My 100 Favorite Albums from 1984: 10-1

Welcome to the long-awaited Top 10 of My Favorite Albums from 1984. Maybe you were along for the countdown of the first 90 albums or maybe you jumped in today, just in time for the Top 10. Either way, thanks for joining me on the journey. My favorite decade for music runs from 1973-1982 but 1984 was very important musically with the plain and simple fact that I'm still discovering unheard music from that year in spite of all the albums and singles I heard back in 1984. Before we get started with the Top 10, a few shout-outs: All thanks to Mom and Dad for making me; thanks to my lovely wife and our amazing kids for letting me; and a big thanks to all my viewers for getting me, especially Mark, Martin, Adam, Richie, Jeff, Bob, John, Paul, George and Bow-Legged Lou.
Footloose was the soundtrack of Spring 1984. With six Top 40 singles simultaneously battling it out on the charts from February through June, Footloose was one of those albums that you didn't have to make an effort to hear - it was just always on somewhere. The album set a precedent by releasing more than one single at a time with each aimed at a different radio audience so that not only were all the singles popular on the Hot 100, each single also appeared on other charts as well, including R&B, Rock, Dance and Adult Contemporary. This promotional approach would be co-opted by rival label MCA for the release of the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack later in the year. My favorite track on the album depends on whether I'm feeling up or down. When I'm up, I like the title track by Kenny Loggins and when I'm down, it's K-Log to the rescue again with "I'm Free (Heaven Helps The Man)".
Unlike virtually every other live in concert album, Stop Making Sense stands alone as a timeless testament to the fully operational power of the Talking Heads mothership, including the late great Bernie Worrell. Great setlist? Yup. Masterful musicianship? Affirmative. Enthusiastic performances? Oh yeah. Production and recording that puts you near the stage? Most definitely. And as beautiful and perfect as the original nine-song album is, there was an accompanying, equally enthralling film, with twice the songs no less. All the music geeks soon had their stereo VCRs hooked up to their cassette decks for a cassette of the complete concert. Then we did it again when the DVD was released with its sweet digital soundtrack, this time hooking it up to our stand-alone CD recorders or PCs. With its expansive dynamic range, this album is a great way to test or show off a new sound system; if pressed for time, I usually start with "Psycho Killer" and then jump to "Burning Down The House" and finish with "Once In A Lifetime". Given more time, I just let the music play from start to finish.
After the magnificent War album, U2 documented the accompanying tour with an eight-song EP and a full concert video. Somewhere along the way, they decided to go in a different direction musically and brought in Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois to produce their next album, which would become The Unforgettable Fire. Initially attracted to Eno for his work with Talking Heads, Bono and the boys had been listening to New Gold Dream (81/82/83/84) by Simple Minds and told their new producers they wanted that broader, ambient sound. What do you do when one of your favorite bands wants to sound like another of your favorite bands? I quietly giggled with one hand covering my mouth like a Japanese schoolgirl so as not to embarrass my family and bring dishonor and shame to our family name. Of course, I bought The Unforgettable Fire not knowing any of this - it was more like "Here's the new U2 album!" and I was all like "Thank you very much". Saw the band live on this tour with Red Rockers opening for them on March 1, 1985. I have a very particular and personal memory attached to this album that propelled it up into the Top 10 - without said memory and its link to the songs on the album, The Unforgettable Fire would more than likely rest outside the Top 40 on this countdown. Memories mean something, people.
After getting my attention with their 1983 album Fantastic, Wham! got everyone's attention with Make It Big the following year. Monster tracks "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go", "Everything She Wants", "Freedom" and "Careless Whisper" put George Michael and that other guy on the lips and walls and stereos of pop music lovers the world over. The girl I was dating at the time, two years older than me and already in her second year of college, bought a Wham! poster for the wall of the small room she shared with her little sister, also a college student. Soon, her sister added an additional poster of the dynamic duo. (As well as one of Rick Springfield.) After the girls moved out into their own apartment, the posters stayed behind on the wall for a good five years or so before their baby brother moved back home and into their old room. Though Make It Big has been made irrelevant by hits-laden compilations, those four Motown-infused singles still tickle this jealous old guy's fancy.
Learning to Crawl had been a long-time coming. Chrissie and her boys had busted out with a spectacular debut in 1980 and then rushed out a follow-up EP and a decent second album in 1981. Just two days after firing the bassist due to his drug issues in 1982, the guitarist suffered a drug-related death. The two surviving Pretenders grieved by recruiting two ringers for the terrific double-sided single "Back On The Chain Gang" b/w "My City Was Gone" late in 1982. News of the bassist's subsequent overdose came as recording sessions had commenced with a new solidified lineup after another song had been recorded with yet another temporary Pretenders. Learning To Crawl arrived early in 1984 and the opening track immediately kicked things off with a bang - "Middle Of The Road" is urgent, crunchy rock with a sweet little counting lesson slash breakdown at the 2:30 mark. Wisely, they included both cuts from that 1982 single along with two slower tracks "Show Me" and "2000 Miles" sweetening the pot. I went nuts over this album, dubbing it down to the B side of a tape then went back and included my favorite tracks from those first two albums on the A side. Regrettably, I never saw the band live and sadly, Hynde's book painted a picture of her that did not fit the one I had imagined and that's on me but I can still get lost in her vocals on these and other tracks. The album is very well recorded and produced, sounding very good at the ridiculously high bitrates that have since become available over the past five years.

click on album title to listen
Billboard Peak
Billboard Year EndRolling Stone Year End
#album titleartist1984198519841985
9Stop Making SenseTalking Heads41368429
8The Unforgettable FireU212196854
7Make It BigWham!144
6Learning to CrawlPretenders53014

My thoughts on The Works can be found HERE. It is one of the few Queen albums that have continued to grow on me through the past four decades though I continue to be underwhelmed by the incompleteness of the many reissues. (Though that hasn't stopped me from picking them up.) Where are all the single mixes and more importantly the extended remixes? Maybe for the 50th Anniversary series in 2023.
Janice and I went to Streets Of Fire on opening night, after which I asked her to be my girlfriend and she left me in the friend zone which wouldn't have been so bad if she wasn't such a babe. (Think Olivia Munn with a few more beautiful freckles.) But Janice as a friend is better than no Janice at all so we remained friends, enjoying several movies, a couple of dinners, and more than a few record buying trips together before she went away to college out of state. Loved just about everything about Janice this movie, including the all over the place soundtrack. There are two bombastic Jim Steinman cuts; the modern mechanical Fixx track that plays over the credits; two Stevie Nicks soundalikes in "Sorcerer" and "Never Be You"; blues boogie rockers from the Blasters on "One Bad Stud" and "Blue Shadows"; and a near perfect pop song in "I Can Dream About You". The album is sequenced all wrong - it should follow the order in which the songs are heard in the film so that's how I recorded it onto tape. Then CD. As a side note, I'm still confused why the stand-alone VHS tape The Making of Streets Of Fire has yet to be released digitally or why the movie isn't out on US Blu-Ray. There is a cool documentary about the making of the film out there called Rumble on the Lot: Walter Hill's Streets of Fire Revisited that might be worth seeking out if you're a fan of the film. It also includes twelve minutes about the music.
I was initially resistant to purchasing the Born In The U.S.A. album. I was one of the few people who simply did not get Nebraska following The River and didn't want to get burned again. Then I heard the album. Or maybe it was "Dancing In The Dark"? Either way, I wanted in. The CD definitely made this one easier to listen to - I skip the first four tracks and enjoy the journey though "Downbound Train" is a very special favorite song of mine. I can put those eight songs on a loop and listen for hours. Love it. Not so secretly hoping the next project from Bruce's vaults is a Super Deluxe Everything version of Born In The U.S.A. though there's no hurry as I'm still gnawing on The Ties That Bind: The River Collection. Finally got the chance to witness the man and the band live in October 1992. Then my wife got sick and I decided to stay home and take care of our young two kids so she could get better. Then she called her Mom over and ordered me to go. Called my old buddy Doug, who I knew was a Springsteen fan and as luck would have it, he wasn't doing anything that night and off we went. Phenomenal show. And her sickness turned out to mean we were expecting yet another child. Sad story: Years later, my sister (who has a long history of winning call-in radio contests) won two front row tickets for a Springsteen show in Oklahoma and got sick the day of the show and couldn't attend.
The brilliant pinnacle of the David Lee Roth years though at the time we thought they would go on forever. 1984 had the advantage of being released early in the year so it could fester and insinuate itself into your head. Guitar god Eddie unveiled new sounds and textures from his bag of tricks, including - GASP! - the title track synthesizer prelude to the nonsensical yet irresistible smash "Jump". And then there was the swaggering straight-up rock of "Panama"; Alex's thunderous drums and Eddie's dizzying guitar in "Hot For Teacher"; and the Asia-like throb of "I'll Wait". I actually like to listen to the complete album as hi-resolution files from 2015 - it is a half hour well-spent. 1984 is still my favorite Van Halen album and I have fond memories of both "Panama" and "Hot For Teacher" being performed at the school's air guitar contest by members of the swim team, who may or may not have been inebriated.
This choice should be somewhat anti-climatic to longtime Hideaway viewers. Loved the album in 1984 and every year since. Prince's passing in April 2016, nearly nineteen years to the day from my first and only time seeing him perform live, was in no way responsible for making this album my Number One Favorite Album from 1984. Purple Rain might just be my favorite album of the entire decade. But that's another list for another time. Once again, I have issues with the sequencing of the album - it should follow the film and that's how I listen to it. I also would love to hear a loving remaster as well as an expanded edition with other songs from the film, extended remixes, non-album b-sides and various unedited original tracks from earlier incarnations of the album. Those minor quibbles aside, the music still speaks to me all these years later in both old and new ways. Not to play the audiophile card again but Purple Rain, like many other familiar albums, is an absolute revelation in all its 1.5GB hi-res glory. Hope you got yours before he had them pulled from HD Tracks.

click on album title to listen
Billboard Peak
Billboard Year EndRolling Stone Year End
#album titleartist1984198519841985
5The WorksQueen23
4Streets Of Firesoundtrack32
3Born in the U.S.A.Bruce Springsteen128121
21984Van Halen26738
1Purple RainPrince and The Revolution1249127
A week or two of no posts will follow as I tend to some out of town business but I shall return.


  1. Dirk's 10 Favorites From Herc's 100 Favorites!

    10) Welcome To The Pleasuredome - Frankie Goes To Hollywood
    09) Footloose - Soundtrack
    08) Born In The U.S.A. - Bruce Springsteen
    07) Make It Big - Wham!
    06) Beverly Hills Cop - Soundtrack
    05) Love At First Sting - Scorpions
    04) Risky Business - Soundtrack
    03) Purple Rain - Prince and The Revolution
    02) Slide It In - Whitesnake
    01) Madonna - Madonna

    1. I was right there with you until you unleashed your top dog - I don't think Madonna's Madonna wasn't part of my countdown.

    2. So what you're sayin' is you DO, in fact, think "Madonna" was part of your countdown, huh? :) But seriously, folks...

      In the rush of jotting down my list of favorites from your 100 favorites, I saw your Madonna ("Like A Virgin"), and subconsciously included my own Madonna ("Madonna"). And since Madonna's debut peaked in '84, I'll stand by that as Dirk's favorite album of the year, while acknowledging that it's nowhere to be found on Herc's list.

  2. I know these lists are very time-consuming to create, so thanks for your dedication.

    While I'm familiar with most all the singles you've mentioned throughout, I've only heard 36 of the 100 albums that made your list, which leads me to the following three conclusions:

    1) You and I had very different 1984's
    2) 1984 was a singles year, not an albums year
    3) I've got a lot of catching up to do

    Further reading:
    AllMusic Loves 1984
    Billboard: Why 1984 Was Pop Music’s Best Year Ever
    Rolling Stone: 100 Best Singles of 1984: Pop's Greatest Year

    1. I think I made a good case that 1984 was a great year for albums even in the face of overwhelming evidence that it was a phenomenal one for singles, as your helpful links illustrate.

      As we've discussed, you (and others may) consider some of my 1984 albums as 1985 albums and that's cool. The way I see it, you have 64 chances to maybe find a new song to like or even an entire album. In the end, just like the beginning and the middle and all parts in between, it's all about the music.

      I look forward to your own list of 1984 music, whether it be albums, singles or something else entirely.

  3. Herc, I loved the list. This was a powerful year for me, music-wise, and I very much appreciate all of your choices. Mine would differ a little, but that number 1 spot there is no debating. Purple Rain reigns supreme for me as well.

    1. It is evident that 1984 was a major factor in your musical identity just by reading your album reviews. Hoping you, like Sir Dirk and the SRK above, find the time and motivation to compile and publish your own 1984 list.

  4. Go-Go's Talk Show was my favorite that year. Prince's Purple Rain was another. The Pretenders? Top 5, easily. Husker Du's Zen Arcade, too. I'd have to think long and hard about the others... (I actually came across my list for that year a few months back, God knows where I put it.)

    1. At first, I just ignored bands like Hüsker Dü and Minutemen because they were getting critical acclaim and I was a dumb teen who knew what I liked and it was usually the opposite of "critically acclaimed."

      Sadly, it was not until Kurt and Nirvana broke big that I began to explore those critically acclaimed bands and others I had foolishly ignored. Still coming along, educating myself with guidance from others (such as yourself) and expanding my horizons.

      Look forward to you finding your 1984 list once again and publishing it on your site. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with Jeff, click on The Old Grey Cat link on the right.)