So farewell then, 1989.
I mean 2019, of course… But enough about 2019.
Here’s Nick Hornby’s diary entry for 22nd August 1989, taken from his classic book ‘Fever Pitch’:
‘I have stopped buying NME and the Face, and, inexplicably, have started keeping copies of Q magazine under a shelf in my living room; I have bought a CD player; I have registered with an accountant; I have noticed that certain types of music – hip-hop, indie guitar pop, thrash, metal – all sound the same and have no tune; I have come to prefer restaurants to clubs; and dinners with friends to parties…’
Stump bassist Kev Hopper also had an interesting take on the era:
‘Organised raves were happening up and down the country and and the UK was awash with mockney DJs. You were made to feel like some sort of soulless, asexual blob if you didn’t like/want to move to their incredibly unfunky, over-quantised, four-to-the-floor marching music. Most of it had about as much rhythmic interest as a dripping tap. Remix DJs and “keyboard wizards” were calling all the shots, idolized by huge crowds of spazzed-out zombie youth. One thing was for sure: rock bands were out…’
And yet 1989 was one of the best music years of the ’80s, and one of the most contradictory. Happy Mondays and Stone Roses had famously gatecrashed a November edition of ‘Top Of The Pops’, but hadn’t upset the status quo quite yet (and guitars wouldn’t properly make a comeback until the Blur/Oasis era of the mid-’90s, at least in the UK).
The ‘yuppie’ consumer still had a stronghold on the charts, driven by the CD boom and a renewed focus on the home and car (which of course became convulsive).
But there was also the sinking feeling that pop music was no longer ruling mainstream culture. Stock, Aitken & Waterman (via Brother Beyond, Big Fun, Sonia, Sinitta, Jason Donovan and Kylie) and the bizarre Jive Bunny were ever-present in the charts, with TV tie-ins and ’40s/’50s nostalgia particularly prevalent, evidenced by this list of UK number one singles during 1989:
Kylie/Jason: ‘Especially For You’
Marc Almond/Gene Pitney: ‘Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart’
Simple Minds: ‘Belfast Child’
Jason Donovan: ‘Too Many Broken Hearts’
Madonna: ‘Like A Prayer’
The Bangles: ‘Eternal Flame’
Kylie Minogue: ‘Hand On Your Heart’
Gerry Marsden/Paul McCartney/Holly Johnson/The Christians: ‘Ferry Across The Mersey’
Jason Donovan: ‘Sealed With A Kiss’
Soul II Soul ft. Caron Wheeler: ‘Back To Life’
Sonia: ‘You’ll Never Stop Me Loving You’
Jive Bunny: ‘Swing The Mood’
Black Box: ‘Ride On Time’
Jive Bunny: ‘That’s What I Like’
Lisa Stansfield: ‘All Around The World’
New Kids On The Block: ‘You’ve Got The Right Stuff’
Jive Bunny: ‘Let’s Party’
Band Aid II: ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’
And the fact is that era-defining albums by De La Soul, Pixies, Beastie Boys, Soul II Soul, Neneh Cherry and NWA were crushed in sales terms by the Bunny, Tina Turner, Gloria Estefan, Kylie, Jason, Sonia, Simply Red, Bros, Phil Collins and Chris Rea.
And though Tiffany and Debbie Gibson had pretty much been snuffed out, crap teen pop was making a comeback in the shape of New Kids On The Block.
But there was still much to celebrate. The second ’80s pop boom was well underway. ‘Smash Hits’ mag was selling a million copies a week. Prog-pop was alive and well courtesy of Marillion, It Bites, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe and Trevor Rabin.
There was a serious CD ‘sophisti-pop’ thing going on via Tanita Tikaram, Blue Nile, Black, Julia Fordham, Prefab, Deacon Blue, Toni Childs etc. ‘Going Live’ was a must-watch on Saturday mornings.
Hip-hop was commercial and vital, highlighted by great albums from De La Soul, Young MC, Schoolly D, Tone Loc, NWA and Beastie Boys. The ’60s generation were in fine fettle, evidenced by era-defining rock albums from Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Jeff Beck and Lou Reed. Jazz and fusion were in good nick.
And don’t forget the post-aceeeed dance scene via Bomb The Bass, S’Express, Yazz, Beatmasters, Betty Boo, Neneh Cherry, Soul II Soul, the Mondays and Roses.
Here’s just a smattering of 1989 album releases. Looks like a pretty damn good year, whether you were into pop, dance, hip-hop, indie, goth, soul, metal or jazz.
Neneh Cherry: Raw Like Sushi
Danny Wilson: Bebop Moptop
China Crisis: Diary Of A Hollow Horse
Lil Louis: From The Mind Of Lil Louis
XTC: Oranges & Lemons
Tone Loc: Loc’ed After Dark
Joe Satriani: Flying In A Blue Dream
Nik Kershaw: The Works
Fine Young Cannibals: The Raw & The Cooked
Madonna: Like A Prayer
Red Hot Chili Peppers: Mother’s Milk
Allan Holdsworth: Secrets
John Lee Hooker: The Healer
Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe
Lou Reed: New York
Lenny Kravitz: Let Love Rule
Beastie Boys: Paul’s Boutique
Soul II Soul: Club Classics Vol 1
Young MC: Stone Cold Rhymin’
Mike Stern: Jigsaw
John Patitucci: On The Corner
Miles Davis: Aura
All About Eve: Scarlet And Other Stories
Marillion: Seasons End
Kate Bush: The Sensual World
Janet Jackson: Rhythm Nation 1814
Julia Fordham: Porcelain
Neville Brothers: Yellow Moon
Bob Dylan: Oh Mercy
Miles Davis: Amandla
Schoolly D: Am I Black Enough For You
Neil Young: Freedom
Blue Nile: Hats
Curiosity Killed The Cat: Getahead
The Beautiful South: Welcome To The Beautiful South
Trevor Rabin: Can’t Look Away
24-7 Spyz: Harder Than You
Jane Siberry: Bound By The Beauty
Rickie Lee Jones: Flying Cowboys
The Stone Roses
It Bites: Eat Me In St Louis
David Murray: I Want To Talk About You
Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop
NWA: Straight Outta Compton
Young MC: Stone Cold Rhymin’
De La Soul: Three Feet High & Rising
The Sugarcubes: Here Today, Tomorrow, Next Week
Regina Belle: Stay With Me
Kirsty MacColl: Kite
David Byrne: Rei Momo
Belinda Carlisle: Runaway Horses
Terry Hall: Ultra Modern Nursery Rhymes
Prefab Sprout: Protest Songs
Neville Brothers: Yellow Moon
Wendy & Lisa: Fruit At The Bottom
Paul McCartney: Flowers In The Dirt