Tuesday, August 27, 2013


OF THE '80s

Only a few of these
gems were top-selling
blockbusters. And many
of the artists are far
from iconic, household
names. This list 
merely reflects the 
COOLEST records
of the '80s — a rather
ambiguous classification 
indeed. However, it's
one that I am uniquely
qualified to define.

I recently contributed several features to a popular entertainment site. Upon submitting my first piece, I was apprised by the publication's staff that, "people love 'lists.'" I certainly have found this to be true over the last year or so, as Top Ten-type content has made for some of my most popular blog posts. Just last week, I submitted two "lists" to the aforementioned site — "The Top Ten Greatest Albums of the '90s" and "The Top Ten Suckiest Albums of the '90s." This got me to thinking — if I could dredge up that much dish regarding a sucky decade like the '90s, I could really whack out a golden nugget by waxing nostalgic about a cool decade. Art school grads be advised — this list reflects the coolest records of the '80s. Hence, REM, U2, Joy Division, New Order and Bauhaus are noticeably absent.


Seemingly without effort, KISS was 
cool — from their self-titled 1974 
debut 'til their 1977 Love Gun record. 
Then they began to flounder. They  
became followers — creating 
some truly crappy records in the 
process — a grand KISS tradition  
that continues to this day. However, 
even with a half-scab line-up, and 
sans their trademark make-up and
costumes, the group did manage 
to muster three truly cool records
during the '80s — this is one of them.


The title track has become one of
the era's most iconic tunes. However, 
the debut record from this Boston-
based band offers a treasure trove 
of well-crafted, brilliantly executed 
pop gems. Frontchick Aimee Mann 
possesses the voice of an angel 
and was the epitome of cool.


Combining Sabbath-like guitar riffs 
with eerie keyboards, monster drum 
work, animated vocals,  and compelling
 lyrics, the third album from this San 
Francisco-based band was a breath 
of fresh air when it arrived in stores in 
1989. The Top Ten hit, "Epic," as well
 as additional singles, "From Out of 
Nowhere" and "Falling to Pieces," 
propelled this one to platinum status.
 Its cool factor will NEVER fade.


The Ramones wasn't a punk band. 
It was a brilliantly created, beautifully 
disguised, guitar-driven pop band. 
This was the group's fifth and most
successful effort — and at 17, it was 
the first Ramones record that I ever 
bought. The classic tracks, "I'm 
Affected," "Chinese Rock" and 
"Do You Remember Rock and
Roll Radio?" were but a few key
 ingredients that made this such
cool and timeless record. 


If The Who's Tommy told a more 
compelling story, had better songs, 
was scaled down to a single album 
and was about a paranoid, drug-
addicted, homophobe skinhead with 
an unquenchable thirst for power and 
success, instead of a deaf, dumb 
and blind wannabe religious guru, 
it could have been Doug — a 
powerful record indeed — one 
that probably only nine people 
on the planet will ever hear or 
understand. I'm one of them.


A living, breathing, musical Revlon ad. 
If The Cure had been cool, they could 
have been Gene Loves Jezebel. 
There's nothing about this band that 
I didn't love — at least until 1990 
when frontmen brothers Jay and 
Michael Aston's creative, self-inflicted 
gunshot brought it all to a crashing end.
 An amazing live band too. This record 
remains as fresh-sounding as ever.


C'mon — you know that you 
love(d) this one too. Although 
the movie now seems a bit 
dopey in retrospect, the 
music has stood up nicely 
over the years. "Take Me 
with You" — 'nuff said.


Good ol' Dee-Troit rock AND roll in all 
of its pompadour, leather-clad, zebra-
striped glory. From the opening track,
 "Rock You Up," through the closing, 
"Shake a Tail Feather," this one is 
start-to-finish classic. "Talking in 
Your Sleep" was a Top Five smash, 
but the lesser known follow-up 
single, "One in a Million" was 
the real gem. Drummer Jimmy 
Marinos was (is) my hero!


The Philly-based combo quickly 
shed its hair band skin with its 
sophomore record. Funky, gritty, 
bluesy and — completely cool. 
Via LCW, even most haters
recognized Cinderella's cred,
 as the title track and "Gypsy 
Road" both were closer akin to
 the Stones and Aerosmith than 
to its contemporaries. This 
record will always be cool.


Even during the "anything goes" '80s, 
this quirky Brooklyn-based duo stood 
out as unique and groundbreaking. I
lost my mind when I first heard "Don't 
Let's Start." And although I was playing 
in a hardcore, metal-type band at the 
time, this record had a far greater 
creative effect on me than anything 
being produced by the "Big Four." 
Put your hand inside the puppet head!


The sophomore album from one-
time KISS guitarist Vinnie Vincent 
and his Invasion exemplifies what 
arena rock was supposed to be. 
Why it didn't sell a million units still 
escapes me. However, frontman 
Mark Slaughter and bassist Dana 
Strum did go on to achieve multi 
platinum success in the '90s with 
their post-Invasion project, Slaughter.


Frank Zappa alumni united to create a 
band and a record that was fun, fresh 
and VERY cool! If Duran Duran had a 
spine, they could have been Missing 
Persons. Drummer Terry Bozzio and 
guitarist Warren Cuccurullo are simply 
badass and frontchick Dale  Bozzio 
was the hottest thing known to man
at the time. But it's all about the
music, right? And in that regard,
 "Notice Me," "Words" and "Walking
 in L.A." (as well as vintage im-
ages of Dale) still get me chubby.


Theatrical, macho cock rock at its 
very best. This bona fide metal 
classic captures frontman / bassist 
Blackie Lawless and crew at their 
creative apex. "Wild Child" and
"Blind in Texas" — That is all!

Backward Principle 

By the early '80s, this San Francisco-
based group had evolved from glam 
cult status to a world-class rock act. 
Yet despite their newfound commercial 
success, the band managed to 
maintain the street cred recently lost 
by such contemporaries as Styx
Journey and Foreigner. Although "Talk 
to Ya Later" was the hit, "Amnesia" 
and "Don't Want to Wait Anymore" 
are far more compelling.


I may or may not have skipped 
school to buy this one the first 
day of release. Arguably the 
last truly cool Van Halen record. 
still like the way the line runs 
up the back of your stocking.


Smart, snappy, hooky and quite cool. 
This was a life-changing record that 
thwacked me on many levels. Edgy, 
with a new wave flavor, this treasure
 offered powerful social and spiritual 
messages without being pompous or 
preachy. One of my ALL-TIME faves!


Hailing from Chicago, Enuff Z 'Nuff
got lumped in with the disposable 
hair bands of the day and as a result 
was essentially exterminated during 
the great rock revolt of the '90s — 
which is particularly sad since (I 
think) all they really wanted was to
be Cheap  Trick — a lofty endeavor 
in which they succeededFYI, "For 
Now" would make The Beatles 
envious. Cool band. Cool songs. 
Cool record.


Produced by Todd Rundgren,  
the debut from this Canadian 
combo is one of the finest 
pop / rock records EVER! 
"I'm an Adult Now" and "Hard 
to Laugh" were the MTV 
video singles, serving as tasty 
appetizers for the main course.


The message was clear. 
There was a new sheriff 
in town. He was pissed. 
He was taking over. And 
he was here to stay! For 
whom the bell tolls, indeed. 


Four motley-looking dudes
from the east coast who were 
transformed into the hottest-
looking chicks on the west
coast. Although the band's 
subsequent efforts would pale 
in comparison, Poison's debut 
was honest and pure — 
masterpiece — the perfect 
soundtrack to the decade 
of decadence.


The record that 
will NEVER die! 
"None more black."


Four L.A.-based rock dudes who 
all looked hotter than my girlfriend, 
with sky-high coifs, skin-tight leather 
stage outfits and platforms, creating 
blasting metal anthems praising 
Jesus. What's not to love? The lo-fi 
production only added to the record's 
cred. Beware — a remixed version 
was released with two new cheesy
 tracks in '86 — demand the original!


Jett lives, breathes and bleeds 
rock and roll. And this low-fi, low-
budget platinum nugget is one of 
rock's all-time coolest records.


They struggled. Then they conquered. 
They created one of the most important 
rock records in history. Then they 
choked. 27 years later, even the 
hippest, tramp-stamped 22-year 
old club chicks, grinding to the 
latest Lil Wayne track, know 
"Paradise City." That's pretty cool!  

Things You've
Never Done Before

So arrogant, so stupid 
and so sleazy that each
copy should have come 
with its own penicillin 
script. Undeniably, 
THE coolest record EVER!

Seeing (and hearing) is believing...  

So, there you go. Love 'em or leave 'em, these are the definitive coolest albums of the 1980s. Feel free to reflect, discuss and comment.

-Christopher Long
(August 2013

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  1. And I have you to thank for knowing all of these!

    1. My pleasure. It's what I do!


    2. Chris, Thanks for the list and as I have been the long time stage manager for Roxx Gang/Mojo Gurus I have to agree. Glad to hear someone else say it as I am a bit bias on the whole Roxx Gang being number 1 on your list. I actually found these guys on MTV like everyone else little knowing I would connect with them years after and that Kevin Steele would become my sons Godfather. He is without a doubt the most misunderstood rocker I know. Great writing, great lyrics and balls and attitude that will kick your teeth in. Look for the recently released box set called Boxx of Roxx and the forthcoming The Last Laugh for a taste of their early days pre and during Things you never done before.

  2. .....And I've always liked those kind of high heels too! Great list! I had always been puzzled by Vinnie Vincent's low record sales, maybe he did not have the right people marketing him, because he is one incredible guitar player.. But out of curiousity...who ripped who off, Wasn't "Back on the Streets" an Ace Frehley song?


  3. really??? ROXX GANG BEATS WASP. POISON, AC/DC and FTM???? lol... okay....

    1. It's all good fun! Thanks for stopping by.

      Hey, send YOUR top picks to my email address and I'll be glad to post them on the blog!

      Rock on,

  4. Thank you for sharing your impecable good taste! (lol) - Kevin Steele (Roxx Gang)

    P.S. To Anonymous, REALLY! & don't forget G&R. Hey it's only Rock 'n' Roll.

  5. I've always said that Love Kills from VVI is the greatest power ballad from the era. Period. I was having this discussion with someone the other day.

    1. Agreed! Yet SO sadly overlooked.

      Thanks, William.


    2. Call me Bill. :) I read your book, and I enjoyed it. There were alot of things going on with you that I had no idea about. I'm glad you found a better way. Maybe Vinnie had the lyrics to Ashes to Ashes and Love Kills on that pink napkin. lol