The Hits of 1988: Dirty Dancing and Other Kinds
Rock music gets the slows
In 1988 the Hubble Space Telescope was launched and turned on the skies - it has been watching the universe for us ever since. The infamous Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Scotland focused the world's attention once more on the growing phenomenon of terrorism. The first sales of a pill for depression take place as Prozac is made available and starts a trend that continues today. A new street drug shows up and shows off, and quickly gets rated as one of the most addictive substances ever discovered - crack cocaine. Across the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, the first fiber optic cable is laid and immediately put into use for telephone calls - its capacity is 40,000 calls at the same time. The fledgling Internet, still only being used by research universities and the government, experiences its first virus, another sign of things to come. And the Shroud of Turin is finally carbon dated, and scientifically proven not to be the burial cloth of Jesus. Christians immediately call it a miracle, saying God fixed the carbon dating and fooled the researchers.Credit: pixabay.comCredit: pixabay.comCredit: pixabay.comCredit: pixabay.com
What happened in 1988's music?
It was an odd year for rock music, and the rest of the music world too. It seemed like everything was at a point of rest, and that not much good music resulted. The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Drifters, Bob Dylan and The Supremes were all inducted into the R&R Hall of Fame, which was finally catching up to the late 60s. A little ranch in San Ynez, California was bought by Michael Jackson - one day everyone would know the secrets of Neverland, as he called it. The best Christmas record ever made, A Very Special Christmas produced by Jimmy Iovine, made $5 million for the Special Olympics. The new mayor of that golfing and retirement capital of America, Palm Springs, California, is elected - Sonny Bono. Former Creedence frontman and now solo artist John Fogerty was sued by his old record company for stealing from his own work - the record company lost. And for the first time since their debut in 1983, compact discs sold more than vinyl LPs.
Top Hits of 1988
The top selling song in the whole world was a remake of a British Invasion hit by Phil Collins. A Groovy Kind of Love was a hit for Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders (great name) back in the early 60s, and here it was again. Second on the worldwide hit parade was Don't Worry, Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin. He used part of a saying from his guru Meher Baba and made a sunny little tune with it, but he left off the third part - make efforts. Nobody wanted to hear that, McFerrin probably and rightly guessed. Number 3 was another remake, this time by the Pet Shop Boys of the ancient Willie Nelson chestnut, You Were Always On My Mind - Nelson could always use the extra cash. Fourth on the worldwide list was Heaven is a Place On Earth by Belinda Carlisle, freshly spring from the Go Gos and making it on her own. And in fifth position was a semi-instrumental by Enya - Orinoco Flow, a catchy little tune you couldn't help but love.
Big Albums and Good Albums
The top 5 albums (actually CDs) in the US in terms of sales were Faith by George Michaels, The Dirty Dancing Soundtrack, Appetite For Destruction by Guns and Roses, Bad by Michael Jackson, and Hysteria by Def Leppard. Four of the five were released in 1987, but there was so little competition in 1988 that they still remained the top sellers. There were a handful of excellent recordings released, but a small hand. Steve Earle gave us Copperhead Road, a classic of the Americana genre. The Waterboys led by Mike Scott released Fisherman's Blues, a candidate for best albums of all time lists everywhere. The Traveling Wilburys dropped Vol. 1 and people fell in love with Bob Dylan who never liked him before. Daydream Nation would become Sonic Youth's recognized career best. And a Seattle band named Soundgarden released their first LP on the punky SST label, another harbinger of good things to come.
The Big Trend: Everything Means Less Than Zero
As mentioned, the year was strangely bereft of good product, not just in rock, but in almost any genre you'd care to listen to. Not since the doldrums of the late 70s had so many second and third rate albums been released by big stars who just didn't have what it took anymore. There was a sense that punk was gone, New Wave had been co-opted by MTV, hair bands were a joke but sold a lot of records, and dance pop didn't even sound so hot anymore. We were all waiting for something that might never show - rejuvenation. It was out there, but would take a couple of years to get revved up, the same way punk rock did back in the late 70s. Rock and rollers had to be patient, and keep buying the good old stuff to replace their LPs on CDs - perfect sound forever, you know.