Last year, I explored the year 1987 as the greatest year in music. It was a great year and had some huge top selling albums. Now , I am going to argue for 1983 as the greatest year in music. The greatest year in music is very subjective and each person will have a different year. Probably your high school years and/or the year you really started digging music. 1983 was the year that I started becoming massively obsessed with music.
The year had some of the biggest selling albums and a ton of music that influenced me, but what makes the year even better were the debut albums that came out in 1983. Some of the biggest names in music. Here are the albums and/or events that make 1983 the greatest year in music:
We will start off with one of the biggest reasons 1983 might be the greatest year in music. That reason is Michael Jackson. His album, ‘Thriller’, actually came out on November 30, 1982. However, the impact of that album was truly felt in 1983. Believe it or not, ‘Thriller’, did not reach #1 until almost 3 months after its release. On February, 26, 1983, ‘Thriller’ was the #1 album in the country. It was the first of 37 weeks at #1. The album is the top selling album of all time at over 65 million copies. A number that is unheard of and might never be topped.
On May 16th, the Motown special aired on NBC and and Michael Jackson showed off his famous “Moonwalk” dance during his performance of “Billie Jean”. It was crazy. Michael also was a mainstay on MTV and one of the first black artists to be shown regularly on that station. He helped break down racial barriers with his music as it was loved by everyone.
MTV owes a lot of its popularity to Michael Jackson. His video releases were Events whenever they were released. When he released his video for ‘Thriller’ on December 2, 1983, it was must see TV. My whole family gathered around the TV to see the premiere. The video was epic and at the time, one of the most spectacular videos ever made for a music video and I think the most expensive.
Compact Discs (CDs):
On March 2, 1983, Compact Discs go one sale for the first time in the U.S. These little discs would go on to eventually kill off vinyl records (although vinyl is back today). The disc allowed you to fast forward, rewind or skip a song with ease. It beat the sound quality of a cassette tape and allowed more music than a typical vinyl album. Also, all the music was on one side. No longer did you have to flip the album or the cassette to the other side. It changed the way people listened to music. I know it did for me, but not until around 1985 when I bought my first CD player and my first CD (Survivor’s Vital Signs).
Def Leppard’s ‘Pyromania’ – released January 20, 1983. This album made Def Leppard superstars and it has been certified Diamond which is more than 10 million albums in sales. With songs like “Photograph”, “Foolin'” and “Rock of Ages”, Def Leppard brought hard rock mainstream in the 80’s. It was the album that started it all for me with Def Leppard. Although ‘High & Dry’ is my favorite album, this was the album that was the one to really pull me in and make me a lifelong fan. Their influence on music to come for the rest of the decade was apparent with so many bands trying to recreate their magic, but none could do it as well.
The Police’s ‘Synchronicity – released June 17, 1983. The fifth and final album from one of the greatest bands to come out of the UK. The Police went out on top with this album. It sold over 8 million copies in the US and gave us one of the most beautiful and creepiest songs of all time with “Every Breath You Take”. People thought it was a love song, but it is such a stalker song. The songs “Synchronicity I”, Synchronicity II” and “King of Pain” helped make this album one of the best albums of the year.
Motley Crue’s ‘Shout at the Devil’ – released September 26, 1983. The band’s second album and quite possible their best. This was the album to break them into stardom. For the rest of the decade they would become a powerhouse and one of the best bands to come out of the decade. The album gave us “Shout at the Devil”, “Looks That Kill”, “Too Young To Fall In Love” and the Beatles cover “Helter Skelter”. They were scary, loud and everything a rock & roll band should be. They would help define the term “Hair Metal” although they were really far from it.
David Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’ – released April 14, 1983. David Bowie reinvents himself with every album and this one is no different. This was his 15th album and it made him more relevant than he had ever been. It was the most commercially successful album he ever had selling over 10 million copies. It also spawned some of his most successful singles including “Let’s Dance”, “China Girl” and “Modern Love”. In 2016, David Bowie passed away in one of the most brutal years for losing musical artists.
Quiet Riot’s ‘Metal Health’ – released March 11, 1983. Heavy Metal was getting huge in 1983 and Quiet Riot decided to do something no other Heavy Metal band had done. They had the very first #1 album on the Billboard 200 chart after knocking off the Police’s ‘Synchronicity from that spot. No other metal band had ever reached the peak of the chart before. The album’s big hits were “Metal Health (Bang Your Head)”, the Slade cover of “Cum On Feel the Noize” and “Slick Black Cadillac”.
Kiss’s ‘Lick It Up’ – released September 18, 1983. In 1983, Kiss did something that changed them for the next 10+ years. They took off the make-up. MTV had a special for the big reveal and I was glued to the TV to witness this epic event. They debuted their new single “Lick It Up” and Kiss was suddenly back and the talk of the town. The album is a favorite of mine and I will never forget the big reveal. All it proved was they wore the make-up for a reason (I’m kidding they aren’t that ugly). Some other highlights from the album are “All Hells Breakin’ Loose”, “Exciter”, and “A Million to One”.
ZZ Top’s ‘Eliminator’ – released March 23, 1983. ZZ Top came back on the scene in a huge way in 1983. Their album ‘Eliminator’ was a massive MTV hit thanks in part to that awesome car. The videos were comical and cool at the same time. Their hits “Gimme All Your Lovin'”, “Got Me Under Pressure”, “Legs”, “Sharp Dressed Man” and “TV Dinner” helped make them to go on to sale over 10 million copies in the U.S. This 70’s band changed up their style in the 80’s and brought them a whole new fan base…yours truly included. Now, I even appreciate their 70’s albums even more.
1983 was also the year we saw the debut releases from some of the greatest artists and bands of all time. There is no denying the importance of these albums and they helped shape the future and added to the reason 1983 was such a great year.
Madonna’s debut album ,’Madonna’, was released on July 27th, 1983. The material girl started making waves with this album and nothing would stop her from ruling the decade and the years to follow. In 1983, she came onto the scene and gave us hits like “Holiday”, “Borderline”, and “Lucky Star”. However, no one would have expected the dominance she had on the charts over he years to come. She was a massive phenomenon and I will admit that I didn’t see it with this album, but what do I know.
Metallica’s debut album, ‘Kill ‘Em All” was released on July 25th, 1983 (2 days before Madonna’s debut): On April 11th earlier in the year, Dave Mustaine was fired from Metallica and Kirk Hammett was brought in to replace him. Dave went on to form Megadeth later that year, but their debut didn’t arrive until 1985. Later in 1983, Metallica released the album that started it all. Metallica is still relevant today and still releasing quality music. Not a lot of bands can say that. This was a groundbreaking album for Thrash music and became the blueprint for how to do it right.
Dio’s debut album, ‘Holy Diver’, was released on May 25th, 1983: Ronnie James Dio started a new band after being the lead singer for Black Sabbath. He brought over drummer, Vinnie Appice, from Black Sabbath and Jimmy Bain from his former band Rainbow. For lead guitar, he picked up some new kid named Vivian Campbell (who is now with Def Leppard). The album gave us the singles “Holy Diver” and one of my favorites, “Rainbow in the Dark”. The album was a heavy metal masterpiece and Dio would continue for years to come until his death in 2010.
Stevie Ray Vaughn’s debut album, ‘Texas Flood’, was released on June 13th, 1983: When I first heard this man play guitar, I was amazed at the sound and the talent. His blues rock was not something I was all too familiar with at my age, but found it to be mesmerizing. With songs like “Pride and Joy” and “Love Struck Baby”, I was hooked and his tragic death just 7 short years later was a complete shock. With only 7 years on the scene, his impact was immeasurable. One of the many greatest talents gone way too soon.
R.E.M.’s debut album, ‘Murmur’, was released on April 12th, 1983: R.E.M. was one of the first so-called Alternative bands. They took ‘college radio’ music and made it mainstream. Their style and sound was so unique and Michael Stipe’s voice and stage presence are what attracted so many people to their music. The album gave us “Radio Free Europe” and “Talk About the Passion. They did release an E.P. in 1982, but this was the first full length album. It was the start of great things to come.
Cyndi Lauper’s debut album, ‘She’s So Unusual’, was released on October 14th, 1983: This strangely dressed, so unusual young lady came on the scene and everybody was like WTF? Despite her quirkiness, the girl could sing and sing she did. She mixed wrestling stars in her music videos and showed that unusual is cool. “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” has been covered by so many artists and the song seems to show up in movies and TV shows even today. “Time After Time” showed off her voice and showed that she was an artist. “She Bop” was a cleverly disguised song about masturbation and not everyone that sang it, knew it…at least our parents didn’t know it.
“Weird Al” Yankovic’s debut album, “Weird Al Yankovic”, was released on May 3rd, 1983: Talk about unusual. Weird Al shows up on the scene and music would never be the same again. The album gave us classics like “Ricky”, “I Love Rocky Road” and “My Bologna” and made song parodies cool. He would go on to do parodies by some of the most popular artists of the time and it became a badge of honor for him to parody your song. You didn’t make it in music until he made fun of your song. Go see my Top 20 Weird Al Songs…just click.
Wham!’s debut album, ‘Fantastic’, was released on July 9th, 1983: The album wasn’t fantastic, but it was the charismatic lead singer, George Michael, that was the star. The album brought some Wham! favorites like “Wham Rap” and “Young Guns”. It was the world’s introduction to George Michael that makes this special. We had no idea that he would break free as a solo artist and become a worldwide star. Sadly, we lost George Michael only a few weeks ago. He will be missed, but his music will live on forever as it should be.
A couple other bands released their debut E.P.. They were Queensryche and Ratt. I didn’t follow them from these E.P.’s, but their greatness was soon realized shortly afterwards. Europe, Dokken and the Violent Femmes also released their debut in 1983.
The above albums are proof that it was a very important year in music not only for the actual albums that came out, but the debuts of so many great artists. Below are list of other pivotal albums or albums of importance to me during that year.
Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) – Jan 4th
Bryan Adams – Cuts Like A Knife – Jan 18th
Triumph – Never Surrender – Jan 28th
Journey – Frontiers – Feb 22nd
Styx – Kilroy Was Here – Feb 22nd
U2 – War – Feb 28th
Krokus – Headhunter – April 25th
Men At Work – Cargo – April
Rick Springfield – Living In Oz – April or June
Michael Bolton – Michael Bolton – April
The Fixx – Reach the Beach – May 15th
Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind – May 16th
Stevie Nicks – The Wild Heart – June 10th
Twisted Sister – You Can’t Stop Rock & Roll – June 27th
Robert Plant – The Principle of Moments – July 11th
Billy Joel – An Innocent Man – Aug 8th
AC/DC – Flick of the Switch – Aug 15th
Rainbow – Bent Out of Shape – Aug 24th
Huey Lewis & the News – Sports – Sept 15th
Dokken – Breaking the Chains – Sept 18th
Aldo Nova – Subject…Aldo Nova – Sept
Genesis – Genesis – Oct 3rd
John Cougar Mellencampe – Uh-Huh – Oct 7th
Lionel Richie – Can’t Slow Down – Oct 11th
Culture Club – Colour By Numbers – Oct
Yes – 90125 – Nov 7th
U2 – Live: Under a Blood Red Sky – Nov 7th
Rolling Stones – Undercover – Nov 7th
Loverboy – Keep It Up – Nov 8th
Billy Idol – Rebel Year – Nov 10th
Ozzy Osbourne – Bark at the Moon – Nov 15th
Duran Duran – Seven & the Ragged Tiger – Nov 21st
Night Ranger – Midnight Madness – Nov
Accept – Balls to the Wall – Dec 5th
There you have the list of all the albums I believe help give an argument as to why 1983 was the Greatest Year in Music. Whether you agree or not, let me know. Tell me what year you think is the greatest. I will explore other years somewhere down the line. Thanks for stopping by and if you made it all the way to the bottom, thanks for making it all the way down the list.