There was an article in the press this week talking about the fact that it was thirty years ago this week that “Live Aid” took place in London and Philadelphia. Not only that, but the event itself took place thirty years (give or take a few months) after the birth or rock ‘n’ roll – if you accept the popular view that rock ‘n’ roll began with Elvis Presley’s first trip to Sun Studios.
I suppose the scary thing is that in many ways “Live Aid” seems fresh in the memory – not so much like it was yesterday, but certainly not thirty years ago. By contrast, I am certain that when I sat down to watch the event unfold on the BBC the rock ‘n’ roll recordings of the 1950s – indeed most stuff from the 1960s and even early 1970s – seemed almost prehistoric to me! Bizarre, then, that my record collection now contains recordings from way back in the 1920s through to today.
Anyway, I have digressed somewhat. Today I am looking back to the year of “Live Aid” – 1985 – and my top ten albums released during that twelve months. So, listed alphabetically, here we go…
1. Dire Straits “Brothers In Arms”
Dire Straits’ fifth studio album, and without doubt one of the most popular releases of the CD era, with over 30 million copies sold.
Coming three years after the band’s previous studio album, it was unusual in that the track lengths on the CD and cassette versions were longer than those on the vinyl LP due to the limitations of available space on the vinyl.
The album itself included five UK top thirty hit singles – “Money For Nothing”, “So Far Away”, “Walk Of Life”, “Your Latest Trick” and “Brothers In Arms” – as well as the excellent “Ride Across The River” amongst the remaining four tracks.
An excellent album, “Brothers In Arms” still sounds as good today as it did during the summer of ’85.
2. Heart “Heart”
Although this self-titled album was the band’s eighth studio release, “Heart” was their first number to reach number one in the US. This was Heart’s most commercially successful album and saw the band receive a makeover for photo shoots and the music videos to accompany the singles – four of which were US top tens – “What About Love”, “Never”, “These Dreams” and “Nothin’ At All”.
There were two different mixes of the tracks “Nothin’ At All” and “Never” and bizarrely different pressings of the record could contain any combination of them! Regardless, this is a great poppy rock record chock full of great tunes and deservedly brought the band to wider attention.
3. Kate Bush “Hounds Of Love”
Released three years after previous album “The Dreaming”, Kate Bush’s fifth album remains her most successful album (and one of her best-loved).
Preceded by the hit single “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)”, the album was released in August and went on to spawn a further three top 40 hit singles in “Cloudbusting”, “Hounds Of Love” and “The Big Sky”.
The real appeal of this record for me, however, lies in the second half with the seven section piece “The Ninth Wave” which is utterly brilliant and haunting even now. A fantastic piece of work.
4. Marillion “Misplaced Childhood”
Progressive rock band Marillion hit their commercial (though certainly not artistic) peak in 1985 with third album “Misplaced Childhood” and the hit singles from it – “Lavender”, “Heart Of Lothian” and the hugely popular “Kayleigh”.
A concept album, the vinyl record contained two sides of continuous music – although the individual songs contained within them are all listed separately. Aside from the singles the album contained two excellent lengthy multi-section numbers in “Bitter Suite” and “Blind Curve”.
It’s a toss-up between this one and “Script For A Jester’s Tear” as to which of the Fish era albums in prefer. Held up against the Steve Hogarth era albums as well would make things much harder! Regardless, “Misplaced Childhood” is an excellent album.
5. Phil Collins “No Jacket Required”
Perhaps there was something about 1985 that made artists particularly successful. This, Collins’s third studio album, was certainly his best-selling in the US – selling three times as many copies as the follow-up “…But Seriously” (although the latter was actually more successful in the UK and elsewhere).
Amongst the album’s ten tracks can be found five US hit singles (three Top 20 in the UK) including “Take Me Home”, ballad “One More Night” and the brass infused “Sussudio”.
Other standout songs on this, my favourite Collins solo album, are “Long Long Way To Go”, “Doesn’t Anybody Stay Together Anymore” and “Inside Out”.
6. The Power Station “The Power Station”
The Power Station were a relatively short-lived supergroup, put together in late 1984, by Duran Duran members Andy Taylor (guitars) and John Taylor (bass) with Chic drummer Tony Thompson. The trio originally planned to make an album with a revolving cast of vocalists but in the end decided to utilise the talents of Robert Palmer for the whole record.
With a harder rock sound than either Duran Duran or Chic, the group quickly found success with three hit singles released from the album – “Some Like It Hot”, a cover of T-Rex’s “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” and “Communication”.
Things didn’t last long however as, deciding to take advantage of the band’s sudden popularity, Palmer decided to record a new solo record and bailed out of the band before they hit the road, being replaced by Michael Des Barres before the band folded later in the year.
7. Rush “Power Windows”
“Power Windows” was Rush’s eleventh studio album and even managed a minor hit single in the UK with lead track “The Big Money”.
With the introduction of more synthesizers into the band’s sound than heard previously this gave the finished record a much more widescreen sound. This feels particularly effective on tracks such as “Manhattan Project” which tackles the subject of the US development of the atom bomb and it’s consequences.
Other songs looked at themes of escaping suburbia (“Middletown Dreams”), nationalism (“Territories”) and the superficiality of mainstream music (“Grand Designs”). My first, and still favourite, Rush album.
8. Saxon “Innocence Is No Excuse”
Far more polished in sound than the band’s previous records, and recorded at a time when the band were aiming for a more commercial sound, this would prove to be a divisive album amongst the band’s fan base.
Three singles were released – “Back On The Streets”, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Gypsy” and “Rockin’ Again” – whilst the album also contained the excellent “Devil Rides Out” and “Give It Everything You’ve Got” as well as the slower paced “Broken Heroes” which laments the fate of so many young men sent off to war.
A really good album that holds up better than some of Saxon’s other late 80s work and with some of their best album cover design too.
9. Simple Minds “Once Upon A Time”
“Once Upon A Time” followed Simple Minds’ huge success with “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” from the soundtrack of “The Breakfast Club” in early 1985 – a track that they had to be persuaded to record by their record label! It seems that as a result the band decided not to include it on the album – which as with others here was the peak of their commercial success.
Four Top 20 singles were on the album, though. “Alive And Kicking”, “Sanctify Yourself”, “All The Things She Said” and “Ghostdancing”, as well as excellent album tracks like “I Wish You Were Here” and “Oh Jungleland”.
10. Various Artists “Miami Vice”
The US crime drama TV series “Miami Vice”, starring Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas as Crockett and Tubbs was massively successful in the late 80s from its debut in September 1984.
Part of the show’s unique appeal was the use of lots of current popular music alongside compositions by Jan Hammer as well as the attention to detail and iconic visual style.
This compilation album brought together five instrumental tracks from Jan Hammer, including the the theme tune, as well as songs that had been used in the show like Glenn Frey’s “Smuggler’s Blues” and “In The Air Tonight” from Phil Collins.
Perhaps not a brilliant compilation album, but it makes my top ten partly by virtue of my love of the show itself. Incidentally, in addition some of the artists whose albums appear on this list either had music featured in the show (Dire Straits, Kate Bush) or had music featured and appeared on the show themselves too (Phil Collins, The Power Station).
OK, so “Live Aid” aside, what else was happening in 1985? Well, Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister, Everton won the old First Division with the FA Cup going to Manchester United, and top films released included “Back To The Future”, “Rambo : First Blood Part II” and “The Goonies”.