ROCKTOBER 2012: 1989 - A Decade Redeems Itself

1989 was a year in which:

  • The Batman soundtrack spent six weeks in the #1 spot, even though there’s a reason why Simon Pegg isn’t the least bit hesitant to kill a zombie with that record in Shaun of the Dead.
  • Alannah Myles was popular for six minutes, and your girlfriend wouldn’t stop playing that fucking “Black Velvet” song.
  • Newsday published a story in which singer Charles Shaw contended he sang most of the vocals on the Milli Vanilli album All or Nothing. Newsday fails to ask why anyone would want credit for such a thing. Even though the story breaks in December, Milli Vanilli still wins the “Best New Artist” award at the Grammys the following February.
  • Tone Loc released the song “Wild Thing,” which promptly becomes the biggest selling single since “We Are the World.” Radio stations start thinking hey, we should maybe start playing that “rap” that all the kids are talking about.
  • Madonna divorced Sean Penn, giving everyone over the age of 14 hope that they had a chance. (Penn’s brother Michael fared better, releasing his debut album March.)
  • Mr. Mister split up, took their broken wings, and learned to fly again. Learned to live and love so free.
  • The Rolling Stones started their Steel Wheels tour, and the media wondered if they were too old to be viable – and that 23 years ago. One reviewer complained about the exorbitant price of the concert t-shirts: $20. The Stones start the tour with an impromptu show at a small club in New Haven, CT. Fewer than 700 people paid $3 to get in.
  • The biggest selling single of the year was “Look Away,” by Chicago. (It’s possible that every year in our Rocktober coverage has mentioned Chicago at least once; I’m just trying to keep up.)
  • Paul McCartney released a live album that was available only in the Soviet Union. People in the U.S. paid $1,000 for bootlegs instead of just waiting 10 years to illegally download it.

Oh. What.The.F@#K? Really 1989? REALLY

As mediocre as the last year of the decade was overall, every month except December managed to produce at least one album that had a significant impact on music. Let’s go through month-by-month and recall how you avoided OD’ing on Roxette, Debbie Gibson, and Technotronic.

ROCKTOBER 2012: 1983 - You Looking at Us?

So here’s the thing - there’s a point in your life when you decide who you’re going to be. When you stop listening to your parents’ music and start listening to albums that you picked out yourself, paid for with your own money that you want to devour, over and over again, like an entire pounder bag of Peanut M&Ms. And when you reach for the next album, you usually end up making a choice -- are you going to stay in the mainstream, or are you going to be indie? Play it safe, or take the more difficult road? If you were coming of age in 1983, when Thriller was continuing its two-year dominance of radio, a new chick named Madonna was being shoved down everyone’s throats, and Tom Cruise slid across the foyer in his tighty whiteys and a pair of sunglasses to the opening piano bars of Seger’s “Old Time Rock & Roll,” the choices could not be more stark. “Flashdance” or “Scarface?” Pick a side, bitches, or say hello to my little friend.

On the deeper, darker flip side of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and “Karma Chameleon,” 1983 gave us some of the most influential bands of the nascent independent music scene. Wrapping your sweaty palms around the self-titled debut LPs from Violent Femmes or Suicidal Tendencies made you immune to pegged jeans, leg warmers, rip-and-tear sweatshirts, jelly shoes, and horrifying haircuts. You were free to sport black denim pegged jeans, rip-and-tear t-shirts, Doc Martens, and equally horrifying alternative haircuts, and you were listening to much better music while doing it.

U2 released War, which was dark, brutal, and brought the political and cultural conflicts of Belfast to American teenager consciousness, even if we couldn’t find Ireland on a map. “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” was certainly meatier, more difficult to digest than Madonna’s “Holiday,” and the almost embarrassing wealth of choices beyond the mainstream could color your life outside of your headphones as well.