You could see the end of an era in 1988 – the '90s were visible on the horizon; the Reagan presidency was winding down; retirement was looming for Dirty Harry; Bruce Springsteen’s marriage ended; the great Louis L’Amour went to the big second-hand bookstore in the sky.

Accepted norms were falling. MTV put a hip-hop show on its regular schedule – unthinkable not so long before. Major League Baseball put rhetorical guns to the figurative heads of the city council in Chicago, compelling them to install lights at Wrigley Field, so fans could watch the Cubs lose after sundown. Baltic states that had survived for decades under the thumb of the Soviet Union began to wriggle free of their rule, and the grease that loosened the grip was music.

Ah, music – that best of all societal lubricants. College stoners and hipsters alike could groove to the incredible new Jane’s Addiction record. Jimmy Page, Patti Smith, Brian Wilson and Little Feat staged comebacks, and though some of the music with which they came back was middling, the high points were very high, indeed. Speaking of very high, Ace Frehley busted up Frehley’s Comet (whether he knew it or not was unclear), while his old buddies in Kiss were playing daytime slots, opening for Iron Maiden on the European Monsters of Rock Tour. The U.S. had its own Monsters of Rock, led by Van HalenScorpions and a loud little band called Metallica. And metal’s yin and yang – Stryper and Slayer – made fine records that had would-be angels and demons alike banging their heads all summer long.

There were blockbuster films, of course (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Coming to America), and sad goodbyes to television favorites, both short-lived (Sledge Hammer!) and long-lasting (Solid Gold). Heavy-hitters were born (we’re looking at you, Tyson Fury and Conor McGregor) and lost (Nico, Roy Buchanan, Jesse Ed Davis). To paraphrase Crash Davis in Bull Durham, we were dealing with a lot of … excrement.

Some of the best and saddest stuff happened in the middle of the year, between Memorial Day and Labor Day – the summer of 1988.


eBay
eBay
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Van Halen, Scorpions Headline U.S. Monsters of Rock Tour

What do you call a monster that weighs 970 tons and requires 56 trucks to tote around, three stadium-width stages to hold five sets of musicians, and $350,000 per night to set up, put on and tear down? You call it the 1988 Monsters of Rock tour, featuring Van Halen, Scorpions, Dokken, Metallica and Kingdom "We've Never Heard of Led Zeppelin" Come. For 28 shows in 23 cities between Memorial Day and July 30 that year, the festival stomped on all who dared part with the $25 it cost to enter. The bands that performed went on to very different fates after the tour. Van Halen continued on the successful jaunt behind their OU812 album. The Scorpions began their downward slide of commercial viability in the U.S. Dokken broke up shortly afterward. Kingdom Come's 15 minutes of notoriety elapsed. And Metallica was never heard from again.

 

Paramount
Paramount
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Eddie Murphy Scores Royally Big Hit With 'Coming to America'

Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) and his right-hand man Semmi (Arsenio Hall) leave the kingdom of Zamunda, to escape the pampered lifestyle and enable the prince to learn how to live a life of his own choosing in this 1988 comedy classic. Of course, Prince Akeem finds love, along with some hardship and the unique soul stylings of Randy Watson and his band, Sexual Chocolate. Murphy was on a commercial hot streak at the time, and the $290 million global gross for Coming to America only added to his run.

 

Geffen Records
Geffen Records
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Jimmy Page Returns With 'Outrider'

Few rock-star solo debuts were as highly anticipated as Jimmy Page's Outrider. Coming as it did mere months after Zep-mate Robert Plant's hit Now and Zen album (and amidst a constant spate of reunion rumors), Outrider faced a mountain of expectation, one it could not help but fail to fulfill. Yes, there's a fine collaboration with Plant, "The Only One," and a great closing track with Chris Farlowe ("Blues Anthem [If I Cannot Have Your Love]"), but too much of the record seems derived from templates that were 20 years old at the time. Outrider was a stumble out of the gate, one that might not seem so bad now, had Page bothered to follow it up with a more substantial sophomore effort. That he didn't (or couldn't) makes the album seem an even greater disappointment.

 

Patrick Riviere/Getty Images
Patrick Riviere/Getty Images
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THAT'S a Sequel: Paul Hogan Returns in 'Crocodile Dundee II'

The surprise hit of 1986, Crocodile Dundee introduced the U.S. to the Australian actor Paul Hogan, in a fun, humurous fish out of water tale. These were the '80s, so a sequel was almost a forgone conclusion, and in the summer of 1988, Hogan and company complied, pitting everyone's favorite onetime Outback resident against a Columbian drug cartel in a contrived, overly slick follow-up. Hogan's charm and humor almost save the film, and definitely contributed to the oversized box office returns – $240 million globally.

 

Paul Natkin, Getty images
Paul Natkin, Getty images
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Winger Bring Virtuosity to Lite Metal With Debut

At a time when every lite-metal guitar player with a distortion pedal and the tablature for Van Halen's "Eruption" wanted to be considered a virtuoso, Winger, a band of actual virtuosos, slid onto MTV to rock among the poofy-haired pretenders, and wound up being regarded as a generational joke. This was, for the most part, incredibly unfair, though classically trained front man Kip Winger didn't help matters any, with his torn shirts and his pirouetting and come-hither leer in the band's videos. The fact of the matter, though, is Winger (the band) was awesome – and what did they do with all that mastery? They cut a song about falling for an underage girl ("Seventeen"); another song about a different woman who's bound to do you wrong ("Madalaine"); a power ballad of such anguish, it sounded like an avalanche crashing in slow motion ("Headed for a Heartbreak"); and a cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze," just because they could.

 

20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox
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Not a Boy, Not Yet a Man: Tom Hanks Goes 'Big'

This film is where Tom Hanks becomes Tom Hanks – where the goofy comedic leading guy of Bachelor Party, Splash and The Money Pit successfully proves himself capable of a deeper, more nuanced performance, worthy of consideration for both Academy Awards (he was nominated) and for weightier roles, like those in Sleepless in Seattle, Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, and others. In Big, Hanks plays Josh, who makes a wish before a fortune teller machine at a carnival – to be "big." His wish is granted overnight, as he wakes up the next morning in the body of a grown man. Over the next several weeks, he gets his dream job, falls in love, and discovers, in spite of it all, he really is just a boy in a grown-up's body. Big grossed $116 million in the U.S. and was one of the year's … um … biggest films.

 

EMI Records
EMI Records
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Robert Palmer Delivers Irresistible 'Heavy Nova'

"Simply Irresistible" galloped onto radio playlists in late June 1988, proving Robert Palmer's resurgent success with 1985's Riptide was no fluke. Cut from the same cloth as his earlier No. 1 hit, "Addicted to Love," Palmer ups the beats per minute, tells Eddie Martinez to wail on the guitar solo, and basically sings his piece in the most debonair manner possible, because he's Robert-Effing-Palmer. Elsewhere on Heavy Nova, Palmer molds a couple modern R&B classics (the Gap Band's "Early in the Morning" and Jermaine Jackson's "Tell Me I'm Not Dreaming") in his own image, takes a crack at a pop standard ("It Could Happen to You"), and sings a track with a little island flavor ("Change His Ways"), among other treats. In all, Heavy Nova was another commercial highlight for Palmer and a great collection of tunes to groove to for the rest of the year.

 

YouTube
YouTube
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'The Morton Downey Jr. Show' Debuts in National TV Syndication

Was our cultural tendency toward uncivil discourse the result of The Morton Downey Jr. Show? Of course, it wasn't – bar fights existed before the program, as did riots, world wars and arguments between relations at the Thanksgiving Day table. Downey's show merely invited its combatants into a television studio and turned cameras on them, then allowed the host – pugnacious, amped-up, vitriolic Downey – to introduce them, light up a cigarette and, rather than referee the opponents, jump into the fray himself. On June 1, 1988, The Morton Downey Jr. Show debuted in national syndication, beginning a tumultuous year of controversy at maximum volume, until it was canceled in July 1989.

 

WWE / WCW
WWE / WCW
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Hulk Hogan & "Macho Man" Star in Inaugural WWF SummerSlam

Pro wrestling fans the world over laid down their hard-earned money on August 29, 1988, for a World Wrestling Federation (WWF) pay-per-view classic. The headline event was a tag-team match for the ages, with Hulk Hogan and "Macho Man" Randy Savage (fighting as the Mega-Powers) taking on Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant (fighting as the Mega-Bucks), with Jesse "Future Governor of Minnesota" Ventura in the questionable role as ring official. The match was about 15 minutes of back-and-forth fare, with the babyfaces (the Mega-Powers) and the heels (the Mega-Bucks) trading winning moments, before Andre knocked both Hogan and Savage out of the ring. Miss Elizabeth – Savage's wife and manager – began arguing with Ventura and, in a moment of heightened tension, she tore off her skirt, revealing red panties underneath. This distracted all her husband's enemies and – well, you'll have to watch to see how it ended. And you can do just that here. We suggest all you Hulkamaniacs check it out.

 

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.
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Jane's Addiction Drop Instant Classic With 'Nothing's Shocking'

It's difficult to describe what it was like hearing Jane's Addiction's Nothing's Shocking for the first time in 1988. Here was a band that made a holy racket that layered the Cure's most gothic moments with the expansive palette found in Led Zeppelin III. And yes, that's simplifying things a great deal (remember – it's difficult to describe), but hearing the feedback-and-vocal "Up the Beach" lead into "Ocean Size" was positively galvanic, a mind-blast one didn't easily get over. To close your eyes while listening to "Summertime Rolls" on headphones yielded visions of shapes and constellations you'd never even imagined before. "Jane Says" was like listening to Lou Reed tell a story over the first minute and a half of Zeppelin's "Over the Hills and Far Away," only the Lou Reed you were hearing could sing. "Had a Dad," "Pigs in Zen" – one synapse-flaring moment went by after another. If there was one truly classic album released in 1988, it was this one.

 

picture alliance via Getty Image
Fryderyk Gabowicz / picture alliance, Getty Images
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Hillel Slovak Dies

Red Hot Chili Peppers' founding guitarist Hillel Slovak died June 25, 1988, of a heroin overdose at the age of 26. Slovak co-wrote several songs on the band's debut, but did not play on it. His first record with the Chili Peppers was their George Clinton-produced sophomore effort, Freaky Styley (1985); by the time of 1987's The Uplift Mofo Party Plan, however, heroin had made its way into the band, with Slovak and singer Anthony Kiedis becoming addicted. After a tour abroad to support The Uplift Mofo Party Plan, during which both men struggled to maintain sobriety, Slovak ensconced himself in his home and cut off all contact with his bandmates. He was found dead not long after. When asked by NME about his former bandmate in 2022, Kiedis noted, "The energy of Hillel Slovak has never truly faded."

 

Getty Images
Getty Images
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Lakers Beat Pistons in Game 7 of the NBA Finals

It was the best professional basketball could give us in 1988 – "Showtime" versus "The Bad Boys," in a seven-game NBA Finals for the ages. The smooth, athletic, stylish (not to mention defending champion) Los Angeles Lakers – the team of Magic, Worthy and Kareem – squared off against the physical, smash-mouth, bullying Detroit Pistons – the Laimbeer / Dumars / Isiah crew that pummeled opponents into submission. The finale of the series, which took place on L.A.'s home court on June 21, surpassed expectations – a back-and-forth affair that went down to the final seconds, with the Lakers winning and repeating as back-to-back champions.

 

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YouTube
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U.S. Shoots Down Iranian Passenger Plane, Killing 290

On July 3, 1988, toward the end of the Iran-Iraq War, the U.S. Navy's guided-missile cruiser USS Vincennes and frigate USS Montgomery exchanged fire with smaller Iranian gunships that were threatening a Pakistani oil tanker in the Persian Gulf. At the same time, Iran Air Flight 655 took off from nearby Bandar Abbas International Airport – a joint civilian/military facility – with 290 people aboard, bound for Dubai. The Vincennes mistook the civilian airliner for a smaller, faster fighter jet, and shot down the plane, killing all aboard and driving a deeper wedge in U.S./Iranian relations.

 

John Atashian, Getty Images
John Atashian, Getty Images
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Bad Company Strikes Chord With 'Dangerous Age'

It still felt odd calling the Brian Howe-fronted Bad Company, Bad Company, even in 1988. Still, that year's Dangerous Age was strong, much stronger than it had any right to be. "No Smoke Without a Fire" was a monster arena singalong, and "Shake It Up," "One Night," and "The Way That It Goes" followed in similar fashion, while "Something About You" was pure power ballad goodness that enabled Howe to show off his sensitive side, to lovely effect. Yes, they were not Bad Company as we had known Bad Company, but for a while there, they were a pretty cool rock band, and Dangerous Age showed listeners why.

 

MGM
MGM
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Ron Howard Casts a Spell With 'Willow'

In this early-summer Ron Howard-directed fantasy film, Warwick Davis plays the titular character, a dwarf magician on an adventure to protect the life of a baby princess from a sorceress who has foretold of her own future demise at the child's hand. Critical opinions on the film were mixed, but it was nevertheless a modest hit, with $57 million in domestic box office receipts, and $80 million more globally.

 

YouTube
YouTube
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Sitcom 'Sledge Hammer!' Finale Airs

In the '80s, few movie cops were as well-known (or as ripe for parody) as Clint Eastwood's "Dirty Harry" Callahan, who, with his Smith & Wesson .44 magnum handgun (the nominal co-star of every Dirty Harry film) shot first and let others ask questions later. With episode titles like "Magnum Farce," "Death of a Few Salesman" and "Hammeroid," ABC's Sledge Hammer! was the perfect satirical send-up of Eastwood's antihero, attracting a cult following that followed the show to its many time slots over two seasons, as ABC found itself unable (or unwilling) to provide it with a stable place on its prime time schedule. On Feb. 12, 1988, the network aired the series' last episode, and on June 30, Sledge Hammer! was aired for the final time.

 

Columbia
Columbia
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Bob Dylan Gets 'Down in the Groove' on Underappreciated Album

"l spend too much time working out the sound of my records these days," Bob Dylan told Rolling Stone in 1986. "And if the records I'm making only sell a certain amount anyway, then why should I take so long putting them together?" Indeed, why not just toss out 10 or so tracks from a hodgepodge of different sessions each year? That was the strategy (such as it was) behind Knocked Out Loaded in 1986, and Dylan repeated it for Down in the Groove in 1988. And though the record was pilloried at the time (and continues to be), it's not nearly as bad as you've heard. With songs like the Robert Hunter co-write "Silvio," the gospel-infused "Ninety Miles an Hour (Down a Dead End Street)," and the bluesy rock on "Sally Sue Brown" and "Had a Dream about You, Baby," Down in the Groove ain't Blonde on Blonde, but it's as solid an effort as Dylan was capable of delivering at the time, and should be viewed in a more complimentary light.

 

Larry Marano, Getty Images
Larry Marano, Getty Images
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Two Killed at UK Monsters of Rock Show

Aug. 20, 1988 saw the staging of the annual Monsters of Rock show at Castle Donington, U.K. As usual, the bill was a who's-who of hard rock and metal acts, headlined by Iron Maiden and featuring Kiss, David Lee Roth, Megadeth, Guns N' Roses and Helloween. Tragedy struck during GNR's set, when two fans (of the 107,000 in attendance) were killed after collapsing in a crowd surge at the front of the stage. The band was unaware of the extent of the situation until later that evening.

 

Orion Pictures
Orion Pictures
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Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon Hit It Out of the Park with 'Bull Durham'

Bull Durham, which was released in June 1988, may well be the best baseball movie of all time. Some might say Field of Dreams – another Kevin Costner flick about our national pastime – is better, but that film, good as it is, doesn't even try to depict the baseball life, as Bull Durham does. No Iowa corn field can portray the slog through the minor leagues that every player must face to get to "the show" – the major leagues – or the brotherhood of the players, the exasperation of the coaches, the pleasures of getting to know the fans, those other obsessives. Costner's "Crash" Davis, Tim Robbins' "Nuke" LaLoosh and Susan Sarandon's Annie Savoy all love the game, and Costner and Sarandon's characters light a romantic spark that gives the largely comedic story some serious depth. Bull Durham is one for the ages, and will be loved for as long as there are people inside or outside baseball, who love the game.

 

John Moore/Getty Images
John Moore/Getty Images
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Seattle Plunged Into Darkness for Five Days

On August 31, 1988, construction workers in Seattle accidentally drove a steel piling through a city power cable, causing a short circuit that resulted in a fire in a downtown electrical vault. The fire destroyed six light lines, plunging the city into a power outage that spanned 50 blocks and lasted five days, during a late-summer heatwave that saw temperatures reaching the upper 90s in some spots. It was the worst power outage in Seattle's history at the time, resulting in losses for businesses in the affected areas, and medical concerns about the city's elderly citizens. According to Seattle's municipal website, the city paid out $1.5 million in damage claims after power was restored.

 

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
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Jean-Michel Basquiat Dies

Hip-hop icon Fab 5 Freddy once said of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, "Jean-Michel lived like a flame. He burned really bright. Then the fire went out. But the embers are still hot." Whether as a graffiti artist or a leading light in the burgeoning Neo-expressionist movement of the early 1980s, Basquiat's influence has been felt for nearly five decades. He achieved international fame during his life, with exhibitions the world over, and his work, particularly since his death, has been some of the most sought-after and highly valued in the world of art collectors (that's Basquiat's painting Profit I that Metallica's Lars Ulrich painfully parts with in 2004's Some Kind of Monster). Basquiat died August 12, 1988, at the age of 27. The cause was an overdose of heroin.

 

SeaChange Technology, Getty Images
SeaChange Technology, Getty Images
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Shark Week Debuts on Discovery Channel

Who knows why Shark Week – Discovery Channel's annual weeklong slate of programming dedicated to all things Selachimorpha – is as mind-bendingly popular as it is? Jaws was popular once, too, and it wasn't because Robert Shaw was so charming. Viewers just have a fascination with apex predators and deep (or shallow) water; they want to confront the things they fear, and what is more fearsome than an enormous fish with rows of sharp teeth and a powerful olfactory sense, enabling them to literally smell blood underwater? Starting with a program called Caged in Fear (about motorized shark cages), Shark Week debuted July 17, 1988. The ensuing years have left no doubt – every year, Shark Week fans wait in anticipation to gobble up this programming.

 

Focus on Sport, Getty Images
Focus on Sport, Getty Images
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Mike Tyson Is Crowned Undisputed Champ After Defeating Michael Spinks

The boxing match dubbed "Once and For All" on June 27, 1988, featured two men who could legitimately lay claim to being the heavyweight champion of the world. Mike Tyson held the titles from all three of the sport's sanctioning bodies; Michael Spinks was the lineal champion – the "man who beat the man, who beat the man," and was considered champion by some, since he had not been defeated inside the ring. Tyson took care of that in 91 seconds; his final act in the ring that night was a glancing left to Spinks' head and a short right to the temple, sending Spinks back to the canvas for good, his eyes rolled back and equilibrium gone. Tyson was crowned the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.

 

Virgin
Virgin
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Steve Winwood Underwhelms With 'Roll With It'

In one of the most disappointing switcheroos of 1988, Steve Winwood released the single "Roll With It" in May and got listeners geared up for summer with a song that hearkened back to old Motown and Stax records, and to the R&B-centric hits Winwood had while fronting the Spencer Davis Group in the mid-'60s. When he released the Roll With It album in June, listeners found it clogged up with over-processed synthesizers on songs like "Put on Your Dancing Shoes," "The Morning Side" and the seven(!)-minute "Don't You Know What the Night Can Do?" – a song that sounded so much like a Michelob commercial, they put it in a Michelob commercial. The only track on the record that could stand with "Roll With It" was the gorgeous ballad "One More Morning," but, great as it was, it didn't make you want to dance the summer away, as "Roll With It" did. Winwood never quite scaled such commercial heights again.

 

YouTube
YouTube
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Presidential Election Opponents Are Set – Bush v. Dukakis

As the United States closed in on the end of the 1980s, it saw the end of President Ronald Reagan's administration, which had governed the country for the bulk of the decade. Reagan's Vice President, George H. W. Bush, was selected as the Republican nominee at the party's convention in New Orleans in August. He picked 41-year-old Indiana Senator Dan Quayle as his running mate. Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis won 30 of the primary contests and defeated Rev. Jesse Jackson at the Democratic party convention in Atlanta in July. He selected Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen as his running mate. The Bush/Quayle ticket defeated Dukakis/Bentsen by a landslide in the 1988 Presidential election, collecting 426 electoral votes to the Democratic ticket's 111.

 

YouTube
YouTube
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Solid Gold Dims the Lights

If you are of a certain age and have long maintained a love of pop music, chances are you were a fan of Solid Gold, the syndicated TV show that featured bubbly hosts, scripted banter, pop stars lip synching their hits and, of course, choreographed dance routines to the Top 10 songs of the week. First hosted by Dionne Warwick, Solid Gold began its sparkling weekly run in September, 1980, with appearances by Irene Cara and Chuck Berry, kicking off eight seasons in which everyone from Air Supply and Christopher Cross to Kiss and Twisted Sister got up on the lighted stage and mimed in front of an appreciative audience. The pop party ended July 23, 1988, when Solid Gold (with Arsenio Hall and Nina Blackwood hosting) signed off for the final time.

 

Chrysalis
Chrysalis
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Pat Benatar's 'Dreamland' Gives the '80s One Last Blast

Her popularity on the wane in 1988, Pat Benatar (with hubby/guitarist Neil Geraldo) loaded up one last, glorious fusillade of commercial rock to see the decade (and her time as a hitmaker) off, with Wide Awake in Dreamland. "All Fired Up" was the first single and biggest hit, a radio-friendly anthem that everyone from the kiddies to the used-to-be kiddies could use as a rallying cry. "Cool Zero," "Let's Stay Together" and the title track likewise dialed up the distortion and pumped up the volume, giving Benatar hefty hunks of raw protein to sink her voice into. Three years later, Benatar would re-emerge with True Love, doing B.B. King covers with a horn section, ostensibly to branch out stylistically, though it still sounded like she could belt out "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" at any moment. Wide Awake in Dreamland was an inadvertent farewell to her time on top, and a terrific one at that.

 

Buena Vista
Buena Vista
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America Asks, 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?'

Released to theaters June 22, 1988, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? put a cartoon-hating detective (Bob Hoskins) in the unlikely position of helping a "toon" rabbit (voiced by Charles Fleischer) prove his innocence in a murder case involving the rabbit's wife (voiced by Kathleen Turner). The innovative melding of animation and live action captured the imaginations of viewers, who flocked to theaters around the world to watch it and plunked down $156 million (domestically) and $330 million (globally) for the privilege.

 

YouTube
YouTube
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'Yo! MTV Raps' Debuts in U.S.

On Aug. 6, 1988, MTV – the network that famously had to be threatened for them to play Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" video – debuted Yo! MTV Raps, an American version of a hip-hop program that had already been running on MTV Europe the previous year. Eric B. & Rakim's "Follow the Leader" was the first video played on the show, which ran initially on weekends only, with DJ and hip-hop pioneer Fab 5 Freddy hosting. Playing a mix of pop-oriented songs (like LL Cool J's "Goin' Back to Cali" and Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince's "Parents Just Don't Understand") with smart, edgier material from the likes of Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, and Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock, Yo! used its time to educate viewers on the full spectrum of the music and hip-hop culture, not just the tracks you could hear on Top 40 radio.

 

YouTube
YouTube
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Three Italian Jets Collide During Air Show at Ramstein Air Base

Seventy people were killed and 400 injured on Aug. 28, 1988, when three Italian jets collided while performing at the Flugtag '88 air show at the U.S. Air Force's Ramstein Air Base, in what was then West Germany. Before a crowd of 300,000, the 10-plane Italian Frecce Tricolori aerial demonstration team were flying a close "pierced heart" formation, when one plane clipped two others, sending those two crashing onto the runway. As for the other, according to Stars and Stripes, "The lone plane came at the crowd tail down, crashing in flames" into onlookers. Medical response to the tragedy made things considerably worse. Because Ramstein is an American military base, German ambulances were initially prevented from entering the scene, according to Wired. Additional delays occurred due to confusion in communications, delaying some of the worst injury cases from reaching hospitals.

 

Rita Barros, Getty Images
Rita Barros, Getty Images
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Patti Smith Returns After 9 Years With 'Dream of Life'

Nine years away from the studio did not dull Patti Smith's vision or voice, and though "People Have the Power" (deservedly) gets much of the attention, Dream of Life features more songs to recommend. "The Jackson Song," a lullaby for her son, is heartfelt and beautiful; "Looking for You (I Was)" rocks, though perhaps not as hard as earlier material; "Up There Down There" is more like it, as she rails at the sins humans have committed against the earth. It would be eight years before Smith put out another record; Dream of Life was not enough to hold fans over, but in the end, it simply had to do.

 

YouTube
YouTube
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40th Emmy Awards: 'Thirtysomething' and 'The Wonder Years' Triumph in Surprise Wins

Debut series Thirtysomething (Outstanding Drama Series) and The Wonder Years (Outstanding Comedy Series) were surprise winners at the 40th annual Emmy Awards, held Aug. 28, 1988 in Pasadena, Calif., and broadcast live on Fox. The Wonder Years' first season was only six episodes, and the series was up against perennial winners Cheers and The Golden Girls. Thirtysomething was in the same drama category with defending winner L.A. Law, which was up for 15 awards that year (it won one major award, for best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, which went to Larry Drake).

 

Mike Powell, Getty Images
Mike Powell, Getty Images
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Steffi Graf Double-Bagels Opponent to Win French Open in 32 Minutes

There was little Steffi Graf had to do to prove she was the best women's tennis player in the world, but just to leave no doubt, on June 4, 1988, she went into the French Open women's final and did another extraordinary thing. Facing 13th-seeded Soviet Natasha Zvereva, Graf played two overwhelming sets and won the title 6-0, 6-0. To this date, it is the only "double-bagel" final (in which the loser doesn't score) in Grand Slam tennis history. The match lasted 32 minutes (the official duration was 34 minutes, due to a rain break), the shortest women's match ever at the tournament, and the shortest women's singles Grand Slam final in the Open era.

 

YouTube
YouTube
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Louis L'Amour Dies

Chiefly an author of Western "frontier fiction," novelist Louis L'Amour wrote 100 novels and more than 250 short stories in his lifetime, and sold more than 300 million copies of his work. Born Louis LaMoore in 1908, L'Amour, according to his obituary in the New York Times, wrote five manuscript pages per day, seven days per week, and published three books a year for much of his career, most for Bantam Books. Several of his novels were adapted for films – most famously Hondo (1953, from his story "The Gift of Cochise"), starring John Wayne, and Heller in Pink Tights (1960, adapted from his novel Heller With a Gun), starring Anthony Quinn and Sophia Loren. Though a non-smoker, L'Amour died of lung cancer on June 10, 1988, at the age of 80.

 

David McNew/Getty Images
David McNew/Getty Images
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Summer Drought in US Results in Thousands of Deaths

In 1988, much of the United States was plunged into the most severe drought since the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s. Record low rainfalls in the spring led to prolonged drought conditions in the north central part of the country; El Niño conditions in the Pacific Ocean in 1986 and 1987 caused drought conditions in 1988 on the West Coast and Pacific Northwest. The eastern part of the country was likewise affected. In total climate experts estimate 45% of the country experienced the drought, but the effects were felt far beyond that, in terms of lost crops, lost lives and severe economic implications. It is estimated the drought resulted in more than $70 billion in damages to agriculture and related industries and up to 10,000 deaths due to heatwaves.

 

Enigma
Enigma
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Stryper Follows Up 'Devil' With 'God'

It can be argued that Christian metal has yielded no better album than Stryper's 1986 classic To Hell With the Devil. If that's true, it's not for lack of effort by the band – just listen to the title track of In God We Trust, on which their two guitarists (Michael Sweet and Oz Fox) shred like heathens, and Sweet (whose brother Robert is the band's trip-hammer drummer) screams like his feet are touching something hot. It's a level of intensity the group largely maintain for the entire album, when they're not going back to the power ballad well ("I Believe in You," "It's Up 2 U") to try to match the success of their biggest hit of the previous album, "Honestly." Stryper was a great metal band that just happened to lean heavily on the Bible bangin', and In God We Trust is proof positive of their power and their glory.

 

Touchstone Pictures
Touchstone Pictures
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Tom Cruise Throws Around Bottles, Elizabeth Shue's Affection, in 'Cocktail'

Released in late July 1988, Cocktail is the movie that made exhibitionist bartending popular for about 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes is also about the length of time it takes Tom Cruise's character, bartender Brian Flanagan, to seduce Elizabeth Shue's character, Jordan, impregnate her, and then break her heart. Of course, he wins her back again by the end of the film, because it's a Tom Cruise movie. For some reason, cinema patrons flocked to this thing, to the tune of $171.5 million in worldwide gross. The soundtrack was also responsible for embedding Bobby McFerrin's earworm "Don't Worry, Be Happy" in millions of us, and also enabling the worst-ever Beach Boys song, "Kokomo," to top the charts.

 

HUlton Archive, Getty Images
HUlton Archive, Getty Images
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Radio Station Puts $1M Bounty on Elvis Presley's Head

Elvis Presley died in 1977, and nearly immediately there were doubters – people who could not believe the King of Rock 'n' Roll had shuffled off this mortal coil, not to mention in such an ignominious manner (Vegas, pills, toilet). A subset of the doubters spotted Presley everywhere – gas stations, fast-food joints, trailer parks, airports, taxis, UFOs. Nearly 11 years after his death – in July 1988 – WYHY-FM in Nashville, Tenn. had had enough. It was time for the King to show up or for his spotters to shut up. The station offered a cool $1 million to anyone who could bring Presley to their studio for an interview. Sadly, Presley was a no-show.

 

Polydor
Polydor
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Moody Blues Fizzle Out With 'Sur La Mer'

The resurgence of the Moody Blues that began with 1981's Long Distance Voyager ended in 1988, with Sur La Mer. "I Know You're Out There Somewhere," conceived as a sequel to 1986's "Your Wildest Dreams" (the band's final Top 10 hit), kicked off the record and was its most notable track. Like the earlier hit, the song had a palpable aura of longing, of memory touching off a heart-heavy feeling of regret and lost opportunities. It's a stirring six-plus minutes, front-loaded onto an album that mostly succumbs to pleasant emptiness, glassed over by synths and shimmery guitars and little of the lyrical potency that would or could move a listener.

 

Michael Putland, Getty Images
Michael Putland, Getty Images
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Nico Dies

Nico was a model, an actress and the singer on one of rock's most influential albums –The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967). The record was not a commercial success, but its merits as a foundational art-rock masterpiece cannot be understated. Nico went on to record more music on her own, most notably her debut, Chelsea Girl (1967), which featured covers of Bob Dylan, John Cale and Jackson Browne, among others. She wrote all the songs on her next record, 1968's The Marble Index, and the one after that, Desertshore (1970), and she kept writing most of her subsequent albums, though taking a lengthy break in the second half of the '70s. During that period, she developed an addiction to heroin that would hobble her personally and creatively for 15 or so years. Nico died July 18, 1988, from a head injury sustained in a bicycle accident.

 

MCA
MCA
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Glenn Frey Goes 'Soul Searchin''

The Al Green-isms of "True Love" – the first single from Glenn Frey's 1988 album Soul Searchin' – gave every indication of what the record was about, which was the former Eagle using old soul music as the template for his new songs. Too bad those songs weren't all that great. No cookie-cutter arrangement was going to save a preachy annoyance like "Livin' Right"; no horn chart could clean up the Springsteen-ish caricature of "Working Man"; no level of true heartbreak could make "I'm Some Kind of Blue" feel genuinely rhythm and bluesy. So many missed the Eagles after their turn-of-the-decade split; so many would welcome them back in 1994. With Soul Searchin', however, it's hard to imagine even the most fervent of their fans caring one bit what Frey was up to.

 

Rob Verhorst/Redferns, Getty Images
Rob Verhorst/Redferns, Getty Images
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Compilation Shows Off the True Best of Santana

By 1988, Santana was due for a new compilation, and Viva Santana! was a revelation. There were Woodstock versions of "Persuasion" and the incredible "Soul Sacrifice." There were outtakes from lousy Santana records like Shango and Freedom, which sounded better than anything on those albums. A recording of "Dance Sister Dance" from the second California Jam show in 1978 was sandwiched in with rehearsal jams and live cuts from the band's modal jazz period. There's also a sublime take on the immortal "Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen" from Montreal in 1982 that provides excellent accompaniment to a lovely sunset. Viva Santana! showed what a solid compilation should and could be for a band with a vault deep enough to deliver the goods.

 

20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox
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Greatest Christmas Movie Ever – 'Die Hard' – Hits Theaters

Bruce Willis first starred as John McClane in July 1988, fighting off terrorists at the Nakatomi Plaza. Die Hard was an instant hit, positioning Willis – then best known as a wisecracking private eye on TV's Moonlighting – as a bona-fide action star. The film grossed more than $140 million worldwide and spawned four sequels over the next 25 years. But is it a Christmas movie? It takes place at Christmas time; there are Christmas decorations all over the building that serves as its setting; Christmas music is heard multiple times in the film. Sure, it's not A Christmas Story, It's a Wonderful Life, Christmas Vacation, or whatever the Hallmark Channel plays all season long. But does it have to be any of those things to be not just a Christmas movie, but the best one ever? We think not.

 

Columbia
Columbia
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Blue Öyster Cult's 'Imaginos' Finally Sees Release

In 1986, on the back end of their slide from arena-packers to county fair headliners, Blue Oyster Cult did what any self-respecting band would do, under the circumstances – they broke up. Then two years later, they once again did what any self-respecting band would do – they got back together to record a concept album of songs written by their ex-drummer (which in turn were based upon poetry written by their manager and producer). Imaginos' conception began just after BOC recorded their first album in 1972, and pieces of it had popped up on subsequent records, beginning with 1974's Secret Treaties. The plot of the story was less Revölution by Night, and more Convölution by Everyone, but Imaginos does feature some solid material, and Blue Oyster Cult got to say farewell to recording for the next decade with a good, if confusing, record.

 

Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Hulton Archive, Getty Images
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Slayer Travels 'South of Heaven'

If you open up a portal to hell (the real one, not the one in Michigan) and listen really closely, you're likely to hear Slayer's fourth studio album, underneath the screams and wailing of all the tormented souls forced to listen to it. Speaking of tormented souls, is Tom Araya mourning the deaths of infants in "Silent Scream," or moshing in celebration? When he sings "Ambushed by the spray of lead / Count the bullet holes in your head" in "Mandatory Suicide," is he speaking figuratively, or literally, and if the latter, how does he suggest managing that? And when the band sinks its demonic claws into Judas Priest's "Dissident Aggressor," do they mean to bury Rob Halford, or praise him? South of Heaven has been out a long time, and such questions still linger.

 

Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball
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Night Baseball Finally Played at Wrigley Field

Night games had been played in Major League Baseball since 1935 in every ballpark but one – Chicago's Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs. According to the Chicago Tribune, it took the MLB Commissioner's Office threatening that no postseason games (should the Cubs make the playoffs) would ever be played at Wrigley, to get Chicago's City Council to relent and allow the lights at the stadium to be turned on for baseball after dark. The first night game was supposed to be Aug. 8, 1988, with the Cubs hosting the Philadelphia Phillies. There was a ceremony, and the lights were turned on with great pomp and pageantry, but Mother Nature intervened, and the game was called before becoming official. The first game under lights at Wrigley is thus credited to the Aug. 9 game, in which the Cubs beat the New York Mets 6-4.

 

Ron Galella Collection via Getty
Ron Galella Collection via Getty
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Bruce Springsteen Separates From Julianne Phillips

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's Tunnel of Love Express tour in 1987 and 1988 found the Boss with a new foil onstage – singer Patti Scialfa, who increasingly shared the spotlight with Springsteen, particularly during more intimate songs like "Tougher Than the Rest" and "One Step Up, Two Steps Back." Turns out they weren't just playing it up for the audiences – they had fallen in love, which would have been undisputedly awesome, were Springsteen not already married to actress and model Julianne Phillips. On June 17, Phillips' divorce attorney publicly admitted she and Springsteen had split.

 

Roger Ressmeyer, Getty Images
Roger Ressmeyer, Getty Images
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Huey Lewis & the News Get Serious With 'Small World'

Huey Lewis & the News were a great bar band that made good, and from 1982's Picture This through 1986's Fore! they gave us albums of feel-good radio fodder, informed by old-school R&B and whatever occupied the top half of your local pool hall's jukebox. But this was 1988, and a number of our favorite rock dudes wanted to let their inner Sting out for a bit, get all serious with the platitudes and preachin' and such, often to critical and commercial disappointment. So it went for Lewis and his band of merry musicians on Small World, and with the exception of "Perfect World" (the kind of big-sounding, meat-and-potatoes single we expected from them, and loved), listeners responded as expected, with a collective yawn.

 

YouTube
YouTube
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The 'Singing Revolution' Begins in Estonia, Helps Bring Down Soviet Rule in Baltics

When Estonia was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, few thought that the nation would regain its independence, much less regain its independence by using the power of music. But a perfect storm of political movements, economic uncertainty, environmental threats and a Soviet power structure rotting from within combined to lay the groundwork for change. Onto the stage stepped Estonian composer Alo Mattiisen, whose song cycle 5 ärkamisaegset laulu ("5 songs from the period of awakening," or, as more commonly known, "Five Patriotic Songs") debuted in May 1988 at the Tartu Pop Festival, in Tartu, Estonia. By year's end, demonstrations for independence all over the nation included performances of the piece. By 1991, those early protests begat a revolution, and Estonia and other Baltic states regained their self-determination.

 

Robert Cray
Alexandra Wyman, Getty Images
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Robert Cray Band Brings the Blues Out of the 'Dark'

Even in a period in which blues and blues-influenced guitarists like Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn and ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons were selling records and selling out big performance venues, Robert Cray's Strong Persuader (1986) was a surprise hit. When it came time to follow up that improbably popular album with Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, Cray followed the same template, smoothing out any edge that might have sounded even slightly rough, and wound up with a gold record. The title track is a highlight, and cuts like "Acting This Way" and "Across the Line" gave listeners what they wanted – pleasant but non-essential late-decade blues.

 

Columbia
Columbia
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Big Audio Dynamite Throws a Dance Party on 'Tighten Up Vol. 88'

Though not regarded nearly as highly as B.A.D.'s first two records, Tighten Up Vol. 88 is still a fun album and its best songs serve as fine turntable material for the kind of party depicted on the record's cover. "Champagne," "Other 99" and "The Battle of All Saints Road" will please dance floor high-steppers and toe-tapping wallflowers equally. "Esquerita" is the sole rocker on the album, and probably sounds harder than it actually is, because of all the synthesizers and percussion in the other tracks that surround it.

 

Polydor
Polydor
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Roy Buchanan Dies

Roy Buchanan was the guitarist's guitarist for much of his adult life – a sideman who could coax just about any tone, for any kind of music, from his Fender Telecaster. He was rumored to have been asked to join the Rolling Stones, after Brian Jones' death, and turned them down (this has been disputed by many sources, none more vociferously than Keith Richards himself). Buchanan recorded prolifically under his own name in the '70s, earning two gold records (Second Album in 1972 and 1977's Loading Zone) in the process. Buchanan struggled with alcoholism, but was thought to have embraced sobriety, until he was arrested for public intoxication on Aug. 14, 1988. He hanged himself in his jail cell that night.

 

Geffen
Geffen
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Danzig Brings the Evil on Debut

Danzig is what AC/DC could have become had they, after Bon Scott's funeral, brought a clearly freaked-out Jim Morrison back to life, then, with the smoke still rising from the Lizard King's skin, they'd proceeded to the closest recording studio, sat him in front of a microphone, and made him sing about everything he'd experienced and thought about the previous decade, while wandering through the afterlife. Of course, that didn't happen, so we have to settle with ex-Misfits and Samhain front man Glenn Danzig, whose band in 1988 was a dead ringer for Angus and Malcolm Young and their rhythm section of choice. Everything on Danzig rocks and rocks hard; the album is, if anything, under-appreciated considering its quality. Luckily, even the least appreciated music can one day be discovered anew; Danzig is worth such reappraisal.

 

Ebet Roberts, Getty Images
Ebet Roberts, Getty Images
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Freedom Fest Decries Apartheid and Celebrates Nelson Mandela

With activist Nelson Mandela languishing in a South African prison, musicians from around the world played a globally broadcast concert at London's Wembley Stadium, on June 11, 1988, to benefit organizations opposed to South Africa's pro-apartheid government and to honor Mandela and agitate for his release. Among those performers speaking out against institutionalized racial segregation were Peter Gabriel, Sting, Dire Straits, Eric Clapton, George Michael, Simple Minds, Whitney Houston, Eurythmics and Tracy Chapman. According to Classic Pop, the concert was broadcast to 67 countries and an audience of 600 million people worldwide. Mandela was released from prison in 1990.

 

Bryan Bedder, Getty Images
Bryan Bedder, Getty Images
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Michael J. Fox Weds Tracy Pollan

Three years after Tracy Pollan appeared on Family Ties, playing Ellen Reed, the love interest of series star Michael J. Fox's character, Alex Keaton, the pair were wed, saying "I do" on July 16, 1988, in a private service in Woodstock, Vermont. At least, it was meant to be private. Paparazzi found out where the nuptials were happening and descended upon the small town. "It was nuts," Fox recalled in People. "Inside, it was like anybody else's wedding. It was a house party. We rolled back the rugs and danced the night away. You've got everyone in the world that you love in a one-acre area, and five idiots are flying over your head." The two remain wed to this day.

 

YouTube
YouTube
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Bobby McFerrin Plants Earworm in America's Skull

When jazz vocalist Bobby McFerrin released "Don't Worry, Be Happy" on July 24, 1988, neither he nor his record company (Manhattan Records) had any idea it would be the chart-topping hit it wound up being. They might have understood that its placement in a Tom Cruise movie (Cocktail) would likely get the song heard by a sizable audience; they might even have thought the song's music video (featuring actor/comedians Robin Williams and Bill Irwin) would catch some attention. But a No. 1 record? A place on "Worst Songs of All Time" lists? The likelihood of such attention was nil. But the song – an a capella recording of McFerrin's voice, overdubbing multiple parts – caught on, lodging in people's heads like the fantastic earworm it is. The one-man-vocal-band approach yielded an indelible hit, one of the most memorable songs of its own or any other time.

 

Adrian Murrell/Allsport/Getty Images
Adrian Murrell/Allsport/Getty Images
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Elton John Strikes Back After Throat Surgery

Elton John needed a hit in 1988 – his previous two studio albums (Ice on Fire and Leather Jackets) had been critically dumped on and sold less than expected or desired, and he had undergone throat surgery in early 1987 that, while successful, had kept him from performing for a while. He got the hit – "I Don't Want to Go on With You Like That" rose to No. 2 in the U.S. – but the album from which it came, Reg Strikes Back, was a so-so affair. "A Word in Spanish" was a pleasant plea for romance; "Since God Invented Girls" is a beautiful ballad that invokes Brian Wilson in lyric, though not music; "Heavy Traffic," with its acoustic guitar strumming, evokes Paul Simon's early solo material, in a good way. But there are more songs you'll avoid after hearing them, which was unfortunate. John wouldn't see the inside of the Top 10 again for another four years.

 

Tri-Star
Tri-Star
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'Rambo III' Sends Stallone to Afghanistan

Sylvester Stallone's depiction of John Rambo got increasingly less realistic as the sequels to 1982's First Blood went on. By the time 1988's Rambo III came around, the strong, resourceful, emotionally damaged character of the first film had become a virtually invincible superhero, waging a one-man assault on the Soviet army in the midst of their war against the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan. This was the last of the original set of Rambo movies; Stallone took the franchise out of mothballs 20 years later, for 2008's Rambo, with a more reluctant, less invulnerable (but just as violent) take on the character.

 

Atlantic Records
Atlantic Records
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Tori Amos Learns to Be Tori Amos on 'Y Kant Tori Read' Album

Who knew, upon experiencing the sweep and chill of Tori Amos' 1992 Little Earthquakes album, that there was an earlier Amos project – a synth-pop record whose cover featured an Aquanetted Amos in full '80s rock chick regalia, brandishing a sword? And though her band Y Kant Tori Read and its namesake album bored critics and were ignored by record buyers in 1988, one can hear the beginnings of the baroque flourishes and powerful songwriting that would eventually make Amos the iconic figure she became in the '90s and beyond.

 

Robert Knight Archive/Redferns, Getty Images
Robert Knight Archive/Redferns, Getty Images
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Ace Frehley Plays Last Show With Frehley's Comet

Ex-Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley's 1987 comeback album Frehley's Comet was an unexpected pleasure, considering Frehley's well-earned reputation for substance-fueled mayhem, a reputation he unfortunately bolstered on tour and thereafter, during the recording of the 1988 follow-up record, Second Sighting (credited to Frehley's Comet). That Second Sighting, according to accounts, was completed at all was largely due to the combined efforts of co-vocalist and guitarist Tod Howarth, bassist John Regan, and the record's production team, which included engineer Scott Mabuchi and executive producer (and future radio host) Eddie Trunk. Unfortunately, problems persisted on that tour, opening for Iron Maiden, and by the end of it – at the Summit in Houston, Texas on July 31 – Frehley's Comet was no more.

 

Universal
Universal
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Aykroyd and Candy Take to 'The Great Outdoors'

Take Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, a bald grizzly, a pair of redheaded twins, a 96 oz. steak, a budding teenage romance and three hungry raccoons, get Howard Deutch to film the whole thing, and release it to a public yearning to be entertained, and … well, not much happens. Released in the middle of summer, The Great Outdoors was met with yawns by most critics and moviegoers alike, earning just over $41 million in box office receipts.

 

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.
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Little Feat Lets it 'Roll' in Comeback Bid

Though Lowell George's interest in and contributions to Little Feat albums before his death in 1979 seemed to wane, the idea of Little Feat without him was largely unthinkable … until 1988, when the band made Let It Roll without him. Principals Richie Hayward, Paul Barrere and Bill Payne brought in Craig Fuller of Pure Prairie League as the band's new front man, and the resulting album offered a few fine, funky approximations of the classic Little Feat sound ("Hate to Lose Your Lovin'," the title track), amidst a collection of soft-rock cuts ("One Clear Moment," "Hangin' on to the Good Times," "Voices on the Wind").

 

Sire/Reprise
Sire/Reprise
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Brian Wilson Returns

Even though by 1988, one could be forgiven for expressing surprise that Brian Wilson was sufficiently healthy in body and/or mind to record a solo album, the release of his self-titled LP that summer was greeted with muted praise from those who expected more or better from him. Missteps notwithstanding (like the eight-minute "Rio Grande"), there are enough moments of clarity and beauty on Brian Wilson to warrant continued listening, all these years later. "Love and Mercy" continues to be a beacon in difficult times, and tracks like "Melt Away," "Let It Shine" and "Baby Let Your Hair Grow Long" recall early triumphs and beloved classics. There's even the wordless "One for the Boys," on which Wilson stacks his vocals in a mountain of harmony, in tribute to his brothers and former bandmates, his partners in soundtracking so many sweltering summer days.

 

YouTube
YouTube
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Iran – Iraq War Ends, Capping Eight Years of Conflict

In September 1980, Iraqi military forces launched an invasion of Iran, believing the neighboring nation to be weakened by its global isolation, following the 1978 revolution that installed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as Iran's de facto leader, and the hostage crisis with the U.S. Territorial disputes between the nations also festered, leading to cross-border incursions between the two militaries and the Iraqi use of chemical weapons, both on Iranian targets and Kurdish civilians inside Iraq, who were thought to be sympathetic with their Iranian neighbors. The war ended in a virtual stalemate on Aug. 20, 1988, with Iraq and Iran's mutual acceptance of a United Nations-brokered ceasefire. The casualty count over the eight years of conflict is thought to have reached between 1 and 2 million.

 

Capitol/EMI
Capitol/EMI
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Crowded House Make Not-So-Mediocre Follow-Up With 'Temple'

According to Rolling Stone, Crowded House's second LP had the working title Mediocre Follow-Up during early recording sessions. It was anything but. Though more dour in overall tone, Temple of Low Men's quality exceeds that of the band's hit debut – it is a masterwork of alternative pop, cementing band leader Neil Finn's stature as a songwriter of no small talent or emotional heft. The overarching tenor of the album can be found in a line late in "Love This Life": "Gonna love this life / Though you'll never know why." With songs that touch on infidelity, death, crumbling relationships, and other not-so-pleasant topics, listeners largely stayed away, but the melodies and performances will have you singing along, even as the band cracks your heart in two. Go find this wonderful record, now, and try to think of how it could have gotten by so many listeners upon its release.

 

Epic
Epic
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Cheap Trick Hits No. 1 With 'The Flame'

In 1987, when Cheap Trick convened in a California studio with producer Richie Zito to begin recording their album Lap of Luxury, Epic, their record company, tried to get them to record tunes from professional songwriters, an idea they resisted as best they could. Finally, Zito and Epic A&R man Don Grierson sold the band on "The Flame," a tune written by British writers and producers Bob Michell and Nick Graham, which band members initially hated. They recorded the song grudgingly, hopeful that acquiescing to Epic's wishes might gain them more label support, and that support might, in turn, lift them out of their career doldrums. Did it ever. "The Flame" was released in March 1988, a month in advance of Lap of Luxury, and on July 9, the song ascended to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart – the first (and thus far only) time Cheap Trick ever had a No. 1 pop record.

 

Bob King/Redferns, Getty Images
Bob King/Redferns, Getty Images
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Deep Purple Proves 'Nobody's Perfect' on Live Record

This mess of a double live record reflected the mess that was the reunited Mk. II version of Deep Purple – even the album's title seems like an apology. What had seemed so promising in 1984 (with the release of Perfect Strangers) had, by 1988, turned sour for all involved, and it leaks out of the grooves here, from Ian Gillan's proto-dad humor in the introductions and winking asides during his crowd patter, to incongruent instrumental flights of fancy. The shame of it is that tracks like "Highway Star," "Child in Time" and "Perfect Strangers" will melt your speaker wires and singe whatever hair you have exposed. Two years later, Gillan would be jettisoned for a spell, in favor of Joe Lynn Turner, with Ritchie Blackmore to follow not long thereafter.

 

YouTube
YouTube
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Michael Jackson's "Dirty Diana" Becomes Fifth Single From 'Bad' to Hit No. 1

Though Michael Jackson's Bad did not sell as many copies as did its predecessor, Thriller, it did do something extraordinary. Of the seven singles released from the album in the U.S., five – the first five – hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. The list of these reads like the top of radio and MTV playlists from the summer of 1987 to the summer of 1988 – "I Just Can't Stop Loving You," "Bad," "The Way You Make Me Feel," "Man in the Mirror" and "Dirty Diana," which hit the peak July 2, 1988. To this day, Jackson is the only male artist to have five songs from a single album hit No. 1. Only Katy Perry has matched the feat, sending five singles from her 2010 album Teenage Dream to the top slot.

 

Universal
Universal
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Jesus Christ! Scorsese's 'Last Temptation' Stirs Controversy

Films about the life of Jesus Christ are usually embraced by religious audiences – those eager to evangelize their beliefs to others, or simply to find a semblance of communion in viewing such films with others of their faith. From The Robe in 1953, through King of Kings in 1961, to The Passion of the Christ in 2004, Jesus' life was reliable film fodder, occasionally even box office gold. Not so with Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ, released in August 1988. Scorsese's depiction veered dramatically from accepted Biblical dogma, imagining Jesus (played by Willem DaFoe) descended from the cross, marrying, and living out a relatively normal life. Conservative religious groups protested theaters; more radical elements threatened Scorsese with death; one group even staged a terrorist attack on a theater in Paris that showed the film. The Last Temptation of Christ grossed $34 million during its theatrical release.

 

Georgia Satellites
Della Perrone
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The Georgia Satellites Announce They Are 'Open All Night'

Few surprising success stories of the '80s were as unexpected or as successful as the Georgia Satellites' 1986 major label debut album, or its first single "Keep Your Hands to Yourself." Southern rock meets Sticky Fingers-era Stones, meets your favorite local cover band – the Satellites made raucous rock 'n' roll and worked it so hard, you could hear the sweat dripping off their guitar strings. Of course, they followed it up with Open All Night, which followed the same template but went nowhere, but not because it wasn't a fun record. Indeed, if you dig AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Black Crowes, you will find much to enjoy here. Got a cookout or backyard party you want to soundtrack with something that'll complement your barbecue? Queue up Open All Night and turn it up.

 

CarlStudna
Carl Studna
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Depeche Mode Plays to 60,000 at the Rose Bowl, Record Show for '101'

On June 18, 1988, the 101st and final date of their sprawling world tour in support of 1987's Music for the Masses, Depeche Mode descended upon the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California to perform in front of more than 60,000 fans. Auteur D.A. Pennebaker filmed the show – along with a copious amount of footage of fans who had traveled from near and far to attend – for the much-lauded 1989 documentary Depeche Mode 101 (the soundtrack, simply titled 101, was also released in 1989 and went gold). The film was illustrative of Depeche Mode's burgeoning popularity, and of their fans' undying devotion to the band and their music.

 

Rick Stewart, Getty Images
Rick Stewart, Getty Images
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Boston Red Sox Go From 10 Games Back to Winning AL East

One of the greatest turnarounds in Major League Baseball history happened in the summer of 1988, when the Boston Red Sox switched managers and reversed course, to turn one of the most miserable seasons into one of the most remarkable. Had you taken a look at the American League East standings on June 13, you would have seen the Red Sox in fifth place, with a record of 28 wins and 30 losses, 10 games behind the division-leading New York Yankees. They were only marginally better at the All-Star break – 43-42 and nine games out. That's when the team fired manager John McNamara, and replaced him with their third-base coach, Joe Morgan. Something strange happened. The Red Sox started winning – a 12-game streak after the All-Star break. The team climbed in the standings and, miraculously, won the AL East with an 89-73 record. Unable to keep the magic going, they were swept by Oakland in the American League Championship Series, 4-0.

 

A&M
A&M
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Iggy Pop Rocks Again With 'Instinct'

With 1986's slick Blah-Blah-Blah and his cover of "Real Wild Child (Wild One)", Iggy Pop might have seemed ready for some rock action that resonated with radio and an expanded audience. Then he hired Bill Laswell to produce and ex-Sex Pistol Steve Jones to play guitar very loudly throughout Instinct, his follow-up album. Out went the chances for a hit, but for a very good reason – Instinct is an underappreciated killer of a record, chock full of overdriven noise and patented Pop swagger. "Cold Metal" got played on rock radio for, like, five minutes, and is the track people remember from the album, to the extent they remember anything at all. But there are other solid, crunchy cuts – "High on You," "Squarehead," "Tom Tom" and the title track are also worth putting on in the car for your next highway drive.

 

Pinterest
Pinterest
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'Chess' Checkmated on Broadway

It started as a concept album in 1984, with synth-pop songs and sweeping ballads whose lyrics told the story of an international chess match with a romantic subplot and the overarching subtext of East/West relations during the Cold War. It was Chess, with music by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA, and lyrics by Ulvaeus and Tim Rice. The album spawned hit singles in Murray Head's "One Night in Bangkok" and (in the U.K.) "I Know Him So Well" by Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson. By May 1986, a musical version was beginning a three-year run at the Prince Edward Theatre in London. In 1988, an American production was staged at New York's Imperial Theater; the show was beset by problems almost immediately and critics (most notably, the New York Times' Frank Rich) savaged it. Chess closed June 25, 1988, after 17 previews and 68 regular performances.

 

CBS Television Distribution
CBS Television Distribution
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Controversy-Seeking Minister Says Mighty Mouse Snorts Cocaine

Rev. Donald E. Wildmon gained fame by creating and leading organizations that railed against what he felt was immoral programming on television. In the 1970s, he led boycotts over series like Three's Company, Dallas, Charlie's Angels, All in the Family and others. On June 6, 1988, he took on the most powerful opponent of all – Mighty Mouse. Wildmon claimed that CBS ran an episode of Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures that depicted the super rodent sniffing cocaine. The three seconds of supposed controversial footage did not actually show what Wildmon purported they showed, but were nevertheless cut from the program after the controversy.

 

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.
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Dirty Harry Series Ends With 'The Dead Pool'

If someone were to ask you to picture a grizzled old police inspector who had killed innumerable offenders, hated red tape and bureaucracy, and had told his partner to wear a bulletproof vest, because most of his partners had been killed … you might have pictured Clint Eastwood's "Dirty Harry" Callahan. At least, in 1988 you might have. By then, Eastwood's signature character had been in American pop culture for 17 years, through five films, the last of which was The Dead Pool, which hit theaters in the middle of July and found Callahan hunted by associates of a crime lord he had put in prison. Dirty Harry fans loved it; unfortunately, they were virtually the only ones to see it. The Dead Pool grossed a meager $38 million dollars – the least commercially successful of the Dirty Harry films.

 

Georges DeKeerle, Getty Images
Georges DeKeerle, Getty Images
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Amnesty International Human Rights Now! Tour Opens in London

On Sept. 2, 1988, London's Wembley Stadium was packed for the first of 20 shows on the Amnesty International Human Rights Now! tour, featuring Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Tracy Chapman and Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour. The tour would take the performers around the world, to stadiums around Europe, Asia and North America, and also Zimbabwe and Ivory Coast, before closing out with two concerts in Argentina. In some of the remote locations, creature comforts for the stars were few, and the acts became close both on and offstage. The tour seemed to cement something in Springsteen's mind, in particular – a change in his music. A year after the tour's conclusion, he served notice to the E Street Band that he no longer required their services, breaking up the group that had supported him and his music for 16 years.

 

Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images
Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images
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Yankees Fire Billy Martin for Final Time

To say that Billy Martin was a volatile man is an understatement. But he wanted to win, and that desire was what led New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner to hire Martin. Five times, Martin was brought in as the Yankees' skipper, and four of the five times Steinbrenner fired him for one or another reason (the one time Martin resigned was allegedly to avoid being fired, requiring Steinbrenner to honor his contract). The final time Martin was fired was June 23, 1988, after the Yankees were swept in a three-game series by the Detroit Tigers, starting the series in first place in the AL East, a half-game ahead of the Tigers, and finishing the series in second place, 2.5 games behind Detroit.

 

YouTube
YouTube
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'Live With Regis and Kathie Lee' Goes Nationwide

June 24, 1985 is a date of tremendous significance in daytime television history – it's the date when Regis Philbin welcomed Kathie Lee Johnson (of Good Morning America fame) as his co-host on the local New York talk show The Morning Show. Their onscreen chemistry was instantaneous; Philbin was a good-natured crank, and Johnson (who married pro football Hall of Famer Frank Gifford in 1986 and took his surname) was the sweet, occasionally goofy antidote to Philbin's irascible persona. On Sept. 5, 1988, The Morning Show went into national syndication as Live With Regis and Kathie Lee. Throughout the '90s, the pair was as much a morning ritual as coffee and breakfast to millions of viewers.

 

Real Gone Music
Real Gone Music
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Jesse Ed Davis Dies

The list of classic albums and tracks on which guitarist Jesse Ed Davis played is long and impressive. He began session guitar and piano work on Taj Mahal's first albums in the late '60s, former Byrd Gene Clark's renowned records White Light (1971) and No Other (1974), and albums by John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, in the same period. He was in the band at Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh and also contributed to Neil Diamond's classic Beautiful Noise (1976) and Leonard Cohen's Death of a Ladies Man (1977). He also recorded three solo albums in the early part of the decade. Davis struggled with drug addiction beginning in the mid-'70s, when he was at his hottest as a sideman and first-call session musician. He died June 22, 1988 in the laundry room of his apartment building, apparently of a drug overdose. He was 43 years old.

 

YouTube
YouTube
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Dr. James Hansen Puts a Spotlight on Global Warming

On June 23, 1988 NASA scientist James Hansen testified to the U.S. Senate that he was “99 percent certain” that humans had initiated a state of global warming. ''Global warming has reached a level such that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause and effect relationship between the greenhouse effect and observed warming,'' Dr. Hansen noted, adding, ''It is already happening now.'' Hansen thus became one of the first scientists to publicly address climate change in front of lawmakers.

 

Russell Cheyne/Allsport, Getty Images
Russell Cheyne/Allsport, Getty Images
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Summer Olympics Are Held in Seoul, South Korea

Athletes from 159 nations descended on Seoul for the 1988 Summer Olympics, just the second time the event took place in Asia. Much of the Cold War era boycotts – like those seen at the 1980 (Moscow) and 1984 (Los Angeles) Summer Olympics – had ended. As such, the Soviet Union dominated the medal count, taking home 55 gold and 132 total medals. Several stars emerged for team U.S.A. during the multi-week event, including runner Florence Griffith Joyner (known as Flo-Jo) who took home three gold medals, and diver Greg Louganis who won a pair of golds, even after a scary moment in which he struck his head on the diving board.

 

Ruthless Records / Al Pereira / Michael Ochs Archives, Getty Images
Ruthless Records / Al Pereira / Michael Ochs Archives, Getty Images
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A Pair of Hip-Hop Revolutionaries Hit the Mainstream

The summer of ‘88 saw two major pioneers in the birth of hip-hop earn national attention. First was N.W.A., who shocked listeners everywhere with their prolific debut album, Straight Outta Compton. Released Aug. 8, the album featured such notable tracks as “Express Yourself” and “Fuck the Police.” It would go on to become the first gangsta rap album to go platinum. Meanwhile, just one week after Straight Outta Compton arrived, Public Enemy grabbed national headlines by staging a concert for 250 inmates at New York’s Riker's Island prison. The performance would later be regarded as the hip-hop equivalent to Johnny Cash’s famous Folsom Prison show.

 

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YouTube
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George Michael Bookends Summer With Chart-Topping Hits

Singer George Michael, still riding high on the success of his 1987 album Faith, enjoyed an especially prosperous summer of 1988. It began with his single “One More Try” climbing to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on Memorial Day weekend, where it stayed for three consecutive weeks. He repeated the feat at the end of the summer, when his next single “Monkey” hit No. 1 for two weeks, coinciding with the Labor Day holiday. As such, Michael managed to begin and end summer with two different No. 1 hits.

 

YouTube
YouTube
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Dick Clark Departs ‘Pyramid’

The game show Pyramid – or The $10,000 Pyramid, The $20,000 Pyramid and The (New) $25,000 Pyramid, as it was called at different points – enjoyed a popular run on television beginning in 1973. Prize money wasn’t the only thing that changed over the years – the program also jumped networks and time slots. Still, one thing remained constant: host Dick Clark. Clark, who also served as one of the producers, enjoyed 15 years at the helm of the game show, a run which ended on Sept. 2, 1988.

 

Epic
Epic
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Europe Can’t Match Their ‘Countdown’ Success

In 1986, Swedish rock band Europe took the world by storm with their third studio album, The Final Countdown. Thanks largely to the LP’s emphatic title track, Europe found themselves as glam metal’s hottest new import. In the summer of ‘88, they looked to keep the good times rolling, but their album Out of This World failed to match expectations. Lead single “Superstitious” did marginally well, reaching No. 31 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it proved to be the final Europe song to chart in America. Though Out of This World eventually surpassed a million sales in the U.S., and enjoyed a more enthusiastic response overseas, the proverbial writing was on the wall for Europe’s 15 minutes of fame.

 

Shore Fire Media
Shore Fire Media
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Richard Marx Holds Onto His Vision, Scores First No. 1

Richard Marx wrote "Hold On to the Nights" as an ethereal ballad and recorded it that way, too – his voice and piano form the center of the track, with some synthesizer, subtle guitar figures and fretless bass mixed on the periphery, giving Marx's expression of the lyrics a great deal of space. Of course, Marx's record company told him the drums "took too long to kick in" and that he needed to go back to the studio and do something about it. In his memoir Stories to Tell, Marx wrote: "This was code for 'Make your song sound like every other song.' Though I'd not yet sold a single record, I dug in my heels and said no." He was right, and the song's success proved it. "Hold On to the Nights" was the fourth single from Marx's 1987 self-titled debut album, and the track topped the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart on July 23, 1988.

 

Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Hulton Archive, Getty Images
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U.S. Preps First Space Shuttle Mission Since Challenger Disaster

NASA spent the summer of 1988 preparing STS-26 – the first Space Shuttle mission since the 1986 Challenger disaster, which killed all seven of that ship's crew and shuttered the Shuttle program for 32 months. STS-26, which launched Sept. 29, would be the seventh flight of the shuttle Discovery, carrying five crew members – all of whom were veterans of earlier space missions. The ostensible purpose of the mission, according to NASA, was to deploy a communications satellite into the earth's orbit – a task the crew completed in the first six hours. One could argue the real purpose was to give Americans confidence in the shuttle program again, a mission the flight largely accomplished.

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