Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published September 10th 2018
Because looking back doesn't have to be sad
Been here before, when I looked back at the Songs of 1987. That proved to be quite a popular article. So, I have decided to go on with it. As I said back then, some years in your life stick with you for whatever reason, filling your head with memories that have been sand-blasted into your subconscious.
Welcome this time to 1988.
The Cambridge z88 - the tablet of its day! (pixabay)
1988 was the year I did year 13, basically repeating year 12, at St Ignatius College in Adelaide. I had finally come to the end of my secondary education. After the horrid immaturity of 1987, and thanks to the persistence of Melinda (who is now a doctor in, I believe, NSW), I finally actually started to grow the hell up. Parties and all malarkey were secondary, now I wanted to focus on doing well. As such, school and sport took over my life completely.
And so, the soundtrack to 1988 was rather different to that which I had endured in the hedonistic times of 1987. And yet, much like the year before, how many awesome songs were released in 1988!
Now, I stopped going to the Blue Light Discos, although I did hit the Arkaba at times (hey, I was 17 and looked a little older – what you gonna do?), so the songs I heard were mainly from the radio or my younger sisters. All Fired Up (Pat Benatar); American Dream (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young); Bad Medicine (Bon Jovi); Beds Are Burning (Midnight Oil); Cult of Personality (Living Colour); Desire (U2); End Of The Line (The Traveling Wilburys); Eternal Flame (Bangles); Every Rose Has Its Thorn (Poison); First We Take Manhattan (Leonard Cohen); I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) (The Proclaimers); Kiss (Tom Jones); Lay Your Hands On Me (Bon Jovi); Make Me Lose Control (Eric Carmen); Never Tear Us Apart (INXS); Nothin' But a Good Time (Poison); One (Metallica); Orinoco Flow (Sail Away) (Enya); Stay (Oingo Boingo); The Flame (Cheap Trick); There She Goes (The La's); This Note's For You (Neil Young); Underneath the Radar (Underworld); Used To Love Her (Guns N' Roses); When It's Love (Van Halen)… Whew!
You know, restricting this to just ten songs was tough! But here are 10 of my favourites from the year. A little bit about each song, a little bit about why it is important to me… and the song itself. Lose yourself in that time 30 years ago…
1) Close My Eyes Forever by Lita Ford and Ozzy Osbourne I found this song amazingly sad when I first heard it. The lyrics themselves didn't actually 'speak to me', as such, but they were so powerful and the guitar playing – with a touch of backward looping being used – along with two of the most powerful voices in rock belting out a power ballad like this. I fell in love with this song straight away.
The song is not indicative of any great event in my life, nor does it necessarily remind me of anyone, but it has remained one of my favourite songs since this time. It is another song I bought on 45 and almost wore out playing it to myself at night. Did it remind me of loves lost? Who knows? All that matters is that it is a great song and vastly under-rated and almost forgotten today.
2) All I Want Is You by U2
Another power ballad, by U2 this time. The build-up of the song, from its quite initial beginnings to the dramatic flourish at the end, gathering steam like a boulder running down a hill, just hits you and keeps on hitting you over and over. I'll be honest, I did not buy the cassingle of this song for this song – I bought it for the U2 cover of Everlasting Love, which was one of 2 other tracks on it. But when I listened to this, with the amazing jangly guitars, it struck me like a sledgehammer.
Again, it's a song I just like for the fact of the song itself. And again, it's a song that reaches me on a deeper level that I find rather sad and a touch depressing. But, wow, is it an awesome song. And that super-depressing video clip set at the circus was sometimes almost too hard to watch…
3) Patience by Guns N' Roses I was enamoured of the music of Guns N'Roses from the first time I heard them. In Australia, this meant the Appetite For Destruction album and the singles. Then G'N'R Lies came out. This song was just incredible. Acoustic, the whistling, the heartfelt lyrics… it actually became my karaoke song in the 1990s, as with my (all-too) limited singing ability, I sounded a little like an out-of-tune Axl Rose. But I was, obviously, not a patch on this and to this day it stands as an awesome piece of work.
The song does, however, remind me of Clare. Through my own idiocy I'd lost her friendship, but in 1988 we were starting to try to patch things up. And this song came out and it was like it was talking to me, telling me to take my time, that it would all be fine, and the best friend I ever had would be there for me… and I ignored it and at the end of the year I let her go and I've been kicking myself ever since. If there was a way I could find her to apologise, I would in a heartbeat… and listening to this song as I'm writing this just makes me feel that all the more.
4) Under The Milky Way by The Church
I have always thought the Church were an under-rated and under-valued Australian rock band. I've mentioned one of their songs before, in my forgotten classics of the 80s article, but this song actually, for a brief moment, shone them out into the world and made everyone sit up and take notice. And understandably so. The laid-back guitar work, the impressive and deep lyrics, the slow build-up to the sing-along chorus, it is a near-perfect pop song. "Wish I knew what you were looking for, might have known what you would find…" It is depressing, but also hopeful. Bagpipes not withstanding…
Another song that has no real personal connection to my life, except that it is just a great song. As a bit of a fan of the Church, I did see them live a couple of times, and this song is one that translated well to the stage and the crowd singing along to it.
5) Kokomo by The Beach Boys
From the mediocre film Cocktail starring Bryan Brown and Tom Cruise came one of the best soundtrack albums of the 80s. And on that album, the stand-out song (with stiff competition from Ry Cooder and John Mellencamp), to me, was The Beach Boys back in form with this pleasant little pop song about a Caribbean beach that has sing-along written all over it. I know I certainly did. My friends at the time were not fans, so it became a secret pleasure… until my youngest sister caught me screaming it one day and joined in.
It's just a song full of joy and hope. It is unashamedly pop, with the gorgeous harmonies The Beach Boys have always been known for. It is also surprisingly easy to play and is one of the few songs I don't struggle with on the guitar. It is still a fun song, and if it comes on the radio, even today, the volume does tend to get cranked and my alleged singing does come out…
6) The Living Years by Mike & the Mechanics
Mike Rutherford from Genesis always had his non-Genesis projects over-shadowed by Phil Collins. But this song made people realise that Genesis was more than just a singing drummer and his mates. It is a beautiful song, with Paul Carrack's soaring vocals – with the help of that choir – giving it an air of the majestic. As you would expect from Rutherford, the musicianship is perfect, and the lyrics are simply magnificent.
The song is about saying goodbye to a father who has died. I think that is why the song struck me like it did. I was 10 when my dad died and I never got the chance to actually say goodbye to him. "I wasn't there that morning when my father passed away…" That verse was me. I was going through a bit of feeling that in 1988 – which really came out on that small school retreat I went on, where a couple of the girls helped me with some of this – and so when this song came out… well, the first time I heard it, I cried. I think Mel was the only person I told. I've come to terms with dad's death now, but, man, did it take a long time. And this song genuinely helped.
7) Copperhead Road by Steve Earle
And so, to up the tempo, we come to a brilliant song by Steve Earle. It has become something of a rock classic, and deservedly so. The song tells the story of his family making bootleg liquor, to a sojourn in Vietnam, and it builds up in intensity with each verse until it hits that big crescendo at the end. The instrumentation builds like thunder rolling in from the mountains, and it still sends a shiver down my spine, no matter how often I hear it. This one only just missed making my list of songs that tell a story.
And, again, not personal back-story. This is just a song that I really like. I bought the album on cassette and wore this song out. It became unplayable. Yes, I really did enjoy this track, really do enjoy this track. Okay, maybe a small back-story. In the 2000s I entered a few air guitar contests. Yes, sad, I know. But at one of them, they also had an air drum section. I entered, this was my song, I got second, and won a gift voucher to Big Star Records. So, yeah – great song.
8) Handle With Care by The Traveling Wilburys
I bought this album (Volume 1) before I had even heard a single song because I was a fan of the people who made up the group. It is one of those rare albums where every song is good. And this one, one of the singles from it, is just brilliant. The multi-guitar attack, the awesome lyrics, and Roy Orbison's soaring chorus – what's not to love?
Now, I've mentioned Mel as my great rock in 1988, but ours was a platonic relationship. However, I did fall for a girl – Belinda. We sort of hooked up at one stage and I was really nervous. She couldn't understand why, so I tried to explain how I was feeling, and in the end, I used this song to say where my head was at. It worked. Mind you, we were only together briefly, but it was fun while it lasted…
9) Love and Mercy by Brian Wilson
Brian Wilson made something of a comeback in 1988. After years of combatting his own demons, with the help of his therapist and his wife, he came out with an album that was heartfelt and honest. The vocals were a little rough in parts, but that only added to the honesty of the tracks. So, with The Beach Boys, his group, making a comeback (see Kokomo above), Brian hit the ground running. And this track is the stand-out on a stand-out album.
This song reminds me of Mel. Her friendship saved me from something that could have been personally disastrous. I honestly believe that if she had not been in my life, I would have done something to myself that would not be good. "Love and mercy is what you need tonight…" She gave me both – the love of friendship, and she forgave me for being a jerk. I miss Mel as much as I miss Clare. (And Barbara…)
10) Can I Play With Madness by Iron Maiden
And let's finish with something very different. I am a fan of all sorts of music (hip-hop not so much, if I'm being honest), from opera to grunge. But there is a special place in my heart for heavy metal, and especially what became known as the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. And, of course, Iron Maiden is at the forefront. A mate, Chiz, introduced me to Iron Maiden back in 1984 or so, and I was instantly hooked. Their Live After Death album is still, to this day, one of my favourite live albums. Well, in 1988, I heard this single somewhere (probably not on the radio – not in Australia at that time!) and that was it, I had to find it.
It is just a loud, thunderous song, with Bruce Dickinson's voice at its powerful, melodic best, and of all the songs I've presented here, this is probably the one I'm going to get the least love for. But I really, really like it. The year wasn't just about power ballads, soft rock and pleasant pop – metal still had its fingers in the pie somewhere, and for that I was grateful.
And on that note (see what I did there?), we'll end another year in music there. Please, comments are always welcome. I enjoy seeing where other people come from who remember this sort of time – my contemporaries (I guess). So, give me your favourites, say you hate mine, I don't care.