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1987

In January I returned from a long holiday in sunny South Africa to freezing London. Soon I felt that I had had enough of London. When my best friend, Paul, moved to the US, I decided to return to SA, to reunite with my brother. And so in early September I did, got myself a job co-running the Room Service department at a 5-star hotel, and instantly regretted leaving London. So it was a shitty year. Musically, it wasn’t particularly great either.

Blow Monkeys – It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way.mp3
I loved “Diggin’ Your Scene” the year before, but could not muster much enthusiasm for this song when it climbed the charts. Yet there it was on the radio whenever I put the thing on. It reminds me of cold, cold London, and having too little money to put on the gas heater. In the interim I have come to enjoy this song; it needs warm weather to be enjoyed.

A-ha – Manhattan Skyline.mp3
I’ve always been a bit ambivalent about A-ha, but this is a hell of a fine song. It reminds me a bit of the Beatles’ occasional strategy of banging together two quite distinct, uncompleted compositions into one song. This one starts of slowly before launching into a heavy rock (by A-ha’s standards) chorus, which the normally clear-voiced Morten Harket pulls off well.

Sly & Robbie – Boops.mp3
Robbie Williams sampled from “Boops” for his horrible “Rudebox” song. It pains me to think that a generation of people will grow up thinking that Williams created the only thing that is good about “Rudebox”. “Boops” has cool written all over it.

Terence Trent D’Arby – If You Let Me Stay.mp3
The superstar that never was, undone by his own preciousness. This, his debut single, was the only modern song to be played at the Locomotion, the Friday night old soul club at the old Kentish Town & Country Club, before it was even released. I suspect the Trout, who lived in Kentish Town, knew the DJ. It got the crowds on the floor, too.

Paul Johnson – When Love Comes Calling.mp3
A prodigy of UK soul-funkster Junior Giscombe (“Mama Used To Say”), Paul Johnson was a fine soul singer who could hit ridiculously high notes. He never enjoyed great success, which is a pity. This song has a happy vibe, and Johnson’s voice soars. Check out the long falsetto note when he sings “I’m masquerading” before launching straight into the chorus. An utter joy. (Previously uploaded)

Johnny Clegg & Savuka – Asimbonanga.mp3
In early ’87, Savuka played at the Kentish Town & Country Club. The place was packed, mostly with white expatriate South Africans, not all of them visibly of the anti-apartheid activist persuasion. So a Clegg gig in London was exactly like a Clegg gig in Jo’burg or Durban. This is an incredibly moving anti-apartheid song, with its litany of martyred activists (Steve Biko, Victoria Mxenge, Neil Aggett) and its lament that we haven’t seen Nelson Mandela. Less than three years later we would (see here).

Pet Shop Boys & Dusty Springfield – What Have I Done To Deserve This.mp3
Perhaps the single of the year. You had to admire the Pet Shop Boys for reintroducing the great Dusty Springfield from the over-the-hill circuit.

Black – Wonderful Life.mp3
The song that scores my departure from London. Recently I saw that lovely monochrome video again (look out for that superb shot of the rollercoaster at 1:23); it evoked a time and two places. I still like this strangely wistful song a lot, and the album, also called Wonderful Life, is quite excellent.

Prince – Starfish And Coffee.mp3
Just an album track from Sign ‘O The Times. I find that inexplicable, seeing that the crap “U Got The Look” was a single. This is one of Prince’s finest songs, with suitably weird lyrics, a great tune and a kick-ass singalong chorus. As for the alarm clock kicking off the song: inspired. Is Cynthia’s breakfast menu code for something? (Previously uploaded)

Bananarama – Love In The First Degree.mp3
It’s kitsch. It’s Stock Aitken Waterman. It’s 1987.

LL Cool J – I Need Love.mp3
I dig the tune, but the lyrics are hilarious. James promises to be a good boy if only somebody would love him truly. Aaah. But why on earth would J loo for the girl he’ll love in his closet or under his rug? I had a video recording of LL Cool J performing this live on the short-lived US version of Top Of The Pops; all the girlies wanted to be soft as a pillow for the man who’d be as hard as steel. And I bet LL Cool J was communicating to his posse which of these girls he’d use and dispose of that night (that is presuming that all these rumours about Cool J aren’t true).

Smokey Robinson – Just To See Her.mp3
A nice little soul song which gets the old toes tapping and the shoulders rocking. A rather more convincing plea for love than LL Cool J’s, and a persuasive demonstration that the great Smokey had not lost his musical mojo even after a quarter of a century of writing and recording.

Bright Blue – Weeping.mp3
A South African classic (recently inexplicably battered and assaulted by the horrid Josh Groban) by a decent rock group that could never reproduce the magic of this song. Strangely, it received strong airplay on radio stations owned by the apartheid state, for its lyrics are directed at PW Botha and his murderous chums. And so it came about that state-owned radio got to play the strains of “Nkosi Sikeli’ iAfrica” (then the anthem of the banned ANC and now the first half of South Africa’s cobbled-together compromise national anthem). I suspect a couple of DJs took great pleasure in doing so. More on Bright Blue and “Weeping” here.

Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes – I’ve Had The Time Of My Life.mp3
This is a fantastic pop song. It has it all: you can dance to it (dirty or otherwise), you can sing along to it loudly, it has great moments like the bang as the saxophone solo begins, and the dramatically cascading notes building up to a crescendo before Medley summarises softly just how good a time he has had, leading to the celebratory climax. The song structure in fact captures the rhythm of sexual intercourse, with the subtle changes of pace and two distinct orgasms (you didn’t see that coming, did you?).

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  1. Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop
    July 27th, 2007 at 20:54 | #1

    No wonder it was a shitty year if you were listening to Terence Trent D’Arby. Didn’t they have the Jesus and Mary Chain’s ‘Darklands’ around your way?

  2. Any major dude with half a heart
    July 27th, 2007 at 23:59 | #2

    Heh! If Jesus & the Mary Chain was the apex of 1987, then it really was a shitty year.

  3. Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop
    July 31st, 2007 at 20:24 | #3

    It was. But they were an appropriate soundtrack to Thatcher’s third successive election win. Brilliant opening five tracks on that album, by the way – don’t deprive yourself a moment longer. Did anyone ever remove the steel clamp from Terence Trent D’s gonads?

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