150 Best Albums of 1983

Glitter Disco Synthesizer Nightschool. All that noble savage drum drum drum. So complaineth what was my favorite album on the ballot I sent into the Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll as a Signal Corps lieutenant in Bad Kreuznach, West Germany in 1983 along with an 11-page letter that got my foot in the Voice‘s door; maybe I related to X’s jingoistic Anglophobia at the time just ’cause I was homesick. (“Woody Guthrie sang about b-e-e-t-s not b-e-a-t-s”: In the year Afrika Bambaataa went looking for the perfect beat, I suppose that means they didn’t like’ rap music much either. Weird, since in that song they sort of seemed to be trying to rap, plus John and Exene also clearly aspired to be b-e-a-t-s in the Kerouac sense. Can’t resist taunting them with the Maggotron LP from a few years later trumpeting “The Quest for the Missing BEET” on its back cover above a bright red root vegetable poking out of the ground.)

On my 1983 list, incidentally, four hip-hoppish albums place in the top 20, when hip-hoppish albums allegedly still barely existed. Or wait, guess I mean five — At the top of my chart, the only album ever by Two Sisters (“Love ya, Theresa & Tracy,” record cover says) was both the birth and peak of Latin freestyle, when it was still called Latin hip-hop and deserved to be. Not to mention quite possibly the fiercest, bubbliest, bounciest “electro” ever. (Soulsonic Forcer G.L.O.B.E. “appears courtesy of Tommy Boy Records on ‘B-Boys Beware.'” Other titles address scratching and popping and locking.) That in 37 years I’m fairly certain I’ve never heard anybody mention them, and that I bought their LP decades ago just because it looked like I’d like it, makes it the ultimate free lunch.

Back to X, they were right in at least one sense — Bizzers then really were branding stuff “new music” (as in New York’s then three-year-old New Music Seminar.) And my top 150 albums of the year has a ton of the stuff, new wave and post-punk and hardcore and synth-pop. By my count, approximately 20% (= 30-ish) of the albums are actually cute little EPs, spanning from three-song maxi-singles to U2’s live “special low price mini LP” (best thing they ever did), which was technically too long to count as an EP by Pazz & Jop standards. If Bobby Braddock’s and Ratt’s and Deborah Allen’s EPs don’t fit under “new music”‘s generous umbrella, all the rest do I think. X place too, with their fourth long not extended player, albeit almost 50 spots lower than I ranked it in real time. I’m sure they’d be overjoyed that my ’83 top three are mere dancefloor fodder, including the first and best thing Madonna ever did. As for “the last American band to get to get played on the radio,” the rechristened John Cougar Mellencamp fronts a great one on number four.

  1. Two Sisters Two Sisters (Sugarscoop)
  2. Indeep Last Night a D.J. Saved My Life (Sound of New York)
  3. Madonna Madonna (Sire)
  4. John Cougar Mellencamp Uh-Huh (Riva)
  5. Treacherous Three Whip It (Sugar Hill/Vogue France)
  6. Womack & Womack Love Wars (Elektra)
  7. DeBarge In a Special Way (Gordy)
  8. The Plastic People of the Universe Leading Horses (Boží Mlýn Productions Canada)
  9. James Blood Ulmer Odyssey (Columbia)
  10. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts Album (Epic)
  11. John Anderson All the People are Talkin’ (Warner Bros.)
  12. Kix Cool Kids (Atlantic)
  13. Dancemaster Vol. 1 (London/Polydor)
  14. Cybotron Enter (Fantasy)
  15. Mark Stewart + Maffia Learning to Cope with Cowardice (On-U Sound UK)
  16. The Perfect Beat (21 UK)
  17. Butthole Surfers Butthole Surfers (Alternative Tentacles EP)
  18. Wild Style (Animal)
  19. Jonzun Crew Lost in Space (Tommy Boy)
  20. Blasters Non Fiction (Slash/Warner Bros.)
  21. Bad Religion Into the Unknown (Epitaph)
  22. Cyndi Lauper She’s So Unusual (Portrait)
  23. Teena Marie Robbery (Epic)
  24. Lionel Richie Can’t Slow Down (Motown)
  25. Haysi Fantayzee Battle Hymns for Children Singing (RCA)
  26. Was (Not Was) Born to Laugh at Tornadoes (Geffen)
  27. T-Bone Burnett Proof Through the Night (Warner Bros.)
  28. High Fashion Dance Music Volume 2 (High Fashion/Dureco Benelux)
  29. The Raincoats The Kitchen Tapes (ROIR)
  30. Huey Lewis and the News Sports (Columbia)
  31. Men & Volts Men & Volts (Eat)
  32. One Way Shine on Me (MCA)
  33. Hunters + Collectors Hunters + Collectors (A&M)
  34. Wham Fantastic (Columbia)
  35. DFX2 Emotion (MCA EP)
  36. Savage Republic Tragic Figures (Independent Project)
  37. Lester Bowie All the Magic! (ECM)
  38. Riot Born in America (Quality)
  39. Trio Trio and Error (Mercury)
  40. Divinyls Desperate (Chrysalis)
  41. Daniel Ponce New York Now (Celluloid)
  42. ESG Come Away (99)
  43. J. Blackfoot City Slicker (Sound Town)
  44. B.P.A. By Products of America (Hospital EP)
  45. Bunnydrums P.K.D. (Red Music)
  46. Righeira Righeira (A&M)
  47. Metallica Kill ‘Em All (Megaforce)
  48. X More Fun in the New World (Elektra)
  49. The Fall Perverted By Language (Rough Trade UK)
  50. Def Leppard Pyromania (Mercury)
  51. Sonic Youth Confusion is Sex (Neutral)
  52. Native Tongue Yowl (Modern Method)
  53. The Mekons The English Dancing Master (CNT Productions UK EP)
  54. Rolling Stones Undercover (Rolling Stones)
  55. Pointer Sisters Break Out (Planet)
  56. ZZ Top Eliminator (Warner Bros.)
  57. Massacre Killing Time (Celluloid/OAO)
  58. Dub Syndicate One Way System (ROIR)
  59. U2 Under a Blood Red Sky (Island)
  60. The Belle Stars The Belle Stars (Stiff)
  61. Jason and the Scorchers Fervor (EMI America EP)
  62. Nile Rodgers Adventures in the Land of the Good Groove (Mirage)
  63. Malcolm McLaren Duck Rock (Island)
  64. Herbie Hancock Future Shock (Columbia)
  65. A Flock of Seagulls Listen (Jive)
  66. Ja Ja Ja Ja Ja Ja (Cachalot EP)
  67. Klique Try It Out (MCA) 
  68. Bananarama Deep Sea Skiving (London)
  69. Pylon Chomp (DB)
  70. Little Girls Thank Heaven (PVC EP)
  71. Heaven 17 The Luxury Gap (Arista)
  72. Violent Femmes Violent Femmes (Slash)
  73. D-Train Music (Prelude)
  74. Tom T. Hall Everything From Jesus to Jack Daniels  (Mercury)
  75. Shalamar The Look (Solar)
  76. Los Lobos …And a Time to Dance (Slash EP)
  77. Al Green I’ll Rise Again (Myrrh)
  78. Wide Boy Awake Wide Boy Awake (RCA EP)
  79. Zebra Zebra (Atlantic)
  80. Zapp Zapp III (Warner Bros.)
  81. Midnight Star No Parking on the Dance Floor (Solar)
  82. Basement 5 1965-1980 (Antilles)
  83. Shockabilly Greatest Hits (Red Music Holland EP)
  84. Hilary Kinetik (Backstreet EP)
  85. Gazebo Gazebo (Baby)
  86. Kissing the Pink Kissing the Pink (Atlantic EP)
  87. Carlos Santana Havana Moon (Columbia)
  88. Highway Chile Storybook Heroes (Miras)
  89. Ronald Shannon Jackson Barbecue Dog (Antilles)
  90. Flashdance (Casablanca)
  91. The Tubes Outside Inside (Capitol)
  92. The Birthday Party The Bad Seed (4AD UK EP)
  93. Claudja Barry No La De Da Part 2  (Personal EP)
  94. Girlschool Play Dirty (Mercury)
  95. Night Ranger Midnight Madness (MCA)
  96. The Accursed Up With the Punks  (Wreck ‘Em UK)
  97. Men At Work Cargo (Columbia)
  98. Planet Patrol Planet Patrol (Tommy Boy)
  99. Richard Thompson Hand of Kindness (Hannibal)
  100. Nona Hendryx Nona (RCA)
  101. The Jackson Southernaires Lead Me (Malaco)
  102. Quarterflash Take Another Picture (Geffen)
  103. Vandenberg Heading for a Storm (Atco)
  104. The Whites Old Familiar Feeling (Warner Bros./Curb)
  105. Crack the Sky World In Motion 1 (Criminal)
  106. Hanoi Rocks Self Destruction Blues (Lick)
  107. Steve Arrington’s Hall of Fame I (Atlantic)
  108. Girls Can’t Help It Pure Wild (Sire EP)
  109. George Clinton You Shouldn’t-Nuf Bit Fish (Capitol)
  110. Freeze (New York)
  111. Jamaldeen Tacuma Show Stopper (Gramavision)
  112. Bobby Braddock Hardpore Cornography (RCA EP)
  113. Double Dancing Record 2 (K-Tel Finland)
  114. Mitch Ryder Never Kick a Sleeping Dog (Riva)
  115. The System Sweat (Mirage)
  116. Ratt Ratt (Time Coast EP)
  117. The Nightingales Hysterics (Ink UK)
  118. Minutemen What Makes a Man Start Fires? (SST)
  119. Minor Threat Out of Step (Dischord EP)
  120. Donna Summer She Works Hard for the Money (Mercury)
  121. Aztec Camera High Land Hard Rain (Sire)
  122. Mission For Christ 2 Jews, a Black, a Woman and a Cripple (Mission For Christ EP)
  123. Axe Nemesis (Atco)
  124. Champaign Modern Heart (Columbia)
  125. Fastway Fastway (Columbia)
  126. Helix No Rest for the Wicked (Capitol)
  127. The Scientists Blood Red River (Au-Go-Go Australia EP)
  128. Pat Wilson Bop Girl (Warner Bros. EP)
  129. Cameo Style (Atlanta Artists)
  130. Exciter Heavy Metal Maniac (Shrapnel)
  131. Hüsker Dü Metal Circus (SST EP)
  132. The Three Johns Men Like Monkeys (CNT Productions UK EP)
  133. Big Black Bulldozer (Ruthless EP)
  134. Legal Weapon Your Weapon (Arsenal)
  135. Loose Ends A Little Spice  (MCA)
  136. The Replacements Hootenanny (Twin/Tone)
  137. Jah Wobble/The Edge/Holgar Czukay Snake Charmer (Island EP)
  138. Ray Charles Wish You Were Here Tonight (Columbia)
  139. Genesis Genesis (Atlantic)
  140. Michael Stanley Band You Can’t Fight Fashion (EMI America)
  141. Mtume Juicy Fruit (Epic)
  142. Laid Back Keep Smiling (Sire)
  143. Jeff Eubank A Street Called Straight (Dorothea)
  144. The Romantics In Heat (Nemperor)
  145. Chaz Jankel Chazablanca (A&M)
  146. Jerusalem Can’t Stop Us Now (Refuge)
  147. Book of Lies Cryptic Memo (Fever EP)
  148. Ole, Ole  Lo Mejor De Ole, Ole  (Columbia Mexico)
  149. The Neats The Neats (Ace of Hearts)
  150. Deborah Allen Cheat the Night (RCA EP)

1 comment

  1. Subjects for future research (elusive on streaming services I’ve checked; maybe I’ll find one or two in a dollar bin someday, who knows):

    Art of Noise – Into Battle With the Art of Noise EP
    Kurtis Blow – Party Time
    Eddy Grant – Killer on the Rampage
    Charlie Haden – The Ballad of the Fallen
    Kid Creole and the Coconuts – Doppelganger
    The Membranes – Pinstripe Hype EP
    Rip, Rig and Panic – Attitude
    Swingrass ’83 – Swingrass ’83


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