A very special playlist this week.
I don’t know exactly what it was, but something this week made me think back to September 1989, when I was in my first month as a college student. It must have been a song, because I immediately started mentally flipping through the music I was listening to back then. I realized that the fall of 1989 might have been the time I listened to the widest range of music.
I went to college still listening to Top 40 pop, but also liking some hair metal, a healthy amount of R&B, and lots of hip-hop. Living in a dorm and making friends with guys with other tastes expanded my horizons. I arrived at McCollum Hall with a stack of my own cassettes. Soon I had copies of cassettes from guys up-and-down 6-West.
So this week a celebration of the music I was listening to back in that glorious fall.
“I Like” – Guy. The greatest New Jack Swing song of all time? Several New Edition and Keith Sweat tracks would be in the running, but since this was Teddy Riley’s band, it gets the nod. A remnant from the previous spring, but I did make a couple friends who thought I was worthy of talking to once they heard this song coming from my dorm room.
“18 and Life” – Skid Row. This was a Reaching for the Stars entry about a year ago. I didn’t ever listen to a ton of metal, but for some reason the fall of 1989 was when I listened to the most of my life. Probably because this, and a few others, were really good songs regardless of genre.
“It’s Funky Enough” – The D.O.C. This member of NWA was poised to breakout as the next huge artist from Compton when he released his fantastic debut album. Then his throat was severely injured in a car accident late in ’89, his voice changed dramatically, and he was never able to capitalize on that early success.
“Down Boys” – Warrant. I didn’t say all of these songs would be good.
“Miss You Much” – Janet Jackson. Man, Rhythm Nation was a monster of an album. So many great songs on it, it’s hard to pick a favorite. But this was the first single that was playing everywhere in the early fall.
“Express Yourself” – Madonna. Madonna wasn’t losing her perch as biggest female star in the world without a fight. Like a Prayer may not be as timeless as Rhythm Nation, but it’s still a great, and underrated album.
“Don’t Look Back” – Boston. Sometime in late September/early October my high school buddy who lived a floor above me and I settled into a nightly routine of playing classic rock and playing Nintendo for hours. We were probably wearing Benetton sweaters and Hugo Boss cologne. (“Hello ladies!”) At some point we got into a Boston kick and listened to their three albums on a loop for about a week. “More Than a Feeling” is one of the greatest rock songs ever. But I remember us discussing if “Don’t Look Back” was just as good as we played Tecmo Bowl and Mario Brothers.
“Hey Ladies” – The Beastie Boys. Maybe we would have had more luck with the females of McCollum if we acted more like the Beasties and played less Nintendo while listening to ‘70s rock. Who can say?
“We Didn’t Start the Fire” – Billy Joel. Speaking of ladies…I know back in the early days of the blog I shared the story of meeting a girl from Omaha who loved Billy Joel. On my next weekend trip home I snuck out all of my mom’s Billy Joel tapes and made sure I offered them to this little cutie. I doubt she took me up on my offer. When Billy Joel released a new single in the middle of my pathetic wooing, it seemed like a sign. The fact it was a terrible song should have been a sign that I was in over my head.
“Steppin’ To The A.M.” – 3rd Base. P.W. Botha gets the Gas Face.
“On Our Own” – Bobby Brown. Another remnant from the summer. Remember when Bobby was one of the biggest stars in the world for awhile?
“Love In An Elevator” – Aerosmith. The only Aerosmith album I ever bought was 1989’s Pump. I still think it’s pretty good.
“Groove Is in the Heart” – Deee-Lite. With the ‘80s coming to an end, this song was a sign that the ‘90s were going to be a very different time. An all-time ass shaker.
“Runnin’ Down A Dream” – Tom Petty. I wasn’t a big Petty fan at the time. But I remember this song kind of being everywhere, and a guy down the hall who played guitar sitting on his bed, playing the chorus over-and-over.
“Batdance” – Prince. It still seems crazy that Prince did the entire soundtrack for Batman and it ended up being this weird.
“Kickstart My Heart” – Mötley Crüe. Funny story: this came on one day this week on our way to pick up M. L, who is into drums, was banging away to the beat on her knees. Not sure how I feel about my daughter getting interested in the Crüe.
“Mixed Emotions” – The Rolling Stones. The Stones were another classic band that I had never been a fan of by 1989. I liked this song, though. Thankfully I learned to appreciate the rest of their catalog in time.
“Fight the Power” – Public Enemy. “1989! A number, another summer! Get down, sound of the funky drummer.” One Saturday that fall, after I stumbled home from some apartment party where I paid $3 for all the foamy beer I could drink, I decided I needed to spread the gospel of PE in a manner that Spike Lee would appreciate. I opened the window of my room that looked out over the parking lot, put my boom box in it, cranked it to 11, and played this over-and-over. This was at like two in the morning. I still don’t understand why the night security people didn’t come shut me down. Maybe they were down with PE, too?