In their ongoing series of celebrating the world’s favorite media as it turns 30, my friends over at Geek Salad Radio are tackling the music of 1988 this month.
They’re collecting personal Top Five lists to construct their final run-down for an upcoming ‘cast, so I went Inter-searching to put together my own list. I found my top five, but started with a longer list and whittled down, after a fairly exhaustive search*. That said, the uncut version adds up to the awkward total of 16, but there you go. It certainly isn’t the only thing awkward about 1988.
Delicate Sound of Thunder
For a band known for its live performances, it might be surprising to some that Delicate Sound of Thunder was Pink Floyd’s first live album release. It was recorded over five nights, ’embellished’ in the studio post-performance (i.e. new guitar solos and sound effects), and reached number 11 on the U.S. Billboard chart. When I owned it in physical form, it was a double cassette set, and therefore a prized possession.
Rattle and Hum
Fun Fact: the album peaked at 172 on the Billboard 200, and that was in 2014. Another live/studio hybrid, Rattle and Hum was released as both a record and a documentary in 1988 — one could say that started a trend — so it’s technically a soundtrack. A lot of critics hated it, but it includes, arguably, some of U2’s best tracks — Desire, All I Want is You, and Angel of Harlem among them. Ironically, many R n H tracks reached more ears in the nineties and later than in ’88, after the band had taken a ‘new direction.’
Reaching 41 on the U.S. Billboard 200, this was Australia-based The Church’s biggest commercial success in any country, featuring one of my all-time favorite songs, Under the Milky Way. It’s poppy and melancholy at the same time, kind of like me.
I’d say this was my entree into ambient music, but my parents were really into Vangelis when I was a kid, so I’ll say this was the first ambient music I liked. The album is also a big part of the soundtrack to the film L.A. Story, starring Steve Martin, released in 1991.
She’s Having a Baby Soundtrack
I’ve had this album in rotation pretty much since 1988; it’s a great mix of alternative and new wave with a decidedly British bent, including Kirsty MacColl, Gene Loves Jezebel, and Bryan Ferry.
6 The Raw and the Cooked, Fine Young Cannibals
7 Vivid, Living Colour
8 Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars, Edie Brickell and New Bohemians
9 Beetlejuice Soundtrack, Danny Elfman/Harry Belefonte
10 Roll With It, Steve Winwood
11 The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1, The Traveling Wilburys
12 Short Sharp Shocked, Michelle Shocked
13 Slow Turning, John Hiatt
14 Folkways, Various
15 See the Light, The Jeff Healey Band
16 Never Die Young, James Taylor
* – It’s tough to find a complete list of all ’88 albums out there. Thanks to some of my resources who did the work already, including Rate Your Music and the awesomely named Slicing Up Eyeballs.
But wait, there’s more! The Spotify List: