Music to My Years: 1989

It’s the last year of the 1980’s *sob* on Music to My Years. In 1989 I didn’t really have much direction. I had just started to have a serious relationship with my first husband, Daron, and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do for a living. After two interviews for music stores – HMV and Our Price (both of which had tests on music knowledge), I landed a job in HMV in Guildford for the summer. It was there where they would have a video of latest releases on every lunchtime and would play full albums each day. At least one of my influences on this list is from that daily video! The closing track each day was ‘Especially for You’ by Kylie and Jason in a bid to get customers out of the job and CDs had just started to become a ‘thing’ with a whole corner of the shop dedicated to them! The rest was vinyl and I can recall one of my jobs one day was upstairs in a big storage room removing price stickers from a load of record covers!

After the summer and my job finished, I went on to get a job at Boots in Woking on their record counter. I was pretty much left in charge of all the record counts and stock updates and can recall the faces of many of the ladies I worked with there – but cannot remember their names! But two of them and I, would dance a lot to many of the records we would play!

It’s funny because looking back at 1989 and had we still been in that year, my tastes were a little different from this list and I believe that number one would have not been the one I have picked this week had we actually been in that year. The passage of time however, has made me appreciate different things – especially lyrics – and that is the reason for my choices this week.

As I am now a radio presenter on Radio Ninesprings, and I will be sharing my Top 10 all week and sharing 1 track from the list each day, Monday to Friday, on my show from 3pm. Plus, there is now a compilation show on Sunday’s at 6pm.

So, from the year I was born taking me right up to 2021, I am going to be sharing my top 10 chart songs from the year in question.

10. Straight Up by Paula Abdul

I could have chosen many of the tracks off this lady’s album Forever Your Girl to put in my top ten so I have gone with her very first single from it. I can remember absolutely loving dancing to this one and would have it on in my car all of the time! This was the year I passed my driving test and had my new-found freedom. It meant I could play my own music in my car (a beaten up Datsun my brothers and sisters called Bertha after Henry’s car in Neighbours) and I found a complete appreciation for music and driving. I still love it now. It seems to complete help me to forget all of my troubles – or wallow in and then deal with them!

I think this was her only successful album and years later she was to become a judge on American Idol. It reached number 3 here in the UK and number 1 in the US.

9. You’re History by Shakespear’s Sister

This song would play every lunchtime when I was working in HMV. I was fascinated with the fact that Siobhan Fahey had formed a new group with Marcella Detroit (an incredible singer) and that she was also in a relationship with Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics.

This song suited Siobhan’s voice in a much better way. It seemed more ‘her’. She was singing something within her range and left the vocal gymnastics to Marcella. It reached number 7 on the UK charts.

8. Miss You Much by Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson’s ‘Rhythm Nation’ had a hard act to follow after Control was such a big hit with me – but she didn’t do too badly with the likes of the title track as well as Black Cat and this tune – which was my favourite from the album.

Lyrically, the song narrates a longing to reconnect with a romantic partner after time spent apart. It received Grammy Award nominations for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best Rhythm & Blues Song and won the award for the Top Hot 100 Single of the Year and the American Music Awards for Favourite Dance Single and Favourite R&B Single. Meanwhile, it only got to number 22 here in the UK.

7. We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel

This is an absolutely incredible song. A bit like me celebrating my 50th, Billy Joel celebrated his 40th year on this planet by writing this song. A song which included brief references to 118 significant political, cultural, scientific, and sporting events between 1949and 1989 in a mainly chronological order. It is fast-paced and brilliantly put together.

The song was nominated for the Grammy Award for Record of the Year and became his third single to reach number one in the US. It got to number 7 in the UK.

6. This Woman’s Work by Kate Bush

Had this been the year 1989, there is no way that this would have made my top ten for this year. However, given the passage of time and the events in my life, the lyrics to this song and the beauty of it’s arrangement have come to mean a lot to me.

Written for the film ‘She’s Having a Baby’ by John Hughes, it is used during the film’s dramatic climax, when Jake (Kevin Bacon) learns that the lives of his wife, Kristy (Elizabeth McGovern), and their unborn child are in danger. The video for the track was directed by Kate Bush and features Tim McInnerny pacing around the waiting room of a hospital.

Written from the man’s perspective and beautifully observant by Kate Bush, it only reached number 25 in the UK.

5. The Look by Roxette

I don’t think that this group had a bad single release whatsoever. I could have gone to a number of songs from them including ‘Dressed for Success’ but I had to choose this one. It became one of the most successful singles of 1989, topping the charts in 25 countries, and was the first of their four number ones in the US. It reached number 7 here in the UK.

4. The Invisible Man by Queen

Over the years, this has become one of the more forgotten tracks by Queen – but it is still an absolutely incredible song from them. I used to love it each time it came onto the radio so I had to include it!

It was written by Roger Taylor and namechecks each member of the group. Roger also has a part in the vocals and is the announcer of Freddie’s name. Taylor claims that he got the inspiration to create the song while reading a book, and the bassline instantly came to his imagination. The song title was inspired by the H. G. Wells novel of the same name.

3. Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Still such a tune, one of my favourite memories of this song is performing it on Rock Band on the PS4! Unsurprisingly, one of my favourite songwriters of all time had a hand in this – Jeff Lynne – who was Tom Petty’s writing partner for the album ‘Full Moon Fever’ from which this song was taken. Jeff Lynne also provided backing vocals and bass guitar.

The two wrote the song in just two days and is Tom’s highest charting and most successful songs. It reached number 7 and only ever got to number 59 here in the UK. Lou Reed had more taste though and selected the song as one of his “picks of 1989” as have I!

2. My Brave Face by Paul McCartney

If this was an album track pick chart then I would have chosen ‘You Want Her Too’ – a fantastic duet with Elvis Costello (go and look it up!) but this is the next best as it is written by Paul with Elvis Costello – two more of my favourite songwriters.

It peaked at number 18 here in the UK and at number 25 in the US. It was to be his last charting single before getting back in with Kanye West in 2014 and as of 2020 is the last US top 40 hit with any former Beatle in the lead credit.

It is basically all about a man trying to deal with the fallout of a break-up and is the second best lyrically great song on this chart. It would have never got to this spot in the actual year of it’s release and is another passage of time song for me.

1. Nothing Ever Happens by Del Amitri

This is another song which is a passage of time brilliance for me. Del Amitri are a fantastic band who have written some brilliant lyrics. If you know me, then you will know that the words are probably the most important part of a song for me.

This song contains some of my favourite lyrics of all time including ‘While American businessmen snap up Van Goghs for the price of a hospital wing’. It is full of fantastic observational wording. Just take a listen closely and you will see what I mean.

It reached number 11 in the UK Singles Chart and was the band’s biggest hit in the UK. And rightly so.

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