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1988

A pivotal year. There were loads of parties, a memorable bus trip to Zimbabwe for the Amnesty International concert, during which I became close friends with people who’d have a profound impact on my life, and I quit the hotel industry in November, not knowing what I’d do next (events in January 1989 would decide that for me). Oh, and the security police raided my place for the first time. Musically it was a good year, too. Having moved from London in September ’87, my obsession with the UK Top 40 diminished. In South Africa, the singles market was tiny. Instead, there were record libraries, from which one could hire LPs, from rock classics to latest releases. I’d buy loads of albums having tested them first that way. Of course, the record industry forced these record libraries to close down by 1989, because home-taping kills music (as we have seen). The number of records I bought after that decreased as a result.

Chris Isaak – Blue Hotel.mp3
This came out in 1987, and really belongs in the 1987 post. It is here because it was on a tape I played on loop in my 1978 Audi 100 in early 1988. And that’s the point of this series: songs that evoke the times, like a smell etc. “Blue Hotel” does just that. There are only few Chris Isaak songs I really like; but those I do like intensely, including “Blue Hotel”, a song quite unlike anything I had heard before.

The Primitives – Crash.mp3
A quick burst of exuberance packed in glorious 2:30 minutes

Prefab Sprout – Cars And Girls.mp3
Allegedly a dig at Springsteen (if so, then misdirected), this came from the quite excellent From Langley Park To Memphis album, which also featured “The King Of Rock ‘N Roll” with the immortal chorus: “Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque”. This song is lyrically more coherent than that, but my favourite track from the album is “Hey Manhattan”, which I’ll save for a later post.

Morrissey – Every Day Is Like Sunday.mp3
I utterly love the Smiths, but don’t rate Morrissey’s solo career highly, mostly because his withering poetry has become a self-conscious shtick. Morrissey has turned into the Ben Elton of music. The tendency became apparent already towards the end of The Smiths, who broke up just at the right time. This track, released quite soon after the death of the Smiths, is Morrissey at his best. Preceding the total descent into self-parody, the lyrics and music evoke a particular atmosphere with eery accuracy.

Everything But The Girl – Love Is Where I Live.mp3
It’s not accurate to classify EBTG as a lounge-jazz pop act. In fact, it is impossible to classify them at all. Idlewild is their best album: it’s laid back but has a certain appealing intensity, and so much of what the clichémongers like to call “aching beauty”, particularly Tracy Thorns’ vocals.

Lloyd Cole & the Commotions – Jennifer She Said.mp3
Lloyd Cole has been unjustly vilified by the taste gestapo, to the point of calumny. Rattlesnakes (1984) was an outstanding album, there was much to like about Easy Pieces (1985), and his final album with the Commotions, Mainstream, had many fine moments. Let’s rehabilitate Lloyd Cole fully, and admit that he was a bright spot in the patchy ’80s.

Wet Wet Wet – Temptation (live).mp3
Marketed to the teenage market when they first appeared on the scene in 1987, and subsequently a Moms’ favourite with that song, Wet Wet Wet are an easy target for snobbish relegation. Yet, the debut album was a minor masterpiece of pop. “Angel Eyes” and “Temptation” combined great melodies with well judged arrangements and superb vocals by Marti Pellow. This is a live recording which appeared on a best of collection released last year.

Mica Paris – My One Temptation.mp3
In the desert of ’80s soul music, 1988 was an oasis, and Mica Paris was pouring the cocktails. Her debut, “So Good”, was superb, with “Breathe Life Into Me”, “Words Into Action” (with Paul Johnson, featured in the 1987 set), “Like Dreamers Do”, the title track and this little gem.

The Men They Couldn’t Hang – The Colours.mp3
There are not many folk songs that invite such a mighty singalong as “The Colours”, which also offers a revolutionary history lesson framed by Big Country guitars. Everybody now: “Red is the colour of the new republic; blue is the colour of the sea; white is the colour of my innocence; not surrender to your mercy”. And down with the king!

Will Downing – A Love Supreme.mp3
A driving track based on John Coltrane’s work of the same title, this is a bona fide soul classic. Downing (a label mate of Mica Paris, with whom he also duetted) is a vastly underrated singer; his vocals on “A Love Supreme” are impassioned yet cool. And check out the House-style keyboards. A fantastic song. What a travesty that “R&B” these days is dominated by pipsqueaky fuckers like Ne-Yo and Omarion, yet Downing never became a legend (unlike John).

Tracy Chapman – Baby Can I Hold You.mp3
Chapman and Suzanne Vega were at the vanguard of a new line of female singer-songwriters. Chapman’s debut is a stunning, almost flawless album. Her set at the Amnesty International “Human Rights Now!” concert in Harare (oh, the fucking irony!) was great. Springsteen was good, Peter Gabriel theatrical, Sting earnestly poncey, Youssou N’Dour inspiring; but Tracy Chapman — a solitary tiny figure on stage, armed only with her guitar — touched the emotions more than any of them. A shame her subsequent output has been so decidedly patchy.

Tanita Tikaram – A Good Tradition.mp3
A folk-pop number with saxophone and Celtic strings sung by an exotic woman with a distinctive voice from Britain who was born in Germany. I’ll be totally honest: I bought Tikaram’s album unheard because I fancied her. It’s not a bad album, “Twist In My Sobriety” and “World Outside My Window” are pretty good. But I don’t think I’d need to hear it again. And “Good Tradition” song has aged a bit.

Bill Withers – Lovely Day (Sunshine Mix).mp3
Originally released in 1977, “Lovely Day” was said to have featured the longest ever recorded sung note. The song does what it says on the business plan: set you up for a good day. The remix, which was a hit in 1988, aims for setting up the party as well — and succeeds in doing so. (Previously upload

ed)

Kylie Minogue & Jason Donovan – Especially For You.mp3
I tend to use the term “guilty pleasure” at times, but don’t really buy into the notion that there is anything to be ashamed about in liking a song not considered cool. Admitting to liking supposedly unapproved music is the first step towards beating the taste gestapo. So here it is: I like “Especially For You”. I’ve always liked it, even when I pretended to disparage it. I acknowledge that it has no artistic merits whatsoever, but hearing it and crooning along to it makes me feel good. There, I’ve said it. Free at last etc. Liberate the Guilty Pleasures!

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  1. Jörg
    July 29th, 2007 at 02:46 | #1

    Hallo,hab gerade dein blog gefunden und gleich einen link auf meinem gesetzt!http://not-rock-on.blogspot.com/Sehr schöne Geschichten zu den Songs, der 80er Rückblick ist sehr gelungen, gerade die Lieder, die man damlas nicht cool finden durfte.Das Problem mit den comments kenne ich auch… Die Leute saugen halt lieber.Grüsse aus Wilhelmshaven!Jörg

  2. Any major dude with half a heart
    July 29th, 2007 at 12:48 | #2

    Vielen Dank, Jörg. Schön mal von einem anderen Nordlicht zu hören (ich stamme aus der Stadt des Marzipans). Und vielen herzlichen Dank auch für den Kommentar auf deinem ausgezeichneten Blog.

  3. Jörg
    July 30th, 2007 at 01:34 | #3

    Bin gerade bei 88 angekommen und muss sagen, dass die Rehabilitation von Lloyd Cole lange überfällig ist. Meine erste Maxi (damals hiess das noch so) war Forest Fire, was für ein Song! Dem konnte auch die lange Version nichts anhaben, leider waren viele Maxis ja oft nur mit einem “leeren” Beats Teil aufgemotzt und dadurch unhörbar.Sehr schön, danke!

  4. Jörg
    July 30th, 2007 at 01:49 | #4

    Thanks for beating the style Gestapo!Und nachdem ich Cherelle und Frankie Beverly und Chaka Khan++ wieder gehört habe muss ich auch mal was 80er Soul posten, obwohl, gerade laufen die Primitives, schlimm wenn der Geschmack so breit gefächert ist!PS. Hast Du das Smiths Konzert bei mir schon entdeckt?http://not-rock-on.blogspot.com/2007/01/smiths-live-in-hamburg-1984.htmlIch schicke Dir auch gerne Bilder ohne den imprint wie im blog.

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