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When I was seventeen, it was a very good year
January 31, 2009 4:48 PM   Subscribe

The 1984 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll

Happy 25th anniversary. May your vinyl never scratch.

1. Bruce Springsteen - Born in the U.S.A.

2. Prince - Purple Rain

3. Los Lobos - How Will The Wolf Survive?

4. The Replacements - Let It Be

5. Tina Turner - Private Dancer

6. R.E.M. - Reckoning

7. The Pretenders - Learning To Crawl

8. Hüsker Dü - Zen Arcade

9. Lou Reed - New Sensations

10. Run-D.M.C. - Run-D.M.C.

11. Cyndi Lauper - She's So Unusual

12. The Bangles - All Over The Place

13. The Ramones - Too Tough To Die

14. Minutemen - Double Nickels on the Dime

15. The dB's - Like This

16. Womack & Womack - Love Wars

17. Laurie Anderson - Mister Heartbreak (previously)

18. Rubén Blades y Seis del Solar - Buscando America

19. Laurie Anderson - United States Live

20. Meat Puppets - Meat Puppets II

21. Neville Brothers - Neville-ization

22. The Smiths - The Smiths

23. Let's Active - Cypress

24. Tom Verlaine - Cover

25. Van Halen - 1984

26. Del-Lords - Frontier Days

27. Linton Kwesi Johnson - Making History

28. George Clinton - You Shouldn't-Nuf Bit Fish

29. U2 - The Unforgettable Fire

30. King Sunny Ade and His African Beats - Aura
posted by Joe Beese (85 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
I can see myself in the crowd in the Lou Reed video, I'm old.
posted by lee at 4:57 PM on January 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


Someday the Bangles will get back the rock-crit cred they once had, and always deserved.
posted by escabeche at 5:12 PM on January 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


Man I aways remember the 80s as "flock of seagulls/wang chung" but there's some awesome, interesting music on that list. 84 was the year I graduated college so I know all these albums really well and own most of them. I have to say, though, I bet putting BITUSA at the top of the list is one those critics wish they could have back.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 5:15 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


How well I remember (ignores husband's requisite time-travel whooshing sounds).

We've got about three-quarters of those on vinyl. And I've got five years on you!

Thanks for reminding me of a time when I avidly awaited the Village Voice (among other things), although I'd much rather be here now. And I never liked Janis Ian anyway.
posted by emhutchinson at 5:15 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Good god, we suck nowadays.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:15 PM on January 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


Private Dancer.

(salutes)
posted by hifiparasol at 5:17 PM on January 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


stupidsexyFlanders: "Man I aways remember the 80s as "flock of seagulls/wang chung"..."

In the interest of fairness... [warning: Wang Chung video]
posted by Joe Beese at 5:18 PM on January 31, 2009


I have to say, though, I bet putting BITUSA at the top of the list is one those critics wish they could have back.

Huh? Liking (or not liking) Springsteen is a matter of taste, but Springsteen (especially considering his recent return to the spotlight) is an undeniably important artist and that album (whatever it's misinterpretations by some people) was one of the most important of his career. and contains some of his best and most important songs.
posted by jonmc at 5:21 PM on January 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


So, jonmc, just so I'm clear on this, would you say the album was important?
posted by escabeche at 5:22 PM on January 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


P.S. I finally bought myself a Crosley, kind of an xmas/birthday/anniversary combo gift since I don't really like to buy stuff, but since most of our records are elsewhere, I have mainly used it to listen to an album of Dog Songs from my children's collection.

One of my sons is most intrigued that you tune the radio with a knob, so it was worth it. Actually, I just like looking at it.

(I'm sorry if the Crosley link is in any way construed as a sales thing. I am trying to practice linking and i thought some might want to see what's there if you still have records, scratched or no.)
posted by emhutchinson at 5:25 PM on January 31, 2009


escabesche, I was kind of looking for a taste-nuetral word to explain why it belonged at or near the top of the poll. Looking back 'significant' would've worked just as well, I guess.

Also, that Crosley thing is inflaming my geeklust.
posted by jonmc at 5:34 PM on January 31, 2009


Agreeing with Flanders, I usually mark 1981 as the last year of decent pop music but there's actually a lot of good stuff in there.
posted by octothorpe at 5:45 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Springsteen was a master (from this total neophyte music illiterate who couldn't tell his musical ass from his musical elbow) in "Born in the USA" (the album) of putting dark, dark lyrics to upbeat, "poppy" tempos which I interpret as ironic, and really pretty clever. That (generally conservative) political groups and patriots have adopted Born in the USA (the tune) as some sort of "America, rah rah rah!" song says more about them and their lack of a critical ear than it does about Springsteen.

And, without getting too jonmc here (no offense, jon), what's wrong with A Flock of Seagulls? "I Ran" is actually a pretty great pop song, from where I sit.
posted by maxwelton at 5:49 PM on January 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Band-from-2009 is the band-from-1984 of 2009.
posted by box at 5:51 PM on January 31, 2009


I have been accused of many things; "inflaming geeklust"--either directly or indirectly--has never been one of them!
posted by emhutchinson at 5:51 PM on January 31, 2009


box: "Band-from-2009 is the band-from-1984 of 2009."

We are now as far removed in time from this music as that music was removed in time from these top hits of 1959:

1. The Battle Of New Orleans, Johnny Horton
2. Mack The Knife, Bobby Darin
3. Personality, Lloyd Price
4. Venus, Frankie Avalon
5. Lonely Boy, Paul Anka
6. Dream Lover, Bobby Darin
7. The Three Bells, Browns
8. Come Softly To Me, Fleetwoods
9. Kansas City, Wilbert Harrison
10. Mr. Blue, Fleetwoods
posted by Joe Beese at 5:54 PM on January 31, 2009 [7 favorites]


And, maxwelton, A Flock of Seagulls' Space Age Love Song is even better.
posted by Shotgun Shakespeare at 5:58 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


A lot of certified classics on this list, some of which I hate to admit I don't appreciate as well as I used to and maybe I oughta should (Los Lobos; the dB's minus Chris Stamey; Laurie Anderson; by sheer exhaustion, Prince), a few that still send a river of chills up my back (minutemen, Husker Du, Run-DMC), and the one that still matters, the one you still pine for and not just when you're drunk or lonely, Let It Be by the Replacements. Just seeing the name up there on that yellowed old list makes me happy. Thanks for that.
posted by Kinbote at 6:00 PM on January 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


And, without getting too jonmc here (no offense, jon), what's wrong with A Flock of Seagulls? "I Ran" is actually a pretty great pop song, from where I sit.

At the time, I was really into heavy metal (I was 13), so I kind of hated synthpop on general principles, and since they looked the part, I wrote of AFOS. Looking back, that song isn't all that synthpop and holds up pretty well.
posted by jonmc at 6:01 PM on January 31, 2009


Bobby Darin is the Lil Wayne of 1959.
posted by box at 6:01 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


There was so much good punk going on in the 80s man, it was a golden age for those who had ears to hear. God damn but the Minutemen fill me with a heady mix of euphoria, tragedy, and nostalgia. And honestly, I think they were mostly over by the time I was paying much attention, I was like 12 during that video!

I have to say, I never noticed the math though: "Let's say I have a number/that number's 50,000/that's 5%/of 500,000"....no it's not! Maybe I'm hearing it wrong, I always thought they said 10%. Look, I fucking built myself out of this music and some of it will still bring tears to my eye, I can be pedantic if I damn well please.
posted by freebird at 6:01 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Leaving quality aside for a moment, what's really noticable when comparing this list to 2008's is how critical and popular tastes jibed back then. You have to go to number six on this year's list (L'il Wayne) before you get to any big sellers. Hell, I imagine that Purple Rain sold more copies in 2008 than Vampire Weekend or TV on the Radio.

Also, Purple Rain > Born in the U.S.A.
posted by Bookhouse at 6:11 PM on January 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, impassioned defenses here not withstanding, put me in the "Born in the U.S.A." is way overrated camp.

It sure as hell is no Let It Be.
posted by Heminator at 6:36 PM on January 31, 2009


put me in the "Born in the U.S.A." is way overrated camp.

It sure as hell is no Let It Be.


Replacements, springsteen, Replacements, Springsteen, Repl---*explodes*
posted by jonmc at 6:40 PM on January 31, 2009


How I wish the Bangles had disappeared after All Over The Place. That album was so perfect for its genre and its era, and everything that came after it was such a disappointment.
posted by pxe2000 at 7:01 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd be interested in seeing a list of the top 25 most influential albums of 1984, too.

Purple Rain would clearly be on the list, as would RUN DMC, U2, Ramones, and Van Halen. Not sure what else would.

Some of those albums were the beginning of something, but a whole lot of them were the end of something.
posted by empath at 7:07 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


4 of my favorite records of all time on this list: Let It Be, Zen Arcade, Double Nickels on the Dime, and The Smiths' self-titled debut. I like Too Tough To Die, but it's not one of my favorites. The Ramones were well into their decline by then. I was still in preschool in 1984, though, so I don't feel old. I ran with an older crowd in my formative years, so a lot of my favorite music is 80s punk/hardcore/indie rock that came out when I was still very young.

I have to say, I never noticed the math though: "Let's say I have a number/that number's 50,000/that's 5%/of 500,000"....no it's not! Maybe I'm hearing it wrong, I always thought they said 10%.

I'm positive it is "10%". That's what I hear, and a cursory Google search for the lyrics all have it as "10%". Where are you getting "5%" from? I mean, D. Boon (may he rest in peace) wasn't a math genius, but he did pass the third grade.

We are now as far removed in time from this music as that music was removed in time from these top hits of 1959:

Strictly in terms of chronology, yeah, but not as far removed musically or culturally. Some of these albums were far ahead of their time. The Minutemen especially: Double Nickels doesn't just still sound fresh, it still sounds cutting-edge.
posted by DecemberBoy at 7:12 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, jesus that crosley stuff is murdering me.

Looking at this list i was surprised and pleased to see the Minutemen and a couple others but really, come on! Too Tough to Die? It may be the last (well, Acid Eaters debates aside) canonical Ramones album, but of the 1976-1984 run, it's definitely the least. It's like a lifetime achievement Oscar or a pity fuck.

And the less said about the distinctly more commercial stuff on the list the better, Purple Rain excepted.

On the whole, I'm reminded why I hated the rock press in 1984. It's because they were both stupid and ignorant.

OTOH, Joe Beese, well done. Great post!
posted by mwhybark at 7:21 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


A) I always sing Born in the USA as "Booorn in a Hospital, I was booorn in a hospital"
B) More importantly, debates about personal taste are largely pointless.
posted by ecorrocio at 7:23 PM on January 31, 2009


I like the 1959 list better.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 7:30 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah, 1984. My recollection of 1984 music is that there was a massive unspoken movement to forget the 1970s. The FM stations, at least in the city I lived in, pretty much blacklisted that whole era, except for the classic rock (Jethro Tull, etc) and easy listening stuff (Elton John). So to me, pop music of 1984 felt kind of incestuous, overplayed, and formulaic. I mean, come on, Jump For My Love, Islands In The Stream, and I Just Called To Say I Love You? Meh. Go back five or six years and there was some incredible creativity in pop music, though certainly the disco stuff was getting out of hand. Well, anyway I didn't want to get on a "one's favorite band sucks" tangent.

For me, all the cookie cutter music wasn't palatable, and I mostly liked the stuff that bubbled under the Top 40. But back then I wasn't very adventurous in seeking that out, so I gave up and started listening to the classic rock stations and went into a dead end for many, many years. I envy my wife as she was on top of all the good 80s music at the time; her LP collection is amazing.
posted by crapmatic at 7:31 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Crash Motherfunking Davis, they let you out too?
posted by mwhybark at 7:42 PM on January 31, 2009


OT, but I was just looking at Christgau's site yesterday (I think it was on Kottke) and I thought this 1975 Consumer's Guide to Beer was fascinating. It's amazing how much the universe of beer has changed since then. Truly, we are living in a golden age.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:43 PM on January 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


I might've flip-flopped #1 and #2, but other than that this is just about on target.

Certainly this doesn't attain the heights of laughability the "a bunch of mostly shitty Williamsburg indie bands and the one token hip-hop record to prove we're not racist" polls they do these days will in about ten years.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:06 PM on January 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


Here's something that was happening in 1984 that wouldn't explode until a few years later:

The first house record.

Jesse Saunders - On and On
posted by empath at 8:06 PM on January 31, 2009


Looking at that list, I'd say he entirely ran out of albums at about 30, then just threw ten things on there to round it out. Other than that, I pretty much agree.

1982 presents a problem, though:
1. Elvis Costello: Imperial Bedroom (Columbia)
30. XTC: English Settlement (Epic)

These two need to change places. I think maybe the problem is that the Epic release was the butchered single-disk American pressing. It was missing 5 songs, and the ones they left in were all out of order from the Virgin British release.

Say what you will about Listfilter, but at least we didn't have to click through 40 pages to read one year.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:07 PM on January 31, 2009


I don't know D. Rancher, I like XTC too but Imperial Bedroom is still my favorite EC album.
posted by octothorpe at 8:22 PM on January 31, 2009


Too Tough to Die? It may be the last (well, Acid Eaters debates aside) canonical Ramones album, but of the 1976-1984 run, it's definitely the least. It's like a lifetime achievement Oscar or a pity fuck."

As the Lou Reed demonstrates, important veterans get big bonus points simply for sucking less than their previous few albums.

what's really noticable when comparing this list to 2008's is how critical and popular tastes jibed back then.

Excellent observation. Elsewhere, Christgau called 1984 the best year for pop in the preceding 20 years. Which makes all the more unfortunate the omission of several popular successes - all of which I would claim matter more both then and now than the barely-listenable New Sensations: Madonna - Like A Virgin, The Cars - Hearbeat City, Bryan Adams - Reckless, Wham! - Make It Big.

Some of those albums were the beginning of something, but a whole lot of them were the end of something.


No one knew it at the time, but Run-D.M.C. would turn out to be more important than the rest of the Top 10 put together. But at least it was recognized. Metallica's Ride The Lightning probably didn't even get reviewed upon release.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:35 PM on January 31, 2009


I don't know D. Rancher, I like XTC too but Imperial Bedroom is still my favorite EC album.

Really? Above This Year's Model? Don't get me wrong -- I love Imperial Bedroom, but This Year's Model turned my fucking world upside down, and still does. No Action. This Year's Girl. Pump it Up. Little Triggers. Chelsea. Lip Service. Lipstick Vogue. Radio, Radio. Christ on a crutch, no one writes albums like that any more. And they just ripped the door off the hinges when they did Radio, Radio on SNL after being tole explicitly NOT to. Fuck me. I love that album. I think it was laid down on tape better than most of his other work, too.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:42 PM on January 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


What a list!

I didn't leave pop for classic rock until '89 or so. I probably should have done it a few years sooner, given my feelings about pop music during the mid-late eighties. It's funny because I've come to have very eclectic tastes but at the time I just didn't have much exposure to alternative contemporary music. I didn't get cable, so no MTV, but I did listen to pop on the radio. (Of course I also never missed Doctor Demento and my interest in drumming led me to listen to some seventies jazz fusion. Maybe this stuff began my musical diversification. Maybe it was continuing to listen to David Byrne after the Talking Heads broke up.)

It's been interesting to experience my changing feelings about eighties music as I get older. Of course I have some nostalgia for all of it because of my age during that decade, and can enjoy even hearing the worst of it (once in a while). And of course I still really like most of the things I liked then (some classics, some guilty pleasures). But I also came to like a lot of stuff I expressly didn't like when it was popular: I was sick to death of the Police before they broke up, but I got really into them in the nineties. I didn't appreciate Springsteen until years later. The Pretenders? Basic pop to me then, but now they're just incredible. Tom Petty, Prince, I could go on.

Another thing I didn't properly understand until I got older was that there are always great musicians making great new music. I imagined the seventies as some kind of disco wasteland and feared the late eighties were a harbinger of more of the same. But time (and lists like this FPP) reveal the timeless.

Oh, and Los Lobos? Absolutely amazing. I'm incredibly glad I caught a live show last year. Another concertgoer aptly dubbed them "the bar band in heaven."
posted by Songdog at 8:48 PM on January 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Lest we forget, "Double Nickles on the Dime" was a response to "Zen Arcade," and a bit of a jokey (albeit brilliant) one at that.

If that happened today, it would quite likely suck donkey balls.
posted by bardic at 8:50 PM on January 31, 2009


I didn't leave pop for classic rock until '89 or so. I probably should have done it a few years sooner, given my feelings about pop music during the mid-late eighties.

Really? It was in the late '80's that things started looking up in my opinion. Things that had been underground like thrash metal, hip-hop and bands like Jane's Addiction starting to creep up from the college radio ghetto to get some commercial success. It was then that the top 40 looked less bleak.
posted by jonmc at 8:54 PM on January 31, 2009


I was going to get all indignant that the Smithereens Especially For You wasn't on here, but then I realized that it came out in '86.

Then I got sad because I'm old.
posted by dogmom at 9:05 PM on January 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


As the Lou Reed demonstrates, important veterans get big bonus points simply for sucking less than their previous few albums ... [list of not-included albums] ...all of which I would claim matter more both then and now than the barely-listenable New Sensations

ah, I dunno, that LP is the reason the VU stuff got re-released in short order, and the late 80s sans VU reissues is a late 80s of measurably greater suckitude. So I could make a case that New Sensations is more influential than [insert other album here].

On the other hand, you appear to be arguing that Too Tough to Die is better than preceding efforts by the Ramones, and therefore you must mean Concrete Jungle and Pleasant Dreams. I disagree, but of course your point regarding Lou is distinct from mine regarding the Ramones and I could be reading in too deeply.

Christgau really thought '84 was a highwater mark? I'd agree, I guess, except for all the crap that made all the money. Which means, I think, he's wrong. You can't call it 'pop' if it's not popular, and if the players are starving in their vans at the time they are making the material it's not popular or a highwater mark. It's evidence that capitalism is an inefficient and unjust mechanism of distribution for cultural goods.
posted by mwhybark at 9:07 PM on January 31, 2009


Concrete Jungle? d'oh. Subterranean Jungle.
posted by mwhybark at 9:20 PM on January 31, 2009


The thing that strikes me isn't a ranking of, but rather, and this is for all you youngsters reading out there, is if you liked song X, how difficult it was to discover song Y in 1984. No internet, no Myspace, if you liked something you had to grovel in grungy record shops getting reccos' from the virgins and losers behind the counter as to other things you may like. No bittorent, no Youtube. It was crazy. You spend almost twenty bucks on a record that someone told you to buy, that you'd inevitably hate. Once in a bluemoon you'd find something you really like.

I remember buying The Stoneroses initial release, and being told by the clerk to buy The Charlatans and The Soupdragons too. The Charlatans I still love, Soupdragons not so much.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:34 PM on January 31, 2009


You can't call it 'pop' if it's not popular, and if the players are starving in their vans

That's an overly literal definition of "popular music". I don't understand it to mean that and I don't think most people do. In an academic/music major sense, which is the way it's used in the Pazz & Jop poll, it means "music that is not classical, jazz, or folk/ethnic/traditional", or music that is more ephemeral, "popular" as in "common" or "vulgar". In a more informal sense, it means hook-driven, catchy, memorable sing-along choruses, etc. This is the way you'll usually see it used by music critics. The Replacements were most certainly making pop music in that sense even though they didn't sell a ton of records at the time.
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:39 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


mwhybark: " except for all the crap that made all the money."

Well, money-making crap is with us always. But if you look at the top hits of the year,
you've got 3 P&J favorites in the top 6 - including the year's biggest hit. And a total of 6 P&J favorites in the top 20. Those are unimaginable numbers today.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:39 PM on January 31, 2009


You can't call it 'pop' if it's not popular, and if the players are starving in their vans.

I think of "pop" as having a retroactively created definition from "soda pop". Fizzy, sugary, fun and light. This makes more sense to me as a descriptor for a sound, whereas "popular" has to do with who and how many listen to that sound.

I'm positive it is "10%". That's what I hear, and a cursory Google search for the lyrics all have it as "10%". Where are you getting "5%" from?

I think the same thing, and that's why I was surprised. The link in the OP really sounds like he says 5% to me, but even if he did it's a pretty natural (numerically alliterative?) mistake when you're having that much fun. I'm not making any points about the late great D Boone, I was just surprised and wondering if it had always been that way and I never noticed or if it was just a slip.

You can put it together/or you can take it apart.
posted by freebird at 9:51 PM on January 31, 2009


Does metafilter read my mind? I was introducing an old friends son to Hüsker Dü today.
posted by zengargoyle at 9:52 PM on January 31, 2009


Springsteen has authenticity going for him, and BITUSA is a great song to anybody who's actually listened to the damned song (not many, but I guess that's the way of the world.)

I take some exceptions to that list, though. Fuck Purple Rain - great for what it is, new wave crap, not worth that much in the long run. It's easy to get beyond that arrogant little prick, Prince, it's just that everybody's too busy 'dancing' to do so. Fuck The Bangles, too, while we're at it - they're just a Prince cover band anyhow, proudly so - and you can hang that hat on Cyndi Lauper too - a wise man once said, "NEW WAVE IS A MISTAKE, ISN'T IT?" and he was damned right. No soul in these things, no depth, and no vision. All of them retreads: it's funny how, after The Age Of Plastic, there didn't really need to be any more New Wave albums - and yet the industry insisted on making thousands upon thousands of them.

And it's sad how a few of the things on this list get there by street cred alone. The dbs? Great band - sometimes, but hardly ever put together a full album worth listening to more than a hundred times. And Tom Verlaine's Cover is crap, I'm sorry, but crap, and it doesn't matter that he's one of the men behind the first great post-punk album, or that it wasn't even Marquee Moon. I've got that Cover record, and every year or two I cajole myself into taking it down and listening to it for Tom's sake. Every year it goes back before I make it halfway through the first side. It's bad. Also, Laurie Anderson's United States Live is hardly an 'album' 'recorded in 1984,' but that work really transcends the list rather than not fulfilling it, so we'll let it slide.

Also there are sins of omission. Most notably, Perverted By Language first saw release in the US in 1984, and was certainly the lyrical giant out of every album released that year:

The first god had in his garden --
from the back, it looked like
a household pet--but when it was twirled 'round was revealed to
be a three-legged black grey hog...

SEE what flows from his mushy pen!

That person is filmed on TV
-- five years back at least
He's the "Young Generation"
Trying to perform country and western
Do a dance here

SMALL SMALL LOCATION
GARDEN garden

Never since birth!
(Not eaten in a day)
Never since courtship!
(Stayed up some nights)

HE had the 'Kingdom of Evil' book under a German history book--
he was contrived like that--
See what flows!
From his mushy
pen

GARDEN
GARDEN
Sodomized by presumption

(...... his ferry stopped at 'Pool port. revealed to be spoilt slate with largesse resource. Wild Bill hick, shaves and charts at last, made the second god sad -- he's coming up.)

GODZONE
GODZONE
Jacob's ladder

the best firms advertise the least
The second god
Lives by fountains that flowed
By the blue
shiny
lit
roads.

Had forgot what others still try to grasp.

HE knew the evil of the 'phone! --
The bells stopped on Sunday when
HE rose.

SHOTGUN!
SHOTGUN!
SHOTGUN!

Perdition.
He's here. I saw him I swear on the thingy floor:
Up on the brown baize lift shaft he's here!
He's here at last!

A JEW ON A MOTORBIKE!


Ahhh... *sigh* it's perfection.

However much I like that song, however, there is one song, and only one song, that can still bring me to tears; one song, which, despite the inexplicable nature of this extreme effect it has on me, still brings my young mind to its knees. I defy anyone to prove that it has meaning, and I defy anyone to prove that it has no meaning; it exists in the shadowy realm of half-spoke truths, and is therefore beyond pinning down; it gives solace in these angrily explicit times by its delicate and mystical allusion, yet somehow still says more about the current state of the world even then that Springsteen title track... but that is all I can say to attempt to point up its great attraction. And they named the album that it's on in that list, so I give them due credit. This song brings me to the empire of the senseless:

They crowded up to Lenin with their noses worn off...
A handshake is worthy --
It's all that you've got.
Metal shivs on wood push through our back
There's a splinter in your eye and it reads:
'REACT'

They shifted the statues for harboring ghosts
Reddened their necks
Collared their clothes
Then we danced the dance till the menace got out
She gathered the corners and called it her gown

She said

Oh

Please find my harborcoat
Can't go outside without it
Find my harborcoat
Can't go outside without it...

posted by koeselitz at 10:07 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Koeselitz, you are pissing me off by being so cussedly wrong about everything else yet so right about "Harborcoat."
posted by escabeche at 10:12 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


escabeche: What? You don't like The Fall? Or The Buggles? Or you like Cyndi or Prince or The Bangles too much?

Anyhow, that song can bring us all together. It always could. Those noble Unseen Soldiers of the Picket Fence.

posted by koeselitz at 10:15 PM on January 31, 2009


Although I have to say: I've never understood the fuss kids make over Purple Rain. Apparently none of them have listened to "When Doves Cry" - a serviceable tune, of course, with a nice little hook - enough times to realize that it's grating, and that it doesn't make that much sense. And it's also condescending, but that's already to be expected, given that it's a Prince song.
posted by koeselitz at 10:18 PM on January 31, 2009


So, jonmc, just so I'm clear on this, would you say the album was important?

You know that sound a bar stool makes just before two drunks go to fisticuffs in a bar? Sort of a quick scraping, metal on concrete sound? I just heard that.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:21 PM on January 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


That (generally conservative) political groups and patriots have adopted Born in the USA (the tune) as some sort of "America, rah rah rah!" song says more about them and their lack of a critical ear than it does about Springsteen.

I don't think you meant lack of a critical ear, I think you meant they're complete morons who didn't listen to anything besides the chorus. I remember seeing a patriot put on the song for karaoke once. That was amusing.

Leaving quality aside for a moment, what's really noticable when comparing this list to 2008's is how critical and popular tastes jibed back then. You have to go to number six on this year's list (L'il Wayne) before you get to any big sellers. Hell, I imagine that Purple Rain sold more copies in 2008 than Vampire Weekend or TV on the Radio.

I think due to the Internet, especially filesharing but also Itunes, Pandora, Last.fm, Youtube, etc. sales are becoming a poorer metric for popular taste.

Here are the top 10 selling albums as per Billboard. And: This year also saw a record number of vinyl albums sold, with nearly 1.9 million -- more than any other year since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking data in 1991.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:54 PM on January 31, 2009


Wikipedia's list of albums released in 1984.

I'm struggling to find some really good albums that aren't on the P&J list. The big omission would be maybe Echo and the Bunnymen's Ocean Rain; I've got some love for Spring Hill Fair (Go-Betweens) and From Her To Eternity (Nick Cave), and Learning to Crawl (Pretenders). Plus Madonna and Metallica, as others have said.
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:16 AM on February 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Can't forget Ministry... :)
posted by zengargoyle at 4:40 AM on February 1, 2009


prince, the smiths, husker du, REM, the replacements, the db's, Laurie Anderson, United States, the minutemen, Ramones, LKJ - saw almost all of them in concert -
Funny how 80's revival radio and club nights only play the worst, most commercial crap of the 80's.</I/
Most of these still sound pretty fresh..

posted by hooptycritter at 5:52 AM on February 1, 2009


Calling Purple Rain New Wave (why? because it featured synthesizers in the 80's?) means you might as well lump Rush into that category, too.

Dude. Say what you want about Prince, and I may even chime in, but Purple Rain is not New Wave.
posted by adipocere at 5:57 AM on February 1, 2009


U2 - Pride in the Name of Love, (#12 on the singles list and it complements nickyskye's post today)
posted by caddis at 6:36 AM on February 1, 2009


Wikipedia's list of albums released in 1984.

I'm struggling to find some really good albums that aren't on the P&J list.


When I look at Pitchfork's list of the best albums from the 1980s, a lot of their choices for 1984 match up with the original Pazz & Jop poll. The 1984 albums on Pitchfork's list that are not on the Village Voice list are Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense, Manuel Gottsching, E2-E4, and the Cocteau Twins, Treasure. I guess the main trends the critics missed were electronica/house (Jesse Saunders/Manuel Gottsching) and the huge influence the Cocteau Twins would have on "shoegaze" pop in the UK. And of course, Metallica was the Led Zeppelin of the 1980s (i.e., a metal band that didn't get the critical cred it deserved then, because too many high school stoners and burnouts liked them).
posted by jonp72 at 8:32 AM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


11. Cyndi Lauper - She's So Unusual

Joe Beese, I will see your live vid of Cyndi Lauper singing Money Changes Everything and raise you a clip of Cyndi's performance of Prince's bittersweet ode to menage a trois, When You Were Mine, on the 1985 American Music Awards. I still can't believe it got on TV back then, what with the PMRC lurking about those days.
posted by jonp72 at 8:42 AM on February 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm struggling to find some really good albums that aren't on the P&J list.

nomeansno
, Mama. (I think–online accounts agree it was recorded '82, vary on release date, most saying '84. Any lucky mefite remember?). Rich Guns. Still rocking.
posted by generalist at 9:05 AM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


jonmc wrote:
Really? It was in the late '80's that things started looking up in my opinion. Things that had been underground like thrash metal, hip-hop and bands like Jane's Addiction starting to creep up from the college radio ghetto to get some commercial success. It was then that the top 40 looked less bleak.
Yes, I started driving around then and among the small number of FM stations I could count on in my car I found I favored classic rock over pop, which was pretty sugary, sequenced stuff in my neck of the woods. I don't enjoy much metal, and though I do really like some hip-hop I didn't have much awareness of the good stuff being made at the time.

The good thing is that, as with classic rock, I later came to appreciate early 90s music that I didn't know or like at the time. The bad thing is that I seem to have a habit of discovering good music about ten years after it was made.
posted by Songdog at 9:09 AM on February 1, 2009


Ah, memories! That was one of the last years I really cared about P&J, in the sense that I knew a lot of the music and had strong feelings about what belonged where on the list; in fact, I used to have the actual early-'80s P&J sections from the Voice stashed away until they put them all online (thank you, internet). Great post, Joe Beese! Just hearing the Minutemen again after all this time gave me chills (I used to trek over to New Jersey to see them, usually by myself, because almost no one I knew cared about them).

I'm positive it is "10%". That's what I hear, and a cursory Google search for the lyrics all have it as "10%". Where are you getting "5%" from?

From the linked video. Listen to it: he distinctly says "five percent," though he wrote "ten" in the lyrics and sang it that way on the album. Hey, he messed up the lyrics that night, big deal. Doesn't mean he couldn't count.
posted by languagehat at 9:18 AM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Man, I miss dropping acid and going to Meat Puppets shows.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:04 AM on February 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


From the linked video. Listen to it: he distinctly says "five percent," though he wrote "ten" in the lyrics and sang it that way on the album. Hey, he messed up the lyrics that night, big deal. Doesn't mean he couldn't count.

Oh, OK. I didn't even notice the "more inside" links were videos until now. Yeah, he is singing "5%" in that video. Hey, he's D. fuckin' Boon, if he says 50,000 is 5% of 500,000, I'm inclined to believe that it is.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:13 AM on February 1, 2009


Although it's easy to see how he screwed it up. He's already thinking ahead to "500,000", so it comes out "5%".
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:15 AM on February 1, 2009


DecemberBoy: "I didn't even notice the "more inside" links were videos until now."

While I've been delighted by the discussion of the music and its critical reception, I would take this opportunity to remind everyone that We Have Videos.

There's LOLmullet action, several flavors of ambiguous sexuality, and the freshest DJ-MC crew around.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:23 AM on February 1, 2009


I care more about the Minutemen today than I did in '84.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:35 AM on February 1, 2009


If I had three wishes, one of them would be to bring D Boon back from the dead.

Because Zombie D Boon would be AWESOME.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:30 PM on February 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


Will he bring Zombie Bob Stinson with him?
posted by jonmc at 12:36 PM on February 1, 2009


Great NoMeansNo link, Generalist, wow. Another source of raw materials many of us used like protein and water to build lives with.

For me, NoMeansNo even more than Minutemen, but it's a close race and I'm biased by having had the chance to see them live more, and oddly enough having discovered jazz through them.

Talk about staying power. Those guys seem to come through the Bay Area here once a year and play in the same little Irish pub I used to go see fiddle music at with my mom when I was a kid. The place fills up with people of my generation, 30-something folks who clearly have real lives and other interests but still just have such love and energy for those two brothers it fills the place with joy. My wife freaks out to see all us old men moshing and pogoing and just fucking loving it. But the energy is wonderful - it's not nostalgia entirely, like you find at a big rock "reuinion tour". They're playing new stuff alongside the old, and it *is* new, and excellent. But it's an affirmation that those transcendent moments we remember weren't just hormones or booze and drugs - in that music there is such timeless power and intellegence and humanity and just a great fucking time, and it's refreshing to be reminded of that.

It's got to be weird for them though I suppose. I see guys come up them in the bathroom and gush how they saw them at the same pub when they were kids, and loved them, and now their kids love them, and how great it will be to see them next year and you just see Rob , with that warm but pragmatic and cynical clarity, look out across decades of playing his heart out and just sort of...not know what to say really. What could he? "Only so many songs can be sung with two lips two lungs and one tongue" I suppose.
posted by freebird at 12:59 PM on February 1, 2009


By the way, escabeche, I realize I may have spoken a little too cavalierly about The Bangles; they really were a Prince cover band, or rather a Prince concept band. He helped them get together and wrote a big chunk of their songs, including "Manic Monday." If you listen closely to the verses of "Manic Monday," you can hear Prince trying to write "1999" and not quite nailing it.

That's not really an insult; I just don't dig that kind of pop.
posted by koeselitz at 4:08 PM on February 1, 2009


Weird -- I have a totally different take on the Bangles. They were from LA, and released their first record on IRS -- I'm pretty sure they'd been together a while (and maybe even recorded the album that placed on this poll) before they ever met Prince. I'm also not sure Prince wrote "a big chunk of their songs" -- in fact, I can't think of any that he wrote besides "Manic Monday."

What's true is that the Bangles recorded a lot of songs written by other people. But so what? In each case, they recorded the definitive version, and I include "Hazy Shade of Winter." If you look at whose songs they played, they clearly have deeper roots in new wave (Kimberley Rew, Elvis Costello) and sweet '60s-'70s pop (Simon and Garfunkel, Alex Chilton) and garage (The Seeds) than anything that sounds like "Manic Monday," or Prince more generally.

Not that I'm defensive about being a Bangles fanboy or anything.
posted by escabeche at 6:38 PM on February 1, 2009


I'm no fan of the Bangles, either, but Koeselitz, I think you're a bit off the mark. Viz:
When Susanna Hoffs joined the sisters Vicki Peterson and Debbi Peterson to form a band in Los Angeles in the waning days of December, 1980, the trio briefly christened itself The Colours, shortly renamed itself The Supersonic Bangs, but soon morphed its name to The Bangs. The band was part of the Los Angeles Paisley Underground scene, which featured groups that played a mixture of 1960s-influenced folk-rock and jangle pop with a more modern punk–ish/garage band undertone.[2] In 1981 the threesome recorded and released a single (Getting Out Of Hand b/w Call on Me) on DownKiddie Records, their own label. In 1982 The trio was signed to Faulty Products, a label formed by Miles Copeland.
Prince didn't even come into the picture until after their first album came out. Perhaps you mean that they nuked the fridge after they started working with Prince?

Not a Bangles fan, was in middle school when their big-ass album came out. Will maintain that All Over the Place is absolutely perfect 1980s power pop.
posted by pxe2000 at 6:52 PM on February 1, 2009


Jinx, escabeche.

(Though I bristle a bit at their version of "Live" being the definitive version.)
posted by pxe2000 at 6:54 PM on February 1, 2009


It's all right, I feel the same about "September Gurls." But sometimes a man's gotta generalize.
posted by escabeche at 7:37 PM on February 1, 2009


..not know what to say really. What could he? "Only so many songs can be sung with two lips two lungs and one tongue" I suppose.

Or

"It has no end so let's pretend it's Now"

glad to see another fan
posted by generalist at 10:38 PM on February 1, 2009


Oh the Dbs! "Like This" was an OK attempt to have a hit record, nothing like the sonically strange "Stands for Decibels" 1981 - in the same way the Murmur was greatly strange. (quirky).
I met those guys.. as far as I can tell Will Rigby and Pete Holsapple sure were some of the nicest guys ever, at least to their nerdy fans. !
And the Bangles pleay MEAN guitar. Viva La Powerpop!

Oh and the dude from Los Lobos is the best guitar player ever. maybe.
posted by celerystick at 1:10 PM on February 2, 2009


Oh and the dude from Los Lobos is the best guitar player ever. maybe.

They're really all astounding musicians. Ceasar Rosas can out-Clapton Clapton, at times. They understand the art of putting music on tape, as well. They're the quintessential American band, to me, at least that's playing right now. I love seeing them live. It's like watching a steam train slowly gather speed as it pulls out of the station, until it's going 60 mph. David Hidalgo has one of my favorite male voices ever, as well. Kiko was the album of the decade, in whatever decade it came out in, or would have come out in.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:00 PM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Kiko was the album of the decade, in whatever decade it came out in, or would have come out in.

Well said.
posted by Songdog at 6:16 PM on February 2, 2009


It just so happened that We Jam Econo came up in my Netflix queue and now that I've watched it I just weep for what might have been. The Minutemen were wrestling blues, country, prog, jazz, and hardcore into a coherent and intelligible whole. The possibilities were endless.

Somehow I think that if D had lived, Kurt Cobain would have never had to have happened. Call me crazy.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:00 PM on February 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Somehow I think that if D had lived, Kurt Cobain would have never had to have happened. Call me crazy.

I'll join this church.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:12 AM on February 4, 2009


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