1987: Favorite Albums

For me personally, 1987 was the greatest year ever for music. I graduated from high school in June and started university in August—along with that transition to higher learning, I also experienced a musical ‘age of enlightenment.’

Two years earlier, my meager music collection was comprised of a couple dozen cassettes, including albums by: A Flock Of Seagulls, The Cars, Phil Collins, Dire Straits, Duran Duran, Hall & Oates, Billy Joel, Howard Jones, Mr. Mister, and Bruce Springsteen, among even more embarrassing selections. After one of those crappy tapes broke, I wisely switched to buying vinyl.

The pivotal purchase that completely and forever changed my appreciation of music was a used copy of Japan’s “Tin Drum”, which I acquired in May 1986 from a beloved but long gone shop in Northeast Philadelphia called The Record Cellar. Hearing the exotic sounds of “Tin Drum” for the first time was a revelation—after that, commercial radio became less listenable.

As my musical tastes matured during 1987, my ears were well nurtured by the many great releases of the period. And now 30 years later, that music endures and remains special—here are my favorite LPs of 1987 (listed alphabetically by artist):

  • Cabaret Voltaire “Code”
  • The Cure “Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me”
  • Dead Can Dance “Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun”
  • Depeche Mode “Music For The Masses”
  • Echo & The Bunnymen “Echo & The Bunnymen”
  • Erasure “The Circus”
  • Bryan Ferry “Bête Noire”
  • Front 242 “Official Version”
  • INXS “Kick”
  • The Jesus And Mary Chain “Darklands”
  • Love And Rockets “Earth Sun Moon”
  • New Order “Substance”
  • Nitzer Ebb “That Total Age”
  • Pet Shop Boys “Actually”
  • Public Image Limited “Happy?”
  • The Sisters Of Mercy “Floodland”
  • The Smiths “Stangeways, Here We Come”
  • David Sylvian “Secrets Of The Beehive”
  • U2 “The Joshua Tree”
  • Various Artists “Lonely Is An Eyesore”

A follow-up post will compile some favorite singles from 1987.

When was your greatest year ever for music?

Posted on January 29, 2017, in SHELF. Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. 1985! So much dancing.

    Kate Bush – Hounds of Love
    Propaganda – A Secret Wish
    The Smiths – Meat Is Murder
    The Style Council – Internationalists
    Prince – Around the World in A Day
    Colourbox – Colourbox
    The Cult – Love
    OMD – Junk Culture
    Grace Jones – Slave to the Rhythm
    Cabaret Voltaire – Drinking Gasoline
    Simple Minds – Glittering Prize
    Tears For Fears – Songs From the Big Chair

    • A fine list, for sure! Every year of the 1980s yielded a endless supply of classic albums and singles – those certainly were the good old days, musically speaking. Thanks Frank.

  2. I’m in complete agreement that 1987 was a pivotal year for me as it pertains to my musical tastes. Up until ’87, I was listening to Madonna, Michael Jackson and a whole bunch of Top 40 music from the mid-80’s. Nothing wrong with those artists, but then I discovered a local radio station in 1987 called “CMOJ”, and they had a steady rotation of Erasure, Depeche Mode, The Cure, New Order, PSB and a whole slew of awesome Canadian Content, like Strange Advance, Spoons, Images in Vogue and so many more. It was about the time I started digging through record crates at my local shops, trying to find those rare 12″ singles that I still have to this day…just a wonderful time for music, IMHO! :)

    • Hey Tom – really good point about CMOJ. Forget to mention that I discovered college radio stations in 1987. The programming at Drexel’s WKDU and Princeton’s WPRB was way outside the mainstream, and very influential on my listening habits.

      And there was one more huge factor that changed it all back then – in 1986, Tower Records opened its first Philadelphia store, on South Street. Before the chain closed, there were five Towers in my area, along with an all-classical annex. On some occasions, I would hit them all in one day!

  3. Shelf: I love your list. So many memories! 1987 is my favorite year in music, too. I got a Sony CD player as a birthday gift and immediately bought “Sign ‘O’ The Times” by Prince. I have many of the albums you listed, and listened to the rest in some form – except “Lonely Is An Eyesore”. That’s new to me. I gotta grab a copy of it for sure. Here are a few more of my 1987 favorites:

    Bananarama “Wow!”
    Def Leppard “Hysteria”
    Fleetwood Mac “Tango in the Night”
    George Michael “Faith”
    Guns N’ Roses “Appetite For Destruction”
    Michael Jackson “Bad”
    Swing Out Sister “It’s Better to Travel”
    Whitney Houston “Whitney”

    • Good stuff, Avner! Among the many differences between then and now – there was great pop music in 1987; today, it’s crap. I didn’t start buying CDs until 1988 – I had about a dozen before I finally bought a player!

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    Do you see this Chris,internet is a miracle ,how many horrible things we dont see it. World must know and protect this poor animals.

  5. if u ever this movie go in US bioskops must see the trailer maded by Dean Valentine RUSSIAN movie VIKING

  6. It’s right in your title: WHITESNAKE – 1987 (lol … even though it is probably one of the finest ARO records of all time)

    I have to agree with you in both, the year and your choice of records (especially, Sisters Of Mercy, Cure, Front 242, Nitzer Ebb), but I would have to expand it to include at least the year before and after 1987!

    There was a definitely EXPLOSION OF NEW SOUNDS and GENRES: Acid House, EBM, Death Metal, Crossover, Grindcore, etc. all had their origins in those couple of years. It was a remarkable period!!! It seems like nothing new has really happened since then.

    In addition to your list, the defining albums of 1987 were (among many others):

    – DEPECHE MODE – Music For The Masses (Black Celebration was my absolute favorite, but the production on this is perfect!)
    – CAMOUFLAGE – VOICES & Images
    – NAPALM DEATH – Scum
    – DEATH – Scream Bloody Gore
    – Iron Maiden ‎– Somewhere In Time
    – Prince ‎– Sign “O” The Times
    – Metallica ‎– The $5.98 E.P. – Garage Days Re-Revisited
    – George Michael ‎– Faith
    – The Mission (U.K.) ‎– The First Chapter
    – MDC (as Millions Of Damn Christians) ‎– This Blood’s For You
    – Electro Hippies – Peel Sessions
    – M|A|R|R|S ‎– Pump Up The Volume
    – Front 242 – Back Catalogue
    – KMFDM ‎– What Do You Know Deutschland?

    and many many more

    • Ha ha! Can’t claim to be a fan of hair metal, but I did turn up “Here I Go Again” whenever it came on the radio in the car. And then there’s the video, of course…

      No doubt that there was significant development in music genres throughout the 1980s. And with all that progress going on, each year sounded different than the one before. Pretty incredible, and as you noted – there’s been no comparable level of innovation since.

      • yeah, I’ve never been a big fan of hair metal either, even though by all standards “1987” is a superb album. But I remember absolutely HATING Guns n Roses and Motley Crue … lol

        For that matter, I have never been a fan of radio and to this day I still NEVER listen to radio.

        Two years ago marked the first year that “old” back catalogue music outperformed new releases, and I think it goes back to the fact that there simply hasn’t been anything new and exciting. The music industry tries to sell us on “new” genres like Dubstep even though it existed for at least 10 years prior in smaller doses. And every new Pop Hit more than “borrows” from a 90s club hit that was ignored by the masses back then.

        Maybe that’s why half this nation was gobbling up the “memberberry” koolaid and elected a despot. (sorry, couldn’t resist)

        :-D

  7. Great lists everyone.
    Some repeats on mine, some overlooked.
    In no particular order.

    Jody Watley – Jody Watley
    Climie Fisher – Everything
    Suzanne Vega – Solitude Standing
    George Michael – Faith
    Erasure – The Circus
    Psychedelic Furs – Midnight To Midnight
    Expose – Exposure
    Breakfast Club – Breakfast Club
    Natalie Cole – Everlasting
    Pet Shop Boys – Actually
    Depeche Mode – Music For The Masses
    INXS – Kick
    Debbie Gibson – Out Of The Blue

  8. 1987-88 was probably the pinnacle time in music for me. HS freshman year, it was a transformative time that sparked my interest in music and (re)shaped the soundtrack to my next 30 years. Releases by all those already named–DM, U2, E&TB, Cure, NO, L&R, JAMC, PF, INXS, Smiths, Erasure, PSB, NE, SOM, Mission, DCD–became and remained essential. My “87-88” CDR turned (extended) itunes playlist is still a favorite. And in our modern era of keeping one to a couple tracks per album, I notice that the albums from that time are well represented.

    Others not mentioned that hold a place in my heart for one reason or another that still get play:
    Alarm – Eye of the Hurricane
    Gene Loves Jezebel – House of Dolls
    Pseudo Echo – Love an Adventure
    Simple Minds – Live in the City of Light
    Mighty Lemon Drops – Happy Head

    You can so easily continue this essentials list into 1988, or back into 1986 (in retrospect for me). Beyond all those named, so many good tracks by other artists at that time, too.

    • The same is true for me with 1987 musically blending into 1988. But 1986 was different – while my exploration had begun, I was discovering older material and had yet to embrace contemporary alternative music. But it all jelled in 1987 :-)

  9. For me there were three years that resonate the most with me. 1984 because of the quality of music coming out and some major bands breaking through big time: Wham!, Frankie, Duran Duran. 1986 for the sheer amount of quality releases all shiney and polished. And finally 1995, my peak clubbing years… classics galore… 😊

    • Ahh yes – the club era! I was out on the dancefloor pretty regularly between 1992 and 1998. But I’d say the big year for me was 1994 – plenty of great releases, and many memories from clubs in both Philly and New York.

  10. Great list, all on mine as well. “Lonely Is An Eyesore” pivotal for me both design & audio.

    • Absolutely love the work of 23 Envelope – Vaughan Oliver is a design genius, alongside Peter Saville (Factory), Malcolm Garrett (Assorted Images), Steven Gilmore (Nettwerk), and Ian Anderson (The Designers Republic).

  11. Just bought a vinyl copy of Lonely as an Eyesore – brilliant

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