New releases in New Zealand, 1989
Let Love Rule, Lenny Kravitz
I heard the lead single off this album once on TV and bought the album which was a pretty bold move for cash poor 1989 self. One reason I may have loved the song Let Love Rule is because it remains the only song I have ever figured out how to play by myself. What helped was that it is an incredibly simple song using 12 bar blues. Also luck helped I imagine as there are plenty of simple songs using 12 bar blues (everything by AC/DC?) that I wasn’t able to figure out. The only other song I worked out was Knocking On Heaven’s Door, but in this case I wasn’t trying to play that song and I believed – for about 24 hours – that I had just written an amazing original song.
Side One of Let Love Rule is good. Side Two begins to get a bit boring.
The bad girl of The Cosby Show was Lisa Bonet which was in the final leg of its run in 1989. She had been in Angel Heart, she had left the spin off Different World because she was pregnant, she married Lenny Kravitz who she shares some writing credits with on this debut album.
Most people my age will have watched The Cosby Show growing up. Something that feels pretty awkward now given all the information we have about Bill Cosby and how he was behaving even then. When it first arrived I thought that show was hilarious. Because Bill Cosby played a father and a doctor in the show the revelations about his actions feel worse; like it’s always worse when you hear what a Catholic priest has been up to. I realise that Cosby was only acting, but he did also take that persona and cross it over into other areas by writing books about fatherhood, love, marriage and childhood.
I’m not sure why people were briefly fascinated by Lisa Bonet. Perhaps it was partly because she seemed to be trying to run against the squeaky clean image of Denise Huxtable. She definitely did not behave much like Denise in Angel Heart. Sadly most of the rebellion off screen involved taking her top off and getting pregnant which is not that progressive.
I didn’t see Angel Heart until a long time after it was released. I remember it as being incredibly stylish with a great soundtrack. Watching clips now makes me wonder about my judgement on both of these things. The chicken and egg thing? The names? Perhaps it stands up as a cult movie, but the soundtrack is fucking annoying.
Kravitz had no hits off Let Love Rule in New Zealand, but he had hits later. I remember the very exciting sound and video for Are You Gonna Go My Way? I also remember listening to it recently and thinking how thin it was. Take away the lighting rig from the video and it is also a very thin video featuring models dancing self-consciously in single file and a band you feel was picked on their cool retro appearance playing the song.
Does it sound like I don’t like Kravitz? I think I feel let down by him. Which is not dissimilar to how I feel about the whole Lisa Bonet deal from the late 80s. They both seem to exist in a very lightweight and beautiful version of alternative. I don’t think either of them are faking anything just that they’re maybe not that sharp or interesting in fact; that what they wore and how they looked indicated something interesting that wasn’t in fact there at all.
I may as well be talking about myself of course. Getting my hair permed. Wearing cowboy boots. Buying biker jackets. Just a pasty white kid from Kāpiti underneath it all and not that interesting.
Koos van den Akker is the man who made the “Cosby Sweater”. There is a short film of him on Vice. I think this screen shot captures the issue:
The caption is important: “To my eye, this looks good”. It was a moment in the film where I briefly thought: “Are we looking at the same thing?” but by that point he had already shown us about twenty sweaters and tops which were so garish and awful that I knew he wasn’t joking. Truth be told, I didn’t see the ugliness at the time; at the time I thought his sweaters were cool. Things change.
What do we do with The Cosby Show now? It’s fairly straightforward to stop listening to Michael Jackson, but The Cosby Show was an ensemble. He didn’t even really write it, and there was a good cast. Watching Phylicia Rashad and Cosby together is great. Rashad was a real asset to that show and played her character perfectly: right between warm and steel.
I don’t think I was watching The Cosby Show by 1989. It did get worse. Less funny. The children grew up – a problem The Simpsons has never had to face – and sitcoms very rarely deal with time well. Sitcoms are repetitive and cyclic; the tensions never resolve. If they try to resolve the tension they are often simply restating it in a new form like they did in Cheers. Kids growing up wrecks it all and there will be that inevitable moment where they get in some new little kids to replace the original little kid who got too big.
Listening to Lenny Kravitz again has been almost identical to listening to him in 1989. I think the first time I listened to Let Love Rule I thought it was great and I listened to it a few times. However, looking at how dirty my LP is I think I have not taken it out and listened to it again since 1989. The thirty year break made me think: “oh! this is actually better than I thought” – but by the second listen I was already getting bored.
The Cosby Show on the other hand? Irritatingly good.
New releases in New Zealand, 16 July 1989
- Cliff Richard – The Best Of Me
- Kylie Minogue – Hand On Your Heart
- Natalie Cole – Miss You Like Crazy
- Neville Brothers – Sister Rosa
- Robin Beck – First Time