Best albums of 1983

I was 16 in 1983 and, to be honest, it wasn’t a great year in music for me. Choosing 30 albums for this list was difficult, not because of what to include, but actually finding albums to include. There are several albums that, had I been writing this list in 1983 I would have included, in fact, it would be a very different list indeed. Holy Diver by Dio, Piece of Mind by Iron Maiden, Thunder & Lightening by Thin Lizzy and suchlike would have been in the list, but those albums turned out to have no longevity for me and I haven’t listened to them for 30 years or more. So there is definitely an element of hindsight in the selections I made, a good example being the album at 25, I would never have listened to it at the time.

I’ve re-numbered these so many times that I have to stop and just post it. The moment I do I’ll want to change it again so let’s look at it as a guide only.

I may have missed something obvious, if I have do let me know, I’m happy to revise if necessary. So here we go again.

30 – Robert Plant – The Principle of Moments

I still have a copy of this. It was Plants second solo album and one could, at times, still sort of relate it to Zeppelins final studio album, In Through The Out Door. The two stand out tracks were In The Mood and Big Log.

29 – The Cure – Japanese Whispers

Technically a compilation but still, it had some great tracks on it. Again, I still have my copy and have played it recently and, as I’m writing this Im starting to think I should have put it higher. Maybe tomorrow I will.

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28 – Siouxsie & the Banshees – Nocturne

Another I listened to only the other day, a double live album notable to me because it was the first time I heard Israel, which is a song I really love. Robert Smith of the Cure pops up again immediately as he plays guitar on it.

27 – Level 42 – Standing In The Light

I never wanted to see Level 42 but was dragged along by Dave, I’m not going to explain who Dave is, and I enjoyed it more than I expected. It has always surprised me quite how popular they were at the time as they didn’t seem to fit well with everything else that was going on in music. The were really good musicians though and had good songs, from this I think I like Micro-Kid best.

26 – The Waterboys – The Waterboys

I’ve always liked this album, and ‘This is the Sea’, both of which I bought when they were released, from Our Price in Leamington Spa. ‘A Girl Called Johnny’ should have been a massive hit single, it wasn’t. If you haven’t ever listened to this album you should give it a spin, it’s really very good.

26 – Tears For Fears – The Hurting

I’ve never bee a fan of Tears for Fears and have never really paid them much attention. There’s no denying that Mad World is a really good piece of songwriting though, even if it took the Gary Jules version to make that obvious.

24 – Genesis – Genesis

This is what I previously wrote about this album: One of the problems I have with this album is that I think that the track ‘Illegal Alien’ is a steaming pile of shit, I really do. I enjoy side 1 but as soon as I turn the album over I am confronted by said steaming pile of shit. There are decent songs on the album though and it spawned 4 singles, ‘Mama’, ‘That’s All’, ‘Home by the Sea’ and ‘Steaming Pile of shit’ (I won’t mention it again!)

I remember liking ‘Mama’ at the time and I’m pretty sure I have the 12″ single of it somewhere, although I’m not as keen on it now, I think it was of its time but ‘Home by the sea’ and a few others hold up still.

Theres a post about all the Genesis albums here. It has a graph.

23 – Mike Oldfield – Crisis

Moonlight Shadow really isn’t my favourite Oldfield track. At this point he seemed to be chasing hits, but there’s plenty more on the album which is worth a listen. I actually prefer every album he did before this one.

22 – The Jam – SNAP!

It’s a compilation, that’s true, but what a compilation! Pretty much everything you could want with the exception of Pretty Green, that woud have made it perfect, ot as close as one might get.

21 – Brian Eno – Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks

Eno’s most learned followers proclaim Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks as the best of his ambient productions. Thye must skip Silver Morning, composed by Lanois alone, which doesn’t fit with the rest of the album at all. Neither does Deep Blue Day but everything else is ambient brilliance.

20 – Peter Gabriel – Plays Live

There are number of reasons for including this live album, the first is because I had a copy at a time when I didn’t have many records, the second is because I saw Gabriel at Crystal Palace football ground in 1983 and the third is because it really is very good.

19 – Xmal Deutschland – Fetisch

I loved Xmal Deutschand back in 83.84. Take Joy Division, Siouxse & the Banshees and make them form a band, then make them only sing in German, brilliant.

18 – Depeche Mode – Construction Time Again

I never gave Depeche Mode much thought back then, it was probably not until 1990 and Violator that I really noticed them, but there are several albums, this being one, that were worth going back to listen to. I particularly like the keyboard break n Love, In Itself (below) which sounds like it is either from a completely different song or that the keyboard is just broken.

17 – The Rolling Stones – Undercover

This is, for me, the last good Rolling Stones album, nothing since has had any interest for me, and I have listened to most of them. This one was a bit of an event at the time, certainly in the circles I moved in, because it was good and because it had some really good tracks on it.

16 – Billy Bragg – Lifes a Riot

Billy Bragg writes really good songs and perhaps more people, if they are looking for songs to cover, should look at his back catalogue. The only one of note is Kirsty McColl’s version of New England. At 17 minutes long this album is brief, but brilliant.

15 – U2 – War

This is an album I bought on release. Opinions on U2 can be coloured by their releases after this album, with the huge concerts, some poor albums and more than a whiff of pretentiousness at times, but at release this was a cracking album.

14 . R.E.M – Murmer

This debut album from R.E.M was released 8 years prior to they’re worldwide explosion with Out Of Time but, partly due to Stipe’s vocal, they are instantly recognisable. No, this is not the career defining album but it’s a fine debut.

13 – Bob Dylan – Infidels

I’ve always felt this was an under rated album, Jokerman is pretty damn good and the penultimate track, I and I, is a favourite of mine. Give Adele the closing track from this album, Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight, and she will have another massive Dylan penned hit.

12 – P.I.L – Live In Tokyo

A live album that draws on the brilliant early output from P.I.L. The front cover shot alone is worth a pace in this list, love it, but importantly I think is the how tight the band are and how much better they were than people may have expected.

11 – Big Country – The Crossing

Another debut album, and a corker. I had a copy and liked it but didn’t really connect with them fully until I saw them live at Reading Festival in this year. They put on a great show, and over the years I have looked back on it more fondly than I did at the time, I was 16, thought I knew everything but knew nothing.

10 – The Police – Synchronicity

I had, for the most part, lost any real interest in the Police after their 2nd album, probably due to songs such as De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da, which I thought was absolutely crap. Despite this, Synchronicity was pretty much unavoidable, spawning such massive radio friendly hits as it did. I have been able to go back and listen again to all their albums with a more positive view I’m glad to say.

9 – Echo & The Bunnymen – Porcupine

‘Porcupine’ saw Echo & The Bunnymen at the height of their commercial powers, with their biggest hit ‘The Cutter’ opening the album. Despite this it is not a particularity commercial release with much of it being rather dark and experimental. Perhaps this is what makes it so good.

8 – Marillion – Script For A Jesters Tear

I was on a school trip to Birmingham for some reason, I can’t for the life of me remember why, all I can remember is driving past sex shops in the bus and seeing these really cool posters for Marillion, which would have been before their first album, this one, was released. When I did eventually hear them it seemed very much to me that they had been handed the baton by the Gabriel era Genesis, and that was fine with me. I saw them in 1984 at Reading Festival, or possibly 83, I forget, but it was a great set.

7 – Talking Heads – Speaking In Tongues

Talking Heads were always off somewhere left of centre, never quite following the paths that others before had worn down before. Exemplified by Buning Down The House, it sounds like Talking Heads but not really anybody else, it is certainly instantly recognisable. To quote Rolling Stone:

The real art here is the incorporation of disparate elements from pop, punk and R&B into a coherent, celebratory dance ethic that dissolves notions of color and genre in smiles and sweat

6 – Tom Waits – Swordfishtrombones

Well, Frank settled down in the Valley
And he hung his wild years on a nail that he drove through his wife’s forehead
He sold used office furniture out there on San Fernando Road
And assumed a thirty thousand dollar loan at fifteen and a quarter percent
And put a down payment on a little two bedroom place
His wife was a spent piece of used jet trash
Made good bloody Marys, kept her mouth shut most of the time
Had a little Chihuahua named Carlos
That had some kind of skin disease and was totally blind
They had a thoroughly modern kitchen, self-cleaning oven, the whole bit
Frank drove a little sedan, they were so happy
One night Frank was on his way home from work, stopped at the liquor store
Picked up a couple of Mickey’s Big Mouths
Drank ’em in the car on his way to the Shell station
Got a gallon of gas in a can
Drove home, doused everything in the house, torched it
Parked across the street laughing, watching it burn
All Halloween-orange and chimney-red
Then Frank put on a top forty station
Got on the Hollywood Freeway, headed north
Never could stand that dog

5 – David Bowie – Let’s Dance

This was an album where Bowie wanted hits, and he got them through his collaboration with Nile Rogers and, on my favourite track on the album, with Giorgio Moroder. It was a massive success and I think it was probably his most complete release for several years, although there were high points in everything that followed.

4 – New Order – Power, Corruption & Lies

As I actually bought a copy of this album at the time and played it to absolute bloody death I feel it quite right that it should be high on this list. The moment the first track starts playing (Age of Consent) it takes me back back 36 years and I just think, bloody brilliant.

3 – Cocteau Twins – Head Over Heels

The Cocteau Twins were a revelation to me, I loved everything about them and this music taught me that I didn’t have to understand the words and that there was so much more to music than I had previously been hearing. This eventually led me to listen to music in other languages, and long instrumentals, which I’d previously been rather bored by, because it didn’t have words.

2 – XTC – Mummer

I bought this album for one track, Love on a Farmboy’s Wages, which I adore, and everything else on it is a bonus, and what a bonus. I don’t see that much talk about Mummer compared to many of the other albums and I really do think it deserves to be up there with the rest. More great song writing, more great melodies, cutting lyrics, superb arrangements, well engineered/produced and bears up to repeated listening.  There were three singles released, Great FireWonderlandand Love on a Farmboy’s Wages, the last being the only one to touch the charts at number 50.

1 – The The – Soul Mining

I had this on cassette when it was first released and played it to death. It caused quite a stir with folks round our way when it was released, which was quite surprising as these were Prog and Rock fans, Zeppelin, Floyd, AC/DC, Sabbath and so on. ‘Soul Mining’ wasn’t a good fit but it seemed to slowly spread until everybody knew about it. I seem to remember that there was an accompanying story that it was just one guy, Matt Johnson, who made the whole thing in his bedroom, which would have resonated with a lot of people as they were trying to do exactly the same thing, except it wasn’t true. It was studio recorded and they had a record deal, it wasn’t ever a DIY affair, how could it have been with a Jools Holland piano solo on it?

As an album it is a strange listen as your own mood can discern exactly how it makes you feel, it can be an uplifting listen, or it can be rather heart wrenching, full of self-doubt, but it is always a good listen regardless of which mode you are in as there are enough pop elements in there to make it listenable. It talks about destruction but in a good way, a positive way, “you can’t destroy your problems by destroying yourself” but has many moments that search for answers, “How can anyone know me, when I don’t even know myself”.