Thursday, November 14, 2013

Rolling Stone disagrees with me about 1982

Based on my preferences and memories, I often refer to 1982 as the best year ever for pop music.  I have a few friends that agree with me on that count, but I thought I'd check with my go-to magazine of that era to see where 1982 ranks with them.  Near the end of the '80s, Rolling Stone magazine (issue 565, 16 Nov 1989) compiled their list of the 100 Greatest Albums of the 80's.  Arguably, creating such lists are exercises in futility.  Regardless, I took the RS list and assigned each year points based on a simple formula (album #1 received 100 points, album #2 received 99 points, and so on through #100 receiving 1 point, 5050 total points available).  Using these results, 1982 didn't top the list for that decade.  It's not the first time I've disagreed with folks over at Rolling Stone and I'm sure it won't be the last.  Here are the results:

Number of albums: 18
Points: 1071

Number of albums: 11
Points: 719

Number of albums: 11
Points: 661

Number of albums: 12
Points: 612

Number of albums: 14
Points: 596

Number of albums: 10
Points: 498

Number of albums: 7
Points: 310

Number of albums: 8
Points: 206

Number of albums: 4
Points: 199

Number of albums: 5
Points: 178

The eleven albums selected for the list which were released in 1982 are:

 7 Thriller Michael Jackson  December
 9 Shoot Out the Lights Richard & Linda Thompson June
 16 1999 Prince  October
 31 Avalon Roxy Music  June
 37 Midnight Love Marvin Gaye  October
 38 Imperial Bedroom Elvis Costello  June
 43 Nebraska Bruce Springsteen  September
 59 Computer Games George Clinton  November
 60 The Blue Mask Lou Reed  April
 72 Marshall Crenshaw Marshall Crenshaw  May
 78 Dare The Human League  February

Happily, you can see a definite overall slant towards years from my favorite decade.  Well, except for poor 1981 which can only claim 4% of the albums on the list. 1980 had more albums on the list than '85, '81, and '89 combined. 

If creating lists like these are exercises in futility, what does it mean that I used data from such a list to create my own list?


  1. Excellent post, sir. Contains two of my favorite ingredients: the music of 1982* and math.

    Applied your formula to the Top 100 1980s Albums on and arrived at similar results (in order, high to low with number of albums):

    1980 [17], 1986 [8], 1982 [11], 1989 [10], 1985 [12], 1984 [10], 1987 [11], 1988 [8], 1983 [7], 1981 [6]

    As for your closing statement:
    Let's call it futility with a cherry on top.


  2. Mark, I have always taken that Rolling Stone issue with a grain of salt (yes, I had a copy of it when it came out - and now I have it digitally with Rolling Stone: Cover To Cover (which came out from Bondi Digital Publishing) which goes from the debut in 1967 to May of 2007. I do agree with both you and Herc that 1982 is a big year for music. It is the second largest represented year in my iTunes library with 1255 songs (1983 currently has it beat with 1776).

    Oh, and technically, London Calling had a very late December 1979 release date but RS decided to put it in as a 1980 album. And then to have it at number 1 - I call shenanigans.

    1. Any RS list that doesn't have Bob Dylan in the top spot always gets the benefit of the doubt in my book. For the record, this list also includes the 1979 debut from The Specials, but I get your point. The inclusion of London Calling doesn't bother me much; this list has much bigger problems than that.

      For me, '80s music started in 1978 with The Cars debut album, began to fade around 1985, and ended in 1988 with Paula Abdul's debut.

      For Herc's amusement, I'll apply the formula to other 'Best of '80s' lists and see what I come up with. Stay tuned.