Mix Disc Monday: 1988

Pop was not quite yet the dirty word that it would become over the next 18 months, though Rick Astley, Paula Abdul and Martika were well on their way to sending pop past the point of no return. Hair metal was winning the record sales battle, but modern rock would soon win the war (thank you, Kurt Cobain). Somewhere in the middle of all that was me, the only one on his dorm room floor who liked both Book of Love and Guns ‘n Roses. It proved for some interesting listening, that’s for sure. Maybe not timeless, but definitely interesting.

“I Don’t Want Your Love,” Duran Duran (Big Thing)
One of the last great Duran singles, with a phenomenal video to boot. I professed my love for remixer Shep Pettibone in my 1987 installment of MDM, but anyone who’s heard the album version of this track knows that Shep actually saved their butts with a bass-heavy remix that sent the song to the top of the dance charts. Obscure trivia bit: the man playing drums in the video is none other than David Palmer, formerly of ABC.

“Peek a Boo,” Siouxsie & the Banshees (Peep Show)
Anyone who knew me back in 1988 knew that this song and I were rarely separated. The backwards drumming – which I, of course, would play backwards on my turntable, to hear the drums going forward – the crazy stereo mix job by Mike Hedges, and Siouxsie’s insanely catchy, climbing vocal in the chorus resulted in the coolest thing I had heard up to that point.

“The Great Commandment,” Camouflage (Voices & Images)
It would be another year until “Personal Jesus” would drop, and aside from the three killer singles, Music for the Masses was a grand disappointment. Those looking for a Depeche Mode fix, therefore, were forced to look elsewhere, and this German band delivered one marvelous tribute to Fast Fashion…then promptly faded into obscurity.

“Tired of Getting Pushed Around,” Two Men, a Drum Machine, and a Trumpet
Roland Gift was off doing some acting gig or other, which left Andy Cox and Dave Steele with some time on their hands until they began recording the next Fine Young Cannibals album. Not content to stand idly by while a ton of people rode the coattails of “Pump up the Volume” and scored hits with sample-heavy instrumentals in the process (Bomb the Bass’ “Beat Dis,” S’Express’ “Theme from S’Express,” Simon Harris’ “Bass (How Low Can You Go,”), Cox and Steele made this. And it was good.

“Hot Dog,” Martini Ranch (Holy Cow)
Find the 12” mix, if you can. (I have it, but if I post any more .mp3 files – ahem, like the next song on the list – the RIAA will surely haul me off to Azkaban.) If you haven’t heard of the band, you’ve definitely heard of at least one member (actor Bill Paxton) and the lass responsible for backing vocals (Cindy Wilson, formerly of the B-52’s). The song isn’t really a song so much as a series of sound effects put to a snazzy beat – I still love it when Dino barks – but that’s pretty much all you needed to do in order to score a club hit in 1988, as Two Men, a Drum Machine and a Trumpet will attest.

“Sugar and Spice,” Scritti Politti (Provision)
Few people besides me and my friend Tony still gave a damn about Scritti Politti when they finally dropped Provision in 1988 (back then, a three-year gap between albums was an eternity), and not even the inclusion of Miles Davis would change people’s minds. True, the album was no Cupid & Psyche ’85, but it had its moments, and this song, featuring the late Roger Troutman rocking the voice box, was one of them.

“Another Lover,” Giant Steps (The Book of Pride)
Well, if Scritti Politti wasn’t going to crack the Top 40, I’ll go for the next best thing. Pop duos were all the rage in 1988, with Giant Steps, Times Two and the next entry on this list all scoring chart hits. None of them were built for the long haul – go to Jefito’s blog if you want to read a very amusing analysis of Giant Steps’ album The Book of Pride – but their contributions were all noteworthy. Well, except for Times Two. They were just terrible.

“Love Changes Everything,” Climie Fisher (Everything)
No, it’s not Rod Stewart, but that’s actually a good thing. After all, do you remember the songs from the album that Stewart released that year? “Lost in You”? “Forever Young”? “Crazy About Her”? Awful. This, on the other hand, was wonderfully disposable pop featuring former Naked Eyes keyboardist Rob Fisher, who tragically died in 1999 following complications from stomach surgery.

“What’s on Your Mind (Pure Energy),” Information Society (Information Society)
Ah, the fun you could have with a song before the sampling rules made it cost-prohibitive to borrow whatever you felt like borrowing. I had an unhealthy fascination with this band, perhaps because they went as club-crazy as I secretly hoped Duran Duran would go at the time. Of course, Duran has since gone club-crazy by teaming up with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake, and it’s the dullest thing they’ve done in decades. Careful what you wish for, I guess. InSoc fans, take note: the link above is to the super-rare video version of the 12” mix. Enjoy.

“All We Need is a Dream,” Cheap Trick (Lap of Luxury)
The mega-smash that got away. Epic, in their infinite wisdom, chose to release the Diane Warren ballad “Ghost Town” – that’s right, Cheap Trick was reduced to recording Diane Warren songs in the late ‘80s – as the follow-up to the Top Five hit “Don’t Be Cruel,” It peaked at a dismal #33. This song, however, would have been huge, I just know it.

“Desperate People,” Living Colour (Vivid)
I used to love playing this song blind for people before telling them anything about the band responsible for the music. It all seems so quaint now, but black bands just didn’t play like this back then, so it was a great surprise when someone was finally exposed to a band of brothers that brought the rock. Sadly, well over half of the people on whom I pulled this cute little stunt would invariably say, “No way, these guys are niggers?” Sigh.

“Believed You Were Lucky,” ‘Til Tuesday (Everything’s Different Now)
Aimee Mann was so far out of Epic’s plans when this album was released – they wanted her to collaborate with outside songwriters. They chose Diane Warren. She chose Elvis Costello – that it’s a miracle they deigned to green-light a video for this. Likewise, Aimee looks equally uncomfortable lip-synching the song. Maybe it was that wildly curly hair weighing down on her thoughts.

“Piano in the Dark,” Brenda Russell (Get Here)
I worked two jobs that summer, which meant I only listened to the radio early in the morning and late at night. Not in the mood for the 12” mix of anything at either time of the day, I listened to Sunny 95, and this song was their unofficial anthem (well, this and that god-awful Gloria Estefan song “1-2-3”). Beautiful, beautiful song, and in this writer’s opinion, one of the last great R&B ballads.

“Into Temptation,” Crowded House (Temple of Low Men)
As much as I like to keep the energy on the spry side when assembling these mixes, it would be unforgivable for me to overlook one of the finest pop bands of all time as a result. The song allegedly disturbed singer Neil Finn’s wife so much that she was convinced that he was having an affair. Elvis Costello, meanwhile, heard the song and said, “I would have given my right arm to have written it.”

“Underneath the Radar,” Underworld (Underneath the Radar)
Underworld would like you to think that they were immaculately conceived as the cool-as-shit techno band that made “Born Slippy” and “Cowgirl,” but anyone who had a nose for DOR (that’s dance-oriented rock, for you little childrens out there) in the late ‘80s knows The Awful Truth. And by awful, we don’t actually mean awful. Well, maybe the band’s second album, Change the Weather, was a misstep, but Underneath the Radar was a fine little pop record.


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