Category Archives: Go-Go’s

Albums of the Year, 1978-2016

(An updated/edited version of my original post that adds my 2016 pick.)

“Album of the Year” is an honorific I’ve bestowed on one album (sometimes two) every year since beginning my journey into music fandom. I started the practice one late-December evening in 1978 on a piece of looseleaf paper, selecting my favorite LP from the dozen or so LPs I owned. In time, I transferred the list to typing paper, entered it into our first computer, saved it to a floppy disc and, in the late 2000s, moved it to an external hard drive. I now have it stored in the Cloud along with all my Pages documents.

And, for the longest time, that’s all it was – a list that I returned to every year to add another line. Even when we had our Old Grey Cat website in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, I never wrote year-end summations of my favorites – I was too busy critiquing Neil Young bootlegs. It wasn’t until 2008 on Facebook that I posted my top picks for the year; and, on and off over the next few years, I followed with missives until launching this blog on the Hatboro-Horsham Patch in 2012. (I’ve since moved to wordpress.com, obviously.)

I think I best explained the way I go about it in this 2010 post: “The candidates are drawn from what I’ve purchased, so the pool is decidedly limited in comparison to, say, what the writers at Rolling Stone or Allmusic.com are exposed to. Some years I buy a lot and some years not, primarily due to my listening habits – I play albums I love over and over and over until they become one with my subconscious (obsession, not variety, is my spice of life). So the more I like certain albums, the less overall I hear.”

That’s not to say that I still feel the same about each of my past selections as I did when I picked them. I was (and am) a major McCartney fan, but London Town and Back to the Egg weren’t his best, let alone the best of their respective years. I know that now, but at the time…I was a kid on a limited budget. More recently, I’d flip my top two picks in both 2010 and 2012 – in 2010, as I wrote at the time, I relegated Rumer’s Seasons of My Soul (one of my all-time favorites) to the second slot because it hadn’t been officially released in the U.S.; and, in 2012, I was simply smitten with Susanna Hoff’s perfect solo effort, Someday – I still am, but Neil’s Psychedelic Pill has received more play in the years since, as I explained in 2014 rumination I titled On Albums of the Year & the Pono Player.

But, in a way, that’s beside the point. The list, as I see it, is less a critical exercise and more a reflection of the evolution (or lack thereof) of my musical tastes. At Diane’s urging, I’m sharing it… (and, where possible, I’ve linked to past blog posts about each of the albums or artists).

2016 – Rumer – This Girl’s in Love: A Bacharach & David Songbook
2015 – The Staves – If I Was
2014 – First Aid Kit – Stay Gold
2013 – Susanna Hoffs & Matthew Sweet – Under the Covers Vol. III
2012 – Susanna Hoffs – Someday (1); Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill (2)
2011 – Juliana Hatfield – There’s Always Another Girl
2010 – Tift Merritt – See You on the Moon (1); Rumer – Seasons of My Soul (2)
2009 – Diane Birch – Bible Belt
2008 – Juliana Hatfield – How to Walk Away
2007 – Maria McKee – Late December
2006 – The Dixie Chicks – Taking the Long Way
2005 – Juliana Hatfield – Made in China
2004 – Juliana Hatfield – in exile deo
2003 – Maria McKee – High Dive
2002 – Neil Young – Are You Passionate?
2001 – Natalie Merchant – Motherland
2000 – Juliana Hatfield – Beautiful Creature
1999 – Natalie Merchant – Live in Concert
1998 – Lucinda Williams – Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
1997 – Steve Earle – El Corazon
1996 – Neil Young – Broken Arrow; Maria McKee – Life Is Sweet (tie)
1995 – Natalie Merchant – Tigerlily
1994 – Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Sleeps with Angels
1993 – Maria McKee – You Gotta Sin to Get Saved
1992 – 10,000 Maniacs – Our Time in Eden
1991 – Mary Black – Babes in the Wood
1990 – Rosanne Cash – Interiors
1989 – Neil Young – Freedom
1988 – Steve Earle – Copperhead Road
1987 – 10,000 Maniacs – In My Tribe
1986 – Paul Simon – Graceland; Bangles – Different Light (2)
1985 – Lone Justice – self-titled debut; Long Ryders – State of Our Union (2)
1984 – The Go-Go’s – Talk Show; Prince – Purple Rain (2)
1983 – Neil Young – Trans
1982 – Paul McCartney – Tug of War
1981 – Neil Young & Crazy Horse – re*ac*tor (1) / Go-Go’s – Beauty & the Beat (2)
1980 – Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – Against the Wind
1979 – Wings – Back to the Egg
1978 – Wings – London Town

Today’s Top 5: Oldies, but Goodies (aka Singles I Purchased Way Back When)

In the late 1990s, just like every other driver, I was dependent on CDs or the radio for my in-car entertainment; and, given that my daily commute to and from the office was a mere 10-15 minutes, that meant the radio more often than not. In no specific order save for the last, stations in my rotation at the time included KYW-1060, Philly’s all-news station, which I listened to for the weather; WIP, a sports-talk station; WXPN, which featured (and still features) the “adult album alternative” music format; WMGK, a “classic hits” station that leaned heavily on the ‘70s; and WOGL, which programmed more traditional oldies.

In those days, I should mention, my company gave us an hour paid lunch. That meant that I zoomed home at noon and, fifty minutes later, zoomed back. It was great. And while the specific year of the sun-soaked spring day that I’m remembering has been lost in my memory banks, in a sense it doesn’t matter. What does is this: On the way back to work from lunch, I tuned to WOGL only to hear the Pretenders’ “Brass in Pocket” saunter from the speakers like a wisecracking diner waitress.

“Brass in Pocket” was an oldie?! If not for the fact that I was stopped at a red light, I would’ve driven off the road. The oldies in my mind then and now basically equate to the songs Michael St. John played on his Saturday night oldies show on WPEN-AM in the late 1970s – a musical milieu of pop, rock and doo-wop from the 1950s and early/mid-1960s. They weren’t the songs of my youth.

But, of course, by the late ‘90s they were becoming just that.

So, for today’s Top 5: Oldies, but Goodies (aka, Singles I Purchased in 1977, ’78 & ’79)… in the order that I bought them. I think. (Not all were “oldies” at the time, but those that weren’t definitely are now.)

1)  Jan & Dean – “Sidewalk Surfin’.”

 

2) Dion – “The Wanderer.”

3) The Zombies – “She’s Not There”

4) Carly Simon – “You’re So Vain.”

5) Al Stewart – “Song on the Radio.”

And one bonus:

6) Eddie Cochran – “Twenty Flight Rock.”

Okay, a second bonus…this one from 1981.

7) The Go-Go’s – “Our Lips Are Sealed.”

 

Today’s Top 5: 16 or 10 to 6

This morning, I played The Freewheelin’ First Aid Kit – a playlist I created on YouTube a while back, after coming up with the idea here. As the name infers, it features their versions of a few Bob Dylan songs (plus a few other cool covers). First Aid Kit are relative young ‘uns, of course, and their willingness to dig deep into the music of the past is, well, a joy to behold.

I’d love to read a list of their seminal albums.

Which leads to this: Over the past week or so, my Facebook newsfeed has exploded with lists by friends and acquaintances of albums that made a lasting impression on them during their formative years. Such lists get flung around on Facebook every now and again, it seems. This specific meme lays down a few rules: list 10; don’t think too long or hard about them; and don’t choose more than one per artist or band. Some respondents expand the 10 to 20 or even 30; and quite a few can’t help but to push the “one album per artist” rule to two or three. They are always interesting to read.

me_headphones_80ish007-1Anyone who’s spent time on my blog already knows most, if not all, of mine. My music-obsessiveness kicked into gear a few months prior to my turning 13 in 1978 – and has lasted ever since. I’ve always been a fairly open-eared listener, awash (at various times) in the Top 40, AOR rock, oldies, country and adult contemporary, plus disco, R&B and soul. I have no shame, and no “guilty pleasures.” Life’s too short for that.

Some days, I listen to little. Others? I play a lot. On my Wednesday morning commute, I listened to the Jam’s Snap collection, which I had on vinyl way back when; on my way home, I played the Kinks’ One for the Road, another favorite 2-LP set from my teen years. In between, at work, I strapped on my headphones and listened to the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Neil Young’s On the Beach, Gladys Knight & the Pips’ Imagination and, because I’m not totally stuck in the past, the Staves’ If I Was and Harriet’s debut. The day before, while working from home, I made it a Rumer day, and listened to her entire oeuvre (minus Stereo Venus). Right now, I’m listening to Jackie DeShannon’s Are You Ready for This?, a wonderful but oft-overlooked gem of an album she released in 1966 –

– but before that it was Imagination (again) and the Jam’s The Gift.

Anyway, here are not 10 nor 20, but 16 albums from my teen years that (along with lots of others) laid the foundation for much that has followed, arranged in (more-or-less) chronological order as to when I acquired them. Though some are stone-cold classics, others obviously are not – yet they were, in their way, equally important in the evolution of my music-obsessiveness. Then as now, my listening pleasures weren’t always new; some things I discovered from the radio, others from the music magazines and, often, the Rolling Stone Record Guide. I’ve also reduced the span from my teen years to my middle- and high-school days (1978-1983); and, in some instances, included links to past posts where I discuss the album or artist.

It’s also far from definitive. Rickie Lee Jones’ stellar debut isn’t mentioned, for example, though it should be (and is, in a way, now). When I finalize my All-Time Greatest Albums list, which I’m in the process of doing, such lapses and oversights will be corrected.

  1. Paul McCartney & WingsLondon Town
  2. Olivia Newton-JohnTotally Hot
  3. The Beatles – 1967-1970 
  4. Linda RonstadtMad Love
  5. Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – Against the Wind
  6. The Go-Go’sBeauty & the Beat
  7. The PretendersExtended Play
  8. Neil Young & Crazy Horsere*ac*tor
  9. Joan Jett & the BlackheartsI Love Rock ’n’ Roll
  10. Janis Joplin – Pearl
  11. Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
  12. Dusty SpringfieldDusty in Memphis
  13. Lou ReedRock ’n’ Roll Animal
  14. Patti Smith Easter
  15. The JamThe Gift
  16. Roxy Music – The High Road

Anyway, here’s today’s Top 5: 16 or 10 to 6. AKA, songs from six of the above albums…

1) Olivia Newton-John – “Deeper Than the Night.” Fresh from the success of Grease, Olivia released what may well be the greatest album of her career, Totally Hot.

2) The Go-Go’s – One of the greatest crimes of the 21st century: That this band is not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Here they are with “Lust to Love” from Beauty & the Beat…

3) The Pretenders – “Talk of the Town.” Extended Play is no more, which is a shame. A five-song classic it was, and this song was my favorite (with “Message of Love” a close second).

4) Roxy Music – “Like a Hurricane.” The High Road was another EP – and is another lost gem, as it fell out of print.

5) The Jam – “Just Who Is the Five O’Clock Hero?” Paul Weller. The Jam. From their swan song, The Gift.

And… one bonus:

6) Patti Smith – “Because the Night.” From Easter.