Soul Asylum

The Cult is another well-known 80’s band that I’ve never listened to before, but I’m trying to broaden my palate, so here they are. When I say I’m broadening my palate, I mean that I’m trying not to become a middle-aged person who only enjoys the same 10 things they enjoyed when they were in college. I was told that I needed to listen to more goth music, so I’ve been doing that, because I definitely missed out on having a goth phase in high school. I like pretentious quasi-mysticism, depression, and black lipstick! No, but I do like the old-school joys of an unironic guitar solo.

(Song for My) Sugar Spun Sister

Welcome back to finding out bands that I’ve made a point of never listening to because I thought they were quote unquote ** 90’s music **. As usual in this particular regard, I’m wrong. The Stone Roses, apparently, had kicked around the Manchester music scene for almost the whole entire 80’s before making a record. They made their debut album in 1989, made another one in 1994, and disbanded amid legal wranglings. So these guys spent most of their lifespan as a group playing without a record label, or records. Which must have been some kind of a feat of bad luck and/or self sabotage, because we all know that Manchester was the absolute coolest miserable, poverty-stricken post-industrial backwater to be plucked from by the sweet chariot of fame aka there were a lot of record label scouts up there looking for the next Ian Curtis. Interesting to know how that whole story played out. Maybe I’ll read up on it. In the meantime, here’s one great 80’s Manchester sadboi album I didn’t previously know about.

Slipping Away

I am not the kind of person who skips over Keith Richards’ grackle-voiced contributions when I listen to Rolling Stones records. Nor would I want to listen to an entire album of his croaking either. Keith’s there to lend a little bit of soulful grit to what’s become a very shiny and polished enterprise, but he’s hardly a born frontman, in either personality or vocal gifts. Not all of the Keith songs are standouts, but they never fail to reset to the mood to an earthier level. As far as the obligatory “let’s let Keith have the mic” numbers go, this one is by far one of my favorites. It is such a poignant outro, without even knowing the knotty history behind Steel Wheels. It’s all there in his voice. You can hear the many miles and years logged to get to that precise moment, the history and tragedy and burned bridges and grudgingly given love that make the Rolling Stones the often barely-functioning family that they are.

Slave Dream

Dreamlike is absolutely right. Ofra Haza became famous for melding Middle Eastern music with pop, and her best known work is dance floor ready club music with a touch of Aleppo pepper to it, so to speak. However, she didn’t always lean Western, or make herself so accessible. Here she leans the other way. It’s an exploration of a vocal style most Westerners weren’t familiar with, and still aren’t in a lot of places. It’s absolutely mesmerizing, although it won’t fill up very many dance floors. She certainly opened a lot of doors for what Americans and Europeans will dance to, and that’s a hefty legacy. The worlds of pop and of more traditional musical styles are so much more entwined now, and more people get to hear so many more things, which is is beautiful.

Sick of You

“They ordained the Trumps” sang Lou Reed in 1989 “The President’s dead, no one can find his head, it’s been missing now for weeks.” Well, it’s our loss and Lou’s good luck that he didn’t live to see what a zoo this place has become. The 80’s certainly gave the songwriter-journalist plenty to write about. The New York album was one long list of grievances: urban poverty, religious fundamentalism, political chaos, the grief of the AIDS epidemic, the singer’s own feelings of helpless rage in the face of those things, etc. Despite all that we – Lou Reed, society, the city of New York, the gay community, et al – somehow pulled through and saw that at least a few things got better. I mean, we don’t talk about the ozone hole or Louis Farrakhan anymore. Unfortunately, some things that once seemed destined to live on only as punchlines in a Bloom County comic have gone on to turn our most absurd bath salt-fueled nightmares into hard reality. I, for one, would happily donate 15 years off my own lifespan to hear what Lou Reed would have to say if he was around to write New York II.

She’s a Mystery to Me

Roy Orbison recorded this song mere months before his death. Not that you would ever guess from hearing it. Orbison never sounded better. It was as if he was just coming into his prime after decades of warming up. His body disagreed, though. Even young men are often brought low by the relentless pace of touring, recording and public appearances required to keep a hot career crackling, and for a man in his fifties with years of hard living behind him, it was a death sentence. Tragic, because obviously 52 is too young to drop dead, and because Orbison was one of those relatively few artists whose career got a second life thanks to an entirely new generation of fans. Also, his signature persona of a tough guy with a heart full of romantic yearning became more poignant with age.

Sally Brown

If rock music is to be believed, dozens of girls in every school are named Sally. If Bad Manners are to be believed, Charlie Brown’s baby sister grew up, moved to the rough end of London and became a skinhead. I’ve never met anyone named Sally, or even known of one. As for little Sally Brown, you can imagine what you like. This particular Sally sounds like a real cool girl, though she probably has a switchblade in her boot and doesn’t mind using it.