1988 Was The Worst Year In Music Ever

02 May

(Note from Andy in 2008: I wrote this three years ago. I haven’t tweaked it since, so it’s still got all sorts of fun errors and whatnot, and it’s definitely a product of 2005. Having said that, it’s still really funny. I’m posting it here because it was languishing on my Myspace site, ignored and unloved, and it told me that it wants to be where people can see it and access it easily. )


100. Prove Your Love, Taylor Dayne
1) For a skinny white chick from Long Island, she had some serious ghetto pipes.
2) She had the world’s most elongated set of lips.
3) One time, this song came on the radio when I was in the car with my Mom, and I started belting out the chorus where she sings “I wanna feel your body come to miiiiiine,” which seemed to disturb my mother to such a degree that she nearly drove her 1978 VW Rabbit through the wall of a HoJo’s. When I inquired as to why, she stammered for a bit, before informing me that “that song… is about *having intercourse*!”

I was eight. Nowadays, all I can think of when I look at her picture is that she was probably a drag queen. Taylor, I mean. Not my mom. That would have made my time in Catholic school even more uncomfortable.

98. Nothin’ But A Good Time, Poison

Man, I really liked Poison when I was younger. I loved that band. They were the ultimate combination of metal and pop. I could draw a (really) rudimentary facsimile of their logo on my Wordly Wise vocab book and look like the baddest mutha’ in 3rd grade, but, really, secretly, deep down, I loved that their songs were so catchy that they stuck in my head all day. Every time I hear this song, I can smell the roller rink.

97. Just Like Paradise, David Lee Roth

At one time, I had heard of David Lee Roth, but didn’t know anything about Van Halen. Coincidentally, most present day radio execs have heard of David Lee Roth, but don’t know anything about radio.

I kid. Why? Because I love.

93. I Still Believe, Brenda K. Starr

Brenda K. Starr, huh? Know the name. Can’t say why. This is the sort of thing that keeps me up at night. Well, that, and my housemate blasting the soundtrack to “Company.”

91. Kissing A Fool, George Michael

Or, perhaps, a cop at a gas station. Honestly, I do feel bad for the guy, because he got outed in a pretty humiliating and public way. The lesson here is, I guess, that if you’re famous, anonymous bathroom sex probably isn’t for you.

Then again, no one had even given “that guy who did that Limp Bizkit song first” a second thought in years at the time of his arrest. I mean, the Other Guy From Wham! had a higher public profile, for heaven’s sake, because it was the ’90s and being the Other Guy From Wham! made you cool in the same way that having a Happy Days lunchbox made you cool. Now, George is on VH1 all the time and he’s something of a gay icon now. So maybe the lesson really is: if you used to be famous, sometimes anonymous bathroom sex is all you’ve got left.

89. One Moment In Time, Whitney Houston

Speaking of public humiliation and VH1, here’s Mrs. Bobby Brown with the Olympics song. Whitney used to be a promising young talent with the potential to stand alongside Ella and Aretha and all them other black ladies with nice voices, and then she married Bobby Brown.

Crack is whack, yo.

85. I Hate Myself For Loving You, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts
Again, I refer you to my mom, in the car, circa 1988: “Why can’t they write a song that says ‘I *love* myself for loving you?”

My mom is, was, and forever shall be, Marge Simpson with better hair.

80. Always On My Mind, Pet Shop Boys

There’s a litte voice inside me that loves the Pet Shop Boys. It’s the same little voice that would probably have sex with Johnny Depp if it had to.

79. Don’t Be Cruel, Bobby Brown

Bobby very specifically disses a girl named Jacqui in this song. Mr. Brown grw up in Boston, so I’ll bet you that Jacqui is now a registured nurse at Brigham and Women’s, is happily married, and has three kids. And I’ll bet these three kids wonder why Mommy always turns off the TV and sends them outside to play whenever “Being Bobby Brown” comes on, but they’re a little afraid to ask her.

77. Electric Blue, Icehouse

No one remembers Icehouse. I’ll bet that the members of Icehouse don’t even remember that, at one point, they were in a band called Icehouse. And yet, I’ve got such affection for this song that I once spent an entire night on Napster trying to find someone – anyone – with an MP3 of it.

This song is uniquely 1988. If 1988 had a color, it would be the color of a light-up phone in the suburban bedroom of a girl named Sheila. It would be the color of Debbie Gibson’s eyes. And what color was that, my babies of the ’80s? Why, Electric Blue, of course. Jimi might have wanted to stand next to his girl’s fire, and Courtney Love may not have been able to get near you because the light just radiates, but Mr. Icehouse Guy is telling the object of his affection that she’s glowing like a novelty neon wall sculpture of a martini glass, and I guarantee you she loved it. She may have actually melted, right there, on the spot, into a puddle of Electric Goo.

Electric Blue was also the name of some show on the Playboy Channel. My parents didn’t have cable, but I remember the name from TV Guide, and my young self assumed that it was the type of show where the ladies were always naked and where, sometimes, they made sex.

76. Fast Car, Tracy Chapman

The fact that “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman was one of the Top 100 songs of 1988 baffles me to this day, and if you don’t know why, then you obviously don’t remember ’88 so well. Picture “Hava Nagila!” topping the charts in Germany, 1939, and you’ll have some idea. A sensitive folk ballad about homelessness sung by an openly lesbian black singer-songwriter from the Cambridge coffee house scene was one of the biggest songs of 1988? Puh-leeze.

Can I spare a dollar? Fuck off. I’m busy donating another million to “Poppy” Bush’s campaign fund and snorting lines off of Pia Zadora’s cleavage.

75. Pink Cadillac, Natalie Cole

I knew a lady who had a pink Cadillac because she worked for Mary Kay and sold the most blush in her region.

Heh. Blush in her region. Heh. Eww.

70. Don’t Be Cruel, Cheap Trick

See, up until the late 90s, when I realized that “Surrender” was my damn theme song, I always thought Cheap Trick was just a novelty act that covered this one Elvis song this one time. This is what happens when you grow up in a house with no older brothers or sisters, two folkie hippie parents, and a radio stuck on the Morning Zoo channel.

This is also the second song on this list with the title “Don’t Be Cruel”. If you were cruel in ’88, you obviously weren’t paying attention.

68. Rocket 2 U, Jets

The Jets were a band made up of nine or ten Latino siblings who I think may have had their own Saturday morning cartoon at one point and were hailed as the Next Big Phenomenon, and certainly a breakthrough for hispanic people in pop culture who didn’t play the bongos or wear sombreros. Unfortunately, their first single insists on telling some lucky girl that her boyfriend (the Narrator) is absolutely useless when it comes to household chores or anything productive, but that he is exceptionally good at “rocket”ing to her.

66. Catch Me (I’m Falling), Pretty Poison

I don’t remember this song. However, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it’s about someone falling.

And where are they falling? In love. That’s where.

65. New Sensation, INXS

There aren’t a whole ton of bands that don’t sound like anybody else at all. For example, I can’t think of another band that sounds exactly like INXS. They weren’t my favorite band at the time, but I give them a lot of credit for crafting a completely original sound. The songs are spare and slinky and the band does things with analog drum kits that are only supposed to be possible digitally, and Michael Hutchence could be a lounge singer one minute and a metal screamer the next. Too bad he killed himself trying to masturbate.

63. Mercedes Boy, Pebbles

We’ll get to Pebbles herself in a moment.

Go up to any woman – any woman – between the ages of 25 and 30 and say “The Coreys”. Do it. Find one and do it now. Watch the wistful smile curl over their face. Hear the slight sigh and giggle that falls from her lips. See her eyes roll just a little bit. I guarantee you the next thing she says is “Oh…. The Coreys….”

If the woman in question is under the age of 25, you can provoke the exact same reaction by whispering “JTT.”

Anyway, Pebbles (not the on-air personality, the cartoon, the cereal, or the Demosthenesian speech aid) recorded “Mercedes Boy” for License To Drive, a movie apparently well regarded enough to prompt a “Special Edition”. I’d completely forgotten about the thing, but, yes, it starred the Coreys, and a very young Heather Graham as a girl named… dear lord… Mercedes.

The Coreys, and that whole thing, deserve an entry unto themselves, one which I shall never write because I don’t care. I will say, however, that I once dated a girl who, upon reflection, looked frighteningly similar to Corey Feldman, and she, too, was a psycho.

And what of Pebbles today? Born again Christian. Like you had to ask.

58. Sign Your Name, Terence Trent d’Arby

Once named “Song You’d Most Want To Listen To While Having Sex With Lisa Bonet In An Underground Tunnel Lit With Votive Candles” by the U.S. Department Of Stuff I’d Like To Do.

57. I Get Weak, Belinda Carlisle

I hadn’t heard this song in a while, so I clicked on the preview on iTunes. And it hit me: Belinda Carlisle has the prettiest voice ever.

I can’t really explain it, but my ears are just drawn to Belinda Carlisle’s voice. Can’t explain it. Not a big fan. Don’t hate her. Wouldn’t buy her albums, necessarily. But her voice? Perfect. Juliana Hatfield’s voice sounds similar on some of her songs, like “Make It Home”, but.. I don’t know. Voice. Pretty.

It should also be mentioned that there’s a story about Belinda Carlisle in a rest stop bathroom as well, but as I’m a gentleman, I shan’t divulge. Also, because unlike George Michael flipping out his willy to a policeman, Belinda’s story isn’t so much unseemly and embarrasing as it is absolutely bloody disgusting and makes my stomach churn and I can’t reconcile that with the Belinda I know. So, we’ll move on.

56. Desire, U2

After “The Joshua Tree” came out and it was like the biggest album ever or something, U2 didn’t know what to do. So, they decided to pretend they were black. Bono tried to learn how to play the harmonica, and the Edge hammered out some mad Bo Diddley riffs on his guitar. Then they went away for a few years and returned with a plastic lemon.

54. Out Of The Blue, Debbie Gibson

Ok. Debbie Gibson was my first crush, right? I was eight, she was sixteen, it seemed feasible. I don’t know what I was thinking, but Debbie was cool. She wrote her own songs. She was a trooper as a performer, and a sweet kid, and seemed very down to Earth. The anti-Britney, if you will. I was going to marry her one day, or at least date her, or, at the very least tell her how cool it was that she drew a face on her knee for her album cover. Which, by the way, was the first non-Muppet related record I owned. Somewhere in my parent’s basement exists an actual vinyl copy of “Out Of The Blue”, played to death, and well loved.

So when, in the interest of this list, I went back to listen to some of the old songs, I was shocked to realize:

1) “Out Of The Blue” is possibly the most overproduced, bland, boring-sounding album ever recorded.
2) If the songs had all been recorded on piano and acoustic guitar instead, this would probably still be my favorite album.
3) The Donnas need to cover “Staying Together,” right the heck now.

52. What’s On Your Mind, Information Society

Or “InSoc” to the cool kids. Or that band that sounds like The Cure if Robert Smith figured out how to work an Amiga with a MIDI port. Or that band that did that song Mr. Spock was in. The story goes that Warner held up the release of InSoc’s album because they weren’t sure whether Paramount would sue over the band’s use of a sample from an old Star Trek episode. Luckilly for humanity, Adam Nimoy (Spock’s son) was a huge fan of the band and got his dad to consent.

The band were all ex-computer programmers who got tired of coding and decided they’d rather “rock the world”, in a cold, impersonal, robotic way. Come to think of it, this band totally sounds like what SynthPop would sound like on the planet Vulcan.

Oh, and the “Pure energy” sample? Episode 60, “Errand Of Mercy”, written by Gene L. Coon.

If I wore glasses, I would be pushing them up on my nose and snorting right about now.

51. Make It Real, Jets

You know, I honestly thought I’d exhausted The Jets as a source of nostalgia, but it turns out they were on Square One TV back in the day. Click here to watch them teach los ninos about prime numbers.

Oooh. Prime numbers.

49. The Loco-Motion, Kylie Minogue

Sir Ian McKellan’s favorite disco diva. The thing is that most of us Yanks thought that Kylie just appeared one day as Ireland’s answer to Britney and Christina, but here she was, on the pop charts in 1988. She’s huge everywhere else, but only pops up in our national consciousness every 10 years or so. Expect to see her all over TRL in the year 2024, promoting her hot new single, and we’ll still believe she’s maybe 20. This is one of those uniquely American idiosyncracies, like sweetened peanut butter and Intelligent Design.

45. Monkey, George Michael

40. She’s Like The Wind, Patrick Swayze

I hate the movie “Dirty Dancing.” Hate it. It is, in fact, the dumbest fucking movie ever made. All right, that’s not true at all. There have been many dumber movies than “Dirty Dancing”, but there’s never been a more successful, well beloved awful movie than this piece of formulaic, syrupy, badly written trash. It’s like “Footloose,” but somehow more hackneyed and it has Patrick Swayze and who names their daughter Baby and Swayze takes himself waaaay too seriously in every movie except the one where he was a drag queen and the one where he was a motivational speaking pedophile. All right, so the man can sing, but I’ll bet he can only sing when he has the first three buttons on his shirt unbuttoned and a single rose in a crystal vase on top of his piano.

By the way, when Donnie burns down Swayze’s house and they find the kiddie porn dungeon in “Donnie Darko”, the appropriate talk-back line is “Nobody chains Baby in the corner.”

39. Red Red Wine, UB40

Corporate booze cruise in Boston Harbor. Cover band. Your boss with his tie wrapped around his head attempting to limbo. Am I right?

Good. I can see we’re all on the same page here.

38. Make Me Lose Control, Eric Carnen

We put the top down and park with the moon in the sky
And the wind is so hot in our hair, like a fire in july, oh yeah
Jennifer’s singin’ “Stand by Me” and she knows every single word by heart
Was love always this good, or could this be just the start?

A lot of ’80s songs gave shout outs to classic ’50s and ’60s tunes, and I for one love that. Eric Carmen used to be in a sort-of punk band called The Raspberries, who kind of always wanted to be a ’60s pop band anyway.

In twenty years, there’ll be bands name-checking “Hey Ya!” and waxing nostalgic about Honda Civics, and, you know what? Let them.

37. Don’t Worry, Be Happy, Bobby McFerrin

First things first: Bobby McFerrin, singer of the feel-good hit of forever “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, did not commit suicide.

Secondly, he did not screw up his voice so badly that he could never do his crazy one man a cappella doo wap stuff again.

Third, George Bush totally ruined that song for everybody by making it his campaign theme.

Fourth, much like Kylie Minogue, I will go through long spans of time where I completely forget the existence of Mr. McFerrin. Unlike Ms. Minogue, however, whenever I see Bobby hanging out with Yo-Yo Ma or on Sesame Street or whatever, I actually give a crap, ‘cuz the dude’s awesome.

Fifth, Robin Williams was in the video for this song, and since Bobby wasn’t that famous at the time, the assumption is that they knew each other from way back. There are times when I’d like to be hang out with Bobby McFerrin and Robin Williams, and there are times when I would not.

35. Hazy Shade Of Winter, Bangles

Susanna Hoffs is actually a pretty amazing guitarist, and if you’ve ever paid attention to the music video at the end of the Austin Powers movie, she’s the chick with the guitar, and she is, for lack of a better phrase, shredding that mutha’. She was even better with the Bangles, although she didn’t normally have the chance to show off. I’m not sure if that’s her playing the minor key background riff in this cover of the Simon and Garfunkel classic, but if it is, she hits it perfectly. Also, the harmonies one-up Paul and Art’s version by sounding, frighteningly, shoe-gazy, like the sort of thing Lush and My Bloody Valentine were doing waaaaaay the fuck underground at this point.

34. Angel, Aerosmith

I once wrote a play about a kid who’s never known his real father and decides that his real dad must be some Jack Kerouac-ian beat poet. He meets a girl and falls in love with her and she convinces him to go searching for Pops. He meets up with Dad, and it turns out that he’s just an every day average schmoe… who’s having sex with his son’s girlfriend! So the kid runs away from home to lead the life his Dad never did. It was, quite possibly, the worst piece of crap ever committed to paper.

And what song did I have playing when the boy and the girl met and fell in love? “Angel”.

And what was the girl’s name? “Angela.”

You hear this song and you think “Man, Aerosmith kinda wimped out a bit there.” I hear this song, and it’s like finding a picture of myself with acne and an X-Files shirt.

29. A Groovy Kind Of Love, Phil Collins

Sucked. Sucked sucked sucked. And then I heard the original and really liked it and got even madder that Phil Collins could make something so beautiful into a sickening mush of crap. And who the hell says their love is “groovy?” Did anyone ever say “Our love is the cat’s pajamas”? How about “Our love is fo-shizzle?” Three years ago, was anyone saying “My heart is like a bling-bling?” No. They fucking weren’t.

28. Naughty Girls (Need Love Too), Samantha Fox

Suh-suh-suh-Samantha. Samantha FOXXXXX.

Samantha Fox, that’s such a wild name.

But what’s in a name?

If Debbie Gibson was my first “pure and chaste” crush, Samantha Fox was the first person I was truly aware of who must have had sex. This led to me wondering if other people ever had sex, maybe even people I knew, maybe even my parents. For a second I thought that maybe Debbie Gibson might have had sex too, but that seemed beyond the realm of possibility. This mental confusion led to the virgin/whore complex that I hold dear today.

This song was also banned in the house, as was the video, and if my parents had found out that Ms. Fox had her own video game..

…it probably would have been banned as well.

25. Hungry Eyes, Eric Carnen

See, I always thought that “Hungry Eyes” by Eric Carmen was “St. Elmo’s Fire” by John Parr. And that “St. Elmo’s Fire” by John Parr was “Hungry Eyes” by Eric Carmen. And that somehow the two songs were related to “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor. And that somewhere out there in internet land there is a website devoted entirely to mid-tempo ballads with a lot of snare drums that were in movies sung by gravely voiced men with mullets.
And if not, there damn well should be.

24. Hold On To The Nights, Richard Marx

I never watched much Full House, but I’ll bet Uncle Jessie’s band sounded a lot like this. The late ’80s were lousy with sensitive, mulleted “bad boy” rockers with a heart of gold. They rarely played the actual guitar – somehow I’m picturing a sax (while wearing sunglasses) or a Casio keyboard, with maybe a baby grand piano carted in for the lovesick ballads. “Hold On To The Nights” is just such a song. Richard, buddy, the hair don’t make you rock and roll. Dennis Eckersley had the same “do”, and while he was the greatest relief pitcher ever, last I check, he no rock.

23. Simply Irresistible, Robert Palmer

I wonder if those weird identical women followed Robert Palmer everywhere? Like, if he went to the grocery store? Here’s Robert, squeezing the grapefruit, and behind him are four identical women. If nothing else, this explains Mr. Palmer’s current conundrum: “there’s no telling where the money went,” because when you have four chicks following you everywhere, you wind up spending a lot more on plane tickets and such.

Who were they, anyway? They obviously weren’t playing an instrument and they obviously weren’t into the music. I’m thinking: robots. Or, at the very least: mild Asperberger’s Syndrome. They were attractive enough, but they don’t seem very clever or conversational and I can see how things would get dull rather quickly.

If you were Robert Palmer, and you were out at a restaurant with your four stoic followers, would you use the men’s room or the ladies room, knowing that either choice would make someone uncomfortable and that separation, even for five minutes, was not an option? Explain your answer using the blue book provided. (20 points)

22. Shake Your Love, Debbie Gibson

This was Debbie’s first big hit, and I think she wrote it when she was about 13. This is also the time when she wrote the less well known “Wake Up To Love”, and if anyone else had written songs with those particular titles, I’d be making with the wink-wink-nudge-nudge big time. However, as it is still impossible for me to picture Debbie Gibson going past first base, I’ll abstain.

21. I’ll Always Love You, Taylor Dayne

Yeah, I’ll bet you will, Taylor. Wink wink. You shameless hussy.

I am the king of the double standard.

20. Man In The Mirror, Michael Jackson


19. Pour Some Sugar On Me, Def Leppard

You’ve heard the name Def Leppard so much by this point that it just sort of goes in one ear and out the other – you don’t really process it, it’s just part of our culture. We’re used to it, like the white noise hum of a computer monitor or the glow from an electric light bulb. And yet, it’s such an obvious yet brilliant parody of Led Zeppelin, the band’s logos even using the same type font. Never mind that there’s nothing bluesy or Hobbity about Def Lep, or that for all their brilliance Led Zep probably couldn’t have written something as primal as “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” The point is that their name manages to ride the coat tails of another legendary band, while saying that their band is louder, wilder, and more surreal (doesn’t the name Def Leppard sound like a Monty Python joke?)

This is the kind of stuff I think about all the time. It’s scary inside my head.

18. Wild, Wild West, Escape Club

Remember how I said I never heard a band that sounded exactly like INXS? Well, I just thought of one.”Wild, Wild West” is so awesomely bad, it’s been a staple on my iPod since I got the thing. Escape Club has somehow perfected the art of sounding deep without actually saying anything. Throw in a couple of references to Ronny with his new gun, flags in the air, valium, and the left and the right, and we’ll think this song’s so U2-era political that we won’t notice that the main point of this song seems to be that “I don’t care as long as she comes tonight.” Which is all well and good, but stop pretending to be something you’re not, Escape Club. We see through your charade.

Also, they rap in pseudo-Spanish during the bridge, which, as far as I’m concerned, makes this song better than anything Beethoven ever coughed up.

Suck it, Ludwig, ya deaf hack.

15. Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car, Billy Ocean

Oh, man. This song. There’s a story about me and this song and third grade that I’d just love to go into, but whoopslookatthetime.

14. The Flame, Cheap Trick

The following is a public health warning: If you take a copy of “The Flame” by Cheap Trick and put it next to a copy of “Dream Police” by Cheap Trick, the resulting chemical reaction of Shitty and Anti-Shitty will cause the universe to fold in upon itself and all of existence will cease. Please proceed with care.

12. Wishing Well, Terence Trent d’Arby

If you took half of Milli Vanilli, and made it so Vanilli could actually sing, you’d get Terence Trent d’Arby. I like the whistle solo here and the way he says “sycamore tree.” This song has been showing up on the Muzaks of the world a lot lately, which means that we’re only a few years away from being in T.J. Maxx and hearing a tinny instrumental version of “Gold Digga'”

9. Hands To Heaven, Breathe

“Tonight I need your sweet caress,” or so sayeth David Whashisname from Breathe. At age nine, I thought he was saying “Tonight I need your sheep, your ass,” and the sad thing is, I honestly believed the song was about farming in Biblical times.

8. Could’ve Been, Tiffany

At some point, we really need to talk about the whole Tiffany mall-pop phenomenon, but I think that’s going to be something we save for the 1989 edition. However, I would like to draw your attention to the following lyrics:

The flowers you gave me
Are just about to die
When I think about
What could’ve been
It makes me want to cry

Tiffany was so Emo.

15. Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car, Billy Ocean

Huh? Didn’t I already…

Oh. Oh. Very clever. Try and catch me off guard, will you?

Still not going to tell you. It’s long and stupid and embarrasing and I’m not going to tell you.


7. Heaven Is A Place On Earth, Belinda Carlisle

Long ago, back in the days before electricity and the wheel, back in the year of our lord nineteen hundred and eighty eight, you had three options when it came to securing a copy of your favorite song.

Option one was to buy it. Songs came packaged on big flat black things called records. They also came in small, fragile plastic things called tape cassettes. If you were really rich, you could secure yourself a Compact Disc of the song, which came in a big cardboard box with a smaller, plastic case inside that held the actual disc. If you only wanted to hear one song, you bought the CasSingle.

Option two was to borrow it from a friend and make your own taped copy of it. This was great, except that tape cassettes were the worst, most fragile invention known to man. If you liked a tape, it would inevitably become warbly and muffled at times. If you really liked a tape, it would get caught in your car’s tape player and you’d pull it out and there’d be magnetic tape everywhere. If the tape was a beloved one-of-a-kind mix tape made by the object of your affection for you that had all of your favorite songs, plus rare stuff from your favorite band and sound clips from various and sundry meaningful movies and tv shows, it would melt in your car on a hot day, rendering it useless. Then, God would laugh at you.

Option three was to tape it off the radio. There exists a tape somewhere at my mom’s house with “Heaven Is A Place On Earth”, “Walk Like An Egyptian”, and many other classic songs of the era that little me, unable to convince my mother to buy me a rock and roll record, captured like fireflies one summer night off of WZOU. I still think this song doesn’t sound quite right unless it’s coming out of a tinny Radio Shack tape player, at low, low volume, late at night, when I’m supposed to be asleep.
5. Sweet Child O’ Mine, Guns N’ Roses

I don’t find it as easy to get nostalgic about Guns N’ Roses, because despite having broken up-without-breaking up, they’re still around. You still hear them all the time on the radio, their songs get covered by Sheryl Crow, they’re on VH1 all the time, four fifths of the band is still together and singing with the Stone Temple Pilots guy, and Axl is…Axl. What I do find myself wishing for, however, is that once again, a balls-out rock song will make it to the top of the charts. Sure, it’s the “GnR Pop” song, but there’s a lot of excellent guitar work in here (domo oregato, Slash) and it goes on for over six minutes, ultimately ending in a minor key rave-up with the shrill caterwaul of Axl Rose doing the final demolition work.

4. Never Gonna Give You Up, Rick Astley

Again I’m taken aback by the non-blackitude of an artist on this list. You hear this song, you picture big, soulful black man. You do not picture pale little British man.

Seriously. That dude had to have been like four feet tall.

The new series of Doctor Who did an episode set at a wedding in 1987, and this was the song they used. That should tell you how huge Rick Astley was in the UK at the time – if you want to suggest California in the early ’60s, you use “Wipeout.” New York City in the ’70s? Disco. Suburban London in 1987? “Never Gonna Give You Up”

3. Got My Mind Set On You, George Harrison

This song is just six words long
This song is just six words long
This song is just six words long
This song is just six words long
This song is just six words long
This song is just six words long
This song is just six words long
This song is just six words long
This song is just six words long
This song is just six words long

2. Need You Tonight, INXS

So slide over here
And give me a moment
Your moves are so raw
I’ve got to let you know
I’ve got to let you know
You’re one of my kind

Michael Hutchence. The man was like a wolf. These lyrics read like bad N’Sync cast-offs on paper, but when sung over a primal bass line and that repeated “nah-ni-ni-nah-ni-nah” guitar riff, it’s like the song Hades sung to Persephone.

“Rock Star INXS” was the only reality show I’ve ever followed, and I gotta say I was pretty pissed that J.D won and not Mig, who I thought was a lot better than J.D., and whom I do not have the urge to slap.

Which brings us to the top of our list, and yet another guy who had a really big year with a really big album in 1988. Men wanted to be him. Women wanted to be with him. Sometimes, it was the other way around. The guy who holds the #1 slot in our look back at 1988 is none other than:

15. Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car, Billy Ocean


Right. I give up. You wanna be steppin’, I ain’t gonna play that. Just sit down, this might take a while.

When I was eight, my parents got kind of fed up with having to come down to Robinson Elementary School every day to remove their child’s head from the loo, so it was decided that I would try Catholic school on for size. I lasted one year – third grade, which is why I write cursive in the Palmer method but couldn’t recite the Apostle’s Creed if my life depended on it.

One fine day, I was sitting in Mrs. Mulkern’s homeroom at Notre Dame Academy in Tyngsboro one morning, and she was running late. Now, as we all know, when the teacher shows up late, the classroom can turn very Lord of the Flies very quickly. We’re sitting there, and there’s this kid who’s name was – I kid you not – Timothy Leary. This particular Timothy Leary could probably have used some heavy drugs, because he was one of the scary hyperactive kids who delighted in making everyone’s life horrible. His best friend was this absolute asshole named John Mullins. You know the type – the sort of third grader you look at and just know is going to turn out to be a date rapist. The sort of kid who, for example, crashes your birthday party at Fun World and hangs out by the Air Hockey table while you’re trying to play with your best friend and grabs the puck whenever it comes on your side of the table and throws it in your goal with one of those “Whatsamatter, gonna cry?” looks on his face while your best friend says absolutely nothing because he’s a dickweed and he knows how the game is played – that one don’t fuck with the cool kids, one encourages them, because of course he’s only “pretending” to like you because he “feels sorry for” you, and you spend the rest of your life wishing you’d just have decked the little proto-Malfoy waste-of-sperm and gotten the hell on with your life.

So, anyway, somehow, and I do not remember how, among all the other noise and nonsense in the classroom, I may very well have blurted out my new and improved version of the aforementioned Billy Ocean song. And, as I was eight years old, it may very well have been about pooping one’s pants. Regardless, the crowd went wild.

It was at this moment that Mrs. Mulkern walked in. Now, Mrs. Mulkern was an intimidating woman. She could be very nice. I honestly think she tried. But she was very sensitive about certain things, and I think, on a previous occasion, I may have made an uncool comment about her weight. Again, I was eight. Little kid. Uprooted, I should add, from his awful public elementary school where the kids all hated him, and placed in an awful parochial school, where the teachers all hated him on account of his a) coming from a public school, and b) having a Y chromosome. (NDA, you see, had just gone co-ed two years before.) None of which excuses the fact that an unplanned and tactless comment about her bum tumbled out of my mouth sometime just before Christmas, but let’s just say that I was never anybody’s idea of a behaviour problem until they made me wear a tie to school.

So, she walks in, and everyone’s laughing, and she asks innocently what all the fuss was about, and everyone gets really quiet. Here we are, laughing at a poop joke, and there’s a teacher and we’re supposed to be good little Catholic children, and Dominic Savio never did such a thing, now did he? Soon, Mrs. Mulkern has gone from Nice Mrs. Mulkern mode to Batshit Crazy Mrs. Mulkern mode, and she’s demanding to know what was so funny, and who said it, and, most importantly, was it about her?

And who should peak up his little freckled nose but Timothy Leary. “Mrs. Mulkern…. I…. I….”

Mrs. Mulkern’s demeanor immediately changed. “Yes, Timothy, sweet voice-ed Irish child of God. What is it you want to tell us?”

“It… it… it was.. A-A-Andrew.” My name was a mere whisper. His buddy John smirked with glee.

Now, I should mention that it actually took a good fifteen or twenty minutes for Timothy to make this accusation. I mention this not to let the little bastard off the hook, but instead to drive the point home that this woman was batshit crazy. She took twenty minutes out of her teaching day to make sure that no one was making jokes about her behind her back. Then, upon realizing it was me, she proceeded to spend the next *half hour* trying to get me to speak. And I couldn’t say it. The back of my throat was stinging as I tried not to cry, I was so scared. There was no way, no way in hell, I was going to sing, to my teacher’s face, the words “Get out of my butt, get into my toilet.”

I knew ol’ Mrs. M, and it was pretty safe to say that she wasn’t a fan of scatological humor, or for that matter, Carribean pop.

So what does a mortally oversensitive teacher do when confronted with such a willful boy, so brazen in his defiance of her supreme authority, who insults the very name of Saint Julie Billiart with his mere presence in this sacred hall of learning? What would you do with such a rapscallion, a hellion, a future satanist? More to the point, what would Jesus do? Would he pull a random girl – a sweet, blonde bespectacled wisp of a thing – into the hallway and interrogate her for the next fifteen minutes or so, until she started crying so hard she could hardly breathe? Apparently, he would.

Mrs. M and the girl returned from the hallway, the girl visibly shaken and white as a ghost. I was then marched down to the principal’s office. The principal was a cobwebby, cold, hard old woman whose name was – and again I kid you not – Sister Mildred. The first time I met Sister Mildred, it was when she pushed me down the hallway with one bony finger, screaming at me the whole time. My crime? I jumped.

No, really, that was it. I did a very short flying leap across a very small section of the classroom when Sister happened to be walking past, so she beckoned me out into the hallway and poked at me and yelled as I backed away slowly. Don’t remember why I jumped in the first place; probably, boredom. I wasn’t near anybody or anything that I could have possibly broken, and it wasn’t during a class, and I was a pudgy little kid, so the graceful gazelle-like bounce I was probably attempting really only carried me across one foot of floor space. But no matter to Sr. Mildred; a boy was jumping, and that can only mean one thing, and it probably has something to do with either the fifth or sixth commandments, and therefore, he must be stopped.

That was the first time I was ever in trouble at school. Back in ol’ Robinson Elementary – you know, “the hood” – if you wanted that kind of reaction out of an authority figure, you’d pretty much need to set fire to an infant. Suffice it to say, the Principal was nobody’s pal. And, long story short, not only did I have to tell Sister Mildred what I said, but I also had to explain to this 200-year old nun who Billy Ocean was and why he had a song about imaginary people riding around in automobiles.

On the bright side, I don’t think I was punished any further. I think one of two things must of happened: either Sister Mildred realised that the whole situation was much ado about nothing, or not even Sister Mildred herself could deny the appeal of a good, solid, ca-ca joke.

By that point, it was about lunchtime, and the weak rosehip tea smell of the cafeteria chicken soup was beginning to waft its way through the corridors of Notre Dame Academy. Sometimes all you needed was some watery chicken soup and a chocolate milk, and everything seemed new again.

Great. Now that we’ve gotten that settled, blah blah blah insert segue here the yaddah yaddah #1 song of 1998 is:

1. Faith, George Michael

It’s a gay British man singing against a Bo-Diddley beat about trust in a relationship. But that’s not why we’re here.

As you may well know, once upon a time a long-forgotten band named Limp Bizkit did an awful cover of this song, which just goes to show you how much the world changed. Guns N’Roses? In permanent stasis while Axl builds his Winchester house of a follow-up record. Whitney Houston? Crack is whack. INXS? Dead lead singer, reality show, and J.D. Snow. Debbie Gibson is now Deborah, and I’m sure she’s lost her virginity by this point, though I’d prefer if she didn’t tell me. Eric Camen is now the night manager of a Circuit City in Tucson. Belinda Carlisle’s Go-Go’s era sex tapes became public, along with the really disquieting knowledge that her and her bandmates used to dare each other to do really gross things involving the floors of public restrooms. And George Michael came kicking and screaming out of the closet after he tried to hook up with an undercover cop in a bathroom.

Here’s George’s own words regarding the incident: “Well, I was followed into the restroom, and then, this cop – well, I didn’t know he was a cop at the time obviously – he started playing this game. I think it’s called ‘I’ll show you mine, you show me yours, and then when you show me yours, I’m gonna nick you!'”

The poor guy. Sounds like entrapment to me. But let’s turn our attention to Fred Durst, singer for the long-forgotten Limp Bizkit. George seemed to believe in trust so much that he placed his faith in a total stranger. In the Limp Bizkit version, Fred seems to gloss over the meaning of the song because he’s too interested in screaming “RAHHHGOTTA HAVE FAAAAAAITH!”

Putting this all together, it seems to me that great rock singers play “I’ll show you mine, you show me yours”, while crappy nu-metal lunkheads just whip it out.


By the way: the girl that Mrs. M browbeat on my behalf left NDA and came to Westford Academy in high school, only this time with multiple piercings, green hair, and vampire fangs. This wound up being Katie Molloy, also known as Dex, and we became friends. One day, she wound up telling me her side of the Billy Ocean St. Patrick’s Day Massacre story, and as it turns out, none of the girls in the class wanted to turn me in, because they all secretly thought of me as some kind of bad-ass rebel.

Do not mess with my crew.

There’s three things I remember about ol’ Taylor:


5 responses to “1988 Was The Worst Year In Music Ever

  1. beth

    May 7, 2008 at 9:26 am

    //I’m posting it here because it was languishing on my Myspace site, ignored and unloved, and it told me that it wants to be where people can see it and access it easily. //

    what are you, tori amos now?

  2. geekusa

    May 7, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    No. As I’m re-releasing past hits to fill up my new releases, I’m a lot more like Smiths-era Morrissey.

  3. checkingitout

    May 9, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    this was great. one thing – the jets are tongan.

  4. Pikki Nikki

    October 15, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    i found this post all because i typed “debbie gibson nose job” into Google. i then clicked “images” and it then lead me to your photo of our precious deb with a fucking KEYTAR. YES!!!! i then stayed to read the whole dang thing and i am just floored – i love everything about this. fuck. yes. high five, my 80s friend.


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