Back in the decade of outrageous haircuts, synthesizers and questionable outfits, British music was actually alright. In the 1980s, from Bowie to Bond themes, British music was often the safe getaway from the soul-destroying antics of the Thatcher government. 1987, however, was a year that witnessed a significant Thatcher re-election and a stream of iconic British music, both mainstream and independent.
Up north in Greater Manchester, New Order – the successor of Joy Division – were waving the flag of the independent Factory Records with the release of their Substance aka Substance 1987 in August, a compilation album featuring their previously-released 12-inch singles. From their biggest-selling single, Blue Monday, to the then-new True Faith, Substance was a majorly successful presentation of New Order’s back catalogue, and proved that it is possible to release (what is essentially) a greatest hits album within six years of existence. Currently, original Joy Division and New Order bassist, Peter Hook, is touring in the UK and Europe with his band, The Light, performing both the Joy Divison and New Order Substance albums in their respective entirety. Tour dates can be found here.
Continuing with electronic-based music, but a synthesiser or too more mainstream, the Pet Shop Boys released Actually in the September of 1987 – an album that is actually the perfect synthpop album out there. Actually is enriched with a collection of pure pop and now-iconic dance hits. After West End Girls, the Pet Shop Boys’ best and most recognisable song is undoubtedly It’s a Sin – the song that is halfway through the magical process of Actually, but was the first single released. The two concluding songs of Actually are Heart and King’s Cross – the former being an up-tempo romantic song, with a music video featuring Sir Ian McKellen in a homage of Nosferatu, whereas the latter is a chillingly smooth hit possessing commentaries of both the gay scene around the King’s Cross Station at the time and social constraints in relation to Thatcherism.
After leaving Wham! In 1986, the late George Michael began to create content for his debut solo album the following year, Faith. Faith was sensational in two aspects: George Michael was the first Caucasian being to have their music reach no1 in the R&B chart, and in the music video of the title track, Faith, George Michael made retro jukeboxes look cool again. Faith presents a genius craftsmanship of pop, dance, R&B and adult contemporary. George Michael’s transition from Wham! to Faith can be regarded as the maturing of an artist – songs such as I Want Your Sex featuring on Faith suggest so.
Furthermore, Faith is not just a presentation of good music, as it is additionally and most importantly, perhaps, a presentation of a pure artist – an artist of whom wrote their own material, and even performed select instruments too. Ultimately, George Michael’s Faith launched the artist into superstardom alongside the likes of Phil Collins and Elton John amongst Britain’s best and most successful solo artists of the era.
Though not specifically from Great Britain or the UK, but the British Isles instead, 1987 presented music fans with what Rolling Stone regarded as “the big one,” – it can only be U2’s The Joshua Tree. Tracks on The Joshua Tree such as I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For present perfect professionalism in its usage of gospel-influenced music and lyrics relating to spirituality, whereas With or Without You – naturally a love song – was inspired by Bono’s duel lifestyle, therefore The Joshua Tree is a terrific compound of diversity, featuring consolation and spirituality. Critically and retrospectively, in Entertainment Weekly,
Bill Wyman described The Joshua Tree as possessing, “easy-to-grasp themes – alienation and an outsider’s view of America – with an extremely focused musical attack.” This year, U2’s world tour, beginning on 12th May and concluding on 25th October, was titled The Joshua Tree Tour 2017 – a 30th anniversary celebration of their prolific album, The Joshua Tree. The tour’s concert shows were divided into three sets: an opening set of songs released prior to The Joshua Tree; the second and main set consisted of The Joshua Tree performed in its entirety; and the final set was, as suspected, songs released after The Joshua Tree.
Finally, remember when you were getting “rickrolled” at the turn of the decade? Loved by the trolls and those with fancy dance moves, Never Gonna Give You Up was too a product of British music in 1987 – possibly the greatest of one-hit-wonders. Ridiculous or not, Rick Astley did win a Brit Award for the song!
Conclusively, it would appear that in terms of British music, 1987 is more prolific than others, thus the year possesses more integrity when one is enjoying a nostalgia trip. Timeless is what the music listed in this article is. Be it embraced by younger generations or relived and championed by its first listeners, good British music lasts forever.
What’s your favourite British music from 1987? Let us know!