In 1989 I was fifteen, and for my birthday I got my first guitar and a year's worth of guitar lessons. Thank you eternally, Mum and Dad, RIP.
It was, it transpires, a historic turning point (yes I'm quoting Wikipedia) in politics, due to a wave of revolutions that started in Poland and swept across Europe eventually ending in the dissolution of the USSR at the end of 1991.
It was the last year of the 80s, and the last year until 2040 that, when written in Roman numerals, contains an L. Make of that what you will.
Bush Snr. entered the Oval Office, Eurosport started broadcasting, Ayatollah Khomeini really didn't like a book, the first GPS satellite went up, Iceland ended 74 years of prohibition on beer, the Purley rail crash, Exxon Valdez, Tiananmen Square, The Hillsborough Disaster (#YNWA), a tornado killed ~1300 people in Bangladesh, riots and looting in Argentina, the Game Boy was released, Voyager 2 swung by Neptune, Denmark became the first country to legally recognise same-sex union, the Guildford Four were released, and a whole lot of way more important geopolitical stuff was going on that I, as a 15-year-old, simply ignored. The reason I don't mention much of it in these things is it made no impact on me at the time.
We bade bon voyage to, among as always many others, Emperor Hirohito of Japan, Salvador Dalí, Ted Bundy, Sergio Leone, Mel Blanc, Laurence Olivier, Herbert von Karajan, Harry Corbett, Irving Berlin, Bette Davis and Angel Eyes.
Those arriving while those above were leaving included Anton Yelchin (d. 2016), Peaches Geldof (d. 2014), Daniel Radcliffe, Taylor Swift and lots of other no doubt excellent people whose names mean zero to me, but appear to be mostly sports people or reality TV people.
Musically things were pretty bloody zang all round. I've managed to pick a clear winner (just) but my usual shortlist of 5 has swollen to 10, and even that doesn't include Alice Cooper's Trash, W.A.S.P.'s The Headless Children, eponymous debuts from Enuff Z'Nuff and Extreme, It Bites' splendid Eat Me in St. Louis, L.A. Guns' raucous Cocked & Loaded, Little Angels' raw and lively Don't Prey For Me or even Queen's The Miracle.
OK. Shall we?
It was my good old pal Stix McFlick who introduced me to this Danish 4-piece wayyyyyy back in the day, and though they never really achieved mainstream success despite slogging away through the oft-mentioned Dark Times, those who know their work will always remember the absolutely brilliant "Sleeping My Day Away" and many others. Fun fact: Wikipedia files this album under both genres "Hard rock" and "Cowpunk". Great fun. Top track: "Sleeping My Day Away"
I remember saying once upon a time to my guitar bud Pearl Fiasco "you'll never get me into that funk-metal rubbish". I was wrong, on a number of counts, and this album is still one of my faves of the period and still gets regular play time. Nice big-sounding production, too. (BTW I'm really not the only one who still has a soft spot for this album…) Top track: "All Lips N' Hips"
It's impossible to properly explain the impact this record had at the time. Things were so simple – metallers listened to Metallica, Maiden, Slayer and Megadeth and wore black leather jackets, black band t-shirts, big white trainers (for reasons that still escape me) and tight black jeans. Rockers listened to Poison, Guns N Roses, Skid Row and even Bon Jovi, and wore glammed up versions of the same uniform (ripped blue jeans, cowboy boots, slightly more colourful t-shirts). Then along came Faith No More with not only a complete lack of respect for the dress code (Jim Martin aside, obv – just look at these bastards, will you?) but also a total blurring of the genre lines. Yes, I know they had been around for a while before 1989 with previous vocalist Chuck Mosley, but it's undeniable that it was The Real Thing (the band's first release to feature mercurial maniac Mike Patton on vocals) that broke them and guaranteed the band's place in the annals of metal. Catchy hooky choruses yet slamming metal riffs? Check. Undeniably odd metal tunes with screamed threatening lyrics? Yep. Sombre ballads? Yeah, just about. Black Sabbath cover? Oh yes. One of the tightest and funkiest rhythm sections ever to grace a tape reel? Aw yeah. Verdict: Indispensable. (Though I'm still never going to like "Surprise! You're Dead!") Top track: "Falling to Pieces"
King's X are a bit of an odd fish, band-wise. An extremely groove-adept metal power trio hailing from Springfield, Missouri, they always had some elements that sounded like nobody else. Doug Pinnick's vocals are distinctive, for sure, as is his penchant for 12-string basses (no, not with a massive neck, it's … oh just look it up), and guitarist Ty Tabor's enthusiasm for altered tunings has always helped to keep their sound fresh as well. This was their second album and it's my favourite of the nine of theirs I appear to have in my library. BTW, some label King's X as "Christian Metal" which is lazy and incorrect, as the band's Christian image was in fact largely manufactured by a former manager to appeal to a crossover audience. Either way, it shouldn't matter – you don't need to get kneebound to enjoy some good solid rock music. Top track: "Over My Head"
Another record about which I can't be particularly objective, since it was one of my first forays into the world of hard rock proper. I remember listening to the tape in my Walkman (remember the ones that only had three buttons - Play, Stop, and Fast-forward? And if you wanted to rewind you had to flip the tape over to do it? Ask your Mum, she probably had one…) as I went to my first job, scraping plates at Wimpy in Eastbourne for £1.25 an hour. I listened to it over and over and over, and loved it all. Nowadays I skip "Without You" and "Time For Change" with an alacrity that would surprise a casual observer, but at the time I drank it all in. This was Crüe at their very best. Top track: "Dr. Feelgood"
Well, it was the follow-up to this that won AotY for 1991, but this is where it started. Paul Gilbert had been shredding long and hard with Racer X and was widely acknowledged as simply one of the best technical players to have ever picked up a pick, and crucially, was not a twat about it. Billy Sheehan is just Billy Sheehan, and there's nothing you can do about that. They recruited Pat Torpey on drums and Eric Martin on vocals and put out an album that combined glam rock fun with top-drawer musicianship and it's a winner. And that opening track is still an absolute jaw-dropper. Top track: "Addicted to That Rush"
Yeah. I was surprised too, actually. Early Rush? No thanks. Can't be doing with it. I've tried, and Geddy's voice makes me want to start firing randomly into crowds of fluffy bunnies. But I picked this up on tape randomly one day and fell strangely in love with it. Top track: "Scars"
OK, so some might think this should win 1989, and while it is an astoundingly good and indispensable album, there are a number of things wrong with it. (It's Joe's vocals, mainly, if we're being honest.) While I applaud the bold decision to follow 1987's Surfing with the Alien – a 10-track purely instrumental barnstormer that changed the musical landscape – with an 18-track opus, 6 of which being vocal tracks, in hindsight I'd rather Joe had stuck to the winning formula (of course, he returned to that exact formula with spectacular results in 1992). That said, many of the instrumental tracks on here are Joe's best work ever – the title track, "The Forgotten pt. 2", "Back to Shalla-Bal", "The Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing" – these are all incredible tracks, and no-one's denying that. There's just a bit much filler in between the killers, and it's mostly the singy ones, I'm afraid. Top track: "Flying in a Blue Dream"
Hell yes. I think my vinyl copy of this was one of my most prized possessions when I was 16 or so. I remember lending it to my first girlfriend and then getting a bit nervy when she lent it to a friend of hers to tape it. (I got it back fine without a scratch, btw.) OK, so we've all heard "18 & Life" and "I Remember You" a million times, but what you've got to remember is that this is a harder edged album that floated to the top of a sea of glam because of its heavier riffs (do excuse my metaphors) and punchier production than that of competing bands like say Cinderella or Warrant. And if you have a bad word to say about "Youth Gone Wild", then you and I need to step outside for a moment. Top track: "Can't Stand the Heartache"
As the Cove himself is wont to say, 'Here's a song for ya'. In fact, here's ten, and I'm willing to go on record saying that eight of them are bloody good. "The Deeper the Love" can go die a hole, but then we're in 80s power-ballad country so it does come with the territory. And "Slow Poke Music" is just… not very good. Everything else on here, I love. Oh, did I mention that all guitars on this album are by friend of the show Steve Vai? Well they are. Adrian Battenberg apparently injured his hand and couldn't play while they were recording the album. And apparently he injured his hand. Anyway, wrap your listening holes around "Cheap and Nasty", "Wings of the Storm", the reworked "Fool for Your Loving", "Judgment Day" and the title track, and you'll be left in no doubt that you're left in no doubt. Solid throughout, and Coverdale is matchless as ever. Top track: "Slip of the Tongue"
And the winner is…
OK, before we start - yes, Permanent Vacation is fine. Not much wrong with it at all. But this knocks it into a cocked chimp from a mile away.
Are you kidding me? There is a reason that the theme tune to Raw Power was "Love in an Elevator" for years and years. And by the way, the reason is, that song is amazing.
The album kicks off with the kick in the face that is "Young Lust" and doesn't let up from there. There's not a bad track on here, not by a long chalk. The closing ballad "What It Takes" is, as mentioned par for the course, but unlike pretty much every album that followed this one, Pump is not ballad-laden. The rest of the tracks are by turns blazing rockers ("Young Lust", "My Girl"), stomping riffers ("F.I.N.E.", "Love in an Elevator", "The Other Side"), bluesy groovers ("Monkey on My Back", "Don't Get Mad, Get Even") and swampy atmospheric growers ("Janie's Got a Gun", "Voodoo Medicine Man").
10 tracks of greatness. If we've learned anything over this series, it's that this is a winning formula for a rock album. Shame Aerosmith forgot this advice from this point forwards, really.
Get Pump. Love Pump. Be Pump.
Top tracks: "Love in an Elevator", "Janie's Got a Gun", "Young Lust"
Turkey of the Year