Top 10 Albums of 1983
When it comes to music, 1983 will probably always be remembered primarily for Michael Jackson’s record-breaking ‘Thriller.’ But 1983 was also a pivotal year in rock history, filled with both landmarks releases from established rock giants and promising first sightings of future stars. Just sift through our list of the Top 10 Albums of 1983 and you’ll see what we mean.
These reformed ‘70s progressive rockers-turned-‘80s arena rock kings followed the radio-conquering prowess of 1981’s ‘Escape’ with more of the same on ’83’s ‘Frontiers.’ But Journey’s eighth album was no mere copycat effort and yielded a slew of classic singles like ‘Separate Ways,’ ‘Faithfully’ and ‘Send Her My Love,’ fated to become both airwave and concert staples.
While some critics were busy crying “sellout” after sampling the obvious commercial aspirations of songs like ‘Modern Love’ and ‘China Girl,’ their parent album, ‘Let’s Dance’ was introducing David Bowie to an entirely new audience and proving that the great chameleon of ‘70s rock wasn’t finished reinventing himself, always anticipating new trends in music and fashion in the burgeoning MTV era.
Speaking of '80s reinvention, perhaps no album epitomized this achievement more successfully than Genesis’ 12th record, which clearly felt like their first to millions of consumers who were unaware of the group’s long and colorful history behind original singer Peter Gabriel. Top 10 hits like ‘That’s All’ and ‘Mama’ showed that Phil Collins was now fully established as the band’s frontman.
Billy, who? Idol, that’s who! That sort of reaction was all too common when this first-generation punk-rock survivor gave up his anarchic dreams and embraced the mainstream with his blockbuster sophomore album ‘Rebel Yell.’ And the mainstream embraced Idol in return, eagerly lapping up his astute blend of rock, pop, punk and New Wave with the help of the many iconic music videos backing up his hits as they stormed onto MTV.
Like the medieval torture device that inspired their name, Iron Maiden steamrolled through the ‘80s like an inexorable metal machine, and their fourth album, ‘Piece of Mind,’ solidified the band’s classic lineup at last. It also built upon the U.S. breakthrough of ’82‘s ‘The Number of the Beast’ by converting untold thousands of heavy-metal faithful to the cult of Maiden’s trusty, newly lobotomized mascot Eddie. Losing your mind never seemed so appealing!
Metallica’s improbable rise from underground phenomenon to global superstars begins here, in ‘Kill ‘Em All’s’ revolutionary thrash foundations, bare-bones production quality and understandably modest commercial expectations. Little did the Bay Area thrashers know these intentionally violent, antisocial anthems of rebellion would one day be rendered retroactively palatable to millions of future Metalli-fans by the increasingly mature and accessible musical creations in their future.
Standing at the opposite end of the metal spectrum from ‘Kill ‘Em All’ is ‘Pyromania,’ Def Leppard’s (and hands-on producer Mutt Lang’s) pristine vision for melodic hard rock, meticulously sculpted to attain pop-radio supremacy and win the hearts of female fans in one fell swoop. Released at the top of ’83, ‘Pyromania’ spent the entire year burnishing its guitar-driven ear-worms into the public conscience until Def Leppard were a household name.
The next entry in the Top 10 Albums of 1983 offers more metal (this was the decade of the music’s commercial rise, after all) and probably had more influence on the visual aesthetic still associated with the 1980s than any other release on our list. Motley Crue’s definitive glam-metal watershed ‘Shout at the Devil’ notably backed up all that big hair and makeup with the strongest and most believably dangerous songs of the band’s long career.
Other than ‘Thriller,’ probably no album was as ubiquitous than the Police’s complex final studio statement, ‘Synchronicity.’ Packed full of hits wrapped in philosophical erudition and barely subliminal paranoid self-loathing, the LP capped a remarkable career that made the ever-fractious post-punk trio of Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland the closest thing to the Beatles experienced by the first generation of the '80s.
After a decade making records, ZZ Top technologically modified southern blues and boogie on 'Eliminator,' and unexpectedly gained the trio close to universal fame in the process. Credit everything to the choreographed movements, big beards, fast women and faster cars depicted in ZZ Top’s thematically consistent videos, if you must, but the truth is that ‘Eliminator’'s smash-hit triple threat of ‘Gimme All Your Lovin’,’ ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ and ‘Legs’ only scratched the surface on an album filled with killer and no filler.