1989. The Number. Another Summer.


Just watched "The Summer of 1989" in a shameless bout of nostalgia.

It was a whistle-stop tour through the most exciting year of my youth. The last year of school, just before leaving for college. Stuck in a small seaside town, but sensing still that you were taking part in something much bigger that was going on.

Acid-House, illegal raves, the fabled M25 Orbital party scene were all quite far away. A couple of the cool kids you knew in Art class had been at a rave, perhaps, you'd heard.

Probably the cultural moment they showed that had most impact for me was the Top-of-the-pops (if you don't know, TOTP is a venerable and somewhat crusty weekly pop programme on British TV) where both The Stone Roses and The Happy Mondays played.

Back in those days of four-channel, unfragmented, untimeshifted media, something like that hit like a meteor – an extinction-level event for the cultural dinosaurs around you. You knew that you and your bright-eyed, wide-eyed nimble pop mammals were now going to inherit the earth.

I did actually get to one illegal party in 1989. It was canonical stuff. Waiting in the carpark of the Swansea Odeon Cinema, for the one person who knew where it was happening to lead us in the canonical convoy up into the hills around the town.

It was in the canonical farmers field, with the bemused but happy farmer and his wife making a killing on bottled water and rather-delicious (as I remember) home-made burgers. Muddy and manic, the throng of dancing, smiley, happy people stretched for, oh, hundreds of metres – this was South Wales, not Castlemorton – assisted by speed and acid mainly it seemed – again, this was South Wales, and the new wonder chemical had not made it at least to Swansea in great quantities by then.

Your reporter of course limited his intake to the delicious home-made burgers, as he was driving the Fiat Panda full of his friends there and back again…

One other memory prompted by the programme, and a question.

The show attempted to tie (rather lightly) the cultural/political mood in the UK to the wider changes around the world: fall of the Berlin Wall, Tiananmen Square, etc. There was no mention of what was happening in the USA at the time at all.

The credits rolled to the sound of Public Enemy's "Fight the Power", which along with The Stone Roses and 808 State could often be heard blasting (!) from the stereo of my doughty little Fiat Panda as it dashed around the South Wales coast full of my friends.

I don't really know what was happening if you were 17/18 in 1989 in the USA – perhaps people in my neighbourhood here could fill me in? Was there a sense of revolution (false or otherwise) in the air like there was in the UK? What was the counterculture like? What was going on for you?

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