150 Best Albums of 1986

I know it’s the equivalent of rock bands whining about how tired they are of always playing their biggest hit (“No way will I do that bloody wedding song!,” a solo-tour-prepping Robert Plant once promised me about “Stairway to Heaven”), but boy oh boy do I wish I’d meet somebody vaguely familiar with my writing who didn’t immediately mention the Beastie Boys cover story I wrote for Creem back in the early days of 1987, the exact moment when Licensed To Ill exploded. It’ll never go away! Still, one thing I’ve never heard anybody mention from that article was the great rap vs. metal debate. To wit:

“I’m nevertheless more cynical about hip-hop than they are—to my ears it peaked around 1982, and (save for a couple big acts who transcended the form) it’s mainly cliché-recapitulation, best exemplified by all those ‘Roxanne, Roxanne’ answer-records and television theme mastermixes. According to the Beasties, if I lived in New York—where ‘you hear it in the clubs and you hear it on the boxes in the streets,’ Adrock says—I’d think differently. ‘There’s more copy- cat metal than copy-cat rap,’ MCA opines, hitting me in my soft spot. ‘We hereby challenge Bon Jovi to an MC contest,’ taunts Mike D.”

While demonstrating that people did indeed consider Bon Jovi “metal” at the time (well, at least people who weren’t metal themselves did), the paragraph leaves some questions unanswered. For instance: What “television theme mastermixes”? Was that really such a thing at the time? Off the top of my head, I can’t recall a single one. And which “big (rap) acts” did I figure had “transcended the form”? The Beasties’ fellow Rick Rubin charges Run-D.M.C. (whose career I personally helped out!) and L.L. Cool J (who I don’t remember being all that into back then) seem the most obvious candidates, but even in their case, what would “transcend” mean — Cross over to a rock audience (which would still be a stretch at that point), maybe? Hell, what does “transcend the form” ever mean? Would it even necessarily be a good thing? Was I just being lazy, hedging bets, both? Jeez. And finally, who was right? At the end of 1986, was hip-hop winning, or metal?

Well, judging from this newly calibrated delineation of my 150 favorite albums of that year, the answer is….it depends. Near the top, there’s no contest: Seven of the top 16 albums, including Licensed to Ill itself in the coveted second-place spot, are rap records: Beasties, Schoolly-D, Run-D.M.C., Salt-N-Pepa, Kool Moe Dee, two by Mantronix (who maybe transcended hip-hop by being proto-Latin-freestyle, for all I know.) Meanwhile, at least if you do the normal thing and don’t count the Beasties and Run-D.M.C. as I do in my metal-album book, zero metal albums place in the top 16; the highest, Girlschool’s Nightmare at Maple Cross, places #17. So, no contest, right? Don’t be so sure.

After only a couple more borderline metal cases in the top 50 (bubblegum hair-metallers Poison and post-hardcore thrashers Die Kreuzen — I won’t count many indie rock bands but it seems weird not to count them), something bizarre happens. By the end, I’m checking off 23 metal vs. eight rap albums (all those way up near the top, plus Just-Ice.) Not even stretching the definition around dancehall reggae (Shinehead, Wayne Smith, Tippa Irie & Pato Banton) and go-go (Good to Go soundtrack) would make up hip-hop’s deficit.

Even subtracting heavy ex-punks Die Kreuzen and D.C.3 and glam bands Poison, the Joneses (no-sell post-Dolls/proto-GnR sleazebags from L.A.), Cinderella, Tesla and yep Bon Jovi, twice as many metal albums make the list as rap albums. It’s not that hip-hop was still a singles music; not when exactly zero non-Beastie rap singles placed in the 1986 Pazz and Jop critics poll top 25 below winner “Walk This Way.” But maybe it’s that hip-hop was great way more, while metal — purist-defined or not — was good way more. So call it a draw.

Another questionable claim I make in my Beastie Boys magnum opus is that Licensed to Ill (still by far their best album by the way) was not only “one of the best of the last year, but one of a mere handful of listenable recent ones on major labels.” Another testable hypothesis! So let’s see here. Including a few on major-subsidiary quasi-indies, I see at least Teena Marie, Pet Shop Boys, Book of Love, Screaming Blue Messiahs, Stacey Q, Kool Moe Dee and Atlantic Records’ Dance Traxx compilation in the Top 20 alone. After that: The Flirts, Trans-X, Stan Ridgway, David & David, Rolling Stones, Poison, Timbuk 3, Ministry (whose best-of-career Adrian Sherwood LP I didn’t count as metal because they weren’t yet), Nu Shooz, Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman, Metallica, Metal Church, David Lee Roth, Cameo, Bananarama, Reba McEntire, Cinderella….and that’s only the first half of the list! More than a “mere handful,” for sure, unless you have a lot of extra fingers.

One problem, clearly, is that when I wrote that piece I was still oblivious to the post-disco-and-new-wave/pre-house-and-freestyle dance music, flimsy and otherwise, that was by any stretch one of the era’s defining sounds. Hence this was the same year I inexplicably wrote a long lead essay for the Village Voice music section insisting “rock’n’roll radio has never been as boring as it’s been this year. Not in the middle ’70s, not in the early ’60s, not ever. By which I’m mainly talking Top 40, but with ‘classics’-damaged Apartheid Oriented Rock and crossover-damaged Urbane Contemporary rapidly closing whatever minuscule gaps remain between formats, and with Top 40 adopting Adult Contemporary’s no-fast-ones rule, distinctions are pretty useless anyway.” At which point the gods of frequency modulation were so angered that they flung down decades of radio years that made 1986 sound like a Golden Age in comparison. All my fault.

Even 1986’s adult stuff wasn’t as lame as I made it out to be. White male singer-songwriters who cared about the state of the world had a better than average year, at least — Paul Simon getting his mbaqanga on (and thereby getting proclaimed best-in-show by both Grammy and Pazz & Jop voters) was absolutely embarrassing only half the time, and Jackson Browne’s album-long op-ed about U.S. imperialism in Latin America raged almost half as righteously as Bruce Cockburn’s. Younger buskers — Stan Ridgway, David & David, Timbuk 3 — managed to sound by turns cynical, doomed, jaded, smart-ass, just plain modern. Not as modern as the Pet Shop Boys, sure, but still. Fifty thou a year would buy a lot of beer. All that money made such a succulent sound. Six years into Reagan’s reign, the yuppies were having their moment, to hell with everybody else. And these singers were watching it happen, eating it up and spitting it back out sideways.

Still, what made 1986 a very good year for music wasn’t only, or even mostly, the commercial-radio mainstream. In the U.K., especially, seven years of Margaret Thatcher were clearly bringing young lives to a boiling point. At least, that’s how I interpret so much of the impassioned if not always coherent noise oozing out of the isles at the time — Screaming Blue Messiahs, Test Dept. (Greil Marcus: “English friends say this tape-collage LP captures the mood in Britain better than anything else”), Nightingales, Rubella Ballet, Membranes (on my list twice), Mekons, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Three Johns, Camberwell Now (This Heat guys upping the ante), Slaughter Joe, Virgin Prunes and Tools You Can Trust all in my top 100, plus more further down including Edinburgh’s 75%-woman Shop Assistants, Birmingham’s 100%-woman Fuzzbox, Newcastle’s trout-mask-replicating Janitors, and two almost unbearably gnarly EPs by Manchester’s Big Flame. (The Redskins, anti-fascist Socialist Workers Party chrome-domes from York attempting to play protest soul music with a horn section, were unbearable. Didn’t make my list, but at least they meant well.)

So basically, punk lived! Or post-punk, or whatever. In fact, and this might help explain why I underestimated the aboveground at the time, I’m willing to say right here that 1986 looks like some kind of pinnacle for what was ultimately (starting when?) dubbed “indie rock,” the kind usually with educated young white people banging guitars and stuff. Which is to say it was all downhill from here, but damn — It’s not just the Brits who were making a wild subterranean racket. There’s ex-fanziner Steve Albini’s pre-Shellac trio Big Black (who jarringly kept segueing into songs from Paul Simon’s Graceland when I random-shuffled a pile of ’86 streams last week) and five more titles below on ex-fanziner Gerard Cosloy’s pre-Matador label Homestead. There’s Groovy Hate Fuck, by Jon Spencer’s pre-Blues Explosion combo Pussy Galore, the only record I’ve ever seen on youtube where you’re required to sign in to confirm you’re old enough to hear it. There’s the Scientists and Died Pretty and Grong Grong from Australia; and the Puddle and a compilation called Tuatara, after the most primitive reptile still not extinct, from New Zealand; and the garage-riff-repurposing, choco-bar-devouring, animal-embracing, public-bathing, contagiously happy three women in Shonen Knife, from Japan.

There’s My Dad Is Dead and Your Mom Too, whose back-to-back placement on the list below was, I promise, pure serendipity. There’s two albums by Sonic Youth, one barely legal if that and now going for just under $175 on discogs though I tragically sold mine years ago for much, much less; and two albums by Roky Erickson, a punk long before there were punks. And there’s inheritors of Chicago’s proud powerpop tradition Green, whose self-titled, self-released debut I gave a glowing Voice review 16 years before their bassist Ken Kurson co-wrote a book with Rudy Giuliani and 27 years before he edited Jared Kushner’s weekly New York Observer. Hey, even sent me a facebook friend request a couple years ago. No, I did not accept it — and fortunately for us, he’s not in the band yet on their first album.

Anyway, here’s where I piss everybody off by pointing out an album I left off. Prince’s Parade was a blockbuster with neither consumers nor critics upon release — Two albums after Purple Rain, it didn’t top the Billboard 200 and didn’t go multi-platinum; it placed 25th Pazz & Jop, four spots below the Bodeans for Crissakes. But I get the idea it’s accumulated cred over the decades, especially with music writers much younger than me, to the extent that some of them might even swear it’s Prince’s best. No doubt they hear something spectacular in it, and good for them. I don’t. In fact, beyond “Kiss” (just named his second best single ever by the L.A. Times even though it’s not), I’m stumped. Not as foofy as Around the World in a Day, I’ll grant. But close. Could use more meat on its bones. And in the year of Teena Marie’s hardest rocking album, it just ain’t propulsive enough.

None of Parade sounds awful — there’s no “Sexy M.F.,” in other words. Thank O)+>. But as filler-prone 1986 r&b albums with a great single go, I’d rank it miles below the one with Timex Social Club’s “Rumors,” a football field below the one with Cameo’s “Word Up,” and at least a couple yards below ones with Colonel Abrams’s “Trapped” or Gregory Abbott’s “Shake You Down” or Oran “Juice” Jones’s “Rain.” Dobie Gray’s From Where I Stand and Jeffrey Osborne’s Emotional and Robert Cray’s Strong Persuader have merely pretty good singles, but still tell me more I didn’t know about the men who made them than Parade does. As for my #150 album, sometimes I think “Livin’ on a Prayer” is a great single; more often I don’t. Some days, I’d rank it just a notch below “Kiss.” If Jon Bon Jovi had ever made a Prince or Dirty Mind or Controversy or 1999, I might not have much use for Slippery When Wet. But of course, he never came close. So dude squeaks into last place — even if Mike D would beat him in an MC contest.

  1. Teena Marie Emerald City (Epic)
  2. Beastie Boys Licensed to Ill (Def Jam)
  3. Pet Shop Boys Please (EMI America)
  4. Schoolly-D Schoolly-D (Schoolly-D)
  5. Mantronix Music Madness (Sleeping Bag)
  6. Book of Love Book of Love (Sire)
  7. Run-D.M.C. Raising Hell (Profile)
  8. Screaming Blue Messiahs Gun Shy (Elektra)
  9. Salt-N-Pepa Hot Cool & Vicious (Next Plateau)
  10. The Don Pullen-George Adams Quartet Breakthrough (Blue Note)
  11. Trinere Trinere  (Jampacked)
  12. Mofungo Messenger Dogs of the Gods (Lost)
  13. Skeleton Crew The Country of Blinds (Rift)
  14. Mantronix The Album (Sleeping Bag)
  15. Stacey Q Better Than Heaven (Atlantic)
  16. Kool Moe Dee Kool Moe Dee (Jive/Rooftop)
  17. Girlschool Nightmare at Maple Cross (GWR/Profile)
  18. Henry Threadgill Sextet You Know the Number (Novus)
  19. Dance Traxx (Atlantic)
  20. Ledernacken First Album (Strike First)
  21. Sonic Youth Walls Have Ears (Not 1 UK)
  22. Italo Boot Mix Vol. 6 (ZYX)
  23. Sonny Sharrock Guitar (Enemy)
  24. Timex Social Club Vicious Rumors…The Album (Danya)
  25. The Flirts Questions of the Heart (CBS Associated)
  26. Trans-X Living on Video (Atco)
  27. Shinehead Rough & Rugged (African Love)
  28. Sleeping Bag’s Greatest Mixers Collection (Sleeping Bag)
  29. Shonen Knife Pretty Little Baka Guy (Subversive)
  30. Stan Ridgway The Big Heat (I.R.S.)
  31. The Scene is Now Total Jive (Lost)
  32. David & David Boomtown  (A&M)
  33. Big Black Atomizer (Homestead)
  34. Rolling Stones Dirty Work (Rolling Stones)
  35. Wipers Over the Edge (Restless)
  36. The Leaders Mudfoot (Black Hawk)
  37. Test Dept. The Unacceptable Face of Freedom (Ministry of Power UK)
  38. Poison Look What the Cat Dragged In (Capitol/Enigma)
  39. Just-Ice Back to the Old School (Fresh)
  40. Sonic Youth Evol (SST)
  41. The Nightingales In the Good Old Country Way (Vindaloo UK)
  42. Antietam Music From Elba (Homestead)
  43. Rubella Ballet If (Ubiquitous UK)
  44. Die Kreuzen October File (Touch and Go)
  45. Timbuk 3 Greetings from Timbuk 3 (I.R.S.)
  46. Executive Slacks Fire and Ice (Fundamental/Red Rhino)
  47. Ministry Twitch (Sire)
  48. The Membranes Songs of Love and Fury (Homestead)
  49. Nu Shooz Poolside (Atlantic)
  50. Human Zoo Human Zoo (Hospital EP)
  51. The Joneses Keeping Up With the Joneses (Doctor Dream)
  52. Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X (Geffen)
  53. Cirith Ungol One Foot in Hell  (Metal Blade/Roadrunner)
  54. Metallica Master of Puppets (Elektra)
  55. Roky Erickson Gremlins Have Pictures (Pink Dust)
  56. Metal Church The Dark (Elektra)
  57. Mekons The Edge of the World (Sin UK)
  58. The Proletariat Indifference (Homestead)
  59. Red Lorry Yellow Lorry Paint Your Wagon (Red Rhino UK)
  60. Celtic Frost To Mega Therion (Combat/Noise)
  61. Manilla Road The Deluge (Black Dragon)
  62. David Lee Roth Eat ‘Em and Smile (Warner Bros.)
  63. Cameo Word Up (Atlanta Artists)
  64. Savage Republic Ceremonial (Independent Project)
  65. Bananarama True Confessions (London)
  66. The Three Johns The World By Storm (Abstrakt UK)
  67. Victim’s Family Voltage and Violets (Mordam)
  68. The Puddle Pop Lib (Flying Nun New Zealand EP)
  69. The Camberwell Now The Ghost Trade (Ink UK)
  70. Reba McEntire Whoever’s in New England (MCA)
  71. African Head Charge Off the Beaten Track (On-U Sound UK)
  72. Cinderella Night Songs (Mercury)
  73. F/i//Boy Dirt Car Split (RRRecords)
  74. Lester Bowie Avant Pop (ECM)
  75. The Membranes Pulp Beating 1984 and All That (Criminal Damage UK EP)
  76. Vertical Slit Under the Blood Red Lava Lamp (Old Age)
  77. Grong Grong Grong Grong (Alternative Tentacles)
  78. Tuatara: A Flying Nun Compilation (Strange Weekend)
  79. Voivod Rrröööaaarrr (Combat/Noise)
  80. Wayne Smith Sleng Teng (Greensleeves)
  81. Slaughter Joe I’ll Follow You Down (Creation UK EP)
  82. Bruce Cockburn World of Wonders (MCA)
  83. Motörhead Orgasmatron (GWR/Profile)
  84. Virgin Prunes The Moon Looked Down and Laughed (Touch and Go)
  85. Anita Baker Rapture (Elektra)
  86. God’s Favorite Dog (Touch and Go)
  87. Angry Samoans Yesterday Started Tomorrow (Bad Trip EP)
  88. Mel McDaniel Just Can’t Sit Down Music (Capitol)
  89. Bangles Different Light (Columbia)
  90. Roky Erickson Don’t Slander Me (Pink Dust)
  91. Good to Go (Island)
  92. Tools You Can Trust Sharpen The Tools (Red Energy Dynamo UK EP)
  93. Smersh The Beat From 20,000 Fathoms (RRRecords)
  94. Chiclete Com Banana Gritos De Guerro  (Continental Brazil)
  95. The Scientists Weird Love (Big Time)
  96. Walk The West Walk The West (Capitol)
  97. Death of Samantha Laughing in the Face of a Dead Man (Homestead EP)
  98. Died Pretty Free Dirt (What Goes On)
  99. Tippa Irie & Pato Banton Dance Hall Moves (UK Bubblers/Greensleeves UK EP)
  100. Saint Vitus Born Too Late (SST)
  101. Foxx Set Me Free (Malaco)
  102. Th’ Inbred A Family Affair (Toxic Shock)
  103. Camper Van Beethoven Camper Van Beethoven (Pitch-a-Tent)
  104. Bellamy Brothers Country Rap (MCA)
  105. Shop Assistants Shop Assistants (Blue Guitar/Chrysalis UK)
  106. Colonel Abrams Colonel Abrams (MCA)
  107. Something Wild (MCA)
  108. Big Stick 45 12”/Drag Racing (Blast First UK EP)
  109. Vicious Pink Take Me Now (Parlophone UK EP)
  110. Keith Leblanc Major Malfunction (World)
  111. Georgia Satellites Georgia Satellites (Elektra)
  112. Miles Davis Tutu (Warner Bros.)
  113. Sweethearts of the Rodeo Sweethearts of the Rodeo (Columbia)
  114. Gregory Abbott Gregory Abbott (Columbia)
  115. Janitors Thunderhead (In Tape EP)
  116. Zebra 3.V (Atlantic)
  117. Bötellita De Jerez ¡Nacho es Chico (Karussel Mexico)
  118. Fuzzbox We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use It/Boston Steve Austin (Geffen)
  119. Kristi Rose and the Midnight Walkers Some People (Rounder)
  120. My Dad Is Dead …And He’s Not Gonna Take It Anymore (St. Valentine)
  121. Your Mom Too England’s Newest Hitmakers (Kogan)
  122. Paul Simon Graceland (Warner Bros.)
  123. The Pogues Poguetry in Motion (MCA EP)
  124. Will To Live Will To Live (Flesh EP)
  125. D.C.3 The Good Hex (SST)
  126. Randy Travis Storms of Life (Warner Bros.)
  127. Oran “Juice” Jones Juice (Def Jam)
  128. Samantha Fox Touch Me (Jive)
  129. Wa Wa Nee Wa Wa Nee (Epic)
  130. Pussy Galore Groovy Hate Fuck (Shove EP)
  131. XTC Skylarking (Geffen)
  132. Sigue Sigue Sputnik Flaunt It (EMI-Manhattan)
  133. T. Graham Brown I Tell It Like It Used to Be (Capitol)
  134. Dobie Gray From Where I Stand (Capitol)
  135. Big Flame Cubist Pop Manifesto (Constrictor/Ron Johnson Germany EP)
  136. Jeffrey Osborne Emotional (A&M)
  137. Jackson Browne Lives in the Balance (Asylum)
  138. Green Green (Gang Green)
  139. Bitches Sin Invaders (Greenworld/King Classic)
  140. Dwarr Animals (Brand X)
  141. Tesla Mechanical Resonance (Geffen)
  142. Genesis Invisible Touch (Atlantic) 
  143. Whiplash Power and Pain (Roadrunner/Greenworld)
  144. Fates Warning Awaken the Guardian (Metal Blade)
  145. Big Flame Two Kan Guru (Ron Johnson UK EP)
  146. Uzi Sleep Asylum (Homestead EP)
  147. Beyond Possession Is Beyond Possession (Metal Blade/Death)
  148. Robert Cray Strong Persuader (Mercury)
  149. Flaming Lips Here It Is (Restless/Enigma)
  150. Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet (Mercury)


  1. via facebook:

    Scott Seward
    i genuinely love 27 of those. can’t say i’ve heard them all that’s for sure. like, i love Boy and I Touch Roses obviously but have i heard the whole album? i don’t know if i have. so, there are other examples like that. heard the single but not the album.

    Scott Seward
    also, Bitches Sin! haha, good call. there are some fun records on there.

    Scott Seward
    another for instance: i really like the songs In Too Deep and Tonight, Tonight, Tonight but i don’t think i’ve ever made myself listen to that whole album.

    Scott Seward
    also: hep cat cred for being an early adopter of Dwarr.

    Chuck Eddy
    Wait, you mean you? I didn’t hear them til the….’00s or whenever.

    Scott Seward
    Chuck Eddy oh no i meant you. i thought maybe you got a copy of that in the 80s. okay, all your cred is revoked.

    Scott Seward
    i didn’t hear them until i reviewed the reissues in decibel.

    Chuck Eddy
    I wanna hear what the 27 are you genuinely love though, Scott!

    Scott Seward
    oh gosh for real?

    Scott Seward
    i could do it…

    Chuck Eddy
    Do it!

    Scott Seward
    haha okay hold on.

    Scott Seward
    teena marie, beastie boys, pet shop boys, schoolly-d, mantronix (both albums – bought music madness when it came out and that was a HUGE record for me), trans-x, big black, wipers, just-ice, sonic youth (evol), die kreuzen, ministry, metallica, mekons, red lorry yellow lorry, celtic frost, bananarama, grong grong, voivod, motorhead, virgin prunes, saint vitus, shop assistants, vicious pink, fuzzbox, pussy galore, xtc.

    Scott Seward
    some of those after the fact love. most were things i owned upon release or within a year or two of that.

    Scott Seward
    but yeah a lot of those other albums had singles that i love.

    Scott Seward
    stupidly sold my shop assistants album when i had my brief philly record store.

    Chuck Eddy
    I sold LOTS of these. Fortunately, almost all were streamable, on youtube if nowhere else. May never hear the Puddle EP in its entirety again :,-(

    Matt Weston

    Chuck Eddy
    Yeah, but….note what I say about their bassist in the text.

    Matt Weston
    Oh, I know; I was briefly in his post-Green band. But also, he’s not on this record; he didn’t join until the next one (Elaine MacKenzie).

    Chuck Eddy
    Oh OK — I’d missed that! Feel less guilty about plugging the debut, then.

    Steve Pick
    I remember 1986 very differently than you do (quelle surprise, I know!) I do, however, remember very few parties or social gatherings that year which were not soundtracked by Licensed to Ill. I also remember seeing them on that tour with the girls from the audience going into cages.

    Steve Pick
    Pat Metheny & Ornette Coleman gave the greatest concert of my life (though Paul Simon’s Graceland show would also be a top 20, I betcha). It was also fun that year seeing Song-X come into the used record store often, as Metheny’s loyal fans were very, very confused.

    Steve Pick
    Was that the year Gerard Cosloy and Xgau got into their argument in the Voice about popular music vs. unpopular music. I think Cosloy said nothing good could be popular and Xgau argued that nothing good could mean anything unless it was at least somewhat popular. I argued with Cosloy a couple times in print, myself, and pretty much hated 90% of everything he put out on Homestead.

    Chuck Eddy
    Not sure I remember that argument — Given that some Matador records he put out later in life were at least modest hits, wonder if he ever changed his mind (assuming you’re paraphrasing him fairly). Never got the idea he was much a fan of my writing (no shock, and he’s suggested as much in at least couple interviews over the decades), but somehow in the ’80s our tastes aligned somewhat. Liked Homestead way more than Matador. We’ve both lived in Austin for ages, but I’ve only physically seen him here a couple times.

    Chuck Eddy
    I do remember this Xgau/Cosloy discussion though, in Spin.

    Steve Pick
    Hmm – that’s sort of the argument I remember, but I could have sworn it was in the Voice across separate pieces. Which makes me wonder if they went around and around about this

    Tom Lunt
    Steve Pick That’s insane.

    Jaz Jacobi
    Wow, I stole that Sonic Youth picture from that SPIN thing for a project in college

    Steve Pick
    The hip hop and metal thing didn’t affect my world much – oh, the Beasties, Run-DMC, and LL Cool J were all faves, but I don’t think I heard much else on the album front until the next year. And by that point, I was done with metal, having spent at least the first three years of my Post-Dispatch career reviewing two/thirds of the metal bands that passed through St. Louis just because the first assignment I was given that actually excited me was Def Leppard (after Mel Torme and Al Jarreau). I did like DC3, though not enough to play them any time after their inshore at Vintage Vinyl was attended only by non-employee-yet René Spencer Saller.

    Steve Pick
    Albums I remember enjoying in 1986 from your list include – Beasties, Run-DMC, Sonny Sharrock, Stan Ridgway. Big Black (the most perfect record to play while vacuuming, as it gives you the amped up feeling without missing anything important), Sonic Youth (which has one of only two SY songs I can still stand, “Tom Violence”), Die Kreuzen (who played here a memorable show with Love Tractor that year), Song X, Metallica (though not as much as I liked Kill ‘Em All), Cameo (well, “Word Up,” which was later covered in my band with René Spencer Saller singing), Lester Bowie, Motorhead, Bangles, Camper van Beethoven, maybe parts of Miles Davis, Sweethearts of the Rodeo, Paul Simon, D.C. 3, XTC, and Robert Cray. Some of these I haven’t picked up in decades, some I still love. And of course, there are plenty of great records I can’t remember what year they came out.


    Ed Masley
    Great read. And I say that as someone whose favorite album of that year didn’t even rate a mention (unless I scrolled right past it).

    Chuck Eddy
    Cool, but don’t be a tease, Ed — What is it??

    Ed Masley
    Chuck Eddy ha ha. Blood & Chocolate.

    Chuck Eddy
    Oh yeah. He had two that year! Both Top 10 P&J. But I got off the Costello boat at Goodbye Cruel World, and never looked back. (Don’t tell Greil!)

    Ed Masley
    Chuck Eddy I think even Elvis would understand you getting off the boat after that album but I think he rallied with those 1986 releases.

    Chuck Eddy
    You’re definitely not alone in thinking that.


    John Ned
    Whatever happened to Screaming Blue Messiahs? And Mofungo?

    Jaz Jacobi
    “What ‘television theme mastermixes’? Was that really such a thing at the time? Off the top of my head, I can’t recall a single one.”
    “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” doesn’t actually sample a FLASH GORDON TV show, but mig… See More

    Chuck Eddy
    Well, that was 1981, not 1986. And even if it was the latter, it’s not what I meant – By “television theme mastermixes” I’m sure I would have meant multiple themes, not just one in the context of myriad other songs. Also, I have no memory of any Flash Gordon theme show. (Was there ever one?)

    Chuck Eddy
    Closest I can think of is “Pee Wee’s Dance” by Joeski Love, which is at least ’86. But it’s not made up of multiple themes either, and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure was also movie not TV, and “Tequila” obviously didn’t start there.

    Jaz Jacobi
    I really am guilty here of not reading closely enough–I initially thought the reference was to pre-Beasties rap records in general, sorry

    Jaz Jacobi
    Which continues to flummox me as well, all the TV theme samples I can think of are not mastermixes, and post-1986 as well: the DJ Jazzy Jeff I DREAM OF JEANNIE sample, and was it Busta Rhymes who had a hit built around the KNIGHT RIDER theme?

    Jaz Jacobi
    From 1986, contains bits of theme songs from both THE SMURFS and THE TWILIGHT ZONE?

    I definitely can imagine hip-hop DJs jumping on the 1985 vinyl release of this pretty quickly for the purpose of scratching some unique breaks:

    1986: references [but as live music, not via sampling/mixing] theme songs from both MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE and HAWAII FIVE-O

    And the Beasties themselves sample MISTER ED and GREEN ACRES on “Time to Get Ill”

    Contains bits of theme songs from DRAGNET and GET SMART themes, 1985

    1986: contains tiny samples of themes from ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN and THE ADDAMS FAMILY

    Chuck Eddy
    Not sure if I had any of those in mind, but they’re a lot closer. Thanks!

    Jaz Jacobi
    I’m not sure if many of these may have been heard by the majority, yeah!


  2. via facebook:

    Alfred Soto
    I bought EMERALD CITY about 15 years ago thanks to you. The back half drags; still love it.

    Kevin Bozelka
    Yeah, the first side is fire. Then, ya know, ballads and shit.

    Chuck Eddy
    You can’t have Teena Marie without ballad shit though. It’s part of who she is!

    Kevin Bozelka
    Chuck Eddy, sure you can! With glorious mp3s, you can create your OWN albums with no slow-ass songs, filler, or Diane Warren hires.

    Chuck Eddy
    But what if I like smooth jazz? And quiet storms?

    Kevin Bozelka
    Chuck Eddy, if you like smooth jazz, then there’s no hope for you.

    Kevin Bozelka
    I know plenty of mastermixes from the era that include some television themes. But I’ve never heard one comprised entirely of television themes.

    Kevin Bozelka
    Cray too high!

    Chuck Eddy
    I actually guessed you might say that!
    Tom Lane
    Everytime I see your lists, it’s a reminder to check out those Bellamy Brothers albums from the 80’s. But I still haven’t done it. Mel McDaniel too.
    Chuck Eddy
    Do it!!

    Edd Hurt
    Wow, I just bought “Emerald City” for a quarter, and man how did I miss it? Even her samba thing works!

    Edd Hurt
    Near the top of my list: Don Dixon, Most of the Girls Like to Dance. Feelies, The Good Earth (their best). Go-Betweens, Liberty Belle. Astor Piazzolla (best of the 10 or so Piazzollas I’ve heard). Down some, Alex Chilton’s “No Sex” EP (his best ’80s music). Peter Stampfel and the Bottle Caps. Ricky Skaggs’ “Love’s Gonna Get Ya!”

    Chuck Eddy
    I liked the Stampfel album at the time. Can remember nothing about it, though, and his old albums seem to be strangely elusive on streaming sites.

    Edd Hurt
    Good year for harmolodics. Live Ronald Shannon Jackson, “Song X,” Arthur Blythe’s “Da Da.” Jon Hassell’s “Power Spot.” Threadgill. Transcending form? I dunno.

    Chuck Eddy
    I put RSJ’s When Colors Play on my ’87 list.

    Edd Hurt
    It’s a big fave for me.

    Sara Quell

    Steve Alter
    I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying these, Chuck!

    Chuck Eddy
    Well then, don’t!!

    Chuck Eddy
    Maybe somebody should tweet about them or something.

    Steve Alter
    Chuck Eddy, I will spread the word to my marginal community of followers. 🙂

    Joseph Albert Ofalt
    This is an intriguing and useful list with lots of delightful surprises (Stacey Q!). But- what game are ALL OF YOU playing by completely shunning my favorite album of 1986, Brotherhood?

    Kevin Bozelka
    Joseph Albert Ofalt, all of us? I LIVE for that album which contains the greatest New Order track of all time, “All Day Long.”

    Chuck Eddy
    Admittedly didn’t go back and check it out, but I’ve never had much luck with New Order albums that aren’t New Order greatest hits albums.


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s