Ranking #1 albums, UK edition: 1984

In a way the comps beginning to top the UK charts tell the complete story. The double disc The Hits Album has minimal fat, and for all our jingoistic prattle about American soul and funk behold The S.O.S. Band’s “Just Be Good to Me, Miami Sound Machine’s “Dr. Beat,” and Sister Sledge’s “Lost in Music,” none of which got within a millimeter of going top 40 on these shores.

Careful readers will see two bands with grandiosity in their veins sailing past each other. On the solid and often excellent Sparkle in the Rain, Simple Minds were in the act of metamorphosing into a multi-national act at home on a Wembley or Maracanã stage, or maybe they wanted to compete with Big Country, represented here by the anguished Steeltown; “Speed Your Love to Me” and “Up on the Catwalk” have keyboard textures and frenetic rhythm tracks that still sound exciting. The Unforgettable Fire finds U2 placing themselves in the long-fingered hands of Brian Eno and his slatternly aural sensualist Daniel Lanois, creating attractive muted there/not-there tracks that are closer to textures than finished songs. Often my favorite U2 moment, the title track is U2/Eno re-imagining New Gold Dream-era Simple Minds produced by Trevor Horn. Speaking of Big Country, it’s hard to remember how in 1983-1986 MTV loved them. A second-tier act, but listening to “Where the Rose is Sown” and “Great Divide,” it’s impossible not to map the suicide of Stuart Adamson about fifteen years later and a despair inspire by what Thatcher had done to the working class whose longings he set to lyrics anyone can understand and guitar licks as tough as steel wool anyone can hum.

Need I say a word about McCartney and Bowie’s disgraceful product?

Here are the albums heretofore unknown to me:

Human’s Lib: The debut by the singer-keyboardist whom Robert Christgau would deride as the Norman Vincent Peale of pop offers perky blank songs, slow and fast, sung by Peale II in his trademark friendly, fervent, indiscriminate yarl. “Don’t Look at the Rain” looks ahead to “Things Can Only Get Better”‘s homiletic obsessiveness, “Equality” looks ahead, as Marcello Carlin also recognized, to a-ha’s “Take On Me,” though the synths’ imitating record scratching is a delightful touch.

Welcome to the Pleasuredome: I love public sex as much as the next feller, but after the triumphs of “Relax,” “The Power of Love,” and (especially) “Two Tribes,” Frankie turn into Daffy Duck pleading for Elmer Fudd to shoot him because it’s fiddler crab season.

The Hague

David Bowie – Tonight
Paul McCartney – Give My Regards to Broad Street

Meh

Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Welcome to the Pleasuredome
Howard Jones – Human’s Lib
Thompson Twins – Into the Gap

Sound, Solid

Simple Minds – Sparkle in the Rain
Wham! – Make It Big
Big Country – Steeltown

Good to Great

Eurythmics – Touch
U2 – The Unforgettable Fire
Bob Marley & The Wailers – Legend
Various Artists – The Hits Album/The Hits Tape
Various Artists – Now That’s What I Call Music II
Various Artists – The Hits Album/The Hits Tape

7 thoughts on “Ranking #1 albums, UK edition: 1984

  1. I listened heavily to “Sparkle In The Rain” for a year or more. It was one of those albums where the favored song continually shifted until practically all of them held the spotlight until the final [and best] fave was saved for last. “The Kick Inside Of Me” was the most thrilling that this band ever got for me. The recording was so “in the red” that I can’t imagine it ever being quite so intense on a live basis. Kerr was in his ragged glory there [and matched by the whole band] but within two years, he’d merely be ragged. A spent force with his energy blown out on posturing and his voice usually shot to hell in the process. Eurythmics also peaked with the ice and fire of “Touch.” Then they released their High 80s sell out album. Sigh. Almost everyone did back then.

  2. Big Country is the favorite band of my youth, and Steeltown was a a huge part of that. But The Unforgettable Fire song alone make the album No. 1 of this year.

      1. I was a freshman (USC in Los Angeles) when Steeltown hit. That summer, at The Pier in NYC, I was one of several who ran on stage and were tossed back into the crowd by security, so they were still riling up the rabble at that point. Nothing was going to live up the expectations of The Crossing, and by the third album they were already fading from mainstream relevance. I carried the torch, and they seem to have quite a loyal base of fans to this day. Stuart Adamson RIP.

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