Best Year In Rock: 1987?!

Last week, this writer was singing the praises of 1978, going so far as to call it the best single year in rock, but, upon further reflection, the opinions expressed here may not have been reflective of my own particular tastes and, while many might argue that this entire blog is but a showcase for one man's opinion, I would disagree.

Why? Because, as we fast approach our 1000th post here on THE SHIT, out of all of those hundreds and hundreds of articles, I have remained unbiased and completely impartial in my reporting so as to best reach a mass audience. Well, today I say "fuck all" to the mass audience and speak directly from the heart as to what year ranks as MY favorite year in rock!

Even so, 1987 isn't tops in my book because my favorite artists released my favorite albums in 1987. In truth, most of my favorite bands were pretty much done by 1987:

1. The Chameleons released the goth-psych masterpiece Strange Times in '86, but would split acrimoniously in '87 after the sudden death of their manager. After the dreadful sell-out attempt that was The Doctor,

2. Cheap Trick were in a creative tailspin that reduced them to a club act and would hastily necessitate bringing original bassist Tom Petersson back.

3.The Three O'Clock would rebound from the departure of guitarist Louis Gutierrez by issuing the mostly guitar-free Ever After all but ensuring their hasty removal from the IRS Records roster and eventual break-up,

4. The BoDeans went arena rock on their second album Outside Looking In and continued to get a ton of press while the far superior E.I.E.I.O. (whose debut effort Land Of Opportunity is the absolute best cow punk/alt. country album ever made) also went arena rock on their second effort, That Love Thang, and got nary a mention. Their have been fewer musical injustices more severe than this and those who remain completely unaware of the band's work are the ultimate losers in all of this.

5. The Jesus & Mary Chain would release the long-awaited follow-up to Psychocandy and, in doing so, remove everything that made the band noteworthy in the first place: the distortion. I mean, in their hands, it wasn't just distortion turned to ear-bursting levels, it was an instrument capable of creating tonal juxtapositions that brought an unsettling menace to their otherwise bubble-gum/Motown melodies. While I have told myself and others in the past that Darklands might even be their best album, the truth is that it wouldn't even be the Mighty Lemon Drops' or the Housemartins' best album. Apart from "April Skies" and "Happy When It Rains", Darklands is completely forgettable.

6. Platinum Blonde, whose debut Standing In The Dark (1983) had made me a fan for life with its taut Duran Duran-meets-The Police aesthetic, had devolved into a rag-tag team of embarrassing trend chasers on their third album, Contact. Aside from the title cut and a cover of  the Ohio Players' #1 hit "Fire" that featured an appearance from that band's Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner, this album was as disposable as a paper cup.

7. The Style Council released the half-assed gut punch The Cost Of Loving, an album that seemingly aspired to have been produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis but was not, making even those who hadn't thought much of his previous band ask, "You broke up The Jam for this?!". We have since forgiven Paul Weller due to the myriad of great solo records he continues to make, and for being one fashionable mofo to this day!

So, how on earth could this writer opine that 1987 was, in fact, the best year in rock, you ask?

1. U2 released The Joshua Tree. Say what you will about the bloated albatross that they would become, this album was a monumental artistic achievement that also just so happened to sell a gazillion copies. Additionally, the band were at their absolute best during this tour, still walking that fine line between intimacy and arena grandstanding.

2. R.E.M. released their last truly great album - and final studio album for IRS Records - Document. It saw the band hit the Top 10 for the first time with "The One I Love" and dominate MTV with the somewhat hokey "Its The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)". The band was flirting with all-out mainstream success while still retaining an air of mystery and continuing to be completely uncompromising in both their music and their visual presentation.

3. Husker Du released the best album of their career, Warehouse: Songs And Stories. If Candy Apple Gray had been their Give 'Em Enough Rope, this menacing double-album was their London Calling and, much like Strummer and Jones seemed to be battling tooth and nail for artistic control of the band, so were Bob Mould and Grant Hart. While it would eventually kill the band, it was sonic heaven for those who heard it.

4. Speaking of massively influential double-albums from Minneapolis-based acts, Prince's Sign O' The Times found The Purple One getting back to the business of creating works of absolute genius after a couple so-so records (Around the World In A Day and Parade). It could even be argued that Side 3 of this album, with "U Got The look", "If I Was Your Girlfriend", "Strange Relationship", and "I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man" might actually be the best single side of his career next to Side 2 of Purple Rain.

5. Of course, completing the Minneapolis trifecta is The Replacements, who responded to the sudden departure of founding guitarist Bob Stinson by releasing arguably their best album, Pleased To Meet Me, featuring such Mats classics as "I.O.U.", "Alex Chilton", "The Ledge", "Nightclub Jitters", "Can't Hardly Wait", and "Skyway". While the rest of the album might qualify as throw-aways, "I Don't Know", "Red Red Wine", "Never Mind" and "Shooting Dirty Pool"  are some damn fine throw-aways. This album, perhaps more than any other, captures the band in all of their ramshackle beauty.

6. The Smiths gave fans and non-fans alike a lot to be happy about, releasing two double-album compilations (The World Won't Listen and Louder Than Bombs) one month apart, unleashing an eagerly awaited new studio album  upon the world (Strangeways, Here We Come) and then, for an encore, breaking up altogether.

7. The Cure released arguably their most ambitious and commercially successful album, the double-record Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, which remains by far the most represented period for them as their live sets to this day continue to include "The Kiss", "Torture", "Catch", "Why Can't I Be You?", "How Beautiful You Are", "Just Like Heaven", "Hot Hot Hot!!!", "If Only Tonight We Could Sleep", and "Shiver and Shake". It would become their first Top 40 album in the U.S., with "Just Like Heaven" becoming their first Top 40 single.

8. A new wave of alt. metal was ushered in with the release of major label debut albums by Jane's Addition (Nothing's Shocking) and Guns 'n' Roses (Appetite For Destruction). Both albums signaled a sea change on the metal front as hair bands would quickly fall out of fashion in '88.

By '91, not only would both acts be part of the mainstream rock establishment, Jane's  Addiction singer Perry Farrell would found the Lollapalooza music festival.

9. SST Records was absolutely killing it as an indie label. Sure, they'd lost Husker Du to the majors (and Black Flag seemed to always be on the verge of following suit) but '87 saw the label release absolutely epic records by the likes of Screaming Trees (Even If And Especially When), Sonic Youth (Sister), Dinosaur Jr (You're Living All Over Me), Meat Puppets (Mirage and Huevos), the Descendants (All) and firehose (if'n), among others.

10. The Pixies released their debut mini-album Come On Pilgrim and, in doing so, took the first step toward completely redefining alternative music as "modern rock" with their walls of guitar distortion, Black Francis's inimitable vocals, and their effective use of "soft-verse-loud chorus-soft verse" dynamics.

11. It was perhaps the greatest year for adult-contemporary rock, too, as landmark albums by Suzanne Vega (Solitude Standing), Bruce Springsteen (Tunnel of Love), Sting (..Nothing Like The Sun), John Mellencamp (The Lonesome Jubilee),  John Hiatt (Bring The Family), Tom Waits (Frank's Wild Years), Robbie Robertson (self-titled), and George Harrison (Cloud Nine)

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