The Mancunian band released their debut album 30 years ago this week, giving north-west teenagers music to call their own
Late November 1989. The Berlin Wall had just fallen, the House of Commons was newly televised, and New Kids on the Block (NKOTB) were No 1. At school, my classmates were now crazy about the band. On non-uniform day one of them showed me how she had sewn a Marky Mark patch on to her old Brosette jeans. It was, I suppose, a time of great change.
Top of the Pops that week was presented by the indomitably perky Jackie Brambles and Jenny Powell, and alongside NKOTB’s rendition of You Got It (the Right Stuff), there was music from Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville, Bobby Brown, Jeff Wayne, and performances from boyband Big Fun, Fine Young Cannibals, the Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses.
It’s always hard to explain the place Top of the Pops once occupied in the national psyche. It was TV that was at once homely and a gateway into the future. It is difficult, too, to explain the effect of that evening of watching two Mancunian bands who sounded faintly deranged and looked vaguely grubby, and were about as far away from clean-cut Big Fun as one could imagine. They played Hallelujah and Fool’s Gold respectively and left the country in a mild state of confusion.
I had just turned 12 and had only experienced this feeling once before – two years earlier, dancing to La Bamba at the community centre disco, when I had looked over to see a group of half-drunk teenagers wearing Smiths T-shirts, with flowers in their back pockets. In that moment, I realised Los Lobos wasn’t really where it was at.