I’ve written about a couple of important 1983 debuts already, so I guess I’d be remiss to leave out this one. Heavy metal pioneers Metallica released Kill ‘Em All this year, kicking off a career that would result in more than 125 million album sales.
Metallica is considered one of the greatest and most influential heavy metal bands of all time, which to me means exactly nothing. This is the genre for which I have the least affection or understanding.
Last week I wrote about R.E.M.’s Murmur, arguably the most significant debut album of 1983. But giving it a run for its money is the self-titled release by Madonna.
The 25-year-old Madonna started her rise to superstardom with an album that took a full year to climb into Billboard’s Top Ten. That happened just in time for her sophomore release, Like a Virgin, to dominate the culture.
I’m always taken aback by the sea change in album sales brought on by the digital revolution.
Consider that Adele’s 25 is the only album of the entire 2010’s to sell more than 10 million copies in the United States. Three 1983 albums achieved the same feat: Def Leppard’s Pyromania, Lionel Richie’s Can’t Slow Down, and ZZ Top’s Eliminator. That’s just one year of the decade. Twenty-four other albums reached the same milestone throughout the 80s.
I was certainly aware of Culture Club back in 1983. The singles ‘Karma Chameleon,’ ‘It’s a Miracle,’ and ‘Miss You Blind’ were hard to escape, and the previous year’s hits ‘I’ll Tumble 4 Ya’ and ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me’ were still kicking around.
But I never owned or listened to Colour By Numbers, the album on which those first three songs appeared. This album spent six weeks at #2 on the U.S. albums chart, behind (you guessed it) Michael Jackson’s Thriller. And, having listened to it for the first time this week, I have to say it definitely slaps.
In terms of album sales, 1983 belonged to one man: Michael Jackson. Though his Thriller was technically released in late 1982, it picked up steam in the early months of ’83 and became an unstoppable juggernaut by March. Thriller dominated the albums chart all year, stepping aside occasionally to allow other artists a brief moment in the sun.
The Police, too, had a hell of a showing. Between them, Synchronicity and Thriller owned the #1 spot in 38 of the 52 weeks. In third place was Men at Work’s debut album, Business As Usual, which was released in the U.S. in June of 1982 but spent 15 weeks at #1 between late ’82 and early ’83. Fourth… Lionel Richie, whose Can’t Slow Down claimed the top spot for three weeks at the end of the year.