Q: The Music, Part 2 (1987-1988)


Q Magazine – “the modern guide to music and more” – first appeared in September 1986, and published its final issue in July 2020. Here’s a personal and highly subjective look back at the best music released in that period…

In part one, we covered the earliest months of Q‘s lifetime, reaching the summer of 1987. I still wasn’t altogether in sync with the magazine’s general outlook, but had already become aware of artists such as Randy Newman, Jennifer Warnes and Warren Zevon. Q had effectively supplanted even Record Mirror as my favourite source of music reading.



(Q12) August 1987, album released July 1987

Thank goodness, then, that the magazine’s penchant for a bit of funk had extended to the new Jam & Lewis-created masterpiece. Hearsay had been eagerly anticipated in some circles, with lead single Fake displaying an almighty power only hinted at on O’Neal’s previous album in 1985.

Although I recognised it as an instant classic, the album took a while to build up commercial momentum, and was impossible to find on CD when first released (much like Terence Trent D’Arby’s Introducing The Hardline According To… , which only just missed out on featuring here).



(Q13) September 1987, album released August 1987

Inevitably accompanied by the tagline “Are you ready to RAWK” or something similar, Q approached soft-metal with the same distanced bemusement as the school swots would regard the scruffy kid in class with long hair and an Iron Maiden T-shirt. Not openly hostile, but the subject of much mirth and bemused ridicule.

Hysteria gave Q a problem because it was simply impossible to ignore. A quite fantastic record. Big production, big choruses, big hair. And huge sales. Along with Michael Jackson’s Bad (which they oddly awarded 5 stars in the same issue), Hysteria dominated the US charts at the end of 1987 and all through 1988.



(Q13) September 1987

No such issues of acceptance for Pet Shop Boys, obviously (Neil Tennant being a former colleague for many of the staff who wrote for both Smash Hits and now Q). Their debut, Please, was from pre-Q days, so Actually was the duo’s first album proper to fall under the magazine’s gaze.

Like just about everyone (including myself to some extent), they underestimated the sheer genius on show and its imminent status as the defining pop record of its era, being distracted by the new Michael Jackson LP and attendant hype.



(Q13) September 1987

They were blindsided, too, by the sudden demise of The Smiths that was announced as their Strangeways Here We Come arrived in stores. Q had giddily pronounced it a masterpiece, giving it 5 stars and featuring it prominently in one of their “box” reviews.

However, released the very same day was an album by another major alternative (dare we say “indie”?) UK band, who would go on to become one of the key players in the rise of “alt. rock” over in America. Music For The Masses was barely acknowlegded by Q, one of those non-committal 3-star efforts that said very little other than “more of the same old same old”.

I have some sympathy for them, because even as a total DM nut (which I was at the time) there wasn’t any obvious sign that the album would alter the course of their career and take them to a completely new level of success and influence (not to mention decadence). The two singles – Strangelove and Never Let Me Down Again – were absolute monsters, but my overall reaction to the rest of the album was mild disappointment; nothing (excuse the pun) really stood out and there was a sense that the band had begun to plateau.

Yet, 30-odd years down the line, it’s become the Depeche Mode album that I return to the most often!



(Q14) October 1987

Surprisingly, the 3rd solo album proper from David Sylvian received little more than a cursory 3-star appraisal, the old “how dare a good-looking former pop star get above their station” prejudice possibly playing a part once more. Then again, look what they said about Suzanne Vega….



(Q15) November 1987

At least one thing Q and I agreed on in late 1987 was that Eurythmics’ wild transformation from slick Americanised pop/rock back into weird and wonderful icy electronic pop was a stroke of unfettered genius. Uncompromising lead single Beethoven and the gorgeous Shame both topped my personal Top 40.

That brings us to the end of 1987, after which there was a gap of an issue or two before the next album on my list….



(Q18) February 1988, album released January 1988

I didn’t expect Q to give much time to Johnny Hates Jazz. Just a flippant, 3-star, “serviceable pop” kind of short review was all I expected.

They didn’t disappoint!

Unfashionable as it might have been to admit it, Turn Back The Clock was one of a dying breed….the expertly-crafted traditional 80s British pop album.



(Q18) February 1988

Where Q excelled was in the more familiar realms of rock aristocracy, and the occasions when said rock aristocracy made a rather good album. Now & Zen was afforded the full “box” review, and it was published quite a few weeks prior to the record reaching the shops.

Safe to say my appetite was well and truly whetted for Now & Zen by the time February 29th came around. Q‘s approval was, in my opinion, wholly merited.



(Q19) March 1988

No artist, nor indeed album, better straddled the Q divide between art and commerce than Prefab Sprout, and their long-awaited return after 2 and a half years away with From Langley Park To Memphis was duly lapped up and praised to the heavens.

And I should think so too!

It was one of two albums from artists produced by Thomas Dolby to be released within a week of each other, along with….



(Q20) April 1988, album released March 1988

…though Q chose to feature the review for Chalk Mark In A Rainstorm in the following month’s issue (for which she was also one of the cover stars). This was my Joni awakening, and the extensive interview/article inside Q20 helped to place the new album in the context of her whole career and reveal more of her complicated, intelligent persona than I had probably anticipated.

Chalk Mark In A Rainstorm weirdly didn’t make my most recent All-Time Top 100 list in 2016 (which formed the basis for this blog, just over 3 years ago) but it’s always been one of my most treasured Joni albums and the one I have the strongest emotional attachment to. It’ll be back in that Top 100 next time!



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