8/15/16

My 100 Favorite Albums from 1984: 50-41

Welcome back, list lovers. For those of you just joining us, we began counting down My 100 Favorite Albums from 1984 last week, revealing ten albums a day beginning with number 100 on Monday and pausing for the weekend on Friday with number 51. If you missed any of last week's posts - there were five of them - simply click HERE and like the Staple Singers, I'll take you there. We've got five days to get through the Top 50, so what are we waiting for? Number 50!
Even as a Beatles fan, I don't recall harboring any expectations for Julian Lennon's debut album - it just kind of snuck up on me sans hype. Yes, there was an expected physical resemblance and yes, there was sometimes an uncanny similarity between Julian's voice and that of his father. I bought the album, played it a few times, included a few tracks on mixtapes, and then filed it away. Recently pulled it off the Vinyl Wall at the suggestion after a conversation with the soft rock kid about associating albums with seasons - he says Valotte is a winterish album for him. If pressed, I'd say the album reminds me of autumn when the temperatures here at The Hideaway sometimes get down below 60 and I break out the hoodies. Of course, the beauty of the weather here in the desert is that there are only two seasons: six months of Summer from April through September and six months of Autumn from October through March. After a couple of recent spins all the way through, I find I like more of the songs than just the hits. And I like the hits even more now then I did back then, especially "Say You're Wrong". And how tight is Phil Ramone's production? Valotte is on the rise.
Maybe I'm starting to sound like a broken record but McVie's self-titled album is not one I took to back in 1984. Yet now it's an album I consider to be an essential disc from that year. I have always had a soft spot for McVie-penned songs within the context of Fleetwood Mac and free of that dynamic, her songs still shine. Having friends like Clapton and Winwood pitch in is just the icing on this little cupcake of an album. It's a nice listen that I've probably heard more in past five years than the preceding twenty-five and I look forward to hearing it even more.
Whodini first appeared on my radar thanks to none other Thomas Dolby. While flipping through the bin of New Arrivals at Al Bum's one afternoon, I noticed Dolby's name listed as both the songwriter and producer on a promo twelve-inch single by an artist calling himself Whodini. The record was only ninety-nine cents so I took a chance and really liked what I heard. It was a more electro-style sound, featuring somewhat less in your face rapping than Run-D.M.C. In the summer of 1983, I picked up Whodini's debut album which includes both that earlier single "Magic's Wand" and another twelve-inch I had picked up by the rap duo and their DJ "Haunted House Of Rock" even though Dolby was not involved in the latter. I was unaware Whodini even had a second album out until hearing the slamming track "Five Minutes Of Funk" in Loco Records around Halloween 1984. Escape came home with me that night and revealed other masterful hip-hop tracks like "Freaks Come Out At Night", "Big Mouth" and "Friends"
When I was in high school, there were two heavy metal artists who battled for ultimate supremacy in the school's hallways and student parking lot. In one corner was former Black Sabbath vocalist Ozzy Osbourne and gone too soon guitar god Randy Rhoads and in the other corner were Iron Maiden and their iconic mascot, Eddie. Both bands' music were heard loudly in the parking lot before and after school often on the crappy sound systems that came with the 10 to 20-year-old cars everyone was driving. (In 1984, I bought the Bug, a 1964 Volkswagen Beetle that had been fully tricked out by the previous owner, including the personalized license plate which read 2COO4U.) The real action was in the hallways as fans of both bands wore their concert tees with fierce almost aggressive pride. Ozzy fans seemed to have the edge based on the sheer number of tees emblazoned with his image I saw daily - he and his band had appeared in concert three times from 1981-1984 at the Tucson Convention Center, located just one and a half miles southwest of the school. (In that same period of time, Maiden had appeared just once. And you have to remember that back in 1984, 90% of concert tees were actually purchased at the show, whether officially in the venue or illegally in the parking lot with the rest being sold by mail order or at the local swap meet. It's not like today where you can pick up retro concert tees at Target or Old Navy or eBay.) I liked both bands though I could not have cared less about their imagery, having since seen both acts multiple times and never once being tempted to buy a shirt; Powerslave is ranked number 47 on this countdown solely on the strength of "2 Minutes To Midnight", one of the premier metal songs of all-time.
I just noticed this post started off with a pop record, then went into an adult contemporary album, then a hip-hop album and a metal album. And now, here we are with The Smiths, who are none of the above. I was not a fan of the band in 1984 though after hearing the wonderful reverb-drenched and droning "How Soon Is Now?" a few times in 1985 on other people's mixtapes, I sought out the twelve-inch single. It was my only Smiths record or album until 1993 when my good friend John Book sent me a promo of Hatful Of Hollow on CD. I immediately popped it in the CD player and programmed it to replay track five "How Soon Is Now?" on repeat. Then I took it out and placed it on the shelf where it sat until 1998 or 1999 when I started watching Charmed with my wife and recognized the show's theme song as a cover version of "How Soon Is Now?" which ignited my obsession with the track all over again and Hatful Of Hollow was listened to in its entirety which led to the acquisition of the entire Smiths catalog and my ever-loving fandom. 

click on album title to listen
Billboard Peak
Billboard Year EndRolling Stone Year End
#album titleartist1984198519841985
50ValotteJulian Lennon173036
49Christine McVieChristine McVie26
48EscapeWhodini3532
47PowerslaveIron Maiden21
46Hatful of HollowThe Smiths

According to the definitive research on the topic, 1984 was The Golden Year of Soundtracks - at least in the years from 1976-1985. Beverly Hills Cop is the fifth soundtrack album to appear here on the countdown thus far and *SPOILER ALERT* there are several more to come. One of the not-so-secret secrets to the success of this album was the number of broadly appealing songs on it - half the songs were released as singles and they charted variously traversing the Hot 100, R&B, Rock, Club, Adult Contemporary and Maxi-Singles charts. The album was also one of the first soundtrack albums to include both songs heard and not heard in the film. There was an easy-to-miss disclaimer to that effect on the back of the album cover but that wasn't the only surrounding controversy; upon the album's release, Motown promptly sued because Rick James, under exclusive Motown contract at the time, appeared on the album against their wishes. His track "B H C (I Can't Stop)" was originally slated to appear in the film's strip club scene though it was replaced in the film but not on the album by Vanity 6's more appropriate "Nasty Girl". The album was hastily reissued with the contentious track removed and in its place was "Emergency" by Rockie Robbins though original pressings with the James track are readily available. Another interesting bit of trivia about the soundtrack is the inclusion of a song originally written for a specific scene in another movie - Streets Of Fire. After not making the cut for that soundtrack, the Pointer Sisters recorded "Neutron Dance" for their 1983 Break Out album and was later picked for inclusion on the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack and though the producers had second thoughts about its place in the film, it stayed. Though I do not recall the music videos from MTV, that was the first thing my wife mentioned when I asked her about the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack: "Those videos were on all the time." Her favorite song on the album is the instrumental theme "Axel F", a Number One hit on three of the five Billboard charts it appeared on.
Shortly after the compact disc came to market, the first CD head unit for cars appeared in 1984; the same year that the very first car audio national finals were held at the Astrodome. They called it Thunder On Wheels. I did not attend. But I had attended a more local preliminary event and fallen in love with big loud car stereos but my love of loud music goes back much further. My Dad was a "mobile audio enthusiast" as was my Uncle Sam but basically they loved really loud music within the confines of their cars. Because of my Dad, I was there at what is considered the birth of car stereo competition at Car Wars in Champaign, IL in 1980. I vaguely remember hearing lots of AC/DC's Back In Black album and Queen's The Game at that first battle but it could be a blur from other events and informal parking lot meets we attended. So flashing back forward through time, I attended that event up in Tempe in 1984 and more than a few of the vehicles were playing the same piece of music, I wouldn't call it a song, a track that sounded as if it had been written expressly to test the limits of a car stereo system with an amazing dynamic range of sounds. I finally asked one of the guys what he was playing and he held up a copy of the Time Warp CD booklet he pulled out of his CD wallet. (Remember those?) In addition to the stereo demonstration track that had caught my fancy ("Ascent" by Don Dorsey), the rest of the disc is full of sci-fi movie and TV themes (Star Wars, Star Trek, Alien and Battlestar Galactica) and a couple of classical music pieces heard in 2001:A Space Odyssey. It is a state of the art full digital recording that still holds up today as evidenced by a recent joyride in The Blueberry. I ended up buying another dozen Erich Kunzel discs over the next twenty years including other sci-fi themed ones like Star Tracks, Star Tracks II, and Fantastic Journey. Still love hearing "Ascent" straight up loud on the home system, through headphones (it was a revelation through the open back Grados) or in my own little piece of rolling thunder, The Blueberry.
Being a numbers guy as well as a music fan, I often thought it would be cool to create a database of concerts I attended and then incorporate chart data to gauge where the bands were on the sliding popularity scale at the time of the show; whether they were rising, cresting or running on fumes. I have created that concert ticket database and am filling it in with other shows I attended but lack a stub for through conversations with the friends and family I attended those shows with. As for the chart info, that hasn't happened yet but there is one unverified entry I put in from memory. We saw Hall & Oates on December 11, 1984, at McKale Center. On our way to the show that night, the DJ said they had the Number One song in the land with "Out Of Touch" so right now they are the only band I ever saw in concert who simultaneously topped the Hot 100. Though I consider myself a fairly large Hall & Oates fan, Big Bam Boom was a letdown for me. My girlfriend bought the album so I didn't (until later) and then she bought a couple of the twelve-inch singles and I bought one later in 1985. The album has grown on me through the years and many listenings later, here it is all the way up at number 43.
After being off the grid for a long time, Tina Turner quietly and unexpectedly emerged from her hiatus by teaming up with British Electric Foundation for "Ball Of Confusion" which I heard on Virgin Vinyl one Sunday night in 1983. At the time, the DJ was uncertain if an album was forthcoming from Turner or if it was just a one-off single. A few months later, I heard Tina's cover of "Let's Stay Together" from the same production team on the same program. Only this time there was news. A Tina Turner album was forthcoming and the jock imagined that it would modern takes on soul classics, a theory probably based on the two singles. The album was released the same week as I graduated high school as was the first official single "What's Love Got To Do With It" which I didn't hear for some time because it wasn't getting airplay on my rock stations. But it was seemingly everywhere over that Summer and I eventually bought Private Dancer about the time school started that Fall and it quickly became my chillout album of choice. Also, the chicks dug it. The singles kept peeling off the album and Tina! was back at the age of 45.  
The Ghostbusters soundtrack album is not nearly as hits heavy as the Beverly Hills Cop album though the first three tracks struck a deep, deep chord with me. Ray Parker Jr.'s title theme was insanely popular and apparently borrowed heavily from Huey Lewis's similarly pumping "I Want A New Drug" though that legal matter was settled out of court. The album's second track is The Bus Boys second most popular song - the first one is "The Boys Are Back In Town" from the film 48 Hrs. - the rockin' & rollickin' "Cleanin' Up The Town" which never fails to bring a smile to my face when it comes on. The third track is from the Alessi Brothers, a winning track titled "Savin' The Day" that led me to acquire all of the Alessi twins' older A&M albums; there is some good stuff to be found in them grooves. Keeping the twins theme going, the fourth track on the Ghostbusters album is an older Thompson Twins track: "In The Name Of Love" but after the first three tracks, I'm really not interested in the others. They provide all the soundtrack that I need.

click on album title to listen
Billboard Peak
Billboard Year EndRolling Stone Year End
#album titleartist1984198519841985
45Beverly Hills Copsoundtrack1711
44Time WarpErich Kunzel & the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra
43Big Bam BoomHall & Oates51786
42Private DancerTina Turner339596
41Ghostbusterssoundtrack66927

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