In the summer of 1989, aged eight, I discovered musical phenomenon that changed my life. For a bit.
“What was it?” I hear you ask, “The Stone Roses eponymous debut? The seminal Doolittle by Pixies?” Er, no, it wasn’t either of those. It was ‘Hangin’ Tough’, by New Kids on the Block. I remember hearing the title track on the radio in the back room of our house and asking my Mum what it was and if she’d buy it for my upcoming birthday.
Now, my mother has excellent music taste. She had been extremely diligent in playing The Beatles, David Bowie and the like to me from a very young age and I don’t even want to imagine what she went through in our local Our Price that fateful afternoon when shopping for my birthday. In many ways, I imagine that request being more disappointing to her than me failing my A levels. They weren’t too angry about that, possibly because I had set my stall out early on.
When I announced the fateful results (two Ds and a U), my Mum probably waited for me to leave the room and said to my Dad: ‘Tim, look. Let’s get this into perspective. He’s not played Cover Girl for months. MONTHS! I’m sure I heard him humming And Your Bird Can Sing this morning! Now that’s educational progress!’
To me, New Kids on the Block were the coolest guys in the world. They wore waistcoats! And backwards flat caps! And they dropped the g from the end of ‘Hanging’! I wanted to be one of them. I was tough enough, I knew I was.
I imagined myself as the sixth member, strutting around concert arenas with my pals Donnie, Danny, Jonathan, Jordan and Joe (I didn’t even need to look any of those names up). We’d high-five and spend our down time playing basketball. I don’t know if I even knew what basketball was then, other than seeing them do it on the VHS video of Step by Step (which I also owned).
I know it’s not that bad liking embarrassing music when you’re young, and some of you are thinking “What’s the problem? He was only eight” etc, so let me illustrate how far it went. By the time Step by Step came out in 1990, I was about ten. I invited all the local kids from our road around to my back garden for a ‘party’. There was to be a bit of football on the lawn, orange squash and music. I locked the back gate so no-one I hadn’t invited could come in, and I used three extension cables to get my ghetto blaster (are they still called that?) out onto the patio and the only music that was allowed was New Kids on the Block.
I sometimes wonder if that’s the reason that I don’t see any of those friends anymore.
This post first appeared on the frankly superb Popfessions blog, found here.