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

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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.

Auld Acquaintance Thought Upon… Regulators! Mount Up!

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So, as the year ends, I have decided to write about twenty years ago…

1994.

This was a pivotal year in music for folks my age.  “Alternative” music had peaked, and not only that, but it was sharing equal time on MTV with hip-hop stars like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 2-Pac, and Biggie.  All the while, the Beastie Boys straddled both genres with yet another masterpiece of their own.  “Grunge” was officially dead.  Eddie Vedder, Kurt Cobain and Chris Cornell were declaring the death of a genre they never liked being categorized under, and bands like Pavement and Weezer were calling for you to “cut your hair” and wear glasses “like Buddy Holly.”  Rock and roll hasn’t been the same since.  I argue that 1994 was it’s last banner year.  Where in 1991, bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana broke through to the mainstream, “jam bands” like Dave Matthews Band and R.E.M.-influenced Hootie and Blowfish created a world where frat-boys all across America could get in touch with their sensitive side.  Twenty years into his career, one of rock and roll’s greats released his second solo album, and The Man in Black found a new creative spark.  Finally, 1994 was a year of second comings.  A second British Invasion, a second Woodstock, and for the second time, punk became a “new” religion to America’s youth.

Just look at some of the albums that were released in 1994…

1994 albums covers


When I think back on the music of 1994, I think about my younger brother.  That year, we actually had really similar taste in music.  The main reason being that in 1994, they actually played the music that I liked on the radio.  You see, there was an actual “alternative music” radio station then.  Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Oasis, Soundgarden, etc. – all played in regular rotation on a radio station in Greenville, South Carolina.  I listened to that station, so naturally – my brother did as well.  We heard the same songs, and bought the same music at the record store.  We didn’t exactly own the copies of all the same albums.  There were bands that I bought into, and bands that he bought into.  I was mostly reacting to what I saw on 120 Minutes on MTV.  He was reacting to what he heard on the radio.  We both bought some outright shit back then.  But, when I think back on some of the albums that he selected that I didn’t?  He did a pretty damn good job for a 12-13 year-old kid.  As I graduated high school, and he ventured through it, our taste in music saw some divergence.  Our Osmond duet would say he was “a little more Goodie Mob, and I was a little more Alternative Country (whatever that is).”  Our musical paths have crossed more recently over the last 10 years.  I was thinking the other day how interesting it would be if we gathered up our 1994 CD collection together.  It would be pretty amazing.


I feel that I should mention how important soundtracks were in 1994.  They were a huge tool for the music industry and generating an audience for the film.  Soundtracks were also a source of discovering new bands.  There were some classic soundtracks in 1994.  The Crow.  Pulp Fiction.  Natural Born Killers.  Reality Bites.  Forrest Gump taught the kids about the classics.  Above the Rim brought us “Regulate.”  And, of course… Who could forget this?


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Some people ask me… “Jon, how did you amass such a large music collection?”  The truth is, it has multiplied as my income has multiplied.  So, you do the math.  However, from 1992-1995… I was apart of this exclusive music club.  You might have heard of it.  Columbia House?  Yeah.  So, here’s the trick to amassing a large CD collection at a young age with no source of personal income – it’s a step-by-step process.  Cut out a Columbia House subscription card out of a magazine, or fill out a Columbia House subscription card that comes in the mail.  My parents may have called it junk mail, but I promise you, it was pure gold.  Select 12 CD’s that you want, and mail it in.  It only cost 1 penny!  (Again, this might not be how my parents recall it.)  Anyway, sign up two, maybe eight different times (under different aliases), and you are off to a wonderland of musical delight.  Just stay on top of those monthly selections, folks!  Nobody wants to get stuck with a copy of Bigger, Better, Faster, More! that they didn’t ask for.


Today we live in an age of immediate access to just about any source of media you could want.  If you’re a music geek like myself, it’s very easy to just get stuck in the now.  “It’s 2014, I don’t have time to listen to anything from 2013.  No, I’ve moved on.”  Luckily, I’m not like that, but I see that in a lot of today’s youth.  In 1994, we still had songs from 1991 or 1992 in heavy rotation.  It existed that way on MTV, as well as on the radio.  Even though Siamese Dream came out in 1993, that didn’t mean I wasn’t listening to it all the time in 1995.  It was because of the limited access that we had as consumers.  This was pre-Napster – pre-BitTorrent.  You got the most out of the CDs that you owned.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say that sometimes I find it hard to keep up with my own listening habits in today’s music-consuming culture.  The early-90s had many of their own classics, but, the albums that were released in 1994 had greater staying-power.  Hell, I remember introducing folks in college or even after college that to Jeff Buckley for the first time – as much as 10 years after Grace had been released.  They didn’t even remember “Last Goodbye” being a Buzz Clip on MTV.  There are so many memories that I have attached to these albums.  I remember friends and I gathering together in a circle to listen to our friend Emily sing “Dreaming My Dreams” long after that album had been released.  I remember late-night drunken sing-alongs to Weezer’s “Blue Album” on my friend Jon’s porch.  I was at least a freshman in college then.  Sure.  I got rid of my copy of The Offspring’s Smash long ago, but Ill Communication?  No.  A constant fixture in the background of house parties all through college.  I talked earlier about my younger brother… He might not even realize it, but his first dance at his wedding was to a song from 1994.


I’m including a 1994 mix with this post.  It’s 3 discs worth.  You can download here.  I’ll have a streaming version available later.  The following albums and songs will not be featured, but at some point in 1994 played a prominent role in my life.

Under the Table and Dreaming – Dave Matthews Band

Hitchhike to Rome – Old 97’s

Sixteen Stone – Bush

Throwing Copper – Live

Pisces Iscariot – Smashing Pumpkins

Welcome to the Cruel World – Ben Harper

Smash – The Offspring

Purple – Stone Temple Pilots

Under the Pink – Tori Amos

Jar of Flies – Alice in Chains

Live Through This – Hole

Four – Blues Traveler

Day for Night – The Tragically Hip

American Thighs – Veruca Salt

Stranger Than Fiction – Bad Religion

Betty – Helmet

“Little Bastard” by The Ass Ponys

“Strong Enough” by Sheryl Crow

“Secret” by Madonna

“Stay (I Missed You)” by Lisa Loeb and Nine Stories

“Regulate” by Warren G feat. Nate Dogg


The early 1990s was a time for serious people.  The excess of the 1980s had turned into a long apathetic hangover.  “What now?” so many asked.  It was an even more interesting time be a teenager.  The music of 1994 was a soundtrack to all those mixed-emotions.  The longing.  A longing to belong.  A longing to be a part of something more.  A longing to be loved.  There was a lot of longing back then.  I don’t long for much of anything anymore, except maybe a nap.  So, here I sit.  New Year’s Eve 2014.  Yet, I’m writing about twenty years ago.  It’s not that I’m avoiding 2014.  It was a great year.  A great year in music.  There were a couple of classics released this year that I will probably share with my grandchildren.  I’m not avoiding 2014 for personal reasons, either.  This year has been one of my favorites, personally.  My first wedding anniversary.  My first home (mortgage).  It’s been a busy year with some great surprises.  Maybe that’s why I am so inspired by this eve by my past.  Maybe because I can’t believe where I find myself now.  Maybe it’s because at 36 years-old I’m actually happier now than I ever could have been at 16.  That’s probably why the music sounds even better now.

‘Tis the Season

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Annually, I make a mix of songs from my favorite albums released that year.  I usually make it for just a few friends who really like them.  I used to make full-fledged CD’s with actual packaged artwork.  The last couple of years, I’ve scaled back to digital releases only.  This year, I’m only posting via Spotify.  I will, however, make it available for download via special request only.

I purchased either digital or physical copies of about 50 albums this year.  Below are cuts from my favorite ten albums of the year.  Following that you’ll find my Best of 2014 Spotify playlist.

Lydia Loveless – Somewhere Else

Spoon – They Want My Soul

Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire for No Witness

Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!

tUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack

Real Estate – Atlas

Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else

The War on Drugs – Lost In the Dream

Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2

Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music

The Best of 2014

33 Vol. 4

It’s like that time that Merle Haggard started a band with Stiff Little Fingers.  What a supergroup.  They topped the charts with Beach Boys covers and sold out the Grand Ole Opry with odes to traditional Appalachian music.  It’s no wonder that Fiddlin’ Pete Williams’ great granddaughter is a Jawbreaker fan.  Now that one is a true story.  What made Jay, Jeff and Mike so special was not they covered the Carter Family, but that they probably put them on the same mixtape as The Minutemen.  Attitude.  Grit.  Style.  Hell, even how they embraced fashion.  They have a lot in common, Punk and Country.  Grandma Blues was always in the know on their doin’s and such, though.  It always made for a fun family get-together over the holidays.  Then that idiot nephew, Punkabilly, busted in the damn doors.  Tattoos and jet black hair – red roses on the suit lapels.  Who knows what his deal was?  Hell, he didn’t even know who he was.  Just another damn identity crisis trying to process his parents’ hand-me-down issues.  All I did was ask, “Would you mind passing me the mashed potatoes?”  He blankly stared at me, and mumbled, “I had a killer job in a backup band playin’ guitar in Branson.  Two shows a night brought the money to chase down sin.  Now it’s another weekend and I’m lonely at home – late night TV evangelist drone.  I’m healthy now but I really don’t know if I’ll ever be free.”

That’s when Grandpa Sahm stood up at the table and screamed, “Hell boy!  They call me King Turd up here on Shit Mountain, but if you want it, you can have the crown!”

The whole room erupted in laughter.  Cousin Strummer almost choked on his turkey leg.

I hear Punkabilly is dating Taylor Swift now.

You can follow their Instagram here or click on the image below…

Vol4

 

Or stream 33 Vol. 4 in its entirety below (some songs aren’t exactly the same based on availability on Spotify).

Islands in the Stream

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A quick update.  I’ve created an account for this blog on Spotify – digitalgramophone33.  All volumes of my playlist series, “33,” are available there.  I have no guilt about it, because I have purchased all the music that I’m sharing.  Some of the songs in the playlists are missing because they aren’t available on Spotify.  But, just a few…

Here are the links…

33 Vol. 1

33 Vol. 2

33 Vol. 3

So, yeah, follow me on Spotify if you prefer to stream your playlists as opposed to downloading them.