Diary of a Madman

The Comedown Years 1989 – 1991

I’m sipping coffee out of a Moomin mug. Regular off the shelf filtered coffee, no pour over hipster shit. It’s fuel, not a performance enhancer, a necessity. Humanity has evolved. You do not need to manually pour hot water over those carefully ground beans. People have spent years and years perfecting a machine that will do it for you. If you want to geek out and go deep for an average cup of Joe 8 to 10 times a day, go ahead, have fun. I’d rather not. Sure, I enjoy the odd barista made creation every now and then, preferrably sitting down at a table outside at a café in Paris, but I need to get shit done and to get shit done I need coffee, in large amounts.
If I was completely free to choose I would’ve had regular American Diner Coffee as my petrol of choice. Served by a confident woman in a classic diner waitress uniform, Double R Diner style. Unfortunately not feasible so I make my daily brew using the Wilfa Svart Precision which Tim Wendelboe supposedly had a hand in developing. A stroke of genius to have Tim Wendelboe involved in your coffee venture no matter how much (or little) he added to the equation and the Svart Precision coffee maker is exceptionally beautiful from an industrial designer’s viewpoint, both aesthetically and in use. In contrast to Land Rover letting Victoria Beckham speak during the release of the Evoque.. “I’ve designed a car that I want to drive, a car I think David wants to drive.” Disaster of epic proportions. (The Evoque was designed by Gerry McGovern. Posh Spice was only briefed with making a special edition of the Evoque – which would be limited to just 200 models – using “restrained color and detail changes” without changing the overall design.) Wilfa bringing in Tim Wendelboe on the other hand, Chapeau!

The Moomin mug of choice today is not my favorite, but it’s up there. The blueish grey hues and the striking drawing of the character Stinky on the run carrying several bottles adorns this 2001 Arabia release while my current favorite is probably the 2019 released “Sleep Well” with the 2018 “Hobgoblin” a close second.  But, I digress.. and in a poor attempt to gracefully transition into the main topic of today; these objects were all released post an era I like to refer to as “The Comedown Years”, a period in time between roughly 1989 through 1991. You might ask yourself which grand objects of desire were released during this period of time that are still relevant as of today, well.. close to none. Everything kind of stopped for a moment during during those three years. 1987 gave us Red Bull and the Nike Air Max. 1988 enlightened us with the release of Michael Jackson and Bubbles by Jeff Koons. Industrial design in general, fashion, art.. not much has stood the test of time being released during those years. Warhol died in ’87, Basquiat the year after. I guess Damien Hirst and Keith Haring are the most notable from around that time and their work holds up and is still very much relevant today. Art photography.. nah, very little of interest during the Comedown Years. It was a very transitional period. People were desperately seeking change. As for fashion, the clothes were mostly terrible, but it was a fucking amazing time for supermodels. Vogue, October 1990, anyone? Linda Evangelista: “We don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day.” Fuck yeah! The Big Six, baby. But, alas.. as much as I adore the supermodels of the early 90s, the only thing that really is of incredible value from that era is, of course, music. (You may argue and say, “Hey, what about movies??!” Unfortunately, although pretty awesome at the time.. they just don’t hold up.. Nice memories, but trust me, just keep’em as good memories.)

The majority of music that I listen to was released between 1987 and 1994, with most of my favorites coming out between ’89 and ’91. It’s pretty wild, actually. That’s only three years. So much was happening during those years!
It’s an incredibly interesting period of time for music in my opinion. The stylistic changes and the whole mood of the scene changed drastically, very much like coming down from a high which in the end culiminated in Nirvana’s Nevermind and several years ahead of “realness” and depression on one side contrasting the systematically designed superficial and fake on the other. I love to use the band Toto as an example as they brilliantly fit the basic idea of “The Comedown Years”.
1988 saw the the release of the brilliant album The Seventh One. Still very much high on the 80s vibe, long coats, high hair, but with a touch of maturity. (Although compared to today, nothing was mature in 1988.) Long story short, singer Joseph Williams’ drug use spiralled out of control, *poof* he’s gone, left without a lead singer, record company swings it, total disaster, full on chaos, Best of Record released in 1990, better let the guitarist handle the vocals, let’s bring on a tougher image, a rawer edge, Kingdom of Desire gets recorded and released, drummer Jeff Porcaro dies. If you Google Toto 1988 and compare it to Toto 1992 it’s like two different bands. New haircuts, hair dyed black. Strict denim and leather combos only enhanced with the occasional printed shirt and black vest. The white t-shirt and black vest over ripped light blue denim was a classic back then with the “no-shirt-only-vest” reserved for the more adventurous types. The monotone printed shirt and earthy hues were also standouts at the time, but the way the music changed, now that was mindblowing. Throw on The Seventh One first and then give Kingdom of Desire a spin. It’s a drastic change.

The late 80s saw the death of artists, bands and musical styles while the early 90s saw the rise of new artists, new bands and new musical styles. The transitional years between those two periods though saw the release of an amazing collection of brilliant records and “The Comedown Years”, as I so affectionally call them, are mye favorite years of all time, musically. There are several reasons for that, but one thing in particular that I like to point out is how everyone seemed to be at their musical and technical peak. The whole industry was at its peak. Through the 80s we saw an amazing technical evolution and the tools that became available to the engineers that were using them were no longer brand new. We had the 80s to develop and abuse all the new gizmos and doodahs, but once 1989 hit.. it was like everyone had perfected their craft and learnt how to make the most of every little piece of gear avilable. And even though Pro Tools was released in 1989 it was still just a curiosity at only 4 tracks and not to be taken seriosuly just yet. Digital Tape however was embraced as Sony rolled out the  PCM-3324 in 1982 and 3348 in 1989. Studios were plenty and incredible. Neves and SSLs mounted as religious symbols in beautiful wooden shrines optimized for the recording of sound and capturing of vibes. The engineers, the producers, the artists.. they were all on top of their game. And when the high started to wear off, and things started to get a little more serious.. along came this beautiful vibe that adorn a lot of the releases from this period. A touch of uncertainty, a little bit of anger, some regrets, but still with the 80s very much imprinted in their heads and heart no matter how much they wanted to distance themselves from it.

I’ll agree to a certain extent that this transitional period, although very interesting, may not come across as particluarly important. The birth of rock’n roll in the 50s, the evolution that took place in the 60s, how shit got advanced in the 70s and the way everyone was shooting for the moon in the 80s. All incredible important eras. Still, I feel like that transitional period between the 80s and 90s has a lot going for it in addition to being my personal time in music.

I pour another cup of coffee. Roy Orbison is just wrapping up the incredible “She’s a Mystery to Me” from the 1989 release Mystery Girl on my stereo. He had some help from a couple of  Irish blokes on that track called David Evans and Paul Hewson who experienced a decent amount of success themselves. (Achtung Baby was ahead of its time for sure.. in my head, that’s a classic 1994 release and not 1991… but it is!) Now Tom Petty is singing “Free Fallin” from his solo debut Full Moon Fever (1989) and as I finish this piece on “The Comedown Years” I will do that to the opening notes of “Wherever I May Roam” by Metallica released on their monumental The Black Album from 1991.

By Fuzzy B.
Diary of a Madman