Thursday, January 23, 2014

Counting down the Top 82 of '82 - Albums #5 - 1

A breakdown of my favorite albums from my favorite year in pop music

The Golden Age of Wireless
Thomas Dolby
Released: March (EMI)
Produced by: Thomas Dolby
Peak on Billboard 200: 13
Peak in Cashbox: 13
Original Rolling Stone rating: ★★★½

 U.S. charted singles: Hot 100 Rock Dance R&B
 She Blinded Me with Science56349
 Europa and the Pirate Twins6737

 One of Our Submarines

Top 3 Tracks
"Flying North"
"Radio Silence"

Musician magazine supposedly called this album "the best damned synth-pop record ever, period."  If it isn't, it's certainly earned a spot in that discussion.  This album could have been Dolby simply messing around in the studio, experimenting with new sounds and recording techniques, but he wrote such a strong batch of songs here that all that other stuff became secondary.  I've owned at least four different versions of this album over the years and still point upward while yelling "Science!" if anyone should make the mistake of saying the word "science" in my presence (admittedly, it's not one of my better qualities, but I just can't help myself).

Night and Day
Joe Jackson
Released: June (A&M)
Produced by: Joe Jackson and David Kershenbaum
Peak on Billboard 200: 4
Peak in Cashbox: 7
Original Rolling Stone rating: ★★★½

 U.S. charted singles: Hot 100 Rock AC Dance
 Steppin' Out67345
 Breaking Us in Two 18

Top 3 Tracks
"Steppin' Out"
"Another World"

Superb, sophisticated pop music that was perfect for this pseudo-sophisticate.  I fell in love with "Steppin' Out" at first listen and it took me months to figure out who the artist was, so this album wasn't purchased until 1983.  Since then, however, I've never been too far from a copy.  More of a fall/winter album for me than spring/summer, I still listen to this music at least 4 or 5 times a year, imagining that it's me sitting at the piano on the cover.   For me everything clicks - the music, the lyrics, the smooth production, the cover art - it's Jackson's best; nothing else he's done comes close. 

Pelican West
Haircut 100
Released: February (Arista)
Produced by: Bob Sargeant
Peak on Billboard 200: 31
Peak in Cashbox: 52
Original Rolling Stone rating: ★★

 U.S. charted singles: Hot 100 Rock Dance
 Love Plus One37188
 Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)

Top 3 Tracks
"Love Plus One"
"Favorite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)"
"Calling Captain Autumn"

I don't remember much about the summer of 1982 other than I got my driver's license, didn't have a summer job, and went on a very long distance family vacation with the parents (all that was missing was the Wagon Queen Family Truckster and Christie Brinkley).  Whatever I may have done during those hot months, the soundtrack to that summer was Pelican West and Washarama.  This remains a summer album for me, I usually pull out this CD during Spring Break every March and it stays in my vehicle until Labor Day.  Arista promoted it as "pop-funk-rock" while Rolling Stone called it "like XTC without the quirks."  I call it must-hear music anytime between the vernal equinox and autumnal equinox.

The Nightfly
Donald Fagen
Released: October 29 (Warner Bros.)
Produced by: Gary Katz
Peak on Billboard 200: 11
Peak in Cashbox: 11
Original Rolling Stone rating: ★★★½

 U.S. charted singles: Hot 100 Rock AC R&B
 New Frontier70

Top 3 Tracks
"New Frontier"
"Walk Between Raindrops"

Catchy melodies, thick chords, tight harmonies, slick production, and great playing.  One of the first digital recordings I owned even though I had no idea what digital meant in 1982.  I'm by no means an audiophile, but this whole album sounds great and the mix quickly became an industry standard (and one of the few 5.1 DVD Audio discs I own).  Once I saw the video for New Frontier, I had this album within a week. People unfortunate enough to ride in the Markmobile with me were endlessly subjected to it.  This album made me study jazz harmony more than any jazz album.  Every bit as good today as it was '82.

Duran Duran
Released: May 10 (Capitol)
Produced by: Colin Thurston
Peak on Billboard 200: 6
Peak in Cashbox: 6
Original Rolling Stone rating: not reviewed

 U.S. charted singles: Hot 100 RockDance
 Hungry Like The Wolf3136
 Rio 145
 Save a Prayer 16

Top 3 Tracks
"Last Chance on the Stairway"
"Hungry Like the Wolf"

If Pelican West soundtracked my summer of 1982, this album did the same for the rest of '82 into 1983.  At home, I was fascinated by the Nagel album cover and the band's New Romantic fashion.  In the car, I would sing along with the cassette at the top of my lungs.  This is most likely the album on this list that I've heard the most since its release.  Duran Duran is the quintessential eighties band and this is their best effort.  The apotheosis of New Wave albums.

These are my personal top 82 albums released in 1982.  The following criteria was used on a very slippery sliding scale:
  • How often I enjoyed the album at the time of release
  • How often I've enjoyed the album over the past 30+ years
  • Overall quality of the album
Chart information is from the US Billboard charts.  The top tracks for each album are solely my opinion.


  1. Mark, thank you for doing your list. It has been very interesting to see where your tastes from 1982 lies. You almost had a top five of all UK acts - though Donald Fagen saved you from that.

  2. The Top 5 is so gloriously all you - I can't argue with any pick though personally, I still can't hear the appeal of Haircut 100 beyond "Love Plus One" but of course I didn't stumble onto the band in the random happy accidental fashion you did.

    Damnit, Martin, I was gonna point out Mark's not-so-latent anglophilia.

    Bloody good list, Old Bean. What's next on ye olde listing frontier? Another year of albums? Singles? Take a week to rest and recuperate and then let's dive into another pile of index cards, shall we.