RECORD STORE TALES #930: Pour Some Sugar On ’88
Ah, 16! The age you’re supposed to get your driver’s license and go on dates with girls. Maybe even get a part time job. Except I did none of that.
The summer of 1988 was much like any summer. It was marked by new music, trips to the cottage, and another visit from Captain Destructo, my cousin Geoff. Predator was in the movie theaters and WWF wrestling was hot. Summer was not going to suck.
Super Mario on the NES
I was well tanned from days at the beach, and when Geoff and family rolled into the cottage that July, Geoff brought his new toy: a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). This was a whole new world for us. I had never seen Super Mario Brothers or Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out. I sure saw a lot of them when Geoff came to visit. Saw. Not played. I played a little bit, but Geoff monopolised the game. I’ll never forget when he was playing Punch-Out and he was down to the second last boxer. He thought he was going to knock him out and move on to Mike Tyson. However my dad walked in front of the screen, Geoff started screaming, and lost the game. You would have thought he lost the invasion at Normandy for all the fuss. Me, I just would have liked another turn at the game.
Video games were exciting, but nothing was better than playing outside. With Predator hot in the cinemas, and lots of plastic guns to play with, we scattered into the forest hunting for the stealthy alien. Geoff insisted he was Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger). That made me Blain (Jesse Ventura). We forced my sister Kathryn to play Hawkins (Shane Black), the worst character and first one to die in the film. Eventually we let her play Billy the tracker (Sonny Landham).
I love how this trailer gives away the whole movie.
Leaping, dodging, climbing. We owned that forest.
There is so much joy running through the woods with plastic guns pretending to hunt a space alien. And the best part was, in the movie the Predator was invisible for most of the time: we didn’t need anybody to play the bad guy. It didn’t take much imagination to pretend to see movement in the forest. We were a team of three on a quest. I know that this is one of the happiest summer memories for all three of us.
After a few days at the lake, we returned home to Kitchener, with Geoff still in tow. We hung out in the basement watching WWF and the Pepsi Power Hour. Cinderella were hot with “Gypsy Road” and I had to get that album. Long Cold Winter was an odd title for a summer album, but it was most definitely a summer album. I could not wait to get it but I had a birthday coming and I wasn’t allowed to buy stuff for myself until after.
For what was probably the last time, we went with Geoff to his grandfather’s huge property for an afternoon in the pool. One last splash, in the bright figure-8 shaped pool. That giant pond behind us in the background. Maintaining that summer tan.
The three big albums for me that summer were Long Cold Winter by Cinderella, Second Sighting by Ace Frehley, and Ram It Down by Judas Priest. I loved it for all its flaws. It was heavy and I thought it had five potential single-worthy songs: “Ram It Down”, “Heavy Metal”, “Hard As Iron”, and “Blood Red Skies”, in addition to the already-released “Johnny B. Goode”. Only the Chuck Berry cover made it to music video form. I waited all summer for a music video for “Blood Red Skies” to finally hit. I could always predict the next single, and I just knew it had to be “Blood Red Skies”. Week after week, I waited. I dreaded missing it during vacation at the cottage. I just knew it would be any week now. I had a dream one night of what it would look like. There Priest were on the bridge of some kind of spaceship, hovering over the landscape beneath the blood red skies. It never came. I thought if Priest released a video for “Blood Red Skies”, it would chart. Into the fall, Priest never released another single. A disappointment and a mistake.
Into August, I finally got my copy of Cinderella. After one listen correctly predicted that “Don’t Know What You Got (‘Til It’s Gone)” would be the second video. I always looked forward to the new videos by bands, but like Judas Priest, Frehley disappointed me by never releasing a second video for Second Sighting. I thought there were a number of potential hits, such as “Fallen Angel”, “Time Ain’t Running Out”, “New Kind of Lover” and “Juvenile Delinquent”.
In Stratford, visiting my Aunt and Uncle, I picked up Live + 1, also by Ace Frehley. The Space Ace had two releases in 1988, with one being a live/studio EP. This weekend was the first time I experienced strong insomnia. I remember tossing and turning the entire night, not falling asleep once for even a minute. Seeing the sun come up. I was getting more and more upset that I couldn’t sleep, which made it worse.
Another cassette picked up that summer in Stratford was High ‘N’ Dry, which became an immediate favourite. Def Leppard were the biggest band in the world that summer. Hysteria was selling like hotcakes. It didn’t take off in ’87, but when “Pour Some Sugar On Me” hit, that was all it took. Many nights were spent listening to the radio at the lake, waiting for “Pour Some Sugar On Me”. Hysteria‘s singles were harder to predict. I didn’t expect there to be seven of them, but I definitely thought “Love and Affection” would make it before “Rocket” did.
We visited with our friends the Szabos, we played games, and we listened to a lot of music. I had my heavy metal, my sister had Glass Tiger and was starting to get into Def Leppard. Our Walkmen came with us everywhere. As the summer drew to an end we made a trip up to Tobermory to take the S.S. Chi-Cheemaun to Manitoulin island. I loved boats and islands but the trip was a bit of a bore. The gift shop didn’t have a lot to keep us entertained. I bought one of those black and white wrestling magazines, and a wooden postcard to send to nobody. It took a while for me to get my sea legs. I felt nauseous and wasn’t sure I could eat. Eventually the rocking of the boat became fun. The wind on the top deck was exactly like the “Jack, I’m flying!” scene in Titanic.
There was more, much more, but who can remember it all? Watching Rob Halford interviewed on the Pepsi Power Hour, recording it, and watching it over and over again. Seeing new Van Halen (“When It’s Love”) on TV. Suffering through rumours of Kiss breaking up. Looking for the latest Def Leppard 7″ singles at Zellers. So many memories, jumbled and out of order, hard to keep all straight.
The summer ended on a high, but what I didn’t know is that was only a precursor to my happiest school year, grade 11. Hair metal was peaking but it was about to get even bigger in ’89. Everything was in sync. Summer, music, school — all extraordinary in 1988.