Saturday, October 04, 2008

10 Great Songs from One Great Year


1987 will always be remembered for the scandals that plagued the country. While President Reagan was embroiled in the Iran-Contra affair, more people were enthralled with two women and how they brought down powerful men. The first was Jessica Hawn, who destroyed the career (deservedly so) of televangelist Jim Bakker. Second was Donna Rice, who’s affair with Presidential-front runner Gary Hart ended his run for the White House.

This was also the year that FOX began broadcasting as an alternative to the “Big Three” networks (ABC, CBS and NBC), with shows such as “Married…With Children” and the “Tracy Ullman Show.” Of course, from that series, the spin-off “The Simpsons” were born.

This was the year the first heart-lung transplant was successfully transplanted and Prozac became the first name in anti-depressants. Tragedy took its turn with the crash of Korean AirFlight 858, caused by a mid-air explosion thought to be the work of North Korean saboteurs, Northwest Airlines flight 255 crashed upon takeoff from Detroit and PSA flight 1771 crashes near Paso Robles, California, killing all 43 on board, after a disgruntled passenger shoots his ex-supervisor on the flight, then shoots both pilots and himself.

But perhaps, 1987 will be most remembered for the stock market crash and the greed of Wall Street.

The One I Love – REM

Often misinterpreted as a love song, this is just the opposite. Lead singer Michael Stipe describes this song as about using people over and over. It's deceptive because it could be a love song until the line "A simple prop to occupy my time.” Formed in Athens, GA in 1980, REM soon became a mainstay on the charts. This was their first top 40 single.

When Smokey Sings – ABC

ABC were an English New Romantic group who enjoyed 6 UK and 4 US Top 20 singles. "When Smokey Sings" was their last Top 20 single in both territories. ABC chose their name because "The first three letters of the alphabet are known the world over.” This song is a tribute to the American singer and songwriter Smokey Robinson.

Luka - Suzanne Vega

This song is about child abuse. It tells the story of a frightened boy who is forbidden to talk about what he's going through. On a 1987 Swedish television special, Vega said: "A few years ago, I used to see this group of children playing in from of my building, and there was one of them, whose name was Luka, who seemed a little bit distinctive from the other children. I always remembered his name, and I always remembered his face, and I didn't know much about him, but he just seemed set apart from these other children that I would see playing. And his character is what I based the song Luka on. In the song, the boy Luka is an abused child - In real life I don't think he was. I think he was just different."

Don't Dream It's Over – Crowded House

Crowded House (and former Split Enz) leader Neil Finn wrote this after having a terrible fight with his wife, Sharon. This was Crowded House's biggest hit in the US. The group is from New Zealand, where they are very popular. Crowded House was their first album, which did very well in the US. Subsequently released albums had success in the UK, but not in the states. The other charting song from this album was “Something So Strong.”

Isn’t It Midnight – Fleetwood Mac

Stevie Nicks was predominantly absent from the recording sessions of the album Tango In the Night due to the demands of her solo career and a spell at the Betty Ford clinic (drugs and alcohol had affected most of the band since the Mirage album). The album was therefore mostly recorded before Nicks' involvement, however she insisted that Lindsay Buckingham allow her to add backing vocals to some of existing recordings, as well as including three of her own songs: "Seven Wonders" (a top 20 hit), "When I See You Again", and "Welcome to the Room...Sara", which was written during her stay at Betty Ford. “Isn’t it Midnight” features Christine McVie on lead vocals and although it was not released as a single, it received significant airplay and was perhaps the strongest track on the album.

Tunnel of Love – Bruce Springsteen

While not as commercially successful a single as the other single from the album (the top 10 hit “Brilliant Disguise”), this title track was my favorite from the LP. This was inspired by the amusement rides on the boardwalk of Asbury Park, New Jersey, where Springsteen hung out and gigged growing up. He used the "Tunnel Of Love" ride as a metaphor for the ups and downs of a relationship. He was having problems with his first marriage at the time, and would later divorce Julianne Phillips. The amusement park that helped inspire this is over 100 years old. It is in the New Jersey Register of Historic Places.

Mary’s Prayer – Danny Wilson

Danny Wilson is made up of three brothers from Dundee, Scotland. They got their name from Frank Sinatra's character in the film Meet Danny Wilson. Initially spotted busking around Dundee, they signed to Virgin Records in 1986. The following year they released the album Meet Danny Wilson. The band released its second and final album, Bebop Moptop the following year, including the hit single "The Second Summer Of Love", which reached number 23. They broke up in 1991.

You Win Again – The Bee Gees

After dominating the charts for much of the late 70’s, the Bee Gees seemingly fell off the face of the earth. Although oldest brother, Barry, charted well while writing hits for Barbara Streisand, Kenny Rogers and Dionne Warwick, the trio failed to make a dent until 1987’s ESP. The title came from the 1952 Hank Williams hit of the same name, although Robin Gibb said he had not heard of it. He added in 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh, "We absolutely thought that You Win Again was going to be a big hit. It took us a month to cut it and get the right mix. This was the biggest hit in Europe in 1987. About the only place it wasn't a hit was the US.

Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns and Roses

This was the first Guns N' Roses song to chart in the US. The first 2 singles from Appetite For Destruction, "It's So Easy" and "Welcome To The Jungle," flopped, although "Welcome To The Jungle" became a hit when it was re-released. Axl Rose wrote this about his girlfriend, Erin Everly, who is the daughter of Don Everly of the Everly Brothers. They married in 1990 but divorced a month later. This won Best Single, Heavy Metal/Hard Rock at the 1989 American Music Awards.

Just Like Heaven – The Cure

This song is about a dreamy day near the seashore with a loved one. Lead singer Robert Smith was brought up in the town of Crawley in Southeast England, which is about 40 miles from Beachy Head (a cliff and notorious suicide hotspot). In the November, 2003 issue of Blender magazine, Robert Smith said: "In 1987, my wife, Mary, and I lived in a small two-bedroom flat in North London. The other room was my music room. Just about the only discipline I had in my life was self-imposed. I set myself a regimen of writing 15 days a month; otherwise I'd have just got up in mid-afternoon and watched TV until the pubs opened, then gone out drinking. I knew as soon as I'd written it that it was a good pop song. Although I didn't realize it at the time, the structure is very similar to 'Another Girl, Another Planet,' by The Only Ones, which I can still vividly remember hearing on the radio late at night in the mid-'70s. The main difference is that as the song progressed, I introduced some different chord changes, which give it that slightly melancholic feeling. The song is about hyperventilating - kissing and fainting to the floor. Mary dances with me in the video because she was the girl, so it had to be her. The idea is that one night like that is worth 1,000 hours of drudgery.”



Very VERY good list...with one exceptions (the Bee Gees? Loved 'em until "Spirits Having Flown", but had absolutely no use for them thereafter) it almost perfectly recollects the music I was listening to in your car on the ride up to New York that August (the Springsteen and Mac didn't come out until later that year).

Kick the Bee Gees aside and add 10,000 Maniacs's "What's the Matter Here?" and you've got a terrific '87 mixed tape!

Aly V said...

U2 "Still haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and Paul Simon "Graceland" are missing too. I know because stupid Graceland beat out my sister for a Grammy. It was a great song and album but I think it came out a different year.