The band landed a gig opening for The Police thanks to that connection and within a year their debut album, Beauty and the Beat, topped Billboard’s albums chart, spending a month and a half at #1. It was the first time in the chart’s history that an all-female group who wrote their own music hit the top spot.
From the late 70s to the early 80s, The Police released five albums, every one of which went platinum in multiple countries. When all was said and done, they sold more than 100 million records worldwide.
I’ve always known 1983’s Synchronicity was a monster hit — it went eight times platinum in the U.S. alone and spent 17 weeks at #1 on the Billboard chart. But I underestimated how success of the band’s earlier efforts.
The Rolling Stones’ Tattoo You falls into the second category. I’ve done my share of dipping into The Stones’ catalog, with most of my focus on the remarkable period between 1966 and 1972 (regardless of your opinion of the band, it’s hard to deny the sustained creative excellence of that stretch). The latest Stones album I know well is 1978’s Some Girls.
Elvis Costello produced my second-favorite album of 1981, and just a few months earlier, he released my favorite.
Costello’s fifth album, Trust, is similar to Squeeze’s East Side Story in that it’s a New Wave record dabbling in a host of other genres. Squeeze lead singer Glenn Tilbrook even duets with Costello on the fun track ‘From a Whisper to a Scream.’
My second favorite 1981 album is East Side Story, the fourth (and best) album by the UK band Squeeze. Produced almost entirely by Elvis Costello, this ia a New Wave classic that weaves in elements of country, rockabilly and psychedelia. Best known for the single ‘Tempted,’ East Side Story is stellar from start to finish.
Billy Joel’s compilation of live performances, Songs in the Attic, is my third favorite album released in 1981. It might have cracked the top two but I subtracted a few points because it’s a greatest hits collection of sorts.
Joel was riding a commercial high after the releases of The Stranger, 52nd Street and Glass Houses, and saw an opportunity to introduce his new fans to the music he had recorded prior to breaking into the mainstream. Rather than release the original recordings, which were performed with session musicians, he preferred to put them in new context with the backing of his talented touring band.
Before I begin, Happy 18th Birthday to my nephew Daniel! If you haven’t had a chance to listen to his recent EP, Daniel Gallup, you can do so through my blog right here.
My #4 album of 1981 is the only one on this list that I actually listened to in 1981. In fact, I’m pretty sure Journey’s Escape was the first album I ever owned. It was also the first (and last) album I ever experienced in the form of an arcade game.