The Police, Synchronicity, A&M SP-3735, 1983
In 1983, Thriller hit the #1 position four times and spent 22 weeks on top of the charts. It’s hard to imagine any record coming close to that in one year, but this album did. Synchronicity spent 17 weeks at #1 and spawned the biggest selling single of the year. It beat out (!) Thriller for album of the year at the 1983 Grammy Awards (Thriller won it in 1984 after spending the first 15 weeks of ’84 at #1 as well). That kind of performance guarantees this album’s place on all of the usual “best of all time” lists, even though a mint condition copy of it sells for a few dollars.
It could be that virtually every city in the world has a radio station that plays Every Breath You Take several times a day. I would imagine that it will soon among the most ever played songs of all time, as fewer and fewer people feel the need to hear The Beatles’ Yesterday. But the rest of the album hasn’t aged as gracefully.
Because of it’s accolades and one of the biggest singles of the decade, I would call this an essential album. The Police broke up just after it came out, so this was it as far as the very innovative band ever went. But it’s usually just something that tends to sit on a shelf for year after year not being played. Listening to the whole album for this post was a bit of an ordeal for me making me believe that Sting really was the King Of Pain.
Cost: $5, $133 Remaining
Various Artists, American Top 40 With Casey Kasem, Watermark Inc, 1983
Quick: What was the number one song today in 1983? If you’re like me, and I doubt you are as far as this blog post subject goes, you’d know that the new #1 hit all across America is Bonnie Tyler and her smash hit Total Eclipse Of The Heart. Welcome to one of the stranger finds a discount record shopper can hope to find.
Most people who listened to US radio between 1970 and 1990 remember Casey Kasem and his weekly Top 40 countdown show. What most people probably never though much about was how that program was able to be broadcast at random times by thousands of radio stations across the country. As labor intensive as it sounds today, the production company would rush Casey into the studio on a Monday morning just as soon at they had the chart information from Billboard Magazine, to record the show. They they would press a few thousand vinyl records and overnight them to every station that would air the show. The records were usually only played once, and then they were supposed to be destroyed.
But, of course, and thankfully, the poor minimum wage radio station employees who had to sit there and do basically nothing for 4 hours except flip the records over now and then sometimes kept the records to listen to at home. And why not? Everyone knows that a Sheena Easton record is always made better when a Dannon Yogurt commercial plays right after it! These box sets are really rare today, and sometimes shops ask extraordinary prices for a complete set (meaning not just the whole show on record, but also the original box and program listing guide). I’ve paid as much as $25 for some myself, so finding this treasure for $2 made me feel like I actually touched the stars.
Cost: $2, $684 Remaining
John Cougar Mellencamp, Uh-Huh, Riva RVL-7504, 1983
It’s great to find 80s albums that you always wanted to buy when they were new, but never quite had the money at the time. John Cougar Mellencamp was always one of those artists who was everyone’s second or third choice to listen to. Not anything that you’d ever turn off if it came on, but not necessarily something you needed to have.
At the time though, Trhiller was out, The Police released Synchronicity, and then Prince issued Purple Rain. This record always seemed a less valuable addition to my teenaged collection then those gems. But now, to find a mint copy, priced right at $2, it isn’t something to think twice about adding to my stack.
While it’s not American Fool, it does have some of Johnny Cougar’s best songs. In fact, my favorite song of his, Pink Houses is here. And the rest is all good to finally hear 33 years after I bought Michael Jackson’s opus. I guess the best analogy would be on a plane, and the movie is something classic you missed seeing at the time but now you just can.
Cost: $2, $705 Remaining
Lionel Richie, Can’t Slow Down, Motown MD 6059, 1983
I think even in the 80s, even in 1984 when this album was in the Top 10 for the entire calendar year, people were saying that this record was “so 80s”. It just was/is. It is true pop genius to sell something to people, many many people, nothing they know is off the charts cheesy, but yet they still pay for. I don’t know anyone that thinks this is an essential album, but everyone has one. That is genius.
Just look at the back cover. I mean really. I don’t need to be David Sederis to get into how immediately galling, yet unbelievably captivating this is. From the fashion that was popular for 20 minutes, to the afro-mullet, it’s plainly a snapshot of it’s times that succeeded almost as well as Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Prince’s Purple Rain, but without all the classic music that we know and love today.
Don’t get me wrong, this record is jammed with hits, but they are those kind of hits. The kind you don’t play at a party, yet sing in the shower. The kind you never put on but always hear. The kind that you buy and keep on a shelf for years without touching, yet can’t bear to part with. Hello was my senior prom theme, Class Of ’84 Rules!, but still, like my DVD of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, this record will not see the light of day again until I move. And I love it.
Cost: $2, $819 Remaining
Madonna, Madonna, Sire 1-23867, 1983
I was thanking my Lucky Star(s) when I found this record. Madonna albums are as cherished to their original buyers as Beatles albums are to theirs. And it is clear to me that Dorothy Goodson really loved this record.
Maybe a little too much! While I find the hair, make up and jewelry additions on the back cover more than the understated tattoos and lip liner on the front cover, I’m not sure Madonna would agree. Additions aside, buying a record like this is always a crap shoot quality-wise. The probability that Dorothy Goodson was a serious audiophile is remote, although maybe she was a 16 year old in the house of one.
But no, my small hopes were dashed. Despite the original inner sleeve being strangely folded in thirds and tucked inside the cover, and the record appearing shiny and new (!), it plays like a teenaged girl left it on her playskool record player until she got Like A Virgin for Christmas 1984. Since I’ve never owned a copy of this album though, this one will be a keeper until a better one comes along.
Cost: $3, $859 Remaining
Men At Work, Cargo, Columbia 38660, 1983
At the risk of dating myself, this is an album I wish I had bought 36 years ago when I first heard it. I was a huge Men At Work fan, to the point of not buying Men Without Hats Safety Dance because I thought they were riding on Men At Work’s coattails. Of course, I now wish I had that record too.
Their first album (in the United States anyway), Business As Usual, introduced me to Vegemite (by way of Casey Kasem). Their follow-up, Cargo, introduced me to the dreaded “second album letdown” that most bands fall into. Meaning you work hard for years to build a following for your band and perfect one album’s worth of material that succeeds beyond your wildest dreams. And then you have four months to come up with a follow up that no matter how hard you try just can’t compare.
Men At Work did themselves no favors by having the lead-off single from their second US album be Overkill, a pean to over-exposure and unworthiness. Still, I was a Junior in High School and Australia may as well have been Saturn for how alien it was to me in New Jersey. And for 18 months, Men At Work were my band!
Cost: $3, $863 Remaining
Jennifer Holliday, Feel My Soul, Geffen GHS-4014, 1983
Just because a record is in a $1 clearance bin, it doesn’t always mean it’s worthless. It could just be that the people who shop in this store have no interest in it. Broadway Diva Jennifer Holliday, fresh off her Tony winning role as Effie White in the original Broadway cast of Dreamgirls, recorded this album for the Geffen label in 1983. It did moderately well, hitting #6 on the R&B chart and #31 on the Pop chart. Maurice White produced and wrote some of the songs, helped by a-list talent like Ashford & Simpson, Gino Vanelli, and gospel legend Edwin Hawkins. It’s a perfect example of early 80s R&B music.
Except that where I was shopping for records in Bend, Oregon, this near mint example was in the $1 section along with a few warped Andre Kostelanetz records. To the uber-cool clientele of this particular shop, this record was garbage. If this was Houston or Atlanta, it might be behind the counter in a protective plastic sleeve and a $25 price tag on it, but in Oregon it was close to the trash heap.
Where you are geographically can greatly affect what records you’ll find at discount prices. I’ll be highlighting records from my travels throughout this project, but for now, know that some charting records only did well in certain regions of the country, meaning you’re likely only going to find them where they sold well, or vary rarely where they didn’t like today’s discovery.
It even came with a great custom inner sleeve! Holliday’s voice is sharp throughout, with notes that sound like a young Patti Labelle. I’ll actually bring this record out to enjoy from time to time, and I’m really glad I picked it up how I did.
Cost: $1, $967 Remaining