Elegance in Eloquence

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Nothing can trigger cellular memory like a song. As I listen to the Top 20 from the week of September 5th, 1987, the physical sensations I felt then caught between freedom and school’s return ripple back as these songs play clustered in context. The sun’s afternoon shadows faling on the dark green of the trees are the same as they were 32 years ago, as is the feeling of the late Summer heat with faints hints of coolness in the breezes.And yet my emotional indifference to most of this music is second only to my amazement of my body’s  reaction to it.

20. Jellybean featuring Elisa Fiorillo – Who Found Who

You may think this dance tune is about sour grapes between John “Jellybean” Benetez and his former girlfriend, Madonna. But this song is actually written by Paul Gurvitz, who was in the Baker Gurvitz Army with his brother Adrian. It’s on it way up to #16.

19. George Michael – I Want Your Sex

Has anyone ever asked someone for their sex, unless they’re filling out an applciation to join the military? It sounds like something someone would ask if they barely spoke or understood English. Read the title in your best Borat accent and tell me if you don’t agree.

18. LL Cool J – I Need Love

Even though LL gets credit for the first rap ballad, I ain’t buying it. Can you really take a guy seriously who writes songs like I’m That Type Of Guy and Big Ole Butt?

17. Bananarama – I Heard A Rumour

This is the third and final Top 40 hit for the female UK trio whispering its way up to #4. The Stock Aiken Waterman machine was still cranking out the hits, but inspiration must have been pretty low if they felt the need to rip off this obscure Italian dance song for this track.

16. Fat Boys & Beach Boys – Wipe Out

The Fat Boys decided to use some Baby Boomer sauce to crossover to the pop charts. For their first Top 40 hit, they stopped focusing on the fat jokes and pumped out this crazy wack cover of Wipeout with some half-assed version of the Beach Boys. It will climb another 4 notches to #12. The trio was in the midst of starring in their first movie, the horrible unfunny Disordelies, which contained this song and #17.

15. Grateful Dead – Touch Of Grey

OHW – I was sheltered from the cult of Deadheads until the Summer of 1987 when my college age bosses at the beach concession stand would lock themselves in their office, smoke weed and listen to In the Dark over and over. I feel as if this band’s legacy has been unfairly dictated by its fans, all the while overshadowing their influence as psychedelic rock pioneers. For all of the jam bands created in their wake and the fan base who listen to them and only them multiple times, I am very suspect of their musical taste.

Supposedly this song had been played live for years before it was recorded and it ended up being their only Top 40 hit.

SXMFU – On the Big 80s Countdown, Nina Blackwood back annouces this song and then mentions the U2 song at #25 that fell eleven places. Does anyone review the copy or the recording over at SXM?

14. Starship – It’s Not Over (Til It’s Over)

Here’s a fellow Frisco band who took a very different path to success, fully embracing the corporate band model including a catchier brand name as well as tired musical formulas. This one is a Robbie Nevil co-write perfect suited for a Nike commercial.

13. Suzanne Vega – Luka

Suzanne Vega scored a fluke Top 40 hit in 1987 from her second LP, Solitude Standing which helped to kickstart a new female singer-songwriter revoution culminating in the late 90s with the Lilith Fair. With backing vocals from Shawn Colvin who’d have her own big hit in 1997 called Sunny Came Home, this song about child abuse plaintively sung from the kid’s point of view somehow cut through all of the Yamaha DX7 ballads and formalaic dance pop on the radio to reach #3.

12. Dionne Warwick and Jeffrey Osborne – Love Power

Wow, this is about as Soft rock as it gets. A Bacharach/Sager tune with David Foster on keyboards and Kenny G blowing the sax solo. I do like the jazzy airy feeling on the song, how the vocals just breeze in and out with no real structure or strict chord change. It is sitting at its peak and would be the last Top 40 hit for both artists.

11. ABC – When Smokey Sings

Back at #24, we heard the Miracle man, Smokey Robinson. Up at #11 here are fanboys ABC with thier paean to the smooth and debonair singer and how his voice makes them forget everything including the girl who just walked out on them. This will be their most successful US single when it reaches #5 and their last.

10. Huey Lewis & The News – Doing It All For My Baby

Huey & the fellas rack up their fifth Top 10 hit from the album Fore! They are in the middle of a seven straight Top 10s from 1985’s The Power Of Love to 1988’s Perfect World. And hey guys I know this is a ballad but loosen up a bit on those drums a bit. I wanna dance with my wife without looking like Frankenstein.

9. The Whispers – Rock Steady

It took eighteen albums for the Whispers to finally crossover to the Pop Top 10 with this early Babyface/ LA Reid dance track. This week it falls from its high of #7. And remember when I talked about the SAW machine lazily building their empire at #17? Check out this Kylie Minogue track from her 1988 debut which rips off this song and Madonna’s Into the Groove.

8. Whitesnake – Here I Go Again

PFK – Whitesnake finally had some true success slipping in through the glam metal door. But really they were just hard rockers with teased hair and leather pants. This is on a path to #1, aided no doubt by the video in which actress Tawny Kitaen does the splits on a Jaguar.

7. Dan Hill with Vonda Shepard – Can’t We Try

THW, OHW – Nine years after Dan’s Sometimes When We Touch single hit #3, he came back with an accomplice and made it back into the Top 10. This week he’s one spot away from its zenith. Hearing this duet again reminds of just how painful it is. It’s supposed to be a conversational duet which is hard to pull off but made much worse with lines like Vonda singing Are you listening? to which tone deaf Dan replies Please listen to me girl. I’m not sure why Vonda’s expending any energy on this especially when they can’t even spell her name right.

6. Richard Marx – Don’t Mean Nothing

Even though Richard Marx’s debut is falling from #3, fear not as he’s embarking on a string of seven consecutive Top 5 singles. Richard has been quoted before saying that this song was good enough to be on the Eagles’ The Long Run album. Thu,s he hired Randy Meisner and Timothy B Schmit to sing back up and Joe Walsh to play slide guitar on the track. [Spoiler alert: only two of those Eagles were on The Long Run.]

5. Whitney Houston – Didn’t We Almost Have It All

It’s as if Barry Manilow handed his career over to Whitney. Clive Davis, thoughts?

4. Debbie Gibson – Only In My Dreams

It would have been fine, not great, if this was all we ever had to hear from Miss Gibson. Unfortantely this was the begiinning of a string of hit singles which made everyone question if we were all living in hell on earth. But, you may say, she was only fourteen when she wrote this. Really? No shit. It sounds like something my babysitter would have spit out after getting cranked up on pop rocks and Mountain Dew.

3. Madonna – Who’s That Girl

This was Madonna’s sixth #1 while she was in the midst of a string of 17 Top 10 singles in a row. The song is fine but not her best and feels like a placeholder in her musical highlight reel while she works on a film career. It’s often forgotten by casual Madonna fans most likely due to the fact it was left off her Immaculate Collection greatest hits compilation three years later.

2. Michael Jackson with Siedah Garrett – I Just Can’t Stop Loving You

Michael’s first new music since Thriller was a highly anticipated affair and he started everyone off with a ballad. I was definitely underwhelmed at the time, but I’ve come to really like this MJ tune, even though it’s mostly lost in his canon and Siedah’s vocals are indistinguishable from MJ’s. Obviously my expectations were too high.

Give the single another listen but whatever you do don’t play the album version unless you want to hear Michael creepily whisper “I just want to lay next to you for a while. You look so beautiful tonight. A lot of people misunderstand me. That’s because they don’t know me at all. I just want to touch you and hold you.” Ladies, if a guy says this to you while you’re lying in bed with him, run as fast as you can. He’s gonna eat you while you sleep with a plate of fava beans.

Fun fact: Siedah co-wrote Man In the Mirror and mucho bucks from it over the years.

Another fun fact: Back up singer Sheryl Crow would sing this duet with him live on his Bad tour.

1. Los Lobos – La Bamba (2 wks at #1)

The success of the biopic La Bamba did two great things. For one, it showed Hispanic music’s rightful legacy as an early influence on rock & roll. And second, it gave the L.A. band, Los Lobos, a big commerical boost to their career. They have been around since the early 70s and still play and record today with 3 of their 5 original members. Conrad Lozano joined in 1974 and Steve Berlin joined in 1984. Steve, Conrad and those 3 originals, David Hidalgo, Luois Perez, Conrad Lozano and Cesar Rosas have been playing music together for the last 4 decades. Go see them live when you can!

KEY

  • OHW – One-Hit-Wonder
  • THW – Two-Hit-Wonder
  • ML – Misheard Lyrics
  • PFK – Perfect for Karaoke
  • RAR – Rite-Aid Rock
  • RFW – Ripped from Wikipedia
  • SXMFU – A Sirius XM mistake
  • STA – Second Time Around

 

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