1986: Best Musical Year Ever?

For almost two weeks now, Rocks Off has been obsessed with the year exactly 25 flips of the calendar backward from this one. It started when Steve Earle did one of his "Time Machine" shows, where the singer-songwriter who plays House of Blues Wednesday spotlights a dozen or so of his favorite songs from a pivotal year in music on his weekly "Hardcore Troubador" Sirius/XM hour.

Really, they're all pivotal, but 1986 was an especially important year for both of us. Earle released his debut Guitar Town, one of the cornerstones of Nashville's "Great Credibility Scare" that had Music Row (briefly) thinking its commercial future lie in Earle and his fellow recent arrivals Dwight Yoakam, Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith and Randy Travis. If only.

Meanwhile, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted its first class, and a damned impressive one at that; Black Flag, the Dead Kennedys, and the Clash all called it quits (and the Rolling Stones nearly did while making Dirty Work); a rarely-sober group of hellions was about to turn the Sunset Strip into the jungle; and rap was already enough of a force that by year's end Billboard called its emergence the "biggest, brashest, freshest breakthrough of the decade."

Meanwhile, at Landolt Elementary in Friendswood, Rocks Off was taking our first steps down our own musical path, sawing out "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" on cello in sixth-grade orchestra while listening to "You Give Love a Bad Name" and "Walk Like an Egyptian" on the radio. My my, look how far we've come.


1. R.E.M., Life's Rich Pageant 2. Run-DMC, Raising Hell 3. Depeche Mode, Black Celebration 4. Paul Simon, Graceland 5. Soundtrack, Pretty In Pink


1. Whitney Houston, Whitney Houston* 2. Heart, Heart* 3. John Cougar Mellencamp, Scarecrow* 4. ZZ Top, Afterburner* 5. Dire Straits, Brothers In Arms* 6. Janet Jackson, Control 7. Mr. Mister, Welcome To the Real World* 8. Sade, Promise* 9. Phil Collins, No Jacket Required* 10. Miami Sound Machine, Primitive Love*

* - Released in 1985


March 28: Lady Gaga August 27: Mario October 24: Drake


January 4: Phil Lynott, Thin Lizzy March 4: Richard Manuel, The Band March 31: O'Kelly Isley, The Isley Brothers April 23: Harold Arlen, Composer ("Over the Rainbow") June 13: Benny Goodman July 3: Rudy Vallee July 31: Teddy Wilson September 27: Cliff Burton, Metallica


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Rolling Stones, Dirty Work Van Halen, 5150 Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, Like a Rock AC/DC, Who Made Who Peter Gabriel, So Journey, Raised on Radio Europe, The Final Countdown The Fixx, Walkabout Genesis, Invisible Touch David Lee Roth, Eat 'Em and Smile

Bob Dylan, Knocked Out Loaded Neil Young, Landing On Water Billy Joel, The Bridge Bon Jovi, Slippery When Wet Toto, Farenheit Paul McCartney, Press to Play Boston, Third Stage Huey Lewis & the News, Fore! John Fogerty, Eye of the Zombie Iggy Pop, Blah Blah Blah Billy Idol, Whiplash Smile Pretenders, Get Close The Kinks, Think Visual Eric Clapton, August


Bangles, Different Light Prince & the Revolution, Parade Madonna, True Blue

Steve Winwood, Back In the High Life Belinda Carlisle, Belinda Lionel Richie, Dancing on the Ceiling Eurythmics, Revenge Paul Simon, Graceland* Tina Turner, Break Every Rule Cyndi Lauper, True Colors Wang Chung, Mosaic Weird Al Yankovic, Polka Party! Howard Jones, One to One Duran Duran, Notorious

* 1986 Grammy Album of the Year winner


Ozzy Osbourne, The Ultimate Sin King Diamond, Fatal Portrait Metallica, Master of Puppets Judas Priest, Turbo Accept, Russian Roulette Krokus, Change of Address Cinderella, Night Songs

Loudness, Lightning Strikes Motorhead, Orgazmatron Warlock, True as Steel Iron Maiden, Somewhere In Time Ratt, Dancing Undercover Saxon, Rock the Nations Alice Cooper, Constrictor Yngwie Malmsteen, Trilogy Slayer, Reign In Blood Stryper, To Hell With the Devil Megadeth, Peace Sells... But Who's Buying? W.A.S.P., Inside the Electric Circus


Dwight Yoakam, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. Randy Travis, Storms of Life Alabama, The Touch Nanci Griffith, The Last of the True Believers Kris Kristofferson, Repossessed George Strait, #7 Willie Nelson, The Promiseland Kenny Rogers, They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To Steve Earle, Guitar Town Tanya Tucker, Girls Like Me Reba McEntire, Whoever's In New England Rodney Crowell, Street Language


Run-DMC, Raising Hell Beastie Boys, Licensed to Ill UTFO, Skeezer Pleaser Fat Boys, Big & Beautiful Just-Ice, Back to the Old School


Violent Femmes, The Blind Leading the Naked Elvis Costello, King of America Depeche Mode, Black Celebration Siouxsie & the Banshees, Tinderbox Lou Reed, Mistrial Sonic Youth, EVOL The Smiths, The Queen Is Dead Ministry, Twitch R.E.M., Life's Rich Pageant Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Kicking Against the Pricks Camper Van Beethoven, Camper Van Beethoven Elvis Costello & the Attractions, Blood and Chocolate

Love and Rockets, Express New Order, Brotherhood The Fall, Bend Sinister Orchestral Manoeuvers In the Dark, The Pacific Age Talking Heads, True Stories XTC, Skylarking Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Your Funeral, My Trial Killing Joke, Brighter Than a Thousand Suns Clan of Xymox, Medusa Kraftwerk, Electric Café The Cramps, A Date With Elvis The The, Infected


Pretty In Pink Absolute Beginners Ruthless People 9½ Weeks


Fabulous Thunderbirds, Tuff Enuff Butthole Surfers, Rembrandt Pussyhorse Lyle Lovett, Lyle Lovett Timbuk 3, Greetings from Timbuk 3 Culturcide, Tacky Souvenirs of Pre-Revolutionary America Eric Johnson, Tones True Believers, True Believers Glass Eye, Huge Scratch Acid, Just Keep Eating Daniel Johnston, Continued Story Tailgators, Mumbo Jumbo


Janet Jackson, Control Anita Baker, Rapture Billy Ocean, Love Zone Jeffrey Osborne, Emotional Chaka Khan, Destiny Robert Cray, Strong Persuader Luther Vandross, Give Me the Reason Cameo, Word Up! Gregory Abbott, Shake You Down Pointer Sisters, Hot Together


Husker Du, Candy Apple Grey Black Flag, Who's Got the 10½? Ramones, Animal Boy Big Black, Atomizer Bad Brains, I Against I The Damned, Anything Poison Idea, Kings of Punk


Guns N' Roses, Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide (EP) Pet Shop Boys, Please

Bruce Hornsby & the Range, The Way It Is* Erasure, Wonderland Crowded House, Crowded House 2 Live Crew, The 2 Live Crew Is What We Are Throwing Muses, Throwing Muses Roxette, Pearls of Passion They Might Be Giants, They Might Be Giants Sepultura, Morbid Visions Salt-N-Pepa, Hot, Cool & Vicious New Kids on the Block, New Kids on the Block Kool Moe Dee, Kool Moe Dee Schooly D, Schooly D

* - 1986 Grammy Winner for Best New Artist


Duran Duran, "Notorious"

PiL, "Rise"

Violent Femmes, "I Held Her In My Arms"

Ozzy Osbourne, "Shot In the Dark"

Bangles, "Manic Monday"

Talk Talk, "Life Is What You Make It"

Glass Tiger, "Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone)"

Janet Jackson, "Nasty"

Run-DMC, "Peter Piper"

Depeche Mode, "A Question of Lust"

Fabulous Thunderbirds, "Tuff Enuff"

Rolling Stones, "One Hit (To the Body)"

Pet Shop Boys, "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)"

Judas Priest, "Turbo Lover"

Dwight Yoakam, "Heartaches by the Number"

Butthole Surfers, "Moving To Florida"

Siouxsie & the Banshees, "Cities In Dust"

Blow Monkeys, "Digging Your Scene"

Lou Reed, "Video Violence"

AC/DC, "Who Made Who"

Jeffrey Osborne, "You Should Be Mine (The Woo Woo Song)"

Sonic Youth, "Expressway To Yr Skull"

The Fixx, "Secret Separation"

Randy Travis, "On the Other Hand"

Erasure, "Oh L'amour"

The Smiths, "Bigmouth Strikes Again"

Belinda Carlisle, "Mad About You"

Lyle Lovett, "If I Had a Boat"

David Lee Roth, "Yankee Rose"

Eurythmics, "Thorn In My Side"

Nanci Griffith, "Looking For the Time (Working Girl)"

Bob Dylan, "Brownsville Girl"

Billy Joel, "A Matter of Trust"

2 Live Crew, "We Want Some Pussy"

R.E.M., "Cuyahoga"

Paul Simon, "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes"

Bon Jovi, "Wanted Dead or Alive"

Love and Rockets, "Kundalini Express"

Iron Maiden, "Stranger In a Strange Land"

OMD, "Forever (Live and Die)"

Timbuk 3, "The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades"

Cameo, "Word Up"

Slayer, "Angel of Death"

Talking Heads, "Wild Wild Life"

Iggy Pop, "Real Wild Child"

Billy Idol, "To Be a Lover"

They Might Be Giants, "Don't Let's Start"

Eric Clapton, "It's the Way That You Use It"

Willie Nelson, "Living In the Promiseland"

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