I have recently been working on some new music which is quiet and reflective. It has been some time since I’ve done anything much musically and in this lockdown year of 2020 it is important to have some form of creative outlet, this is mine. I enjoy repetition and this is the keystone of what I am trying to create, simple, repeating patterns that don’t insist on the listeners attention.
The first track is pretty much complete and it is down below for anybody who would care to give it a listen. There will, eventually, be enough tracks for a full album and I will add them here as they are done, probably.
If I have missed anything obvious please make it known. In 1984 I was 17/18 and had been working for a year, so I had a little money, not a load, but enough to buy a few albums, but many of these I would have listened to after their actual year of release.
62 – The Specials – In The Studio
I listened to this for the first time today. I’d been aware of it but just never got around to actually listening to it other than the two tracks ‘Nelson Mandella’, ‘What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend’ and I’m pretty sure I have heard ‘Racist Friend’ before. Having now finally given it some time I think it will almost certainly grow on me and move up this list at some point in the future.
61 – Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry – History, Mystery and Prophecies
Perry can do little wrong for me, even at his most ridiculous he still manages to produce something I really like. I don’t know this release very well but, as expected, I really like it.
60 – Marillion – Fugazi
Not my favourite Marillion album, I think that will always be their debut, and I haven’t really listened to anything since Fish left. I remember well the opening two tracks, ‘Assassing’ and ‘Punch & Judy’ and had seen them live at the Reading Festival the year before and they played ‘Assassing’ but nothing else from the album I don’t think.
59 – Dead Can Dance – Dead Can Dance
Love Dead Can Dance and was very much into 4AD artists back in 84, although I didn’t have this one and heard it much later. There is something timeless about the music that they create and Lisa Gerrard’s voice is wonderful. This album is much more indie in style than the later albums.
58 – Everything But The Girl – Eden
I’m not sure that any of the tracks from this, their debut album, are very well known, but the laid back, jazzy, almost easy listening sound of the album makes it a very sound start to the success they would later achieve.
57 – Elvis Costello & the Attractions – Goodbye Cruel World
A great songwriter and an album of well crafted songs. No big stand out hits but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as it allows the album to be approached with no pre-conceptions.
56 – John Lennon & Yoko Ono – Milk & Honey
I’ve always thought Lennon’s solo releases were a bit patchy and this, released 4 years after his death, is probably made up of tracks recorded for Double Fantasy and presumably rejected. Still, it is Lennon so it is worth a listen.
55 – Roger Waters – The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking
I remember seeing this in Our Price and very nearly buying it, I can’t remember what I bought instead. Stand out track is probably 5:01AM (The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking Pt 10) which references Yoko Ono who is the previous entry. So that’s a nice coincidence.
54 – Madness – Keep Moving
I think Madness were on the decline somewhat at this point, although their last few recent releases have been excellent and albums such as ‘The Liberty Of Norton Felgate’ are highly recommended. This album contains ‘Michael Caine and ‘Wings of a Dove’, both of which bothered the singles charts.
53 – Gary Numan – Berserker
Numan’s career took a downward path similar to that of Madness and, also similarly, he has released some excellent albums recently. This album was on the downward curve but he hadn’t bottomed out as yet so there are plenty of listenable tracks here.
52 – Eurythmics – 1984
I’ve always been able to appreciate the music of the Eurythnmics, but I can’ say I’ve ever really been a fan. I do like what they did with this George Orwell interpretation, which was tied in with the film I think. The hit from this one was ‘Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four)’ but I think, for me, the extended mix of ‘Julia’ is the stand out track.
51 – Depeche Mode – Some Great Reward
Depeche Mode mostly passed me by at this point and it is more recently that I’ve really bothered giving them a good listen. The singles are the stand out tracks on this I think, ‘People Are People’ and ‘Master And Servant’.
50 – Howard Jones – Human’s Lib
I know this album well as this guy I know, who is called Daniel or Dave, something like that, had a copy and I’m pretty sure I now have it, well I know I have the album but I think it’s his copy. I think this was a commercial high watermark for Jones with the hits ‘What is love?’ and ‘New Song coming from this album.
49 – Thomas Dolby – The Flat Earth
I’m pretty sure Daniel or whatever his name is, had this one as well, it doesn’t appear to have ended up in my collection though. When listening to it today having not done so for decades it surprised me how good it was, though the single, ‘Hyperactive’ does seem to have been tacked on at the end as it doesn’t fit very well with the other tracks.
48 – Black Uhuru – Anthem
I like Black Uhuru (Uhuru is Freedom in Swahili) and have a couple of their earlier albums, but not this one yet. It won a Grammy for best reggae album and with Sly and Robbie as the rhythm section, you know the standard will be high.
47 – Thompson Twins – Into The Gap
I read an interview recently with Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins, he released a single under a pseudonym and it was doing really well until people found out he was involved and it stopped selling. There seems to have been quite a lot of dislike directed at the band but this album contains hit after hit and somebody must have been buying them back in ’84. I saw them live supporting Peter Gabriel and they were pretty good to be honest, even though the crowd wasn’t theirs. This has the tracks ‘Doctor! Doctor!’, ‘You Take Me Up’, ‘Hold Me Now’, and that’s the opening 3 songs, all hits. I think ‘Sister of Mercy’ was a hit as well. Music snobbery is stupid, this is a fine album.
46 – Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Red Hot Chili Peppers
I liked what they were doing at this point in their career, the music had an underground and experimental feel about it as well as that rap/rock/inde/funk crossover melting pot that they seemed to dip into. Later releases lost that I think.
45 – Big Country – Steeltown
I’d seen the band live the year before and that is where I think they really excelled, on the stage, so here is one of the stand out tracks, ‘East of Eden’ as performed on The Tube.
44 – Billy Bragg – Brewing Up with Billy Bragg
Bragg’s delivery may not be to everybody’s taste, and sometimes the subject matter, but he knows how to write a good song. I align with quite a lot of his political views so I’m good with it all.
“When you wake up to the fact that your paper is Tory, just remember there are two sides to every story”
43 – Mike Oldfield – Discovery
For fans of Oldfield’s earlier instrumental works this album doesn’t sit well alongside them, lots of songs, short ones, with singing no less. There is a 12 minute track called ‘The Lake’ which harks back to the old days. A couple of singles were taken from the album, ‘To France’ and ‘Trick of the Light’.
42 – The Alan Parsons Project – Ammonia Avenue
I have never paid any attention to The Alan Parsons Project, I wasn’t even very sure what it was but I saw a couple of albums in a used bargain bin some time back and picked them up, just out of curiosity, this was one of them. I think that had I heard them back in 1984 I would like them, and this, a lot more than I do but it’s still pretty good.
41 – Harold Budd & Brian Eno – The Pearl
I suspect I am doing this album a disservice by not placing it higher. I picked up a copy at a record fair in Rugby for £5 but haven’t listened to it since that day and right now so I know I like it, I know it’s good, but I haven’t lived with it enough yet.
40 – The Psychedelic Furs – Mirror Moves
I like their earlier albums more but there is still a lot to like on this album, I think the single ‘Heaven’ did ok and, apparently, ‘Heartbeat’ was a dance hit, who knew? The cover design was dedicated to Barney Bubbles, who had died the year before.
39 – Prefab Sprout – Swoon
Paddy McAloon writes really interesting songs, certainly more cerebral than much of the fare we were treated to in ’84. This was the bands debut album and less immediate and accessible than their later albums, but excellent still.
38 – Bruce Springsteen – Born in the USA
I have nothing against this album, but at the time I reached saturation point with it and even now I am like a full sponge that needs ringing out. Songs from it played everywhere, I couldn’t get away from them and wouldn’t choose to listen to them again, not yet anyway, even all these years later. Undoubtedly a really good album, hugely popular, well crafted and all that so it has to be included, though I know on many lists it would be top 3.
37 – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – From Her to Eternity
It’s extraordinary to me what came after this album, some of my favourite songs were to follow. This was the debut solo album of Cave after The Birthday Party disbanded and it is a visceral affair, but there is more subtlety which makes it a more effective set of songs.
36 – The Cult – Dreamtime
Dreamtime was released on 10 September 1984, their debut album, originally with a nine-song live album titled Dreamtime Live at the Lyceum, recorded at the Lyceum Theatre in London on 20 May 1984, and also released in the UK with different artwork, this is the one I have. I’ve heard all the criticisms aimed at The Cult, but I like them, so there you go.
35 – Lou Reed – New Sensations
This is his 13th solo album and it is not his worst, nor is it is best, it is a solid Lou Reed release with stand out tracks being ‘I Love You, Suzanne’ and probably ‘My Red Joystick’.
34 – David Bowie – Tonight
The 16th studio album from Bowie, which has one of my favourite album covers, received pretty crappy reviews at the time of release but they were, for the most part, undeserved I think. Opening track ‘Loving the Alien’ is good as is ‘Blue Jean’ and who wouldn’t want a cover of the Beach Boys ‘God Only Knows’ by Bowie?
33 – KUKL – The Eye
Before The Sugarcubes and before Bjork there was KUKL. I only heard this for the first time last year and I love it. So much so that I’m going to put a video with this one. The album received excellent reviews and had I known about it at the time I would have raved about it. I am now on the lookout for a copy of my own.
32 – The Pretenders – Learning To Crawl
I had this one at the time and I do feel like it was a high watermark for the band with tracks like ‘Middle of the Road’, ‘Back on the Chain Gang’, ‘Thin Line Between Love and Hate’ and ‘2000 Miles’.
31 – Leonard Cohen – Various Positions
Well it has ‘Hallelujah’ on it, which has been covered so many times now that, for me, it has completely lost its soul. This is not Cohen’s fault of course, and there are other good songs on it, ‘Dance Me To The End Of Love’ for example.
30 – Sade – Diamond Life
This is a great album that suffers somewhat from appropriation by restaurants and other businesses who would play it as muzak to demonstrate that they, like Sade, had a bit of class. I used to find it annoying.
29 – Holger Czukay – Der Orten Is Rot
Czukay, in case you didn’t know, was a founding member of Can. This album is rather odd at times but I like it a lot.
28 – Carmel – The Drum Is Everything
When this album was released I honestly believed that Carmel were going to be huge, they weren’t, but had moderate success. I think they were just too early, people weren’t ready for it I guess but had they emerged around the time of Amy Winehouse and that whole jazz revival, they would, I’m quite sure, have been at the forefront.
27 – Madonna – Like A Virgin
Do I need to say anything about this one? Probably not.
26 – Van Halen – 1984
Not my favourite Van Halen album to be honest, this being the one where keyboards became prevalent, as evidenced by the hit ‘Jump’, again, not my favourite track from them but overall the album is pretty good and I bought a copy at the time, which I still have, so there we are.
25 – Simple Minds – Sparkle In The Rain
I wasn’t very keen on Simple Minds at the time but listening to them again over the last few years, I came to realise that some kind of music elitism was in play, in my head, they have some great songs, many on this album and I wish I’d given them the attention they deserved at the time.
24 – Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Rattlesnakes
‘Perfect Skin’ was the first thing I heard by Lloyd Cole, as a single, but it also opens this album. It is worth not stopping with track 1, there’s some really good songs on this album.
23 – The Fall – The Wonderful & Frightening World of the Fall
I have the 2016 re-issue of this and for that reason it is where I start looking into more detail at the next choices in this list, it isn’t a good reason, I have lots of the albums already mentioned, nonetheless it is a reason, much like when parents answer a question with ‘Because I said so’.
22 – Laurie Anderson – Mister Heartbreak
This is Anderson’s second album and it contains the track ‘Excellent Birds’, which was produced by Peter Gabriel and a version appeared as a bonus track on his album ‘So’. I thnk the version here is better.
21 – Xmal Deutschland – Tocsin
I was a big fan of the Cocteau Twins so went looking to see who else was on the same record label, 4AD, on the assumption it would be similar music, it was and it wasn’t but I liked it regardless, in fact I still have my copy of this that I bought in 1984, and another of theirs. Most of it is in German, but I don’t care.
20 – Rush – Grace Under Pressure
At the time I bought this album I had just moved to a new town and, essentially, lived in a bedroom with my collection of about 40 records. I didn’t like it very much initially, but as it was played a lot due to limited choices it grew on me and even now when I play it I am reminded of how wrong I was on those initial albums, it was a gradual departure in style for them from the earlier prog-rock days but I still like the songs.
19 – Julian Cope – Fried
I was absolutely mad about Cope for a long time, until 1996 with ‘Interpreter’ being the last album I was really interested in, after that I wasn’t so keen on what he was releasing, but this I liked. It was his first release following the end of ‘The Teardrop Explodes’ and it was very different, although there were some upbeat tracks such as ‘Sunspots’ and ‘Holy Love’ that, with the addition of a horn section, could have passed for Teardrops.
18 – Julian Cope – World Shut Your Mouth
Hot on the heels of ‘Fried’ came this album, which doesn’t contain the hit single of the album title, that was actually on the next album ‘St.Julian’. What it does contain is a series of excellent songs exept one, this being ‘Greatness & Perfection’, which seems to be a Teardrops song that was never used as it could sit on either of their first two albums without seeming out of place. Tracks such as ‘Elegant Chaos’ and ‘Strasbourg’ contain mature writing and there is a darkness that weaves through the majority of tracks.
17 – Siouxsie & the Banshees – Hyaena
I bought this when it was released, and still have it, and it was at least a year before I noticed that Robert Smith of The Cure played on it. It is an incredibly consistent album, good all theway through, with some highlights being ‘Swimming Horses’, Dazzle’ and ‘Bring me the head of the preacher man’.
16 – King Crimson – Three Of A Perfect Pair
This album was the conclusion of a trilogy, begining with ‘Discipline’, followed by ‘Beat’ and concluding with this album. Now that may not be thhe official view, but it is how it has always felt to me. This is the most up to date release from them I have, nothing after 1984. Not sure if that says something about me or the band, but on this, and the two prior releases I really like the guitar work and sound.
15 – Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Welcome To The Pleasuredome
In 1984 this was everywhere and spawned hits such as ‘Relax’, ‘Two Tribes’, ‘Power of Love’ as well as T-shirts. While it’s true they courted controversy and wrung every ounce out of every possible piece of publicity they could get, the album itself is masterfully produced by Trevor Horn and if you haven’t listened to it lately, or ever, give it a spin, you may be surprised.
14 – REM – Reckoning
The first time I became aware of R.E.M was 3 years after this album was released with the album ‘Document’ and the two better known songs from it ‘The One I Love’ and ‘It’s the end of the world as we know it’ (apt at the time of writing) so skipping back to ’84 I listened to this for the first time this year. It’s sometimes difficult to listen to songs produced over 35 years ago and not judge them on todays production techniques and whatever the current zeitgeist in music is, but these stand up incredibly well and it was a pleasure getting to know this album.
13 – The Cure – The Top
I bought this album the week it was released, and still have it. For me, at the time, it was a mixed bag and I seem to recall that the reviews when it was released were not particularly favourable. Nowadays I have a different view, it is a wonderful album with a consistent mood and songs that are both quirky and dark, it is classic cure and yet not quite alinged with what had come before.
Doesn’t Bob look young!
12 – XTC – The Big Express
This is not generally considered as their best album, which it isn’t, however it does still contain some excellent songs, including the single ‘All You Pretty Girls’. Of course the problem with being XTC is being judged against XTC, who created, in ‘Senses Working Overtime’, one of the best pop songs ever written.
11 – Echo And The Bunnymen – Ocean Rain
Due to there being a feud between Julian Cope (Teardrop Explodes) and Ian McCulloch of Echo & the Bunnymen I didn’t really listen to them all that much as I fell firmly on Cope’s side, even though I had absolutely no clue as to what had gone on. As it turns out this was fortuitous as I then was able to hear all these songs for the first time much later and they were new to me, bonus.
10 – Public Image Ltd – This is what you want…this is what you get
I have a great deal of difficulty with the third P.I.L album onwards as the first two were so close to perfect that anything less will always contain some measure of dissapointment for me. There are three brillinat songs on this album, ‘Bad Life’, ‘This is not a love song’ and ‘The order of death’. The other tracks are all fine but those three are the stand outs I think.
The song “The Order of Death” appears in the 1990 science fiction-horror film Hardware and on the soundtrack to the 1999 horror film The Blair Witch Project. It was also featured in the Miami Vice episode “Little Miss Dangerous” and the Mr. Robot episode “eps2.7_init_5.fve”.
9 – This Mortal Coil – It’ll End In Tears
It’ll End in Tears is the first album released by 4AD collective This Mortal Coil, an umbrella title for a loose grouping of guest musicians and vocalists brought together by label boss Ivo Watts-Russell. It features many of the artists on the 4AD roster at the time, including Cocteau Twins, Colourbox, and Dead Can Dance; as well as Howard Devoto.
I had it on cassette, ad may well still have it somewhere but I have sice bought the vinyl version so I’m in no particular hurry to find it. Tim Buckley’s ‘Song to the Siren’ with vocals by Elizabeth Frasier is a stunning track.
8 – Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense
I don’t usually include live albums but this one is so good that I couldn’t leave it out. There was a film that accompanied the album and you can see the whole thing on youtube. It opens with Psycho Killer which was the first song I think I ever heard of theirs, on the Old Grey Whistle Test. I thought it was weird, but cool.
7 – U2 – The Unforgettable Fire
This period was the pinacle of U2’s musical output, along with the Joshua Tree, well according to me it was and their later work I have found to be a little dissapointing. I remember when this was released and how its sound seemed fuller and more crafted that earlier releases which made it more accessible to a wider audience. This was a new production team of Eno and Lanois which was incredibly successful for U2.
6 – Prince and the Revolution – Purple Rain
Technically this is a soundtrack of course, but I’ve always had the feeling that the songs came first and the film was built around them, a film which is terrible by the way. I liked it at the time, mostly because of the songs, but it doesn’t stand the test of time. Ignoring the movie, it is a fantastic collection of songs opeing with Let’s Go Crazy, closing with Purple Rain with each track inbetween being good.
5 – David Sylvian – Brilliant Trees
If this best of was decided by the number of copies of a record that I own then this would be number 1 as I have the original release, a re-issue from a couple of years ago and a CD for the car. I liked Japan as well so it was quite natural for me to move on to his solo work, although I’ve had conversations with a few folk who never really liked it, despite being huge Japan fans, I fail to understand why.
4 – Talk Talk – It’s My Life
I feel like the title track, being so good and popular upon it’s release, overshadowed the rerst of the album somewhat, so if you happen to have never listened to it all the way through, jump mon spotify or your streaming service of choice and give it a go. Mark Hollis was a fantastic writer and, to quote track 2, it is such a shame he is no longer with us.
3 – The Blue Nile – A Walk Across The Rooftops
I’ve been regularly listening to this album since it was first released and am yet to grow bored of it. It is at times quiet and contemplative, at times more upbeat and at all times just full of great songs. Paul Buchanan has such a wonderful voice, so emotive and I have no idea who the bass player is but I love his playing. If you have not taken the time to investigate the Blue Nile catalogue then start with this album and move straight on to ‘Hats’, together they are amazing.
2 – The Cocteau Twins – Treasure
There aren’t many records that, to me, are magical, but this is one of them. Bass player Simon Raymonde alluded to the album being rushed and unfinished, while guitarist Robin Guthrie referred to it as “an abortion” and to the period in which it was made as “arty-farty pre-Raphaelite”. They would know best of course but once an album is released into the world it no longer belongs to the group and the world will make of it what they will. In this case it is may people’s favourite album of theirs. It is ethereal and wonderful and I am questioning myself as to why I haven’t put it at number 1.
1 – The Smiths – The Smiths
And here we are at my number 1 album of 1984, is it controversial? I don’t think so, what else could it possibly be? Now I know that many folk won’t even listen to the Smiths, considering them miserable bastards, a pre-conception that is a shame as there is so much joy in the songs despite the sometimes grumpy Morrisey lyrics. This album, their debut, contains 11 tracks and every single one of them is brilliant, without exception.