As long time readers know, we love our playlists here at B&V. Who doesn’t like a little music to help wile away the hours? Inspired by Bob Dylan’s ‘Theme Time Radio Hour,’ we’ve typically designed our playlists around a certain theme instead of trying to capture a certain mood or tone for a party or a workout. I like to find a group of songs that tackle the same idea or concept. For example, we’ve recently published playlists centered around songs about the Music Business/Show Business and another for those folks about to renege on their expensive New Year’s Eve gym memberships, songs about Walking. Our playlists tend to be all over the place, from metal to straight-up rock n roll to folky stuff to soul music. We like variety here at B&V, I mean, you only live once, savor everything. Our goal is always to put a song in your ear that hasn’t been there for a while – perhaps you’ve forgotten about the track – or better yet, we want to turn you onto something you’ve never heard. And more basically, we aim to entertain you. Nothing like a good playlist in the background when you’re having a drink after a long, arduous week, or in the background while you complete some household task that’s been unfairly assigned to you… And who doesn’t like a bit of music when you’re sitting up late at night with a tumbler of the good stuff contemplating… whatever it is you contemplate in the “wee, small hours,” as Frank sang.
A couple of years ago, inspired by an article about all the great albums that came out in 1971, I did my first chronologically themed playlist, creatively entitled 1971. I built that playlist with songs from albums that were released in that banner year for rock n roll. While we post about singles and concerts and all sorts of things, I tend to really focus on albums. I enjoyed building that 1971 playlist so much, the following year I decided to do the research and build another one celebrating 1972. Ironically the Black Crowes released, shortly after I released my playlist, an EP of cover songs entitled, 1972. Three of the tracks they covered were on my playlist… Are they reading B&V? Over beers with my best buddy Doug last year, I realized that 1982 was a somewhat momentous year for both of us… and I reluctantly decided to do a rock n roll playlist from that stormy year (stormy for me at least), entitled (again, creatively) 1982. There’s just something about those big anniversaries with “0’s” at the end… 40 years, 50 years, etc. that make a playlist seem more important.
This year, to kick off 2023, I decided to start the fresh, new year by looking backwards 50 years for a playlist created from albums released in 1973. Obviously, I have way too much time on my hands if I have the bandwidth to go out and research music from 50 years ago. And let’s face it, in 1973 I was, as Tom Petty sang, “a boy in short pants.” Sure, I was in grade school but I wasn’t listening to Dark Side Of The Moon in the actual year of 1973. I likely would have been terrified by that album at that tender age with no substances to comfort me. In ’73 I’d get up, put on my polyester heavy clothing and head to school, come home for lunch, go back to school, come home for dinner, rinse, repeat. It’s not like I was out protesting the corrupt Nixon administration or celebrating Jackie Stewart’s World Championship in racing and cranking up Aladdin Sane. I don’t think I was even following the local NFL team yet. I was an unformed lump of clay in 1973. Ergo, any emotional attachment I formed to the music of ’73 was formed long after that year was in the record books… But I’m getting off track here. I enjoyed looking back at 1973 that I thought I’d repeat what I did last year and also look back 40 years to 1983…
Obviously when it comes to the stuff from 1983, I do have more of an emotional connection to the music. While we still lived under the threat of the Soviet Union’s nuclear annihilation of the world and Reagan was busy dismantling of the middle class, my concerns were more personal. I was, in the eyes of the legal system, an adult by then. Although mentally, who amongst us in our teens thinks like an adult? As I mentioned when I posted my 1982 playlist about that year, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The first half of ’82 was great, the second half, not so much. 1983 was like a reverse negative of ’82 with the first half bad, the second half relatively better. I was a young adult away at college for the first time in ’82/’83 and it went predictably horrible. I made the wrong choice on every decision. Learning the hard way seems to be my only way for me to learn. Early ’83 ranks amongst the worst era’s of my life, much like living in Arkansas a few years later. But, with the help of Bacardi mixed with Coca-Cola, my pal Doug, and a lot of rock n roll, I got through it. All of that said, it makes it a little hard to look back to ’83 and the music that evokes so many memories. By summer 1983 I was on the mend… although still with large amounts of Bacardi & Coke. I came out of the darkness looking for any self-destruction I could find…and I fear it wasn’t only myself I harmed back then… regrets, yeah, I’ve had a few. If you’re going through some personal change out there and you’re struggling with it, don’t self-medicate, get some help. It’s less expensive and there are much fewer hangovers. By fall of ’83 life was back on the track it was supposed to have been, albeit with some real battle scars, not only for me. And to top all that off, Margaret Thatcher was re-elected so things weren’t exactly rosy for anybody…
Ah, but the music was still pretty great. By ’83 the music we think of as the ’80s was in full swing. There were no vestiges of that great 70s music we’d all grown up on. The sound of synths were to be found everywhere and drum machines were creeping in. Hair metal had begun to ascend. There was so much music from ’83 I had remembered that I had over 100 songs on the initial version of this playlist. I was surprised, after I’d winnowed this down that Bryan Adams and Quiet Riot had made the final cut while songs from Greg Kihn, Loverboy and Nightranger didn’t. I’m not crazy about any of those acts mentioned in that sentence, but the Adams and Quiet Riot songs held some memories. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure I guess? There were some great acts who just made bad records in ’83: Rod Stewart released his worst, Body Wishes; Styx were dead to me after Mr. Roboto; Billy Joel put out the abysmal An Innocent Man; even Aretha Franklin, my Queen, put out a lackluster album produced by Luther Vandross no less, Get It Right. Even Neil Young let me down with the Shocking Pinks and Everybody’s Rockin’. Linda Ronstadt had gone all show tunes on What’s New. No songs from those albums will be found here…
There were some great albums put out by bands I really like but feared no one else would. I ended up cutting tracks from Lou Reed, Thin Lizzy, Roxy Music (whose cover of “Jealous Guy” by John Lennon is fabulous), and Van Morrison. I even cut the title track from Social Distortion’s Mommy’s Little Monster, a track I almost always dedicate to my wife’s cat when I play it here at the house. I wanted to keep Robert Palmer’s song “You Are In My System” but figured no one but me would miss it except me. I guess I could have included a track from Madonna as she released her debut album in 1983 but I just… don’t like Madonna… and this is a rock music blog. Although to prove I’m not a completely sour dude I did include a track from Cyndi Lauper. There were those in ’83 who thought Lauper was going to be the long-term superstar and Madonna was a flash in the pan. The Eurythmics book end the playlist as they put out 2 outstanding albums that year… that’s 70s era output from those guys.
As usual, this playlist is best played on “random.” It can be found on the dreaded Spotify, at the name below (obviously), “BourbonAndVinyl.net 1983 In Rock N Roll.” If there’s a track that doesn’t suit your fancy, hit fast forward. If there’s a track you love from that year, let me know in the comments and I’ll add it to the playlist. This did end up being one of my longest playlists. It was a bit of an emotional roller coaster to put together, frankly. Without further adieu, put on your Wayfarer shades, your Members Only jacket, and stone-washed jeans and enjoy this gnarly playlist… from 1983. The full list, with my pithy comments about each song are below.
- Eurythmics, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” – Is there a more iconic synth riff than the one that opens this track. I included this song on my playlist on Dreams. I can close my eyes when I hear this and I’m back in my dorm room. I feel like this track really encapsulates what was happening in music in the ’80s and ergo it’s the perfect place to start.
- Dire Straits, “Twisting By The Pool” – One of my favorite “deep tracks” from Mark Knopfler and company. I just commented on my review of Starcrawler’s recent EP Acoustic Sessions – EP that EPs weren’t that big of a deal when I got into music… I guess this EP proves I was wrong. And who doesn’t like a little “twisting” by the pool…
- Bryan Adams, “Cuts Like A Knife” – I’m not a huge Adams fan. But this song was everywhere and I did like it back in the day. It resonated for me with things I’d recently slogged through. I always thought he wanted to be the Canadian Springsteen.
- Def Leppard, “Photograph” – I could have picked any track on this album but I was fond of this one. The Mutt Lange magic took full effect on this album. “All I’ve got is this photograph…”
- Randy Newman, “I Love L.A.” – I know a lot of people don’t like Randy Newman because of the song “Short People,” but I think of him as a modern day Twain, a brilliant satirist. I included this happy song on my playlist about Los Angeles.
- Triumph, “Never Surrender” – From the follow-up album to the great Allied Forces. I always thought this was a tamer rewrite of the song “Fight The Good Fight.” But I still dug it though. Very dramatic arrangement.
- Journey, “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” – Frontiers was where I started to get off the Journey bandwagon… although I did see them on this tour. Netflix’s last season of ‘Stranger Things’ got me back into this song.
- U2, “New Year’s Day” – War was my first U2 album. It was just the first in a long string of their LPs for me. I still have my vinyl copy. I wish the Edge still played guitar like this…
- Quiet Riot, “Cum On Feel The Noize” – Clearly a band with problems spelling wirds.
- Eric Clapton, “I’ve Got A Rock ‘N’ Roll Heart” – Clapton’s first album after getting sober. I always thought it slightly mellow but it’s a solid record.
- Joan Armatrading, “Drop The Pilot” – Every once in a while I just have to keep I song maybe only I dig on a playlist… this is one of those.
- The Tubes, “She’s A Beauty” – Oddly enough this song popped up the other night and the Rock Chick and my friend RJ couldn’t talk enough about their love of the song. And the Rock Chick is a beauty…
- Pink Floyd, “The Gunners Dream” – The swan song for Roger Waters as leader of Pink Floyd. I posted about his updated version recorded during Covid. This song sums up what he’s been trying to say about war better than just about everything else he’s done.
- ZZ Top, “Got Me Under Pressure” – From their mammoth Eliminator album. I think this was the only single without a video with three girls and that old car. I love the guitar on this song. Other than “TV Dinners,” which I was living on at the time, this might be my favorite song on the album.
- Naked Eyes, “Promises, Promises” – Were these guys a 1-hit wonder? I love this song. I’ve been waking up every morning with it on my “Mental Jukebox.” I vaguely remember the rather dark video. “You made me promises, promises, you knew you’d never keep.” We’ve all been there.
- Fastway, “Say What You Will” – This is one of the greatest rock songs of all time. I don’t know anybody who loves rock n roll who doesn’t love this song.
- R.E.M., “Radio Free Europe” – From their great debut album simply one of the best debut albums ever.
- Violent Femmes, “Blister In The Sun” – The Rock Chick hates the Violent Femmes. I always liked this song, it’s somewhat iconic in my mind. I think I had a copy of this album taped to a blank cassette for a while that I kept hidden from my friends. We were all metal heads and I didn’t want to fall out of step.
- David Bowie, “Modern Love” – Let’s Dance was my first Bowie album. I was drawn to it by the title track. I loved the lyric, “Put on your red shoes and dance the blues.” But this song almost outshines it for me… One of Bowie’s best songs even for the casual fan.
- Men At Work, “It’s A Mistake” – A heavy anti-war track that’s light on it’s feet from a band that was everywhere for a few years.
- Dave Edmunds, “Slipping Away” – Dave Edmunds never gets the credit he deserves. Great song here. I’m pretty sure this was written by Jeff Lynne of E.L.O. fame.
- Martin Briley, “The Salt In My Tears” – This track might be slightly obscure but it’s a great one. “You ain’t worth the salt in my tears,” indeed. Great little riff too.
- The Fixx, “One Thing Leads To Another” – I always marveled at how tall the lead singer was. The Fixx had some great songs and this is foremost amongst them.
- Iron Maiden, “Flight of Icarus” – One of my favorite Maiden tracks. A re-telling the Greek myth of Icarus who flew too close to the sun, against the advice of his father, to tragic consequences. Perfect fodder for a metal song.
- Joe Walsh, “I Can Play That Rock & Roll” – A track so good I included it on my previous playlist about the Music Business/Show Business. And, for the record, Joe certainly can play that rock n roll. I hope he does something soon.
- Bob Marley & The Wailers, “Buffalo Soldier” – I can’t believe Bob left this iconic track in the vault and it was only released posthumously. He included it on his greatest hits Legend, which really helped me as a stepdad…
- Dio, “Rainbow In The Dark” – After two phenomenal LPs with Sabbath, Dio launched his solo career with Holy Diver and this song. Dio was such a great vocalist it’s a shame he left us so soon.
- Elton John, “Kiss The Bride” – This song, with it’s slightly off sounding guitar riff, has always been a favorite. Proof there was still rock n roll life left in Elton.
- Talking Heads, “Girlfriend Is Better” – “Burning Down The House” was the big single and was partially responsible for turning me onto the Heads, but I’ve always loved this jittery tune. “I got a girlfriend that’s better than that and she goes wherever she likes (there she goes)…” Indeed.
- Peter Tosh, “Johnny B. Goode” – Reggae giant Peter Tosh doing a Chuck Berry cover? Sign me up.
- The Kinks, “Come Dancing” – I remember the video to this track more than the track itself. Although I do believe this song was included on my playlist for wallflowers, songs about dancing.
- Stevie Nicks, “If Anyone Falls” – From her second, fabulous solo record The Wild Heart. I could have picked any number of songs from this album but I like this slinky, synth heavy track.
- Stevie Ray Vaughan, “Pride And Joy” – From Stevie Ray’s debut album. He refused to tour with Bowie for Let’s Dance so he could record his own album. I’m kinda glad he did. Although the thought of Bowie and Vaughan on tour… what a live LP that’d have been.
- The Police, “Every Breath You Take” – Their best song. Bone crushing emotion in this song. It made me a Police fan… this was my first Police LP purchase. And, for the record, I knew this was not a love song the moment I heard it. At the time, I could uh, relate to it.
- Rickie Lee Jones, “Hey, Bub” – This is another track maybe only I know. It’s a beautiful ballad, beautifully sung. Plus I can’t resist Rickie Lee’s use of 1940’s vernacular. My thanks to the person who turned me onto it.
- Electric Light Orchestra, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Is King” – Regrettably I once described E.L.O. as derivative of the Beatles to which my friend Doug reacted… badly. I am now forced to include them on any playlist where they have an eligible track. That said, I always liked this one.
- Robert Plant, “Other Arms” – “Big Log” was the big single with the cool video but I can not resist this rocker.
- Big Country, “In A Big Country” – I’m guessing I wasn’t crazy about Big Country in 1983. But this song has grown to be a favorite of mine.
- Asia, “Don’t Cry” – Their second album was a far cry from their debut but this was a great song…
- Joan Jett, “Fake Friends” – There’s so much great Joan Jett out there. By ’83 I was aware that I too perhaps had a few fake friends…
- Metallica, “Seek And Destroy” – An epic track from their epic debut. Nobody, and I mean nobody, rawked like this in 1983. They’re still at it all these years down the road with new songs like “Lux AEterna.” Looking forward to next month’s new LP!
- Kansas, “Fight Fire With Fire” – Local Kansas boys who did well for themselves!
- Jackson Browne, “For A Rocker” – Lawyers In Love and it’s title track were largely a disappointment for me. I was a big Jackson Brown fan, especially coming off “Somebody’s Baby.” I did like this song and “Tender Is The Night,” proving that even if an artist drops a dud LP, there’s always a good song or two.
- Elvis Costello, “Every Day I Write The Book” – One of Costello’s best tunes ever.
- Black Sabbath, “Trashed” – This is where I decided lead guitarist Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath was a moron. Who fires Ronnie James Dio and hires… Ian Gillan from Deep Purple? There are fans of this record and I like this song but it never took me to the heights of “Heaven And Hell”or “Sign Of The Southern Cross.”
- AC/DC, “Guns For Hire” – AC/DC, to me, started to hit a downward slide on this album. Luckily they pulled it all back together and released a string of great, late career records.
- Rainbow, “Street Of Dreams” – Meanwhile, another ex Deep Purple member, Ritchie Blackmore was hitting his stride with Rainbow.
- Cheap Trick, “I Can’t Take It” – Cheap Trick has always solidly delivered. This track is no exception.
- Stray Cats, “(She’s) Sexy + 17” – We didn’t like the Stray Cats much in ’83 but I’ve come to really dig their stripped down rockabilly. Brian Setzer is seriously one of the greats on guitar. Of course if they’d recorded this song today a few cops might drop by the studio… “Keep your hands off the kinder.”
- Depeche Mode, “Everything Counts” – A great earlier track from Depeche. I’m really digging “Ghosts Again,” their newest song and am looking forward to the new LP Memento Mori!
- Tom Waits, “In The Neighborhood” – Swordfishtrombones is one of my favorite Waits’ albums… although I’d have been hard pressed to say that in 1983. It is amazing how tastes grow and expand and change. Thank god they do.
- UB40, “Red Red Wine” – Perhaps a track I should have included on my playlist, Songs About Drinking.
- Huey Lewis & the News, “Walking On A Thin Line” – Like I said of Bryan Adams on this list before, I wasn’t a big Huey Lewis fan either. However, this track from Sports, about a Vietnam veteran struggling to acclimate back into society has a lyrical heft that I never found elsewhere in their music. Great song, great subject.
- The Motels, “Suddenly Last Summer” – Steamy, sexy summer song… oh and what a summer it was.
- Kiss, “Lick It Up” – I’m probably the only one who liked Kiss more without their make up vs with it.
- Motley Crue, “Too Young To Fall In Love” – I still love Motley Crue. Certainly one of the best bands to come out of the hair metal scene.
- The Romantics, “Talking In Your Sleep” – A song so good it was on our playlist about Sleeping too… even though I don’t sleep.
- Cyndi Lauper, “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” – Like I said earlier, I felt I had to include this one. Lauper was so much more edgy than Madonna…
- Genesis, “Home By The Sea” – My favorite track from one of their biggest LPs. So many singles from this album and yet I picked a deep track?
- John Mellencamp, “Crumblin’ Down” – The first album where we see the name “Mellencamp” on the cover. John was clearly lamenting the false trickle down economic policies of Reagan which led to our crumbling infrastructure in America.
- Bob Dylan, “Sweetheart Like You” – One of my favorite ballads from Dylan. Rod did a great cover of this as well. Infidels was such a great album. “Got to be an important person to be in here, honey, Got to have done some evil deed…” The whole sitting in a seedy bar talking to a woman theme was sort of the backdrop of my 20s.
- Paul McCartney, “The Other Me” – I had so loved Tug Of War. Pipes of Peace and the presence of Micheal Jackson upon it were so disappointing to me… This song is a little cheesy but it works.
- Paul Simon, “Hearts And Bones” – A great, oft overlooked gem of an album from Simon with some of his most personal lyrics.
- The Rolling Stones, “She Was Hot” – I’m probably one of the only really big fans of the Stones’ Undercover album. There were many deep tracks here that I could have included but I picked this one… it was a single I think? I recall a video…
- Billy Idol, “Eyes Without A Face” – “Steal a car and go to Las Vegas…” Indeed.
- Duran Duran, “New Moon On Monday” – Even when I didn’t like Duran Duran, I liked this song.
- Corey Hart, “Sunglasses At Night” – Another song that was “of it’s time.” It did inspire a lot of drunk frat boys to wear their sunglasses after the sun had gone down… sigh.
- Robert Cray, “Phone Booth” – This was before Cray’s big break-through on Strong Persuader. I heard this song on the juke box of the Grand Emporium (if they even had a juke box?) and loved it. The image of being in a phone booth (which are all gone now), spending your last time to try and get a someone to let you come over after midnight… Well, we’ve all been there.
- Yes, “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” – I just posted about 90125, but what a riff, what a comeback for Yes.
- Ozzy Osbourne, “Bark At The Moon” – Ozzy’s first post-Randy Rhoads LP proved he could find guitar talent anywhere. Jake E Lee was the new guitar slinger here and acquits himself well. And starting in the summer of ’83 I was likely found most nights out somewhere doing exactly this… perhaps more howling at the moon than barking but it works.
- U2, “Sunday Bloody Sunday (Live)” – I don’t usually include live LPs on these playlists dedicated to a certain year, but Under A Blood Red Sky, the live LP that followed War can almost be equally credited for making U2 famous… Those videos of Bono with the flag on the stage at Red Rocks… iconic.
- Siouxsie And The Banshees, “Dear Prudence” – One of my favorite Beatles’ covers. I will freely admit it was the Rock Chick who turned me onto Siouxsie. Oddly, I always got her mixed up with that singer in Bow Wow Wow. Proof I’m daft?
- Eurythmics, “Here Comes The Rain Again” – We end where we began… with a song I included on my playlist, All the Rain Songs. This is such a brilliant song about a break up… “Here comes the rain again, Falling on my head like a memory, Falling on my head like a new emotion… is it raining with you?”
There it is! Our 1983-dedicated playlist. Again, it’s long, one of our longest. Put it on, hit “random,” and let it shuffle through the music. You might even pour something strong for the listen. If there’s something you don’t dig, skip it. But I think for all of you who were old enough to own a clock/radio in ’83 are going to like most of this rock n roll. I consider all of my playlists to be “living things.” I add songs suggested by readers to every playlist I put out there. In the end they’re really “our” playlists not mine. I’m just the music obsessive who puts them together. If I could to do things differently in 1983, I certainly would change almost everything… but not the music.
Cheers! Take care of each other out there…