The signs were there: Music of '89 foretold plastics destiny

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Plastics News file Esposito

When the first issue of Plastics News came out on March 6, 1989, the No. 1 song in the U.S. was “Lost in Your Eyes,” a pop ballad by 18-year-old Debbie Gibson.

OK, it’s clearly not the Beatles or the Rolling Stones — or even Michael Jackson — but some song has to be No. 1 every week, and that just happened to be the one on that day.

But did that song — and other No. 1 songs from that year — actually have deeper meanings? Did they in fact have the power to predict the future of the plastics industry?

Let’s re-write that as Internet clickbait: EIGHT WAYS THE HITS OF ‘89 SAW THE FUTURE OF PLASTICS.

1. “Lost in Your Eyes” anticipated the increased use of polycarbonate in eyeglass lenses vs. conventional glass. PC was lighter and shatter-proof and quickly gained acceptance. Gibson herself didn’t wear glasses. But she did wear a stylish trademark hat.

2. The shale gas boom clearly has benefited plastics in the last few years, leading to plans for more resin capacity throughout North America, something that some market watchers thought would never happen again. Well, in ‘89, the Bangles topped the charts with “Eternal Flame” and Billy Joel did the same with his history-laden classic “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”

Coincidence? Or did the Piano Man have the ability to see the shale-gas future? I mean, this was a short, rumpled guy who married supermodel Christie Brinkley. After that, would seeing the future of plastics be all that hard?

3. Another shale omen from the distant days of ‘89 came in the form of soap opera actor Michael Damian topping the charts with “Rock On.” Was fracking far behind? Damian gets bonus points because “Rock On” was a remake of a song that British actor David Essex took to No. 5 in 1974. So Damian looked to the past to predict the future. He should have been a stockbroker.

Still not convinced? What if we told you that Essex was born in the London neighborhood of Plaistow? And what if we further told you that Plaistow’s weekly newspaper is called Plaistow News? OK, that last part is just speculation, but still, I get chills at the very thought.

4. Automotive has remained a very strong market for plastics, offering lighter weight and avoiding rust. Shockingly Prescient ‘89 Chart-Topper: “She Drives Me Crazy” by Fine Young Cannibals.

5. Plastic has found its way into the religious goods market. Plastic rosary beads? Check! ‘89 hit: “Like a Prayer” by Madonna.

6. Where would conferences and industry events be without plastic name badges? In ‘89, Simply Red went to the top of the charts with “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.” More bonus points to this British act, since that song was a remake of a No. 3 hit from ‘72 by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. Again: What did Simply Red know and when did they know it?

7. Where would today’s medical market be without plastics? Whether in implants, surgical tools or a host of medical devices, plastics have made a big impact. ‘89 Musical Connection: “Listen to Your Heart” by Roxette.

8. The most direct link between the pop hits of ‘89 and the plastic market came courtesy of American actress Martika (What was up with all of these singing actors in ‘89?), who went all the way to No. 1 with “Toy Soldiers.” Both the military and toy industries nodded in agreement, as the song drew a 21-gun salute from little green army men nationwide.

I was unaware of these connections before researching the topic. After connecting the dots, I am more convinced than ever that PN knew what it was doing in 1989.

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