Top 100 New Wave Albums, Day 5 #51-60

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Happy Friday everybody! Remember when we lived for “Thirsty Thursday” and the unofficial opening to the weekend. How we always played Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend” or Elvis Costello’s “Welcome to the Working Week” or The Easybeats’ “Friday on My Mind”. Well, time’s have changed, the party train has been parked (it’s a little rusty and needs a bunch of maintenance), so I find the weekend a time for decompression more than anything. In the meantime, let’s continue the countdown in order to get to the halfway point. Today, we are covering albums in the positions 51 through 60.

60. Valley Girl OST

60. Various Artists – Valley Girl Soundtrack (1983). This is the movie that launched Nicholas Cage as a leading man but is better known for its killer new wave line-up. The Plimsouls are seen playing their most famous song, “A Million Miles Away”, as a band at a dance. Josie Cotton’s immortal “Johnny, Are You Queer?”, Modern English’s New Wave love song “I Melt with You”, The Flirts’ fun “Jukebox (Don’t Put Another Dime)”, The Payola$’ haunting “Eyes of a Stranger” and “Love My Way” by the Psychedelic Furs lead the way on this impeccable collection of New Wave hits and should-have-been hits.

59. Frankie Goes to Hollywood - Welcome to the Pleasuredome

59. Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Welcome to the Pleasuredome (1984). Sure, the album is a bit pretentious and over-indulgent, as most double albums are to begin with. But, issuing a double album as the group’s debut? Well, that is over the top. But, when you have such classics as “Relax” and the incomparable “Two Tribes”, then I guess I can give the band a pass.

58. Fine Young Cannibals - The Raw and the Cooked

58. Fine Young Cannibals – The Raw & the Cooked (1988). Fine Young Cannibals was the brainchild of two former members of the English Beat; however, it was singer Roland Gift who stole the show with his young soulful voice full of pain pleading on the mega-hit of 1988, “She Drives Me Crazy”. Unfortunately, FFC never released another album. However, I do recommend their debut album (Fine Young Cannibals, 1985) as another great album to listen to. Unfortunately, they only have two albums in their discography, which is a shame.

57. Yazoo - Upstairs at Eric's

57. Yazoo (aka Yaz) – Upstairs at Eric’s (1982). Right after keyboardist and songwriter Vince Clark left Depeche Mode, he formed Yazoo, also known as Yaz, with husky-voiced Alison Moyet, to record this classic album, along with another, before he disbanded this project to go form the electronic band Erasure. Yaz released a couple of terrific songs with “Don’t Go’ and “Only You”.

56. The Art of Noise - (Who's Afraid Of) The Art of Noise

56. The Art of Noise – (Who’s Afraid of) The Art of Noise (1983). The Art of Noise was the studio vehicle for mega-producer Trevor Horn, who had been a member of the Buggles and Yes for one album. This album is full of studio wizardry that was mind-blowing at the time. However, the US audience seemed to treat The Art of Noise more as a novelty act rather than the actual band they became. Still, The Art of Noise were dancefloor favorites, as “Close (To the Edit)” and “Beat Box (Diversion One)” proved.

55. Buggles - The Age of Plastic

55. Buggles – The Age of Plastic (1979). This album is famous for “Video Killed the Radio Star”. And if this were the only good song on the album, the album would still be considered a landmark. However, the album is full of potential hits. The band members of Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes went on to greater things, with the former becoming one of the greatest producers of the Eighties, and the latter joining the supergroup Asia as a keyboardist.

54. Madness - One Step Beyond

54. Madness – One Step Beyond (1979). Madness was the best of the Twin Tone label-backed ska-revival band. And, “One Step Beyond” was the band’s signature song, an instrumental hyperactive ska song that cracked up the American market for this punked out Jamaican sound of ska and its smooth older brother reggae.

53. The Church - Starfish

53. The Church – Starfish (1988). I once read that this album’s hit single, “Under the Milky Way”, had been voted Australia’s Favorite Song of All-Time, which is quite a statement since the country gave us The Easybeats, AC/DC, The Saints, Midnight Oil and so many others. Still, this album is a great album to relax to.

52. Talk Talk - It's My Life

52. Talk Talk – It’s My Life (1984). I know that most critics love Talk Talk’s next two albums more than this one. But, I love title song. Plus, the rest of the album showed more of a Roxy Music influence than their hyper debut album forecasted. Plus, No Doubt did a respectable, and respectful, cover of that title song.

51. Wall of Voodoo - Call of the West

51. Wall of Voodoo – Call of the West (1982). I saw Wall of Voodoo open for Devo in concert during a live, closed circuit, “3-D” showing, and Wall of Voodoo was outstanding. The album is so much more than the hit “Mexican Radio”. It may be the quirkiest album released during the New Wave era, and Frank Zappa was quite prolific during that time period. However, Wall of Voodoo never lost track of their pop hooks in their songs.

That’s it for this week people! And, we are half-way through the countdown. I wish everyone a safe and exciting weekend. Cheers!

Top 100 New Wave Albums: Day Four, #61-70

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Today is Day Four in my countdown of the Top 100 New Wave Albums of the original era of this terrific music. For me, the era began when I first purchased Cheap Trick’s In Color in the Fall of 1977. And, I have read that the genre began simultaneously with the punk era, since there is relatively no separation between the two related genres. Basically, we can think of New Wave as Punk’s tame little National Honor Society member brother. Distilled down, Punk is about revolution, and New Wave is about fun pop music. Yet, both share DNA, even artists.

With that said, let’s get on with our countdown.

70. M - New York London Paris Munich

70. M – New York – London – Paris – Munich (1979). To start, M is the project of Robin Scott. And, everyone knows his lone hit, “Pop Muzik”, was a number one hit throughout the world, then he disappeared. At least he left behind a pretty interesting album of synth pop music.

69. Flash & the Pan - ST

69. Flash and the Pan – Flash and the Pan (1979). Flash and the Pan were a new wave project of former Easybeats and production/songwriting team of Harry Vanda and George Young, older brother of AC/DC guitar duo Angus and the late Malcolm Young. This album is known for the terrific single “Hey St. Peter.”

68. A Flock of Seagulls - ST

68. A Flock of Seagulls – A Flock of Seagulls (1982). First off, this album is an awesome album mix of new wave pop music and AOR guitars that was putting the band onto rock radio. But, when lead singer Mike Scott gave himself that stupid yet iconic hair style, the band’s luck began to wane. At least this album gave us “I Ran (So Faraway)” and “Space Age Love Song”.

67. Crowded House - ST

67. Crowded House – Crowded House (1986). After the seminal Australian new wave band Split Enz called it a day, Neil Finn started Crowded House. The band’s debut album has all of the pop chops of the Enz without all of that band’s pretentious art band stylings.  This album is the reason Crowded House is the most success rock band in New Zealand history.

66. The Power Station - ST

66. The Power Station – The Power Station (1985). When Duran Duran reached the pinnacle of their success, when the members decided to decompress in 1985 and follow their own muses. Guitarist Andy Taylor and bassist John Taylor hooked up with Chic drummer Tony Thompson and singer Robert Palmer to create a great super band with the aid of producer Bernard Edwards. This album is a fun concoction of Chic funk, Sex Pistols punk and T. Rex glam for a perfect. “Some Like It Hot” is a sexy slice of pop/rock/dance heaven.

65. Split Enz - True Colours

65. Split Enz – True Colours (1980). As Australia’s first successful band not named AC/DC, Split Enz earned a world-wide hit in 1980 with “I Got You” and this album. At least on this album the Enz toned down their Peter Gabriel-inspired quirky dress and focused on their songcraft, which obviously paid big dividends.

64. Haircut One Hundred - Pelican West

64. Haircut One Hundred – Pelican West (1982). Nick Heyward, the creative mind of this band, showed off his songwriting skills immediately on this new wave classic of great pop songs with Caribbean undercurrents while the band sported preppy clothing. After this album, Heyward went on to a critically successful solo career. The band had two hit songs from this album: “Love Plus One,” “Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl),” “Fantastic Day” and “Nobody’s Fool”, all UK Top Ten hits.

63. Buzzcocks - Singles Going Steady

63.  Buzzcocks – Singles Going Steady (1980). Buzzcocks were ground zero for the whole pop punk phenomenon of the Nineties and beyond. And, this album is the perfect introduction to the bands’ music, as it is a compilation of singles from other albums, non-LP singles and B-sides. In any case, it is a classic album.

62. Bram Tchaikovsky - Strange Man Changed Man

62. Bram Tchaikovsky – Strange Man, Changed Man (1979). After Tchaikovsky left The Motors, he started a new band with his name. And, this debut album is a near perfect power pop classic. The album is led by “Girl of My Dreams” and “Lady from the USA”, both odes to some messed-up love affairs between a man and sex dolls. Listen closely to the lyrics.

61. General Public - All the Rage

61. General Public – All the Rage (1985). When The English Beat broke up, Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger started General Public as their new project, while the others went on to form Fine Young Cannibals. General Public’s debut album was the best, spawning two great Top 40 hits that should have been bigger hits than they were. The first, “Tenderness”, went light on the ska and heavy on the pop to create a plea for utopian love, while “General Public” was more of the band’s mission statement. Unfortunately, the duo could not follow up this great album.

Well, sports fans, we are now three-fifths the way through this countdown. I hope its stirring up some memories.

Just a reminder that Record Store Day is coming in mid-April, and the list of special vinyl and cassette releases has been posted on the holiday’s website, http://www.recordstoreday.com. Bowie fans, there are three new vinyl releases scheduled for that day. The list is long and interesting, and, in my humble opinion, lacks any true must-haves. Nonetheless, I am looking forward to the day.

Top 100 New Wave Albums: Day Three, #71-80

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Welcome to Day Three of my self-indulgent countdown of my 100 favorite albums from the original Golden Age of pop/rock/dance music called New Wave. Technically, those years ran from the mid-Seventies to the beginning of Nineties Alternative Nation. And, although most of us were impressionable kids back when this music was popular, New Wave is considered to be a great era for music. In other words, we were lucky to be alive during this time period, although I personally never want to go back to my teenage years without the wisdom I have gained through my “hard knock life.”

Enough of this! Let’s get to the countdown of Day Three of my countdown of the Top 100 New Wave Albums.

80. Midnight Oil - Diesel And Dust

80. Midnight Oil – Diesel and Dust (1988). In the wake of U2’s Joshua Tree, artists were making grandiose statements both lyrically and musically. Australia’s Midnight Oil was primed for such a leap in their music when they released Diesel and Dust, which was all about the plight of Australia’s Aboriginal population. The difference with this band was the lead singer actually entered government work in the climate department by helping the country make a positive impression. This is one band who actually put money where their mouths were.

79. Berlin - Pleasure Victim

79. Berlin – Pleasure Victim (1982). L.A.’s Berlin represented the USA’s entry into synth pop sweepstakes with the release of their debut album, Pleasure Victim. While the music was pure European, the lyrics of female sexual awakening was purely American. The best songs are “Sex (I’m A…)” and “The Metro”.

78. XTC - Drums and Wires

78. XTC – Drums and Wires (1979). Before XTC became known for their take on lush Rubber Soul-like pop music in the mid-Eighties and beyond, they were a new wave band with herky-jerky rhythms ripe for Pogo-ing on the dancefloor. Drums and Wires was their finest album of this stage of their career, with the great “Making Plans for Nigel” being the hit song here.

77. The Undertones - The Undertones

77. The Undertones – The Undertones (1979). Their are two versions of this album. My preference is the re-release of the album because it includes The Undertones’ greatest single “Teenage Kicks”. That song alone is worth the price of admission, but the rest of the album is excellent as well. This album is highly regarded in the UK, where it is often listed at the top, or very near the top, of numerous polls of the greatest albums of the Seventies. Here, The Undertones is a footnote and a cult delight.

76. Men at Work - Business as Usual

76. Men at Work – Business as Usual (1982). This album ruled the American album chart in the second half of 1982, battling John Cougar’s American Fool and Asia’s self-titled debut album for Album of the Year in the States. This is pure pop for the new wave crowd, as the band from down under taught Americans how to have fun again.

75. Katrina & the Waves - Walking on Sunshine

75. Katrina & the Waves – Katrina & the Waves (1985). Group leader and lead singer and songwriter Kimberly Rew had been a fixture around London during the punk days of the Seventies, being in and out of bands quickly until she finally formed Katrina & the Waves in the early-Eighties. Their debut album was full of great songs written from a powerful woman’s point of view, not unlike Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders. But, they became known for a song that is a slice of Power Pop heaven, “Walking on Sunshine”. It’s not anyone’s fault that the band got reduced to one song, which is a shame because this album is terrific.

74. Echo_&_the_Bunnymen_Crocodiles

74. Echo & the Bunnymen – Crocodiles (1980). When Echo & the Bunnymen hopped on the scene, they were being touted as New Wave’s answer to The Doors. And, the similarities are striking if you go looking for them: deep, gloomy lyrics; lower-registered vocals from the singer; dark musical soundscape. Still, the band was not the second coming of The Doors. No, they were the first coming of Echo & the Bunnymen, and they, along with Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Cure, and the other goths brought some much needed darkness to this pop scene.

73. Rick Springfield - Working_class_dog

73. Rick Springfield – Working Class Dog (1981). I got over the fact that Springfield was acting on the soap opera General Hospital when he released this Power Pop gem of an album. Led by the great singles “Jesse’s Girl” and “I’ve Done Everything for You”, Working Class Dog was easily Springfield’s most muscular album and his most consistent.

72. Bananarama - Deep Sea Skiving

72. Bananarama – Deep Sea Skiving (1983). Before Bananarama became New Wave’s own Supremes, they were the female street urchin trio with great songs that sounded as if Motown had nurtured these women. The band did a terrific job of finding the right songs for their debut album, with the highlights being a cover of Paul Weller’s “Dr. Love” and the singles “Shy Boy” and “Na Na, Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)”, a cover of Steam’s 1969 hit.

71. The_Waitresses_-_Wasn't_Tomorrow_Wonderful

71. The Waitresses – Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful? (1982). The Waitresses burst onto MTV with the video of their first single, the sassy “I Know What Boys Like,” the theme song of all the teases of the day. But, that wasn’t the only song this post-punk band from Akron, Ohio had on their debut album. It was a unique album as the band’s songwriter was a man, Chris Butler, who wrote songs from a strong woman’s point-of-view. He then discovered the perfect vehicle for his songs in lead singer Patty Donahue, who possessed just the right amount of sassy-ness necessary to pull of Butler’s songs. It’s a shame that these two creative forces could not have lasted together long, since they also created the eternal New Wave Christmas standard “Christmas Wrapping”, which, unfortunately, is not on this album. This may be THE lost classic album of the era.

That’s a wrap on Day 3! And, I am looking forward to working on this over the next seven days, before my Spring Break hiatus.

Top 100 New Wave Albums: Day Two #81-90

New Wave.2

Even though New Wave is considered to be a singles genre, I believe the reason the genre has so many great songs is that there are a large number of fantastic albums. Plus, many of those albums are now considered classics. When compared to glam or punk, New Wave’s hold upon the late Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers is the high quality of songwriting that was put into the songs. Plus, may of those artists created albums that contained multiple hit songs.

Of course, this genre is not without is share of posers. Yet, overall, there is a large number of quality acts. So, let’s get on with today’s countdown.

90. Bangles - All Over the Place

90. Bangles – All Over the Place (1984). As the most successful band from L.A.’s Paisley Underground scene, the Bangles burst onto the scene with this Beatlesque masterpiece that fully displayed a formidable band with four distinct personalities, songwriting points-of-view and voices that blended together like sweet honey. Their full-length debut album remains their best.

89. Utopia - Utopia

89. Utopia – Utopia (1982). Todd Rundgren’s band of four musicians recording in a total democratic environment released this corker of an album upon an unsuspecting public that was ready for the band’s progression from a art/prog band to an AOR band to a power pop band to a new wave band on this album. And, they made the whole transition seem so effortless. FYI Utopia fans: they are reuniting for a tour this spring.

88. Spandau Ballet - True

88. Spandau Ballet – True (1983). These New Romantics stumbled upon their updated Motown sound simply by chance. But, once they did, they made an album for the ages. No other music the band created in their career ever reached the heights of this one. Plus, the timeless title song is one for the ages.

87. Tubes - The Completion Backward Principle

87. The Tubes – The Completion Backwards Principle (1981). When The Tubes burst on the scene back in 1975, they were something beyond description, almost like a traveling performance art ensemble-cum-Broadway show on tour-via-a-rock-band with a sound that was equal parts punk, art rock and Rocky Horror. But, the band pared down the membership to only musicians, bought matching suits and became a rock band of corporate AOR raiders on this new wave classic. This album was everything that The Tubes had been promising since they debut album.

86. Tracey Ullman - You Broke My Heart in 17 Places

86. Tracey Ullman – You Broke My Heart in 17 Places (1983). Before Tracey Ullman displayed her greatness in her late-Eighties sketch comedy variety show, The Tracey Ullman Show (NOTE: The Simpsons debuted on this show!), on FOX, she dropped this masterpiece ode to the girl group sounds of the Sixties. This whole album is pure fun.

85. The Romantics - The Romantics

85. The Romantics – The Romantics (1980). Detroit’s The Romantics burst on the scene like a modern day Kinks as their debut single “What I Like About You” blasted through radio speakers announcing The Romantics were here. Unfortunately, the band slowly softened their sound in an effort to guess what the radio. But, at least we have this metal-melting album of superhero-proportions.

84. Big Country - The Crossing

84. Big Country – The Crossing (1983). Rolling Stone once described this album as having guitars louder than AC/DC. Well, I wouldn’t have used such hyperbole to describe this album, but the guitars are aggressive and, at times, sound like bagpipes. However you want to describe Big Country, they at least brought the guitar back to new wave.

83. Stray Cats - Built for Speed

83. Stray Cats – Built for Speed (1982). Literally, anything was a go during the New Wave days of the Eighties. So, these New Yorkers who moved across the pond to jolly old England to find an audience ready for some big time retro rockabilly. And, the Stray Cats gave it to them. So, their record company compiled the best cuts from their two UK releases, titled it Built for Speed and brought rockabilly back to the masses in America. “Rock This Town” or “Stray Cat Strut”, which do you prefer? Can’t go wrong with either.

82. Pretty in Pink OST

82. Various Artists – Pretty in Pink Soundtrack (1987). John Hughes tapped into the whole youthful Gen X zeitgeist in his teen films of the Eighties. And, his films’ soundtracks were impeccable. But, Pretty in Pink remains his finest soundtrack statement of Eighties youth angst.

81. Love and Rockets - Love and Rockets

81. Love and Rockets – Love and Rockets (1989). These goth rockers finally got the hit they deserved with the highly sensual “So Alive”. Still, this album, along with The Cure and Depeche Mode, brought the goth scene to the States, and darkness has never been so beautiful as on this album.

Now, we are twenty albums into this countdown, and I have been discovering just how timeless this music is. Long live New Wave!

Top 100 New Wave Albums: Day 1, #91-100

New Wave.7

For my regular readers, you probably have noticed that I have been on something of an Eighties music kick lately. Let’s just say that I have been going through my collection and pulling out albums that I have not listened to in ages. And, when I enjoy something I am doing, I like to go overboard a bit and get hyperfocused on a subject until I totally have ripped through that subject matter as if I were earning a PhD in that particular subject. Not to make light of mental illness, but it is a symptom of being ADHD. As my long-time friends know, I have always have a short attention span; yet, I was never diagnosed until I was in my late thirties. Anyway, I make a very cognizant effort to compensate by remaining organized, writing checklists and other methods to aide me without relying on medication.

Still, the hyperfocused moments tend to yield some fine ideas, though I do wish that I could stretch the hyperfocused moments for longer periods of time so I could write a book or a screenplay. But, for now, let’s get on with the outcome of my latest obsessive behavior. First, I have been totally re-enjoying my fifteen-CD set of Rhino’s Just Can’t Get Enough: New Wave Hits of the ’80s that were released in clusters of five CDs during the years of 1994 and 1995. On each CD, Rhino has placed 15 to 17 songs from the New Wave era from 1978 through the late Eighties. This is the most complete collection of the finest examples of pop/rock songs from the era. However, the set is missing some key artists, such as Elvis Costello and Eurythmics, in addition to key cuts by Duran Duran, among others. Still, overall, this is the finest collection of New Wave songs, giving credence to the belief that this genre was a singles medium. But I would like to put an end to that notion.

Over the next two weeks, I am going to present my Top 100 New Wave Albums from that Golden Era of New Wave music. Yes, I will acknowledge that there are many fine artists out there right now who are part of a loosely-arranged scene of Post-Punk/New Wave revivalists creating something excellent music today that sounds as if the music were from those glory days of the late-Seventies and early-Eighties. Artists such as No Doubt, The Killers, Franz Ferdinand and my beloved DREAMCAR are all of this ilk. But, I am sticking with the music of my youth.

So, over the next ten days of this blog, I invite you to jump into my Wayback Machine as we travel back nearly 40 years ago to put lay to the myth that New Wave was a medium of the 45 rpm single, and that there are some excellent full-length albums ready for your enjoyment. And, as my immortal DJ hero, Casey Kasem, would say, “On with the countdown!”

100. Trio - Trio & Error

100. Trio – Trio & Error (1983). One of the bigger influences on New Wave has been Krautrock from the Seventies, as created by Kraftwerk. But, Germany produced its share of New Wave artists, like Nena, whose “99 Luftballoons” was a Top 5 hit in 1984. But, in 1983, Trio released one of the strangest New Wave albums of stripped down Casio-sounding keyboards with simple melodies of the usual instruments. The big song was “Da, Da, Da I Don’t Love You You Don’t Love Me, Aha, Aha, Aha” which was used in Volkswagen commercials in the Nineties.

99. The Specials - The Specials

99. The Specials – The Specials (1979). By the end of 1978, punk was in its waning days in England. In its place, many ska, that primitive pre-reggae Jamaican sound that was popular in the UK in the Sixties, bands popped up that coupled punk’s energy with ska to bring anger to the masses. And The Specials’ self-titled debut album was at the forefront of this “Twin-Tone” sound, so named for the interracial make-up of these bands.

98. Gang of Four - Entertainment

98. Gang of Four – Entertainment! (1979). The New Wave era was a great moment in time for political bands, such as The Clash. Gang of Four set their political, left-leaning (well, more like Communistic) lyrics to stripped down dance grooves, much like Joy Division, although not as dark. Gang of Four loved to juxtaposition their Communist lyrics with their dance beats, which could sound downright foreign, even satanic, to many of the Reagan Youth with whom I went to high school and college. Gang of Four would have jokingly referred to those more as Hitler Youth. Oh, how I miss a Communist’s sense of humor.

97. a-ha - Hunting High and Low

97. a-ha – Hunting High and Low (1985). This Norwegian trio hit Number One with their huge international hit “Take on Me”, which had a unique live action vs. animation video that should be kept in a time capsule to represent the Eighties. These synth pop pin-up boys remained huge in England and Europe, while they were unable to follow up their one mega-hit here in the States. Still, these guys did create one terrific album.

96. Soft Cell - Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret

96. Soft Cell – Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret (1981). For the better part of a decade, Soft Cell’s huge synth pop hit, “Tainted Love”, set the record for most consecutive weeks in the Hot 100 as the song held on for 40 weeks. The rest of this album was a little left of Prince’s Dirty Mind for the sexual perversion of the lyrics. Still, their album remains one of the finest examples of synth pop of the Eighties.

95. Thompson Twins - Into the Gap

95. Thompson Twins – Into the Gap (1984). First off, Thompson Twins were a trio on this album, as the name came from a popular comic strip in the UK. Second, the band was much larger on their 1982 debut album, but were stripped down to their core trio when they broke big in the States behind their huge hit “Hold Me Now”. Although this album was big in the clubs, the band only had one other hit from the album, the moody soft-dance tune “Doctor Doctor”.

94. Aztec Camera - High Land, Hard Rain

94. Aztec Camera – High Land, Hard Rain (1983). Lead Camera-man Roddy Frame was being compared to such esteemed songwriters as Elvis Costello when this album came out that it had to be difficult navigating a career with that albatross. And while Aztec Camera released several fine albums afterwards, High Land, Hard Rain was the one that stuck with those awaiting the next Graham Parker. Then again, what artist wouldn’t have wanted an album this good? That’s rhetorical.

93. Thomas Dolby - The Golden Age of Wireless

93. Thomas Dolby – The Golden Age of Wireless (1983). Yes, the man is known for “She Blinded Me with Science”, an anthem in Cooper Science at Ball State back in the day. But, Dolby was doing some innovative synthesizer work by taking the lessons of Kraftwerk and applying them to pop music. People may not remember that Dolby also played keys on Foreigner’s 4, which gave the band its momentarily updated sound. He should be remembered for much more than that novelty hit, no matter how awesome it is.

92. The BusBoys - Minimum Wage Rock & Roll

92. The BusBoys – Minimum Wage Rock & Roll (1980). Sadly, it was unique in 1980 that a band of African-Americans playing pure rock & roll music as The BusBoys did was more a statement on the racism of the days more than the talent in this band. They were all about bringing back the fun music of the early Sixties that could have been heard in any frat house back in the day, so think of them as being somewhat similar to The J. Geils Band. Today, they are best known for their contribution to the original Ghostbusters soundtrack.

91. Simple Minds - New Gold Dreams (81-82-83-84)

91. Simple Minds – New Gold Dreams (81-82-83-84) (1983). Glasgow, Scotland’s favorite songs took U2’s sweeping anthems and added some icy synthesizers to complete their panoramic sounds on this and all subsequent albums in the Eighties. This album is the one that broke the band in the States to a cult audience that would make up the base of the fandom which pushed their 1985 Breakfast Club theme song “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”. A cool side note: the version of this album I bought back in the day was a marbled gold-colored vinyl album. It happens to be one of my five favorite vinyl colors.

So, there’s the first ten on my Top 100 New Wave Albums, which means there’s 90 more to go over the next nine weekdays.

A Flock of Seagulls: The Curious Case of the Haircut Instead of the Tunes

a flock of seagulls - a flock of seagulls

It’s almost crazy how society can distill a whole decade’s worth of pop culture into one iconic image. For what reason, the images of the “hippies” at Woodstock are that image of the Sixties, while the Seventies are all bottled up into John Travolta’s white leisure suit from Saturday Night Fever. When we all think of the Nineties, many memories are wrapped up into images from Lollapalooza. But, with the Eighties, when much serious crap was occurring such as Iran-Contra, the Iranian Hostage situation, gang wars, the Crack and AIDS epidemics and Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman’s initial influence upon society, we have wrapped up the whole Eighties in one image: the silly haircut of A Flock of Seagulls lead singer Score. We all know that haircut. Shoot, even Millennials think that haircut must have been worn by everyone (for the record, it was not). Still, for a very short moment, the band, A Flock of Seagulls, were hit with the youth of America.

From the beginning, A Flock of Seagulls never really made much of an inroad in their native UK. However, they did have two videos from their 1982 self-titled debut album ready to run on MTV here in the States. And, that first single, “I Ran”, became the band’s only Top 10 hit song, while their album, a watered-down version of the New Romantic sound popular across the pond, also rose into the Top 10 on the Album Chart. It was a heady time for these four ambitious lads from England. Ironically, in the “I Ran” video, Mike Score did not wear his famous hair design. Instead, he was sporting a somewhat normal punk rock tussled coif. Additionally, that famous hair design was not in sight in the publicity photo on the back of the album cover.

3.2 a flock pub photo

But, when the band’s second single, “Space Age Love Song” was released, the haircut was in the video in all of its glory. And, although the second single was a great slice of pop heaven, for some reason it never hit with radio programmers. So, “Space Age Love Song” stalled in the twenties on Billboard‘s Hot 100 and faded from our memories save for one thing: The Haircut.

By the time the band recorded there follow-up album, the public was in the midst of Michael Jackson mania, a fascination with Duran Duran, a beginning obsession with Prince, a love of a cross-dressing queen in Culture Club and the sophisticated rock music of The Police. Unfortunately, A Flock of Seagulls one great single from that sophomore album, “Wishing (A Photograph of You)” was never really given a chance and quickly fade from our collective memory, which is a shame since that song was by far their best musical statement.

3.2 AFOS in concert

But, before the band’s music faded from our memory leaving us with one of the strangest hair cuts of all time, the band did take part in a major MTV-backed concert that took place in Chicago at old Comiskey Park, during the Summer of 1983. I was working in Wisconsin that summer but could not take time off to go to a New Wave blow-out that marked the beginning of the Synchronicity Tour for The Police. The opening bands that day included a who’s who of early MTV New Wave artists such as Ministry, The Fixx, A Flock of Seagulls and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. It’s as if that haircut took on a life of its own and pushed the band’s music to the sidelines. Unfortunately, the band recorded one more extremely weak album in 1984, then faded from the scene.

Yet, the haircut lives on. It pops up from time to time in documentaries about that crazy decade of plastic and decadence. Maybe if Score had not gone with the crazy hair, their music would be what lives on in our memories. The band had some potential to combine AOR with new wave for a modern sound that would have been successful in the States, as “I Ran” proved. However, A Flock of Seagulls simply ended up as a haircut band with three good songs and one iconic haircut to the name.

Men at Work’s 1982 Classic ‘Business as Usual’

3.1 Men at Work - Business as Usual

In August 1983, I took my younger brother to a much promised concert that he was dying to go see, Men at Work with special guest INXS. It was a MTV-promoted tour with two rising Australian bands that were burning up air play on the 24-7 music video channel. As a matter of fact, Men at Work arguably may have been the first artist to attribute their success between the years of 1982 and 1983 mainly to the popularity of their videos on the young cable-only station. The 21-and-under crowd were taken with Men at Work’s ironic take on The Beatles’ Hard Day’s Night-charm of their music videos that made fun of all-things Australian. The band’s music was tight, simple, with a sing-song quality to it, that was based upon a simplified version of The Police’s reggae-based sound. In order words, Men at Work made perfect new wave pop/rock music for the time period, which much of their debut album sounding even timeless.

Business as Usual was the band’s debut album, and formed the missing link between the decidedly pre-MTV hit albums by Asia and a non-Mellencamp John Cougar and the MTV-driven hit albums by Michael Jackson, The Police, Prince and Bruce Springsteen. Men at Work’s success was driven by the songs and videos for “Who Can It Be Now” and “Down Under”. Plus, Business as Usual was full of new wave pop songs that could have been hits in their own rights. At the time, it was easy to write off the band as pop stars manufactured by the music industry, but you have to remember that MTV had no idea what the were doing at that stage in being part of the industry. The channel was still regarded as an industry rebel, much like Napster and streaming would become in the twenty-first century. Men at Work was simply a sign as to what MTV’s potential was.

3.1 Men at Work - Who Can It Be Now

Basically, Business as Usual was a perfect soft rock-based album that was perfect to initially break to Americans. The band’s lead singer, Colin Hay, was a strong songwriter who had a firm handle on what was a hit song. Additionally, he was of the new wave generation, so many songs had the “herky-jerky” rhythms that characterized New Wave, as well as danceable pop/rock sounds. “Who Can It Be Now” stayed at the #1 position on Billboard’s Hot 100 for the better part of two months, while the album remained at the top of the Album Chart for 15 weeks. Additionally, “Down Under”, a whimsical take on Australian life, also hit the top of the Hot 100 for a couple of weeks. Still, as I said earlier, the album was full of strong songs, as “Be Good Johnny” was released and registered in the Hot 100, it never hit the Top 40.

3.1 Men at Work live

Now, in Australia, this album was released in 1981 with similar artwork but a white background. In the rest of the world, the album had a yellow background and was not released until 1982. So, while Australians were hungry for new material, the rest of the world was not. Unfortunately for the band, a new album, Cargo, was released world-wide after many delays. The songs on Cargo had the exact sunny sound, but the lyrics were now a bit jaded. Plus, in the rest of the world, Business as Usual was still riding high on the charts. Now, the two albums were competing against each other, and since unsurprisingly Cargo was a darker album, fitting for a sophomore album, fans were still turning to the happy-sounding debut. So, instead of Men at Work being commended for their musical and lyrical growth, the band was unintentionally penalized. And, although Cargo was a multi-platinum success, it was a disappointment when compared to the success of debut.

3.1 Men at Work - Down Under

And, of course, the ones who suffered because of this mismanagement of not looking at the big picture, the members of Men at Work became dissatisfied with each other. And, although they gave a very professional performance when I saw them in a partially-filled basketball arena in Indianapolis that late-summer evening in 1983, you could not help but notice the stress among the members of the band, especially when contrasted with the members of their opening act, the up and coming INXS. INXS seemed enthusiastic and hungry for success, while Men at Work seemed jaded. And, this stupid music industry can do that. I guess that’s why so many artists today attempt to maintain their artistic integrity by micromanaging their career and refusing to have a confusing release schedule of their albums.

Men_At_Work_007_c._MOA_(1983).jpg

As I listen to the end of Business as Usual, I do pine for strong songwriting skills exhibited on this album in today’s music. Right now, we are going through a period in which the production values and “beats” are more important than the craftsmanship of a good pop melody. It is remarkable that Colin Hay had such songwriting skills at a young age. Plus, there was nothing like songs about paranoia during the age of Reagan when you had no idea if Ronnie knew the difference between the buttons on his T.V. remote and THE button for the bomb. Remember, when you think, “Who can it be knocking at my door?” Remember just to “tiptoe across the floor.”

Ah! Words to live by.