220px-a-fresh-aire-christmas-coverMannheim Steamroller – “Cantique de Noel (O Holy Night)” – (1988)

“O Holy Night” was composed in 1847 in France as music to match a poem. It was all written to be performed in a church, making it one of what seems like only a handful of Christmas carols that are actually allowed to be played in church (sorry, Mariah Carey). Even if this version is a little new-agey, it still gets the point across and is instantly recognizable.

220px-A-Fresh-Aire-Christmas-CoverMannheim Steamroller – “Hark! The Herald Trumpets Sing” – (1988)

Yes, this sounds like church music. It’s the opening track to Mannheim Steamroller’s 1988 Fresh Aire Christmas – one of the best-selling Holiday albums of all time. This is little more than a prelude to “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

Bob Rivers Comedy Corp – “The Twelve Pains of Christmas” – (1988)

We featured two songs from Bob Rivers last week. But this is his most famous work. It works the same way as the traditional “12 Days of Christmas” but it’s about the least fun aspects of the holiday season. The best part is that as the song goes, each time a pain is repeated, it’s done so in a less pleasant way until the final climax where it’s just mostly people screaming. This song received regular Christmastime radio airplay in the U.S. for much of the 1990s and beyond. I haven’t heard it in years, but it’ll slip in here and there.

Lita Ford & Ozzy Osbourne – “Close My Eyes Forever” – (1988)

Here’s a power ballad duet from the glam metal era. It features one of the kings of heavy metal: Ozzy Osbourne and one of its queens: Lita Ford. Lita was Lita Ford’s first album under the supervision of her new manager: Sharon Osbourne – thus Ozzy’s participation. As strange as it seems now, you can actually understand Ozzy’s vocals. Watch the video and relish in the awful hairstyles of the past.

Hall & Oates – “Everything Your Heart Desires” – (1988)

This was the last top 10 single from Hall & Oates – well, I guess technically I should say “it’s their most recent” – but for some reason, I don’t see them putting out a new single to compete with Miley Cyrus among tweens whose YouTube habits dictate the current Billboard charts. This song actually reached #3 but I don’t know if I ever recalled hearing it on the radio even in the 90s. Not their most classic tune. But not terrible either.

Mannheim Steamroller – “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” – (1988)

A Fresh Aire Christmas has sold over 3.5 million copies since it was released in 1988. Mannheim Steamroller – and Chip Davis and Jackson Berkey (the two men behind the band) – is a group mostly known for its New Age take on Christmas classics. They have other albums as well, but Christmas is what they’re known for. Hark! The Heralds Angels Sing is a Christmas standard. The carol dates back to the early 1700s when it was originally written by Charles Wesley. But the music was slow and kind of dark… so 100 years later Felix Mendelssohn wrote a more upbeat version and Mannheim Steamroller have updated it a little more.

Elton John – “I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That” – (1988)

Elton John’s 1980s music isn’t his best. I mean, it’s not bad. But what he was doing in the 1970s was brilliant and then he had this wonderful resurgence in the 1990s. Songs like that are often forgotten, even though this one peaked at #2 on the Hot 100. This was the biggest hit from 1988’s Reg Strikes Back. Just another Elton John tune.

Van Halen – “When It’s Love” – (1988)

This was Van Halen’s last major hit of the 1980s. It was a #1 on the Modern Rock chart and a top five on the Hot 100. It’s a power ballad and used lead singer #2, Sammy Hagar. If you listen too closely to the music, it can definitely sound a bit dated, but overall the song really isn’t that bad. As far as Sammy Hagar tracks go, this is one of the best.

Jane’s Addiction – “Jane Says” – (1988)

“Jane Says” was the first single from Jane’s Addiction – a mediocre rock band formed in L.A. in 1985 that received way too much attention about ten years ago when they got back together to release a new album that wasn’t that good. Some introduction, eh? They did put out a few songs that were okay though, and this is one of them. Gotta love a song whose title references the name of the band – doesn’t seem too terribly creative when it’s your lead single, but thankfully they had other hits that showed they weren’t “all about Jane.”

The Proclaimers – “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” – (1988)

“When I wake up, yeah I know I’m gonna be, I’m gonna be the man who wakes up next to you… And I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more just to be the man who walked 1,000 miles to fall down at your door.” The Proclaimers, of Scotland – with their thick, Scottish accents – released this song on their album Sunshine on Leith in 1988. It was a big hit in the U.K. and Australia immediately upon its release. It hit #3 in the U.S. in 1993, which is why I associate it with the 1990s. So this is a legitimate instance of decade confusion, and a good way to wrap up our initial discussion. Next up, we’ll focus on songs from the 1970s that I associate more so with the 1980s.

Tracy Chapman – “Fast Car” – (1988)

Tracy Chapman had a major hit in the mid-1990s with “Give Me One Reason.” I’m having a hard time remembering if, when “Give Me One Reason” came out, if anyone remembered that she had a hit in the late 1980s with this song, which became a hit after she performed it live at Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday Tribute concert in London. After that it hit the top ten in a number of countries, including the U.K. and the U.S. This was the highest charting song written and performed by a female artist on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. And what’s with the decade confusion? Well, when I think Tracy Chapman, I think “Give Me One Reason” and have a hard time believing she had seven years between hit singles, like that was just the follow-up single to this or something. Wrong.

New Kids on the Block – “Hangin’ Tough” – (1988)

New Kids were kind of the prototypical “Boy Band” as we know it today: a handful of white dudes with distinctive personalities/roles within the group. “Hangin’ Tough” was their semi-rap song about how hard they were – which is to say, not very. Donnie Wahlberg can be heard on lead vocals and there is even a great late-80s guitar solo. So why have I confused the decades here? Because I associated NKOTB with the 90s. I assumed the 1990s were laid out as such: Early-90s; the New Kids hit it big. Mid-90s: the New Kids break up. The Late-90s: Jordan Knight and Joey McIntyre have popular solo hits and Donnie Wahlberg becomes famous for being Marky Mark’s brother. Or at least, that’s how I picture it as written in the history books.

The Escape Club – “Wild, Wild West” – (1988)

No, not that “Wild, Wild West” – which is unmistakably 90s. This song, while it definitely sounds like something from the 80s – it also has an early 90s feel. It must be that I just associate it with UB40 or Roxette and that other early 90s garbage – uh, I mean… music (I actually love UB40). There are some lyrics in this song that I absolutely love: “She’s so mean – but I don’t care. I love her eyes and her wild, wild hair.” I’ve just realized that the next line is “Heading for the 90s” – indicating that this song is definitely from the 1980s. Duh.

Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians – “What I Am” – (1988)

Okay, so we’re doing something new for the next however many weeks it takes. We will be going through songs that sound like they are from the 1990s but were really released in the 1980s (eventually we’ll do the opposite as well). This was the only hit for Edie Brickell – and VH1 considers the band one of the biggest one hit wonders of all time. This song is amazing and, although it came out in 1988 and charted in 1988 and 1989, it still received a lot of airplay on Top 40 radio stations through most of the 1990s. It sounds like something that could have come from 10,000 Maniacs or even Natalie Merchant’s mid-90s solo career. But it was featured in an episode of Miami Vice – so it must be 80s.

Johnny Hates Jazz – “Shattered Dreams” – (1988)

Whoa, how did this not make our best songs of the 80s list? It should have. This catchy synthpop tune was a top five hit in the U.S. Johnny Hates Jazz (which is a pretty 80s name for a new wave band) were from London and this is the song they’re known for (they had a few other minor hits). Oh, and if you watch the music video I’ve linked to above, check out the bass player because he looks just like Jerry Seinfeld circa 1990.

AC/DC – “That’s The Way I Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll” – (1988)

This was the second and final single from AC/DC’s 1988 album Blow Up Your Video. Strange fact I can’t quite believe but then again I’m reading it on Wikipedia: this is the last album that singer Brian Johnson (or anyone not named “Young”) is credited as a songwriter. Malcom & Angus Young wrote all songs on all future albums. If that’s true it’s insane. The album kind of fizzled and didn’t go anywhere and the single didn’t either for the most part but it’s solid 80s AC/DC… the sort of final sendoff to the 1980s from one of the biggest rock groups of the decade.

Lita Ford – “Kiss Me Deadly” – (1988)

Lita Ford was kind of like a hardcore version of Pat Benatar. Ford and Joan Jett were once in a band together, and as Joan went toward the punk scene, Lita stays focused on rock. This is her most famous song apart from a duet she did with Ozzy Osbourne. This song just missed our Best Rock Songs of the 80s countdown that ended last week.

#12 – Poison – “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” – (1988)

Hooray for power ballads… right? I used to really like and appreciate this song, but with Bret Michaels refusing to give up and leave the spotlight, my respect for this song and Poison in general has faltered terribly. It’s definitely one of the best power ballads… but I’m not sure that is saying a whole lot.

Roxette – “The Look” – (1988)

“She’s got the look!” is the popular hook from the chorus of Roxette’s breakthrough hit. Roxette is a Swedish duo and this song made them famous worldwide. The story behind the international airplay is that an American exchange student came back from Europe and got his local station to play this song and from there cassettes were spread to other stations and the song ended up at #1 in April of 1989. Could you imagine that happening today? It won’t. Ever again. Nowadays you can hear anything and everything online. Everyone’s connected. There are no more pleasant surprises. Sorry.

Information Society – “What’s On Your Mind (Pure Energy)” – (1988)

Every time I hear this wonderful new wave hit, my immediate thought is “Hey, that’s Duran Duran.” It isn’t. The Duran Duran song I’m thinking of is “Is There Something I Should Know,” which I guess has a similar chorus or maybe it’s the yelling at the beginning of both songs. No, it’s that they both say “I wanna know, what you’re thinking.” No, that’s totally incorrect. Wow, I really cannot tell these two songs apart for anything. This one is better, I do know that.

Whitney Houston – “One Moment in Time” – (1988)

The 1988 Summer Olympics were held in Seoul, South Korea and this was the theme song. It was co-written by Albert Hammond (of rainy, southern California fame) and won an Emmy – but I don’t know why. This, like all Olympic themes, is inspirational in nature. But unlike most Olympic themes this was a big radio hit – hitting #1 in the U.K. and becoming Whitney’s 7th #1 on the Adult Contemporary charts – a chart she ruled through the 80s and the first half of the 90s and would still probably rule if it wasn’t for… well, certain things.

Will to Power – “Baby I Love Your Way/Freebird Medley” – (1988)

For all rational purposes, Will to Power was a one-hit wonder. But they did manage quite a feat: only getting one cover song to #1, but two – and on the same track at that! “Baby I Love Your Way” was originally a hit for Peter Frampton in 1976 and “Free Bird” a 1975 hit for Lynyrd Skynyrd. “Freebaby,” as this song is sometimes called, makes more use of Frampton’s hit than Skynyrd’s – but they’re both there. “Baby I Love Your Way” would hit #6 a few years after this song was released –again a cover version but this time by reggae band Big Mountain.

When in Rome – “The Promise” – (1988)

When in Rome – who are from Manchester, England – is a one-hit wonder of the new wave variety (there were so many of them). This song features an up-tempo synth line underneath soft-spoken vocals that, at the chorus, increase in pitch and musical effectiveness. That was a weird, wordy sentence but that’s kind of the definitive new wave/synthpop formula. “The Promise” is also famous for being featured at the end of Napoleon Dynamite.

#9 – UB40 – “Red Red Wine” – (1983)

Here’s another tropical 80s hit. “Red Red Wine” was written and originally released by Neil Diamond in 1968, but it wasn’t anywhere near this much fun. This song was a #1 in the UK upon its first release in 1983. It didn’t hit #1 in the U.S. until 1988. Which is kinda weird. The last concert I was at was a UB40 concert (I know, right?) and they waited until the very end to perform this, and rightfully so, it is their signature song. But I really had to go to the bathroom and I didn’t want to miss it. So I had to stand there and dance for an hour before I finally heard it. Worth it. One thing I love is that when you listen to this song you picture a very Bob Marley-looking fellow singing it. Then you see this average looking white guy from Birmingham belting out these amazing lyrics with such perfection… it really throws you. I love it.

#10 – The Beach Boys – “Kokomo” – (1988)

“Kokomo” is interesting. By the late 80s, The Beach Boys were mostly a group for nostalgia freaks. Then 4 musical giants got together and wrote this song: John Phillips (from the Mamas & the Papas), Scott McKenzie (who had a huge single on his own), Mike Love (founding member of the Beach Boys), and Terry Melcher (who produced albums for The Byrds, and Paul Revere & the Raiders). After they wrote the song, it was used in the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail – to huge success – propelling the song to #1 – the first for the Beach Boys since 1966. It put the band back in the spotlight and introduced their music to a whole new generation. The song was included on the Boys’ 1989 album Still Cruisin’ as well as the Cocktail soundtrack.

The song famously lists a bunch of tropical places and one fictional place (or a real one: Kokomo, Indiana – hardly tropical). Aruba, Jamaica, Bermuda, Bahama(s), Key Largo, Montego, Martinique, Montserrat, and Port-au-Prince. Naturally, VH1 and those “people” at Blender loathed this song and mocked it whenever they could. Guilty pleasure, maybe? Could be, but I’ve loved it since I first heard it – it’s catchy as hell. Also, this song was featured on Full House when Uncle Jesse joined the Beach Boys as their drummer. Yes, John Stamos was technically in The Beach Boys – which is one of my favorite bits of trivia ever.