A most intense year. I fell heavily in unrequited love (we were closest of friends instead, FFS), and I had the worst day of my life. One morning in January I received my call-up papers for the apartheid army — there was no way I’d go, but what to do other than leaving the country (and leaving behind the woman I hoped would love me back)? Refusing military “service” was punishable by six years in jail. After a Savuka concert that night, which I had to watch on my own after getting separated from my friends, I crashed the car I was about to sell to my friend Claude, and was lucky to to get away with a mashed-up lip, cut chin and sprained finger, since I was wearing no seatbelt (playing on tape at the time was Bruce Springsteen).
The army situation became an opportunity: it turned out that one could receive an exemption if one studied. So I registered at a college to complete my matriculation. From there I went on to university to study Sociology and Political Studies (the refuge for people who have no idea what to study). By the time I had completed my studies, it was safe to ignore call-up papers. Musically it was generally a terrible year, except in dance music, which hit a high.
Jevetta Steele – Calling You.mp3
The fantastically atmospheric theme song of the fantastically atmospheric film Baghdad Café (not to be confused with the train-wreck sitcom based on the film). The Percy Adlon film, originally titled Out Of Rosenheim, was originally released in 1987. It hit the South African circuit in 1989. I watched it twice at the movies, and several times on video that year.
Michelle Shocked – Anchorage.mp3
I was in bed with the woman I loved when this song played on the radio one afternoon. Alas, we were both dressed and there were other people in the room, resting after a day at the beach. Gah! I can’t say I would know other Michelle Shocked songs. I taped the album, but didn’t rate it. Except this song; it’s great. Oh, and hello to my two loyal readers in Anchorage!
MarcAlex – Quick Quick.mp3
The South African hit of early 1989. Brothers MarcAlex not only filled the dancefloors with this innocuous discopop tune, but people everywhere were singing it. It’s a catchy number, very much of its time (it even has a sax solo in it). After a few more inferior hits, Marcalex’s gradual disappearance was barely noticed or bemoaned.
Gipsy Kings – Djobi Djoba.mp3
I could never get much enthused for the works of the Gipsy Kings, nor for the criticism of them. At the time I often DJed at parties, by dint of having the biggest and best record collection. As a party mover, this song worked. And where I live, it still does.
Roberta Flack – So It Goes.mp3
Flack’s reputation is slightly tarnished by her duets with the likes of Peabo Bryson (though their “Maybe” was great). Fact is, Roberta Flack is one of history’s great soul singers. Her 1988 Oasis album, which yielded this unassuming track, was quite lovely in the “Quiet Storm” sort of way. As I listen to it right now, I can smell 1989.
Natalie Cole – Miss You Like Crazy.mp3
Guess whom I associate this song with. Oh the tears this song soundtracked; just hearing it now knots up my stomach all over again. The album this is from, Good To Be Back, was actually pretty good. Especially the swinging vibe of the title track.
De La Soul – Me, Myself And I.mp3
Fabolous, 50 Cent, Ludacris, The Game and all these contemporary hip hop gubbins are pissing on the legacy of De La Soul. Fiddy and his ilk are really an outgrowth of the MC Hammer vs Vanilla Ice battle for the crown of rap kings via the deplorable gangsta rap scene of the ’90s (OK, I’m not an expert on hip hop, it just seems like it to me). So where can we find the influence of De La Soul today?
Soul II Soul – Back To Life.mp3
Black Box – Ride On Time.mp3
Ten City – That’s The Way Love Is.mp3
A trio of dance classics from a golden era. Soul II Soul were innovators from a British dance culture; Black Box was the best slice of Euro disco (though replacing the generously proportioned singer with a thin waif in the video was criminal); Ten City was a Chicago act produced in Germany, drawing from ’70s soul, House and Euro to create a quite unique sound.
Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians – Friends.mp3
I bought this album because I thought I was supposed to like it. Hearing Brickell even now tends to remind of all the frustrations I felt in 1989. This song is an exception — nice vocal performance, a good melody, and wonderfully stroppy lyrics that give the finger to bad friends, of whom I’ve had my fair share.
Martika – Toy Soldiers.mp3
When I played this a few minutes ago, my 12-year-old son came in, singing along. I asked how he knew that song. He told me Eminem sampled liberally from it on a song called — and here we learn that Eminem is a true innovator — “Like Toy Soldiers”. I didn’t want to like this song after Martika’s redundant cover Carol King’s “I Feel The Earth Move”. But, pssst, it is actually quite good, at least within the context of Top 40 hits of 1989.
Mango Groove – Special Star.mp3
Oh, South Africans were proud of the multi-racial Mango Groove, which combined joyful pop with local musical genres, revived the pennywhistle (giving dues, as in this song, to the master of the art, Spokes Mashiane), and gave wider exposure to the miners’ tradition of gumboot dancing. Mango Groove foreshadowed the New South Africa. Alas, by the time the New South Africa was born in 1994, Mango Groove was no more. Singer Claire Johnston’s beautiful voice is now usually heard singing the national anthem before rugby internationals in South Africa. But “Special Star”, with its multiple pace changes and that exuberant pennywhistle, is rightly a towering classic in local pop history. (Previously uploaded)
Peter Gabriel – In Your Eyes.mp3
I know, it’s not from 1989 at all (it appeared on 1986’s So). Why is it included in a 1989 nostalgia trip? Two words: Say Anything. Which came out in 1989 and created one of the most iconic moments in ’80s cinema.
And so we reach the end of my nostalgia trip through the 1980s. I will no
t attempt to do the 1990s, which are a blur to me (Mariah Carey was big in the ’90s, yes?). The 1970s on the other hand… Oh yes, I’ll do the 1970s soon.