Top 40 – A Retrospective – 1986

1986 — now I’m beginning to enter years where I was actually, truly beginning to become conscious of the music around me, and forming my own opinions. So many of these below represent albums that I didn’t discover after the fact, but indeed, have been listening to for nearly 30 years.

Elvis Costello – King of America / Blood & Chocolate

This album, and its follow up, Blood & Chocolate, have some of his most transparent, personal lyrics, and you can tell that he is both angry and heartbroken.

Depeche Mode – Black Celebration

Some may say this is a transitional album for Depeche Mode — it doesn’t have those radio staples like Blaspemous Rumours or People are People… but it’s dark and gloomy and wonderful.

Tom Cochrane & Red Rider

This is the first I head of Red Rider — later I’d go back and discover things like Lunatic Fringe, which I thought was better than this stuff — but I recall owning this album and loving it.

Peter Gabriel – SO

This is the album that made Peter Gabriel huge, and maybe that’s when things started to go to his head. It would be many years now between albums, instead of one every couple years. This album contains perfect pop songs, darkness, and even experimental music with Laurie Anderson. There are so many songs I could pick to post here, and I would likely pick the wrong one. But here, have this one.

Genesis – Invisible Touch

I just listened to this album the other day — I recently inherited some more records, you see, and I was excitedly re-living some past memories. This album got a lot of hype for being a great pop album — the title track was huge, as was Land of Confusion, whose video featured puppets from a satirical UK show called Spitting Image, which lampooned politicians and celebrities of the day — particularly then president of the United States Ronald Reagan. But there are other moments on the album — Domino, the sprawling and thematic 10 minute piece on side two — that still show a band looking to entertain larger themes. Here’s a favourite of mine.

The Smiths – The Queen is Dead

OH, good god, where do I start with this album? It’s actually been named in some circles as the greatest album of all time. I wouldn’t go that far — but only because my tastes are too broad to ever pick just ONE greatest album. But this certainly makes my 10 desert island records list. It touches on so many emotions, so many flavours. I can’t pick one song for this — so here’s I Know It’s Over and Bigmouth Strikes Again, both of which I used to play.

Paul Simon – Graceland

Did you know that Paul Simon was put on a United Nations blacklist because of this album? You have to remember that this was still during the time of Apartheid in South Africa, and Paul Simon had technically broken the cultural embargo against South Africa by employing local musicians for this album. He actually took a lot of shit from his fellow musicians (Billy Bragg one of them, actually) about making this album.

It’s an amazing album, by the way, I just enjoy the history of things, too, and thought that might interest some of you. Musically — just listen to the bass on these songs… amazing.

and now… Chevy Chase…

Billy Bragg – Talking with the Taxman about Poetry

You may have never heard of Billy Bragg, darlings, and that’s a damn shame. Sometimes folky, other times sounding like a one man version of The Clash, Billy Bragg is a hell of a songwriter, with a large catalogue for you to explore. I didn’t discover him until I was an adult, and am still going through his extensive catalogue. Here’s “Levi Stubbs’ Tears” and if you’re a fan of Paul Weller or Joe Strummer, you’ll love this.

Timbuk 3 – Greetings from Timbuk3

This is another one-hit-wonder band that never should have been. Pat MacDonald is an amazing songwriter from Wisconsin and this band got alot of MTV play with their hit “The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades” but the irony of their music was lost on the mainstream public (the great unwashed masses, as it were) and they were forgotten. Which is, like I say, really too bad, because not only is this album fan-bloody-tastic, but its follow up, Eden Alley is also amazing. They had a couple more albums that just don’t hold the same place in my heart, but Pat MacDonald is still active in the bar scene in Wisconsin, and actually put out an album of Depeche Mode covers that I have still yet to be able to put my hands on called PM does DM.

Here’s all I’ve been able to find re: DM — a live recording of him doing “Never Let Me Down Again that gives me chills.


Would you believe that Ferris Bueller’s Day Off never had a soundtrack album? Shame.

It had a great instrumental version of the Dream Academy’s cover of Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want by The Smiths as well as this doozy that you’ll never forget.

Chicka chickaaaaah


3 responses to “Top 40 – A Retrospective – 1986

  1. OK, that is weird about Ferris Bueller.
    I think Graceland (the song) is a nearly perfect song. I absolutely love it. You know who perfected it? Willie Nelson, of course. “There’s a girl in Austin, TX; she calls herself the human trampoline.”

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