Late 1988/early 1989 was a brilliant time musically, hair metal and Rick Astley aside.
Rick Astley, Richard Marx, Robbie Nevil, Debbie Gibson—all names rendered meaningless 25 years later except as punch lines. At the time, though, they were huge, and that’s the thing we tend to forget when we’re standing on top of a pile of shitty pop music: There’s always been shitty pop music. “Shake Your Love” is the cotton candy that The Music Industry stuffed down our throats and told us was delicious. It’s no different now. Even my beloved Bowie once said, “I think Paul Young is an amazing talent.”
But dig a little deeper into any era and the nuggets emerge. What’s required is time. Only time will tell, to quote the legendary philosophers Asia, still at the top of your power rotation 30 years later. Time is the great colander, draining away the watery garbage but leaving behind the tasty lobster raviolis. Every generation thinks that their music is the best, but in all honesty once the Rick Astleys circled the drain the end of the eighties left behind some tasty dishes.
Here are a few albums that enjoyed heavy rotation on the Music Plus turntable from fall ’88 to fall ’89:
–Truth and Soul, Fishbone. A true classic from one of the greatest bands to never break out.
–Nothing’s Shocking, Jane’s Addiction. Nirvana nothing, this is where the alternative music genre begins. Jane’s merged art school cool with cock rock guitars. The mix was revolutionary.
–Mother’s Milk, The Red Hot Chili Peppers. The third band in the late ’80s Hollywood holy trinity (with Fishbone and Jane’s). As Dave Navarro did for Jane’s, new drummer Chad Smith brought a Sunset Strip hair metal element to RHCP that transformed the band.
– The Real Thing, Faith No More. This may as well have been glued to the store’s turntable. No album got more Music Plus air time than The Real Thing. It still holds up, too.
– Workbook, Bob Mould. Ex Husker Du front man’s first solo album. Admittedly, I was the only Music Plus employee to spin this, but I did so at every opportunity. I couldn’t get enough of “Sunspots.”
– Appetite For Destruction and G N’ R Lies, Guns N’ Roses. Appetite came out in 1987, but as I’ve been told on many a date, it was a slow grower. (That’s a lie. I haven’t been on many dates.) By the end of ’88 it was hitting its peak, which made the release of the stopgap G N’ R Lies seem strange. The album contained the Live Like A Suicide EP on one side and four acoustic tracks on the other. I taught myself all four, and I still play them when both the drink and the sadness are running freely.
– Vivid, Living Colour. Pure badassery.
–Paul’s Boutique, Beastie Boys. I hated License To Ill,so the follow-up was a hard sell. Once I gave it a fair listen, though, I was hooked. Brilliant.
–Operation: Mindcrime, Queensryche. A metal guitarist named Bob used to spin this one when he wasn’t telling anyone who’d listen that he could play 8 notes per second. Queensryche was the thinking man’s hair metal band, and this album and it’s follow-up, Empire, are must haves.
– Green, R.E.M. The band’s first Warner Brother’s album. Far from their best, but we played the hell out of it. “Turn You Inside Out” sounds like classic IRS R.E.M.
–Let Love Rule, Lenny Kravitz. I mocked Mr. Lisa Bonet relentlessly when this came out, but after a few hundred in-store listens I finally got it. “Rosemary” remains a favorite.
There are cooler albums from that era and there are many with better sales, but this is the playlist that will forever put me on the corner of Sunset and Vine, straightening the album bins and trying to hustle customers into giving me a job. Do you have favorites from the end of the eighties? I’m listening.