1988

If our columnist had a time machine and went to 1988 and we pulled the plug out, accidentally, it would only take him 30 years to walk home from the past. Oh look, here he comes now…

Illustration: Joel Benjamin

Cast your brain back to 1988. The Turin Shroud, eggy salmonella, ‘Count Duckula’ and ‘Rambo III’. Jedward’s grandparents Bros were “dropping the boy” and no one cared because everyone was conkered on pill juice. S’Express made it acceptable to snort mushrooms at your granny’s birthday enema. The smiley face symbol said it all, 1988 was a happy time.

Except it wasn’t, 1988 was a scowling cauldron of pants: an ectoplasmic explosion of injustice. Something happened that ranks among the greatest atrocities in history: worse than the Black Death, Herod’s slaughter of the first born, and ‘The One Show’. I am, of course, talking about Yazz.

You remember Yazz. She was nine-foot-20 and did noises for Coldcut. Her hair was white and spiky like an electrocuted polar bear or a cloud with attitude problems. She told us “the only way is up” while looking at the sky in case we got confused about direction. “I wanna thank you,” she sang. “We’ll find a brighter day,” she sang. “Horses are just tall dogs,” she sang. Actually she didn’t sing that last line: if we print too many actual lyrics, we have to pay a fee.

‘The Only Way Is Up’ was the UK Number One for the whole of August 1988. Yazz was a pogo stick of pure energy and she looked delighted. When you scored a chart topper in the 1980s, a Tory MP would hand deliver you a golden carafe of cocaine along with a platinum cassette tape bound in a sheath of the finest faded denim. Your video would appear on ‘Network 7’ at such an awkward camera angle, all the kids watching it would break their necks. ‘Look-In’ magazine would call you “rad”.

But the success came at a cost. Kylie Minogue was a television mechanic who’d notched up a big hit with ‘I Should Be So Lucky’. Her third single ‘The Loco-Motion’ should have been the jewel in her permed crown – a Carole King classic with it’s powerhouse PWL backing and a dance routine to boot. If the world was fair, which it isn’t, ‘The Loco-Motion’ would still be Number One now, 11,000 days later. But it wasn’t to be. It got wedged between Yazz and Glenn Medeiros, costing Kylie the Number One spot. The selfish Yazz turned ‘The Loco-Motion’ to ‘The Loco-Pretty-Motionless’.

Yazz probably planned this in a fit of jealousy. Think about it. Kylie was desperately uncool yet still managed success, while Yazz had to court the fickle acid house crowd. Kylie had luxurious locks that Yazz could only dream about. Kylie was small, so she could fit inside things like milk floats and compost bins, a freedom the lanky Yazz sorely desired.

“Being on the bottom line sure ain’t no fun,” sang Yazz. But what lengths would she reach to stay on the top line? Yazz’s real name is Yasmin Evans, which is an anagram of ‘I am sans envy’. Coincidence? I think not. Wait. That doesn’t work.

This isn’t as bad as Joe Dolce keeping Ultravox off Number One, or The Fugees denying Underworld the top spot for ‘Born Slippy’. And Yazz was pretty amazing. I just feel sorry for Kylie, who disappeared without trace after August 1988. Who knows what career she could have enjoyed if ‘The Loco-Motion’ had gone truly viral. Maybe she would have been a disco queen in gold hot pants, or a cool indie chanteuse, or stoved in by Nick Cave in a murder ballad. We’ll never know. THANKS, Yazz.

PS Note to editor, can you please google “Kylie Minogue” to check she had no more hits after ‘The Loco-Motion’. Thanks very much. Fats. x

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