What is it about years ending with “3”? Rolling Stone says that 2013 “had more great music going on than any year in recent memory.” Tuesday I looked back at 1973. Today I’m considering 1983, another year which stands out for containing some of the most interesting, enjoyable and/or important work from musicians of that period. I include a few albums with 1982 release dates which had a significant impact in 1983. For a complete list of 1983 releases click here.
Murmur – R.E.M. – April 12, 1983
If not a new genre, a new way of approaching popular music. Rolling Stone’s Best Album of 1983.
Thriller – Michael Jackson – Nov 30, 1982
The best-selling album of all time and winner of a record-breaking eight Grammy Awards in 1984, it was one of the first to use music videos as a successful promotional tool. A year after the album’s release, Time summed up the three main singles from the album, saying, “The pulse of America and much of the rest of the world moves irregularly, beating in time to the tough strut of ‘Billie Jean’, the asphalt aria of ‘Beat It’, the supremely cool chills of ‘Thriller’.”
Synchronicity – The Police – June 1, 1983
Along with Thriller, this was ubiquitous in the summer of 1983, and propelled The Police, particularly Sting, to superstardom. “Every Breath You Take” won 2 Grammys, and was nominated for a third, in 1984 – in 2010, it was estimated to generate between a quarter and a third of Sting’s music publishing income.
War – U2 – Feb 28, 1983
Under a Blood Red Sky – U2 – Nov 7, 1983
War is U2’s first overtly political album. A commercial success, it knocked Thriller from the top of the charts to become the band’s first #1 album in the UK, and became U2’s first Gold-certified album in the US. Under a Blood Red Sky, a mini-LP live album, helped establish U2’s reputation as a live band.
1999 – Prince – Oct 27, 1982
Prince’s breakthrough – his first top ten album in the United States and the fifth best-selling album of 1983.
Money and Cigarettes – Eric Clapton – Feb 1, 1983
Clapton’s most under-rated album. He chose the name “because that’s all I saw myself having left” after his first rehabilitation from alcoholism. Newly focused and having written a batch of new songs, he fired his longtime band, with the exception of second guitarist Albert Lee, replacing them with Stax Records veteran bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn and Muscle Shoals drummer Roger Hawkins, and brought in guest guitarist Ry Cooder.
Night and Day – Joe Jackson – June 1982
Jackson blew the roof off Duke’s Page Auditorium 11/30/82 on the Night and Day tour, at a concert booked before the album became a hit. The song “T.V. Age” seems even more relevant today, both lyrically (see below) & musically.
Music written by Jackson for the soundtrack to the movie Mike’s Murder was released in September 1983.
Infidels – Bob Dylan – October 27, 1983
Dylan’s return to secular music following three evangelical, gospel albums. Guitarists Mark Knopfler (who produced the album) and Mick Taylor shine.
Nebraska – Bruce Springsteen – Sept 30, 1982
From the time I first heard it, this was, and remains, my favorite Springsteen album. Remarkably, most of the tracks (intended as demos) were recorded in one day with a 4-track cassette recorder in Springsteen’s Colt’s Neck, NJ bedroom.
Inarticulate Speech of the Heart – Van Morrison – March 1983
Local Hero – Mark Knopfler – March 1983
The Hurting – Tears for Fears – March 7, 1983
Speaking in Tongues – Talking Heads – May 31, 1983
Texas Flood – Stevie Ray Vaughan – June 13, 1983
Hand of Kindness – Richard Thompson – June 1983
Girl at Her Volcano – Rickie Lee Jones – June 1983
Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks – Brian Eno – July 1983
The Principle of Moments – Robert Plant – July 11, 1983
The Crossing – Big Country – July 15, 1983
Swordfishtrombones – Tom Waits – Sept 1983
Riding with the King – John Hiatt – October 6, 1983
Rebel Yell – Billy Idol – Nov 10, 1983
Music for Films Vol. 2 – Brian Eno – Nov 1983
T.V. Age – Joe Jackson (from Night and Day)
Here we stand –
(remote control buttons in our sweaty little hands)
As one man –
(we’re lining up and waiting for someone’s command)
We don’t move –
(we send out for food, get the news on video)
I can prove –
(there’s no need for movies, we got HBO)
In the –
They’re out there somewhere
(you know the force has got a lot of power – but what makes you think it gives a shit about you . . . who are you anyway?)
They’re taking over
(and I believe – the aliens have to take a physical form on our planet – so why not one with 13 channels . . .)
They’re out there somewhere
Times must change –
(this ain’t the stone age, we don’t have rocks in our heads)
What’s so strange –
(we don’t work no more, so why get out of bed)
T.V. rules –
(pretty soon you won’t be able to turn it off at all)
All you fools –
(then it’ll turn you off – your back’s against the wall)
In the –