January 27, 2010

The 50 Best Albums of the 1980s...

I am a child of the 80s. It is the period when I came of musical age, so to speak. The pop albums of this era are - I am quite serious - a defining influence on my taste in almost everything.

It so happens that my favorite album of the 1980s is also perhaps the most influential and loved British album of the post-Beatles era. Note that the titles in blue were made in the United Kingdom, so this could be called the beginning of my awakening to my own heritage.

Kate Bush Hounds Of Love 1985 my top favorite
Prefab Sprout Two Wheels Good (aka Steve McQueen) 1985 my other top favorite
Culture Club Colour By Numbers 1983
Stevie Nicks The Wild Heart 1983
Alison Moyet Alf 1984
Madonna Like A Prayer 1989
Prince Sign O'The Times 1987
Madonna Like A Virgin 1984
Sting Nothing Like The Sun 1987
Prince Purple Rain 1984
Sade Promise 1985

and the remaining 39 gems, in no order:

Eurythmics Savage 1987
Stevie Nicks Bella Donna 1981
Toni Childs Union 1989
Lloyd Cole And The Commotions Mainstream 1987
Bananarama Bananarama 1984
Missing Persons
Rhyme & Reason 1984
Rickie Lee Jones The Magazine 1984
10,000 Maniacs In My Tribe 1987
Kate Bush The Sensual World 1989
REM Lifes Rich Pageant 1986
The Smiths The Queen Is Dead 1986
Sting The Dream Of The Blue Turtles 1985
10000 Maniacs Blind Man's Zoo 1989
Prince Parade 1986
Arcadia So Red The Rose 1986
Duran Duran Rio 1982
Tina Turner Private Dancer 1984
Sinead O'Connor The Lion and The Cobra 1987
Everything But The Girl Idlewild 1988
'Til Tuesday Everything's Different Now 1989
Janet Jackson Rhythm Nation 1989
Danny Wilson Meet Danny Wilson 1987
Depeche Mode Music For The Masses 1987
Elton John Too Low For Zero 1983
U2 The Joshua Tree 1987
The Blue Nile Hats 1989
Morrissey Viva Hate 1987
Soundtrack Pretty In Pink 1986
Suzanne Vega Solitude Standing 1987
Suzanne Vega Suzanne Vega 1985
Cyndi Lauper She's So Unusual 1983
The Style Council Cafe Bleu 1984
ABC The Lexicon Of Love 1982
Neneh Cherry Raw Like Sushi 1989
Dream Academy Dream Academy 1985
Indigo Girls Indigo Girls 1988
Tracy Chapman Tracy Chapman 1988
Deacon Blue Raintown 1987
Diana Ross diana 1980

What did I forget?!


John said...

Sign O' The Times is my all-time favorite album, so I'm glad to see it on the list. The only glaring omission from where I'm sitting is Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Welcome to the Pleasuredome.

Myfizzypop said...

Hurrah for Britain! And a map with Birmingham on it! There are some great albums here - some that i loved years after they were released, some that managed to pierce my bubble-pop world like Eurythmics, Deacon Blue and Frankie...

mr-fitz said...

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions - Rattlesnakes! A much better album that Mainstream

Phil said...

The Human League - Dare 1981
Pet Shop Boys - Please 1987

Wot? No these two?

xolondon said...

@john I thought about FGTH, but I think the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I like it enough to own a the remaster.

@Paul, I apologize for the lack of Debbie G!

@mrfitz, technically correct, but what I played incessantly /what moved me are not always the same as what was brilliant or critically recd. I mean, there is a Christopher Cross record that almost made this list!

@Phil Those are your faves, I can't steal them for min!

Dublin Dave said...

As I love your blog I'm surprised (very little Madonna) but delighted to see Hounds of Love is your number one pick. That was the album that got me into Kate Bush and got me into the idea of albums too and what they could do if there was some thought in how they are put together. I played it to death so much I haven't listened to it from start to finish for years and I must soon!

xolondon said...

Madonna cannot have all of me! Though True Blue is v good.

Yuяi said...

I was going to say True Blue also, but you have the Queen represented nicely, so you get a pass.

So many great albums here. Believe it or not, I would also include Colour By Numbers on my list.

Diva Incarnate said...

I was scouring for Cyndi, it's almost underrated that album.

An album I am obsessed with that is missing here is Sleep It Off by Cristina (who also did a fine job covering When U Were Mine).

No Siouxsie & The Banshees?

KulPop said...

No albums from Howard Jones, Scritti Politti, Tears For Fears or the Thompson Twins??? They will be on my list if I ever get around to completing it.

xolondon said...

TFF got booted off the final list.

I am a Siouxsie song person vs a Siouxsie album person!

countpopula said...

I hate pointing out what you may have missed, so I will politely say that I agree with the addition of Human League's Dare (which may have been a bit early for you), and Frankie's WTTPD (epicness). Scritti's Cupid is fantastic from beginning to end, and is a masterclass in 80's production.

I find it most shocking the absence of Peter Gabriel. Security (PG4) and So are both masterpieces, and I would argue Toni Childs would not have made Union had it not been for Peter's beautiful music and influence. One could raise similar judgements on Sting becoming more world-ly.

Personal faves of mine that would make a list would be Soft Cell's Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, which paired with the Human League record were massive in 1981, and the Cell record was not only successful conceptually, it also introduced a young (and rather impetuous) cabaret singer/songwriter to the world in the form of Marc Almond. Two of my other favorite records of the 80's would be Marc solo--Mother Fist and The Stars We Are, the former being possibly the best character-driven pop/art-song album of the decade, while TSWA was much more personal and big sounding while not having the budget of Frankie. Plus, a drug-addled Nico was rustled out to contribute vocals to it, along with Gene Pitney, who's single later replaced the solo Almond version, and what a duet that was!

Also--no Cure??? Surely Head on the Door, Kiss me X3, or at LEAST Disintegration deserve a placing? Add Echo & the Bunnymen's Ocean Rain, Cocteau Twins Treasure and This Mortal Coil's Filigree & Shadow to the epic 4AD goth-y-ness too...all influenced by Siouxsie...

zen~ said...

That list sent me dizzy (teenager of the 80s here, myself) but a lot of my favourites are definitely there. I think Erasure's "The Innocents", Eurythmics "Sweet Dreams", Kate Bush's "Hounds of Love", Berlin's "Pleasure Victim", Kajagoogoo's "White Feathers" and Culture Club's "Colour By Numbers" and both Yazoo albums nurtured my musical tastes. I would also include late 80s albums like "Club Classics Volume One" by Soul II Soul and the first Innercity album and Bassomatic's "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Bass" for informing my club tastes...

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised Madonna's self-titled was beat out by "Like A Prayer" and "Like A Virgin" and it didn't even make the cut? Like you said above, she can't have all of you.

Though not an actual album, I'd throw in a vote for the soundtrack to "The Lost Boys". You are inspiring me to do a similar list.

hatzij said...

no a-ha, Spandau Ballet, George Michael, INXS, Pretenders, Talking Heads, Michael Jackson, Howard Jones, Simple Minds, Paul Young, Simply Red, Bowie, Grace Jones, The Police, OMD, Shakespear's Sister ?

xolondon said...

Secret: I am not a Cure person. I liked Kiss Me and Dis... owned both, but that's it. And Love Cats, natch.

You crazy kids, you all cannot have all these records on a top 50. Remember was 11 when the decade started. ELEVEN.

Interesting thing re Madonna's debut: I liked it v much but it is only in the late 00s that it seems like a masterpiece.

I cut GMichael and forgot about Slave To The Rhythm, but if I did 50 songs it would be there. I live my life to that song.

Unknown said...


Unknown said...

OK, I am very late to this party and all, but have to say that you and I had very different record collections that overlapped. I would have included The Cure, Howard Jones, Scritti Politti, Communards, Bronski Beat and Soft Cell. And Billy Bragg! But I also loved much on your list!

countpopula said...

I hope you don't think I disliked your list. It was quite good!

Can't believe I forgot New Order--Technique was 1989--one of my favorite records at the end of the decade. Also, not for everyone, but David Sylvian and Japan released quite a few great albums--Secrets of the Beehive is an alltime favorite.

Anonymous said...

That's definitely a top notch collection and I have 14 of them in my own collection, plus numerous singles from a lot of the albums. I was most pleased to see Suzanne Vega, Sinead, Style Council (though my preference is for Our Favourite Shop (#3 on my own list), U2 ((#30 on my list), Dream Academy, EBTG (my preference is for their self-titled debut), Bananarama (again for me it's Deep Sea Skiving), ABC, and Prefab Sprout (#17 on my list). But I was on a slightly different bent in the 80's, enjoying New Order, Big Country, INXS, and Waterboys along with PSB, Erasure, Yazoo, Human League, Shriekback, and The The.

Unknown said...

Here are my adds - a decidedly scottish addition.

- Associates: Sulk

- Orange Juice:
- You Can't Hide Your Love Forever
- THE Orange Juice

- Soft Cell: Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret

- Scritti Politti: Cupid & Psyche '85

- Stephen Duffy: Because We Love You

and how did you miss....

- Human League: Dare

xxxOx -


xolondon said...

Maybe I need to rip it up and start again? wink! xo to Scotland.

Unknown said...

I would add Human League "Dare" for sure, and whither Ministry's "With Sympathy?"

Teresa said...

Ahh, the 80's. I love 80's music. I definitely agree with the Madonna ones and especially Janet's Rhythm Nation. I also like the Prince Purple Rain and Culture Club Color by numbers. You have a good list here. :)

zen~ said...

Rip it up and start again, indeed!

As an Australian, a lot of Aussie artists back in the 80s also informed my tastes: The Models, INXS, The Venetians, Koo De Tah and QED (both essentially from NZ, but what the hey!), Do Re Mi, Sharon O'Neill (another Kiwi), Australian Crawl, Divinyls, Mondo Rock, I'm Talking and Kate Ceberano, etc......

benjamin said...

What about 1987 Johnny Hates Jazz - Turn Back The Clock?!? Awesome album, should be in there i reckon :)

lutz said...

my fave albums:
Kissing to be clever-Culture Club (I know it is impossible to comprehend now,but Boy George really did change my life and this is by far his best record imo)
True-Spandau Ballet
The Wrong People-Furniture
Pacific Street -Pale Fountains
All three Soft Cell, Non Stop Erotic Cabaret, The Art Of Falling Apart and This last Night In Sodom
Ains soit-je-Mylene Farmer
Limping For A Generation-Blow Monkeys
The Queen Is Dead -The Smiths
Despite Straight Lines-Marilyn
.. these are the ones that come to my mind straight away. I was obsessed with Culture Club , and then Soft Cell. My favourite record ever is still the 12" of Torch.

lutz said...

oh, and I forgot Scoundrel Days by A-Ha, still listening to it today.
Weird how at the time it was so difficult to find (or listen) to new music that wasnt in the charts or being played on the radio. Getting hold of the Marilyn album when living in a small german town was a major challenge at the time.

duanemoody.com said...

No David Bowie?? Let's Dance is STILL one of the best songs ever made IMHO.

xolondon said...

That album is VV GOOD. whoops!

Jason said...

This is what I'd consider to be my top 10 of the 80s (at the time, not looking back):

Prince - 1999
Crowded House - Temple of Low Men
Depeche Mode - Music for the Masses
Fleetwood Mac - Tango in the Night
The Sugarcubes - Life's Too Good
Berlin - Love Life
Prince - Purple Rain
Michael Penn - March
New Order - Substance
The Cars - Heartbeat City

I think most of them would still be on my list now... but those are the ones that I played the most back in the day. Honorable mention goes to Jill Jones's solo record, but I didn't like every song on it... I played the hell out of "Mia Bocca" though.

xolondon said...

You are so obsessed with Jill. You need to find her and be her best friend!

And we call that Temple of Lo Mein ;)

Imposs1904 said...

Favourite album of the 80s? Has to be ABC's Lexicon of Love. The perfect pop album.