These albums are all turning forty this year. This list is in chronological order by release date and covers albums released between January and June of 1983.
- Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) – Eurythmics
CHART POSITION: #15 in the US, #3 in the UK, top ten in five other countries
SINGLES: “This Is the House”, “The Walk”, “Love Is a Stranger”, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “I Could Give You (A Mirror)” and “This City Never Sleeps”
FUN FACT: Eurythmics, the only artist to make two appearances on this list, were nominated for Best New Artist at the 26th Grammy Awards but lost to Culture Club (though they did take home the same prize at the inaugural MTV Video Music Awards).
- Pyromania – Def Leppard
CHART POSITION: #2 in the US, #4 in Canada
SINGLES: “Photograph”, “Rock of Ages”, “Foolin'”, “Too Late for Love”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Rock Rock (Till You Drop)”
FUN FACT: Pyromania was produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange, who also worked on classics like Foreigner’s 4, AC/DC’s Back in Black, and The Cars’ Heartbeat City (and who later had a tabloid fodder marriage to – and divorce from – frequent collaborator Shania Twain).
- Frontiers – Journey
CHART POSITION: #2 in the US, #6 in the UK
SINGLES: “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)”, “Faithfully”, “After the Fall”, “Send Her My Love”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Chain Reaction”
FUN FACT: “Only the Young” was recorded for Frontiers but didn’t make it on the finished product; the song reached the US top ten two years later when it was featured on the soundtrack for Vision Quest.
- Porcupine – Echo & The Bunnymen
CHART POSITION: #2 in the UK, # 137 in the US
SINGLES: “The Back of Love”, “The Cutter”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Back of Love”, “My White Devil”, and “Heads Will Roll”
FUN FACT: Echo & the Bunnymen, my second favorite band from Liverpool, were once booed off the stage after two songs while opening for ska faves Madness (more on them later).
- Kilroy Was Here – Styx
CHART POSITION: #3 in the US, #67 in the UK, #6 in Sweden, #3 in Norway (apparently, Scandanavians really love Styx)
SINGLES: “Mr. Roboto”, “Don’t Let It End”, “High Time”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Cold War” and “Double Life”
FUN FACT: The album’s title was inspired by the famous graffiti tag (pictured, above right) used by US soldiers during WWII. After the Nazis found the tag on a piece of captured American equipment, Hitler came to believe that “Kilroy” was the code name of an Allied spy.
- War – U2
CHART POSITION: #12 in the US, #1 in the UK
SINGLES: “New Year’s Day”, “Two Hearts Beat as One”, “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, “40”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Seconds” and “Surrender”
FUN FACT: Many of the album’s lyrics were written in August, 1982, while Bono was on honeymoon in Jamaica with his wife Ali, which is perhaps the most Bono thing ever.
- Side Kicks – Thompson Twins
CHART POSITION: #34 in the US, #2 in the UK (where it was known as Quick Step & Side Kick)
SINGLES: “Lies”, “Love on Your Side”, “We Are Detective”, “Watching”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “If You Were Here” (known to movie fans as the song that plays over the romantic final scene of Sixteen Candles) and “Love Lies Bleeding”
FUN FACT: The trio’s name was inspired by the bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson in the English language version of the comic strip The Adventures of Tintin. The duo, by the way, is voiced by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg in the 2011 feature-length adaption from Steven Spielberg.
- Dazzle Ships – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD)
CHART POSITION: #162 in the US (where OMD wouldn’t catch on for another two years), #5 in the UK
SINGLES: “Genetic Engineering” and “Telegraph”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “The Romance of the Telescope” and “Of All the Things We’ve Made”
FUN FACT: The album’s cover art was inspired by Vorticist artist Edward Wadsworth’s 1919 painting, Dazzle-ships in Drydock at Liverpool (pictured, above right). Wadsworth frequently worked with nautical themes after spending WWI designing dazzle camouflage for the Royal Navy.
- True – Spandau Ballet
CHART POSITION: #19 in the US, #1 in the UK, New Zealand, and Netherlands
SINGLES: “Lifeline”, “Communication”, “True”, “Gold”, “Pleasure”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Heaven Is a Secret”
FUN FACT: The title track, the first Spandau Ballet single to reach the Billboard Hot 100, is the band’s signature tune; it’s been used extensively in pop culture, in movies like Sixteen Candles and 50 First Dates and television series such as Modern Family. It was also sampled for the 1992 song “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss” by P.M. Dawn.
- The Hurting – Tears for Fears
CHART POSITION: #73 in the US, #1 in the UK
SINGLES: “Suffer the Children”, “Pale Shelter”, “Mad World”, “Change”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “The Hurting” and “Watch Me Bleed”
FUN FACT: In 2001, Michael Andrews and Gary Jules covered “Mad World” for the Donnie Darko soundtrack.
- The Final Cut – Pink Floyd
CHART POSITION: #6 in the US, #1 in seven countries, including the UK
SINGLES: “Not Now John”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “The Post War Dream”, “The Hero’s Return”, and “Paranoid Eyes”
FUN FACT: The album began life as a soundtrack to the motion picture Pink Floyd – The Wall (released in 1982); several of The Final Cut‘s tracks, including “When the Tigers Broke Free”, were recorded during sessions for The Wall album three years earlier.
- Eliminator – ZZ Top
CHART POSITION: #9 in the US, top five in five countries, including the UK
SINGLES: “Gimme All Your Lovin'”, “Sharp Dressed Man”, “TV Dinners”, “Legs”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Got Me Under Pressure” and “If I Could Only Flag Her Down”
FUN FACT: The custom 1933 Ford coupe seen on the cover was used in the videos for three of the album’s singles, including “Legs”, which won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Group Video.
- Naked Eyes – Naked Eyes
CHART POSITION: #32 in the US, #88 in Australia (where it was known as Burning Bridges)
SINGLES: “Always Something There to Remind Me”, “Promises, Promises”, “When the Lights Go Out”, “Voices in My Head”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “I Could Show You How”, “Fortune and Fame”, “Burning Bridges”, “Low Life” and “Emotion in Motion”
FUN FACT: “Always Something There to Remind Me”, Naked Eyes’ only US top ten hit, is a remake of a Burt Bacharach/Hal David song that was originally recorded by Dionne Warwick.
- The Luxury Gap – Heaven 17
CHART POSITION: #72 in the US, #4 in the UK
SINGLES: “Let Me Go”, “Temptation”, “We Live So Fast”, “Come Live with Me”, “Crushed by the Wheels of Industry”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Who’ll Stop the Rain”
FUN FACT: Two of Heaven 17’s members – Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware – founded The Human League in 1977; they left that band in 1980 over creative differences with lead singer Philip Oakey.
- Murmur – R.E.M.
CHART POSITION: #36 in the US
SINGLES: “Radio Free Europe”, “Talk About the Passion”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: Literally all of them – this album changed my fucking life
FUN FACT: R.E.M.’s bright, jangly guitar drew comparisons to The Byrds (both used Rickenbacker guitars, known for their distinctive chime sound). But their melodic basslines, courtesy of Mike Mills, combined with Michael Stipe’s cryptic, mumbly lyrics, gave R.E.M. a sound uniquely their own.
- Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes
CHART POSITION: #171 in the US and #34 in Australia
SINGLES: No singles were released but that didn’t stop songs like “Blister in the Sun”, “Kiss Off”, “Add It Up”, and “Gone Daddy Gone” from making a lasting mark on ’80s pop culture
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Please Do Not Go”, “Prove My Love”, and “Good Feeling” (AKA Lily and Marshall’s “song” on How I Met Your Mother)
FUN FACT: In 2021, Trixie Mattel recorded a version of “Blister in the Sun” for her EP Full Coverage, Vol. 1.
- Let’s Dance – David Bowie
CHART POSITION: #4 in the US, #1 in the UK
SINGLES: “Let’s Dance”, “China Girl”, “Modern Love”, “Without You”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Ricochet” and “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)”
FUN FACT #1: One of the musicians who played on Let’s Dance – a then-unknown blues guitarist named Stevie Ray Vaughan, whose debut album had yet to be released – will appear later on this list.
FUN FACT #2: After his good friend John Lennon’s death, Bowie was looking for a new creative direction and he chose Chic’s Nile Rogers to produce Let’s Dance. Bowie and Rogers discovered they shared a love of ’50s music, which informed the sound of the album.
- Whammy! – The B-52s
CHART POSITION: #29 in the US, #33 in the UK
SINGLES: “Legal Tender”, “Whammy Kiss”, “Song for a Future Generation”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Moon 83”, a reworking of “There’s a Moon in the Sky (Called the Moon)” from the B-52’s’ 1979 self-titled debut
FUN FACT: Whammy! was the final album credited to guitarist Ricky Wilson, who died of AIDS in 1985 while the group was at work on their fourth studio album, Bouncing Off the Satellites.
- Cargo – Men at Work
CHART POSITION: #3 in the US, #1 in Australia, #8 in the UK
SINGLES: “Dr. Heckyll & Mr. Jive”, “Overkill”, “It’s a Mistake”, “High Wire”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Settle Down My Boy”
FUN FACT: My parents and I were vacationing in northern Michigan that August and they surprised me with tickets to the Men at Work/INXS concert at Castle Farms in Charlevoix. We were out to dinner earlier in the evening; our server asked if we were going to the show and I said, “I wish!” It turns out that I was going, I just didn’t know it at the time. Men at Work ended up having a relatively short shelf-life, with the first split occurring just a year later, so I was glad I got the chance to see them before they imploded.
- Hootenanny – The Replacements
CHART POSITION: N/A
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Color Me Impressed”, “Take Me Down to the Hospital”, “Within Your Reach”
FUN FACT #1: The album cover was inspired by the cover of the Crestview Records compilation The Original Hootenanny (pictured, above right).
FUN FACT #2: Six years after the release of Hootenanny, “Within Your Reach” was included on the soundtrack to the quintessential Gen-X rom-com, Say Anything…
- In Outer Space – Sparks
CHART POSITION: #88 in the US
SINGLES: “Cool Places”, “All You Ever Think About Is Sex”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Popularity” and “I Wish I Looked a Little Better”
FUN FACT: “Cool Places”, a duet with Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Go’s, was Sparks’ highest-charting single, reaching #49 on the Billboard Hot 100.
- Madness – Madness
CHART POSITION: #41 in the US (North American release only)
SINGLES: None, because this is a compilation album released in North America to capitalize on the success of “Our House”, Madness’ only US top ten hit
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Our House”, “Tomorrow’s Just Another Day”, “It Must Be Love”, “Primrose Hill”, “House of Fun”, “Rise and Fall”, “Cardiac Arrest”
FUN FACT: Madness – along with bands like The Specials and The Beat – were part of the Two-Tone (named for the 2 Tone record label, pictured above right, to which several of the bands were signed) movement, which fuzed ska and reggae with elements of punk and new wave.
- Power, Corruption & Lies – New Order
CHART POSITION: #4 in the UK, #3 in New Zealand, #38 in Australia
SINGLES: “Blue Monday”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Blue Monday”, “Age of Consent”, “The Village”, “Ultraviolence”, “Leave Me Alone”
FUN FACT: “Blue Monday”, which was only included on the cassette version of the album (and later, the CD), is the best-selling 12-inch single of all time.
- “Weird Al” Yankovic – “Weird Al” Yankovic
CHART POSITION: #139 in the US
SINGLES: “Another One Rides the Bus”, “Ricky”, “I Love Rocky Road”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Stop Dragging My Car Around” and “My Bologna”
FUN FACT: “Weird Al” was just sixteen years old when he had his first comedy song played on The Dr. Demento Radio Show; Yankovic later quipped, “If there hadn’t been a Dr. Demento, I’d probably have a real job now.”
- Holy Diver – Dio
CHART POSITION: #56 in the US, #13 in the UK
SINGLES: “Holy Diver”, “Rainbow in the Dark”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Stand Up and Shout”, “Holy Diver”, “Caught in the Middle”, “Rainbow in the Dark”
FUN FACT: Holy Diver, Dio’s debut album, also features the first appearance of the band’s demonic mascot, Murray.
- Too Low for Zero – Elton John
CHART POSITION: #25 in the US, #7 in the UK, #2 in Australia
SINGLES: “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues”, “I’m Still Standing”, “Kiss the Bride”, “Cold as Christmas (In the Middle of the Year)”, “Too Low for Zero”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Whipping Boy” and “One More Arrow”
FUN FACT: After a several-album slump, Too Low for Zero marked a critical and commercial comeback for John. And yes, that IS Stevie Wonder playing the harmonica on “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues”.
- Speaking in Tongues – Talking Heads
CHART POSITION: #15 in the US, #21 in the UK, top twenty in nine other countries
SINGLES: “Burning Down the House” and “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Making Flippy Floppy”, “Girlfriend is Better”, and “Slippery People”
FUN FACT: “Burning Down the House” was Talking Heads’ only US top-ten hit but the single wasn’t successful outside of North America (though a 1999 cover version by Tom Jones and the Cardigans reached the top ten in several countries, including the UK and Australia).
- State of Confusion – The Kinks
CHART POSITION: #12 in the US
SINGLES: “Come Dancing”, “Don’t Forget to Dance”, “State of Confusion”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Definite Maybe” and “Heart of Gold”
FUN FACT: “Come Dancing”, which peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100, was the band’s most successful American single since 1965’s “Tired of Waiting for You”.
- The Wild Heart – Stevie Nicks
CHART POSITION: #5 in the US, #28 in the UK
SINGLES: “Stand Back”, “If Anyone Falls”, “Nightbird”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Wild Heart” and “I Will Run to You” (duet with Tom Petty)
FUN FACT: “Stand Back” was inspired in part by the lush synthesizers on Prince’s “Little Red Corvette”, which Nicks heard on the radio the day she married Kim Anderson; the couple stopped and got a tape recorder on the way to their honeymoon destination, where they recorded the first version of the song. After telling Prince the story of how the song came to be, Nicks invited him to appear on the record and though his contribution wasn’t credited on the album, Nicks did agree to split the royalties with him 50-50.
- Texas Flood – Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
CHART POSITION: #38 in the US
SINGLES: “Love Struck Baby”, “Pride and Joy”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Texas Flood” and “Testify”
FUN FACT: Jackson Browne heard Vaughan and Double Trouble perform at the 1982 Montreux Jazz Festival and offered them three free days in his studio, where Vaughan recorded the demo that got the band signed to Epic Records.
- Synchronicity – The Police
CHART POSITION: #1 in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Italy
SINGLES: “Every Breath You Take”, “Synchronicity I”, “Wrapped Around Your Finger”, “King of Pain”, “Synchronicity II”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of them except “Mother”, written and sung by Andy Summers; “Mother” should have been left off the album in favor of the far superior “Murder by Numbers”, which was a bonus track on the cassette version.
FUN FACT: Synchronicity was inspired by Arthur Koestler’s The Roots of Coincidence, which delved into Carl Jung’s theory of synchronicity. Koestler, who (coincidentally?) died on March 1, 1983 (about three and a half months before Synchronicity‘s release), drew on Jung as well as the work of Paul Kammerer, “collector of coincidences”. Koestler claimed that while he was writing The Roots of Coincidence, he was subjected to “a meteor shower” of coincidences as if Kammerer was sending him a message from beyond.
Here is the 1983 playlist, which I will update once I publish the second volume of this post: