Favorite Albums of My Life: 1983

1. CHINA CRISIS: "WORKING WITH FIRE AND STEEL - Possible Pop Songs Volume 2"

Not only my favorite album of 1983, but my favorite album of all time. This album is the epitome of everything I look for in music: melodic, well produced, original, emotional, well made. This album has been through relationships, break ups, every facet of my life since I was 16 years old. I have listened to it as I have gazed up into the summer skies at night. I have listened to it as I walked the sandy beaches of Waikiki, looking at the countless stars and the city skyline reflecting off of the water. For years, I could listen to the album and discover small nuances that were previously unnoticeable to me. It was probably lumped in with many of the British Electro-Pop albums of the time, but this album stood apart from the rest. It featured Classical instruments like oboe, flute, flugelhorn, grand piano. The production by Mike Howlett is, in my eyes, the finest I have ever heard. I don't know what more I can say about this album, apart from the fact that it is not only my favorite album.... but, it's a part of me.


Most people know Nick Heyward (albeit not by name) as the original vocalist of the quirky, British 80's band, HAIRCUT 100. After the commercial success of Haircut 100's "Pelican West", Nick left to pursue a solo career. (Although Wikipedia has no reference to the matter, I believe I remember seeing something on VH-1's "Bands Reunited" that addressed the fact that Nick had suffered nervous exhaustion and bowed out because he wasn't ready to resume the rigors of Haircut 100's success. That being said, what resulted is nothing shy of a complete work of art.

"North of a Miracle" was produced by legendary producer, Geoff Emerick, and contained a much more mature sound than that found on the previous Haircut 100 work. Dealing with some intensely emotional subject matter (divorce, heartbreak, etc.) and featuring a plethora of horn and string arrangements, this album moves me both musically AND lyrically.

3. YES: "90125"

Many die-hard YES enthusiasts would probably criticize my love of 90125. For many fans, if it didn't feature Steve Howe (guitarist, NOT featured on this release), it wasn't good. This album was definitely a departure from earlier Progressive roots, but it succeeded in conforming to the music of the day AND being extremely progressive, thanks to the immaculate production of Trevor Horn (ABC, The Buggles, Frankie Goes to Hollywood). Trevor Horn had actually been vocalist for YES on their album, DRAMA, after Jon Anderson temporarily departed to pursue solo projects and collaborations with other artists. Following yet another shift in band members, a few of the surviving members had created a group that was to be called "CINEMA", featuring Alan White, Chris Squire, and a talented, yet relatively unknown South African guitarist named Trevor Rabin. After the initial work on the new material, Jon Anderson returned to the fold and YES was once again reborn. Retaining Trevor Horn to produce, now with Jon Anderson once again on vocals, and Trevor Rabin on guitar, a new era in the legendary band had begun.

Although most people are familiar with the hits, "Owner of a Lonely Heart" and "Leave It", it's the deeper material that truly blows me away. The song "Changes" has always had a significance to me, especially during times of heartbreak and loss. Like the two previous albums listed, I can't say a bad thing about this record.


Annabella Lwin was only 13 years old when Malcolm McLaren (manager of the Sex Pistols) discovered her singing in a laundromat. From there she was immediately thrust into the spotlight as the underage temptress fronting this band of hooligans (two of which who had played with Adam & The Ants). Although best known for their hit, "I WANT CANDY", this album is by far my favorite of their repertoire. "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going" was the most mature and, sadly, their final album. (Annabella was only 18 years old when the band threw in the towel, although she did continue on with her own solo career.)

I still find myself amazed at the musicianship on this record. Between the bass playing of Leroy Gorman, the mad drumming of Dave Barbarosa, and the frenzied guitar of the late Matthew Ashman (he passed away several years ago to complications related to Diabetes), there is nary a dull moment on this album. It even pauses for a ballad, which was previously foreign to Bow Wow Wow albums.

Apart from Bread (my first concert, at the tender age of 11), this was my first "real" concert. I still remember the concert, May of 1983, at the Olpin Union Ballroom on the University of Utah campus. I have two vivid memories of this show. First, that guitarist Matthew Ashman played both a Gretsch hollow body guitar AND a Fender Stratocaster. While playing the Fender, he would simply stand and chew his gum (as if he were a cow chewing it's cud), while looking serious at his left hand working the fretboard... however, when he picked up the Gretsch, he was a madman. Rolling on the floor, taking wild stances, showing no mercy, he was a force to be reckoned with. My second memory was of my friend's father who was kind enough to take us. He owned a record label and recording studio in Salt Lake, and was interested in working with the opening act, a local band called '004'. I remember Mr. Simpson standing in the back of the ballroom, wearing a green plaid blazer, with his arms crossed. He showed no emotion. Following the show, he walked up to Kim (his son) and I and simply said, "I noticed that most of their songs were about sex." Yes, Ron... you're right. That poor little Annabella Lwin should NEVER have been subjected to singing such lyrics. But, speaking as a 15 year old boy... I'm glad she did.


On Field Day, Marshall Crenshaw's sophomore effort, he continued down the path started on his successful (self-titled) debut album. Beginning with his hit, "Whenever You're on My Mind", this album was a journey back in time. A journey back to a day when music was innocent.... when songs were melodic.... when lyrics celebrated the innocence of youth.


The Summer of 1983. The sounds of European SynthPop had begun to change my life. Thompson Twins, Yaz, Depeche Mode, Human League.... these were the things that dreams were made of....these were the things I was familiar with. Then along came a new girl, who had moved into my cousin's neighborhood. She was from California, a land that seemed light years ahead of Utah. And for a reason. When my cousin, Chris, asked her who her favorite band was, she immediately stated, Oingo Boingo. Never had I heard a more confident answer. Never had I heard such a bizarre name for a group.

Although Oingo Boingo was the vehicle which carried Danny Elfman from obscurity into the musical spotlight, they started as an extremely quirky band of troubadours. So quirky, in fact, that their earliest televised performance was under the moniker, "The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo", where they performed on the legendary program, THE GONG SHOW. At that point, Danny's brother was the leader of the ensemble (which had to have featured a minimum of 10 people) and Danny simply stayed in the background playing a horn. However, between that time and the early 80's, Danny took charge and created the band that we all fell in love with. Although my cousin's friend had fallen in love with their earlier work (most probably ONLY A LAD), it was GOOD FOR YOUR SOUL that changed MY world. Energetic, quirky, powerful.... GOOD FOR YOUR SOUL is, in my opinion, the quintessential Oingo Boingo album.

Although not the most musically talented group to come out of the early 80's New Wave/Modern Music movement, Tears For Fears were arguably the most passionate. An album that took much of it's thematic material from the problematic childhoods of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, THE HURTING delved into such social issues as child abuse, neglect and depression. As for me, one to never pay much attention to lyrics, I was mesmerized by the wonderful music, under the watchful eye of producers Chris Hughes and Ross Cullum.

The "New Romantic" sub-genre of the New Wave movement may have been spearheaded by bands like Duran Duran, Roxy Music, ABC and the like, but it was mastered by Spandau Ballet. To this day you will still hear the title cut "TRUE" being played all over the world. To me, it is the perfect example of a ballad....romantic, beautiful, lush. It has even been said that the legendary Miles Davis said it was the "perfect Pop song". That, my friends, is a compliment.


The first Depeche Mode album to feature Alan Wilder (who was credited as the real "architect" of the Depeche Mode sound, during their most successful years), this album broadened the horizons of our favorite Synth Pop group. On "CONSTRUCTION TIME AGAIN", Martin Gore's songwriting really began to mature, taking on themes such as the environment ("The Landscape is Changing") and labor ("Pipeline"). It also featured the first American "hit" for the band, "Everything Counts". In addition to these great songs, it even features the first use of an acoustic guitar in their music ("And Then"). There was, in my opinion, a new level of maturity on this album, previously not found in their music.


Although known as "Side Kicks" in America, a fan of this trio would undoubtedly recognize the cover of this classic early 80's album. The album that helped push them into American culture, "Side Kicks" featured the early Thompson Twins hits, "Love on Your Side" and "Lies". And if you weren't hip enough to know those songs, by time 1984 rolled around, you undoubtedly would have heard the romantic song, "If You Were Here", in the closing moments of the John Hughes classic, "16 Candles".


There were only two albums released by the duo, NAKED EYES. This, the self titled (in America, at least... the European release was titled, "BURNING BRIDGES") album by them, was their first. Although the first single (and biggest, for that matter) was a cover of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's classic, "Always Something There to Remind Me", this album featured some of the warmest songwriting to be found in early 80's SynthPop. The album also contained the hit, "Promises, Promises", in addition to some lesser known, but equally good tracks like "When the Lights Go Out" and "Emotions in Motion" (NOT a Billy Squier cover).

12. U2: "WAR"

On WAR, the third release by Ireland's native sons, U2 continued their collaboration with producer Steve Lillywhite to create an album that would help break them in the United States. Featuring classics like "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" (I must point out that I prefer the live version found on "Under a Blood Red Sky" to be FAR superior to the studio version) and "New Year's Day", this album combined depth with an original sound. At the time, U2 may not have been the finest musicians on the planet, but they had one of the most fiery spirits to be found in popular music. That has continued on to this day, nearly 30 years later.


America's premier party band followed up "Roman Gods" with an album that was equally alive and vibrant. Hexbreaker featured the classic, "Right Side of a Good Thing" (okay... "classic" in MY eyes) as well as some other festive ditties, and successfully earned a spot in my Top 20 of 1983.


Like some of the other bands in 1983 (U2, Echo & The Bunnymen, etc.), "SPEAKING IN TONGUES" was the album that pushed America's Post Punk darlings, Talking Heads, into mainstream American culture. The album featured the classic, "Burning Down the House", in addition to some other quirky, yet equally wonderful (if not MORE wonderful) tracks like: "Making Flippy Floppy", "Swamp" and "Naive Melody". If only the entire album was as fantastically awesome as those songs, this baby would rank higher.


Wisconsin's native sons.... Violent Femmes.... the band that changed the face of early-to-mid 80's Alternative music. These guys were Punk in lyric, as well as Punk in spirit.... but they played acoustic instruments. Acoustic guitar... acoustic bass... and even a simple little drum kit. Yes, I could go the rest of my life, die and get to the next realm of being and it would STILL be too soon to EVER hear "Blister in the Sun", but the other tracks on this album? BRING 'EM ON!

All I can say about this era in American music is, thank heavens for SLASH Records. If it weren't for them signing bands like Violent Femmes, The Blasters, Los Lobos, Rank & File and others, this era in American music would be much more bleak.


Those of us who are my age remember the late 70's/early 80's war between East Coast Punk and West Coast Punk. Who was better? It was similar to the whole West Coast/East Coast Rap rivalry of the early 90's, but significantly better music. Just sayin'.

This album was produced by former Doors keyboardist, Ray Manzarek. Ray knew what he was doing when it came to working with Punk bands and when it came to playing a bitchin' organ. With X, he did both. Although this album was significantly mellower than what many would consider "Punk" of the day, it was more. It had depth. It had a variety of sounds. It had a dab of anger and a dab of sarcasm. It also had the vocal harmonies of John Doe and Exene Cervenka. What more could you ask for?


On "BEAUTY STAB", ABC's sophomore effort, the band entirely shifted gears. The image changed and the sound changed. This was to be a continued trend with the band, but in "Beauty Stab", they found a niche that was a little more Rock, a little less Glam. It doesn't mean that they completely abandoned their trademark sound, as it can be found on the cut, "S.O.S." (NOT an ABBA cover). That being said, I loved the direction that this album took. No, I didn't like it as much as it's predecessor (thanks to the immaculate production of Trevor Horn on "Lexicon of Love"), but I loved it nonetheless.


Another album that I can thank my (junior year in high school) girlfriend, Susan, for introducing to me. Suzie had an amazing taste in music, one that was foreign to most Utahns (she hailing from Lodi, California). One of the bands that I had never heard of was Burning Sensations, a group that hailed from the Bay Area. Although the song, "Belly of the Whale" would eventually make it's way into Modern Music radio rotation, this album always dwelt on the verge of obscurity. To my knowledge it has never been released on CD. Perhaps I should look into the digital domain. Either way, if side 2 would have been as solid as side 1, this record would be one of my top five for the year. For me, it still contains some of the most memorable music of the year.


This album is an anomaly to me. It always dwelt on the outer perimeter of my listening pleasures, but was never at the forefront. It wasn't until later on into the 90's that I began to fully appreciate some of the tracks found deeper in the album. And then, when I was researching my favorite albums of 1983, I listened to it again. And was blown away at how good it was from start to finish. Yeah, the whole Scottish bagpipe guitar thing may have been a little kitschy, but it did separate them from other bands of the time. And what remains to this day is an album that maintains a crisp, refreshing sound.

It should also be pointed out that this is the third album on this list to have been produced by Steve Lillywhite. The previous were U2's "WAR" and Marshall Crenshaw's "FIELD DAY". Daggum that guy is good.


I almost feel guilty having this album as low as number 20, so let me explain. First, let me point out that this album features some of my favorite material to ever come out of Echo & The Bunnymen, who were also one of my favorite bands of the 80's. "The Cutter" and "The Back of Love" anyone? So why is it sitting at number 20? Well, it was as simple as this. For me, I made emotional attachments to certain records. This was not one of them. It's odd, really. My younger brother had purchased this album and "Crocodiles", my sister had purchased "Heaven Up Here", I had "Ocean Rain". Stay tuned to 1984 to see where "Ocean Rain" sits, but in the meantime, let me continue my explanation. With "Porcupine", my brother owned the album and I always felt like it was HIS album. My heart and loyalties were with "Ocean Rain". Yes, I enjoyed this album... but it belonged to Rich. So, Rich... not that you are even reading this... but thanks for letting me borrow some of your album to more deeply enrich my life.