Usually when I do a Decades series, I discover one album that was completely off my radar but immediately feels essential. I’m not even halfway through 1984 yet, but I think I might have found it in The Bangles’ All Over the Place.
When I saw this album listed on best-of lists for the year, I assumed it would feature the hits ‘Manic Monday,’ ‘Walk Like an Egyptian’ and ‘Hazy Shade of Winter,’ or at least some combination of those staples. But All Over the Place, The Bangles’ debut, didn’t have a single hit. It’s also, by all accounts, the best record they ever released.
Here’s an album that would have been a better fit last week, in that I’m very familiar with the hit singles but less so with the rest of the album. I couldn’t find room for it there, but I certainly wasn’t going to exclude an album that is named after the year I’m covering.
Van Halen’s 1984 was the hard rockers’ sixth album, and remains tied with their self-titled debut as their top seller. Powered by hit singles ‘Jump,’ ‘Panama,’ and ‘Hot For Teacher,’ the record sold more than 10 million copies in the U.S. and spent five weeks at #2 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, kept from the top spot by Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
I’ve long seen The Replacements’ 1984 album Let It Be lauded as one of the best alternative rock albums of all time, but I’d never listened to it closely enough to test that theory.
The band had released three albums of loud, reckless punk before lead singer/songwriter Paul Westerberg decided to try his hand at some songs with actual structure and melody. The result was this 11-track collection that features some softer, more contemplative songs among all the thrash.
Before now, I’d never heard a Pretenders album all the way through. I finally made the leap with Learning to Crawl, the latest album I’m including in my ‘Decades’ exploration of the year 1984.
Learning to Crawl was the rock band’s third album, and their first with a new lineup, after two of the original four members died of drug overdoses. Lead singer/songwriter Chrissie Hynde and drummer Martin Chambers eventually enlisted guitarist Robbie McIntosh and bassist Malcolm Foster to flesh out the band for the album’s recording. But first, another duo recorded the single ‘Back On the Chain Gang’ backed with ‘My City Was Gone,’ two songs that would number among the band’s most popular.
Sticking with the classic rock era this Random Weekend, we jump back from yesterday’s 1975 track to this one from 1969.
‘Beginning to See the Light’ is the opening song of Side Two of The Velvet Underground’s self-titled third album. This record marked a shift in the band’s sound toward more melodic and acoustic songs. It’s by far my favorite Velvet Underground album.