Decades is a recurring feature that turns back the clock to critical anniversaries of albums, songs, and films. This month, we dial it back to the top 50 albums of 1987.
Ah, yes. 1987. I remember it well. Actually, not very well at all. Thirty years ago, I would’ve been a little less than three weeks away from turning four years old. So, I can be forgiven if I don’t recall Ronald Reagan urging Soviet Premiere Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall, Pope John Paul II making his first ever papal tour up the coast of California, or even China opening its inaugural Kentucky Fried Chicken location. Likewise, I wasn’t present at a chain record store (remember those?) on release day to buy any of the albums that appear on this list. Practically everything I know about 1987, including its music, I learned well after that fact – in some cases, as recently as over the past few days.
The other contributors working on this feature are about my age or younger; some weren’t even born when these albums originally dropped, and yet here we are writing about them. Despite Time’s best attempts to bury these records by relentlessly piling days, months, and decades upon them, we still found out about them. We found out about them through our parents or somebody else’s; through older siblings, cousins, and friends; and through classic radio, old-fashioned crate digging, and, in a couple cases, a Spotify recommendation. In some instances, we know these albums simply for the fact that nearly all of us were raised in civilization (relatively speaking) rather than by wolves in the wilds of some jungle. Others, had we not started digging, would’ve eluded us forever. Now that we know what we’d have been missing, that’s a terrifying thought.
But good music will out. And more than ever, our pop-culture artifacts can be excavated via a simple click, search, or suggestion algorithm. It’s all there, like an ancient treasure trove (or village dump) to be rummaged through and picked over. We find these records, and they tell us so much about the exciting, beautiful, and complicated world that floated all around us before we even had acquired the requisite motor skills (let alone permission) to drop a needle into a groove, shove a compact disc into a CD player, or spin the dial on our parents’ car radio. These records (and others we cringed at) act as Exhibits A through Z in that argument that children of all generations must hear: that their elders’ music was better than theirs. Well, as we now know, the future may not always agree, but it will be listening.
So, 1987. We don’t remember you much, but we grew up and listened. These are the albums we wish we’d have been old enough to appreciate back then and are grateful for now.
The preschoolers, toddlers, babies, fetuses, and mere twinkles in their fathers’ eyes of ‘87