1981 was a strange year in music for me. I had was coming out of a rock only phase and embracing some of the music I liked but wouldn’t admit that I liked. Below is a list of my top albums for 1981, some from the time they were released and some in retrospect, that I discovered later. It is all, as always, just my opinion and if you think there is glaring omission then tell me.
45 Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks – Hanoi Rocks
This may not be viewed as an auspicious start but in 1981 I was 14 and this sort of thing still appealed to me. I actually saw them a couple of years later and they weren’t all that good to be honest, but about 5 albums later they did a great Creedence Clearwater Revival cover so they are sort of here on the strength of that.
I had always thought they were from Sweden, but I just looked it up and it turns out they are from Finland, I wasn’t far off. So below is the track ‘Tragedy’ taken from this album and I’m not recommending it, I don’t think it’s very good. This is a terrible way to start a best of year, sorry.
44 Future Shock – Gillan
I really should have listened to this again before including it, one of the lyrics is a contender for worst ever, it’s in the video below, see if you can spot it, it’s early on.
So I did really like Gillan before this album, and there were parts of this I liked as well, at the time, but I can pinpoint this release as the point where I completely lost interest in him, being annoyed when he fronted Black Sabbath at Reading Festival a few years later, where once I may have been intrigued.
I do realise that I’ve just said that the first two albums on this best of list aren’t very good. Let’s just accept that they are here mostly due to nostalgia and move on
43 Mob Rules – Black Sabbath
Changing your singer can be a difficult thing to pull off, but Sabbath managed it by becoming a different band to some extent. The predecessor to Mob Rules, Heaven And Hell, was a triumph, this album ever so slightly less so but still containing some great rock tracks and, in ‘Sign Of The Southern Cross’ an epic. It’s down below, you can listen to it if you like.
From opener Turn Up The Night to the closing track, Over and Over, you know what you are in for and the two albums fronted by Ronnie James Dio may not be as venerated as those by Ozzy Osbourne but they are part of the Sabbath catalogue and shouldn’t be ignored.
42 Lord Upminster – Ian Dury
This is a long way from being the best album Dury released. I wrote about it Here and gave it a rating of 6.4, which is low for me. The album recording was a shambles with Dury writing the songs on the flight to Jamaica to record with Sly and Robbie. It’s not the method to get his best work but it did result in ‘Spsticus Sutisticus’ which is still one of my faviouroite Dury tracks. The Body Song is pretty good as well.
If you were looking for an introduction to the work of Dury then start elsewhere would be my advice.
41 Marauder – Blackfoot
I loved Blackfoot and this was and still is what I consider to be their best album. If you haven’t heard them then to find them you would be looking in the category ‘Southern Rock’ alongside the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd (who lead singer Ricky Medlocke later joined).
I went to see them at the Hammersmith Odeon and it was a great show with tracks taken from this and their previous two albums, Strikes and Tomcattin’. They plyed what the fans wanted to hear and, from my position in the balcony, I enjoyed every minute of it.
40 Intensities in 10 Cities – Ted Nugent
I don’t necessarily agree with his politics, but I knew about none of that when I was buying his albums from the late 70’s and early 80’s. This was a live album, ten songs s suggested by the title, that weren’t on any of the studio albums.
I no longer have a copy but I my pick one up if I see it cheap as I loved it at the time, and pretty much everything that preceded it, well, I was probably the target demographic at the time.
39 Fair Warning – Van Halen
The first Van Halen album is one of the best debuts in the genre and the two subsequent albums hd their highlights, but it was this, their fourth, where they managed to again put together a consistently good album that drew on everything they had done before but moved them forward. Unfortunately, after this, they were done. The next album, Diver Down, was dreadful and 1984, while it no doubt made them a lot of money, didn’t sit well with me as it just had too many keyboard driven tracks. This, for me, was the pinnacle of their development as a band and everything after was pale by comparison.
38 Diary of a Madman – Ozzy Osbourne
Ozzy made two great albums, this and its predecessor, Blizzard of Ozz. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the albums that followed but after the death of guitarist Randy Rhodes the songs just never seemed s good to me.
Opening with Over the Mountain it starts strong and maintains that all the way through to the final track. The image is bollocks of course and I tend to ignore all that in favour of the music itself, which most who like this sort of music would agree is right up there with the best.
37 Walk Under Ladders – Joan Armatrading
And now for a change of pace. I have said many times that the work of Jon Armatrading is under-appreciated, because it is. The re-sale value of her many early albums is between £1 and £2 generally, which demonstrates that there is no real demand for it.
The opener, I’m Lucky, was the single from the album, and is possibly it’s best known track, but there are others here worth exploring, such as The Weakness In Me, a beautiful song.
36 Signals, Calls, and Marches – Mission of Burma
An album that I discovered later based on hearing the brilliant opening track That’s When I Reach For My Revolver that I my well have first heard as a cover version by Graham Coxon of Blur.
It my well be considered an E.P in certain catalogues but I’m including it as an album, because I can, and it is more than worthy of inclusion.