They started as a folk rock band fronted by Peter Gabriel, then shifted to prog rock after Phil Collins joined as drummer and background vocalist. When Gabriel left the band in 1978 and Collins took over as lead singer, they started a gradual shift toward pop. That’s where they would ultimately find the most success, reaching their commercial pinnacle with 1986’s excellent Invisible Touch.
4 was, appropriately, the rock band’s fourth album. I was going to write that it was by far their most successful, but a quick check revealed that, while this album sold 6 million copies and spent 10 weeks in Billboard’s #1 spot, their 1978 album Double Vision actually outsold it by a million.
Nicks was on a hell of a roll at this point in her career. She joined Fleetwood Mac in 1975 (along with her writing and life partner Lindsay Buckingham) and anchored the band’s two most popular and acclaimed albums, including 1977’s Rumours, one of the top-selling albums of all-time.
The Go-Go’s set a record for sales by a female act, but they weren’t the only trailblazers in 1981. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts’ I Love Rock ‘n Roll sold more than 10 million copies and put its title track atop Billboard’s Hot 100 for seven weeks.
Jett released several albums with the Runaways and one solo record before forming The Blackhearts and dropping this smash hit. The album is full of crunchy guitars and sexy swagger. It’s not so much a collection of great songs as a half hour of raw, seductive girl power turned up to 11.
I have to confess that I completely missed the boat on Rush. Though they released new material steadily from my infancy through my 20s, I never managed to own a Rush album or even become familiar with a Rush song. Today’s SOTD, ‘Tom Sawyer,’ is probably their best-known track, and I think I heard it for the first time this week.
I like listening to the album that came right before an artist’s landmark work. Like The Police’s Ghost in the Machine, covered earlier this week, which preceded Synchronicity. Or Fleetwood Mac, a smash in its own right, but one that lives in the shadow of its follow-up, Rumours.
Everybody knows Def Leppard’s 1983 megahit Pyromania, and 1987’s Hysteria, which pretty much matched it in sales, but you don’t hear much about 1981’s High ‘N’ Dry. At least I haven’t.
[First things first… Happy Birthday to my niece Madison! Loyal readers will remember Madison for her week of guest blogging about the use of songs on TV series.]
The top four best-selling albums of 1981 were released in late 1980 or earlier, so I can’t include them here. The best-selling album of 1981 actually released in 1981 was Styx’s Paradise Theater.
My exposure to Styx pretty much begins and ends with ‘Mr. Roboto,’ the 1983 hit from their rock opera Kilroy Was Here. Also ‘Come Sail Away,’ which I probably first heard on South Park. I’m familiar with other songs as I hear them, but I wouldn’t be able to name any off the top of my head.