1984 was a rough year in many ways. Ronald Reagan got reelected. AIDS was on the rise, as was the apathy of people in power like Reagan. Ethiopia sank into famine. More on topic, Tipper Gore rallied a bunch of officious ninnies to wage war against pop music with her PMRC. A look at the charts makes Gore’s crusade seem really unnecessary. What did she have a (where’s the) beef with? Matthew Wilder’s “Break My Stride”? Kenny Loggins’s “Footloose”? Phil Collins’s “Against All Odds”? Lionel Ritchie’s “Hello”? Stevei Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You”? Actually, if she’d wanted any of that crap banned, I probably would have gotten behind her. But, of course, these were not her targets, though the song that inspired the PMRC was buried on the biggest album of the year. So I should stop being flip here to acknowledge that ’84 was also the year of Let It Be, Learning to Crawl, four albums so fantastic that I had a hell of a time deciding which was best, and a bunch of other totally awesome ones. Here are ten.
10. The Unforgettable Fire by U2
U2 had done their best work on their first few albums when there was still some punk spirit behind their righteousness. After the smash success of War, the pomposity that would make them pretty insufferable by the time they put out the vastly overrated Joshua Tree and the boring Rattle and Hum was beginning to creep into their music. So The Unforgettable Fire is not as good as Boy or War, but it is still very good, at least as a collection of really committed performances. Song wise, the lazily vague “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and the repetitious “Bad” aren’t much, but you’ll rarely hear this much uninhibited passion outside of an opera house. Better yet is when Bono doesn’t step on The Edge, Larry Mullen, and Adam Clayton when they kick-it-out on “Wire” and “Indian Summer Sky”. Not everything here works—“MLK” sounds like a shapeless attempt to rewrite the beautiful “40” while going to the Martin Luther King well once too often, and the endless “Elvis Presley and America” is a poorly sung six-and-a-half-minute wank—but when U2 are on fire they make The Unforgettable Fire worthwhile.
9. The Top by The Cure