Tuesday, June 6, 2017

And 30 Years Ago Today? 1987

1987 was pretty stellar itself. 30 years ago I was in my 20s and although the rock era had given way to New Wave and Heavy Metal, the singles format was saved through the advent of the 12inch. 1987 meant New Order and The Smiths, OMD and The Cure. It wasn't hippie cool, but it was a pretty trick time to be 20. Some of 87’s best:

"Fairytale of New York": A working class Christmas! A clever marriage of the sacred and the profane, quite literally, as well as two completely contrasting voices. And as in certain marriages, it's the pulling apart that sometimes pulls a couple together. I don't know which line I like best: "Well, so could anyone," or "Merry Christmas your arse!", but that’s Christmas realism.

The list of songs that compel me to repeat it over and over and over with tears in my eyes is pretty brief, but I'm happy to say that "Fairytale" does the trick every f-ing time. And with all due respect to Nick Cave (a good friend of Shane McGowan's, btw), saying it's a "Christmas song that's so utterly hopeless" is completely and utterly wrong. When a dream fails, all that's left is hope, and the final 4 lines are among the most beautiful in all of music.

"Strangelove": The LP, Music for the Masses, was the epitome of style, like it was packaged by Herb Ritz; it reeked 1980s. While the music paled in comparison to Black Celebration, there was a stellar course of radio-friendly hits that would only be exceeded with the next LP. This is their darkest contribution to date in content, mostly about Gahan’s decent into drug use and the fuel for raw sex. It's an album that the high school freaks and geeks would curl up with their Walkmen after being bullied. Gone is the cheese and bubblegum to be replaced with something alien and cold and kinky. DM were all in their mid-twenties at this point but resonated with moody prepubescent teens during the Reagan years.

"Girlfriend in a Coma": Open to a million interpretations, "Girlfriend In A Coma" is an affectionate and brilliantly realized pastiche of the "Death Disc" genre that was popular in the 1960's, complete with the trademark drama and narrative style lyric. Both Morrissey and Johnny Marr have gone on record expressing their love of 60's teen pop music, such as Twinkle (who recorded the death disc 'Terry') and The Shangri La's, the latter who ultimately became the queens of this strange but short lived genre that The Smiths briefly revived. It’s serious.

"True Faith": One of the best fusions of moody postpunk to a driving beat that just makes you want to sway to its melding of sadness and elation. Of course, New Order were one of the best, if not the best, singles band of their era. The 12" is superior, obviously. Their 12" records are, along with the likes of The Sisters of Mercy and The Smiths, like album-level statements in themselves. As expected, the B side, "1963" is just as good and could easily have been the A side based on its quality as a song. Stephen Hague's production on both is just superb. Yet another striking sleeve from Peter Saville completes the package.

Finally, face it, it’s just not 1987 with Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up." (Man up and admit it.) Bam, all that needs to be said. I will add that, although this was antithetical to everything my squad and I were about, Rick Astley was my fashion maven, hands down.