in the U.K., but we didn’t get him in the States. I get him now, but, eh. You don’t need to hear this right now…because you’re going to be making a very important decision right here.

Which Iggy Pop album are you going to listen to? You can only choose one.

Well, which one did you choose?

You’re wrong.

  1. Jean Michel Jarre – Oxygene (1977)

Oh, fuck me. Another frog with a synthesizer.

Suggested Alternative:
1001_Cheap-TrickCheap Trick – Cheap Trick
The first album from the most under-appreciated rock n’ roll band ever, according to me, is also one of the most fun, energetic and rambunctious rock performances not from a punk or new wave group in 1977. Cheap Trick continues to be left out of mature conversations about Best American Rock Band Ever. Sure, they sold some records. They hit the top of the charts. They’re still touring around the world, with three of four original members, and the drummer is the guitar player’s kid. They will be inducted into the Rn’R Hall of Fame, fingers crossed. But if people went all-in for Cheap Trick as hard as they sucked on lesser bands like Foreigner, Journey and Styx, the world may have been a better place.
  1. John Martyn – One World (1977)

No. Just. Stop. Talking about this guy.

  1. Kraftwerk – Trans-Europe Express (1977)

1001_KraftwerkSee, this is why we had synth-pop in the 80s, techno in the 90s, and glitch in the 00s. And Nintendocore today. There’s no fucking way I’m going to say you don’t need to hear this album. Otherwise, at some point in 1995, you’re going to say, “What the fuck is this Depeche Mode shit?” and someone is going to school. Save yourself the hassle and get in early.

  1. Pere Ubu – The Modern Dance (1977)

This record is not only important because it reminds me of Husker Du at half-speed. I couldn’t tell you why it’s important. I’m just guessing that there’s something more to what I’m hearing, which is some sketchy post-art rock thing.

  1. Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel I (1977)


At some point in the conversation, the question is going to come up. Exactly when and where do we start with Peter Gabriel’s solo career? Because there’s definitely a stopping point. While this debut album (aka Car) contains a timeless classic track “Solsbury Hill”; and a couple of hot jams (“Moribund the Burgermeister” and “Modern Love”), as a whole, it fails to transcend Gabriel’s work with his former band Genesis, i.e. maybe he shouldn’t have bailed on the band; and isn’t something you need to hear start to finish.

In fact, Car might be one of those records I think you Shouldn’t Hear, because it contains several tracks which make me question my affinity for Gabriel’s work, c.g. the unbelievably overblown, awful, torchy blues track “Waiting for the Big One”; or the bulky, disco-funk Meatloaf choogle fest, “Down the Dolce Vita”.

Furthermore, the record was produced by Bob Ezrin, who also produced Kiss – Destroyer (1976), and several other hard rock superstars (Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, The Babys). A fantastic producer, he didn’t produce another PG solo album, and I think that’s important. The main reason being, Gabriel’s got at least two, if not, three Peter Gabriel albums coming down the pipe that You Must Hear.

Suggested Alternative:
1001_Cheap-Trick_In-ColorCheap Trick – In Color
This has never been my favorite Cheap Trick record, but it has grown on me more than any other. I know I liked In Color when it first came out; my friend Ron Murphy was a huge fan of this record, but I was like, “Nah, man, I’m digging this new Ted Nugent joint.” This one couldn’t really compete; it was old news. You wanna talk about Kiss? I was All About Kiss from 1976 to 1978.
But back to In Color, aside from the light-hearted version of what would later turn out to be their first smash hit “I Want You (To Want Me)”, this album rocks power pop as hard as anything in their catalog.
  1. Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols (1977)

1001_Never_Mind_the_Sex_PistolsIf this isn’t the most important album since Sgt. Pepper, then I don’t know shit about rock music. You could argue both points, but not while this record is on the turntable.

  1. Steely Dan – Aja (1977)

Man. Man, man, man, man. I’ve gone back and forth on this one for a couple of days. Aja is clearly geared toward the more adult, sophisticated listener, but still contains the odd catchy melody and toe-tapping tempo. These guys somehow manage to make jazz rock palatable for the wider pop audience, which is no easy task. It’s a formidable recording; however, we’ve already been through two Steely Dan albums.

  1. 1001_Suicide1977Suicide – Suicide (1977)
  2. Talking Heads – Talking Heads ‘77 (1977)
  3. The Clash – The Clash (1977)

If you haven’t heard the Suicide album, you really should. The other two are slam dunks.

  1. The Modern Lovers – The Modern Lovers (1977)

Eh, I’m feeling stingy. Fuck the Modern Lovers. They have one jam, “Road Runner”, and that’s it.

  1. The Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Music From The Penguin Cafe (1977)

1001_Penguin_MusicHave you ever been waiting in line somewhere and somebody is about to cut in line, and you’re thinking, “Motherfucker, don’t you dare try to cut in on me, or I’ll knock you the fuck out right now” and then at the last minute, they change their mind, and you never wind up making eye contact with someone who just three seconds ago you would have ripped the trachea from their throat? That’s how I felt the first time I put this record on, which in fact, was less than 24 hours ago. The PCO is Moondog without the moon or the dog.

  1. The Stranglers – Rattus Norvegicus (1977)

Why not? Because they’re not important, that’s why not. Stingy mode still in effect. Another one of those records I’ve sat through so you don’t have to. No need to thank me. The Stranglers are OK, man. They have a “sound” which reminds me of the Smiths (aesthetically) from time to time, except the Smiths didn’t have that cheesy organ player, thank Jehovah. It’s just… You know who probably loved the Stranglers? Those kids in the Strokes.

Suggested Alternative:
The Damned – Damned Damned Damned
  1. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers (1977)

1001_Tom-PettyGoddamn it! I just got done rapping about the first Tom Petty record and it’s misplaced (see the last entry of 1975-76). This fucking record was released on November 9, 1976. The first single “Breakdown” was also released in ’76; however, it didn’t chart on the Billboard Hot 100 until 1978. Not that it matters. I already said this is a fine album and worthy of a complete spin.

Meanwhile, Tom Petty did release an album in 1978, You’re Gonna Get It, so close to being a Must Hear that it’s going to bother me tonight when I’m trying to sleep, for not giving it the proper respect.

  1. Weather Report – Heavy Weather (1977)

Jazz guys like to show off, even when they aren’t showing off. The big hit here is “Birdland”; a money shot for every half-wit junior high school band director in 1977. And you can’t deny the jam. It’s a real toe-tapper. Unfortunately, the rest of Heavy Weather is remarkably pedestrian, somber, almost morose, in a bad porn sort of way. The John Holmes Quintet on Swedish Erotica Records. I don’t care that it’s Joe Zawinul, Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, and Co. This is crap no matter who plays on it. Nothing happens. Things threaten to happen, but nothing ever does. There’s only so long you can be impressed by technical prowess until you start needing a melody or something to keep your interest.

1001_MahavishnuSuggested Alternative:
Mahavishnu Orchestra – Inner Mounting Flame (1971)
Gotta throw a wrench into the works every so often to keep you interested. I’d rather hear John McLaughlin practice scales than a fretless bass solo. Birds of Fire (1973) is another superior listening experience.
  1. Wire – Pink Flag (1977)

1001_Wire_PinkIf you haven’t heard this, consider yourself having missed out on something truly worthwhile.

  1. Big Star – Third/Sister Lovers (1978)

Sometimes I’m afraid to hear this album. It’s one scary, unfortunate piece of work. Sometimes I’m not in the right frame of mind to deal with it. Please note, the record was originally recorded in 1974, and this unfinished version wasn’t released until ’78. “Kangaroo” contains one of the Greatest Moments in Cowbell History.

  1. Blondie – Parallel Lines (1978)

One-and-done for this band.

  1. Brian Eno – Ambient 1: Music For Airports (1978)
  2. Bruce Springsteen – Darkness On The Edge Of Town (1978)

It’s possible that you enjoy ambient music. Good for you. Music For Airports is the seminal record of the genre, and should be Your Cup of Tea. Everybody else can fuck off to somewhere else.

1001_Springsteen_DarknessSpringsteen had legal troubles that kept him out of the studio for three years after the release of Born To Run (1975). And he does occasionally sound pissed off on this album (“Adam Raised a Cain”). There are some gorgeous moments (“Candy’s Room” – for the record, my favorite Bruce jam) and several cuts with intros way better than the jam itself (“Something in the Night”); and then, there’s talking about cars, Chevy engines with specifications. Either way, I’m sorry. It’s not a Must Hear. Check back with me when he releases The River (1980).

  1. Buzzcocks – Another Music In A Different Kitchen (1978)

Eh, stingy, stingy, stingy. The Buzzcocks are a greatest hits band who never had any hits. I like the idea of them, but when it comes down to it, I’m not sitting through “Orgasm Addict” ever again. You do what you want, but keep in mind that Singles Going Steady (1979) may or may not be on our horizon.

  1. Cheap Trick – At Budokan (1978)

cheaptrickFourteen Thousand Screaming Japanese Girls Can’t Be Wrong

  1. Devo – Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! (1978)

I’m listening to this right now.

  1. Dire Straits – Dire Straits (1978)
[Hiding out down in the basement on a weeknight, approximately 30 minutes after my bedtime, listening to FM radio on my new Pioneer turnable/8-track/cassette stereo, paid for with a combination of birthday and paper route money. The final notes of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” clamp down as Roger Daltrey whelps, “Yeah!” Followed by one second of silence.]
Double-U…Dee….Eye….Kay…kay…kay. All right, all right…all right! Fisher Bond with you, and I’m cooking up a tasty batch of tunes, just for you, folks. [Sniffs] Ummm, smell that? OK, all right! Another commercial-free, 30-minute WDIK music marathon comin’ at ya. Whaddya say to that, huh? We’re gonna hear from Sabbath, Queen, Zeppelin, and a WDIK-FM exclusive world premiere of the hot new Van Halen jam that’s set to be released next month, and I’m told tickets for all three Van Halen shows at the Auditorium sold out in less that an hour, but don’t worry if you got left out, cuz WDIK-FM 99.9 has you covered. We’re giving away 25 pairs of tickets to lucky callers, and my compadre, the monster of the midnight, Vic “The Animal” Froth will be your Van Halen ticket sugar daddy tonight, boys and girls. All right? I’m Fisher Bond and it’s my job to make sure you keep it tuned to W…D…I…K-FM 99.9…music marathon…Let’s kick it off with Dire Straits, “Sultan’s of Swing”!!!

1001_Dire-StraitsListen, this is not a swipe at the musicianship of the band. In fact, I’ve recently watched some Mark Knopfler live shit that made me say, damn, that cat can really play. If you like this type of music, then by all means; knock yourself out. But understand that even if this was the best of what Dire Straits have to offer, they’re still going to make Brothers In Arms (1985), which is one of the worst albums I have ever heard in my life, and at this point, I could invoke the BS&T Clause. And I should. But I won’t. If you must hear one of their albums in its entirety, this is it. Their next four albums are variations of themes heard herein. Shit all sounds the same. I hate this band as much you can hate something that has almost zero influence in your life.

“Sultans of Swing” in particular is one of my least favorite songs of all-time, and I’ve always thought if some day the Onion’s AV Club calls me up to do a Hatesong, “Sultans” is my hatesong, for reasons insinuated by the above dramatization.

1001_Dire-Straits_Brothers_in_ArmsImagine you’re listening to the radio, the DJ comes on and says he’s going to play all these great jams, teasing you with Sabbath and Van Halen, but wait; first, we’re going to sit through six minutes of the best Bob Dylan song he didn’t write in the 1970s, which is a cheeky way of saying, six minutes of boring sing-talk and partially digested guitar licks. Six minutes is a long fucking time if you’re waiting to hear the opening riff to “Paranoid” and you were supposed to be in bed half an hour ago.

Check out Guitar George / He knows all the chords / He’s strictly rhythm, doesn’t want to make it cry or sing
And Harry doesn’t mind if he doesn’t make the scene/ Got a daytime job / He’s doing all right

According to Rick Moore of American Songwriter in 2013:

With “Sultans of Swing” a breath of fresh air was exhaled into the airwaves in the late ’70s. Sure, Donald Fagen and Tom Waits were writing great lyrics about characters you’d love to meet and Jeff Beck and Eddie Van Halen were great guitar players. But Knopfler, he could do both things as well or better than anybody out there in his own way, and didn’t seem to have any obvious rock influences unless you try to include Dylan.
Like his contemporary and future duet partner Sting, Knopfler’s ideas were intellectually and musically stimulating, but were also accessible to the average listener. It was almost like jazz for the layman. “Sultans of Swing” was a lesson in prosody and tasty guitar playing that has seldom been equaled since. If you aren’t familiar with “Sultans of Swing” or haven’t listened to it in a while, you should definitely check it out.

Honestly, I’m wrong on this one. Dire Straits is actually a decent group, “Sultans of Swing” is a great 70s jam, Knopfler is a genius, and a million flies can’t be wrong, so eat shit. I hesitate to say they “rock.” But this song kills me, and I cursed it every time I tuned in to WDIK-FM 99.9.

1001_Peter-Gabriel2Highly Suggested Alternative:
Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel II (1978)

Generally known in fan circles as Scratch, the album was produced by Robert Fripp, whose influence served to tone down some of the grandiosity of Gabriel’s first album.

  1. Elis Regina – Vento De Maio (1978)

Oh God…bossa nova. Make it stop. But bring another pitcher of sangria, if you don’t mind.

Suggested Alternative:
1001_Prince_ForYouPrince – For You (1978)
Little Feat – Waiting For Columbus (1978)
  1. Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model (1978)
  2. Funkadelic – One Nation Under A Groove (1978)

Seriously, how could anyone listen to current popular music and not think, “How did we get from Elvis Costello to One Direction.” It just boggles the mind.

  1. Joe Ely – Honky Tonk Masquerade (1978)

Garth Brooks mounted this Joe Ely guy like a donkey, and rode him out of town.

Suggested Alternative:
AC/DC – If You Want Blood, You Got It
  1. Kraftwerk – The Man Machine (1978)
  2. Magazine – Real Life (1978)

1001_Magazine_-_Real_LifeThere is a particular stratum of musicians who think Kraftwerk is the Led Zeppelin of electronic music, and while Krautrock in general has its charm, it’s like running on a treadmill. You might be burning calories, but you aren’t going anywhere. You’re staring straight ahead at CNN on the flat-screen TV, probably wearing headphones and listening to Soundgarden, I dunno.

Meanwhile, I’ve given Real Life about five chances to make an impression, based largely on the guitar work of John McGeoch (Siouxsie and the Banshees). That’s four more tries than Joe Ely. There’s no doubt in my mind that if I’d heard this 37 years ago, it would have been just as beloved as At Budokan, though probably not as earth-shattering as Van Halen. Magazine would have been one of my favorite bands, for sure.

  1. Marvin Gaye – Here, My Dear (1978)
  2. Meat Loaf – Bat Out Of Hell (1978)

Thanks for the effort, Marvin, but we’re kind of…past all that now? Thanks for understanding?

Why on Earth would anyone need to hear Bat Out of Hell? That’s fucking nonsense. You’re going to hear half of it at some point. Do you think you need to be punched in the face just because you’ve never been punched in the face before?

Suggested Alternative:
1001_Heaven TonightCheap Trick – Heaven Tonight (1978)
  1. Muddy Waters – Hard Again (1978)

Produced by Johnny Winters (and mentioned here), this is not a true Must Hear, but it’s far better than any one of the following albums released in 1978.

Village People – Macho Man
Village People – Cruisin’
1001_Village-People-macho_manBachman-Turner Overdrive – Street Action
Jimmy Buffett – Son of a Son of a Sailor
Ringo Starr – Bad Boy
Jefferson Starship – Earth
Journey – Infinity
The Alan Parsons Project – Pyramid
Shaun Cassidy – Under Wraps
Toto – Toto
Kiss soloElton John – A Single Man
Melissa Manchester – Don’t Cry Out Loud
Gordon Lightfoot – Endless Wire
Atlanta Rhythm Section – Champagne Jam
Rainbow – Long Live Rock n’ Roll
Genesis – And Then There Were Three
Yes – Tormato
Santana – Inner Secrets
….and all four Kiss solo albums
  1. Pere Ubu – Dub Housing (1978)

Maintain the boogie element. Or Not.

Suggested Alternatives:
The Police – Outlandos D’Amour

1001_Police_OutlandosAnother “How Could They Skip This?” Album. Seriously? The Police weren’t so much danceable as they were energizing. Their music didn’t inspire dancing; it inspired bouncing up and down in one place for up to 90 minutes at a time.

  1. Public Image Ltd – Public Image (1978)
  2. Siouxsie & The Banshees – The Scream (1978)
  3. Talking Heads – More Songs About Buildings And Food (1978)
  4. Television – Marquee Moon (1978)

1001_Pil_FirstHere’s a perfect rainy Sunday afternoon in November. Homework has been done since Friday afternoon. Nothing on TV except football.

  1. The Adverts – Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts (1978)

No. One song, yes.

  1. The Cars – The Cars (1978)
  2. The Jam – All Mod Cons (1978)
  3. The Only Ones – The Only Ones (1978)

The Cars probably made the most perfect pop rock album of the year, thanks in no small part to producer-genius Roy Thomas Baker, who I forgot to mention back there in 1975.

1001_The-CarsThe Jam are champions and there’s no good reason not to hear All Mod Cons. However, as an album, it starts to wear thin—if we were actually listening to an LP, call it side two. It’s not their best record by a long shot.

The Only Ones are a well-kept secret, and I’m sure there are reasons they didn’t stick around long enough for anyone to notice. However, this album gets better every time I hear it.

  1. The Residents – Duck Stab/Buster And Glen (1978)

Humor has a very specious (i.e. deceptively appealing) place in rock music. It should make you smirk, at most. This album makes me feel like I’m tickling myself. It’s like Zappa without so many guitar solos.

  1. The Saints – Eternally Yours (1978)
  2. Thin Lizzy – Live And Dangerous (1978)

1001_Thin_Lizzy_-_Live_and_DangerousThe Saints are a minor figure in the sub-punk genre, i.e. Australia’s version. Not a Must Hear. Saxophones.

Live & Dangerous would be fucking A-M-A-Z-I-N-G if it were anywhere near a live recording. According to producer Tony Visconti, about 25% of this album is live. According to surviving band members, it’s 75% live. Who are you going to believe? The producer, that’s who.

What does Tony Visconti have to gain or lose by saying that more than half of this record was manufactured the way 95% of other records are made? On one hand, it makes him look like a terrible live audio engineer. On the other hand, it makes the band look bad because they were so high on booze and coke that the original tapes were complete shit, and they had to go back in the studio and fix it. There is no question on anybody’s behalf that Thin Lizzy was trying to cash in on the Kiss double live LP phenomenon.

Since we’ve already heard all the tight cuts from Thin Lizzy, a live album is negligible unless it features previously unheard material. L&D does not. On the other hand, it could almost count as a greatest hits collection, and thus, worth the effort, but it doesn’t contain “Fightin’ My Way Back”, so I’m telling you it’s not.

  1. Throbbing Gristle – DOA: Third And Final Report (1978)

This is partially where industrial music comes from. Do you need to hear all of it? Probably not.

  1. Van Halen – Van Halen (1978)

1001_Van_Halen_albumHave you noticed an absence of Big Names in Hard Rock during the period? No Zeppelin, Sabbath, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, the Who, the Stones, or Bad Company, etc.? That’s because: (a) Those bands were done; and (b) Van Halen was the new reigning champion of hard rock. Nobody put out a record to rival the explosiveness of this album. Originally, I’d written another personal anecdote specifically related to the album, i.e. where I was and what I was doing the first time I heard it. And then I thought, “Who fucking cares?”

  1. Willie Colon & Ruben Blades – Siembra (1978)
  2. Willie Nelson – Stardust (1978)

1001_Willie-Nelson_StardustI don’t know how he did it, but Willie Nelson made the most innocuous album ever. It’s almost impossible to find a flaw with Stardust. So you were wondering whatever happened to country rock and all that nonsense? This is where it wound up: In soft rock hell. And if I’m going to hell, I guess I’ll see you there.

  1. X-Ray Spex – Germ Free Adolescents (1978)

“Oh Bondage, Up Yours” and all that. This record is pretty cool. Not a Must Hear.

Suggested Alternatives:
1001_Gen-x-album-coverThe Clash – Give ‘Em Enough Rope
XTC – Go 2
Black Flag – Nervous Breakdown EP
Generation X – Generation X
Ultravox – Systems of Romance
Seriously, there are probably 50 albums you should hear before X-Ray Spex. Even Rush – Hemispheres is more valuable as a listening experience.

Net Reduction of Albums From the Period: 27
Suggested Alternatives: Too many to count
Running AYMHBYD Total: 897

(Not) Only In Taiwan – Episode 5

22 Mar
Suggestion is an interesting and elusive power. Sometimes a suggestion may persist long after its freshness has expired.

DSC06294Aside from an unshakeable and abusive relationship with nicotine, I have few compulsive behaviors on an everyday scale. The main odd, compulsive behavior is most likely how I carry money, and to a certain extent, ID and other cards. First of all, I don’t carry a wallet. Wait, I own a wallet that contains my collection of necessary ID, credit and whatnot cards; but I haven’t kept one on my person in 20 years. The only time that wallet leaves my desk drawer is when I travel out of the country, and then it’s safely stowed in my backpack.

Anyway, the majority of cards are never carried unless they are needed in a situation. For instance, I don’t carry my National Health Insurance ID card unless I’m in need of medical care. ATM cards are carried when I need cash, and immediately returned to the wallet. I don’t carry credit cards unless I’m planning on making a large purchase of some sort, but 25% of daily transactions, regardless of size, are cash-in-hand, and the remaining 75% are conducted via the magic of online commerce. It’s pretty rare for me to bust out the Citibank in public.

DSC06296In Taipei, there are only two cards that are generally on my person at all times, unless I’m in the shower: my ARC (Alien Resident Certificate), and my Metro Easy Card. In Manila, I generally carry my California DL and one Visa bank card, but it’s not uncommon to also have Starbuck’s and Time Zone (popular video and arcade game entertainment center) cards.

In overview, cash and cards always go in my left front pocket, and even board shorts have front pockets. Coins, if I have any, which I usually don’t, because I detest handling coins and hate they way they smell on my hands, would be in the right pocket. Meanwhile, the cash is arranged in a particular manner. All bills must be main face-up and facing the same direction; arranged by denomination – highest to lowest, highest on top; in case of multiple notes of same amount, they are ordered by condition of the bill. (See Figure 1)


Figure 1

Once the bills have been organized, the pack is folded once around the cards (usually no more than three cards at once, almost forgot), with the largest bills now on the bottom of the stack and fold, closest to the cards. Think of it this way, the 20s are on the inside, and the singles are on the outside. The only thing missing is a money clip. But I’ll get to that. (See Figure 2)

Figure 2

Figure 2

To be honest, lately I’ve been changing up from left to right pocket, but that’s the least important part of the whole thing. Believe it or not, there is a certain amount of convenient ingenuity here. Many transactions like taxis and beers require small bills. With practice, you can peel off the necessary amount without your paw leaving your pocket. Also, by indulging this compulsion every day, at least twice per day, I’m aware of how much cash I have on me at any one time, which is generally never less than $100 USD; the average is usually around $250. (The amount shown in the picture is roughly $125.)

This knowledge is crucial because I’ve an exceedingly vague idea of how much money I have at any given time, particularly regarding amounts in transit, in both directions. Unfortunately, often times I will arrange the bills without counting at the end. Just having an eye-ball figure is good enough for me.

This is what my parents used to call “pocket money” (I’ve also heard it termed “walking-around money”), and my father, who also never carried a wallet, inspired my adoption of the concept; instead, he used a money clip. For many years, I carried the money clip he gave me, until I lost it during a particularly eventful trip to an exotic location. These things happen.

OIT_checkpresenterLife went on and I never replaced the money clip, but I did buy a new, smaller wallet to replace a clumsy, enormous, ten-year-old billfold portfolio. Fucking thing looked like one of those check presenters you get in a fancy restaurant. Who could carry that around? If I were CEO of a major corporation, I would hire some guy just to carry the check presenter for me. Jesus. Anyway, the money clip itself proved to be more of an inconvenience; an extra and unnecessary step in the process.

As I said, it was my old man who got me hooked on this money thing, and I pay close attention to how people handle their business in public. Risk of pickpocketing in Taiwan is infinitesimally small, so people aren’t worried about getting jacked; but you have to be vigilant in almost every other city, particularly Manila. Above all, no matter where you are, your back pockets are a bad place to put anything of value, especially a wallet. Never mind what sitting on a wallet supposedly does to your back.

Women almost always have some kind of wallet-slash-handbag contraption, i.e. purse; their wallet rate is sky-high, like 90%, but it’s not in their back pocket, ever, as far as I know. Every now and then, I’ll spy a woman pulling money from the front pocket of her pek-pek shorts, but it seems to me, it probably wasn’t her money in the first place. It’s just a guess.

OIT_suitOutside of a few butch lesbian chain wallets, I’ve never seen a woman with a billfold. Conversely, it seems like the majority of men have a wallet, although many of them are wearing suits, and the wallet is kept in the inside breast pocket of their sportcoat. Sportcoat is one of my all-time favorite words and I’d like to see it used as a verb. But all in all, on topic, I have seen a few roughnecks rocking my front pocket gig. My rough estimate is 51% of men carry a wallet in the traditional, vulnerable style. The other 48% are sportcoating.

Backpack users should keep in mind that the outer pockets, pouches, and compartments are even more vulnerable to a snatching than the back pocket of your $200 Diesel jeans. In other words: Put your passport and your wallet in the hardest to reach place in the pack. Make it so someone would have to cut off the entire pack to get at your wallet. This is really important in crowded areas like airports and shopping malls, where pickpockets prey.

https://blacksunshinemedia.comMeanwhile, a good two-thirds of transactions in Taiwan result in a printed receipt, which is generally foisted on you whether you want it or not. There’s also a receipt lottery, which you may or may not be interested participating in. Either way, you can’t just crumple up and chuck the receipt on the ground. Again, I suppose you could, but why would you? What, are we savages now? Those pesky receipts go in the back pocket of either side, depending upon which hand received the money.

Of course, there are situations where change is given – supermarket, convenience store – where it’s not feasible to organize the bills right there on the spot. Given the general level of courtesy in S.E. Asia, I suppose I could, but I’m not so narcissistic, inconsiderate or compulsive about it that I would. So, I’ll stuff the change in my pocket, gather my items, and deal with the fold later.


DSC01298February, 2009 – My first night in Hong Kong, I stayed in Central, went to a few bars, and it was nothing special. I did a slow convenience store beer crawl up and halfway back down the Mid-Levels Escalator and called it a night. The next morning, I booked a seat on the high-speed train to Guangzhou for mid-afternoon. After checking out of the hotel at 11:00 a.m., I had three hours to kill before heading to the train station, which was perfect for kicking around Kowloon. See the sights, get some exercise.

Disembarking the MTR at Tsim Sha Tsui, I made a modest loop of lower Kowloon. At some point, I wound up on the Avenue of Stars at Victoria Harbor, which is probably the number one tourist destination in H.K., I dunno. The most iconic figure on the Avenue, the one that every tourist stops to snap a photo with, is the statue of Bruce Lee. So I rolled down there and took a couple of shots of Asian families having their pictures taken with the bronze Master.

https://blacksunshinemedia.comIt was all very ho-hum and whatever. Mostly, I was tripping and marveling on the architecture and civil engineering, which is one of the few things I find interesting about H.K. How they managed to build the joint is more important than why. Thus, I wasn’t really paying attention to what was cooking on the Avenue; I was staring out across the channel at the Central and Mid-Level skylines. In hindsight, I should have been slightly more interested in the history of the region.

I reckon I didn’t see this Indian guy until he was right up on me, but I’m guessing that he had spotted me from somewhat of a distance. All of a sudden, he was just there in front of me, talking.

OIT_hong-kong-avenue-of-stars“Sir, you have an honest face. I can trust you. Do you need to exchange U.S. dollars for Hong Kong dollars? Listen, there is something I must tell you.”

“No, thanks, man. I’m good.” I stepped around him, kept walking, and he fell back at my side, and continued talking.

He gave me a name, Jindhi or something; he spit it out and spelled it so fast I forgot what the name was. He claimed to be a fortune-teller from Marrakesh or some other equally Indian place, and for a small sum, he would reveal the important bits of information he possessed. Despite my repeated refusals, he pestered me for at least a minute, matching my stride and occasionally trying to block my path, but I never stopped walking.

Then his story changed to one of being stranded in H.K. and needing money to get home, wherever that was. He repeatedly asked how much money I had in my front pocket. I asked how he knew I had money in my front pocket.

He said, “You’re not carrying a wallet in your back pocket.”

At this point, I realized that he was up on me and wasn’t going to back off anytime soon, so I said, “How much for you to leave me alone?”

“Sir, I am an honest man. For 100 Hong Kong dollars ($12 USD), I will reveal your fortune.”

“No, how about you get 50 and turn around and walk the other direction.”

As I was pulling the fold of money from my left pocket, the guy reached toward my wrist, and I reached across with my right to swat him away. “Hey! Fucker!” While returning the fold to my pocket, I peeled off a 50-note, which was on the outside—it was the smallest bill I had. Holding it up to him, I said, “Take it. And beat it.”

He took the money, thanked me, and then said, “Listen, sir, I must tell you something. You are a very honest and kind man. I must warn you. Never cut your hair or shave on a Saturday. Never. Not one hair, on Saturdays.”

“Good to know.”

“Not one hair.” He was surprisingly convinced. “Very bad luck for you.”

“I got it, Jindhi.”

OIT_Hong_Kong_Museum_of_ArtWe had just reached the entrance to Salisbury Garden when a large group of tourists materialized in our path, which I used to my advantage; quickly doubling back, almost knocking over some poor woman, but leaving Jindhi crowded in the pack. Looking over my shoulder, I saw the exact moment he realized I’d given him the slip, as I cut back around the Museum of Art, hung a left at the Space Museum, and zig-zagged my way up to Salisbury Road.

For at least the next three years, I didn’t shave or gave myself a haircut on a Saturday.

As you can see from my photo, I’m bald. Not completely bald, but let’s call it how everybody else calls it. Like many men who’ve inherited this curse, I keep my shit pretty tight, and I do it myself. Fifteen years ago, I plunked down $40 for a professional Wahl electric razor (clippers), and it was probably the most economical decision I’ve ever made. Listen, I blow money on stupid shit all the time, so I’ve got to take the little victories as they come.

OIT_WahlGenerally speaking, I’m on a weekly basis; if I’m exceptionally lazy, two weeks. Only on rare occasions will I do one (shave) and not the other (haircut). It’s a package deal. Whatever. I used to have an old school barber in S.F. Let’s assume that I averaged 40 haircuts per year. At a minimum of $20 a pop (including tip), $800 x 15 years = a savings of $12,000. Fortunately, I’m not terribly precious about my appearance, so there’s no way I’d ever see a regular stylist and pay upwards of $50 for a cut and a trim. Fuck that.

Even though it’s been a couple of years since I broke the No Saturday Embargo, and these days I don’t care what day it is. But every single time I see or use the clippers, I hear Jindhi saying “not one hair on Saturdays. Very bad luck.” Tonight happens to be a Saturday night, and there’s not much cookin’. It’s been almost two weeks since my last shave and trim, so I’m looking a little ragged. Ever since I can remember, and completely unrelated to Jindhi’s tale, Sundays generally feature and more or less revolve around the haircut routine, since the whole process can take up to an hour or more. It’s a commitment, seriously. Anyway, as I was moving some stuff around my room, I saw the clippers and thought, “Well, I’m not doing anything and it might be nice not to deal with it tomorrow…so…”

The question is: Did I cut one hair tonight, or not?

23 More Short Stories of 23 Words or Less, Vol. 2 | Black Sunshine Media

19 Mar

23 More Short Stories of 23 Words or Less, Vol. 2 | Black Sunshine Media.

Fans of Vol. 1, check out Vol.2, won’t you?

“There was a time when nothing short of Tiffany’s death would satisfy Lauren’s lust for vengeance.”



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