An underrated rock album that has flown under the radar for too long. Living Colour‘s Vivid just turned 35. Let’s revisit.
May 3, 1988. I’d love to tell you I spent my paper route money on Vivid the day it dropped. I mean, I did, eventually. Bought that sucker at the Strawberries on Rt. 1 in Saugus, where I did all of my music shopping back in the day. But no, I was a mere sixth grader and wasn’t yet an early adopter or a tastemaker or a maven or any of those other cool terms. Thankfully, though, I was an MTV watcher. And Living Colour was all over MTV.
Now remember, I’m just an 11-year-old kid. It’s the summer of ’88, and “Cult of Personality” is getting major play on MTV. My still-developing brain is on fire: an all-black rock band, singing a song about a concept I wouldn’t learn about in school for years, with quotes from American presidents, maybe? And they looked so damn cool! The lead singer was rocking a Body Glove wetsuit! Like, as clothes! I had a Body Glove boogie board! I needed more.
I don’t remember when I finally picked up Vivid, but it was either that summer or fall. And I devoured it. It sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before, yet simultaneously sounded like everything. In fact, if you go to the Wikipedia page for the album, it says: “Vivid has been described as hard rock, funk metal, alternative metal, heavy metal, funk rock…funk, soul, jazz, avant-garde jazz, arena rock, pop, punk rock, and rap.” Yes. All of it. I didn’t even know what half of it was at the time, but I wanted it all.
This Underrated Rock Album Turned 35 and Needs a Revisit
Vivid couldn’t have come along at a better time. Sandwiched between the decline of hair metal and the rise of grunge, it truly is one of–if not the best–rock albums of 1988. It was groundbreaking: an all-black rock band, combining multiple genres of rock music in a never-before-heard way. All of that counts for something. So why doesn’t it get more love from the “history of rock” perspective? That I can’t answer. But as a fan, I can show it love. And I hope you’ll show it love, too.