I went backwards twice while writing this. The goal was to identify the last great album by the Rolling Stones, one of the short-list truly important bands or groups since the dawn of recorded music.
The commercial success of the band is staggering. Eight #1 albums, with another 23 hitting the Billboard Top 5. The band had eight singles hit #1, as well, and charted nearly 50 songs on the top 40. All totaled, the Rolling Stones have released 29 studio albums, 13 live albums, 24 compilations and 107 singles. Worldwide sales top 200 million, putting the Stones in company with the most successful acts in history.
But none of that is the point here. My goal was to find the final release from the bad that shows WHY they’re in such exclusive company no matter what the musical measuring stick is.
And my first stop was 1989’s Steel Wheels. A solid release, well received by both fans and critics and a worthy celebration of the band’s 25th year together. It had rock, blues, a great ballad (“Almost Hear You Sigh”), a little something for everybody. Steel Wheels could have functioned as a demo tape for all that the group was capable of. But going through the paces, like a show dog at Westminster, that’s not what made the Stones the Stones. It’s a fantastic collection of songs, but I still needed to go back further.
Tattoo You, released in fall 1981, was the next stop for me and I thought I had hit the bull’s eye. So often lost in our opinions and appreciation of the Stones is how versatile the band has been and that’s on impressive display here. But that’s the main flaw (not huge, but still . . . ) of Tattoo You – there’s a feel of it was put together with spare parts, songs that didn’t make an earlier album, or were half-finished from another project. It’s almost like a greatest hits album released prior to any of the songs actually being released. Tattoo You deserved every accolade it received then and in the ensuing decades, but I put the bar at a near-impossible height here and this release is only 99 on the Out of 100 scale.
There are probably 10 albums from the Stones that could be your companion on a deserted island and you’d never get tired of any of them. I, however, am looking for the final album release from them that is why we paid attention to everything that followed (until we didn’t). Some Girls, released in the summer of 1978, is that album. It has a legacy and is part of why the band has its.
Most impressively, Some Girls was Jagger and Richards writing lyrics and composing music that looked at the disco hits of the time and said, “THIS is what you should be.” No fewer than eight of the 10 songs on Some Girls received air play, with “Miss You” as much a defining Rolling Stones song as “Brown Sugar” or “Satisfaction.” You should download the entire album, sit on your back porch with a malted beverage and listen to every song in order. Three or four times.
Some Girls, the last truly great album from the Rolling Stones.
One Final Time
The Commodores were a record-selling force for a 10-year period from 1974 until the mid-80s. The group charted 12 albums between '74 and 1983, including six Top 10 releases on the Billboard Hot 200 (the mainstream albums chart) and nine on the R&B chart, with four of those going all the way to #1. The group also placed 16 singles on the Billboard Top 40, with a staggering 22 hit records on the R&B singles chart.
Then Lionel Richie left.
In January 1985 the remaining members, plus new lead singer J.D. Nicholas, released Nightshift. The album spent a month at #1 on the R&B chart, with the title track becoming the Commodores' second-highest charting single ever and winning the group its only Grammy, for Best R&B Vocal Performance.
The album as a whole received above-average reviews and two other singles were released, though neither made a huge imprint on the charts. A highlight was "Animal Instinct," probably the most fun song produced by the band since "Brick House" in 1977.
Multiple line-up changes followed and the Commodores never regained a critical or commercial foothold afterward.
Nightshift was the last relevant release by a once-great band.
The Cutoff Point
For me, it’s 1972. The 1972 issue is the last truly great baseball set that Topps produced. I’m currently completing a set run from 1965 through 1972 (minus the ‘68s – just a really unattractive design). At some point I may add the 1975 and 1977 sets and possibly 1980. But those are “maybes” and may simply be stroking a check and completing the venture in one transaction (for not a whole lot of money, either) and where’s the fun in that.
Which leads us back to 1972.
The reason the 1972 set is the cutoff point for me is because:
- it was the 2nd-to-last year the cards were issued in series throughout the spring and summer, meaning you had genuine high numbers. They are noticeably scarcer than the earlier series from that year and contain a nice mix of star players, a few Hall of Famers and the oddball “Traded” subset.
- the design is a time capsule to 1972, straight from the private files of the Art Director on Acid. Wild colors abound, with artwork stars included in the border of each player’s card. For a great look at any of the cards in the set, click here: http://www.deanscards.com/c/74/1972-Topps?p=1&ps=100&t=&y=&l=
- a fair enough collection of rookie cards, highlighted by Carlton Fisk (shares a card with Cecil Cooper), Ron Cey and a few others.
- Hall of Famers abound, and I’m talking many all-time greats in this set. Hank Aaron, Pete Rose, Willie Mays, Steve Carlton, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, both Robinsons (Brooks and Frank), the list goes on, and it’s impressive.
- a staggering 787 total cards in the set, Topps largest to date, and a significant increase from the 590ish to 610ish set size from most of the previous decade. More cards means more of a challenge and that’s part of the fun of collecting.
After this year, the actual card quality went down (cheaper paper/cardboard was used) and the picture quality took a powder for at least four years. 1973, in particular, is an indisputably dreadful set, with a boring, drab overall design in addition to the other shortcomings.
So 1972 is my cutoff. As it should be.
Jeremy Hill is the best back in the conference. Plenty of speed, good hands, and more power than any other SEC guy I’ve watched. He’s just the toughest runner in the league and can pound on defenses to the point where guys don’t want to tackle him as the game goes on.
There’s a list of “Really Good” in the conference, with Malena, Mason, Jeff Scott, several others, including the freshman at Arkansas, he’s absolutely already on the list. But “Great” is only Hill, T.J. Yeldon and Todd Gurley and Hill is at the top. It might be by 1%, it might be by the slightest of margins, but three guys can’t be EXACTLY the same talent-wise. If I’m picking one, it’s Hill. If you want to say either of the other two, I’m fine with that.
Georgia fans lost their minds when I said that. Suggesting that a guy averaging 8.5 yards per carry with six TDs in his first three games is the best back in the league, that’s outrageous and shocking and over-the-top? And look at Hill last season. He didn’t puff up his stats against the worst defenses on LSU’s schedule. Against North Texas, Washington, Auburn and Idaho, he combined for 1 carry for 2 yards. It was against South Carolina and Alabama and Texas A&M that he exploded. Those are the teams you break out against? Guy’s a stud.
So are Gurley and Yeldon, by the way. There are three right answers to this question and no way to prove it, certainly not just by spouting stats of one guy v the other because they all have great numbers and all three teams have multiple backs that figure into the mix. You need to have watched all three several times and form an opinion. I say Hill, others say Yeldon, others say Gurley. So what? Go win this Saturday and next Saturday and in the Dome and for a crystal football, that’s what matters.
Tunnel of Love from Bruce Springsteen.
I was looking for not just another huge seller to follow up the first huge seller. Hysteria following Pyromania. Bad following Thriller. There are plenty of examples. But I was after an important album, that wasn’t simply releasing Part II of the original Monster Album. And with Tunnel of Love, the Boss achieved that.
It still sold plenty, but had a diverse lineup of songs, different musical styles completely on some tracks, and he even pushed the envelope with a kinda sorta concept to the entire thing.
Tunnel of Love, a clear winner.
Specifically, if you look at the Monster Albums of the 1980s (those that sold 9 million copies or more) and then look at the follow-up to each of those albums by the respective artists, the best follow-up album is . . . an extremely close call.
First, the criteria – I was going to use the nice, round number of 10 million copies sold, but there is that measuring stick of “A Monster Album is one everybody had to have!” And if I cut off the list at 10 million, there were a few Monster Albums that everybody had to have that would have just missed the cut.
Accepting that, there are only 24 albums that qualify for consideration. I’ve included the entire list below, with the soundtracks to Dirty Dancing, Top Gun and Footloose not eligible.
1. Michael Jackson- Thriller (29.3 Million)
2. AC/DC- Back in Black (19.1)
3. Bruce Springsteen- Born in the U.S.A. (15.9)
4.Guns N' Roses- Appetite for Destruction (15.6)
5. Whitney Houston- Whitney Houston (14.2)
6. Phil Collins- No Jacket Required (13.8)
7. Prince- Music from the Motion Picture Purple Rain (13.6)
8. Bruce Springsteen- Live/1975-85 (13.1)
9. Dire Straits- Brothers in Arms (12.9)
10. Bon Jovi- Slippery When Wet (12.9)
11. Def Leppard- Hysteria (12.6)
13. Michael Jackson- Bad (11.9)
14. U2- The Joshua Tree (11.8)
15. George Michael- Faith (11.2)
16. Madonna- Like a Virgin (10.9)
17. Lionel Richie- Can't Slow Down (10.9)
18. Whitney Houston- Whitney (10.8)
19. Van Halen- 1984 (10.1)
20. Top Gun Soundtrack (9.6)
21. Madonna- True Blue (9.1)
22. Footloose Soundtrack (9.1)
23. Def Leppard- Pyromania (9.1)
25. Garth Brooks- Garth Brooks (9)
26. Beastie Boys- Licensed to Ill (9)
27. Journey-Escape (9)
Because the Purple Rain soundtrack was all Prince, and because this is my article, that soundtrack is allowed in.
Now, looking at the above collection, any guess on what the greatest follow-up to a Monster Album from the 1980s was? Keep in mind that the follow-up itself didn’t have to be released during the 80s, only the original Monster Album.
My answer will come in Part II.