Tonight I have been scouring YouTube for old music. I say old, but I'm talking about the late eighties and early nineties. For me, it was a period of consuming all varieties of music meanwhile trying to figure out my own tastes. I had acquired my sister's 45s (which I believe are singles): Expose': Point of No Return; Terence Trent D'arby: ? (can't remember the title, something about crying, I think?); INXS: The Devil Inside; Pebbles: Girlfriend; Madonna: (also can't remember which single); Taylor Dane: Prove Your Love/Tell it to my heart. And there were a few cassette tapes: Bangles: (the one with 'Eternal Flame' on it), and the rest I'm a bit hazy on. This was during the time when I had my first real stereo system: a cassette/record/eight-track player. Before CD, of course, or at least before they were really hitting the market. Here's the video for 'Prove Your Love' by Taylor Dayne, with a strange introduction from the artist herself while sitting in the Night Tracks studio:
One cassette that I owned (that I believe was also a hand me down) was a compilation. This was surely purchased at a Payless, when they had many cassette-tape displays throughout the store selling record company compilations. In fact, back when there was such a place as Payless, unless I am just unaware of their existence now. And this one cassette I had, in particular, had a strange Caribbean theme to it. The front cover's font was electric-neon-sign and the title was framed by two inwardly-swaying Palm trees. There are really only two songs that I remember from the cassette: 1. Beach Boys: Kokomo; and Elton John: I don't wanna go on with you like that. This last song was sort of my introduction to Elton John, actually. It probably wasn't the first song of Elton John's that I'd heard; I did watch TBS Night Tracks most Friday nights, and if you remember Night Tracks, you remember that it was Cable's version of MTV. It played the hits, so surely Elton John was on rotation. It's a strange song, kind of funny, but very catchy. However, as far as I can tell, it has nothing to do with Caribbean culture, it has no 'Caribbean flavor,' it doesn't even sound World Beat to me. I'm not sure what it was doing on a compilation like that.
There were also the songs that weren't hand-me-downs, but ones that I absorbed by hearing them occasionally when passing by my sister's room. In particular, the song I remember that she was into was Wilson Phillips: Hold On. I had never seen the video to the song until looking for it today, and it's pretty funny. I don't know if this is an eighties/nineties theme to music videos, but performing on top of mountains or hills, and the sweeping panoramic views of the world from up on high?
Want another example? Here's Bon Jovi's 'Bed of Roses' video:
And here is what makes The Darkness such a fucking awesome band:
These hand-me-downs were just the pop side of my sister's collection. She also introduced me to heavy metal: I can remember her driving me around in her white pickup with her newly installed sound system that included decent subwoofers to boot, and blasting Metallica's 'Ride the Lightning' album. The song 'Ride the Lighting' in particular was a song that just sounded so powerful -- like it was the sound that I had been searching for: dirty, buzzing guitars, heavy reverb on the drums (an eighties thrash-metal sound that makes drums sound thunderous), dark, angry, and insane. And blaring at extremely loud volumes (this is well before my first concert, mind you) -- I loved the shit out of it.
Like my sister though, I too have a pop side. It took a long spell of heavy metal listening to admit that, but it's true. It's purely nostalgia, but I kinda love looking at these old songs from that time period. One noticeable element of Pop music in the eighties was that it had more guitars, kind of the Bon-Jovi-esque polished/controlled distortion sound, sort of buried in the background taking a backseat to the main vocal melody. Case in point: Roxette. Yesterday, I was telling Rich Bachelor about this band and I called them the 'poor man's version of the Eurythmics.' While they don't sound like the Eurythmics, they do look a lot like the Eurythmics. And I swear they are another band in a small list that has that going on: Sort of adrogynous female singer (and by that I mean she had short, spiky hair at a time when dudes had flowing, aqua-net hair, wore blouses, and shopped in the Women's department for their accessories) and the male songwriter/guitar player with a vaguely Robert Smith look. Roxette was a full band, but the credit went to those two. I think it just looked interesting on an album cover to have two contrasting characters sharing the spotlight.
They were definitely a band that I liked then, and I even purchased one of their cassettes. This was during my phase when I was trying to figure out what exactly it was that I liked. Back then, it was just about taking in as much music as I could, clearly not discriminating, which is, I feel, the next phase. Does merely 'catchy' suffice, do lyrics add or detract from the music, or is a constructed image even a bad thing? I must've felt that these questions were important, because I started listening to music that was definitely nineties in its attitude. 'Alternative,' as MTV used to call it. However, one look at this video and you'll realize that alternative was the strange market of Doc Martens, shorts and leggings, flannel, and white chicks with dreadlocks: