Was 1989 the best year for British music since 1977?
I never saw the Sex Pistols, The Jam and all the amazing bands from the sixties and early seventies. Bob Marley, Curtis Mayfield, Sly & The Family Stone; the list is longer than that first hour at a crap job on a Monday morning when your weekender come down is kicking in and your boss is a twat.
Many of us finally found gold when we rose with the morning sun, which was 1989, a year like no other. Arguably defined by The Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses Top of the Pops take over, it was like having your own Beatles and Stones. Ian Brown’s oriental influenced red and gold top setting off a fruitless clobber search as a new era of seekers sat glued in front of the TV. Rumour has it that the Roses asked the cab driver to keep the metre running outside BBC’s TOTP studios, not convinced they would go through with miming their art.
Three days before this moment of doubt, on the 13th of November, the Happy Mondays released Rave On (sadly their last recording with Martin Hannett – Joy Division producer and the Monday’s seminal second LP Bummed) on the same day The Stone Roses released Fools Gold, possibly the best British 12-inch record of all time. Twenty-seven years later and we are still raving. Both records picked up the music scene and give it a kick where and when it was needed. Fools Gold may have been recorded in a 17th Century house in Cornwall, but it still sounds like tomorrow; future funk waiting for the rest of us to catch up. A song utterly impervious to heavy rotation, its glorious grooves able to coax your very own personal swagger from the shadows.
Rewind to May of that year and the release of the Roses game changing debut LP; the first signs that the lemon and paint underground was going over-ground. Roses shows at Blackpool and Ally Pally, Mondays at the GMEX -era defining events as the Berlin Wall came tumbling down and students in China offered flowers as defiance in the face of tank guns.
New Order released their fifth LP, Technique, a perfect hybrid of Balearic beats, Acid House and sky kissing summer glorious guitar songs. Technique is the sound of new beginnings and endless possibilities; the beat ecstatic. An album which bagged them their first ever number one album in the UK whilst Manchester’s 808 State nailed the sound of House music perfectly with ‘Pacific State’. All in all, things were getting looser and some of the music was ultra-brilliant.
Del A Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising and the Beastie Boys ‘Pauls Boutique’ brought hip hop into the frame, a genre already assimilated within dance culture, a scene the Mondays, Roses and New Order strongly identified with. Probably the best two records of the year that didn’t try and make you dance were Nirvana’s debut Bleach and the Pixies Doolittle.
1989 for a generation, was the year we never grew up, I guess we never will.