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."

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray