1987

The Thesis

Years that end in “7” are all the best years for music in each decade over the last 60 years.

The Data

Classic Albums
  • Appetite for Destruction – Guns N Roses
  • Joshua Tree – U2
  • Bad – Michael Jackson
  • Sign O’ the Times – Prince
  • Sister – Sonic Youth
  • You’re Living All Over Me – Dinosaur Jr.
  • Document – R.E.M.
  • Paid In Full – Eric B. and Rakim
  • Hysteria – Def Leppard
SST Shines

1984 was maybe SST’s year of underground masterpieces with the release of the two epics -Minutemen’s Double Nickels On the Dime and Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade. By 1987, however, the label had tripled the size of its roster and amount of releases, and 1987 produced two more masterpieces – Sonic Youth’s Sister and Dinosaur Jr.’s debut, You’re Living All Over Me. Where SST stalwarts such as Black Flag, Descendents, Minutemen and Hüsker Dü were all built on their punk roots – Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. looked to classic rock of the past to help form their sound. These two albums (along with contributions of The Pixies) would go on to influence the early 1990s Alternative scene more than anything else before them. Along with two more releases by Meat Puppets and an amazing sophomore effort by fIREHOSE, 1987 cemented SST Records as an underground record label that wasn’t messing around anymore. The magma was heating up, and the volcano was about to explode.  The mainstream music industry had no idea what was coming.  Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” might not have happened until four years later, but looking back, you can see the signs of it coming in 1987.

Alternative Music Gains Steam

Bands that mainly had success on college radio or “alternative rock” formats, were starting to get played on mainstream radio. In huge part due to MTV beginning to blur the lines of what was popular and what was critically lauded. Midnight Oil, The Cure, R.E.M. and 10,000 Maniacs each had Billboard charted hits from their 1987 albums. None of these songs exactly screamed “Mall queens gather round!” either.  The underground was starting to crossover. Nothing signaled this more than the success of U2’s Joshua Tree. Before 1987, a U2 single never even cracked the top 25 in the US, and only once in the Top 40. That all changed with the release of The Joshua Tree. Not only did they immediately become the biggest band in the world, but they shocked the world by beating out The King of Pop for the Album of the Year Grammy in 1988.

British Overload

Even though maybe not considered their best albums, it was pretty remarkable that Depeche Mode, The Cure, The Smiths, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Jesus & Mary Chain, and The Wedding Present all released albums in 1987.

Rap Is Here To Stay

N.W.A. Public Enemy. Boogie Down Productions (fea. KRS-One). Ice-T. All of these legendary artists released either their debut single or debut album in 1987. Run DMC and the Beasties took hip-hop to another level in 1986, and these artists (among others) were determined to capitalize upon that momentum. LL Cool J released his sophomore album and the single “I Need Love” proved to be hip-hop’s first love ballad. Also making LL, hip-hop’s first true heartthrob.

Rock and Roll Veterans

1987 also saw strong output from some of rock and roll’s aging veterans.  George Harrison and Robbie Robertson released two solo efforts extremely unique to their discography up to that point.  Fleetwood Mac and Pink Floyd continued to add to their historic discographies.  Not even featured in the playlist, there were also releases from Neil Young and Crazy Horse, David Bowie, and Van Morrison.  Even though, they weren’t bad albums, I decided to leave them off my playlist because those albums weren’t considered landmarks in their careers.

Let’s Not Forget

This playlist is already 4 and a half hours long, so I had to make some cuts somewhere. Here are the artists that made their mark on 1987 (big or small) that I decided to leave out.  Rick Astley was all over the charts in 1987.  I just decided to save listeners from yet another Rick Roll.  1987 was also the year of mall queen, Tiffany.  1987 also brought us Richard Marx.  Let’s just move on and forgive 1987 for that one.  The legendary Smokey Robinson released a solo album that my mother listened to over and over and over in 1987, and I decided thirty years ago that I would do anything and go anywhere to never hear anything off that album again – and I love Smokey Robinson.  Hair bands – Girls, Girls, Girls by Motley Crüe, Great White’s Once Bitten…, and Whitesnake’s self-titled album all came out in 1987.  Kiss released an album they probably want to forget.  Swans, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Butthole Surfers, and The Descendents all released albums that were cherished by some folks who were into the underground rock scene. I didn’t include Ice-T in my playlist, and I also failed to mention DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince released their debut album in 1987.  And, one album that I highly recommend that I didn’t highlight is Warren Zevon’s Sentimental Hygiene.  It’s one of the songwriting genius’ more overlooked albums, but features contributions from Neil Young, Brian Setzer, Bob Dylan, Flea, and R.E.M.

Conclusion

I’m going to stand by 1987 as the greatest year for music in the 1980s.  1984 produced some amazing albums (Purple Rain, Ride the Lightning, Born in the USA, Let It Be) that are all bonafide classics, but all in all, I feel 1984 was kind of top-heavy in the album department.  1984 produced many, many, many one-hit wonder singles, though.  So, I would consider arguments for 1984.  The other year that I feel stands out is 1986.  1986 was an monster year for metal with Master of Puppets, Reign in Blood, Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying, and Somewhere In Time.  There were also the classic albums, Graceland, Licensed to Ill, Raising Hell, The Queen Is Dead, and Lifes Rich Pageant.  All in all, 1987 was a year that represented almost nearly every important artist of the 1980s, and produced from top to bottom the strongest compilation of album releases of the decade.

Playlist

This Apple Music Playlist is more complete, WordPress just won’t allow it to be embedded.  Click the link below instead…

https://itunes.apple.com/us/playlist/1987/pl.8323a34fba9249949844a23ed1ab7969

Spotify is missing some of the songs.

 

 

 

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It’s all in the 7’s

lucky 7s

I’ve always had this theory that in every decade, it’s the year that ends in “7,” that generated the best music of collectively of any other year.  2017 has continued to provide a strong argument for that thesis.  Over the next 7 posts, I will be sharing playlists of music from 1957, 1967, 1977, 1987, 1997, 2007, and 2017 (though, not in that order).

Just a fun little exercise that most people won’t care about, but I have a few friends that would find it interesting.

I’ll have the first one up tomorrow.

His Purple Majesty

img_1418-1

So, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted.  There’s been a lot going on.  I’ve been a little preoccupied.  It’s much more difficult to maintain a blog when you have regular freelance design projects, oh, and a newborn to help take care of.  More on that later… I couldn’t let the death of Prince go unacknowledged in my personal internet diatribe, though.  I’m not going to pretend that I have something important to say about him that every music journalist or musician hasn’t said. This is just an account of my relationship with his music – no matter how boring it might be.

Being born in 1978, and not having any older siblings (an important factor), I didn’t really get into Prince until later in life.  However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t grow up with his music.  My first sighting of him was due to a babysitter watching MTV – I believe it was the “Kiss” music video.  Every one my age, of course, remembers the Batman soundtrack.  His music was played at the dances I attended throughout my youth.  However, not even Prince could get me to retire from my permanent role of wallflower.  I had a cassette of his greatest hits.  Still, it wasn’t until my freshman/sophomore years in college that I purchased the Holy Trilogy of albums – 1999, Purple Rain, and Sign O’ the Times.  The genius was finally realized, and I never looked back.  I kept adding to my collection one at a time – very randomly… Parade… a pirated version of The Black Album… and so on.  Though I was looking backwards at his music at different eras, his latter day output felt much like running into an old friend you haven’t seen in years – Musicology is a fantastic album and should not be ignored.  Unfortunately, I never saw him live in concert.  I tried to purchase tickets to his show in Charlotte in 2011.  It proved to be more difficult than Radiohead tickets – and a bank breaker to boot.  

It’s been interesting this past week mourning him.  I had to relocate CDs that I haven’t listened to in ages.  There are very limited ways to stream anything by Prince (except for stupid Tidal).  Don’t get me wrong.  I actually love that!  I mean, I’m sure you can torrent his entire discography, but I love that some music fans out there are actually going to have to find a used copy of some of his post-WB era albums – if they’re interested.


It’s been a rough start to the year in the world of music.  Bowie, Haggard, now Prince. Bowie’s death was just as tragic.  In fact, it’s probably safe to say that I’m actually a bigger fan of a select part of Bowie’s discography.  But, Bowie wasn’t woven into the fabric of my youth.  I mean, sure, there was this.  But, we all try to forget that ever happened.  Even though I wasn’t an active participant in the contemporary music scene as a young child growing up in the 1980s, his music was still constantly surrounding me.  He was an icon – much in the same way as Michael Jackson.  I think that’s why I’m taking Prince’s death so much harder.  It’s as though something familiar, that was always supposed to be there, is now gone.  In that way, in my mind, Prince had transcended being an actual human being.  He was just part of life in the universe as we know it.  There are very few musicians/artists left on the earth that I view that way.  Maybe McCartney?  Hell, even I see Dylan and Springsteen as just men who will someday leave us – and that’s saying a lot.  Prince was different.

So… Here’s a playlist to download.  I know lots of people have already been listening to him over the past week.  His albums are at the top of almost every chart.  But, maybe one of the 5 people that read this will find it useful.

33 Vol. 5

This is the last ride.  The pop singer addresses the audience.  He lies about unrequited love.  We all scream for truth, but he denies us.  Please don’t put your life into the hands of a rock n roll band.  Reach out for me.  Hold me tight.  Hold that memory.  Feelings getting stronger with every embrace.  Give me the bones of what you believe.  I could show you incredible things.  Magic?  Madness?  Heaven?  Sin?  It’s a bad religion.  The father, son, and holy ghost?  They all turned away love when they needed it most.  I’ve been riding with the ghost and this is the last ride.

Download here, or click the image below.

Vol5

Hail, Hail… My King of Late Night

Letterman Future Islands

There are a few television shows that really satisfied my thirst for music over the years.  Of course, there are the shows that purely focused on music – Austin City Limits (still to this day) and Sessions at W. 54th on PBS.  MTV brought me 120 Minutes.  Then, there were the talk and variety shows.  It was always a source of anticipation to see who would be on Saturday Night Live.  Hell, even the reruns on Comedy Central were responsible for me truly discovering Graceland, and giving me a true appreciation for folks like Randy Newman.

But, as far talk shows, none was more fulfilling than David Letterman.  I didn’t become an avid Letterman viewer until he took on the Late Show at CBS.  But, it was clear who was truly with it when it came to music.  The guy with the bad jokes and gargantuan chin had Bette Midler, Mariah Carey, and Richard Marx.  David Letterman had the bands that I listened to.  The Tonight Show came through every once in awhile, but The Late Show was always on point.

The most important factor was that you could tell that Letterman was a fan of music.  He might not be into all the acts that were booked each night, but if he was into it, he let you know.  He most certainly had a thing for drums.

I rarely discovered anyone on Letterman’s stage, but I most certainly did my best to know at certain times over the years who would be performing on it that night.

Below are many of my favorite performances over the years, or at the very least, the ones I can remember off hand.

“We’re on Letterman, who cares.”

Sponsor-free

There’s accordion in that?

Dude… Burt Bacharach is cool.

British Invasion of other sorts

His favorite bands performing his favorite songs

Beginning new incarnations

They came and destroyed

They came in tuxedoes and then destroyed

Sometimes an artist would make their mark

Sometimes they came “all the way from Brooklyn”

Sometimes it would be the King of New York

Paul would make the drinks

He’ll take all of that you got

Sometimes they would abandon him

Sometimes they would surprise him

Sometimes they would surprise me

Sometimes they would prompt a road trip

They would play my favorite songs

It would be my favorite band

They would stop by to say their own goodbyes

They would become his favorites and perform fitting tributes

This is for you Dave…

This Pop Thing…

TAYLOR SWIFT

This Pop Thing is Starting to Make Sense

So, it finally happened.

I actually discovered that I like a Taylor Swift song.

One day while Taylor and I were on a road trip, I fell asleep in the car.  I woke up, and heard this song on the radio… I asked, “What is this?!”

Taylor started laughing… “Really?!”

“Yes!  Really!  Who is this?  I really like it.”

“It’s Taylor Swift!”

I was stunned.  I couldn’t believe it.  I’ve heard other Taylor Swift songs.  None of them have ever impressed me or even grabbed me.  However… “Blank Space” is absolutely incredible.  I’ve been obsessed with the song ever since.

Anyway… They say it happens to folks all the time…  I, however, did not suffer an episode of vertigo.


This Pop Thing Is Getting Really Really Really Really Out of Control

I’m a regular reader of Pitchfork.  Recently a friend of mine sent me this write-up on the latest “gem” by Carly Rae Jepsen.

The amount of time and depth of discussion about this song is simply laughable.  The fact that these folks get paid to pontificate about Carly Rae Jepsen is really really really hilarious.  CRJ (as the kids refer to her) doesn’t represent any change in feminism.  CRJ doesn’t represent any populist movement in today’s music landscape.  CRJ does not represent anything on a larger cultural scale.  If you even think about arguing with me, please do not utter the words “gender roles,” or I will probably hurt you.

This is a formulaic pop song.  That’s it.

And this song really, really, really, really, really lacks substance.  It sounds like it was written by a female contestant on The Bachelor.    

Give me Haim.

Give me Chvrches.

Give me Twin Shadow trying to recreate Foreigner’s greatest moment.

Give me “Blank Space.”

Give me this.  Or, yes, even this.

I have a feeling that two years from now, I’ll hear this song in a shopping mall somewhere and ask aloud, “Is that the new Carly Rae Jepsen song?”  And my wife will say, “Ummm… No.  That’s the one she put out two years ago.”  And then we’ll argue about it for ten minutes because that’s how really, really, really, really, really forgettable this track is to me.


This Pop Thing Is a Science

No.  Apparently, it really is science…

Listen to this feature from Studio 360 (it begins at the 22 minute mark)…


This Pop Thing Is Art

Todd Rundgren… 

Randy Newman… 

Father John Misty.

I’ve really been enjoying his new album – I Love You, Honeybear.  It’s definitely one of the finest releases so far this year.

Watch this brilliant performance from last year…  It’s equal parts Don McLean and Andy Kaufman.