Tom’s Top 5’s: Albums of 1984

Morning in America, huh? How about Mourning in America? It may not have quite on the order of Orwell’s Oceania (although it was uncomfortably reminiscent in at least a couple respects), but in 1984 the Neoliberal Revolution continued to stamp relentlessly on the face of its opponents and detractors, with the reelection of Ronald Reagan and the beginning of the Miners’ Strike whose defeat would mark a turning point against trade unionism under Margaret Thatcher. I didn’t include The Final Cut in my 1983 list, but Roger Waters had about the right idea:

Should we shout, should we scream
“What happened to the post war dream?”
Oh Maggie, Maggie what have we done?

Things were less depressing in the music world, though I’m still getting that “What happened to the heady days of 1972?” vibe.

5. THE WORKS (Queen)

The Works

Most fans wouldn’t list The Works among their favorite Queen albums. Hell, I wouldn’t list it among my favorite Queen albums. But damn it, it contains “Hammer to Fall,” “Radio Ga Ga,” and “I Want to Break Free.” That alone would be enough to put it in contention. But the rest of the album is solid as well, with a couple further hidden gems (“It’s a Hard Life,” “Is This the World We Created?”) making it more than worthwhile for any Queen devotee.

4. STATIONARY TRAVELLER (Camel)

Statonary Traveller

Throughout the 1980s, classic prog bands seemed to be competing as to who could piss off their fanbases most thoroughly. Camel fared better than most – indeed, Stationary Traveller [sic] is truly an excellent album. For while they keep to relatively standard song structures and the production conventions of the day, these thoughtful, cohesive songs communicate the claustrophobia East Germany in the mid-80s perfectly. Prog-heads should find the title cut and “Missing” worth their time.

3. BORN IN THE U.S.A. (Bruce Springsteen)

Born in the U.S.A.

It’s endlessly amusing that the Reagan campaign tried to co-opt the searing “Born in the U.S.A.” Would that politicians’ obliviousness were always so harmless. For my part, I bemoan the narrowed ambitions of this record compared to the Boss’s earlier, more expansive masterpieces. But even if Born in the U.S.A. is streamlined, simplified, and more proudly populist than ever, Springsteen remains a killer songwriter – plus, we still get blasts of classic E Street grandeur on “No Surrender” and “Billy Jean.”

2. ALL OVER THE PLACE (The Bangles)

All Over the Place

Any band that covers Emitt Rhodes’s “Live” is already a winner in my book, sight unseen. As it turns out, All Over the Place is anything but: a potent 31-minute blast of guitar pop and pitch-perfect harmonies, it’s one of the best debuts in rock history. I’m unusual in that I actually prefer the Bangles’ later, more “commercial” work; but that that takes nothing away from the likes of “James” or “Going Down to Liverpool.” When it comes right down to it, though, all I need is Susanna Hoffs’s voice.

1. HEARTBEAT CITY (The Cars)

Heartbeat City

One of my ultimate soundtracks of summer, Heartbeat City is the only record the Cars made that can compare, as a full album, with their classic debut. The record-buying public realized this, rewarding the band with four Top 20 hits. I’m still not totally sure why “Drive” became such a smash, but I have nothing to say against “You Might Think.” And if you want to put an instant smile on my face, all you have to do is turn on “Magic” – it turns me upside down.

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3 Responses to Tom’s Top 5’s: Albums of 1984

  1. Heartbeat City! I just love the Cars, they made great pop records

  2. And the works is a great memory of my youth – who can ever forget Queen performing Radio Gaga at Live Aid in 1985, or the video for I Want To Break Free

  3. Reblogged this on Another Grumpy Commuter and commented:
    Yeah…some good albums here – check out the previous posts on this blog

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