I got to college in the fall of 1987, and it was sensory overload from the first day. There were a lot of changes hitting me at the same time: living on my own for the first time, moving to Albany from Syracuse, being involved in Navy ROTC (that didn’t last long), and a whole new circle of friends. From where I’m standing now, I think I handled the transition fairly well. At the time, though, it was a whirlwind of new experiences. Without getting into too many gory details, let’s just say that John found his place in the world in several ways. (Let the comment beatings begin!)
While I’m sure that a lot of this stuff would make for exciting Afterschool Special viewing, the music is what I want to talk about today. Here are a few memories that I think a few of you might be able to relate to.
– Post-New Romanticism – I don’t know if this is an actual term, but it fits what I’m looking for here. As groups like Duran Duran and Culture Club lost some sway with the public, they were replaced by pop groups with an even smoother style, which bordered on Adult Contemporary. Groups like Johnny Hates Jazz and Danny Wilson were big in ’87-’88, and I ate it all up. I wore out the cassette tape of T’Pau’s Bridge of Spies, which only spawned one Top 40 hit here in the US with “Heart and Soul” (#4 Hot 100, #13 Club Play). My favorite song from this period, though, was “China in Your Hands”, which was #1 in the UK, but never charted here. One more nail in the coffin of Americans having good taste in their pop music.
– Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me – Ah, Robert Smith. How I wanted to be you in 1987. I had just gotten caught up with Staring at the Sea when Kiss Me came into view. Despite only having one minor Top 40 hit (“Just Like Heaven”, #40), this is the album that really started the momentum moving in their direction here in the US. “Heaven” was by far the deepest, most romantic record I had ever loved (I was 18, ‘nuff said), and I subsequently experienced a couple of firsts with that album playing in the background. It was DEEP, folks! [Somewhere along the line, I will have to pen my ode to Disintegration.]
– R&B and Rap – I went through three majors in one year at school, and the only consistent thing in my academic life was working at the radio station on campus. I threw myself into that venture with every free minute of my time. While I may have been pop and alternative elsewhere, at the station I was R&B and rap. High on rotation that year was Keith Sweat, whose Make It Last Forever was far and away the most played album on the R&B shows at the station. While the seeds for my crossover to rap had been planted years ago, 1987 was the year that they took root and grew. Teena Marie (“Ooh La La La”), 3rd Bass, Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock, and New Edition (“Can You Stand the Rain” was the JAM!) all made a big impact.
– Sign O’ the Times – Given all of the influences that I was feeling that year, it really shouldn’t be any wonder that Prince was the epitome of my musical preferences. The title track was both funky and topical, and “U Got the Look” came out of nowhere to liven up Top 40. For me, the pinnacle of Sign was “Adore”, which I am not afraid to say is the best performance of a love song in the Rock era. I won’t say “best love song”, because lyrically I don’t think it stands up to the true champs. From a delivery standpoint, Prince wins hands down. The phrase is clichéd, but I have no problem in referring to this as a Master Class in how to really deliver a song. You get as much meaning from the delivery as you do from the lyrics. In my opinion, this is Prince’s best album and performance by a mile.