When I started compiling this list of albums with a 1985 copyright I never once thought it would become a list so diverse and unruly that I should need two blogs in order to properly service the year. The singles charts are pretty hellish. "We Are The World," a song that believes in compounding tragedy with tragedy, was in competition with Lionel Richie's "Say You, Say Me," Starship's "We Built This City" and Glenn Frey's "You Belong To The City," a song my friend Rob Hauschild has been trying to convince me belongs in the "Jazz-Rock" category. Why not? I never listen to "Jazz Rock" anyhow.
Albums released in 1985 make for an interesting balance. It's as if people who liked music turned off their radios and bought albums instead. Well, sometimes. You'll see that I've peppered this list with plenty of pop entries that I'd rather forget about. But that's what makes the world go 'round--or some useless banality that isn't provably true but sounds nice when you say it in public. In private, don't we all hate each other's tastes?
In all, I've had to whittle down this list from 115 potential candidates to this 25 and the NEXT 25.
Tom Waits--Rain Dogs: Generally considered one of Waits' finer albums, Rain Dogs does feature enough actual songs to go along with Tom's evergrowing weirdness. Keith Richards and a future Rod Stewart cover, "Downtown Train," make it the perfect gift for that special someone who complains whenever you put Tommy's music on.
24) The Fall--This Nation's Saving Grace: It's funny. The Fall have recorded hundreds of albums. Thousands of songs. Most require a highly certified musicologist to tell them apart--or someone with WAY too much times on their hands. In any case, this is one of the ones you keep around because it always shows up on people's favorites lists and it has "My New House," "L.A." and a couple others I used to remember. Who has the time to be revisionist on these guys?
The Jesus And Mary Chain--Psychocandy: I remember when the J&M Chain first appeared, people wondered if they were some kind of joke. They sounded like a band that used a ton of feedback and distortion to hide the fact that they couldn't play. In retrospect, it was a better idea than auto-tune. Feedback and distortion often make music better.
22) "Weird Al" Yankovic--Dare To Be Stupid: There are many here among us who feel that Weird Al is but a joke. But you and I we've been through that and this album ain't half bad.
The Apartments--The Evening Visits...And Stays For Years: If I'm going to put Mr. Mister on this list, then Peter Milton Walsh and his great band from the southern hemisphere goes on it as well. Did you know it's summer down there right now?
20) Mr. Mister--Welcome To The Real World: According to Wikipedia, (I mean, seriously, you think I pay attention to these things?), Mr. Mister had three top 10 hits from this album, including two that hit #1, and the group received several Grammy nominations. I have no actual memory of them.
The Sisters Of Mercy--First, Last And Always: I had to check this one twice. The Sisters of Mercy had been releasing singles and EPs of great power for several years before finally releasing this debut album. It almost makes them seem late to the game. Yet, they were one of those bands that made a cold, mechanical noise when others were trying to find the heartland of American Rock. When in doubt, vote Labour.
18) Prefab Sprout--Steve McQueen / Two Wheels Good: When I was in college, I hated these guys. Mostly, because they looked lame. (As if the guys in the Long Ryders looked cool.) It was the 1980s, no one looked good. Aside from the occasional extra shoulder pads in the production and a tad too much hairspray in the mix, this album in either British or American configuration sounds really sad and distant. Or am I mourning the days before my joints ached?
The Smiths--Meat Is Murder: I'll always prefer the first album and their singles, but who can't love an album that makes you feel bad for eating food? Now you know why I eat candy for breakfast!
16) The Pogues--Rum, Sodomy And Lash: I always liked the idea that Irish drinking songs could be considered "alternative music" by the standards of the 1980s. Does this mean that alcoholics live an "alternative" lifestyle? Think of the implications!
Husker Du--New Day Rising / Flip Your Wig: I read about Husker Du these days and it's as if their albums were always readily available and their tunes were on the radio 24/7. One of the stations that used to play them regularly had such a weak signal that I had to add an extra antenna and pray for an overcast day--and the station was three miles away.
14) The Cure--The Head On The Door: Not their best album, but the one that broke them open among kids who liked to wear their hair funny. Which in the 1980s might seem like an odd distinction, but there really were different definitions of weird. In fact, if you ever saw what passed for normal, you might question the future of humanity. Well, you still might do that anyway.
The Firm--The Firm: Who says there was never such a thing as corporate rock?
12) R.E.M.--Fables Of The Reconstruction: This is where everyone's favorite Byrds cover band (Tom Petty aside) hire Fairport Convention's producer, get murkier with the mix and still have a couple of hits with "Can't Get There From Here" and "Driver 8."
LL Cool J--Radio: Remember when they used to call this music rap and it sounded new and unusual?
10) The Replacements--Tim: The Replacements go to a major label, hire Tommy Ramone to produce, and make a great album that no one cares about except people who write about music for a living. It's a trend that may never end unless average people who buy records (or download MP3s, or whatever) stop making their purchases when drunk.
Dead Kennedys--Frankenchrist: I remember when their record label was taking pre-orders for this album and it was to be called Toilet Training In The House Of Charm. I remember looking at the H.R. Giger poster and thinking it was pretty gross. Then they got in trouble and went to court. It ain't exactly Ulysses or "Howl," but what the heck, who doesn't love controversy?
The Dead Milkmen--Big Lizard In My Backyard: "Bitchin' Camaro" is one of those songs that forced kids to buy the entire album back when you had to buy entire albums to get the one song you wanted. I've never listened to the entire album, but I know an awful lot of people who owned it. If any are still alive, please enlighten me.
6) S.O.D.--Speak English Or Die: Considered at the time to either be a sell-out of metal or punk principles (depending on who you asked) or a brilliant "crossover" between thrash metal and hardcore punk, Stormtroopers Of Death (S.O.D. for the acronym set) amused enough people to temporarily halt Satan's reign of terror among the day's youth.
The Cult--Love: My friend Jerry got stuck doing a blues show on his college radio station. One day, after a solid hour of Blind Lemon Whoever, he decided the Cult could be considered blues. I understand his logic and his pain.
4) Tears For Fears--Songs From The Big Chair: "Shout" and "Everybody Wants to Rule The World" are two songs that made me think long and hard before accepting employment anywhere where I would have no control over the radio.
Slayer--Hell Awaits: In my high school, Slayer were the nearest thing to an organized religion.
2) Mick Jagger--She's The Boss: It sure is a shame that Mick Jagger didn't stick with his solo career. It would have been more entertaining than playing out the string with the Rolling Stones.
Whitney Houston--Whitney Houston: Her music gives me a headache, but seeing her here at number one makes me chuckle. How many terrible singers idolized her histrionic awfulness? Why don't we just get drunk and pretend this never happened?