This is JD Doyle for OutRadio and I am delighted to share with you an interview with Matt Fishel, who lives in London. I've started calling his music Political Power Pop, and I just love it. In recent years he's put out several wonderful songs and videos, and it's music that never even thought about being in the closet. He's just released his debut CD, called "Not Thinking Straight," which I've been anxiously awaiting for years. So, let's get to the interview.
JD: I started the show with the first song I heard by you, and it immediately made me a huge fan, and I included it on my Best of 2008 show. Could you tell me about the song "When Boy Meets Boy."
Matt Fishel: Sure, and thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Yeah, it's one of my earlier songs, as you said. To me "When Boy Meets Boy" it's just a really fun, quirky and kind of up-tempo celebratory song, about meeting another guy, and having a fun relationship. The guy in this song in particular is a hot skater guy, and he's into punk rock and stuff, and basically the song closes the album. For me this song is positive and jubilant and it's just putting it out there and saying, you know, it's great when two guys fall in love, and it's wonderful and exciting and we should celebrate.
JD: What drives you to make music?
MF: Um, wow, I've always been driven to make music. It's what I wanted to do. Ever since I was a kid I've always been recording ideas or singing. What really drives me to make music is having something to say, whether I want to make a comment on the world around me, and how I see it, or just , whether I'm excited or in love or want to sing about something, basically it's about having something to say. I don't usually write if I don't have any inspiration. I'm not someone who just sits down and says, I think I should write this song. I'm very passionate about a lot of things, and so when I feel I have something to say, that's when I write a song.
JD: And, do the words come first or does the music come first?
MF: I'm always writing music, so most of the time the melodies come first, and so I have this huge bank of recordings and ideas, and melodic ideas, and a lot of the time they'll sit there for several months, or weeks, and then as soon as I feel really impassioned about a subject, I then pick up one of these songs and I will start to write the lyrics. Lyrics usually come second, and then eventually a song forms and it usually happens very quickly. I usually have to get it all out, and usually have way too many lyrics and I have to cut back and make them fit.
JD: Where did you grow up and at what age did you come out?
MF: I grew up in Nottingham, in the East Midlands, in the UK, and to be honest, I think I just always knew I was gay, probably from about the age of twelve, when I started to have feelings for other guys, and I realized, after a while, that this wasn't necessarily what a lot of the other guys I was friends with were feeling. They were all talking about girls. I came out to myself very young, probably about thirteen. And when I was about fourteen I had one very close friend, and I confided in her and I essentially came out then. And then I think I came out officially, to my friends and my family, I think I was probably...seventeen.
JD: How autobiographical are your songs?
MF: Ah, very I would say. My songs are all about real experiences that I'm having or that I've had. My songs I think are quite narrative, so I like to tell stories and the stories are always based on real experiences that I've had with various boyfriends or with people with the music industry. They're all definitely very autobiographical.
JD: In your videos you look kind of hot, are you single?
MF: (laughs) um, um, there is someone special at the moment.
JD: And have you written a song about him?
MF: Um, not on this album, no, there is nothing that you can hear right now about this particular guy (laughs).
JD: "Radio-Friendly Pop Song" is the opening track on the new CD. Did you write that in response to any treatment you received in the music industry?
MF: Yes, absolutely, yes, I mean, it's based on my and other people's experiences that I've spoken to and friends of mine that I have. But specifically to me I've been told several times by executives at major labels, who will remain nameless...you know, they say things like, "oh, your songs are great, we love the vibe, they're really cool, you just need to get rid of all references to other men, get rid of all the gay references, and we're good to go." And I've personally never been prepared to do that, and whenever I hear that I just go, errrrr, and it kind of spurs me on to kind of keep being true to myself and to say, you know what, screw you. So with this song I just wanted to write a fun tongue-in-cheek response to that. What I basically said was "you don't want me to talk about this, but hey, I'm gay, I like guys, I'm out, and I'm not ashamed about it.
Matt Fishel - Radio-Friendly Pop Song (2013)
JD: I get the impression you are trying to write the songs you wish you could have heard when you were figuring out that you were gay.
MF: Absolutely, yeah, absolutely. I mean, I was always looking for songs when I was that age, sung from a gay perspective, and they were very few and far between. I grew up listening to...I was really influenced by a lot punk and hardcore and rock, and I loved those bands and I loved going to see them play, but I was very aware that there were very few songs sung from a gay perspective. And I always thought, I want to write these songs. I want to be able to sit there and be candid and open and honest and write songs from a gay man's perspective in the genre of music that I love.
JD: Were there gay artists that inspired you?
MF: Like I said, they were few and far between, but there absolutely were. I discovered Pansy Division when I was probably about 16 or 17. A friend had this CD and said you've got to check this out. I put them on and my mouth dropped open, and oh, my God, cause as you know, Pansy Division, they're quite explicit. Their songs are quite fun, and it was amazing hearing a gay punk band from California singing about gay sex. I thought that was awesome. I love bands like...I don't know if you know Skunk Anansie. They're fronted by a female singer called Skin, who's got the most incredible, beautiful soulful voice. And they're a heavy rock band from the UK, and they were really inspirational to me. And George Michael was a big inspiration as well. I was really young when he was...when he came out, or was outed, when the incident happened. And then he put out "Outside" (1998) and I just thought the single and the video were brilliant. It was two fingers up to the press, and he would say "yes, I'm gay, deal with it" and that was very inspirational to me. I was like, "go, George!" [The next day after our interview Matt wrote me that he was kicking himself for not also mentioning the Pet Shop Boys, as he was and is a huge fan]
JD: How do you describe your music?
MF: Ah, that's a good question...well, I would describe it as fun, anthemic pop rock...lots of big guitars, big choruses, lots of backing vocals, and...yeah.
JD: I played one of your songs on the radio last week and when I was introducing it, I called your music Political Power Pop.
MF: Brilliant, I love that, that's great.
JD: Your songs, really, they are political.
MF: Hmm, yeah, I mean...well, like I say I was very influenced by a lot of punk bands and I've always loved artists who have something to say and who are political. I think being a gay artist is quite a fine line, because on the one hand, I've never strategically set out to write gay songs. I just happen to be gay and proud and I sing about the experiences and relationships that are true to me. But at the same time I appreciate that some of the stuff I have to say is quite political, and I'm making a statement about certain areas of society. I feel that it's important to talk about these things, and for gay men and women to have a voice and to put themselves out there.
JD: Yeah, I have a mixed emotion about part of this subject where it really shouldn't be political for a man to sing about his love for another man, but because of society it turns into being political.
MF: Right, absolutely, yeah, I completely agree. That's the difficulty so I suppose where I come from I try not to over-think it. I just think, what do I want to write about today, cause some days it will be I'm angry at the way certain people have been treated in society because they're gay. And I want to sing about it. And other times I'll just want to sing about a love song, and I don't see that as political at all. I just write about it and sing about my feelings, and then if somebody interprets that as a political stand, then that's fine by me.
JD: I want to go back to your first video. There's lots of teenage angst going on in "Football Song." Tell me about it.
MF: Yeah, "Football Song" is about, well, it's about when I was younger and kind of fantasizing about having a relationship with the captain of our football team. I was never into sports, I have never been good at sports, I've never been interested in sports, and I went to the kind of school where...it was a boys school...and sports was the thing. You were either into the sports team or you were kind of a nobody. So I was never really into it but there were a lot of hot guys on the football team, and this particular song is about kind of fantasizing about the captain of the football team, cause we had a relationship, and conceding essentially that I'm never going to be that guy. I'm never going to be the guy that is applauded for being the sportsman, but there must be something else out there for me, and I'm going to find my own path.
Matt Fishel - Football Song (2009)
JD: Regarding the video for the song "The First Time," Out Magazine said it was "a music video that will make you want to be a teenager all over again."
MF: "The First Time" is very close to my heart. It's about all those feelings of warmth and nostalgia that come from that first special moment that you share with another person. For me it was the first time that I kissed another boy, and it was an amazing experience, it was a profound moment, it was very beautiful, and it was in that moment I was like, this is who I am, I'm happy, this is my life, and I love it. And I wanted to write a song about that, about all those kind of feelings of excitement that you get when you think about the first time you found yourself and fell in love.
Matt Fishel - The First Time (2011)
JD: According to the CD liner notes, you do all the vocals, play all the instruments, produce, etc, etc. How do you manage it all?
MF: Ah, by working 24/7...yeah, it's been a big project. I basically run my own record label, because I wanted that creative control. You know, it all came from these meetings with record labels where they said to me, you have to crush the gay content and all that, so I thought I'm going to do this myself. I want complete creative control, and I want to be able to tell my story in my own way. So I basically spend a lot of time in my studio recording, doing it all myself. But with this album, I played all the instruments, I recorded all the vocals, I would finish all the songs and then I would take them into the studio, where I would work with my producer, Mark Crew, and then we would strip back a lot of the stuff I've done, and we would collaborate and re-record a lot of parts. Mark also plays keyboards and drums on the album, and there was one other guy, called Jonas (Jalhay), who came in and played extra guitar as well.
JD: And, the song "Behind Closed Doors" seems to be about hypocrisy, right?
MF: Right, yeah, about that horrible hypocrisy, that you often hear from certain people, when people go, I'm cool that you're gay, I just don't want to see it. And that drives me mad. I'm sure it drives you mad too. It's that classic line, I don't care what you do in the privacy of your home, as long as it's not in front of me. And you hear that all the time, and I just think, really? Really? We're still in that place? The reason I wrote this song was it was one specific incident where it just drove me mad. It was at a party. There was this guy, he was really drunk and he was trying to have this discussion in the corner. He was like, oh, you know, I don't mind gay people, gay people are fine, I don't understand why they always have to shove it in our faces. You know, I've heard that before, but the fact that he sat there with his very drunk girlfriend...he had his hand down her top and he was being really quite lecherous and disgusting, and I just thought, wow, you really have no idea how hypocritical you're being.
Matt Fishel - Behind Closed Doors (2012)
JD: I'm quite pleased that I was the one who told you about the RightOutTV Awards, and you entered and won two of them
MF: Yeah, thank you for that, man, I was so thrilled and honored when I got them. It was brilliant, it was a great feeling. It's so good that something like that exists, that recognizes LGBT artists, and supports them, and yeah, it was a huge honor to get those.
JD: And the two awards you won, they were some pretty big awards. "Behind Closed Doors" won song of the year, and "Football Song"...they set up a category, because the awards are still kind of new...they set up a category for videos not necessarily from the current year, and some time in the past, and "Best Video So Far" was "Football Song," which is amazing.
MF: Yeah, it was just awesome, I was so thrilled.
JD: Tell me about your rock opera from 2003, that you called "The Superfishel Experience"
MF: (laughs) I just decided I wanted to record a rock opera, with ridiculous thirteen-minute songs and big waving divas, and lots of big guitar solos. And so, yeah, I set about doing it. I was at university at the time in the music college and I had a whole bunch of talented friends around me and studios at our disposal. So I spent a year writing it and then I pulled everyone together...everyone jumped on board...and we went into studios for a few weeks and just recorded these big ridiculously over the top songs, about different people and their journeys through life, and it was very fun.
JD: For people just listening, the opera was called "Superfishel Experience," and "superfishel" as in Matt's last name, Fishel. I think the rock opera ended with the song "Armitage Shanks (Jamie)," which you've included on the new CD. First, for those not in the UK, tell us what Armitage Shanks is.
MF: Ah, Armitage Shanks is a...how would you say it? It's like a brand of...urinal, (laughs) for want of a better word. It's the signature that's inscribed into a lot of toilet seats and urinals.
JD: Now tell me about the song.
MF: This song is about a guy who I spent, shall we say, a lot of extracurricular time with during my school years. And it's kind of a cheeky little wink to him, really. We were never really friends. We didn't speak to each other that much, but we spent a lot of time together. So I just wanted to write a kind of fun song in tribute to him, a kind of thank you for letting me share that time.
JD: And, what's that noise we hear just before the song starts?
MF: Those are belt buckles and zippers.
Matt Fishel - Armitage Shanks (Jamie) (2013)
Again, that song was called "Armitage Shanks (Jamie)" Matt, your boyfriend in the song "Maybe" just could not commit, could he?
MF: No, he couldn't, it would drive me mad. Yeah, this is one of the more playful, fun songs on the album. It's about that situation when you're really into somebody, and they're super hot, and they know it, and they know that you're trying to get with them, and they keep leading you on, and you're about to kiss, and they're like, eh, eh, eh. And it just drives you mad, you're like "c'mon! let's get it on already," it's that kind of a vibe.
Matt Fishel - Maybe (2013)
JD: I take it Nottingham is about the city in Central England, and its prisoners.
MF: That's a really good way of putting it. Yeah, absolutely. It's about being trapped in a small city and dreaming about getting out, but I wanted to tell the song about a relationship that I had with a guy when I lived there, as a teenager, and we were always...we were always dreaming about being somewhere else, or about being on a road trip. It was kind of like "Thelma and Louise," we wanted to be...we wanted to be in America driving down the big highway and kind of escaping. Ultimately we felt trapped by our environment, and about not having like-minded people around us. But also it's a song about that specific relationship, and about how I found about being gay. When I was younger it was very difficult to find other gay people to have friendships with or to experiment with. And I realized when I was in this relationship we were from completely different worlds. We probably wouldn't be together if we weren't in this situation. But as it was, we both found trapped and we found each other, and that's where this song takes place.
Matt Fishel - Nottingham (2013)
JD: Talk about the song "Seventeen Again"
MF: Ah, "Seventeen Again" is quite a personal song to me. It's about two things really. It's a friendship I had when I was, I think, twenty, with a seventeen-year old, and I could see he was going through a really tough time with his family and with his social life. There were a lot of things going on in his world that were very similar to what was happening to me when I was that age. He was coming to terms with his sexuality as well, he thought he might be gay. And I wanted to reach out to him, and I really wanted to be a friend to him, and to give him good advice. But at the same time I didn't want to be irresponsible, so I had to say "I'm very happy to be a friend to you but I can't be that person with whom you find yourself," because I just didn't see that was a responsible place. But at the same time I wanted to write the song in a way that I was giving advice to myself, looking back, on what I would have said to myself, and just to say, it does get better, just stick in there, and that's what this song is about.
Matt Fishel - Seventeen Again (2013)
JD: I love the way that you use male names in your songs, and another example is "Alistair." It's so refreshing to hear a male-to-male don't leave me song.
MF: Thanks, yeah, I just never wanted to shy away from being honest and truthful. I will say, everything in this song is true. It's a don't-leave-me song to another guy. It's about a past relationship. It's great and then it falls apart. The only thing I have changed is the specific name, cause I didn't want to use this guy's real name. But the story there is true, and it's one of a batch of songs on the album...I put it together with "The First Time" and "Seventeen Again," kind of reflective, nostalgic rock songs about relationships, and he was a big part of my life.
JD: So, what's his real name?
JD: I showed the CD to some folks at the radio station and they said, "who names their kid Alistair?" And I said, "people in England."
MF: Yeah, it's not a very American name, is it?
Matt Fishel - Alistair (2013)
JD: "Boxer Shorts & Razor Blades" is a painful break-up song, is that right?
MF: Yeah, right, this is one of the few love songs on the album, and it's about the painful breakup of a relationship. It's about how when you get to that awful phase when you know it's over, and then you start squabbling over little things like whose boxer shorts are whose and this razor blade is mine, but really you're just masking the fact that you're not really talking about the bigger stuff, and why the relationship has fallen apart. And it's sad when you've known somebody for such a long time and you're so close, and then you break up. And then you bump into each other a few weeks later and there's that horrible awkward moment...you know everything about me...you know my life story, and here we are being...how are you, fine, how are you...and yeah, that's what this song is about. It's a sad song.
Matt Fishel - Boxer Shorts & Razor Blades (2013)
JD: Do you see yourself writing any slow ballads?
MF: Ah, yes, maybe, I mean I do love listening to a lot of slow ballads. I love me some divas, but when I start writing a slow ballad, like "Boxer Shorts and Razor Blades" I just never can resist putting a kick in, or a guitar solo, or doubling the tempo, so maybe, maybe one day.
JD: How did you get Joe Phillips to do the drawings for your CD?
MF: Ah, Joe Phillips, I love his work, I've loved his work for so long, and I really wanted to work with him, so I waited until I was in a place where I could approach him. And actually the artwork came second. I approached Joe originally last summer because I really wanted to work with him on an animation video, which I have done. It's for "When Boy Meets Boy." It's wonderful, and I'm going to be putting it out in a couple of months, as an official single...very excited about it. While it was going, Joe and I became very good friends and we had such a laugh when we were talking all the time for hours everyday. We got on really well, and said to him, you know, I love your art so much, I would be really honored if you could work on the artwork for my album. And he was really up for it, and we went back and forth, I gave him, I gave him my ideas, and he really loved my vibe, and I loved his vibe, and it was a great collaboration.
JD: Could you tell me about the song "Hyper-ballad"?
MF: "Hyperballad"? Yeah, it's a Bjork song. It's a beautiful, wonderful Bjork song, from 1995, I think, from her second album. [from the CD "Post," 1996] I love the song, I love the lyric. It's such an unconventional love song, it's essentially a love song. It's a love song like none I've ever heard. And I wanted to record my own version, so a few years ago I did an a cappella version, where I did all the vocals and I layered everything and I re-arranged it, as a vocal, and yeah, I recorded that. And it's actually going to be available on a covers EP that I'm making just straight after the album, I'm going to put out, in a few months time the follow-up to the album, and I will be including it on that.
Matt Fishel - Hyper-ballad (2009)
JD: Another demo you did in 2009 is called "How Do You Get With the Guy?" could you tell me about?
MF: Yeah, oh, I'm glad you remember that. "How Do You Get With the Guy," it was just kind of a silly song about...it's about straight guys...this idea of totally having a crush on a straight guy, even though it's never going to happen. You know you're never going to get together, but still there's this idea that, oh, but what if, and you know.
JD: Well, remember years ago I badgered you to send me more of your work, and you did, so now I'm asking questions about it.
MF: Yeah, it's great.
Matt Fishel - How Do You Get With the Guy (2009)
You won't find those last two songs on Matt's new album, so I'm glad to share a little of his music history with you. Please visit his website at www.MattFishel.com. And I have one more song to share, the closing one, which you'll hear Matt say is the angriest song on his album. I thank Matt for the terrific interview and you for listening to OutRadio. And you'll find more new music by LGBT artists in additional segments of this show.
JD: "Testament" is the song on the album with about the hardest edge musically.
MF: Ah, I suppose in a way it's probably my angriest song on the album. I really wanted to write this song, because..."Testament" is about all the influences that can shape who you are as a person, and make you confused or question your place in the world. It's about authority and tradition, repression, religion and education...all these voices, that are constantly coming at you from everywhere, as you're growing up, whether it's your parents or your school, or religious teachers telling you who you can be, who you should be, what you have to do with your life. And for me I wanted to write a song that's about finding your place, and how you fit into the world and how those things...whether or not they're relevant to you. And ultimately "Testament" is a celebration of liberation and personal and sexual freedom and saying, you know, I'm not necessarily that person. I'm this person and I'm going to find my own path, and I'm going to celebrate that.
Matt Fishel - Testament (2012)
Fred Oskar - Just a Haircut (2013)
Welcome to OutRadio for April, Part 2, I'm JD Doyle, and I've played that artist before, but he's just changed his name. He was going by Simon Walton and now he's Fred Oskar, and the song was called "Just a Haircut."
And, last month I played a naughty little song by Garry Novikoff, named "R.S.S." which was a demo he had sent me, but this time here are two from his 2008 album "A Normal Life." I chose one called "The Dumbest Song I Ever Wrote," and after that, a rather poignant one called "Lenny."
Garry Novikoff - The Dumbest Song I Ever Wrote / Lenny (2008)
I'm very pleased to have recently heard about a terrific Aussie artist, named Jenny Biddle, and played two tracks by her on my show last month. This time I have two more, called "Don't Mind" and "Across the Nullabar."
Biddle - Don't Mind (2012)
And here's a change of pace, with jazz artist Spencer Day, and while I loved his last album, "Vagabond," from 2009, this one is a bit moodier, which reflects the subject matter, a relationship break-up. From the new CD "The Mystery of You" are "I Don't Want To Know" and "The Answer."
Day - I Don't Want to Know / The Answer (2013)
And that was Austin artist Lisa Marshall, singing "Hold Me" from her latest CD "Stay Right Here." And as the choir in that one had a bit of a churchy feel to it, I'm going to play I guess you'll call it a spiritual set, and I have four artists to do it. First up is Shawn Thomas, and from his brand new CD "Voice of Worship" is "I Will Not Be Moved."
Thomas - I Will Not Be Moved (2013)
I think that last artist has one of the best voices in LGBT spiritual music. He's Justin Ryan and "I've Been There" is the title track from his 2012 CD. But let's go back to the middle of that set, and both of those artists happen to be in the same congregation in Houston, Cornerstone Fellowship, which I got to visit a few weeks ago. And both singers are wonderful live. Mark Alan Howard sang "Nothing's Too Big for My God" from a CD from 2007 named "On Time," and Janice LaCount, from her album called "Already," gave us a very jazzy arrangement of "Something About My Praise."
This is JD Doyle and I'm taking you out of Part 2 of OutRadio with a triple play, by an act I just heard about. They are called Well Strung - The Singing String Quartet. In the New York Times a review described them as "a buff, gay, pop-classical hybrid of juicy boy band and staid chamber group with a vocal component." In short, they are four hot gay guys who sing and play well, as you shall hear. Their debut CD has quite a number of cover songs, done delightfully. I picked songs you will recognize as originally done by Pink, Lady Gaga, and Adele.
Well-Strung - So What / Edge of Glory / Rolling in the Deep (2013)
This is JD Doyle with Part 3 of OutRadio, and the opening song is called "Gay" and is by an act called the Billie Burke Estate, in honor of the actress who played the Good Witch in "The Wizard of Oz." It's from a 2005 album called "Give It All Away." I found that song delightful so back a few years ago when I first played it, I contacted the singer and writer, Andy Liotta, and got a very nice email back. He wrote me that he was glad I liked the song, but he wasn't actually a gay artist. He went on to say: "So how does a straight songwriter come to write a song proclaiming 'I'm Gay,' I don't really have an answer, as it was not a planned thing. The song pretty much wrote itself. Though not autobiographical, I found the song to be one of the most honest and direct things I've written, and my sexual orientation was pretty much irrelevant to the virtues of the song." Isn't that refreshing?
Up next are two songs from the new CD by Freddy Freeman, and he very much identifies with the Bear Culture, and founded the music event Bearapalooza over ten years ago. The CD is called "Just Bear With Me," and the first track is called "Bear World." The second song, I'm honored to say, he wrote for a special show I did in 2010 about the "It Gets Better" project, and naturally he called it "It Gets Better."
Freeman - Bear World / It Gets Better (2013)
And that was an artist I adore, Ivri Lider, and he's from Israel and the song was from the soundtrack of the film "The Queen Has No Crown." And next is an artist I've been aware of for a long time. Lead singer Matt Doll was in two Australian bands that got a lot of attention. In the band called the Mavis's, he and his sister Beki were active all through the 1990's, and in the late 2000's he was in the Blow Waves. He and his sister are making music together again, simply calling themselves Matt & Beki, and their new EP is "Searching for Zero." From it are the tracks "Apples" and "Treachery."
& Beki - Apples / Treachery (2013)
Those last two acts are from the UK. After Matt & Beki I played Kenelis and the song "Jealous," a single from 2011. And then a band I played last month called Eeek. They in fact told me about Kenelis, as when I'm corresponding with acts in other countries I often ask, hey, who else should I know about. Anyway, the song by Eeek was "Turbo Girl." And time to change the pace, for a very reflective album by an artist going by just her first name, Tylan. I know her better as one of the members of the band Girlyman, whom I've liked for many years. But her new solo album is called "One True Thing," and from it are the title track and one called "Wide Awake."
- One True Thing / Wild Awake (2013)
And that was a little different for this show, a jazz piece from a Canadian cello musician, and her group is called the Kye Marshall Jazz Quartet. From her brand new album "Pencil Blues" was the track "Cello-ing."
Changing genres again. In Part 1 of the show Matt Fishel mentioned a UK band that was influential to him, Skunk Anansie, whose lead singer is openly lesbian and calls herself Skin. So I want to play a couple tracks by them. From their 1996 album "Stooshed" is "Hedonism," and from their one from 2012, "Black Traffic" comes the song "I Hope You Get To Meet Your Hero."
Anansie - Hedonism (1996)
That third song was by another UK act, Neon Choir, and I played "Ice Cream Float" from their 2010 EP "Animal." And then I played the new track from The Cliks, "Savanna." It's from their upcoming CD "Black Tie Elevator."
This is JD Doyle. I thank you for listening to OutRadio for April, and I'm closing with something I don't usually do...play a huge, huge hit. But this one was from 1987 and I loved it. Matt Fishel mentioned George Michael was another big influence on him, so I dug out George's magnificent collaboration with Aretha Franklin, "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)."
George Michael & Aretha Franklin - I Knew You Were Waiting For Me (1987)