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The 15 Greatest Albums of All Time [1981 Edition]

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Sure, it's all fine and good to assemble a "Greatest Albums of All Time" list informed by decades of open-eared listening and insightful criticism.

It's another thing to wonder what such a list might look like if I made one at the age of, say, ten or eleven… when my primary exposure to music was via Casey Kasem's American Top-40 countdown, the latest PG-rated multiplex blockbuster, and/or whatever LPs (sometimes cassettes!) I could borrow from the Public Library and beg my parents to buy for me.

Let's set the Wayback Machine to somewhere deep in the depths of circa 1981, when my "Greatest Albums of All Time" list probably would have looked a little something like this…

[15] REO Speedwagon: Hi Infidelity
Chock full o' power hits! Wonder what my parents thought about that album cover…

[14] Meco: Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk
The Greatest Composer of All Time's music is actually improved by laser sounds and disco beats!

[13] Olivia Newton John/Electric Light Orchestra: "Xanadu" [single]
Ohhhh-livia… I have to believe you are magic!  Didn't care for that Gene Kelly guy on Side B, though…

[12] Bob & Doug MacKenzie: Great White North
Two guys pretending to be Canadians drinking beer for an hour or so. What more do you need? Take off, eh! Hosers! Priceless…

[11] Grease [soundtrack]
Summer Nights? Greased Lighnin'? Born to Hand Jive? Pure gold! (Except the mushy Hopelessly Devoted to You… Ick…)

[10] Billy Joel: Glass Houses
Worth it for the awesome sound of broken glass at the start of the album. The songs are okay too.

[9] Can't Stop The Music [soundtrack]

The bizarre appeal of this project is impossible to explain… just turn off your brain and enjoy!

[8] The Alan Parsons Project: "Games People Play" [single]Side A sure is catchy, but it's the flip side, "Ace of Swords," that I really loved — the ideal instrumental interlude to an afternoon of Dungeons and Dragons

[7] Blondie: "Rapture" [single]
The original — and still the best — white rap. Fantastic bass and horns too… and it's over six minutes long!

[6] Queen: "Another One Bites The Dust" [single]
Hey kids — two groovy songs about killing: other people on side A, yourself on side B. Cool laser machine gun sound effects seal the deal.

[5] Supertramp: Breakfast In America
I can't tell you how many times I called the radio station to request "Take The Long Way Home" and/or "The Logical Song" (as if they didn't play them enough already).

[4] Styx: Paradise Theater
Sorta kinda concept album? Whatever… Styx can do it all — power rock AND pretty ballads!

[3] Styx: The Grand Illusion
More Styx! Why? Because they are geniuses! "Come Sail Away" — need I say more?

[2] Hooked on Classics
Classical music sounds so much better when you cut out the boring parts, string it all together, and put a drum machine beat on top of it. Who needs Music Appreciation class when you can have this instead?

[1] Saturday Night Fever [soundtrack]Let me count the ways… "Stayin' Alive," "You Should Be Dancing," "If I Can't Have You," "A Fifth of Beethoven," "Night on Disco Mountain," "Open Sesame," and the massive 10-minute closer, "Disco Inferno"… Clearly, the Greatest Album of All Time.

Agreed? Remember, it's 1981…

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  • I actually had #12. Geddy Lee’s guest appearance on it was one he’d probably soon forget.

  • Mark Saleski

    i actually played the game “beer hunter”….with a six-pack of old milwaukee!

  • In ’81?

    No particular order…

    2112 – Rush
    Paranoid – Black Sabbath
    Warchild – Jethro Tull
    My Aim is True – Elvis Costello
    Ace of Spades – Motorhead
    Now’s the Time – Bird and Diz
    Steppenwolf’s 16 Greatest Hits
    Moving Pictures – Rush
    Absolutely Live – the Doors (on vinyl, and usually just Celebration of the Lizard, all 20 some odd minutes of it)
    Damn the Torpedos – Tom Petty

    Oh yeah, I was 20, and had been playing bass for about 5 years then.

  • Steppenwolf’s 16 Greatest Hits

    You think maybe they’re stretching the concept of “greatest hits” a bit? I can come up with Born to Be Wild, Magic Carpet Ride, The Pusher… drawing a blank after that. ;^)

  • Now that’s an original spin on top lists!What do you mean “pretending to be Canadians?” They were Canadians! Anyone remember Rocky Burnette’s ‘Tired Toein’the Line?’ The question is this: how much has it deviated since then? Dave, can’t be worse than Bananarama’s Greatest Hits. Or the much anticipated Ashlee Simpson collection – that’s dead pan by the way.

  • My bad on “pretending to be Canadians…”. Although in 1981 I’m sure I didn’t know either…


    [Honorable Mentions]
    *George Benson: Give Me The Night [single]
    *Diana Ross: Upside Down [single]
    Say the same words over and over again and I’ll love it.

    *Queen: Flash Gordon [soundtrack]
    “Flash…. a-aahhhh. ah. ah. eh.”

    *W. A. Mozart: Complete Symphonies
    Thankfully I grew out of this one.

    *Herbie Hancock: Future Shock
    Rockit. Yes…

    *Steve Martin: A Wild and Crazy Guy
    “Grandpa… bought a rubber.” Why is everyone laughing?

    *Lipps, Inc.: Funkytown
    “Won’t you take me to…” you know where…

    *Stephanie Mills: Never Knew Love Like This Before [single]
    And here is where the humiliation must end…

  • Putting “Rockit” on a 1981 list would be future shock indeed; it didn’t come out until 1983…

  • Hm… a little glitch in the Wayback Machine there… it’s all a blur, really…

  • The Haze

    This is like watchin’ old home movies of yourself when your mother dressed you funny,right?….right?Oh I must of been playin’ my Stephanie Mills album too loud. Get help dude. The first step is admitting there’s a problem. I know it’s a struggle. Be strong grasshopper.

  • Hey, take off, you hosers. I OWN #12 right now, on vinyl, and I don’t even have a turntable. “It’s in 3B. Three beers and it looks pretty good, eh?” (Well, okay, that’s from Strange Brew, but it fits.)

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