Musiccrime (nineteen eighty eight) - The Snow In The Summer or So-So

31 Deceember 2019
"Blue Monday or not, never trust any song that has '88 after the title."

So wrote Tim Worthington in August. Now, Tim's hot on popular culture, we've a lot of respect for his warm and critical nostalgia. But does the implication hold: were all songs with an "88" at the end a bit dodgy?

We can test this with actual research. Cranking up the Big Database of Every Singles Chart Hit Ever, we find there were 15 hits ending in "88". They were, unsurprisingly, all released in 1988. Let's go through them one by one.

Alexander O'Neal - Fake '88
Released in three mixes; the "House" mix was seven minutes of Alexander struggling to be heard over a synthesised drum loop. The "Single" mix ("Short House" mix) was the same but truncated to four minutes by chopping the intro and not bothering with the extended mixout. The "Club" mix ("Hip Hop" on some pressings) was a bit longer. All mixes were by Keith Cohen and Steve Beltran, keeping the keyboard figure in the pre-chorus. The mixes don't add anything significant to Jam and Lewis's original from the previous year, but benefitted from O'Neal's raised profile to reach number 16.
Bill Withers - Ain't No Sunshine '88
Also known as the "Total Eclipse" mix, done by Ben Liebrand. Withers' original vocal is still there, and mostly untouched. The instrumental tune is maintained, but is barely audible beneath doom-laden drumbeats and electronic glissandi. As a hostage to fortune, the 7-inch single was backed with Bill's original version. This remix did well in Europe in the spring, but didn't emerge here until near Christmas, after an undated remix of "Lovely day" had made the top ten. We don't want to hear about sunshine in the middle of December, and number 82 was about what it deserved.
Blondie - Denis '88
The "Dancin' Danny D" remix is a radically different song. Debbie Harry's vocal is chopped and set against a stuttering drum machine, and with a whispered "da-da, da, da-da" throughout. By using all of the settings on the synthesiser, this remix turns a twee song into just on the wrong side of being irritating. All of the interesting bits are crammed into the first 90 seconds. The B-side of the single was Teddy Riley's remix of "Rapture". Another release into the pre-Christmas market, reaching number 50.
Brass Construction - Movin' 1988
The one that goes "Got myself together, yeah" over a jazzy trumpet and chuntering synth solo. Mixer Phil Harding took the original vocal line from 1975 and dropped it over a funky beat similar to the original. This, folks, is how to do a good remix: keep all the bits of the original that still work, and only change what you must. Number 24 in June.
Bryan Ferry - Let's Stick Together '88
To promote his Ultimate Collection album, yesterday's star Bryan Ferry enlisted remixers Bruce Lampcov and Rhett Davies. He told them to tweak the levels, adding some fresher drum patterns into the mix but not making any significant change to the twelve-year-old song. What is the purpose of a remix that sounds exactly like the original? Couldn't we just, like, listen to the original? Number 12 in November, for what it's worth.
Diana Ross - Love Hangover '88
The first verse and chorus is the same as the familiar original, then Phil Harding and Ian Curnow kick in the drums to transform the song from soul to disco. The second half is a little busier than it might be, the song transforms from a swan into a pigeon with ruffled feathers, but this second half could stand on its own merits - as it did on the 12-inch. Number 75 at the end of November, and we understand why - two great halves become less than the sum of their parts.
Kool And The Gang - Celebration '88
Stop us if you've heard this before. To promote their Greatest Hits album, yesterday's stars Kool and the Gang enlisted contemporary remixers Stock Aitken and "Dennis" Waterman. It's got an insistent drum swish and chuntering keyboard through the track, even under the "Everyone around the world come on" bit where we only need to hear the vocals. We can't be bothered to do a note-for-note comparison, but we wouldn't be surprised if SAW re-used this backing track for Kylie Minogue's take a few years later. "Celebration" has been compiled to death, but rarely in this version, which peaked at number 56 in January '89.
Michael Jackson With The Jackson 5 - I Want You Back '88
"Mixmaster Phil Harding" takes the original recordings of "I want you back", gets his mate Ian Curnow to program in some contemporary synths, and mixes in samples of "ABC" and some other Jackson tunes. It's like listening to a sugar rush: fun while it lasts, but we're paying for it immediately afterwards. Number 8 at the start of May, and we have a horrible feeling it inspired a dose of megamixymatosis.
New Order - Blue Monday 1988
A 7-inch version of their 1983 classic, shorn of most of the instrumental beginning and going straight to the vocals. Much has been written about New Order, and this blog cannot add anything novel or interesting to the debate. Sales were amalgamated with the 12-inch and a new CD single pressing, peaking at number 3 in May.
Petula Clark - Downtown '88
Peter Slaguis didn't so much do a remix as a reconstruction, like master builders had done to York Minster a few years before. Pet's vocal is kept intact, and the tune is as familiar here as it was when Phillip Schofield revived it a few years earlier. The backing track is a modern, insistent drum loop, complex enough not to become irritating. There are enough little frills and twinkles to indelibly mark this as a late-80s remix, but - whisper it softly - the remix keeps enough of the original to still be the same joyful song. Don't trust 1988 remixes, but be prepared to appreciate their good bits. Number 10 in late November; we only wish Pet's remake with The Saw Doctors had been appreciated over here.
The Art Of Noise - Dragnet '88
The biggest test of Worthington's rule: this was a remake of the original tune by the art pop collective, done for the film Dragnet. Keep the familiar motif - the ominous daah-de-daa-daah and the trumpets, add wailing guitar and drum fills made to sound like gunshots. The 12-inch version included a remix by Arthur Baker, a longer version of the same tune. Only sold to the Art of Noise fanbase, number 94 in March.
The Thompson Twins - In The Name Of Love '88
Shep Pettibone and Steve Peck are responsible for this one, expensive names from the late 80s. It's a soulless mix, Tom Bailey's vocals are buried beneath clanking drums and the occasional cowbell. With the 1982 original on the flipside, it's too easy to make comparisons, and this version stiffed at 46 in October. Don't trust 1988 remixes, because some of them really are worse than first time around.
TIC - Popcorn '88
You'll know the tune, it's the early 70s synth instrumental that comes around every few years. The "Woodstock" remix has vocal samples in the style of "Beat dis" and "Theme from S Express", and weighs in at a radio-friendly 3'32. Hein Hoven's "Remix" is a minute longer; still with the vocal samples, but adding in a comfortable bass riff to keep the tune progressing. Didn't come out until September, by which time fashion had moved on and those old vocal samples were very passé. A number 84 "hit".

Should we trust remixes that end in '88? To abuse the previous year's catchphrase: "don't trust, but verify". In this blog's view, "Ain't no sunshine", "Movin'", "Love hangover", "Downtown", and "Dragnet" all stand up well. We can't bear to hear "Denis", "Celebration", and "In the name of love", and we'd tire of most others quickly.

Two more chart entries ended "88", we'll discuss them for completeness.

Gibson Brothers - Cuba '88
Charting on import sales alone, from a re-release in Germany.
Mini Pops - Songs For Christmas '88
A group of very young children singing new festive songs, like Kidz Bop with attitude. This was a four-song EP, comprising "Christmas Of Yesterday", "That First Christmas Day", "Christmas Feelings", and "I Wish". It's the third in a series, following "Songs for Christmas" and "Songs for Christmas '87". We've not been able to track down this EP, but if it's anything like the others, it's children singing simple songs over a cheap synth riff, cute and charming and toe-curlingly awful in each song. Unlike every other record in this article, the EP was new work, not old stuff chopped up and put out again.

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