In this series, aptly titled 'Remember This?!' we take a look back through the years at those OMG stories in music that made global headlines and were cause for much talk here in Australia.
First up, 1989...
January 14 – Paul McCartney releases (Back In The U.S.S.R.) an album of covers, exclusively in the U.S.S.R. The story goes that Sir Paul wanted to release this album in the UK outside of normal distribution channels, so it looked like it had been smuggled in from the Soviet Union. His record company didn’t like that idea, but his manager had a bunch of the albums pressed with Russian language covers as a gift. This gave McCartney the idea to release the album only in Russia. A deal was done with a Russian government-owned record pressing company and 400,000 albums were pressed, all to be sold in Russia with no exports. Naturally, some of those albums appeared on the black market back in the UK, some asking for up to $1000 for the rarity.
January 23 – James Brown is sentenced to six years in jail due to his involvement in a police chase across two US states. Why was he on the run? Well, old mate was loose as a goose by this stage and got done for carrying a deadly weapon at a public gathering, attempting to flee police, and driving under the influence of drugs. The rumour of a PCP (Phencyclidine, or Angel Dust) habit was to blame, and whilst on the run from police across Georgia and South Carolina, police shot out two tires on his truck and he kept driving for another 10km. I feel good? Nah. Check this interview from 1988 and make up your own mind.
13 March – NSWRL unveils a massive advertising campaign featuring rock legend Tina Turner singing "What You Get Is What You See". Tina and Footy in Oz are forever intertwined from this moment including the unforgttable "Simply The Best" campaign of 1990 and the Grand Final performance of 1993.
March 21st – Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” video is condemned by the easily offended people of the time due to the use of Catholic Church iconography and for the use of cross burning imagery. Here’s the kicker though, the song was used in a Pepsi commercial before the song or clip were released commercially as part of a $5million endorsement to Madonna. They dropped her as spokesperson though because they were worried religious groups would protest and boycott their company. Wusses. She still got to keep the big bucks.
May 1st – A jewelry store in LA calls the police about a suspicious person casing the store! The suspicious man in the store with the red baseball cap and fake moustache, perusing rings was certainly cause for alarm. Disguised people had tried to rob the store in the past, but this time, it was the master of all disguises. When a store clerk approached the man and ushered him outside and asked why he was wearing the fake moustache, the man replied, “I have to, I’m Michael Jackson". After removing the disguise, being mobbed by fans, and leaving, Jackson later returned with a boy to the store and bought up big. Who was the boy? James Safechuck, the guy you saw in Leaving Neverland.
August 11&12 – The Moscow Music Peace Festival takes place. This was the first time international hard rock artists had performed in the U.S.S.R. to promote world peace and cooperation in fighting the drug war in Russia. This was part of an era of momentous change in the Soviet Union. This had never been done, unheard of, and was the brainchild of Doc McGhee, band manager and producer, who managed to wrangle Cinderella, Motley Crue, Ozzy Osbourne, Skid Row, Bon Jovi and more to perform roughly five-song sets that were broadcast pay-per-view on MTV. Remember this was 1989, ‘behind the iron curtain’, the importance of this event cannot be overstated.
September 9 – Madonna makes news again, this time due to her now-infamous performance at the MTV Video Music Awards in which she wears baggy pants and a jacket. Mid performance she removes the jacket to reveal a lacy bustier. Seriously, it’s so tame by today’s standards. In fact, some of the dance moves are really cringe-worthy but were the style at the time. "Express Yourself" was a massive hit, the performance was great, but jeez, didn’t people get their undies in a twist when Madonna touched hers.
December 23 – Ice Cube leaves NWA. Now, if you’ve seen the movie Straight Outta Compton, you probably know the story behind this departure and the impact it had. Jerry Heller was managing the group at the time, and the arrangement he had with Eazy E was very cosy. Cube had known for a while he wasn’t getting his slice of the pie, and as a principal lyricist for the group he didn’t like it one little bit. His lawsuit against Jerry Heller was settled out of court and the back and forth ‘diss tracks’ began. For the record, Cube won, as per the movie. Still, that was a hard pill to swallow for gangsta rap fans in 1989, we had no idea what was really going on, no internet message boards, music websites, all info came later via magazines and TV interviews.
If any of these moments from 30 years ago made you reminisce fondly of the music at the time, check out our Hits of the 80s playlist!
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Apple Music