Having recently looked back to my favourite ten albums of 1985, thirty years ago, I thought this time I’d go back one year further and take a look through my top ten albums released during 1984…
- Bryan Adams “Reckless”
Hitting the shelves at the tail end of the year, this was Adams’s fourth studio album and really marks his breakthrough into the big time.
The record contains no less than six hit singles, including “Run To You”, “Heaven” and the classic “Summer Of ’69”, although the majority of these weren’t released until 1985.
Great to sing along to, this is a bona-fide classic rock / pop album from start to finish that definitely stands the test of time.
2. Bruce Springsteen “Born In The U.S.A.”
Released during the summer of ’84, “Born In The U.S.A.” was the album that introduced me to Springsteen’s music.
In total there were seven singles released from the record, including feel-good sounding tracks such as “Glory Days”, “Dancing In The Dark” and “Cover Me”.
The title track itself, whilst sounding anthemic, was in fact a look at the negative effects of the Vietnam War and treatment of those who’d fought that war once they returned home to America. Other introspective sounding songs included “I’m On Fire” and “My Hometown”. Still my favourite Springsteen album, this was on cassette (remember them?) that was often to be found in my Walkman that year.
3. Frankie Goes To Hollywood “Welcome To The Pleasuredome”
Now here’s a group that burned very brightly before burning out before long! Although FGTH would release a second studio album with “Liverpool” two years later, it’s their debut that remains a pop classic.
However, how much the band themselves had to do with the record is open to some debate. Certainly producer Trevor Horn is said to have replaced much, if not all, of the band’s instrumental performances with those by session musicians and his production and mixing work is likely the magic ingredient here.
The album contains versions of four hit singles – “Relax” (famously banned by the BBC after comments from DJ Mike Read), “Two Tribes”, “The Power Of Love” and “Welcome To The Pleasure Dome”. I say versions of because there were numerous mixes of these tracks released across various 7″, 12″ and cassette singles at the time, including a sixteen minute version of “Relax” that I seem to recall driving my parents mad with! And do you remember all the “Frankie Says…” t-shirts that seemed to be everywhere?
The album as a whole isn’t consistently brilliant, but with covers of “War” and Springsteen’s “Born To Run” alongside the aforementioned tracks (the title track lasting thirteen minutes) it’s still a really good listen even now.
4. Iron Maiden “Powerslave”
Maiden’s fifth studio album, and my second favourite of those featuring the vocals of Bruce Dickinson during his first spell with the band, “Powerslave” came with an excellent Egyptian-themed cover by regular contributor Derek Riggs.
The record itself contained just eight tracks including one instrumental number, the appropriately named “Losfer Words”. The first two songs, “Aces High” and “2 Minutes To Midnight” were top twenty hit singles, but my personal favourites were to be found on side two – “Back In The Village” (inspired by cult TV series “The Prisoner”), “Powerslave” and the Samuel Taylor Coleridge inspired near-fourteen minute tour-de-force “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner”. Classic British heavy metal.
5. Madonna “Like A Virgin”
Madonna’s second album, released in November ’84, was the one that really made her a household name. A definite step up from her self-titled debut from the previous year, the album received an excellent production job courtesy of Chic man Nile Rodgers.
Madonna’s sexy yet controversial appearance at the MTV’s first VMA show debuted the title track some two months before either single or album were released.
Originally containing nine tracks (“Into The Groove” from the film “Desperately Seeking Susan” was added to the record the following year after its success as a single), there were initially four hit singles – “Like A Virgin”, “Material Girl”, “Angel” and “Dress You Up”.
Although not quite as successful sales-wise as 1987’s “True Blue” this quite brilliant pop record remains, alongside “Like A Prayer”, my joint favourite Madonna album
6. Marillion “Fugazi”
Progressive rock legends Marillion released their second album “Fugazi” in March of this year.
Although for many the highlight of the band’s Fish-led era would be 1985’s concept album “Misplaced Childhood”, there is still much to recommend this album, not least what qualifies as my favourite cover design (by artist Mark Wilkinson), even though it is in truth the weaker of the group’s initial series of albums.
Kicking off with the blistering single “Assassing”, the record contains seven mostly lengthy songs – the shortest by far being the other single “Punch & Judy” – with my personal favourites being the aforementioned “Assassing” together with “Incubus”, “She Chameleon” and “Fugazi”.
7. Nik Kershaw “The Riddle”
Well here’s an album that I bought by mistake! I remember going into a Bristol record shop (I think it was HMV) late in the year to buy the cassette single (otherwise known as a cassingle ) of Kershaw’s hit “The Riddle” and being sold the cassette of the album instead.
Still, it proved to be a lucky accident as this is a great pop record. Further hits followed the title track, with both “Wide Boy” and “Don Quixote” making it into the top ten singles chart. All three are excellent examples of Kershaw’s ability to write brilliantly catchy melodies (Chesney Hawkes’s one and only hit “The One And Only” from 1991 being yet another).
Whilst the final track “Save The Whale” perhaps sees the quality drop, album tracks such as “City Of Angels”, “You Might” and “Wild Horses” further demonstrate just what a great writer and musician Nik Kershaw is.
8. Prince & The Revolution “Purple Rain”
Prince’s sixth album, credited to Prince & The Revolution, was the soundtrack to his film debut – starring as The Kid in the movie “Purple Rain” – and would go on to become his most successful album, selling over 22 million copies to date.
As with most albums that Prince has released (and ignoring the numerous ones that he hasn’t) there were several planned versions containing differing running orders and even versions of songs before the final nine track record was issued.
Of those nine tracks, five would be hit singles – the stark “When Doves Cry”, “Let’s Go Crazy”, Take Me With U”, the epic “Purple Rain” itself and “I Would Die 4 U” – all but one of which would be top ten singles chart hits in the UK.
9. Scorpions “Love At First Sting”
The second Scorpions album that I bought, after 1982’s “Blackout”, “Love At First Sting” saw the band embrace the MTV era with the release of the “First Sting” video EP which featured videos for three songs from the record – “Rock You Like A Hurricane”, “Still Loving You” and “I’m Leaving You” plus “No One Like You” from “Blackout”.
A further three tracks made it onto 7″ – “Big City Nights”, “Bad Boys Running Wild” and “Coming Home” – whilst my favourite album tracks are “Crossfire” and “The Same Thrill”.
Along with music videos featuring scantily clad women, the album had a cover that continued in the tradition of previously suggestive Scorpions covers such as “In Trance”, the controversial “Virgin Killer”, “Animal Magnetism”and “Lovedrive” – but leaving the visuals aside this remains a great 80s hard rock record.
10. Van Halen “1984”
Speaking of scantily clad females, check out the video (not to mention the single sleeve itself) for Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher”, the fourth single to be lifted from the band’s album “1984”.
The band’s most successful record to date, “1984” (which was depicted as “MCMLXXXIV” on the cover) would be the last full-length studio album to feature the line-up of guitarist Eddie Van Halen and drumming brother Alex Van Halen with original vocalist David Lee Roth and bassist Michael Anthony.
As well as the singles – “Panama”, “I’ll Wait” and mega-hit “Jump” were the other three – the synthesizer-heavy platter also contained some less commercial material with the likes of “Girl Gone Bad”, “House Of Pain” and “Drop Dead Legs”,
A perfect combination of Eddie’s riffs and trademark guitar pyrotechnics, underpinned by Alex’s thunderous drums (especially on the aforementioned “Hot For Teacher”) and Anthony’s solid bass playing and topped off with Roth’s flamboyant delivery, this is the last truly great Van Halen album.
Elsewhere in 1984 I attended my very first in a long line of Status Quo concerts on their “End Of The Road” tour. Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister in the UK and Ronald Reagan was nearing the end of his first term of office as President of the USA. In football Liverpool won the old First Division, League Cup and European Cup, with the FA Cup going to Everton. And cinema-wise, top films released included “Ghostbusters”, “Beverly Hills Cop” and “Gremlins”.