This is a continuation of my musical story of 1988 – a follow-up to my previous similarly self-indulgent article about the first half of that year (see here).
However, as was the case with the previous article, I must first start by correcting some omissions from both part one of this article, and the preceding “my early musical journey”. I was completely, but only briefly, sold on the Sigue Sigue Sputnik hype when Love Missile F1-11 hit the charts in early 1986. I bought, loved and then tired of the 12” single quite quickly.
A band I rated for slightly longer was The Alarm, whose debut album Declaration I bought in 1984, one of my first tentative explorations of something vaguely alternative. I eventually got to see a later incarnation of the band when they supported The Stranglers at the O2 Academy in Liverpool in March 2016, as reviewed here.
A couple of other, much earlier, purchases I had forgotten about include Meat Loaf’s Dead Ringer For Love, actually a duet with Cher that came out in November 1981, which I recall having on 7”. I know I also had The Rolling Stones’ live Still Life album on vinyl that came out in June 1982.
Back to 1988 – I took my A-levels that summer, and when school was out in July I took full advantage, going to see Fantasy Dogs four times that month, twice in Southend and twice in Brentwood at a total cost of £3.50. I’m surprised by my gig spreadsheet to see that my best mate Kris only came to one of these with me, though (friend of the band) Graham was at them all.
That month also brought a couple of cracking albums on tape thanks to Kris, The Fall’s Perverted By Language and Miserable Sinners by The Creepers. PBL remains in my Top 5 Fall albums, with opening track Eat Y’self Fitter amongst my Top 3 Fall numbers, and no doubt Top 20 tracks of all time – it’s also my mobile phone ringtone. I also made a copy of a Nico compilation called The Blue Angel from Upminster library.
The Creepers were fronted by Marc Riley, one of the many Fall-en. None of their music is on Spotify (there’s a Spotify playlist at the end of this article), so here’s a cover of Eno’s Baby’s On Fire from the album in question:
I spent some of my summer working at McDonald’s in Upminster, which had only recently opened. It’s strange to think now that the arrival of the golden arches was such a big deal at the time.
I’m not sure what else I did that summer, but my commitment to music was shown by my willingness to spend the huge sum of £15.95 that August to get The Sugarcubes’ debut album Life’s Too Good on CD from Downtown Records in Romford. Not any CD though, but the US import, as it had six extra tracks on it.
August brought yet more Fall-related product, again courtesy of Kris, as my tape collection was boosted by The Creepers’ live Warts ‘N’ All and the Cog Sinister compilation The Disparate Cogscienti.
Those tapes also featured another couple of great albums in Buzzcocks’ Another Music In A Different Kitchen and The Colorblind James Experience’s eponymous debut album (both of whom I got to see in Sheffield in the next couple of years). In total contrast, I also bought Kylie Minogue’s debut album on cassette from a shop in Upminster. I’ll be seeing Kylie live for the first time later in 2018.
I think that I also bought The Wedding Present’s Tommy compilation of singles and sessions that was released that July, on cassette, replacing it with the CD in March 1990. I’m not sure exactly when but I picked up their The Radio 1 Sessions – The Evening Show ep on CD this year, as well as the Nobody’s Twisting Your Arm and Why Are You Being So Reasonable Now? singles on CD, that both featured excellent b-sides, such as this one:
September was a momentous month for me – personally as I went off to university, and musically as I attended my first ever paid-for professional gigs.
This was when The Triffids were touring the previous year’s Calenture album. The gig cost me £6.50, and I bought a bootleg tape of their set soon afterwards, which I still have. Their set was dominated by Calenture, as they played five numbers off this.
The end of the show was dominated by covers, including a rousing version of The Velvet Underground’s What Goes On (I got to see these legends in June 1993 when they reformed temporarily) and a lovely cover of Can’t Help Falling In Love, made famous by Elvis Presley. They also played Madonna’s Into The Groove, the pop song it was OK for indie kids to like of the time…
Later that month I bought Colin Newman of Wire’s solo album A-Z on CD, for £6.99 from Our Price in Basildon. I had clearly already got the early Wire albums by this point, and I was beginning to snap up records by their off-shoots such as Dome, although I no longer own them all. I saw Wire for the first of three times to date (including once when known just as Wir) in May 1990.
My gig-going reached a double peak towards the end of September, when I saw The Fall and Siouxsie And The Banshees on consecutive nights.
The Fall were performing alongside the Michael Clark dance troupe in I Am Curious, Orange at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, which I went to with Kris. A worthwhile £7.70 spent as I got to see MES and co. for the first time, complete with Brix atop a giant burger.
I later managed to pick up a bootleg cassette from the show two days later, as I continued to collect tapes of all the gigs I’d been to that I could!
I then paid my first visit to the Royal Albert Hall for the Banshees, again alongside Kris, but this time also with Graham. They were supported by a band called D.F.D., about whom memory and the internet reveals nothing at all.
This time, the gig cost £8.50, quite a sum at the time, but I saved on buying the bootleg as I was able to get a copy of Graham’s later. This was when the band were touring their Peepshow album, which was only released a couple of weeks before the show.
This was their finest album for several years, including the innovative Peek-A-Boo, and the band played much of it at the show.
I was busily taping Peel sessions, adding ones by Stump, The House Of Love and Billy Bragg to my tape collection this month, as well as one by Michelle Shocked broadcast on the Andy Kershaw show. I went on to see all of these acts live, mostly later in 1988.
I also got some other tapes off Kris this month – the Banshees’ very patchy, gloomy second album Join Hands from 1979, Public Image Ltd’s 1980 live album Paris Au Printemps and a Peel session by The Nightingales from the same year.
Another live album that was issued that month was The Smiths’ Rank, recorded two years earlier, which I snapped up on (brown!) cassette fairly shortly after its release.
Towards the end of September, I started my first year at The University Of Sheffield, meeting a regular future gigmate John on my first night at Ranmoor House, and another in Phil during my first week, who lived a couple of doors down my corridor from me. They both remain good friends of mine.
I also saw soul band Rufus Stone in my opening week at Ranmoor, in the company of Phil and John, as well as (apparently!) my neighbour Tony, who was a firm classical loyalist, so that surprises me.
October brought me five more gigs in Sheffield, accompanied by Phil and John on four occasions, although only twice was it all three of us. First up was local band Boy On A Dolphin at The Limit, a free gig, with the even more obscure (and forgotten) Big Wide World in support, with the three amigos in attendance.
Hugo Largo had the unique line-up of two basses, violin and vocals, with their 1987 debut Drum ep produced by Michael Stipe. TPE’s third album End Of The Millennium Psychosis Blues had been released the previous month, which I picked up on cassette. As well as Phil, I was joined at this one by one of John’s course-mates, the oddly-named and slightly older Warrick.
I was back at the same venue five days later, to see Scots The Big Dish, again with Phil and John. I have no idea now why we went to this, but as it was only £1.70 it can’t have been that big a decision, even as a poor student.
I’d booked tickets for three gigs before arriving at Sheffield, trusting to fate that I would find people to go with, as I didn’t feel ready for solo gigging at that stage. I ended up with gig-mates for all three, going with John to see The Wonder Stuff back at the Lower Refectory for the princely sum of £4.50, supported by The Hollow Men from Leeds.
The Stuffies were touring their debut The Eight Legged Groove Machine record, released the previous August, which I had bought on cassette and was packed full of indie pop classics of the time.
My final October gig brought the three amigos to the university’s Octagon Centre for my first of seven times to date seeing The Wedding Present, supported by The Heart Throbs, for just £4.50.
This was a year before the Weddoes’ second album Bizarro, so the set was chock full of their early, perhaps greatest, tunes, while The Heart Throbs were a welcome second string.
October saw the release of The Peel Sessions ep by The Smiths, which I bought on CD soon thereafter. Also, Sonic Youth’s classic Daydream Nation came out, which I initially had on a tape from Phil. I got to see the Youth in action in March 1989.
I was starting to get into punk and hardcore this year, as evidenced this month by my taping a Nomeansno Peel session from May that Phil had a copy of. The last day of the month brought another highlight, in the twelfth Peel session by The Fall featuring both Dead Beat Descendent and Cab It Up!. I’d also picked up a bootleg tape of The Fall in Glasgow from April 1982 that month.
However, the highlight of the month was an adventure as I took a solo trip to visit my sister in Liverpool for the weekend. The Saturday involved my second ever stint on The Kop as Liverpool were held to a 1-1 draw by Millwall, followed by a trip to the Royal Court in town for a killer triple bill of live music. All for just £6.
Topping the bill was Billy Bragg, who was then promoting Workers Playtime, still probably my favourite album of his. Support came from Michelle Shocked and The Beatnigs, who had at least one classic number in Television. Inevitably, I have both the Bragg and Shocked sets as bootleg cassettes.
I can’t link to any Shocked on either Spotify or YouTube, which is a shame as I still have a soft spot for her. I wonder how much of that is to do with her controversial remarks about homosexuality since becoming a born-again Christian, while still seemingly being a lesbian.
A couple of interesting moments in Bragg’s set were a lounge jazz version of Life With The Lions, with the encores ending with reworked version of a Prince song as Acid Rain.
A week later was some kind of major event at Ranmoor, as an 80p ticket enabled me to see eight pretty unknown bands. In order they were Hey Scott Groover, The Visitors, Minor Prophets, Disco Reptiles, Phil Murray & The Boys From Bury, The Happening Men, Fos and finally Haze.
I taped a Peel session by The Colorblind James Experience in November, as well as getting a tape off Kris that featured the not-great goth album God’s Own Medicine by The Mission, backed with a load of Fall rarities, including b-sides, bootleg tracks and Peel recordings.
My Bloody Valentine’s classic Isn’t Anything album came out in November, which I got a tape of fairly swiftly, either from Kris or Phil, not picking it up on CD until September 1989.
December kicked off with another £1.70 Thursday night trip to the Lower Refectory, this time to see the mighty Stump, quirking out as only they could. The next night was another major event at Ranmoor, this time being some kind of official Christmas party, with tickets costing £9 each.
The Happening Men were back, while also on the bill were The Rhythm Sisters, Premier Jazz, The Wood Children and Empty Bed Blues.
I was back in Upminster at the end of term (having to take down my carefully-constructed montage of pictures and posters from my room’s walls for the holidays) in time to pack in five London gigs before Christmas, plus one out in the wilds of Essex, all in the space of ten days.
This included my first two trips to the Brixton Academy, sandwiching my first visit to the National Ballroom in Kilburn. First up was The Jesus And Mary Chain, whose Psychocandy album I got on CD that Christmas from my parents.
Also on that bill was the intense Pussy Galore and Velvet Underground-esque The Perfect Disaster, who featured Josephine Wiggs, later of The Breeders (whom I got to see for the first time in June 1992). I went along to this with Kris, Graham and his future wife Vida, and someone called Rob.
The gig in Kilburn was with my other gig-mates Phil and John (who had yet to meet Kris, but a combination of the three of them subsequently accompanied me to many a gig over the years).
First on the bill was Kitchens Of Distinction, a perhaps underrated band who got rather buried in the shoegaze scene that was about to emerge. I have no recollection of the other support act (The Giant Lizards), but the night was topped in style by The Sugarcubes, and I of course still have a bootleg tape of their set.
Listening back to it reveals Einar Örn dominating proceedings a little. Also, although about half the set was from Life’s Too Good, another half were to be released the following September on sophomore record Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week! Disappointingly, they didn’t play their best-known song, Birthday, which had topped the Festive Fifty in 1987.
I returned to the Brixton Academy with Kris to see Siouxsie And The Banshees again, this time supported by the challenging Suicide, who antagonised a large chunk of the crowd, but greatly appealed to my love of the unusual.
Kris and I joined schoolmate Stu as well as Graham and Vida at the Mayflower Hall in Billericay to see Fine, whom Fantasy Dogs had mutated into, alongside Horseflesh and headliners The Twentieth Century Rabbit Band.
Kris and I returned to north London for two consecutive nights of The Fall at the Town & Country Club (now The Forum), with Jer also in attendance, whom Kris had met at a previous Fall gig. Two lots of £7 were well spent, with a further outlay of £4 required for a tape of the first night’s show.
Apparently, that second show was Brix’s last gig with The Fall until 1994. Scouse popsters Benny Profane supported on both nights (see my revisiting of their Trapdoor Swing album here if you want to know more about them!), while we also caught Philip Shoenfelt at the first show.
One of these gigs brought one of my oddest acts as a music fan, as I took along an apple which I proceeded to roll towards Brix at some point in the set, who gave me a very quizzical look. I think I had planned on taking a (slightly more relevant) orange, but there wasn’t one in my parents’ fruit bowl, so for some strange reason I plumped for the apple! I feel pretty sure this act was unconnected to her imminent departure from the band…
Christmas brought the usual treats, including John Peel’s Festive Fifty, where I probably first heard the likes of The Four Brothers, Inspiral Carpets, King Of The Slums, Dinosaur Jr., Zambians Shalawambe, The Butthole Surfers and Dub Sex when he played his favourite sessions of the year (I got to see the first four of those bands live soon thereafter).
I recorded the sessions and the chart itself across four tapes, but missed the first night as I was at the first Fall gig. As I was also at The Fall for the second night, I must have got my dad to tape the show for me!
As part of my research for writing this article, I recently dug out these tapes to listen to them again. It’s odd listening to radio shows from thirty years ago, especially when they’re interrupted by news broadcasts. Even more so on the second night of the Festive Fifty, as Peel has to make several traffic announcements relating to the Lockerbie bombing, as emergency services were rushing to the scene of what was ‘only’ seen as an air crash at the same time as his show was going out.
Other contemporary events mentioned include Peel passing a kidney stone (!), and his relief at Liverpool’s 1-0 Boxing Day win at Derby County that moved the reds up three places to third in the table, after a run of four League games without victory.
The Festive Fifty was at peak white-boy indie kids with guitars phase (leading Peel to label it “very conservative” as it came to a close), with only a few notable exceptions. Public Enemy’s Night Of The Living Baseheads was the only entry from their classic It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back LP at #50 (I eventually got to see them in December 2015, as reviewed here), Shalawambe’s Samora Machel from their session featured at #37 and 14 Days In May by Brit hip hop pioneer Overlord X came in at 28.
The Fall featured a remarkable six times in the Festive Fifty, the most in this year’s chart, but far from their record, which was a stunning ten in 1993. The Wedding Present appeared five times, with Pixies and Morrissey each having four entries, meaning practically half of the chart was taken up by just four acts.
Here’s the Shalawambe track as they’re not on Spotify:
Bands I probably heard properly for the first time in the Festive Fifty itself included James, Cocteau Twins and Robert Lloyd & The New Four Seasons, led by The Nightingales’ former singer. I later saw both James and Cocteau Twins in concert.
Another video as there’s no Robert Lloyd on Spotify:
My third tape of the Festive Fifty is probably the pick of the bunch, featuring the likes of Sonic Youth’s Silver Rocket at #29, and Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More by Mudhoney (or Mud Honey as I wrote on my tape box as that must have been the first time I’d come across them) at #31.
In those long-pre-internet days, I only had Peel’s words to help me identify the tracks, which resulted in some phonetic spelling of the Amayenge and Ukrainian Weddoes session numbers.
I also recorded a repeat of the October E. Smith Youth session in December, in which Sonic Youth covered four Fall songs. Here’s Rowche Rumble:
I got at least one more CD off my parents for Christmas, Half Man Half Biscuit’s CD combining Back In The D.H.S.S. and The Trumpton Riots e.p. (a band I’ll be seeing live for the third time imminently). I bought the Hardcore Holocaust (87-88 Sessions) – The Peel Sessions compilation CD from HMV on Oxford Street (that no longer exists), which included the likes of Electro Hippies, Extreme Noise Terror and Napalm Death. I saw the last of these in Sheffield in March 1989.
Another crucial acquisition in December was the NME’s Indie City double cassette compilation, which probably introduced me to bands like Cabaret Voltaire, Josef K, The Normal and The Mekons, although some of them may have been on my radar already.
Possibly the best find on the tapes though was …And The Native Hipsters’ There Goes Concorde Again.
A sadder event that month was the death of Roy Orbison, whose Roy Orbison And Friends: A Black And White Night I think I’d seen on TV earlier that year, featuring the likes of the rather-uncool-to-me-at-the-time Bruce Springsteen and the more interesting Elvis Costello and Tom Waits. I had had a 7” single of The Big O’s Ooby Dooby for some time, but didn’t buy an album for a while.
1988 probably brought my first experiences with the likes of Another Sunny Day and The Field Mice from Sarah Records, the twee-est of indie labels, and the modern, more minimalist end of classical music in Philip Glass and Michael Nyman, the latter two through Adrian, who lived in the room directly below mine. I got to see the latter live in October 1991, at the Royal Festival Hall.
1988 ended for me with only my third visit to Roots Hall to see Southend United this year (compared with thirteen times in 1987) on New Year’s Eve, all of which no doubt in the company of school-friend and Shrimpers’ fan Ian. This was a 2-1 Third Division defeat by Bristol City, and was the third time I’d seen them lose in 1988 (including a trip to Craven Cottage), with the other match ending in a draw.
What a momentous musical year 1988 was for me, as I attended 28 gigs in total (a healthy number, but far off my peak, which was 42 in both 2003 and 2004), discovered loads of great new and old bands I still love to this day, and made tentative steps towards maybe growing up one day!
Although there have already been requests (OK, one request!) for this series of articles to continue, I shall probably leave these reminiscences here.
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Below is a playlist of some of the songs and artists referenced in this article, both great and so-so.