These albums are all turning forty this year. This list is in chronological order by release date and covers albums released between July and December 1983 (ICYMI, here’s volume one: https://peanut-butter-and-julie.com/2023/01/30/63-awesome-albums-from-83-vol-1/).
- The Principle of Moments – Robert Plant
CHART POSITION: #8 in the US, #7 in the UK, #10 in Australia, #1 in New Zealand
SINGLES: “Big Log”, “In the Mood”, “Other Arms”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Wreckless Love” and “Horizontal Departure”
FUN FACT: Phil Collins played drums on five of the album’s eight tracks, including “In the Mood,” and former Jethro Tull drummer Barriemore Barlow performed on two. For the remaining song, “Big Log”, a drum machine called the Roland TR-808 provided the beat. The 808 was used extensively in the 1980s; you can hear it in singles like Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing”, Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me), and “Going Back to Cali” by LL Cool J.
- The Crossing – Big Country
CHART POSITION: #18 in the US, #3 in the UK, #4 in Canada
SINGLES: “Harvest Home”, “Fields of Fire”, “In a Big Country”, “Chance”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Inwards” and “The Storm”
FUN FACT: Big Country shared a producer – Steve Lillywhite – and an ethos with other socially conscious UK bands like U2, Simple Minds, and The Pogues. They were known for their bagpipe-like guitar sound, created using the MXR Pitch Transposer 129 Guitar Effect and an EBow, a device that alters a guitar’s sound. You can also hear the EBow on songs like “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” by Blue Öyster Cult, The Church’s “Under the Milky Way”, Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)”, and R.E.M.’s “E-Bow the Letter”, which also namechecks the device.
- No Parlez – Paul Young
CHART POSITION: #79 in the US, #1 in six countries, including the UK, Sweden, Italy, and Germany
SINGLES: “Iron Out the Rough Spots”, “Love of the Common People”, “Wherever I Lay My Hat”, “Come Back and Stay”, “Love Will Tear Us Apart”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Ku Ku Kurama” and the title track
FUN FACT: “Come Back and Stay” was written by Jack Lee, who also composed “Hanging on the Telephone”, a big hit for Blondie in 1978.
- Kill ‘Em All – Metallica
CHART POSITION: #155 in the US – but it didn’t enter the Billboard 200 until 1986, when the tragic death of bassist Cliff Burton in a tour bus accident boosted the band’s back catalog.
SINGLES: “Whiplash” and “Jump in the Fire”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: I won’t pretend to be a Metallica fan (I’m just not a fan of the genre), but I appreciate their incredible talent and artistry.
FUN FACT: Kill ‘Em All‘s original title was Metal Up Your Ass; the proposed cover art was a hand clutching a dagger emerging from a toilet. The band took the label’s advice to change the title to something less potentially controversial but eventually sold t-shirts that used the Metal Up Your Ass artwork.
- Good for Your Soul – Oingo Boingo
CHART POSITION: N/A
SINGLES: “Wake Up (It’s 1984)”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Who Do You Want to Be”, title track, “No Spill Blood”, “Sweat”, “Nothing Bad Ever Happens to Me”,
FUN FACT #1: As a kid, bandleader (and future film composer) Danny Elfman demonstrated an aptitude for science – but not for music. He failed to make his elementary school’s orchestra because he showed “no propensity for music”.
FUN FACT #2: “No Spill Blood” was inspired by 1932’s Island of Lost Souls, an adaptation of H.G. Wells’s novel The Island of Doctor Moreau. In the film, Charles Laughton plays Dr. Moreau, whose “House of Pain” is a laboratory for horrific experiments on human-animal hybrids. Bela Legosi portrays the “Sayer of the Law”, who recites Moreau’s laws (and ultimately rebels against the doctor). Wells’s dialogue “Not to go on all-fours; that is the Law. Are we not men?” inspired the “No Spill Blood” lyric “We walk on two legs not on four / To walk on four legs breaks the law / What happens when we break the law? / What happens when the rules aren’t fair? / We all know where we go from there! / To the house of pain!”
- Madonna – Madonna
CHART POSITION: #8 in the US, #6 in the UK
SINGLES: “Everybody”, “Burning Up”, “Holiday”, “Lucky Star”, “Borderline”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: Just, all of them
FUN FACT: The album – and its creator – was dismissed as disco fluff by many critics, one of whom compared Madonna to “Minnie Mouse on helium”. Madonna later parodied the critique in a 1987 photoshoot with Herb Ritts because she is an absolute fucking boss.
- Close to the Bone – Tom Tom Club
CHART POSITION: #79 in the US, #31 in New Zealand, #42 in Sweden
SINGLES: “Pleasure of Love” and “The Man with the 4-Way Hips”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “On the Line Again” and “Measure Up”
FUN FACT: Tom Tom Club is the side project of married Talking Heads members Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, best known for the 1981 hit “Genius of Love”. That song has been sampled numerous times, most notably for Mariah Carey’s 1995 #1 smash hit “Fantasy”. Close to the Bone didn’t yield any hits in the US, but “The Man with the 4-Way Hips” reached #82 on the UK charts.
- Burning from the Inside – Bauhaus
CHART POSITION: N/A
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “She’s in Parties”, “King Volcano”, “Slice of Life”, title track, “The Sanity Assasin”
FUN FACT: Bauhaus (named for the German art school of the same name) broke up after the making of Burning from the Inside. Peter Murphy went on to have a successful solo career and Daniel Ash co-founded Tones on Tail and Love and Rockets.
- Lawyers in Love – Jackson Browne
CHART POSITION: #30 in the US
SINGLES: “Lawyers in Love”, “Tender is the Night”, “For a Rocker”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Downtown” and “Say It Isn’t True”
FUN FACT: The title track was Browne’s last US top-twenty hit, peaking at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100.
- Punch the Clock – Elvis Costello and the Attractions
CHART POSITION: #24 in the US, #3 in the UK
SINGLES: “Everyday I Write the Book”, “Let Them All Talk”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “The Greatest Thing”, “Shipbuilding”, and “Charm School”
FUN FACT: “Everyday I Write the Book” was Costello’s first US top-forty hit. The music video – featuring silent film clips and (inexplicably) Charles and Diana lookalikes – received significant airplay on MTV. Costello would later admit that he didn’t understand the reason for using Charles and Diana, which was apparently the director’s idea.
- An Innocent Man – Billy Joel
CHART POSITION: #4 in the US, #2 in the UK, #1 in New Zealand
SINGLES: “Tell Her About It”, “Uptown Girl”, title track, “The Longest Time”, “Leave a Tender Moment Alone”, “Keeping the Faith”, “This Night”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: This isn’t my favorite Billy Joel album (that’d be The Stranger). I do appreciate the desire to revisit the music of one’s teen years (I’m literally doing that right now), but doo-wop was never my cup of tea to begin with.
FUN FACT #1: “This Night” is credited on the album’s sleeve to L. v. Beethoven; the basis for the song’s chorus is Beethoven’s Sonata Pathétique.
FUN FACT #2: An Innocent Man was nominated for Album of the Year at the 26th Grammy Awards. It lost – rightfully – to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, as did Let’s Dance and Synchronicity.
- Construction Time Again – Depeche Mode
CHART POSITION: #6 in the UK (didn’t chart in the US)
SINGLES: “Everything Counts”, “Love, in Itself”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Pipeline”, “The Landscape is Changing”, “And Then…”
FUN FACT: “Get the Balance Right!”, one of my favorite DM tunes, was recorded during the Construction Time Again sessions and released as a single but didn’t make the album’s final cut. In the music video, the first two lines are sung by Alan Wilder, even though Dave Gahan provided the song’s vocals. Apparently, the video’s director assumed Wilder was the lead singer and the band didn’t want to embarrass him by pointing out his mistake.
- Bent Out of Shape – Rainbow
CHART POSITION: #34 in the US, #11 in the UK, #3 in Japan
SINGLES: “Street of Dreams”, “Can’t Let You Go”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Fire Dance” and “Drinking with the Devil”
FUN FACT: The music video for “Can’t Let You Go” was inspired by the 1920 German Expressionist silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which Roger Ebert once called “the first true horror film”.
- Mummer – XTC
CHART POSITION: #51 in the UK, #145 in the US
SINGLES: “Great Fire”, “Wonderland”, “Love on a Farmboy’s Wages”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Beating of Hearts”, “Human Alchemy”, and “Funk Pop a Roll”
FUN FACT: The album’s title and artwork reference the English Mummers’ plays I discussed in my drag post (ICYMI: https://peanut-butter-and-julie.com/2023/03/26/in-celebration-of-drag/?_thumbnail_id=15752).
- Labour of Love – UB40
CHART POSITION: #1 in the UK, New Zealand and the Netherlands, #39 (1983) and #14 (1988) in the US
SINGLES: “Red Red Wine”, “Please Don’t Make Me Cry”, “Many Rivers to Cross”, “Cherry Oh Baby”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Keep On Moving”, “Sweet Sensation”, “Version Girl”
FUN FACT #1: UB40’s name is a reference to the acronym for Unemployment Benefit, Form 40, given to UK unemployment claimants.
FUN FACT #2: Labour of Love made its way back onto the charts – and finally cracked the US top twenty – in 1988 after UB40 performed “Red Red Wine” at a 70th birthday celebration for Nelson Mandela, who at the time was still imprisoned in South Africa for the crime of being black.
- Sports – Huey Lewis and the News
CHART POSITION: #1 in the US, #23 in the UK, #22 in Australia
SINGLES: “Heart and Soul”, “I Want a New Drug”, “The Heart of Rock & Roll”, “If This Is It”, “Walking on a Thin Line”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Honky Tonk Blues”
FUN FACT: “Heart and Soul” was written by Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn, a songwriting team known for ’70s hits like “Ballroom Blitz” (The Sweet), “My Sharona” (The Knack), “Heart of Glass” (Blondie), and “Kiss You All Over” (Exile). Exile originally recorded “Heart and Soul” for their 1981 album of the same name, but the single failed to crack the Billboard Hot 100. Lewis’s version made it to #8 and earned the band a Grammy nomination.
- More Fun in the New World – X
CHART POSITION: #86 in the US
SINGLES: “The New World”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “The New World”, “We’re Having Much More Fun”, “Make the Music Go Bang”, “Devil Doll”
FUN FACT: More Fun in the New World was the last X album produced by Ray Manzarek of the Doors. For their follow-up album (Ain’t Love Grand!), X worked with Michael Wagener, who is best known for his work with ’80s metal bands like Accept, Dokken, Great White, and White Lion.
- What’s New – Linda Ronstadt & the Nelson Riddle Orchestra
CHART POSITION: #3 in the US (it was kept off the top of the charts by Thriller and Lionel Richie’s Don’t Slow Down) #31 in the UK
SINGLES: “What’s New”, “I’ve Got a Crush on You”, “Someone to Watch Over Me”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance”
FUN FACT: Ronstadt first performed “I’ve Got a Crush on You” in a 1980 episode of The Muppet Show.
- Genesis – Genesis
CHART POSITION: #9 in the US, #1 in the UK, Germany, and Finland, top five in eight other countries
SINGLES: “Mama”, “That’s All”, “Home by the Sea”, “Illegal Alien”, “Taking It All Too Hard”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Silver Rainbow” and “It’s Gonna Get Better”
FUN FACT: Genesis perfectly bridges the gap between the band’s progressive roots and its ’80s pop sensibilities; it’s my favorite Genesis album. A British reviewer credited the band with making “a Genesis album for people who normally hate Genesis.”
- Colour By Numbers – Culture Club
CHART POSITION: #1 in the UK, Australia, and Canada, #2 in the US (it was kept off the top of the chart by – you guessed it – Thriller)
SINGLES: “Church of the Poison Mind”, “Karma Chameleon”, “Victims”, “Miss Me Blind”, “It’s a Miracle”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above
FUN FACT #1: Colour By Numbers made the year-end charts in several countries, including the US (#5), Canada (#7), and Australia (#3), where it was also the 16th-best-selling album of the DECADE.
FUN FACT #2: A lyric in “Miss Me Blind” – “I’m never really sure / If you’re just kissing to be clever” – is a reference to the title of Culture Club’s 1982 debut.
- She’s So Unusual – Cyndi Lauper
CHART POSITION: #4 in the US, top five in seven other countries (including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand)
SINGLES: “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”, “Time After Time”, “She Bop”, “All Through the Night”, “Money Changes Everything”, “When You Were Mine”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Yeah Yeah”
FUN FACT #1: Annie Leibovitz photographed Lauper for the She’s So Unusual cover, which earned art director Janet Perr a Grammy Award for Best Recording Package.
FUN FACT #2: “She Bop”, an ode to female masturbation with a be-bop back beat, was one of the “Filthy Fifteen”, fifteen pop and rock songs deemed offensive by Tipper Gore and the PMRC (for more on the PMRC, click here: https://peanut-butter-and-julie.com/2021/09/20/warning-pmrc-advisory/).
- Soul Mining – The The
CHART POSITION: #27 in the UK (it didn’t chart in the US)
SINGLES: “Uncertain Smile”, “Perfect”, “This Is the Day”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “The Sinking Feeling”
FUN FACT: The artwork for Soul Mining was done by frontman Matt Johnson’s brother Andrew, under the pseudonym Andy Dog. The typeface for the band’s iconic logo was created by Johnson’s girlfriend, graphic designer Fiona Skinner.
- Uh-Huh! – John Cougar Mellencamp
CHART POSITION: #9 in the US, #57 in Australia
SINGLES: “Crumblin’ Down”, “Pink Houses”, “Authority Song”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Playing Guitar” and “Lovin’ Mother Fo Ya”
FUN FACT: “Crumblin’ Down” was the last song written for Uh-Huh! After listening to the album’s masters, Mellencamp felt he didn’t have a strong enough lead-off single. He contacted longtime songwriting partner George Green, with whom he’d collaborated on “Hurts So Good”. “Crumblin’ Down” was the first single Mellencamp released that credited his real name and not “Cougar”.
- Pipes of Peace – Paul McCartney
CHART POSITION: #15 in the US, #4 in the UK, #9 in Australia
SINGLES: “Say Say Say” (duet with Michael Jackson) and the title track
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Keep Under Cover”, “The Man” (another duet with Jackson), “Through Our Love”
FUN FACT: Much of Pipes of Peace was recorded during the sessions for McCartney’s previous album, Tug of War, so it feels a little like leftovers – more of the same, not quite as good, but more satisfying than cooking a whole new meal. The presence of Michael Jackson lent this project an extra helping of good will. Anyway, I’ll always show up for a former Beatle.
- Hearts and Bones – Paul Simon
CHART POSITION: #35 in the US, #34 in the UK
SINGLES: “Allergies” and “Think Too Much”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Hearts and Bones”, “Train in the Distance”, “René and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog after the War”
FUN FACT #1: “Hearts and Bones” was inspired by Simon’s relationship with Carrie Fisher. I particularly love the opening lyric: “One and one-half wandering Jews / Free to wander wherever they choose”. Fisher and Simon divorced in 1984 and after a period of depression, Simon took a trip to Johannesburg, South Africa, where the seeds of his next album – Graceland – would be sown.
FUN FACT #2: “René and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog after the War”, probably my favorite track on Hearts and Bones, was inspired by a photograph (below) of the surrealist painter and his mate taken by Lothar Wolleh (though the photo was taken in the 1960s).
- Rebel Yell – Billy Idol
CHART POSITION: #6 in the US, #36 in the UK
SINGLES: “Rebel Yell”, “Eyes Without a Face”, “Flesh for Fantasy”, “Catch My Fall”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “(Do Not) Stand in the Shadows”
FUN FACT: Several years before I struggled through two semesters of college French, “Les yeux sans visage” (“Eyes without a face”) was one of the first French phrases I ever learned, thanks to Billy Idol. The lyric is actually the name of a French-language horror film about a plastic surgeon attempting to give his daughter a face transplant after she is disfigured in an auto accident.
- 90125 – Yes
CHART POSITION: #5 in the US, #16 in the UK
SINGLES: “Owner of a Lonely Heart”, “Leave It”, “It Can Happen”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Changes” and “City of Love”
FUN FACT: 90125, named for its Atco Records catalog number, is Yes’s best-selling album in the US. Sales were augmented by the success of “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and its Storm Thorgerson-directed music video, which went into regular rotation on MTV; the single was the band’s only US #1.
- Touch – Eurythmics
CHART POSITION: #1 in the UK and New Zealand, #7 in the US, #4 in Australia
SINGLES: “Who’s That Girl?”, “Right by Your Side”, “Here Comes the Rain Again”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: Just, all of them. Seriously, I can’t choose. The combination of Annie Lennox’s soulful voice and Dave Stewart’s crisp synths remain a match made in synth-pop heaven.
FUN FACT #1: As mentioned in volume one of this post, this is Eurythmics’ second album on the list – Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) was released in January. In 2012, Rolling Stone placed Touch at #492 on its list of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time”.
FUN FACT #2: Lennox and Stewart actually met in 1976; the two were in a band called the Tourists, who had a top-ten UK hit in 1979 with a cover of Dusty Springfield’s “I Only Want to Be with You”. The Tourists broke up in 1980 (as did Lennox and Stewart’s romantic relationship), but the pair wanted to continue their musical partnership. Eurythmics assumed the Tourists’ recording deal with RCA and their first album, In the Garden, was released in 1981.
- Seven and the Ragged Tiger – Duran Duran
CHART POSITION: #8 in the US (where it was also the tenth best-selling album of 1984), #1 in the UK and the Netherlands, #2 in Australia, top twenty in nine other countries
SINGLES: “The Union of the Snake”, “New Moon on Monday”, “The Reflex”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “I Take the Dice”, “Of Crime and Passion”, “Shadows on Your Side”, “The Seventh Stranger”
FUN FACT #1: There probably isn’t a way to put into words what Duran Duran meant – and still mean – to me. My friends and I pored over every lyric and scoured the racks at the indie record store, searching for the imports and 12-inch singles you couldn’t find at the chains. My love affair with the band has never wavered, but it certainly reached its peak in 1983. I don’t know if I’ve ever anticipated an album as much as I did Seven and the Ragged Tiger. Obviously, I wanted it as soon as it was available, but my parents were reluctant to drive me into Ann Arbor on a weeknight (which, as an adult, I TOTALLY understand), so I had to call the store and verify they had it. I’ll never forget how the sales associate answered the phone: “Thank you for calling Record Town, where we have the new Duran Duran album, how can I help you?” Clearly, I was not the first 14-year-old whose parents made them call.
FUN FACT #2: “The Reflex”, buoyed by a Nile Rodgers-produced remix, was Duran Duran’s first US #1 single. It was one of two songs – the other being Prince’s “When Doves Cry” – that kept Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” from topping the charts. Rodgers later co-founded The Power Station with Robert Palmer and D2 members John Taylor and Andy Taylor.
- Conflicting Emotions – Split Enz
CHART POSITION: #3 in New Zealand, #13 in Australia, #137 in the US
SINGLES: “Strait Old Line”, “Message to My Girl”, “I Wake Up Every Night”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: All of the above, plus “Our Day” and “The Devil You Know”
FUN FACT: Split Enz were best known for their 1981 single “I Got You”, which went to #1 in Australia and the band’s native New Zealand and #53 in the US. Escalating tensions between bandmates – and brothers – Tim and Neil Finn meant that Conflicting Emotions was aptly titled. In fact, Split Enz would break up the following year. Neil went on to form Crowded House, one of my favorite bands of the ’80s and ’90s.
- The Politics of Dancing – Re-Flex
CHART POSITION: #53 in the US
SINGLE/MY FAVORITE TRACK: “The Politics of Dancing”
FUN FACT: There were, inexplicably, five more singles released from The Politics of Dancing, but none of them made an impact. Re-Flex’s follow-up album, Humanication, was planned for 1985 but the band parted ways with EMI and it sat on a shelf for 25 years. But if you’re going to be remembered as a one-hit wonder, you could do a lot worse than “The Politics of Dancing”. I was really into the new romantics at the time (Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet, specifically), and synth-pop in general, and Re-Flex fit right into that niche. Anyway, don’t take my word for it. In a sign the single was destined for immortality, “The Politics of Dancing” was featured in a key scene in 2017’s Atomic Blonde, almost thirty-five years after its release.
- Bark at the Moon – Ozzy Osbourne
CHART POSITION: #19 in the US, #24 in the UK
SINGLES: “Bark at the Moon”, “So Tired”
MY FAVORITE TRACKS: “Bark at the Moon”, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Rebel”, “Centre of Eternity”, “Slow Down”
FUN FACT: The music video for “Bark at the Moon” features Osbourne as a mad scientist who transforms, Jekyll and Hyde-style, into the werewolf depicted on the album’s cover. The creature makeup was done by seven-time Oscar winner Rick Baker, who also did the makeup for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video.
After completing this volume, I compiled a list of my top-tier albums of 1983; the albums I listened to regularly then that have also stood the test of time for me. I landed on a top twelve; I couldn’t narrow it down further (my blog, my rules).
- Seven and the Ragged Tiger – Duran Duran
- Genesis – Genesis
- Murmur – R.E.M.
- Madonna – Madonna
- Synchronicity – The Police
- War – U2
- Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes
- Touch – Eurythmics
- Too Low for Zero – Elton John
- Good For Your Soul – Oingo Boingo
- She’s So Unusual – Cyndi Lauper
- Naked Eyes – Naked Eyes
Here is the final 1983 playlist. It is absurdly long, but I’m a completist, so here you go:
Here’s an abbreviated, (roughly) singles-only version of the playlist, for those of you who aren’t completists: