I used to work for a newspaper that ran a weekly column of football point-spread predictions under the heading, "Watch, but Don't Bet."
The rationale for that curious title seemed to be that, while prognostication is too delicious to forgo, the sporting seers weren't about to be held responsible if anyone took them seriously and lost the milk money.
In that spirit, here are some predictions for the coming year in pop. You can call this column of guesses, fantasies and wishful thinking "Read, but Don't Believe":
In 1989, the Redcoats will be coming again--but it will be nothing for rock fans to shout about, let alone Paul Revere. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the British rock invasion of 1964. Veterans of that revolutionary assault will stage comebacks to exploit the occasion, with mostly dubious results.
The Who has already announced plans for a reunion album. It will turn out to be a humdrum affair, further tarnishing a once-imposing legacy that diminished considerably with the albums after Keith Moon's death in 1978. This is one band that should have let its career die before it got old.
The lure of megabucks will help the Rolling Stones reconcile their differences and tour again. But megabucks will also dictate a shoddy, exploitative tour of outdoor stadiums rather than indoor shows that might have generated some real heat. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards will produce another lukewarm Stones album, no better and no worse than anything they have done since "Some Girls."
Paul McCartney and George Harrison won't reunite, but they will have something in common: Each will release a mediocre solo album and mount a mediocre tour.
Harrison will have better luck, however, as a Traveling Wilbury. The group will release another strong album, with Don and Phil Everly taking over for the late Roy Orbison.
Some of the less famous '60s British invaders will pull off some of the more rewarding reunions. The Zombies will come up with a charming album, and so will the Hollies. The Kinks will announce early in the year that they have disbanded, ending their run as the longest-lived of all rock bands (at least as a continuously functioning unit). But the Kinks, who have cried wolf before about calling it quits, will come back strong before year's end with the first reunion of their original lineup since 1969. The Bee Gees will shuck the disco jive and make an appealing album harking back to their days as a folk-rock harmony band.
In fact, 1989 will be the year that harmony and pop bel canto make a strong comeback. Noting how well Bobby McFerrin did in '88, many acts in R&B will rediscover the traditions of the great Motown vocal groups--the Supremes, the Temptations and the Miracles.
Instead of yelling along to a beat box, young ghetto musicians will gather once more to sing a cappella on street corners. The result will be a welcome transformation for rap music, which in 1989 will begin to mature with a melding of tough rhythms and spoken raps interspersed with adventurous, melodic singing in a sort of recitative/aria structure. The creative and commercial possibilities of this combination will be limitless, propelling black music into the '90s on a decided upbeat.
Tracy Chapman will use her new acclaim in the finest, most adventuresome way, by mounting a joint tour, and perhaps recording an album, with Sweet Honey in the Rock--the outstanding, all-female, socially trenchant a cappella folk-singing group from Washington.
One of the year's biggest music-related controversies will erupt when a major pop figure releases an anthem lauding the PLO and demanding Palestinian national rights. The outcome will determine whether rockers stick to such easy, uncontroversial issues as human rights (who is publicly for torture and repression?) and apartheid (who, outside of South Africa, believes in it?).
Independent record labels will continue to die. Ownership of record companies will become so concentrated that an organized movement of musicians, critics and fans will arise to lobby federal authorities to move to break up the entertainment cartels. Bruce Springsteen will be the first major rocker to declare that small is beautiful.
Orange County will finally get the full-time, night-in, night-out original rock music club it needs. This will happen when Sam Lanni, former proprietor of Safari Sam's, hits the lottery and becomes filthy rich overnight. Plowing his winnings into a club, Lanni will found a new Safari Sam's that serves both as a showcase stage and a social meeting ground for the local music scene.
The new Sam's will also bring to Orange County innovative, lesser-known touring talent that previously only played Los Angeles. Anti-rock municipal authorities will try to undermine the new Sam's, much as they succeeded in doing with the original one. This time, able to afford a team of experts in First Amendment law, Lanni will take the stuffed shirts to court and win in a rout.