Man, I was still young (22) and handsome then, now I am only handsome...
But I have already been listening to hard rock and symphonic rock since my
11th birthday as I started my record collection with Billion Dollar Babies
(Alice Cooper) and Close To The Edge (Yes).
eighties were of course THE years of my all time favourite rock band Rush
and in 1981 the Canadian trio made their best album so far, maybe even
their best recording ever according to some people.
'Moving Pictures' was released in the fall and this classic album features
a couple of Rush’s best compositions such as 'Tom
Sawyer' or 'The Camera Eye'. Due to these songs the album would propel to
lofty heights and the album would become the catalog’s most brisk seller.
Pictures is also the album on which Geddy toned down his patented high
shriek and this album really became a turning point in their career. From
now on Rush was big business and the band became truly successful.
rest of the music scene were playing it safe with
AOR dominating the business, however the fate of the eighties music was
heard by wonderband U2 as they released their marvellous album 'October'.
The traditional hard rock scene was still doing very well as Triumph, Thin
Lizzy, Saxon, Black Sabbath, Rainbow and AC/DC all
made solid rock albums.
for me the real musical highlights and surprises came from bands such as
Saga, Foreigner, Def Leppard , Styx and Journey. Def Leppard’s 'High And
Dry' was a total blast for me as this album produced by no one less than 'Mutt'
Lange featured extremely good and original rock songs like 'Bringin’On
The Heartbreak' or the amazing title track.
Till this day I still love these Sheffield guys although lots of people
still do not understand why I am so fond of their rather commercial sound.
Foreigner hit the shelves with their outstanding fourth album and Styx
made almost a come back with
their bombastic 'Paradise Theatre' album.
Apart' was the first classic Saga album with songs like On 'The Loose',
'Wind Him Up', 'Framed' or 'No Stranger', making me a true Saga fan for
Journey already one of my favourite AOR bands surprised me with their very
melodic album 'Escape' and songs like 'Don’t Stop Believin’, 'Who’s
Crying Now' or 'Stone In Love' still belong to the best Journey songs ever.
course there were also
musical disappointments like e.g. 'Fair Warning' by the notorious Van
Halen, these guys really seemed to have hit rock bottom with this very
meagre album which everybody has forgotten about.
The musical world celebrated Phil Collins’s solo album 'Face Value' but
I found it dreadfully boring and too commercial, making no friends with
these statements of course… I really hated 'In The Air Tonight' as you
could not turn a radio on in that time and be terrorised by that song!
My favourite singles of this year were 'Take It On The Run' by REO
Speedwagon, a song that I could scream along to on the radio. 'Don’t
Stop Believin' (Journey) and 'Waiting For A Girl Like You' (Foreigner)
also were real goose bumps songs of 1981
for me, that is to say…
Bloomfield, a famous blues guitar player, and Bob Marley did not survive
the year 1981 but all
in all it was a good year mainly due to Rush, Journey and U2.
Whereas 1980 saw the rock world recovering from it's NWOBHM hangover as hairy Brits clung onto what was left of an often embarrassing attempt to make our country seem like the rock capital of the universe, 1981 was the butterfly that emerged from the cocoon of mediocrity, still connected to it’s dusty past but with a bright new melodic future ahead of it.
metaphors aside, 1981 was the year that I realised that rock music didn’t just consist of raising your
fist and yelling, it could also employ (shudder) keyboards.
The big guns of the early Eighties melodic rock were
wielded by Journey, who released what many consider to be their best album. In the year that saw the first
launch of the space shuttle, it was perhaps proper that the cover of 'Escape' should feature a futuristic
space shuttle/beetle type of thing.
Inside the cover,
though, was a work of musical genius, kicking off with a track that still shines as bright over a
quarter of a century later. 'Don’t Stop Believin' is surely the anthem for melodic rock, with a keyboard
part that just couldn't be left out, soaring vocals and even a nifty solo for the air
three slushy but classy ballads, 'Escape' still
managed to rock out with the likes of 'Dead Or Alive' and the title track, whilst ramping up the melody on
'Stone In Love'. Okay, so the follow up 'Frontiers' was a rockier album, even a better one, but 'Escape'
laid a lot of important foundations and if you're reading this you really should own a copy.
1981 was a bit of a bad year for assassins, as both Ronald Reagan and the Pope
managed to survive attempts
on their life. Mind you, it was still a pretty good year for the old warhorse called Heavy
the melodic rock boys were giving it large, muscling
in with their keyboards and squeaky voices, but good
old metal was far from ready to lose it's place at the
bar to this prancing poofter. The old guard sharpened
their pikes and gave us some very memorable stuff, such as Iron Maiden's 'Killers' album.
machine was gathering momentum here, and although it lacked some of the raw power of the debut, 'Killers'
was still a very good effort from the young band, with an absolute gem of a cover from Derek Riggs.
Saxon kept their end up by giving the grease haired
masses a new anthem in 'Denim & Leather', a song that still has power today in the simple yet effective
lyrics belted out with passion by Biff 'Fookin' Byford. Black Sabbath carried on nicely without Ozzy,
with 'Mob Rules' proving to be the highlight of the Dio era, his voice and song writing skills taking the
band further than Ozzy ever could musically.
meanwhile, carried on being Ozzy, which is after all
what he's always been best at. 'Diary Of A Madman' was another pretty cool album from the master of
disaster, although it lacked the sheer enjoyment of 'Bark At The Moon', which would follow in a couple of
years. Strangely, Ozzy was the only one of these metal acts to enjoy equal success in the UK and USA, with
his album cracking the top 20 in both markets.
scored a US number one, but never dented the UK top 30, whilst Maiden, Saxon and Black Sabbath had top 12 albums in the UK without bothering the US market much, although Sabbath did creep into number 29.
One band that crossed the Atlantic divide, ironically on the Atlantic label, were Foreigner. So named
because their members came equally from the US and UK, Foreigner's fourth album, the cunningly titled '4'
rode in to people's lives on the back of the amazing single 'Juke Box Hero', full of wailing guitars and
Lou Gramm's staggeringly good vocals.
They alsoscored a massive hit with 'Waiting for A Girl Like You', cementing themselves as a band that you could rock out
to and also have played at your wedding.
It's a shame
that they only really had one more great album in them in 'Agent Provocateur', but their early stuff is still
worth checking out, along with Lou Gramm’s solo outing 'Ready Or Not'.
Perhaps the oddest album to come out in 1981 was Jim
Steinman's 'Bad For Good'. Steinman had made his name
by writing the phenomenally successful 'Bat Out Of Hell' for Meat Loaf, and the pair were ready to follow
it up. Unfortunately, Meat had vocal problems which resulted in a frustrated Steinman recording the album
himself, managing to put in a very creditable vocal performance (although apparently three songs were sung
by an unaccredited Rory Dodd).
It contained some
tracks that would later make it into the Meat Loaf canon, such as the title track and 'Rock And Roll
Dreams Come True', but much more than that. A particular highlight is the 8 minute work of genius
'Dance In My Pants', which Meat Loaf has bizarrely never covered, especially considering I saw the big
man perform it live several years later, and do a
Although 'Dead Ringer' was recorded
later the same year, I have always considered 'Bad For Good' to be a better collection of songs, and it
really is an essential purchase for Meat Loaf and Steinman fans alike.
Competing with Steinman for the 'What The..?' award in
1981 were the perennially unpredictable Queen. So
close to the arse end of 1980 that I've forced it into
1981, the album 'Flash' was unlike anything the band’s
fans had ever heard before. Not only was this a movie
soundtrack in the truest sense (not just songs inspired by and all that shite) but it wasa soundtrack to a movie that was the cinematic
equivalent of being drowned in sherbert.
If the film
'Flash Gordon' polarised opinions, the album took things a step further, and that was just the theme
tune! Mind you, this didn’t stop it going gold in the and the US, with the Australians buying enough copies
to see it top the charts (the only ones to do so). It’s never going to rank as a classic album, but it
was a brave, mostly successful experiment from a band with more balls than most.
So 1981 was a year with a lot of varied stuff going on, as rock music kept hold of the better pure metal
acts and welcomed some lighter bands to the genre. UK future prog stars Pallas started their career with
'Arrive Alive' , whilst established art house oddities Styx released the seminal 'Paradise Theatre'.
Leppard laid down the groundwork for world domination with 'High & Dry', whilst Rainbow continued to reap
chart rewards with 'Difficult To Cure', featuring
Ritchie Blackmore's amazing take on Beethoven's 9th.
There have been better years for sheer quality in rock
music, but 1981 was where it all began to take shape,
with experiments in melody resulting in a new breed of
melodic rock, as the likes of Motley Crue prepared to
annoy a billion parents.
Okay, so it would take a few
years to really come to fruition, but back when I was
13 I saw the future, and the future had keyboards in it.
[ 1981 ]
Choose a year:
Bandi, Kimmo, Martien, & yours truly, Urban of RockUnited.Com have been spending
weeks, months, wading
through a bunch of weird looking artcovers and albums of the eighties!
Indeed, not an easy task, tracking back in space and time, especially
since some of us were almost still in diapers (sticky) at the early
days of this era of grand and fantastic music. Check out the left-side
border for our yearly write-up in 'black', and this is RockUnited's official
'Best-Of-Album Chart of 1981', calculated from the individual charts. No
live-ones, EP's or
compilations are included, merely studio albums. You can find them all and
complain about our personal taste (or rather the complete lack of it) further down this page!
This is merely our humble and tiny celebration of the hairmetal days or
daze for that matter. Enjoy or not - this is the eighties: 1981.
THE ALBUMS OF
THE YEAR: 1981
Raven - Rock Until You Drop
39. Venom - Welcome To Hell
38. Prism - Small Change
37. Graham Bonnet -
36. Budgie - Nightlife
35. Riot - Fire Down Under
34. Pallas - Arrive Alive
33. Judas Priest - Point of Entry
32. Queen - Flash Gordon
31. Frank Marino - The Power Of Rock
AC/DC - For Those About To Rock
29. Status Quo - Never Too Late
28. Blue Oyster Cult - Fire Of Unknown Origin
27. Pat Benatar - Precious Time
26. Joan Jett - I Love Rock N Roll
25. Accept - Breaker
24. Triumph - Allied Forces
23. Bryan Adams - You Want It You Got It
22. Van Halen - Fair Warning
21. Meat Loaf - Dead Ringer
Kiss - (Music From) The Elder
concept album originally meant to be followed by a plot revealing movie.
All this obviously never happened due to poor sales and lots of confusion.
The sound is very much inspired by 'medieval' times and fantasy on several
of the tracks. Blackmore Knight's fans should def check out 'Just A Boy'.
Eric Carr could have wished for a better start.
Toto - Turn Back
Probably the most guitar orientated album by the Westcoast rockers during their 70's and early/mid 80's era. More of a album effort really as it's difficult to find any real 'hits' or highlights. 'English Eyes' features some of the most crunchy guitar work by Lukather. 'Live For Today', sounds a lot like a typical Rick Springfield song of the early 80's.
Jim Steinman - Bad For Good
'I'm never gonna be what I should. And you think that I'll be bad for just a little while. But I know I'll be bad for good'. Meat Loaf's songwriter with his first solo album. The big lad would later re-record several songs from this album including the title track, 'Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through', 'Out Of The Frying Pan' (And Into The Fire). Bombastic schtuff.
Balance - Balance
'The project of seasoned session musicians as all members appeared on many albums in the past. The bald guitarist, Bob Kulick, helped out Kiss way before his younger bro', Bruce. Laid back, Westcoast-ish, AOR with pompy overtures is the sound of their debut. Rich on harmonies, lushy keyboards, and simply put marvelous lead vocals by Peppy Castro.
Y&T - Earthshaker
Originally known as 'Yesterday & Today' the band shortened the name for their third record, 'Earthshaker'. Signed to A&M after a showcase were Motley Crue played support, this turned out to be Y&T's breakthrough release, and a real change of style. Standout cuts and live favourites to this very day, 'Rescue Me' and the ballad, 'I Believe In You'.
Thin Lizzy - Renegade
The second and last album with the semi-classic pairing of Snowy White and Scott Gorham. Snowy and his more mellow style of play and guitarwork would leave for a solo career shortly afterwards. The track, 'Angel Of Death', sound at first as some kind of new-wave inspired tune, but turns out to be one of their better long tracks. Not too shabby.
Styx - Paradise Theatre
Many folks believe this to be a 1980 album. It's a early January, '81 release though. Also, Styx' first and only #1 album, which included two top ten hits, 'The Best Of Times ' (#3), and 'Too Much Time On My Hands' (#9). It's a fictional concept album based upon Chicago's theatre. 'Snowgoose' came under fire for backward messages? Damn that Tipper Gore.
Rick Springfield - Working Class Dog
Featuring the U.S. singles chart#1 hit, 'Jessie's Girl', which also became a Grammy Award winning song for Dr Noah Drake (name of his character on the daytime drama 'General Hospital'). The 2nd single, 'I've Done Everything For You', ended up at #8 and was originally performed and written by Sammy Hagar in '80. Cover dog, Rick's pet Ronnie, died in 1994.
Rush - Moving Pictures
Their biggest selling record in the states (peaking at #3 on the albums chart), and commercially the band's most successful album up to date. Including live favourites such as 'Tom Sawyer', Red Barchetta' and 'Limelight'. The latter their first minor "radio" hit and lyrically based upon Peart's own dissatisfaction with fame and media.
Saga - Worlds Apart
Keyboards, keyboards, and more keyboards. Supposed to be a progressive, pomp rock band from Canada, but in reality, you could find just as much synth pop on their early 80's albums. This one had the hit, 'On The Loose', which can easiest be described as a mix of Styx and Ultravox. Killer tracks such as 'Wind Him Up, Framed', makes this a hit of '81
Rainbow - Difficult To Cure
the year when Ritchie Blackmore openly stated his liking for Foreigner and
more .U.S. commercial rock. No doubt, 'Difficult To Cure' had more in
common with Foreigner than old Rainbow records. The following two albums
would include even more AOR actually. This one had Joe Lynn Turner on
vocals and the UK #3 single, 'I Surrender'. Yo!
Whitesnake - Come 'An Get It
Easily their weakest effort of all the eighties albums. In my opinion, merely a couple of really great songs, such as the smashing title track, 'Don't Break My Heart Again', 'Child Of Babylon', and 'Would I Lie To You'. David Coverdale and the lads would quickly get right back on tracks though. The following Whitesnake albums are all great.
Black Sabbath - Mob Rules
slightly darker effort of the two Ronnie James Dio albums (at least
lyrically speaking). Yeah, I know there's a third, but that one is a turd.
Quite bombastic at times and songs like, 'Falling off The Edge Of The
World, speak of doom and visions of hell. Vinnie Appice replaced Bill Ward
as the drummer and Martin Birch produced the whole she-bang.
Ozzy Osbourne - Diary Of A Madman
The title is a perfect match to the Birmingham born, John Osbourne (Ozzie to his friends and fans). This would also turn out to be the swan song of the very gifted guitarist, Randy Rhoads. The material doesn't quite hold up to the ranks of the excellent debut. Still a decent platter though and 'Over The Mountain' is a perfect display of the A+ work by Rhoads
Saxon - Denim & Leather
'Where were you in '79 when the dam began to burst'. Oh yes, 'Denim and leather brought us all together. It was you that set the spirit free'. Blue collar metal, or if you prefer, working class hard rock. Saxon wrote the song 'And The Bands Played On' about performing at Monsters Of Rock. It's their most successful single (#12 on the UK singles chart).
Iron Maiden - Killers
Only killers - no fillers. I don't care what Steve Harris & co. are saying about this record. Songs like 'Wrathchild' and the title track is definitely "punky" metal in my books and up there among Maiden's best songs. In fact, the whole album is very underrated in my opinion. Quite possible the best heavy metal art cover ever. Watch out for 'Genghis Khan'.
Motley Crue - Too Fast For Love
Originally released on November 10, 1981, re-released by Elektra on August 20, 1982. We're going with the original and first edition though. Frankly put the best glam album of the eighties. Nevermind Poison, Tuff, and all the rest, merely, 'Too Fast For Love', stood the
test.. of time. Vince Neil sings like a girlie at times, but the songs are all classics.
Def Leppard - High N' Dry
Lange had a blast in '81 as he produced Foreigner's best seller and Def
Leppard's 'High 'N'Dry'. This platter borrows quite a lot, both sound and
style-wise, from 'Back In Black' (AC/DC), which 'Mutt' obviously also
produced in 1980. Also recognized for worst 'mullet' on a rock singer (Joe
Elliott). Bigger and better things to come...
Foreigner - 4
the second best AOR platter of the year according to RockUnited. However,
"4" actually outmatched 'Escape' as it spent seven (7) whole
weeks at the number one spot in the states. Not to mention that, 'Waiting
For A Girl Like You', stayed 10 weeks as number two on the single chart. Foreigner and Journey recorded their best albums in '81.
Journey - Escape
greatest AOR album of all time? Certainly the biggest trendsetter of the
genre. 'Escape' hit the number one spot (1 week) and stayed on the
Billboard chart for a total of 146 weeks. Sold more than 5 million copies
and made Journey a household name for the rest of the century. New boy,
Jonathan Cain, manage to appear on the credits to every song! [all album comment nonsense
INDIVIDUAL LISTS OF 1981 *Personal Stuff*
Albums Top 30:
Crue - Too Fast For Love
2. Iron Maiden - Killers
Def Leppard - High 'N Dry
4. Foreigner - 4
5. KISS - The Elder
Saga - Worlds Apart
7. Journey - Escape
Saxon - Denim & Leather
9. Black Sabbath - Mob Rules
- Moving Pictures
Accept - Breaker
12. Rick Springfield - Working
13. Ozzy Osbourne - Diary Of A Madman
14. Balance -
15. AC/DC - For Those About To Rock
Priest - Point Of Entry
17. Thin Lizzy - Renegade
18. Styx -
19. Rainbow - Difficult
20. Prism - Small Change
- Welcome To Hell
22. Toto - Hold Back
24. Riot - Fire Down Under
25. Bryan Adams - You Want It You Got It
- Rock Until You Drop
27. Whitesnake - Come An' Get It
- Allied Forces
29. Krokus - Hardware
& The Knockouts - s/t
Albums Top 20:
1. Journey - Escape
2. Jim Steinman - Bad For Good
3. Foreigner - 4
4. Whitesnake - Come An get It
5. Iron Maiden - Killers
6. Saxon - Denim & Leather
7. Black Sabbath - Mob Rules
8. Rainbow - Difficult To Cure
9. Def Leppard - High N' Dry
10.Ozzy Osbourne - Diary of A Madman
11.Status Quo - Never Too Late
12.Y & T - Earthshaker
13.Meat Loaf - Dead Ringer
14.Styx - Paradise Theatre
15.Queen - Flash Gordon
16.Thin Lizzy - Renegade
17.Pallas - Arrive Alive
18.Graham Bonnet - Line Up
19.Motley Crue - Too Fast For Love
20.Rush - Moving Pictures
Albums Top 20:
Rush – Moving Pictures
2. Journey – Escape
3. U2 – October
4. Saga – Worlds Apart
5. Foreigner – 4
6. Def Leppard – High & Dry
7. Styx - Paradise Theatre
8. Triumph – Allied Forces
9. Thin Lizzy – Renegade
10.Saxon – Denim & Leather
11.Blue Oyster Cult – Fire Of Un...
12.Black Sabbath – The Mob Rules
13.Frank Marino – The Power Of Rock
14.Rainbow – Difficult To Cure
15.Iron Maiden – Killers
16.Toto – Turn Back
17.Riot – Fire Down Under
18.Budgie – Nightlife
19.AC/DC – For Those About To Rock
20.Van Halen – Fair Warning
Albums Top 10:
1. Journey - Escape
2. Rick Springfield - Working Class Dog
3. Def Leppard - High 'n' Dry
4. Foreigner - 4
5. Motley Crue - Too Fast for Love
6. Balance - Balance
7. Bryan Adams -You Want It You Got It
8. Y & T - Earthshaker
9. Toto - Turn Back
10.Rainbow - Difficult To Cure
Albums Top 10:
1. Journey - Escape
2. Ozzy Osbourne - Diary of a Madman
3. Motley Crue - Too Fast for Love
4. Whitesnake - Come and Get it
5. Foreigner - 4
6. Def Leppard - High n' Dry
7. Van Halen - Fair Warning
8. Pat Benatar - Precious Time
9. Joan Jett - I Love Rock n' Roll
10.Meat Loaf - Dead Ringe
of the year:
- Waiting For A Girl Like You
Loverboy - Working For The Weekend
Rainbow - I Surrender
Journey - Don't Stop Believin'
Iron Maiden - Wrathchild
Rick Springfield - Jessie's Girl
Def Leppard - Bringin' On A Heartbreak
Accept - Breaker
Billy Squier - The Stroke
REO Speedwagon - Keep On Loving You
Whitesnake - Don't Break My Heart Again
Saga - Wind Him Up
Slade - We'll Bring The House Down
Judas Priest - Heading Out OnThe Highway
Y&T - Rescue Me
AC/DC - For Those About To Rock
Saxon - Denim And Leather
Rush - Limelight
KISS - World Without Heroes
Journey - Who's Crying Now
Balance - Hot Summer Nights
ZZ Top - Pearl Necklace
Girlschool - Hit And Run
Sammy Hagar - Heavy Metal
Crue - Live Wire
Styx - Too Much Time on My Hands
Toto - Live For The Day
Black Sabbath - Turn Up The Night
Y&T - I Believe In You
Triumph - Allied Forces
Bryan Adams - Coming Home
Ozzy Osbourne - Flying High Again
Tommy Tutone - 867-5309 Jenny
Genesis - Abacab
Japan - Ghosts
Phil Collins - In The Air Tonight
U2 - Gloria
Queen/David Bowie - Under Pressure
Squeeze - Tempted
Kim Carnes - Bettie Davis Eyes
Kim Wilde - Kids In America
Psychedelic Furs - Pretty In Pink
Duran Duran - Girls On Film
Hall & Oates - I Can't Go For That, etc.
albums of the year:
1. Kim Wilde - Kim Wilde
2. Duran Duran - Duran Duran
3. U2 - October
4. Japan - Tin Drum
5. Human League - Dare
6. Hall & Oates - Private Eyes
7. The Cure - Faith
8. Genesis - Abacab
9. Depeche Mode - Speak & Spell
10.Phil Collins - Face Value
11.The Police - Ghost In The Machine
12.Ultravox - Rage In Eden
13.Spandau Ballet - Journeys To Glory
14.Simple Minds - Sons and Fascination
15.Siouxsie & The Banshee - Juju
16.Level 42 - Level 42
17.The Psychedelic Furs - Talk Talk Talk
18.Jim Steinman - Bad For Good
19.The Vapors - Magnets
20.Meat Loaf - Deadringer
21.Rod Stewart - Tonight I'm Yours
22.Rolling Stones - Tattoo You
23.Heaven 17 - Penthouse and Pavement
24.Soft Cell - Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret
25.The Cars - Shake It Up
26.Adam & The Ants - Prince Charming
27.O.M.D. - Architecture & Morality
28.Madness - 7
29.Electric Light Orchestra - Time
30.ABBA - The Visitors