Retro Round Table: Top 5 Albums of the 80’s


We’re back once again for another Top 5, and this time, we’re talking about something retro lovers universally love, 80’s music!  The music from the 80’s is one thing most nostalgiac folks look back on fondly, and we all have a different take on what the best from that decade was.  Now since everyone has such varying tastes, presenting a list of just my favorite five albums may not be too interesting, I’ve brought in an esteemed panel to widen the choices a little.  As usual, this list is a Top 5, but each pick tops the list for each of these contributors.

On the panel this week we have Eric Vardeman from, Jason Gross of Rediscover the 80’s, Scott Keith from Scott’s Blog of Doom, Hoju Koolander from the Sequel Quest Podcast, and myself, The Retro Rambler.  Let’s see what we’ve picked as the top of the 80’s music scene……

Raising Hell

Raising Hell from Run DMC

While there are too many albums I adore to choose an absolute favorite, I’ll choose the one I remember collecting first as a kid. MTV pretty much introduced me to rap and hip hop music and it dominated my collection up through the early 90s. One song in particular, “Walk This Way, by Run-DMC and Aerosmith, had just about everything I loved in music at the time. And the antics of the music video beginning as battle of the bands and ending in a perfect mashup of rock and rap made the song perfect for my young ears.

A neighborhood friend (or maybe his older sister) had Run-DMC’s album “Raising Hell” with my favorite song and it quickly became one I needed to own. Up to this point, I had only collected 45 records thanks to my mother’s ear for Top 40. But one fateful day visiting the record store in the local mall changed my collecting habits and I bought “Raising Hell” on cassette. Side A was primarily what I listened to which included “Walk This Way”, but also tracks I’ve grown to love like “Peter Piper”, “It’s Tricky”, and “My Adidas”. On Side B, “You Be Illin” was by far my favorite with its hilariously woven lyrics and Jam Master Jay’s mix with that horn section riff. “Raising Hell” remains one of my favorite ‘80s albums to this day and truly defines what I believe was the most diverse decade for popular music.

– Jason Gross

Jason is the creative force behind Rediscover the 80’s and is always posting some of the best retro content you’ll find anywhere on the web.  His twitter feed is a heavenly slice of the 80’s, so you should give him a follow there at @rd80s.  He and I collaborated last year to compile out list of our ten favorite episodes of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.  Check out his five here, and then give my five favorites a look too!

Back in Black

Back in Black from AC/DC

My favorite albums kind of fall into different categories.  Ones I loved at the time because I didn’t know better, and ones that I later discovered were my actual favorites.  The first album I ever paid my own money for, as an example, was “An Innocent Man” by Billy Joel.  I think I was 10 years at the time and it was a big deal to me.  That was followed by “No Jacket Required” by Phil Collins, as young Scott was into middle of the road pop rock.  Although years later I’ve come to appreciate Phil again, the first time I can seriously remember striking out on my own in terms of my musical taste was when a friend started bringing over his copy of “Hysteria” by Def Leppard, which immediately became the first of many, many “hair metal” albums I would buy.  It was closely followed by “Sonic Temple” by The Cult, which held the title of favorite album ever for a long time, and “Dr. Feelgood” by Motley Crue, which was a cassette that I literally played so often that it wore out the tape eventually.  But as my tastes veered into harder and louder music, there was only one that I kept coming back to for all occasions:  Taking walks, using the treadmill, firing up as background music when friends were over, whatever.  “Back In Black” by AC/DC holds the distinction of being purchased by me in so many different formats and eras that I’ve lost track.  I bought it on cassette during my teenage rebellious phase, then CD once I started collecting that format, then again on CD when my apartment burned down years later and I had to replace it, then again when they issued the new remastered versions a few years back, then digitally when it came out on the various streaming services because IT’S GODDAMNED BACK IN BLACK, and finally on vinyl when I became a hipster douchebag a few years ago and started collecting that format.  I’ve memorized every note, pretty much, but still can’t play “Shoot To Thrill” without cranking it up as the ultimate test of a sound system.  It stands as a watershed album in rock, exploding with guitars to say “Yeah, Bon Scott is gone, but we’re still here and we kick ass” and it was never topped by anything the band did afterwards.  Also, I love Mutt Lange and anything he touches, so there’s that.  And man, that Malcolm Young rhythm guitar.  It’s great, and loud, and doesn’t even bother with double entendres, going with the direct “Hey, let’s play loud music and drink and smoke and have raucous sex” theme and did I mention how loud it is?  Because it’s pretty loud.  And that’s why it’s the best album of the 80s.

– Scott Keith

Scott is a Canadian who writes about wrestling, but also has a great ear for music.  You can find his great work in a variety of places such as his own home on the world wide web, Scott’s Blog of Doom.  He also writes for Sporting News, and you can check out all of his work for them here.  And last but not least, Scott has authored several excellent books on pro wrestling from the 80’s and 90’s, so check them out at his Amazon author page.

Midnight Madness

Midnight Madness from Night Ranger

Good Lord in heaven, that’s like asking me which of my children is my favorite. That’s like throwing 12 balls at once for your dog and watching the look on his face while he tries to react and decide. Music is such a HUGE part of my life how do I choose one? I’ve put off writing this because I couldn’t decide. I’d pick one then flop to another then again and again and again. I finally foud a solution to that problem, though. I’ll write my own post and list my top 10 albums of the 80’s! YAS. Nevertheless, I digress…

My favorite album, my numero uno, my number one with cheese from the 80’s has to be…Debbie Gibson, Out Of The Blue. I’M JOKING. Lord, calm down. It’s Midnight Madness from Night Ranger. From the first note of “(You Can Still) Rock In America” I was hooked. Hooked, I tell ya. That album made me want to learn how to play guitar. On down the line, there were others that fueled that same fire but Brad Gillis put that orignal needle in my vein. And how do you deny “When You Close Your Eyes” (which I covered, BTW) or “Sister Christian”? I could listen to that album every day and never get tired of it. I can listen to every single song and point out some guitar lick I stole from those two. I still use “Touch of Madness” as my phone ringer. Hands down, my favorite album. I think…  🙂

– Eric Vardeman

Give Eric a follow on Twitter at @Eric_Vardeman, and you can find his retro memories right here on Retro Ramblings!  His new weekly feature here on Retro Ramblings, Music Mondays, is awesome too.  He looks back at the songs gracing the Top 40 list from 35 years ago in 1983!  He’s also a talented singer/songwriter, and you should check out his music at EricVMusic.  

Beauty and the Beat

Beauty and the Beat from The Go-Go’s

My favorite album of the 80’s? The first piece of pop music I ever owned was 45 record single of Madonna’s 1989 ballad “Cherish” (you might remember it as the black and white music video with the Mer-People). But endlessly spinning that on my turntable didn’t make me run out and buy the entire album.

As I rolled into 90’s I became obsessed with the New Kids On The Block (even filmed my own lip-sync music videos for their songs with the family camcorder) and as a result picked up their 1988 album Hangin’ Tough. But I always preferred their 1990 chart topper Step By Step, so Donny, Joey, Jonathan, Jordan and Danny don’t make the cut either. Why couldn’t this be favorite album of the early 90’s?

The truth is, my older sister was the one who really got to enjoy the 80s and while visiting her house the summer after 9th grade, I started digging through her old record collection. I eventually pulled out this pastel pink and blue album with a bunch of girls lounging in bath tubs on the back. It was Beauty and The Beat by punk-pop girl band, The Go-Go’s. Every track on this album is a winner and Belinda Carlisle’s vocals are outstanding.

If this was a top 5 list you’d see bands like Def Leppard, Skid Row or KISS on the list, but for pure nostalgic enjoyment The Go-Go’s get the top spot thanks to heart-wrenching tunes such as “Lust To Love” and “How Much More” coupled with moody anthems like “This Town” or “Tonite”. Endlessly listenable from beginning to end. Yeah, “They Got The Beat”.

– Hoju Koolander

You can follow along with all of Hoju’s retro shenanigans on his twitter feed, @hojukoolander, read a lot of his his fine writing on a variety of retro topics at Retro-Daze, keep up with him at PopGeeks, and listen to his awesomely fun pod cast at SequelQuest Podcast where he and his cohorts craft sequels that we never got to movies that we loved!  And if you haven’t seen it, check out Hoju’s very cool Review of Grunt! The Wrestling Movie right here on Retro Ramblings.

Appetite for Destruction

Appetite for Destruction from Guns ‘N’ Roses

Growing up in the 80’s, my listening choices were limited to whatever 8-track or cassette my old man had in his truck when I was traveling with him making deliveries for his business.  So Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and CCR hold special places in my heart.  But it wasn’t until the very end of the 80’s that I started expressing my own interests in music.  The first cassette I ever had of my own was a single of Bust a Move by Young MC, and while I still think that rates high, it was an album from 1987 that grabbed me by the collar, slapped me around, and made me say, “Holy crap!  This is awesome!”.  And it still does all these years later.

Appetite for Destruction by Guns ‘N Roses blew me away the first time I heard it.  I was at a friends house watching MTV when I saw the video for Welcome to the Jungle for the first time.  I was mesmerized.  This friend had the album and played it so I could hear more of their songs, and I instantly knew this was an album I had to have.  Much like Scott mentioned earlier, I’ve owned that damn thing in every incarnation in which it’s been produced, and it still gets regular play time in the car when driving to work and back.  It is just an adrenaline fueled 55 minutes of rock and roll that still makes my heart race.  With so many millions of copies sold world wide, I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way.

– Retro Rambler

As you should probably know, I’m the architect here at Retro Ramblings, with new retro stuff dropping every few days.  You can follow me on Twitter @yesterdayville too for even more retro good times.

I want to thank our contributing guests again this week.  They took time out of their very busy schedules to take part in this post, and I hope you show your thanks by giving them a visit at their homes on the web.  But we certainly aren’t the only ones who have strong feelings and love for albums from the 80’s, so drop us a line in the comments below and let us know what YOU’RE favorite album was.