Polygram/Chronicles CMJ: THE YEAR IN MUSIC Series [1998]

Bobby Haber, a former college radio programming director, ditched his law school plans and started the College Media Journal (CMJ) newsletter in the basement of his parents' house in 1978. That first issue's top ranked album was by the decidedly un-collegiate rock group, The Who. Regrouping with a new magazine format in 1979 and sporting the very collegiate alternative rocker Elvis Costello on the cover, CMJ continued to evolve all the while keeping its finger on the pulse of what became the alternative rock scene. 
In 1998, to mark the influential and authoritative publication's 20th Anniversary, Polygram's back catalog-focused Chronicles label issued a series of four discs, each commemorating a single year from 1979-1982 in a dozen tracks by artists featured on the covers, the pages and the charts of CMJ. Unique in my CD buying experience, the liner notes began on the front cover of each disc before continuing inside and encapsulated the year in CMJ history. As of this writing, each of the discs is still readily available.
HERC digs five of these songs representing 1979, with his favorite being Blondie's "Heart Of Glass".
This one raises the ante slightly with half the songs ranking among HERC's favorites. In a close showdown between Gary Numan's "Cars" and Devo's "Whip It", HERC picks "Cars" as the best of the lot.
Definitely the weakest of the bunch in HERC's opinion. No contest as to his favorite track: "Antmusic" all the way.
1982 is the single greatest year in pop music history so it makes perfect sense that HERC loves 10 of the 12 songs on this disc. While there is a tight battle for his second favorite song on the album, his most favorite track is definitely the perfect pop of ABC's "The Look Of Love".


  1. I too liked five from 1979. I go with eight on 1980 and on 1981. Only one fails me on 1982 (I never heard of Nick the Stripper).

    In the 90's I subscribed to CMJ after I found it on the newsstand. I like that it included a CD with every issue with 20 to 25 tracks. I have about six or seven years of a run from them. A lot of hit and miss on the disks.

  2. You brought up something I didn't cover in my post, Martin. In 1993, CMJ launched a monthly magazine called CMJ New Music Monthly which came with a CD. It lasted 156 issues before folding in 2009. Subscribers at the time had their subscriptions filled out by the original CMJ publication which was called CMJ New Music Report which also came with a CD. Think of New Music Monthly as the Entertainment Weekly to New Music Report's Billboard like publication; the former was consumer oriented while the latter was all business.

    The print edition of New Music Report lasted another year before becoming an online only publication. Subscribers can download weekly PDF issues and even get a monthly music mixtape to download.

    For me, it is kind of sad to read back issues of both magazines as so many acts were given prime coverage yet never made it past one or two albums. The hype was often misplaced and the editorial stance as to what college music was did not change as fluidly or rapidly as the actual music played on campus radio.

    As for those free CDs, they were definitely more miss than hit and that was by design. Labels were only giving CMJ tracks they could distribute for small promotional consideration so their was a lot of crap. That being said, some good to great stuff slipped through every now and then. I've kept maybe thirty CMJ discs, both Certain Damage (which came with New Music Report) and New Music Monthly discs.

    Thanks for sharing.