Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Soundtrack Spotlight: 1989

So, this is volume one of the Soundtrack Spotlight series, where I pick a year of my life and create a new mixtape of some of the things I was listening to that year. We're starting with 1989.

This is NOT a mixtape strictly of things that were released in 1989...A lot of it is, but my listening has never followed that strict of a trajectory. These are all songs that I listened to a lot in 1989.

I chose to start with 1989 because I tend to view it as a sort of "golden age" in terms of my musical tastes. It may seem odd, but I miss the innocence I felt during this time, discovering some classic rock and "alternative" music for the first time, but still being very much of the opinion that the top 40 and butt rock on the radio was worthwhile. Granted, I was starting to get pickier about which top 40 songs I liked and was willing to sit through (the radio in the car never stayed on a particular station for long), but there were still some that I just couldn't resist (within a year, top 40 radio would go so far downhill that I would declare myself finished with it forever...a stance I've maintained to this day). Hip-hop was really starting to become un-ignorable, and from about sixth grade onward it was a fixture of my record collection. I also was a huge fan of the Dr. Demento show, which not only permanently impacted the aesthetic I use in my own music to this day, but also introduced me to some pivotal artists as well (The Dead Milkmen, They Might Be Giants, Camper Van Beethoven, Frank Zappa). Many of the listening habits I formed in 1989 continue to be prevalent in my approach to music now; there's no one category of music (see previous entry "Freedom..." to hear more about my opinion of "categories") that I really am 100% loyal to, or that I am a fan of in particular. There's genius to be found in every musical genre, every radio format, but it is in very short supply in each individual context (this is my opinion, mind you...most people are more forgiving than I am). Classic rock radio ceased to be anything I wanted to participate in around 1991 or so...They didn't play enough of the bands that I liked, and too much of the bands that I didn't (not enough Zeppelin, Who, Beatles, Stones, Jethro Tull, too much Styx, Foreigner, Bob Seger, Lynyrd Skynyrd). This problem seemed more severe once I moved back to Oklahoma City from my one and only year living in the DC area...Oklahoma folks like their American 70's rock. God knows why. Add to this scenario the continual discovery of exciting artists outside the radio spectrum, and you have the beginnings of a journey into music geekdom, rock snobbery, whatever you want to call it. I just call it being obedient to my own damn taste. If I don't like something, I'll let you know, and I'll let you know WHY NOT.

All that being said, the 1989 mixtape has 3 sides (yeah, I know...I tried to keep it to 2, but couldn't, and wasn't able to stretch it to 4, either). YOU get to make the 4th side...Leave comments including what would be on YOUR 1989 mixtape. You can just leave one song, or create a whole 45-minute side yourself. How about that?

Side 1

Wild Wild West-The Escape Club
Fish Heads-Barnes & Barnes
Beats To the Rhyme-Run-DMC
Mr. Brownstone-Guns N' Roses
Mercedes Boy-Pebbles
Turning Japanese-The Vapors
Beds Are Burning-Midnight Oil
Houses Of The Holy-Led Zeppelin
Why Don't We Do It In The Road?-The Beatles
Smokin' Banana Peels-The Dead Milkmen
Polka Dot Undies-Bowser & Blue
Once Bitten Twice Shy-Great White

Side 2

Detroit Rock City-Kiss
Jenifa Taught Me (Derwin's Revenge)-De La Soul
I Won't Back Down-Tom Petty
Eye Of The Beholder-Metallica
Boyz-N-The-Hood (Remix)-Eazy-E
Watching, Waiting-Extreme
Square Dance Rap-Sir Mix-A-Lot
Orange Crush-R.E.M.
My Sharona-The Knack
Open Letter (To A Landlord)-Living Colour

Side 3

One Of These Days-Pink Floyd
Dig A Pony-The Beatles
Purple Toupee-They Might Be Giants
Baba O'Riley-The Who
Werewolves Of London-Warren Zevon
Teacher-Jethro Tull
Maybe I'm Amazed-Paul McCartney
Should I Stay Or Should I Go-The Clash
Dig It-The Beatles
Ten Years Gone-Led Zeppelin
In Your Eyes-Peter Gabriel

Side 1
Wild Wild West-In retrospect, not really that good a song at all. But at least these guys played guitars, or acted like it. It was just quirky enough to hold my attention at the time. This probably came out in 1988, but leading into 1989 it was a song that consistently didn't make me want to change the station.
Fish Heads-This is an all-time Dr. Demento classic, in case you aren't aware. The minimal, absurd arrangement is genius all in itself, before you even consider the lyrics or vocals.
Beats To The Rhyme-By the time the "Tougher Than Leather" album came out in 1988, Run-DMC's big moment was over for most people. I was still loyal, though, and I think this song shows why.
Mr. Brownstone-Hands down, far and away the BEST Guns N' Roses song ever. Totally embodied their attitude and swagger in a way a lot of their other songs did not.
Mercedes Boy-I don't know if I really can explain this one. Couldn't get enough of this song at the time.
Turning Japanese-Totally wasn't aware of this song in the early 80's when it was originally released...Dr. Demento turned me on to it later. Can anyone out there listen to this and tell me it doesn't kick ass?
Beds Are Burning-Another one that I think was 1988, but I had to include it simply because I remember feeling when it came out that it was like a window into another musical world, where good songs were the most important thing, that having big hair or a drum machine weren't important at all. Ground zero for my own personal alternative revolution?
Houses Of The Holy-I remember buying the "Physical Graffiti" album and feeling like it was almost too big to handle...Single Led Zeppelin albums took a lot of getting used to for my top 40 addled mind, and a DOUBLE album seemed much more daunting. I latched on to this song first, since it was so catchy, and I was fascinated by the fact that it had been left off the album that shared its title.
Why Don't We Do It In The Road?-I had been listening to the Beatles since I was 3 years old, but did not hear the White Album until I was in 7th or 8th grade. I borrowed a friend's vinyl copy and taped it...It pretty much blew my mind, and still does. The White Album is one of those records that opens musical doors for you...It supplies a context, or a framework for most other musical experiences to live in, whether it's jazz, folk, sound collage (would I have heard musique concrete the same way in college if it hadn't been for "Revolution 9"??), or whatever. The White Album is, in some ways, where it all begins.
Smokin' Banana Peels-Again, one of the most underrated bands of all time. I'm serious.
Polka Dot Undies-Another Dr. Demento treasure. I really didn't even get that it was a Bob Dylan parody at the time...The implied profane rhymes were really my reason for being there.
Once Bitten Twice Shy-This song was everywhere, and it really doesn't suck nearly as bad as some of the other butt rock from that year. It probably helps that it's an Ian Hunter song.

Side 2
Detroit Rock City-I had never heard a single Kiss song before 8th grade (with the possible exception of "Rock & Roll All Nite"). Exploring the roots of butt rock led me to "Destroyer", and this opening track.
Jenifa Taught Me (Derwin's Revenge)-De La Soul showed me what hip-hop could be, what it could aspire to artistically. Still a masterpiece (both the song and the album from whence it came).
I Won't Back Down-Tom Petty was like a gift from heaven...I can't explain it any better. He was another piece in the puzzle that helped me understand what my personal definition of "good music" was.
Eye Of The Beholder-Metallica felt like a really extreme thing to be listening to at the time...I had a hard time sitting through a whole album of theirs, but my penchant for purchasing cassette singles (anybody remember those? little cardboard sleeve...YEAH!) helped me avoid that eventuality for a while.
Boyz-N-The-Hood (Remix)-This is, of course, not the original version from NWA's first album, but the remix that Eazy-E included on his "Eazy-Duz-It" album. THIS was extreme as well, and was one of a number of things I taped from a friend and (of course) NEVER let my parents hear. I didn't really follow gangsta rap after 1989...Once the novelty/controversy wore off for me, it failed to hold my interest.
Watching, Waiting-So remember "More Than Words"? Same band, but they had an album before the one with the big hit; that's why the second one was called "EXTREME II: PORNOGRAFFITI". This is a great little butt rock ballad about Christ being crucified...
Square Dance Rap-Most of you know Sir Mix-A-Lot from "Baby Got Back", but his TRUE moment of genius was "SWASS", his first record. There has been much debate whether this high pitched guy rapping on this song is Mix-A-Lot's protoge, Kid Sensation, or just Mix-A-Lot himself with his voice sped up. Either way, this is one of the most ridiculous/brilliant things I have ever heard.
Orange Crush-My obsession with R.E.M. wouldn't truly begin until about 1991, but the "Green" album was definitely one of my first flirtations with music that existed somewhere (even if not very far) outside the mainstream.
My Sharona-I was aware of this song growing up, I think, but didn't really get into it until the year in question. It helped that I heard a parody of it on Dr. Demento entitled "Nine Coronas".
Open Letter (To A Landlord)-Living Colour embodied a lot of what I remember to be great about 1989...starting to break out of boxes and so forth. They were an incredibly talented band...1988-1990 or so was their moment, though; sonically, they would have required a complete overhaul to continue after that.

Whew...only side 3 to go...I'm getting tired...Feel like I say the same damn thing about every song...

One Of These Days-"...I'm going to cut you into little pieces." Still one of my favorite Pink Floyd songs. The "Meddle" album was really my introduction to the band...before any of the more famous records.
Dig A Pony-"Let It Be" is an album I remember listening to constantly after we arrived in DC. I think my brother and I were kind of obsessed with it.
Purple Toupee-I happened to see the video for this song on a late night local PBS rock video show called "Video Spin". The moments in life where one feels he/she has experienced art that truly speaks to him/her are rare...This was one of those moments. Never the same again. Aesthetic doors blown wide open.
Baba O'Riley-If I had heard this song and NOT liked it, there would have been something wrong with me.
Werewolves Of London-My true love of Warren Zevon would not manifest until many years later (when I do a spotlight entry for 1996 we'll talk more about that), but his biggest hit had me from the get go.
Teacher-Jethro Tull only have about half a dozen really great songs, but this is one of them.
Maybe I'm Amazed-This is one of McCartney's best love songs...I purchased a vinyl copy of "McCartney" for 50 cents at a church bazaar, along with a copy of "Thick As a Brick" by Jethro Tull, complete with the newspaper on the inside. Still have that one.
Should I Stay Or Should I Go-This kind of fits into the same category as "My Sharona"...A friend bought "Combat Rock" on cassette and loaned it to me and I fell in love.
Dig It-One minute of the most brilliant gobbledygook ever committed to tape.
Ten Years Gone-This is one of my favorite Zeppelin songs ever. As I explored "Physical Graffiti", I kept coming back to this song, drawn in by its beautiful sense of longing for things past. It became all the more poignant when we moved back to OKC in the summer of 1990.
In Your Eyes-It doesn't really matter what year I discovered this song...If it had been any other year, it would be on a spotlight mix for that year instead. Quite simply one of the most beautiful pieces of music from the 80's, period.

Okay, done. Fill in your own side 4 in the comments. No, really, I really want you to. Looking forward to it.

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