Thirty Years On, October 1988, Part II

Continuing with more great music from October 1988!

Compilation: Walk in Silence…, created mid-October. Way before it was the title of my music blog, it was the title of an ongoing mixtape series, starting with this one. The focus of this one was similar to my Listen in Silence mixtape in which it featured my favorite songs both old and new, but this one contained more emotional favorites and ones connected to my writing projects, such as tracks form Depeche Mode, Morrissey, Wire, Cocteau Twins, Siouxsie & the Banshees, and of course Joy Division. This past June I created the twenty-first volume.

REM, Eponymous, released 8 October. REM’s first greatest hits record may in fact be a contractual obligation album — it’s their last for IRS — but it’s a great mix that contains both popular hits and rarities. It’s not exactly essential, as all the rarities are easily available in later best-of mixes, but at the time it was a perfect retrospective for the band.

John Lennon: Imagine soundtrack, released 10 October. This is the soundtrack to the documentary of the same name, featuring the story of John (and Yoko) post-Beatles. It’s a touching tribute and a great mix. It also features the first official appearance of “Real Love”, which would be rerecorded eight years later by the surviving Beatles for the Anthology 2 album.

U2, Rattle & Hum, released 10 October. While some people think of this album as too long with too many throwaways (and the documentary as too self-important and navel-gazey), it really is a fantastic album, and contains some of their best late-80s tracks. The documentary, by the way, holds up surprisingly well!

Ministry, The Land of Rape and Honey, released 10 October. After Ministry’s change from synthpop to aggressive industrial with 1986’s Twitch, they followed up with one of their loudest and most powerful albums to date. It’s a hybrid of industrial, speed metal, and unrestrained punk, and it’s a trip.

Duran Duran, Big Thing, released 18 October. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of the slick Europop of 1986’s Notorious I really enjoyed the straightforward rock of this particular album. It’s got a lot of really great tracks on it, even though it tends to be overshadowed by 1993’s Wedding Album.

Various Artists, Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films, released 18 October. A curious tribute album to songs from the House of Mouse, it contains some of the most interesting and/or odd covers from Los Lobos (a goofy “I Wanna Be Like You”), The Replacements (a wonderfully drunken “Cruella De Ville”), Suzanne Vega (the lovely “Stay Awake”), Tom Waits (a fantastically creepy version of “Heigh Ho”), and more.  Definitely worth checking out.

The Traveling Wilburys, The Traveling Wilburys Vol 1, released 24 October. What was originally supposed to be a b-side project for a George Harrison single became a supergroup that not just wrote and recorded a great classic rock album but reignited the careers of all five of its members.

The Fall, I Am Kurious Oranj, released 31 October. This band had evolved from atonal punk to noise-rock and beyond, so it was only a matter of time before they joined forces with UK dancer Michael Clarke to create a rock opera about…William of Orange? Sure, why not? It’s actually one of their most accessible and melodic records of this era, and a personal favorite of mine.

Ultra Vivid Scene, Ultra Vivid Scene, released 31 October. Kurt Ralske’s sort-of one man band project took its influence from the sludgy noise of The Jesus and Mary Chain, and was one of 4AD’s first signings to break out of the label’s reverb-drenched signature sound. While it’s noisy as hell, it can also be quite beautiful. Music trivia: a very young Moby was once its bassist!

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Next Up: Coming close to the end of the year, but there’s still a lot of great music to come!

Thirty Years On: October 1988, Part I

October 1988:  Switching between multiple writing projects and the occasional poetry or Flying Bohemian lyric, while digging through my last year in high school.  Amherst College’s WAMH returns to the airwaves, much to my delight, and I begin recording things off the radio in earnest when I’m not buying albums (mostly on cassette) at Al Bum’s or Main Street Music.  A surprisingly large assortment of great tunage is released this month, so much that I have to split it up into two posts!

Buffalo Tom, Buffalo Tom, released ?? October. A new wave of bands with a distinctly Boston sound had started making a noise in the mid to late 80s, and Buffalo Tom was a huge favorite of everyone. They weren’t just loud and raucous, they wrote amazing melodies and smart lyrics. One of my favorite Boston bands, their entire discography is worth checking out.

Dinosaur Jr, Bug, released ?? October. Meanwhile, out in the Pioneer Valley of western MA, stoner rock dudes Dino Jr made a hell of a loud noise and released their second album, which the Five College area stations played incessantly. Such was their fanbase that they’d eventually become one of the highlights of the 90s alt-rock scene.

Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation, released ?? October. And just a little further south in NYC, a band was making an even LOUDER noise (as it had been since the beginning of the decade) and released what would be one of their biggest albums to date. While not as dissonant as previous albums, it retained the power of their relentless energetic style.

Front 242, Front by Front, released ?? October. Following up from their absolutely amazing “Headhunter” single, the album provides not just their fast-paced EBM beats, but slower diversions that are just as intriguing. While a lot of industrial music from this era could sound great but feel emotionless (often on purpose), Front 242 always gave their songs an energy that brought their songs to life. One of my favorite albums of 1988, and a great listen on headphones!

Laibach, Let It Be, released ?? October. One of the more fascinating releases of the year, the Slovenian band covered almost the entire Beatles album of the same name (leaving out the title song). Each track was given its own style (such as the military stomp of “Get Back” or the Wagnerian operatic take on “I Me Mine”) but everyone gravitated to the absolutely lovely “Across the Universe”. It’s certainly not for everyone, but it’s well worth checking out.

Julian Cope, My Nation Underground, relased ?? October. He may be a bit of a weirdo, but Julian Cope certainly knew how to write some great tunes in his 80s career. “Charlotte Anne” is a lovely bit of dreamy British pop that became a fan favorite. He also does a really fun cover of The Vogues’ “5 O’Clock World” here as well.

A House, On Our Big Fat Merry Go Round, released ?? October. A great band from Dublin that flew under nearly everyone’s radar but dropped some really fun rock tracks that paved the way for guitar-based alt-rock in the 90s. This one’s a fun listen.

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Coming Soon: More tunage from October 1988!

Forty Years On? A brief overview of 1978, Part III

Finishing up on this little diversion, here are a few more songs and albums that were on my radar in my youth.  The year would of course end with my mom buying me 1967-1970 (aka the Blue Album) for Christmas, kicking off a now forty-year obsession with buying and listening to music on a daily basis.  And it’s not stopping any time soon…

 

Styx, Pieces of Eight, released September. Not quite prog, not quite arena rock, not quite glam, and sometimes a bit ridiculous, but Styx was a radio favorite for years. “Renegade” still gets played nowadays, both on radio and in stadiums.

The KISS solo albums, released 18 September. All four members released a solo album in the fall of 1978. Though it didn’t generate the critical or fan excitement the label had expected (and we now know that Casablanca was known for its brilliant yet catastrophic ideas…), a lot of KISS fans I knew went out and bought them anyway. The only track that got any major play was Ace Frehley’s discofied “New York Groove”, but it’s a hell of a fun track regardless.

Ramones, Road to Ruin, released 22 September. I may have been only seven, but I knew about “I Wanna Be Sedated” even then, thanks to WAAF’s hard rock playlist. Plus, one of my cousins was a big fan. [She was also the same person that would get me hooked on Duran Duran a few years later.]  They were never far from my radar, so I’ve always been a fan.

Blondie, Parallel Lines, released 23 September. I was never the biggest Blondie fan, but I loved “Heart of Glass”. Production so sleek you could see your reflection in it, and the insistent drumbeats front and center and propelled by that ticking sequencer.

Billy Joel, 52nd Street, released 13 October. Another musician whose songs you could not escape in the 70s. Not that I minded, because I quite enjoyed his piano work at he time! This album was a huge hit for him and started a long string of pop radio hits lasting well into the 80s.

The Police, Outlandos d’Amour, released 2 November. When “Roxanne” dropped, it was picked up by every rock station out there and never left. Their debut album is amazingly tight and shows off their punkier side, even when it veers into silliness (the classic ode to a blow-up sex doll, “Be My Girl – Sally”). A fun album from start to finish.

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So yeah, I definitely skipped a LOT of stuff in between. Some releases that I don’t own, some singles I’ve missed… but thinking about it now, 1978 was a watershed year on multiple fronts. As I’ve mentioned here before, this was the year where radio listening habits shifted from AM to FM. While FM was becoming more commercial and focusing more on set rotations, there was still quite a bit of room for free-form playlist experimentation. It was a turning point for a lot of music genres on radio; disco was on the wane, rock was rediscovering its spine, punk and post-punk was sneaking on to college radio, funk was still going strong, and even country would experience a surge in popularity. I may have been seven, but there was a lot going on musically that excited me!

Forty Years On? A brief overview of 1978, Part II

Welcome to another wave of great tunage that dropped when I was a mere seven years old and already listening to the radio far more than anyone else my age probably was.  (Again — I’m skipping a lot of music that could be listed here but isn’t, merely because I did not start listening to those albums and bands until years later.)

Journey, Infinity, released 20 May. The first Journey album to feature Steve Perry, this album finally pushed them into the limelight with less focus on lengthy jams (a holdover from Neal Schon’s Santana days) and more on power pop. They would remain an arena rock favorite for the next ten years.

Bruce Springsteen, Darkness on the Edge of Town, released 2 June. After the powerhouse that was 1975’s Born to Run (and its ensuing tour), it took Bruce another three years — and some very ugly legal issues concerning a manager he’d needed to jettison — he returned with this strong and tense album. He can barely contain the energy he’d been holding onto for far too long.

The Cars, The Cars, released 6 June. Living in MA as a kid, you’d hear a track from this album on every single rock station that came in at least once a day, for decades. And you wouldn’t just hear one of the two singles, either; of its nine tracks, seven of them would end up in heavy rotation. There aren’t that many albums that can claim to have that much success, let alone debut albums. It truly is a classic worth owning.

The Rolling Stones, Some Girls, released 9 June. The Stones went through so many different style changes over the years they give David Bowie a run for his money. This particular album has them sounding like the two sides of Manhattan nightlife at the time: equal parts punk and disco. It was a critical success and the fans loved it.

Dire Straits, Dire Straits, released 7 July. They were a blues band that sounded nothing like Clapton, a jam band that sounded nothing like the Dead, and a London-based band that sounded Middle American. They were hard to pin down but they were amazing musicians and you couldn’t ignore them. And “Sultans of Swing” is still an amazing song after all these years.

The Who, Who Are You, released 18 August. After a long wave of two rock operas, a few filler albums and the occasional single, the band released one hell of a powerful and timely album. Alas, it would be the last record featuring Keith Moon, who passed away three weeks after it was released. Still, it’s one of their best albums of their 70s output and the title single still gets away with an uncensored “who the fuck are you” on commercial radio. Heh.

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More groovy tunes from 1978 coming soon!

Forty Years On? A brief overview of 1978, Part I

You knew it was going to happen sooner or later.  This is by no means complete, and I’m leaving out a LOT of great tunage primarily because it’s stuff I didn’t listen to or even know about until years later… but here’s a smidge of some of my favorite songs I heard on the radio when I was seven and my lifelong obsession was just starting out.

Electric Light Orchestra, “Mr Blue Sky” single, released January. Their fantastic Out of the Blue had been out for a few months by this time, but this became the fan favorite for years to come. Hearing it as the opening song for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 made me ridiculously happy.

ABBA, “Take a Chance on Me” single, released January, My sister was a big ABBA fan and I loved listening to The Album, which had come out in December. They may be sugary pop, but they could write one hell of a great song.

Van Halen, Van Halen, released 10 February. The local rock stations LOVED this album and played most of its tracks. A staple cassette in your boombox or your car stereo at the time.

Wings, London Town, released 31 March. I always say that Yellow Submarine and the Sgt Pepper movie kickstarted my Beatles obsession, but I’m pretty sure Paul’s “With a Little Luck” single had something to do with it as well, as it got played EVERYWHERE and I remember my mom and I liking it a lot.

Hot Chocolate, Every 1’s a Winner, released April. I loved the funky groove and the wonky production of this track, and it (along with their “You Sexy Thing” remains one of my favorite 70s songs.

KISS, Double Platinum, released 2 April. One of my other sisters was a KISS fan and got this for her birthday. I was quite familiar with their songs, so this was a great entry point for all involved.

Cheap Trick, Heaven Tonight, released May. “Surrender” drops and becomes everyone’s favorite rock song for the entire summer and for decades to come. One of the best rock songs of the 70s. A and I drove down a highway towards Houston with this song blaring, the both of us singing along like happy idiots!

Coming up: More 1978 goodness!

Twenty Years On: September 1998

September 1998: It’s starting to get cooler out, the days are getting shorter. The commute home gets me there in the dark. On the occasional Wednesday I’ll do my comic book road trip across the state; while I’m enjoying buying the comics and taking the long drives, I think it’s more about me finding a new outlet to escape the frustration of living back at home with family. It’s about doing something for myself, just like my occasional drives into Boston on the weekend, or my hiding down in the basement to write. I’m pretty much finding my own unique self at this point. It’s a perfect time to do so, considering that I’ve disconnected from most everything and everyone else that had held me back a few years earlier.

Just me, my music, and my writing. I could live with that.

The House of Love, The Best of the House of Love, released ?? September 1998. I’d been a fan of this band since “I Don’t Know Why I Love You” but for some reason I never got around to buying any of their albums…! This was a perfect jumping-on point, as it’s an excellent mix of their late 80s-early 90s output.

Depeche Mode, “Only When I Lose Myself” single, released 7 September. A new teaser single to add to their upcoming greatest hits album (The Singles 86>98, which would drop on 28 September), it’s got the grim darkness of 1997’s Ultra, but it also has the tenderness of some of Martin Gore’s best balladry. It’s a lovely, relaxing song.

Mansun, Six, released 7 September. While this certainly didn’t come close to the Britpoppy goodness of their minor hit “Wide Open Space” and was resequenced and pretty much ignored in the US, it remains my favorite Mansun record for its grandiose scope. It’s a long album, but it goes in so many interesting and unexpected directions that it’s a hell of a lot of fun to listen to. Another record that got heavy rotation during my writing sessions.

Belle & Sebastian, The Boy with the Arab Strap, released 7 September. Critics loved this band since their start, but it was this album that expanded their fanbase exponentially, thanks to being signed to Matador in the US. [This is also the album that infamously received a ridiculously pompous negative review on Pitchfork, thus branding the site by some as being written by and for hipsters who only listen to obscure bands.] It’s light and poppy — and the perfect example of ‘twee’ which became the code word for them around this time — but it’s also full of great tracks including the title song. Another writing session album.

The Fireman, Rushes, released 21 September. Paul McCartney’s side project into chilled-out electronica gets a second album here, this time of completely new source samples and sounds. It’s relaxing and lovely and totally not what you would expect from Macca at all.

American Football, American Football EP, released 29 September. A band that partly inspired the late 90s-early 00s resurgence of quiet, meandering post-rock, this band had only released this EP and a single album (of the same name) the following year before breaking up (and not acrimoniously: their college years had come to an end and were now in different cities). They’re a cult favorite and well worth checking out; they’ve also reunited as of 2014 and put out a second album (yes, of the same name again) in 2016.

UNKLE, Psyence Fiction, released 29 September. I rarely embed a full-album video stream, but this is definitely an album you need to hear from start to finish, as it’s JUST THAT AMAZING. Producer/DJ James Lavelle created this group, initially with DJ Shadow, and created a ‘band’ that defies description. It’s hip-hop, electronic, soul, hard rock, industrial, and who knows what else, and melded into a semi-thematic album of aliens, space travel, mind travel, and spiritual healing. It can be dark and dense, hard and heavy, but also amusing and just plain weird. And its guests run the gamut as well: Thom Yorke (Radiohead), Mark Hollis (Talk Talk), Jason Newstead (Metallica), Kool G Rap, Badly Drawn Boy, Richard Ashcroft (The Verve), and Mike D (Beastie Boys). It’s a phenomenal album that you should definitely have in your collection. [And yes, another writing session album. I still listen to this one quite a bit to this day.]

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Coming soon: October 1998!

Fly-By Because It’s Been That Kind of a Week, [feat. Portishead]

Been stupidly busy lately due to the Day Job, so I’m doing a fly-by here.  I’ve been thinking a bit about Portishead lately; I haven’t listened to them in a while and after happening to hear “Glory Box” on the radio, I figured it was time to bring them back into rotation.

I do dearly love that late-90s slinky, smoky trip-hop sound.

We’ll (hopefully) be back to normal next week!