41zwtweOpeL._SL500_SY300_Da Yoopers – “Rusty Chevrolet” – (1987)

Radio stations used to play this. Nothing quite says “The Midwest” like a parody Christmas song sung in a heavy Northern Michigan accent. Nothing also says “The Midwest” like saying: I remember how hilarious this was when I was younger and it’s one of those parodies that kids pick up on and find hilarious to sing in place of the real version of “Jingle Bells.”

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INXS_kickINXS – “Need  You Tonight” – (1987)

This is INXS’s best song. I am befuddled as to why this didn’t appear on our Top 100 Songs of the 80s countdown, because it should’ve been in the top 25. Strange. It’s that guitar riff that sets this song apart and gets it stuck in your head for hours. That’s part of the reason it became INXS’s signature tune. It was also a Billboard Hot 100 #1.

Patrick Swayze feat. Wendy Fraser – “She’s Like the Wind” – (1987)

The Dirty Dancing soundtrack is one of the most successful soundtracks of all time, selling over 32 million copies. I can’t be the only one who finds it weird that Patrick Swayze had a top three hit in the U.S.? Then again, this was the decade of all kinds of actors releasing music – Don Johnson, Bruce Willis, etc. Patrick Swayze is the main credited artist, but the single was actually released with “featuring Wendy Fraser” attached to it. You can tell this is from the 80s because of the power ballad lyrical delivery and the saxophone. Mostly that sax.

Michael Jackson & Siedah Garrett – “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” – (1987)

Oops. For whatever reason I thought I remembered this song as from 1992 (I thought it was on Dangerous and not Bad). Oh well, I’ll leave it here and bump the 90s to Friday and skip the 2000s for this week. This was a #1 hit for Jackson (and Garrett). Siedah Garrett made a career out of performing backing vocals and writing songs (although she didn’t write this one). This is not one of Michael Jackson’s best-remembered #1s but it really isn’t too bad.

Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine – “1,2,3” – (1987)

Okay, 1, 2 or 3 – which do you think this song peaked at on the Hot 100? Answer: 3. This is one of the more upbeat singles that Gloria Estefan ever had. It’s pure 80s with that slight Latin vibe that made her so successful and interesting. This song came from the last official Miami Sound Machine album, as the band more or less imploded (an always-changing version of the band still backs her today, but they are no longer billed separately). This is one of my favorite Estefan tunes.

#19 – A-ha – “The Living Daylights” – (1987)

Norwegian New Wave band A-ha was recruited to record the New Wave-y theme song for the first Timothy Dalton Bond film. The movie was okay – but it had an awesome Cold War theme to it. The song, meh. New Wave had already peaked by the time the Bond producers tried to capitalize on it in 1987. The song is largely forgettable, just like the two Dalton movies (even though I really like Timothy Dalton as an actor, he just had crappy material to work with).

U2 – “Sweetest Thing” – (1987/1998)

Okay, while Wednesday’s song made me look stupid, this one hopefully restores some faith, as the decade it hails from is actually kind of confusing. Let me first by saying two things: 1. Bono totally looks like Elvis Costello in the music video and 2. This is the greatest song U2 has ever done. The song was originally released as a b-side on the “Where the Streets Have No Name” single in 1987. It was re-recorded and re-released in 1998 on the compilation album “The Best of 1980-1990.” While essentially the same, the new version is far superior. In the late 1990s, it was a top ten in the U.S. and Australia, hitting #1 in Canada and Ireland and entering the top five in the U.K. Versions of the song have appeared in various films and it was everywhere on the radio in 1998 and 1999. It is a wonderful tune.

Michael Jackson – “Man in the Mirror” – (1987)

This was a #1 for Michael Jackson and it’s one of his best songs – actually it was the fourth consecutive #1 from Bad, which is a pretty incredible feat. “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make that change – I’m starting with the man in the mirror.” Basically, if you don’t know this song, there’s no helping you so I’ll just go ahead and move on to Wednesday’s post, where we continue with our unofficial “Michael Jackson Week” – featuring an 80s song today (Monday), a 90s hit on Wednesday, and a song released since 2000 on Friday. I think we might do this for a couple of applicable artists over time. We’ll see.

John Mellencamp – “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” – (1987)

This is easily the best version of this song. Mellencamp really takes a 1950s Christmas standard (kinda) and rocks it. This was another radio-friendly Christmas hit from the first charity album A Very Special Christmas (there are a series of them) that benefitted the Special Olympics. The other big hit from this was Bruce Springsteen’s “Merry Christmas Baby.”

This song has a very country-rock feel to it. It’s like a hillbilly orchestra going on in the background. Someone is clearly playing the cow-bell and I’m pretty sure that’s a banjo… in a Christmas song? Very cool.

#2 – Aerosmith – “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” – (1987)

I just realized that three of the top five songs on this countdown were from 1987… as if that was some kind of high-water mark in rock music. I don’t think that’s it, but it was still a pretty good year. This song was a very important part to Aerosmith’s career – it marked their comeback from the brink that they teetered on for most of the 80s. Yeah, Run-DMC helped them out somewhat but this was them on their own. And this was the first single from “Permanent Vacation” and while it only barely cracked the Top 15 on the Hot 100, it was still a huge hit that receives regular airplay today. It’s one of those songs that everybody knows and Steven Tyler’s inspired lyric delivery is certainly not a hindrance. What’s it really about? I don’t know, but if you caught Steven Tyler’s appearance on American Idol this past season, I think I have an idea…

#4 – Guns N’ Roses – “Paradise City” – (1987)

“Paradise City” was the third top ten single from Guns N’ Roses, peaking at #5 in 1988. I don’t quite think this qualifies as their “most widely known” song but it’s fairly iconic. You’ve got Slash, slashing it up on the guitar and Axl Rose screaming the lyrics. Half of this song is at performed at warp speed, which is pretty cool. The only bad part? It’s by Guns N’ Roses – so if you didn’t get to see it live back in the day, you’re probably out of luck. Because Axl Rose is kind of a walking ___(negative noun of your choice here)___ and it will be a miracle if they ever perform as a band again.

#5 – Def Leppard – “Pour Some Sugar on Me” – (1987)

This is the Def Leppard song. When the 90s came, their music got, well, uhh… not better. It only hit #2 on the Hot 100 but it is their best known song and widely considered one of the greatest songs of the 80s. It remains a big hit today featuring in movies and being one of very few pre-internet age songs to have reached Gold Certification for having more than half a million [legal] downloads.

#13 – Whitesnake – “Here I Go Again” – (1982)

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen the album cover to Saints & Sinners before… and that’s probably because I don’t know this song from its original 1982 release on that album. It was re-recorded in 1987 for the album Whitesnake. The 1987 version is the one that hit #1 on the Hot 100. But it’s not like I know what that album cover looks like either. When I hear this song, the first image that comes to mind if Tawny Kitaen sprawling around on the hood of a Jaguar. I’m likely not alone in that…

Foreigner – “Say You Will” – (1987)

“Say You Will” was a power-ballad type rock song from Foreigner and it was one of their last hits, hitting #6 in the U.S. The song is a kind of combination of mid-80s songs like “Waiting for a Girl Like You” and their earlier stuff like “Urgent” – it’s neither hard nor soft rock. It’s just rock.

Bruce Willis – “Respect Yourself” – (1987)

It would be pretty easy to make a joke about Bruce Willis needing to respect himself by not releasing albums full of songs sung by him, but the fact is this song isn’t that terribly bad. It was a top 5 hit in the U.S. The song is pretty catchy and the music is, um, very appropriate for the year in which it was released. It sounds like something that should have appeared on the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack (it didn’t) – but that might have to do with one of the Pointer Sisters being featured in the song. I do like the song, but I’m glad Bruce spends most of his time acting these days.

John Cougar Mellencamp – “Cherry Bomb” – (1987)

The Lonesome Jubilee was Mellencamp’s fifth album in the 1980s. “Cherry Bomb” is very similar to “Jack and Diane” in that it’s a nostalgic song about past relationships. But unlike songs like “Pink Houses” this one is upbeat, generally, and happy. I just realized that almost every John Mellencamp song is fundamentally the same: a longing look back at some slice of Americana.

T’Pau – “Heart and Soul” – (1987)

This song has a lovely mid-to-late 80s beat – like it should be in the opening credits/scenes of a Tom Cruise movie from the same period. The lyrics come on strong when singer Carol Decker belting out the chorus which I would post here if I were able to cross-check it with a lyrics website. But I can’t because every lyrics website it full of pop up ads that are probably jamming my computer with adware. Hooray, internet!

U2 – “Where the Streets Have No Name” – (1987)

This was track no. 1 on The Joshua Tree – it’s always nice when that opening track is at least good so when you pop the album in and hit play you don’t have to skip around to find something decent. But I think “Where the Streets Have No Name” is a little better than decent. I’m sure (because Bono was involved) that this song has some kind of deep meaning, but I always considered how much it would piss me off to live in a town where the streets actually had no name. The pulsating guitar, with the percussion to match it, gives this song a wonderfully up-tempo feel. It’s one of U2’s best.

U2 – “With or Without You” – (1987)

“With or Without You” was U2’s first #1 single in the U.S. and Canada. It remains one of U2’s best known songs. Something I never really noticed about this song is that it doesn’t do the whole chorus-verse-chorus thing. It just kind of goes with these big building lyrics and memorable guitar. This music video reminds me what a kind of strange figure Bono is. I mean, his name is “Bono” and he’s been this looming presence in the world (not just the music world) for almost 30 years. In the video it’s weird seeing him without sunglasses on.

R.E.M. – “It’s the End of the World as We Know it (And I Feel Fine)” – (1987)

Congrats, R.E.M., on the longest-title award. Does anyone not love this song? It’s immense fun. And that’s about all it is – Michael Stipe just naming seemingly random things. According to him, he had a dream where he was at a party and everyone there had the initials “L.B.” – which is where Leonard Bernstein, Leonid Brezhnev, Lenny Bruce, and Lester Bangs comes from. This is a difficult song to sing along to, due to the rapid-fire delivery of the lyrics. Its references to the apocalypse gave it new legs in 1999, with Y2K and the end of the world being upon us and whatnot. No Doubt performed it on MTV at midnight that night and nailed it. This is one reason it didn’t make the countdown (the fact that “Stand” is great is the other”) – although I know damned well it’s from the 80s, I can’t help but associate it almost entirely with the 90s.

Pink Floyd – “Learning to Fly” – (1987)

This song was originally on the countdown somewhere in the 30s until I realized that my absolute love for this song was cloudy my judgment of its worthiness as an 80s staple. Released so far past Pink Floyd’s glory days, most people don’t give it a second thought but it has a similar sound to the great hits from The Wall. There really isn’t anything about this song that gives it away as being from the 80s as opposed to the 70s – and that’s why it didn’t make the countdown. It might be among my very favorite Pink Floyd tracks, but it’s not 80s enough – to its credit.

#11 – Billy Vera & the Beaters – “At This Moment” – (1987)

Originally recorded and released in 1981, “At This Moment” didn’t become a hit until it was featured in an episode of Family Ties in 1986. Then it went to #1 in January of 1987. The song is beautiful and has the required 1980s saxophone. It’s very bluesy/jazzy. And the power of the lyrics when accompanied by very little instrumentation is quite great. Billy Vera & the Beaters could never match this success – some songs just can’t be topped.

#12 – George Michael – “Father Figure” – (1987)

George Michael is one of my favorite artists to come out of the 80s. Hmm. Poor choice of words there. Of all his solo work, this is my favorite and I think, his best, song. It’s kind of slow, but the chorus is loud and very church-choir-ish. And unlike almost every song ever recorded, the lyrics on this track are completely discernable. I can pick up every word he says (and sing along, loudly), without having to look up lyrics. His voice is clear – and that is rare. In the music video, George is sporting “his look” – big sunglasses, leather jacket and giant cross earring. Faith was his biggest album, generating four #1 singles and a #2 single.

#14 – The Whispers – “Rock Steady” – (1987)

“And we began to rock – steady / steady rockin’ all night long.” This is my favorite R&B song from the 80s (the Commodores “Lady” being a close second). This song has the sublime 80s-ness to it that you just can’t capture anymore. Sure, the synth is heavy – but those vocals just aren’t around anymore. And everybody in the band has a giant Steve Harvey moustache in the music video – and matching green and yellow suits. Because of this song, The Whispers will always be “rockin’ to the break of dawn.”

#38 – Eric Carmen – “Hungry Eyes” – (1987)

Here’s another song from Dirty Dancing. The music is kind of simple, but the lyrics and their stellar delivery is what sells this song. “Hungry Eyes” is delivered in a very quasi-soulful way and the intermittent lines “One look at you and I can’t disguise” and “I feel the magic between you and I” sound like they’ve been plucked from some mega-hair power ballad. Wow, that was a big sentence. Eric Carmen had other small 80s hits (this one went to #4) but is probably better known for his 70s his, including those with The Raspberries.