Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published January 14th 2019
1987, when albums ruled the world
There must be something about the year 1987, 32 years ago. My recent films of 1987 column proved immensely popular, and my songs of 1987 column is still garnering hits. Maybe it's the demographic of my readership, I'm not sure, but I am glad that this special time in my life can be looked at fondly by so many.
Anyway, I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Bel, some-one from that time in my life. She told me that the main thing the two of us did was listen to albums together. Whole albums – needle on the vinyl or cassette in the tape player – that we would just listen to and then talk about. So, she went on, why not write about the albums of the year?
Why not indeed.
When music playing equipment was actually a piece of furniture…
So, I guess, first – what makes an album good? The simple answer is that a person can listen to the whole thing, from opening track on side A to closing track on side B and not be disappointed. (Hey, remember when albums had sides?) Not every song is going to be a classic, but no songs are going to be duds, wanting you to fast forward to the next track. Some albums have one or two awesome tracks, but then lots of what is politely termed "filler". This makes a list like this even more subjective than single songs, but that's okay.
Now, I decided no compilation albums – greatest hits packages, tracks cobbled together, or those soundtrack albums made up of older songs (sometimes with newer songs added) – just basic studio albums. However, this did exclude live albums, and there were some fantastic live albums released in 1987! So, in that vein, my top 5 live albums from the year:
Liveline by The Angels was a superb document of their live shows. I was lucky enough to see them live more than once, and listening to this now brings back some incredible memories.
Live In Australia With The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra by Elton John was one of the first albums where a modern artist recorded greatest hits with a full orchestra (subsequently done by everyone, including Kiss) and is one of the best.
Концерт by Billy Joel is a recording of the Russian concert done by Billy Joel. I saw the Billy Joel/Elton John concert at Adelaide Oval, and this album brings back some nice memories.
Tribute by Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Rhoads was released five years after Rhoads' tragic death and there is no finer way to remember the man.
In Concert Houston / Lyon by Jean Michel Jarre is a really good way to present his greatest hits, away from the occasional sterile sounding studio versions.
As usual, first up, some albums that didn't quite make it. Either some tracks were not quite there, or the album comes across as very same-y, with tracks melding into one another aurally. Still, all of these albums are quite good. 1987 (What The F**k Is Going On?) by The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu; Actually by The Pet Shop Boys; Blow Your Cool by Hoodoo Gurus; Cloud Nine by George Harrison; Diesel and Dust by Midnight Oil; Freight Train Heart by Jimmy Barnes; James Reyne by James Reyne; Mouth To Mouth by Mental As Anything; Noiseworks by Noiseworks; Radio K.A.O.S. by Roger Waters; Richard Marx by Richard Marx; Saint Julian by Julian Cope; Sign O' The Times by Prince (I reckon if this had been released as a single album, it would have been magical); Surfing With The Alien by Joe Satriani; Tallulah by The Go-Betweens (so close, but one track grinds on me…); The Lonesome Jubilee by John Mellencamp; The Princess Bride by Mark Knopfler (the soundtrack of the awesome film, showing that my judgement might just be clouded a smidge); Tiffany by Tiffany (don't judge); Trio by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris; Under The Sun by Paul Kelly And The Coloured Girls; What's A Few Men? by Hunters & Collectors; Wow! by Bananarama (no, seriously).
That is some fine album-age there!
So, my list. There are 11 albums here. Each of them I can listen to Side A, track 1 to side B, track x. Now, remember, not all songs are classics, or even great, but they are all listenable, and some made more so by the surrounding songs (ahh, back in the days when song placement actually meant something…).
The Joshua Tree by U2
This was the album that took U2 into that realm known as 'stadium rock'. Every single released from the album has become a staple of their live show and they are considered classics. The whole album was produced to crack the American market, and the way it was put together helped it do just that. Key track; 'Still haven't Found What I'm Looking For'
Wild Frontier by Gary Moore
This album contains one of the best instrumentals in 'The Loner' but it is certainly more than that. The musicianship on display, the variety of different musical styles (though all with a blues underpinning) and the strong lyrics make this Moore's best solo outing.
Key track: 'Over The Hills And Far Away'
Bad by Michael Jackson
With an amazing five number one singles on the album, this piece of pop goodness had to be here. While not as good as Thriller in some ways, in others – especially the lyrics – it is generally better. It's pop, it's Michael Jackson, you know what you're going to get. This was him at the peak of his powers. This is a great way to remember him.
Key track: 'Smooth Criminal'
Hysteria by Def Leppard
The longest single album in running time released up to that point, Hysteria put Def Leppard well and truly at the forefront of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, but it also showed that they were not a one trick pony with styles of music presented varied and wonderful. Numerous singles were released and all had some modicum of success in the charts.
Key track: 'Love Bites'
Duane Eddy by Duane Eddy
After too many years away, Duane Eddy came back in 1987 with this astonishing album of brand new instrumentals, all of which hold up to his previous output, and with a couple that stand with the best of his work. His twangy guitar is still there at the forefront, but there is a little more flash to some of the playing, and the whole album feels like it was fun to record. And then, afterwards, he stopped again with only 3 more original albums released. This album did not do well chart-wise, and that is a sad indictment on the record-buying public.
Key track: 'Kickin' Asphalt'
Not a proper video
A Momentary Lapse Of Reason by Pink Floyd
After legal wrangles with Roger Waters, Pink Floyd came back with this piece of brilliance. Okay, it is not as great as some of their classic albums (The Wall, Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here) but, in my opinion, it is better than most of the rest of their output. It does miss some of Waters' cynicism in the lyrics, but everything else is pure Pink Floyd. Gilmour's guitar playing is as smooth and crisp as ever, and the tracks merge and move into one another seamlessly.
Key Track: 'One Slip'
Not a proper video
Appetite for Destruction by Guns N' Roses
One of the most astonishing debut albums ever, telling the world that they were there and ready for anything. Rock as it should be played – loud and well. But there are two things that underpin the album – Axl Rose's voice and Slash's guitar playing. They alone make this album what it is; without this double-barrelled assault, some of the tracks would be rather so-so. This is an example of the musicians making the album into what it is – indispensable.
Key track: 'Sweet Child O' Mine'
Man Of Colours by Icehouse
Icehouse had already had some success, but then this album came, spawning 5 top 30 singles in Australia (the first local album to do so), and even some songs that made an impression in the world market. Iva Davies basically got rid of the old Icehouse and formed a new band for this, and it paid off. This was one of the best Australian albums from any year, and spent 11 weeks at number one (Ed Sheeran's monster album Divide couldn't even surpass that), and deservedly so.
Key track: 'Crazy'
Tunnel Of Love by Bruce Springsteen
Following the mammoth release that was Born In The U.S.A., Springsteen released an album of love songs that is essentially one of the greatest break-up albums ever recorded. It is different to its predecessor, significantly so, but that is fantastic; instead of resting on his laurels, Springsteen released what he wanted to release. At the end of 1987, after Barbara and Clare, I found this album really hard to listen to…
Key track: 'Brilliant Disguise'
Kick by INXS
Best Australian album of the year. This album had so many good tracks that half of INXS's live video release Live Baby Live was made up of tracks from this album. Some tracks have been played to death – 'Never Tear Us Apart' – but the fact they are still being used now, 30-plus years later, is a testament to their longevity and how good they are. Every track is amazing; there is a reason this album sold so well at the time, and that means around the world.
Key track: 'New Sensation'
Islands by Mike Oldfield
I am a Mike Oldfield fan, but even I know some of his albums have been patchy at best. This one… this is my favourite album of 1987, and includes some of my favourite Oldfield songs. As usual for his albums at the time, side one is instrumental, made up of one track, but 'The Wind Chimes (parts 1 and 2)' is a great piece of easy listening, with his smooth guitar throughout and an orchestra that doesn't over-dominate proceedings. Then side two is the 'singles' side. I bought this on CD, and that included a bonus track that was as awesome as the rest of the album! And, in what could have been one the first times this was done, a video was released, which included clips for every song. This is superb, a master at the peak of his powers, and one of the best albums of all time.
Key track 1: 'Islands' (featuring Bonnie Tyler)
Key track 2: 'Magic Touch' (featuring Jim Price)
And there you have it – the albums of 1987. So, as usual, what did I get wrong? What did I miss? What from the not quite list should have been in the main one? Comments, etc., are always most welcome.