326. no new tale to tell

Love and Rockets definitely felt fresh when they first hit in around 1985. Ex-Bauhaus players lightening up some, laying down solid psyche infused rock and pop at a time when pretty much nobody else was thinking that way. But by the time their third album hit, Earth Sun Moon, I guess I was looking elsewhere, because I didn’t really notice No New Tale To Tell until years after its release. In fact, it was the flute solo that hooked me via somebody else’s mixtape. Not since Jethro Tull …” (Philip Random)

Love+Rockets-1987-promo

 

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346. savage

“The Eurythmics were quite cool at first, a breath of fresh and soulful air in amid all the synth-pop of the early-mid 80s. But by 1987, I’d mostly lost interest … except for Savage, the song in particular. Bitter yet vulnerable, and definitely dangerous, like some 50s movie hard-as-nails beauty losing her looks, maybe resorting to murder, but you couldn’t stop feeling for her. Joan Crawford would have played her. And you probably would have cried at the end even if she deserved everything.” (Philip Random)

Eurhythmics-1987-AnnieL

370-69-68. Boy Boy – Laredo Tornado – El Dorado

“When I was kid, maybe fifteen, it was the story, the big concept that appealed most, perfect for my still growing brain and imagination. Which made Electric Light Orchestra‘s fourth album, Eldorado essential. The one concerning the Dreamer, the Unwoken Fool. He starts out high on a hill, catches a glimpse of the ocean’s daughter, goes after her, gets caught up in a war, a tornado in the desert, Sherwood Forest, a lost kingdom, the south seas, some painted ladies, and so on … finally ending up atop another hill, still a dreamer, unwoken, still a fool. For months, I’d listen to Eldorado beginning to end at least five days out of seven, until one day, I guess I finally got into Yes, or maybe ski season finally started. Or just girls and alcohol. Whatever happened, Eldorado got put aside for more than a decade.

Until one night in 1987 sometime, high no doubt, tired of punk rock and hardcore and whatever, I’m picking through the dregs of my old vinyl (the un-essential stuff not filed on a shelf, just piled in various boxes) and the cover catches my eye. It still does. A still from an actual film frame from Wizard of Oz – Dorothy’s contentious ruby slippers, the wicked witch of wherever trying to zap them off with her pale green hands. I put the album on and I couldn’t help but smile. It was just so big and fun. Sheer melodrama, all those strings and choral overloads, and related surprises. Like in Boy Blue where everything’s revving up to an obvious sort of b-movie climax, but it doesn’t go there. Not yet. Just sidesteps into plucked cellos (I think), and then it goes for the obvious climax. And then in Laredo Tornado, it’s the raw power of electric guitar with everything else majestic and soaring all around it, like a genuine tornado, grand and intense.

And then jump ahead to the climax of the whole thing, the title track, Eldorado, I swear Jeff Lynne‘s channelling Tom Jones here, strong as a coal miner, even if the lyrics are just passing space filler for the most part (I recall Jeff Lynne saying he wrote them all in a weekend). Nah, it’s the music that matters, the big and beautiful journey it takes, electric and full of light.” (Philip Random)

 

448. hit the hi-tech groove

“Was I cool enough to be hip to Pop Will Eat Itself in 1987? I think so. Or maybe it took until 1988. Those were weird days, and seriously, I wasn’t the cool one, it was the people I was hanging with. By 1987-88, I was deep in a negative hole of my own making (though the Reagan Administration had helped), which was manifesting musically as NOISE, and also looking backward, digging through old records, because I couldn’t afford cool new ones. Which by 1987-88 meant Hip-Hop if you were even half paying attention. And I was, I guess, I just wasn’t buying much, because I was so broke. Which reflects now in how woefully misrepresented that form is on this list. Because it’s all there (Guideline #1). Except I did buy Box Frenzy. Or maybe somebody just gave it to me, no doubt because they’d decided Pop Will Eat Itself weren’t properly cool anyway, being white guys, and long-haired geeks at that (Grebo was the name of the scene). But I’d pretty much given up on cool by the end of high school anyway. Lucky me.” (Philip Random)

PWEI-1988-live

492. heroine

This gem came out just before Joshua Tree, U2’s The Edge doing some soundtrack work, bringing in an unknown named Sinead O’Connor to sing a lead vocal so strong it inspires thoughts of an alternate pop-history, where U2 never goes supernova. Instead, they break up for whatever reason, Bono runs off and joins Van Halen, and the Edge sticks with young Sinead. They end up going to the Vatican, overthrowing the Pope and ruling the world. Satan (who it turns out was David Lee Roth all along) retires and moves to Calgary. A thousand years of peace ensue, except in Alberta.

SineadOconnorEdge

591. ‘cross the breeze

“If Daydream Nation (Sonic Youth’s best album) is one prolonged exercise in applied escape velocity, ‘Cross the Breeze is one of those prolonged moments where it gets furthest from the ground. I’m pretty sure I saw them do it live in late 1987 sometime, long before the album came out. It was a Sunday night show, and those are almost always duds, the audience too spent from the weekend’s extremes to actually move. But Sonic Youth launched us all anyway, ripped holes through our souls and scattered them ‘cross the breeze. It’s true.” (Philip Random)

SonicYouth-1987-02

666. Love Missile F1-11

Before they were mixing it up with big beats and samples and otherwise bringing the millennial noise, Pop Will Eat Itself were psyche-garage punk malcontents (aka Grebos), and way smarter than they were letting on as their torn up take on Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s annoying 1986 hit made rather clear. And no, there’s no intended Satanic significance in this being the 666 selection on the list – just how things worked out.

PWEI-F1-11

693. morning dew

In which Einsturzende Neubauten, barely four years on from tearing up condemned Berlin real estate and calling it Art (if not music), get traditional, dig up an old folk ditty (written by a Canadian) concerning the last man and woman alive after a nuclear war, and make it their own. Which is to say, they sharpen the edges, darken the shadows, pound some metal, and otherwise call out the banshees.

Einsturzende-1987

709. Oddfellows Local 151

Come 1987, REM had already conquered the world of indie-cool with four solid albums of ever increasing finesse, articulation, even a hint of crossover commercial success. Which made album #5 Document pivotal in terms of what might happen next. Yes, it continued the commercial ascendancy, but it also went the other way with the likes of Oddfellows Local 151, a track that Peter Buck referred to at the time as either the worst thing they’d ever done, or the best, he wasn’t sure yet. Either way, its deeply fried Southern weirdness helped set the stage for one of those outfits who, love ’em or hate ’em, were going to be around for a good long while.

REM-1987-live