Great In ’88 – A Few Memories Of The Year’s Top Pop Hits

I’m wrapping up this week looking back at 1988 with a few videos from that year that I have fond memories of. This was several years before I really got into music, but I was still of the world and hearing the pop hits of the day. I didn’t watch MTV back then, but I think there was a video show on Nickelodeon or maybe USA that catered to kid-friendly pop. I intended to write about an album from this year that I came to later in life like Jane’s Addiction’s Nothing’s Shocking or Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, but I’m not sure if I’ve absorbed either album enough to really write about them.

Back when I was 5, I didn’t know who George Harrison was. Heck, I probably didn’t even know who The Beatles were, but I knew that I liked “Got My Mind Set On You.” From doing the tiniest bit of research possible, I’ve discovered something else I didn’t know, this song was a cover. Harrison recorded in for his 1987 album Cloud Nine, but it wound up being the third most popular song on the Billboard Hot 100 the following year. I also had no idea that there were two versions of the video, the one above set in an arcade and the one below which finds everything coming alive in Harrison’s study like a far more lighthearted version of Evil Dead. It’s the latter I remember from being a kid.

The 45-year-old Harrison became an MTV star years after being in the biggest band the world has ever seen, which is pretty impressive. I specifically remember seeing this video while out visiting people with my Grandma in Cleveland. I’m sure I’d seen the video before or at least heard the song, but we were in a place that my memory tells me was like a huge log cabin house, but people lived there, people with teenaged children, so MTV was on. This was one of the videos playing…

And, as it happens, George Michael’s “Faith” was one of the others. That song was the number one most popular song that year, which makes sense ’cause it’s super catchy. The single helped Michael push Wham even further in the rear-view mirror and  transformed him into the “bad boy” sex symbol he would be know as for a decade or so.

When it came to the late 80s pop war between Debbie Gibson and Tiffany, my allegiances firmly lied with the latter. “I Think We’re Alone Now” is just impossible to beat. But that jam came out in ’87 and Tiff’s big hit of this year was “Could’ve Been” which is okay, but not as fun as Debbie’s “Shake Your Love.” The Billboard charts don’t agree with me, though, as Tiffany’s track clocked in at the 8 spot for the year while Gibson’s was at 22. Unlike the other videos on the list, I don’t remember this one was well, but that song was EVERYWHERE.

Finally, you can’t talk about the late 80s without talking about Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” off of Appetite For Destruction from the previous year. I eventually picked this record up at a used CD store in the late 90s, but even a decade later it hadn’t lost it’s punch and power. I try not to play “What if?” too often, but I can’t help wondering what this band could have evolved into had they kept the wheels on the bus (and their sanity) to make a prolonged go at it.

Listening to these songs and watching the videos was a huge trip down memory lane. Some of the things I wrote about in this week’s review of 1988 were familiar to me then like the Transformers toy commercial and playing Mario 2, but most were things I came to much later like Animal Man, Green Arrow, Not Of This Earth and Bloodsport. It’s kind of nice to end with some tunes like this that I remember so vividly from that year.

Santana & India Arie Cover “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”

I haven’t really spent a lot of time with Santana’s current stuff. I have a copy of Supernatural that I found on the free table at my old job (I really miss the free table), but haven’t given it much of a listen. When I heard he was doing a cover record called Guitar Heaven in his current style by grabbing different artists to sing on different tracks I wasn’t super excited. Then I saw the video for his cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with India Arie and Yo Yo Ma and I think I’m converted. Gotta love that the guy can still play so well and knows solid artists like India to team up with. Hey wait, is Rob Thomas on the new record? That could be a deal breaker.

Supergroup Showcase: The Traveling Wilburys

For the purposes of Supergroup Showcase the term supergroup means a band or group of musicians made up of two or more artists from previously successful bands, not necessarily super huge bands like Led Zeppelin.

THE PLAYERS: Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, George Harrison, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne
HISTORY: Back in 1988 when music still came out on vinyl, George Harrison had just released his brand new record. The record label wanted a B-side to go along with the first single and George somehow wrangled Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and his songwriting partner Jeff Lynne into creating the song “Handle With Care.” The label heard pure gold and asked if the guys could put a whole record together. The original line-up out out The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1. Roy Orbinson passed away soon after, but the surviving members would get back together for another offering in 1990 called Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3. (via

I remember being in shock and awe when my dad first told me about the Traveling Wilburys. I was just getting into classic rock music and trying to explore around and see what was what. I’d known the Beatles and Bob Dylan of course and would go on to because a big Tom Petty fan, but I was still marinating in a lot of the basics. So, when he told me that such heavyweights as George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty (with a guy named Jeff Lynne, who I wouldn’t come to know until years later). I could hardly believe it. I don’t even know if I knew what a supergroup was at the time, but I can’t think of a more perfect example of one that the Wilburys.As I mentioned last weekend, it wouldn’t be until many years later that I actually heard the Wilburys. Or at least listened to their CDs, which the missus got me for Christmas or my birthday just a few years ago after the 2 CD/DVD set came out. Man, I love these discs. Like I said, I’ve become a huge Tom Petty fan over the years, like every sane person I love the Beatles and George’s last record Brainwashed, I’ve got a few Bob Dylan records (I bought Blonde On Blonde used at my beloved Boogie Records after hearing Jack Black’s character admonish a customer for not owning it in High Fidelity, which I love) and had very little experience with Roy Orbison, but the combination of these incredibly strong musicians and singers in one place is even more amazing than I expected.

You might think with such big, huge talents there might be an undercurrent of divaness on the records, but there’s nothing of the sort that appears on either of the records or the DVD. In fact, the records feel like a perfect symbiosis of these creative geniuses. All the more impressive is that the first album was completed in 10 days! It’s like these guys just ooze goodness.

The songs break down into two basic camps. First off, you’ve got the ones where one of the men takes over on vocals with the others coming in for backing vocals and harmonies. My personal favorite of those is the Dylan-fronted “Tweeter And The Monkeyman” and not just because I like monkeys. It’s a great story song with all the perfect parts: simple, understated playing, a solid lead vocal and perfect backings. The other camp is the one in which each singer takes a turn at a verse and has fun with it, like the above “Handle With Care,” “Last Night” and “End Of The Line.” Those are my favorite tracks because I like hearing everyone having a turn.

Obviously, the first record is better because Roy Orbison is on it. Even without knowing much about him, his voice is SO iconic and just shines through every time he pipes up. I get chills listening to “End Of The Line.” The video for that song, which is a tribute to Roy, is also pretty moving. For some reason embedding is disabled, so you’ll have to go here to check it out.

So, if you’re a fan of any of the above musicians, hell, even if you’re not, I can’t recommend a record to you more than this set. Even though the second record isn’t as good as the first, it’s still a fantastic piece to listen to. It’s just hard not to imagine how much better it would be with Orbison’s vocals. The DVD’s a great addition with the basic videos and the True History of the Traveling Wilburys is amazing. Completely recommended!

Music Doc Triple Feature: True History Of The Traveling Wilburys (2007), Concert For George (2003) & Anvil! The Story Of Anvil (2008)

I watched these three movies over a pretty spread-out period of time, but I figured they’d make a good trio seeing as how two the first two are directly related and the most recent reminded me of the other two. First off, I want to talk about a 25 minute documentary on The Traveling Wilburys that came with the self-titled three disc set that includes the band’s two CDs and a DVD with the doc and some music videos. The Wilburys were a supergroup in the late 80s consisting of Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, George Harrison and Jeff Lynne (I’ll do a Supergroup Showcase about them soon). I’d always heard about them, but never really heard them, so once this set came out, I asked for it for Christmas and got it, but I didn’t actually watch the included DVD until a few months back.

The film covers a recording session and what makes it so interesting is seeing how much these musical giants just hanging out in a house, playing guitars, singing songs and having a helluva good time while doing it. We–or at least I–tend to deify guys like this, they are incredible musicians and some of the most important people in rock, but this movie shows them as just regular people and I dig that. Regular people writing a song a day and making an album of it. The just sounds fun to me. Even more fun because of who’s involved and some of the interesting things they did like drumming on the refrigerator and recording that! I’d definitely watch a longer version of this doc.

Soon after the first Traveling Wilbury’s record, Roy Orbison passed away. Many years later, George Harrison died leaving a final album called Brainwashed unfinished. His son Dhani and friend Jeff Lynne came in and finished the record and I have to say it’s amazing. One year after his passing, a small army of musicians got together to celebrate Harrison’s life. The concert, which was filmed and called A Concert For George, is split into a few parts. The first section is a very moving and intense series of performances by Ravi Shankar’s daughter Anoushka and an Indian orchestra. This isn’t the kind of music I usually search out, but it was beautiful.

Between this group of performances and the next more mainstream set, the surviving members of Monty Python came out to do “Sit On My Face” and then “The Lumberjack Song” which apparently also included Tom Hanks, but I completely missed that and only read it later. The remaining set consists of performances by Eric Clapton, Dhani Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Gary Brooker, Joe Brown, Sam Brown, Jools Holland, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Billy Preston, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney and others on their own and together. I’m a sucker for these kinds of team-ups in the musical world and can’t think of a better reason to have one than to celebrate such a great musician’s life. It’s too bad that Bob Dylan couldn’t be there for a reunion of the surviving Wilburys, but that would have been amazing.

From the celebration of one of the greatest and most successful musicians in the world, to a look at some of the most obscure. Anvil! The Story Of Anvil is a documentary following the trials and tribulations of a Canadian heavy metal rock band called Anvil who were supposedly a big deal on the scene back in the day. I’ll be honest, I’m not 100% sure this whole thing isn’t a hoax. I’m no expert when it comes to heavy metal by any means, but I’ve read enough issues of Guitar World in my time to feel like I have a fairly good grasp on the scene and I’ve never heard of them. The movie starts off with some pretty big deal metal musicians like Slash, Lemmy, Scott Ian and Lars Ulrich singing Anvil’s praises. It just felt a little off. Then, they reveal that one of the two original band members’ names is Robb Reiner which sounds and awful lot like the name of the director who did This Is Spinal Tap. From what I can tell, the movie is all real, but I still had a big question mark in my head the whole time which takes away from things a bit.

The rest of the movie shows how shitty things are for the guys in Anvil. They’re working crap jobs in Canada, doing tours of Europe where they don’t really get paid any money and everything goes wrong and struggle to create quality music with nearly no budget. If you’ve seen American Movie, you’ve seen the basic premise of this movie, but this one has heavy metal and that one has movies. Which isn’t to say Anvil isn’t a good movie. If it is real, it definitely captures the general hopelessness that these dudes are surrounded by at all time and refuse to give in to, which is incredibly admirable. Plus, watching the movie made me want to listen to some more metal. Anyone got any suggestions?