When looking at the music from this year I was hopeful that the news would be as good to back up some of the all time great albums I bought this year, but flicking through the reviews of the year it was hard to find positives in the main. Not just Dirty Den from Eastenders getting shot, but the list of terrible events of this year, when I turned 21, is just endless.
The tail end of the year with revolutions over Europe and the end of the Berlin Wall is the ray of sunshine, offering many the hope that the future was going to be peaceful and better, a dream not realised for all. The sinking of the river / disco boat The Marchioness with the deaths of 51 of the people aboard hit close as that summer this had been quite a regular night out for me and friends, but as this followed Hillsborough it was part of a year of events that friends were directly impacted by. The tragedy at the FA Cup semi final has been covered more than probably any other event in football, and anyone who was a regular attendee at big games looked back and thought how close a disaster like this was to happening week in and week out. Football was not what it is today, old stadiums and terraces prevailed and fences were a bleak reminder of what it was like at football far too often.
Football on TV was mainly just Match of the Day and the odd live game, but 1989 also saw the creation of Sky TV which was going to change football forever. The last game of the season was live on TV though, Liverpool v Arsenal when the title was won with the last kick of the game with an audience of about 8 million, compared to the 27 million who watched Coronation Street one night. With still just the 4 channels to choose from the audience levels were at a level that would never be seen again for individual shows.
It was the events in June that captured this year for me, and the video I am sure gives it all away. Anyone watching the events in China unfold over the previous few weeks had a hope that things would change, but also a fear of what might happen. The worst case happened, and as the tanks and army rolled in killing protestors, what was odd is how much was caught on film and shown on TV. A Government ordering the killing of civilians, turn the news on today, and in Syria you can see the exact same thing happening, and the exact same response from the rest of the world. It does defy any rational thought process as to how this happens again and again and how quickly it is forgotten and the trade deals carry on. The video of the "Tank Man" possibly one of the most powerful images from the year, the thousands killed like him remain nameless and not even part of Chinas history. No wonder they need Google to block most of the internet for them.
Music wise, it was the year that The Stone Roses debut came out, and since then has sat at or near the top of almost every list of great albums. It is an absolute classic in my eyes, not loved by everyone, but hit the mood of music perfectly at the time. Another debut album this year was Bleach by Nirvana, to me their best album by a long way, but never got anywhere near the coverage and sales of Nevermind. A totally different album and genre, but again seems to have hit the mood just right, and both bands spawned a multitude of similar sounding but nowhere near as good bands as the wave of Madchester and Grunge took over various different record collections. Doolittle by The Pixies another release from this year that any record collection would benefit from having added to it.
Single: Back To Life (How Ever Do You Want Me) - Soul II Soul
The soundtrack to the summer of 89 was this track. It was impossible to miss on radio, TV anywhere music was being played you would hear this. It reminds me of a trip to Alton Towers with Bob driving a Golf and also being in the Lions at Bledlow pub.
Although not fitting the mainstream trends at the time, the dance beat and soulful sound was so strong that it was no surprise that this track was the hit it was. Like the Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince track just listening to this takes you to summer. There is not a BBQ or garden party that can not be improved by playing this. Caron Wheelers voice is so clean and majestic that singing along is not an option - but turning the stereo up will not annoy the neighbours.
Album: Club Classics Vol 1 - Soul II Soul
A double hitter from the London band this week, taking the singles and album charts by storm, mainly down to the single as above. The first release from the album didn't do a lot but the single Back To Life got the recognition it deserved. A band, a collective, a record label and clothing line and an ever changing rota of backing singers was the plan that was followed through their career, and they are still touring but no new material for years that I can see has been released.
Like the single, this is perfect sunny day listening material, but to me is just that little bit too "samey" to listen to the whole album. I played it twice straight through and apart from the opener, Keep On Movin' and Back To Life I would struggle to be able to pick out the other tracks individually. Maybe not the entire scene changing album it is credited with being often, but for that summer, Back To Life was the soundtrack.