As I mentioned yesterday (https://progarchy.com/2014/03/19/1994-a-pretty-good-year/), I thought 1994 was a “pretty good year” for music. Thinking about 1994 made me think about 1984, and, methinks (don’t you hate it when writers use such pretentious words! Ha), 1984 puts 1994 to shame. In fact, it puts many, many years to shame.
As a product of midwestern America, Ronald Reagan will always dominate my main image and memory of 1984. I write this nonpolitically. Whatever you thought of Reagan as a leader, the man wielded supernatural charisma. He was, simply put, a presence.
But, other images emerge as well from 1984: movies such as 16 Candles, Red Dawn, and The Killing Fields. Chernyanko becoming head of the Soviets. Paul McCartney arrested for possession of pot. The fall of AT&T. The arrival of the first Macintosh. What a year.
Beyond the above, I most remember the music. What a year of greatness for those of us who love innovation and beauty in music. So without further bloviation, I offer my favorites of that august year.
Rush, Grace Under Pressure. This is not only my favorite Rush album, it was and remains my favorite album of 1984. I’ve written about this elsewhere, but it’s worth noting again that I think Rush perfectly captured the tensions of that year: the horrors of the gulags; the destruction of the environment; the loss of a friend; and so on.
I hear the echoes, I learned your love for life
I feel the way that you would
Thomas Dolby, The Flat Earth. I’ve written about this album as well. So brilliant. As deep and as meaningful as Dolby’s first album was interesting and novel.
Suicide in the hills above old Hollywood
Is never gonna change the world
Ultravox, Lament. My favorite Ultravox album? Maybe. As much as Rush captured the spirit of the year, so did Ultravox. From the worry expressed in “White China” to the longing of “When the Time Comes,” Lament is a masterpiece.
Will you stand or fall, with your future in another’s hands
Will you stand or fall, when your life is not your own
Talk Talk, It’s My Life. While this is certainly not Talk Talk’s best album, it is quite good. In particular, Hollis reveals much of his genius in songwriting, whatever the “new wave” trappings of the song. Underneath whatever flesh the band gave the music, the lyrics cry out with a poetic lamentation of both confusion and hope.
The dice decide my fate, that’s a shame
In these trembling hands my faith
Tells me to react, I don’t care
Maybe it’s unkind if I should change
A feeling that we share, it’s a shame
Simple Minds, Sparkle in the Rain. Again, while this isn’t the best Simple Minds had to offer, it was the last great gasp of the band before entering into an overwhelming celebrity. Kerr’s Catholicism especially reveals itself in songs such “Book of Brilliant Things” and “East at Easter.”
I thank you for the shadows
It takes two or three to make company
I thank you for the lightning that shoots up and sparkles in the rain