10 Albums From The 80’s That You Might Not Own, But You Sure As Hell Should

Entertainment, Featured — March 21, 2014 at 6:38 am by

When most people think of music in the 80’s they think of glam rock bands and cheesy pop music.  That’s all well and good, but there was so much more to the decade musically than just Poison and Madonna.  Hip-Hop, Heavy Metal, Alternative Rock, and Punk Rock all blossomed or began in the clubs, garages, college campuses, block parties, and pubs of America, all while the glam and pop dominated the charts and the award shows.  But just like any other era, what’s popular on the surface isn’t necessarily what emerges as a certain time period’s most influential music.  Often enough, it’s the underground stuff, or it’s stuff that was relatively popular, but not as well received as it should have been.  Then of course there is the music that comes out, gets accepted and bought by millions, and remains that way for what seems like forever.  And ultimately that’s just fine, because no matter what genre a song represents or no matter how popular a song is, it all boils down to what Ray Charles once said, “There’s only two kinds of music, as far as I’m concerned:  good and bad.”

So here’s a list of good tunes.  Some of it is obscure music and some of it is not.  There are underground groups, popular groups, and groups who became popular after these albums were released.   On this list are rock bands, metal bands, rap groups, punk bands, and alternative bands. Most of this stuff is influential to what you’re hearing today, but of course it is, it’s what young musicians and their parents were listening to back in the day.  But don’t mistake this as a “best of”  list,  it’s just a list of 10 great albums that we feel should be in your music collection.  They are also in no particular order.  Let’s get started.

1. Metallica- Kill ‘Em All (1983)

Yes, Metallica is that old.  Kill ‘Em All is their first album and their best work.  This heavy metal/thrash metal masterpiece is hard-hitting, melodic, and it harkens back to a day when Metallica cared more about the music than sales.  It’s also when original bassist Cliff Burton was still alive and banging on bass and Lars Ulrich was simply an incredible drummer and not a poster child for rock and roll douche baggery.  This album kicks fucking ass and it is the greatest metal album ever made.  If you don’t know it, then you really don’t know Metallica.  Hardcore head bangers only.  Here are two cuts from the album, The Four Horsemen and Whiplash.



2. Public Enemy- It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back (1988)

I literally lost my mind the first time I heard this album.  Start to finish this record defines Hip-Hop.  It’s hardcore and political, and Chuck D is an extremely underrated MC.  Flavor Flav, Professor Griff, and Terminator X make up the rest of Public Enemy, and Flav may be the most famous of the bunch, but Chuck’s hard-driving lyrics, microphone determination and outright anger always stood out to me.  This was P.E.’s second effort (the first album, Yo Bumrush the Show, is sick too) and as soon as it dropped I knew Rap Music was here to stay.  This album defines the word influence, to both rock and rap artists. “Radio, suckers never play me….” Here’s Rebel Without a Pause and Prophets of Rage


3. R.E.M.- Life’s Rich Pageant (1986)

This is R.E.M.’s fourth album and their best release.  R.E.M. defined the college band experience during the early 80’s, but Life’s Rich Pageant was their first album to go gold and it was the album before Document (1987), which was the record that would make R.E.M. a massive commercial success.  Life’s Rich Pageant is a glorious folk rock and alternative rock classic.  Michael Stipe really stands out on this record, and if you listen to the album from start to finish, you really feel like R.E.M. has taken you through a beautifully woven Mid- American story.  It’s emotional, lyrically gorgeous and beautiful musically; I freakin’ love this record.  Here’s Begin the Begin and Cuyahoga.

4. Joy Division- Love Will Tear Us Apart (1980)

Ok, this was actually a song released as a single in May of 1980 after the suicide of Joy Division’s lead singer Ian Curtis.  “Closer” is the name of the band’s second album and that too was released in 1980, but Love Will Tear Us Apart was not on it; the song appeared on later released Joy Division compilation records.  And while “Closer” is in itself a great album, the song Love Will Tear Us Apart defines what synth pop was all about and seems to be such an obvious influence on alternative music by itself that I just listed it as its own album. The remaining members of Joy Division went on to form the band New Order, and they were kind of a big deal. This sound that they helped create is everywhere and is a big part of music today.


5. AC/DC- Back In Black (1980)
AC/DC is the greatest rock and roll band of all time. In fact, if you really strip it down and define rock and roll, they may be the only real rock and roll band left.  These dudes are still killing it, and they will melt your fucking face off if you go see them live.  Their album Back in Black was their comeback effort after the death of front man Bon Scott, and their first album to feature Brian Johnson and his patented high-pitched growl on lead vocals. Angus and his Gibson define the genre and this thing rocks from the first bell toll. This record is a triumph for the band in so many ways and it’s a black banner that shall forever fly in the annals of rock.  If you don’t like this album, well, there just isn’t much hope for you.  Here’s Back in Black and Shoot To Thrill (Iron Man style).

6. Van Halen- 1984 (1984)
Ah, Van Halen when they were Van Halen. This album marks the last time the original band known as Van Halen played together. After this came the dreaded Van Hagar years. David Lee Roth rejoined the band to tour and release a new distinctly average album, but when he came back bassist Michael Anthony left.  Ugh.  1984 harkens back to the group’s glory days, back when David Lee was acting a fool and laying down sick vocals, Michael Anthony was chugging Jack Daniels on stage while laying down perfect bass lines, Alex Van Halen was playing the most underrated drums ever, and Eddie Van Halen was dominating records with his incredible lead guitar play.  What the hell ever happened to the guitar solo?  Eddie lets loose over the course of this entire record. Here’s Hot For Teacher and Drop Dead Legs.


7. Boogie Down Productions- By All Means Necessary (1988)

Hip-Hop started in the Bronx and nobody represents the Boogie Down better than KRS-One and Boogie Down Productions.  My Philosophy,  is in the conversation for the greatest rap song ever, and KRS-One is just, well, he’s just KRS-One.  Teacher, scholar, artist, philosopher, and MC, the Blast Master does it all.  This album is raw, unrefined and real Rap music.  MCs had to carry it back then.  Dope beats were a must too, but the MC was everything back in the day.  KRS-One carries the torch of the MC on a mission with authority over these tracks. I taped this My Philosophy video when it came on Yo! MTV Raps and played it constantly. Incredible stuff, and so damn innovative. Witness the birth of a music form. Enjoy My Philosophy and Illegal Business.

8. The Smiths- The Queen Is Dead (1986)

The Smiths define alternative rock innovation.  Morrissey’s tragic and beautiful voice poetically versing over the wailing guitar riffs of Johnny Marr is the stuff of music legend.  You could pick any of the Smith’s albums for this list really, but The Queen Is Dead features the ever uplifting and popular Bigmouth Strikes Again, so it made the list just on the merits of that track alone.  I can’t really explain the Smiths, they are a feel, Morrissey is so fucking depressed, but it’s not depressing music, and you either get them or you don’t, but  I’ve always loved this band and the influences to today’s indie rock are everywhere in their music.  True genius and a sound like no other, the Smiths only made music for only five years before going their separate ways.  Morrissey had a successful solo career, but without that Marr guitar, he just wasn’t the same.   Check out Bigmouth Strikes Again and Cemetry Gates.


9. Bad Brains- I Against I  (1986)

The DC punk scene was a fucking scene during this time and Bad Brains was full force in the middle of it.  During my days at College Park in the 90’s I’d hear people brag how they had played with Bad Brains and there were shitloads of stories about how much of an asshole the lead singer H.R. was, but that was always just talk, and who cares anyway, these guys rocked. This album is their best and it may be one of the best  American punk/hardcore/ska/reggae albums ever.  Can you say 311 influence? Bad Brains certainly kicks ass with speed, precision, and H.R. delivering his lyrics with that great voice of his.  Mosh pits were born in the clubs where these kind of bands played. Here’s I against I and Re-Ignition



10. Minor Threat- Minor Threat (1984)

Speaking of mosh pits, punk music and DC, here comes Minor Threat.  These guys defined DC hardcore and were the fucking greatest hardcore puck band of all time.  Even though they only played together for three years, these guys put out enough 2 minute songs to make your eyes bleed.  Speed, aggression, and Ian MacKaye screaming made Minor Threat a household name to skaters, punks, and skinheads everywhere.  These guys set the standard for hardcore punk.  MacKaye sang about and lived the “Straight Edge” ideals on many of these songs, though they are played so fast you may not even notice.  This is some iconic stuff right here.  If you haven’t heard them before, buckle the fuck up. Here’s Filler and Betray and a YouTube Video of Minor Threat performing in Baltimore in 1982. This particular show was legendary because the mics either broke or got taken away by the sound company for fear they would be destroyed.  It didn’t matter, MacKaye kept singing. Hardcore.

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