Welcome to our 19-part blog celebrating the year 1986, one of the most important years in human history, because I said so.
The reason is obvious. It was an important year in my life. It's when I first joined the college radio station and had free access to more music than I could possibly listen to. For those of us who trend towards being overly-obsessive about these things, participating in college radio was the perfect excuse to make us appear as normal and productive members of society.
I also threw in a few mainstream things to make it look like I was doing something fair and balanced.
But I'm not, really.
Bruce Springsteen - Live / 1975-85: The greatest comment regarding this box set I overheard at a college record sale. "Great, just when the radio stopped playing Born In The U.S.A. to death, I get to hear it all again live." Ah, if only that were our problem today!
24) XTC - Skylarking: This version of Skylarking is the one without "Dear God" on it. Later pressings in 1987 contained the hit single, which had gone out as a B-side. XTC may not have enjoyed their time recording this with Todd Rundgren, but you can't argue with the results.
Paul Simon - Graceland: I may be the only person in the waking world who thinks Hearts And Bones and Rhythm Of The Saints were better. But this album of Paul Simon singing over an African band made big headlines in 1986. It brought people back into record stores who hadn't visited them since Saturday Night Fever.
Billy Bragg - Talking With The Taxman About Poetry: Any album that includes a song that states, "Marriage is when we admit our parents were right" is bound to be a real hoot. Well, just look at that album title. Throw in "There Is Power In A Union" (how quaint!), "Help Save The Youth Of America" (why?) and "Wishing The Days Away" and you've got an album nearly as much fun as doing your taxes!
20) Van Morrison - No Guru, No Method, No Teacher: In the 25 years since this album's release, I still haven't been able to remember the order of the album title. But this "later period" Van Morrison album is now safely from his "mid-period." If Van lives to be 120, it will be from his "early period." We all need goals in life. C'mon, Van, don't be a party of "No."
King Diamond - Fatal Portrait: I don't have anything actually to say about this album. I just wanted to mention King Diamond. He's like my own personal Belfegore. (Dream on!--Ed.)
18) Motorhead - Orgasmatron: College radio was a big deal in the 1980s and there was no better way to grab the attention of college radio DJs who did not play metal under any circumstances than to have your album produced by Bill Laswell, a guy known for art projects.
Husker Du - Candy Apple Grey: This was a big deal. Husker Du go to Warner Brothers. A big bad major label! Sellout for sure! You can hear the VOCALS! The drums sound like they were miked! What the hell do these guys think they're doing?
16) The Georgia Satellites - Georgia Satellites: The Georgia Satellites had a hit with "Keep Your Hands To Yourself," but I'll always remember them for Dan Baird's later solo hit, "I Love You Period." People oddly forgot about these guys just as quickly as they once loved them.
14) Steve Winwood - Back in the High Life: I must admit I never cared for Steve Winwood growing up. Mostly because he was everywhere with stuff like this. So slick it already sounded like a beer commercial before it was one. But as time goes on and the context changes, the album isn't half bad and the Traffic stuff is superb.
Bon Jovi - Slippery When Wet: I grew up in N.J. The hits from this album don't sound so bad these days, but I successfully ignored them when they first came out. Because I wanted to be anywhere but New Jersey. That is no longer true. Jersey, as MTV has pointed out to me, has a shore!
12) Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper - Get Out of My Way / Frenzy: I no longer remember these albums, but they were a staple of college radio in the mid-80s. Mojo Nixon was everywhere. Now he hosts "several radio shows on Sirius Satellite Radio." But tunes like "Burn Down The Malls" and "Stuffin' Martha's Muffin," about MTV VJ Martha Quinn, seemed salient at the time. "I Hate Banks" still rings true. And so does, "Where The Hell's My Money," "Jesus At McDonalds" and "I'm Living With A Three-Foot Anti-Christ."
Butthole Surfers - Rembrandt Pussyhorse: The Butthole Surfers inherently understood that every college radio DJ wanted to say their name on the air and wanted to play their crazy music as well. I still think fondly of their cover of "American Woman," "Perry" and "Creep In The Cellar." They were far more listenable than the naysayers ever gave credit. NAYSAYERS?
10) Metallica - Master Of Puppets: This is the metal album owned by all non-metal-dudes. Even my fab g-friend, Lora, likes to sing along with the title track. Who knew Metallica were so girly?
Slayer - Reign In Blood: Originally an LP that lasted under a half-hour, Reign in Blood was remastered and expanded to a nearly 35 whole minutes, thanks to the addition of a track and a remix of "Criminally Insane." It's considered one of the greatest metal albums of all-time and I'm just glad I graduated high school in time to miss out on the further obsession of my fellow classmates, who loved Slayer enough to get them listed in our yearbook.
8) Beastie Boys - Licensed To Ill: Time is an interesting concept. Slow when we wish it to be fast and fast when we don't pay attention. But more to the point, time was clearly slower when we were younger. For example, this album by the Beastie Boys was released in the Fall of 1986. Nowadays, the amount of time that elapses between the Spring of a given year and the Fall is very minute, but back in 1986, every month of the year had a distinctive flavor. So much that May of that year feels like a different decade than that of October and November. Of course, people older than me will say the same thing about 1975, 1969, 1965, 1954, 1946, 1937, 1933, 1928 and 1912. They are not wrong. It can be proved by science.
The Go-Betweens - Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express: Known by hardcore enthusiasts as "The Robert Vickers Album," Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express received positive reviews since its album title helped push up the word-count for writers who were being paid by the word. (It's also one of the main reasons many critics dislike Pearl Jam). This Aussie group, featuring Vickers, Lindy Morrison, Robert Forster and Grant McLennan, were like the Beatles of Australia. But with newer clothes!
6) Elvis Costello - King of America / Blood & Chocolate: First, Elvis Costello came out with King Of America, which he credited to "The Costello Show" and called himself by his birth name. Then several months later, he released Blood And Chocolate, which sounded like the old days (meaning six-nine years ago), where he billed himself as "Napoleon Dynamite" eighteen years before the cinematic teen romp that swept the nation. Man, has our culture gone down the toilet or what?
Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians - Element of Light, Invisible Hitchcock: OK, Invisible Hitchy is a collection of outtakes, but Element Of Light is a full-blown new album with so many great songs that each CD reissue of the LP added more bonus tracks. If you need to start someplace, this is a nice place to start. Far better than Alfred Hitckcock! So say the over-hypers!
4) Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Kicking Against The Pricks, Your Funeral...My Trial: Nick Cave was slowly emerging as a real player in the indie-rock scene. I'm not sure completely how, since his music has never sounded like anyone else. He doesn't play punk rock. He doesn't write particularly catchy tunes. What he provides is a darkness for the rest of us to safely hide. And girls even thought he was pretty good looking unlike everyone else in college radio. First album here is a collection of covers. The second album was released as two 12-inch EPs, for better sound and to make the record buying experience even cooler than it already was.
Momus - Circus Maximus: While Momus made equally as good records--and was way beyond my awareness in 1986--he started off strong with this obscure collection of tunes about all things Biblical, sung as if he were Donovan having sex with Serge Gainsbourg while cruising the streets of Paris like the lost Scottish bloke he was. We here at Y! Music are contractually obligated to mention Momus whenever possible, which may explain to readers why he makes random appearances at the Hip-Hop Media Training blog. Billy wishes to keep his job as much as I wish to keep mine.
2) Jandek - Telegraph Melts, Follow Your Footsteps: Any year with two Jandek albums is a good one. Arguably the greatest living songwriter, Jandek creates music out of thin air. Unfortunately, he has punctured the mystique of his own legacy and aura by being seen in public.
The Smiths - The Queen is Dead: Such a lovely band. They made just the right amount of records and were always good for a laugh. Any album with the song "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" on it is one worth keeping, which must be why someone keeps issuing "Greatest Hits" albums by these guys with this song on it. Who do you think you're dealing with here? The Doors?