Two words come to mind when I remember 1983: Jedi. Actually that's just one word... so lets try Jedi and church.

My mom took me out to see Return of the Jedi when it was released while we we in Cheyenne on vocation. I'm pretty sure it was the first movies I ever saw in a theater (and due to my Nazarene upbringing - the only movie I saw in theaters 'til I was old enough to go on my own). I had just turned four so I thought the Ewoks were the coolest part of the whole movie. Unfortunately, I fell asleep right before they blew up the Death Star. The fact that I slept through that explosion should explain why I was able to sleep through many other loud events as I got older. (Mom, Aaron, remember the fire alarm in the Billings hotel? I don't!)

Anyways, I'm getting off the subject. Jedi is entwined with some of my earliest childhood memories: I had action figures and coloring books. I even had the story book/cassette tape combo. My parents were not rich, so I had what they could afford. And, while walking to church with my mom and brother, we'd stop for a rest at the mini-mart on the corner of 4th and Liberty. Mom would let us pick out a candy bar or a package of Star Wars trading cards - I usually chose the cards. That's right - I collected Star wars trading cards before I collected baseball cards. I was a strange kid.

But I'm running away along another bunny trail. Back on subject. !983 was also the year I started preschool. Sunshine preschool was located in our church, and my mom was the church secretary, so even when I wasn't in preschool, I was still at church. I remember the floor plan of that church better than I remember the floor plan of the house we lived in at the time. I don't remember much about preschool: the room we used, learning to write my name (nic - short for nicholas, shortened because I was to lazy to write the whole thing, no K because I was too lazy to add the one extra letter), our two teachers, and my best friend Marcus. One day Marcus brought his Millennium Falcon for show and tell. It was huge - and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. (I now believe that THIS is the coolest thing ever - just skip the dialog and look at the pics)

So there you have the two things that remind me of '83: Church and Return of the Jedi... and Return of the Jedi at church. What does any of this have to do with my top pics of the music of 1983? Absolutely nothing. Granted, John Williams Score to Return of the Jedi is a stunning and instantly recognizable masterpiece, yet it does not make my list of favs. Now if this was a list of my top 5 movie scores of all time...

#5 David Bowie - Let's Dance: By the early 80's, Bowie had abandoned his freaky drag-queen alien look for a glamorous (yet comparatively subdued) look more fitting for the times. And while he modernized his persona, he also began releasing music with less of a futuristic sound. China Girl and the title track are both timeless - and Bowie's impact can be heard in music 20 years later from modern rock to hip-hop.

#4 U2 - War: U2 returns to my list with their third album. The classic U2 sound was established with their previous two albums, but War finds finds them creating their identity. Overtly political, these songs sung a plea for peace over some unsettling instrumentation. The album is home to one of their most identifiable songs (Sunday Bloody Sunday), a peculiar love song (Two Hearts Beat as One) and a stirring moment of worship (40). Aside from that, I have to hear New Years Day at least once on December 31st before I can feel like I've adequately celebrated the holiday.

#3 The Police - Synchronicity: This is not my favorite Police album (That would have been their previous effort Ghost in the Machine), but this is a contender as their most popular album. Back by two strong singles (Every Breath You Take and Wrapped Around Your Finger), Synchronicity managed to knock Michael Jackson's Thriller out of the number one spot on Billboard's top 200. In addition to those two tracks, the record is supported by a solid track listing (my favorites: King of Pain, Murder by Numbers, and Oh My God).

#2 UB40 - Labour of Love: I think I'm like most people... I can't help but smile whenever I hear Red Red Wine. While that cover of a Neil Diamond song is one of the only songs anybody knows from UB40. If Red Red Wine is the only UB40 song you've heard, you're missing out. This album contains some great covers of songs originally recoded by The Wailers, Jimmy Cliff, and The Melodians among other.

#1 Steve Taylor - Meltdown: On Meltdown, Taylor continues his sharp wit with the lead track Meltdown (At Madame Tussaud's) uses melting figures at the famous wax museum as a metaphor to say that we're all in the same boat and all judged equally - no matter who you are ("Celebrities, statesmen, history's elite"). His satire continues, but he expands his target to include more than just Christian culture. There are songs about pursuing immortality (Am I in Sync), news media (Meat the Press), guilt & rationalization (Sin for a Season). If the album has a standout track it'd be Hero - a song I think everybody should hear. There is a bit of inadvertent irony in the record. The song We Don't Need No Colour Code condemns Bob Jones University's policies supporting racial discrimination and apartheid in South Africa. Lyrically irrelevant now that apartheid is no more and BJU has recently changed their policy... but Taylor has stated several times "racism in the name of Christianity can never be tolerated." So where's the irony? This song that rails against racist Christians and segregated churches was produced by Jonathan David Brown - a man that spent some time in federal prison for his ties to a white supremacist organization. Oops. I wander what was going through his mind when Steve Taylor sang "White supremacists eat their young."

Honorable Mentions: Bryan Adams - Cuts Like a Knife and Talking Heads - Speaking in Tongues.

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