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Rolling Stone Readers Pick the 10 Best Albums of the Eighties

U2, Prince, Bruce Springsteen and more named to the list

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U2, Prince, Bruce Springsteen and more named to the list

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1. U2 – ‘The Joshua Tree’

Last weekend we asked our readers to name their favorite albums of the Eighties. Unlike previous reader polls, this was a close race – but the winner is U2's The Joshua Tree. Produced by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, The Joshua Tree turned U2 into one of the biggest bands in the world. Massive hits "Where The Streets Have No Name," "With Or Without You" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" were all over the radio for well over a year and by the end of their 1987 tour U2 was playing stadiums. "On this record the one thing we wanted to do was be more in focus," The Edge told Rolling Stone shortly before the album came out in 1987. "The songs should be more condensed, the kernel of each piece a bit harder, denser, a bit meatier."

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2. Guns N’ Roses – ‘Appetite For Destruction’

Few debut albums in rock history have been as explosive as Appetite For Destruction. Guns N' Roses emerged from the same Sunset Strip scene that produced Mötley Crüe, Poison and other hair metal bands, but GNR were an entirely different breed of band. Their songs were gritty and menacing, and they portrayed their city as a violent urban jungle populated by pornographers and drug-addicted thugs. Appetite sold millions and turned them into one of the biggest bands of the decade, though within a few years they made virtually every mistake a band can make and completely imploded. Still, they remain immensely proud of the disc. "When I was a kid, there were these be-with-you-forever albums that represented something in your life," Slash told Rolling Stone in 2007. "Whether it was the background music of your childhood or your puberty or whatever — Dark Side of the Moon or Sticky Fingers or Aerosmith's Rocks or Led Zeppelin IV. And we made one of those records, which is all I could ever have asked for. It gives me goose bumps. That's something no one ever can take away from me."

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3. Michael Jackson – ‘Thriller’

Michael Jackson was already a superstar when Thriller hit shelves in the fall of 1982, but the LP turned him into one of the biggest celebrities the world has ever seen. Nearly every song on the album was a hit, including "Billie Jean," "Beat It," "Thriller," "Human Nature" and "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'." The songs appealed to everybody, whether they liked R&B, rock, pop or soul music. Paul McCartney's guest spot on "The Girl Is Mine" brought in the boomer audience, while Eddie Van Halen's guitar work on "Beat It" brought in young hard rock fans. Never again will an album capture even a fraction of the world's attention.

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4. Bruce Springsteen – Born In The U.S.A.

Bruce Springsteen was a rock icon before Born In The U.S.A., but soon after the disc hit in 1984 even your grandmother knew his name. Much like Thriller and Purple Rain, the album produced hit after hit that kept him on the radio for well over a year after the LP came out. To this day when many people think of Springsteen the first image in their head is him dancing with Courteney Cox while Clarence Clemons plays his sax solo in the "Dancing In The Dark" video. Also, no matter how many hits he's scored over the years, some guy is always yelling for "Glory Days" during the encores of one of his concerts.

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5. Prince – ‘Purple Rain’

Everything that Prince had been working on for years coalesced perfectly on the soundtrack to his 1984 film Purple Rain. It turned practically everybody in the country (besides Tipper Gore) into a Prince fan, and presented Michael Jackson with the first real challenger to his pop throne. He's released countless albums since, but even 27 years later nothing gets the crowd going at his shows like when he breaks out "Let's Go Crazy," "When Doves Cry" or "Purple Rain."

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6. AC/DC – ‘Back In Black’

Before AC/DC released Back In Black they were supposed to be goners. Their lead singer Bon Scott had just drank himself to death and it was hard to imagine them carrying on with anybody else. Undaunted, the Australian band hired gravelly voiced Brian Johnson and headed down to the Bahamas to record a new disc. The result is one of the greatest hard rock albums of all time. They never came close to matching its success, but with "Hells Bells," "You Shook Me All Night Long," "Back In Black" and "Shoot To Thrill" they had enough classics to pack arenas for the next 50 years.

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7. The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead

The Smiths only lasted for five years, but they gave mopey teens enough songs to last for hundreds. Their third LP, 1986's The Queen Is Dead, is the band's crowning achievement. None of the songs charted in America, but tracks like "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out," "Bigmouth Strikes Again," "The Boy With The Thorn In His Side" and "The Queen Is Dead" have had much longer legs than many of the biggest hits of the era. All four members are alive and well, but their break-up and subsequent lawsuit so messy that a reunion is almost impossible to imagine.

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8. The Clash – ‘London Calling’

This double LP came out in December 1979 in England, but it didn't hit stores across the Atlantic until January of 1980 – so by the skin of its teeth London Calling is an Eighties album. It hardly matters; this would be one of the greatest albums of any decade. The Clash were reaching beyond the confines of punk when they made the album, and this was the last moment when they truly functioned as a band. The result is one of the only double LPs in history without a single weak link – from the opening power of "London Calling" through the radio friendly pop of "Train In Vain." The Clash were supposedly months away from reuniting at the 2003 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony when Joe Strummer died of a heart attack.

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9. The Cure – ‘Disintegration’

In an early episode of South Park Kyle Brofloski expressed a rare musical opinion: "Disintegration is the best album ever!” He may have been giddy over Robert Smith's recent defeat of the evil Mecha-Streisand, but the sentiment has been shared by goths and non-goths for over 20 years. The Cure had been active for over a decade when the album came out, but recent hits like "Just Like Heaven" had pulled them in a slighter poppier direction. With 1989's Disintegration they turned back to the gloomier sounds of their early work, even as "Pictures Of You" and "Lovesong" became radio staples. They remain active to this day – and in 1992 scored a huge hit with "Friday I'm In Love" – but they never quite connected again like they did on Disintegration.

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10. Metallica – ‘Master Of Puppets’

With the release of 1986's Master Of Puppets Metallica were transformed from a cult thrash-metal band to the most popular group in the history of the genre. It's also their final abum with bassist Cliff Burton – and to many fans it's the band's high-water mark. In 2006 the group celebrated their 25th anniversary by playing the disc straight through on their European tour, but the title track hasn't budged from the setlist since the first time they played it. When Rick Rubin began working with the band on their newest LP Death Magnetic he told them to get back into the same mindset they had when they made Master Of Puppets.

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