We appear to be smack-gob in the middle of another golden age of music, at least for the music I like.
1986. I was 12, and had yet to develop any taste in music, so as before this is all retroactive. This is also as far back as I’m going with the whole “1 winner and 5 runners-up” thing. My original idea was to try and go right back to the year of my birth, 1974, but I just can’t find enough music that I like from all of those years. What we’ll have after this is a digest format with the best one of the year, and possible an honourable mention or two. So now you know.
1986 was designated the International Year of Peace by the UN. Good-oh. Kodak were beaten out of the instant camera game by Polaroid, the first PC virus started to spread, Voyager 2 met Uranus (snigger), Space Shuttle Challenger tragically exploded 73 seconds after launching, Pixar, Halley’s Comet popped by, Mir, hailstones weighing 1kg killed 92 people in Bangladesh (yes, really), the Chernobyl disaster happened killing over 4000 people and forcing 350000 out of their homes, Hands Across America, Maradona and the “Hand of God”, New Zealand decriminalised homosexual sex (between men – lesbian sex was never criminalised in NZ), Andrew married Fergie, Phantom opened in London, the M25 was opened, The Simpsons were created and the first commercial 3D printer was sold.
Arriving presumably not on a one-in-one-out basis were Matt Heafy, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Gemma Arterton, Ophelia Lovibond, Charlotte Church, Lady Gaga, R-Patz, Megan Fox, Rafael Nadal, Shia LaBeouf, LiLo, Usain Bolt, Florence Welch, Daenerys Targaryen, Oscar Pistorius, Amir Khan, John Snow and Ellie Goulding. There were of course many more, but those are the ones I’ve heard of.
As mentioned my 1986 list is completely retroactive – in 1986 I think all I was listening to was Dire Straits, Queen and Jean-Michel Jarre (not that there’s anything wrong with any of that).
Some notable omissions that didn’t make the list: Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet, Metallica – Master of Puppets, Iron Maiden – Somewhere in Time, It Bites – The Big Lad in the Windmill and Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill. Those are all good, but imho, these are better...
My metal awakening was still a few years away when this came out, but looking back it’s an absolute classic and a shortlist must-have. Worth the price of admission several times over for the title track alone, yet some may say “How can you include this and not Master of Puppets? Are you a mental?” The simple fact is I prefer Megadeth to Metallica – always have. I’ll give you that there are a couple of missteps on this album (WTF is “I Ain’t Superstitious” doing on here?) but when it’s good, it’s impeccable. Top track: “Peace Sells”
I was even in the Queen fan club for a few years. At the time I had no idea what AIDS was, or what gay really was, and had no idea that Freddie was not that long for this world. I just loved their music, or at least what I had of it. It’s only recently I’ve gone back to the early proggy albums and discovered a whole bunch of weird, but then that was the 70s for you. This, the unofficial soundtrack to one of my favourite 80s films “Highlander”, has a couple of mawkish moments but again – when it’s good, it’s absolutely amazing. See “One Vision”, the title track, and the splendid “Gimme the Prize” for details. (I know his name.) Top track: “One Vision”
When DLR quit Van Halen, the rock world must have wondered what the hell he – or they – were going to do next. Well, Diamond Dave recruited the hottest musicians available (Steve Vai, Billy Sheehan, Gregg Bissonette, Brett Tuggle) and punted out a solo album that combined Dave’s trademark lounge schtick with some of the most blistering virtuoso rock tunes ever made, still to this day. Indispensable, though hardly flawless. Top track: “Ladies' Nite in Buffalo?”
This was the first album I ever owned that wasn’t a kids album like Mr. Men or something. My late Grandma bought me the tape of it for Christmas or birthday, probably in 1987, and it went into my tape player and hardly came out for months. I still love it. Thanks, Grandma. Top track: “The Boy in the Bubble”
So we know what Roth did when he quit Van Halen, but what did the rest of his erstwhile band do? They recruited a new singer and kept on trucking, that’s what. This was Sammy Hagar’s first album with VH and it was one of the first two rock/metal albums lent to me as part of my metal education by my best friend at the time, Nick Redfearn (the other was Eliminator by ZZ Top). Having never heard VH with Roth at the time, I was spared the inevitable comparisons and potential disappointment that a lead singer swap can engender, and loved it from the get go. Still do. (The following album OU812 is a fucking crock, though.) Top track: “Good Enough”
And the winner is…
I simply will never get bored of this album, as long as I live. I adore everything about it. From the swelling intro to “Red Rain” right to the closing repeated phrases of “This Is the Picture”, there is not a sound on this album that I am not eternally in love with. As an aside, it is also forever linked in my mind to the Clive Barker book “Imajica”, which I was reading when I first discovered this album. I recommend them for simultaneous use.
I was never into Genesis of any era, so only really first heard of Gabs when “Sledgehammer” stormed up the charts and appeared on Top of the Pops with its splendid video, and then noticed him again when the duet “Don’t Give Up” achieved similar success, but it was a few years later that I picked up the album and properly explored its groove, which I found to be righteous (helped along massively by the extremely groovy Tony Levin on bass, of course).
A pop classic, 9 well-crafted songs, and a voice with a range and depth of emotion that I’ve rarely heard. Lovely stuff.
Top tracks: “Mercy Street”, “Red Rain”, “Don't Give Up”
Turkey of the year
Oh good god.