- 12 May 01
Casting a cold eye on 1986, one must be frank that, although it was a good year, the absolute pinnacles that have marked previous years were absent. Perhaps ‘The Unforgettable Fire’ and ‘Born In The USA’, and their respective tours in 1985, not to mention Live Aid, drained a lot of emotion.
Casting a cold eye on 1986, one must be frank that, although it was a good year, the absolute pinnacles that have marked previous years were absent. Perhaps ‘The Unforgettable Fire’ and ‘Born In The USA’, and their respective tours in 1985, not to mention Live Aid, drained a lot of emotion. The Simple Minds and Self-Aid concerts were great events in themselves, and yet they lacked the impact of the others. And as for Queen …
Equally, on a global scale the Madonna and (now fading) Prince phenomena have soaked up a lot of the loot and interest that might have generated heat elsewhere. At the same time, in their shadows, and godfathered by, among others, Springsteen, the re-affirmation of faith in roots music continue unabated, especially in the USA.
We’re already familiar with the cutting edge – Los Lobos, the Best Farmers, Stevie Ray Vaughan, T-Bone Burnett and all the rest. But now they’re delving deeper. Among the absolute essentials of last year were two of the very best examples of foursquare classic American roots music. Ray Buchanan’s sweating honky-tonking ‘Dancing On The Edge’, and Ted Hawkin’s ‘Watch Your Step’, the cult record of 1986. Another lesser-known gent to release a near masterpiece was Australian Ed Knepper, once a member of the Laughing Clowns and The Saints, Knepper’s 'Electrical Storm’ has its forms rooted in American blues and folk, but the effect of the whole thing is bleak and arresting. Overpowering, like a Sidney Nolan painting.
these apart, it was ‘Graceland’ year for me. The most I listen, the most I like. It doesn’t matter that some of the lyrics are so-very-New-York. That’s what’s good about them. Damn and blast it, when Talking Heads play the same game everybody thinks it’s dead smart.
What makes it such a great album for me is the ease and erudition with which Simon integrates his musings with the music. It seems like an especially organic record, and I rate it very highly indeed.
It was also Elvis’ year. His regular attendance in Ireland and willingness to find common cause with us on issues like Self-Aid were exceptional in themselves, but he also gave us two albums, ‘The King Of America’ and the great ‘Blood And Chocolate’, and put in a superlative series of concerts in Dublin.
Then there were revivals and complications as diverse as Big Mama Thornton’s ‘Quit Stoopin’ Round My Door’, Luke Kelly’s ‘Luke’s Legacy’, and others by Roxy Music, The Police, and Kate Bush.
Overlaying all that was the arrival of the megastores, the threat they pose to established record shops and the possibilities they offer for the aggressive marketing of pop music.
And the Irish? Consolidating rather than conquering, but advancing on the world in a vast horde, in diversity and strength, from Christy Moore to Blue In Heaven by way of Mary Coughlan, Paul Brady, Cactus World News, LABF and with an excellent debut, That Petrol Emotion.
The tide is high. Let’s hope it keeps rising.