Did you used to look forward to magazine end of year best-of lists? The magazine I bought every week when I was a teenager was Kerrang! magazine – and (true to form for someone of the highest geekery such as myself) I read every issue from cover to cover.
And I would look forward to the end of year lists hugely. I know that, because when I finally chucked away all my copies of Kerrang! in the nineties, I actually cut out the end of year lists and kept them safe in a drawer, in case they should ever come in handy. I know. It’s tragic isn’t it?
The end-of-year lists were important though. Firstly, it was a measure of taste. How did I measure up to the venerable journalists of the nation’s finest music paper? Was my utter devotion to Tesla’s Mechanical Resonance a normal thing, or was it, in fact, unspeakably naff?
Secondly, Kerrrang! would list each individual journalist’s choices for the year. This would allow me to a) see which writer had a similar taste to mine by counting how many shared albums we had and b) see if I had somehow overlooked anything good.
I can see that the seventeen year old me had written in black biro the exact number of albums that I owned next to each journalist’s name. Kerrang’s Editor (and current editor of Classic Rock Magazine) Geoff Barton had just one record that I owned in his top twenty: Metallica’s $5.98 EP. Steve “Krusher” Joule had nine. Sylvie Simmons on the other hand had twelve and Mick Wall had fifteen!
It is fun to apply hindsight to the list. Appetite For Destruction was a lowly fourth, behind Aerosmith’s Permanent Vacation in first place, Whitesnake’s 1987 in second and Anthrax’s Among The Living in 3rd. It wasn’t until the following year that the album went stratospheric, but I guess it was still a decent showing for a debut album. It’s fair to say that neither Permanent Vacation nor Whitesnake’s 1987 have aged as well as Appetite For Destruction. I bought the US import of the Whitesnake album, because it had a better track listing. It still wouldn’t have made my top ten of that year – I remember being pretty disappointed with the change of direction Coverdale had taken. Looking back, I’m not sure why.
There is no Husker Du on the list. On anyone’s list. No Pixies. Hard rock was still very segregated from punk. Faith No More released their first album that year. It’s nowhere. Black Sabbath showed just how unfashionable they were as Eternal Idol did nothing to convince even Kerrang! it was one of the twenty best records of the year. And Dio’s Dream Evil was roundly ignored by the critics. And as for Bruce Willis’ The Return of Bruno: criminally overlooked!
Going back to 1986 and 1985 is also fun. Kerrang’s best album of 1985? Bryan Adams’ Reckless. Kate Bush was at #2! There’s a band there called Jason and the Scorchers. No, me neither. The newly reformed original line-up of Aerosmith had a new record called Done With Mirrors. It didn’t sell too well and most people had written them off, but there they were at number three…maybe they’d limp on and do another record?
The albums of 1986 (helpfully titled 1987 in Kerrang that year for some reason) include Peter Gabriel’s So at #5, but David Lee Roth’s Eat ‘Em And Smile just beat Slayer’s Reign In Blood and Metallica’s Master of Puppets to the number one slot. Journalists loved David Lee Roth because he always gave them something good to write about, and it did feature Steve Vai’s big league debut. I preferred 5150, languishing at #16. Megadeth added to the emergence of the Big Four with their Peace Sells album at #6, showing how thrash metal had become Big News. And The Beastie Boys’ Licensed To Ill and Run DMC’s Raising Hell both crossed over into the rock world.
Bafflingly from my sixteen year old perspective, there was no Orgasmatron, Night Songs, Russian Roulette, Inside The Electric Circus, or Seventh Star…but there was Billy Idol…
Record #126: Aerosmith – My Fist Your Face