There’s Nothing Better We Can Do Than Live

I can’t help myself. So I’m at it again recapping another American Top 40 countdown, this time from June 4th, 1988 – the beginning of another Summer rife with bittersweet memories, one in which I started with a girlfriend and a band and ended up with neither. The songs are better than I remembered, possibly because a good chunk of them haven’t been overplayed in the decades since.

40. Robert Plant – Tall Cool One

The first single from Plant’s fourth album, Now And Zen, didn’t chart. However, the next one makes the Top 40 complete with guitar provided by former compatriot Jimmy Page and samples from five other Zeppelin tunes. It’s on its way to a #25 high and will be his last solo Top 40 hit.

39. Glass Tiger – I’m Still Searching

The pride of Newmarket, Ontario is back with the third Top 40 single from their debut, The Thin Red Line. Though if I played this song for you, I doubt you’d be able to tell me who this was unless you had an Alan Frew poster from Smash Hits on your wall.

38. Rod Stewart – Lost In You

RAR – Rod tried to soak in some of the Power Station vibes, hiring Andy Taylor to co-write this song, have Tony Thompson play drums while Bernard Edwards produced. He just about pulls it out, although I would love to have heard what Robert Palmer would have done with it. David Lindley adds a little mandolin rain to the mix.

37. Natalie Cole – Pink Cadillac

Springsteen wrote and recorded this song during the Nebraska sessions and eventually released his version as the B-side to his second Born In The USA single, Dancing In the Dark. But the song gained popularity due to its inclusion on setlists and the fact that anything Boss-related in the mid-80s got exposure. Natalie was in the middle of her late 80s comeback and recorded her version for the 1987 Everlasting LP. It was the third single released and will be her biggest hit since I’ve Got Love On My Mind in 1977. Natalie pretends that the title isn’t about the lady bits. (For reference, Aretha did not.)

36. Bardeux – When We Kiss

OHW – Have you ever watched those adult films on Skin-a-Max and wondered how you could get a copy of the soundtrack?

35. E.U. – Da Butt

OHW – Go-go music is a for-real fun-as-hell subgenre of funk that started in the D.C. area, which needs all the fun it can get. Outside of Chuck Brown in 1979 with Bustin’ Loose, this was pretty much the only go-go Top 40 hit. Recorded for Spike Lee’s film, School Daze, and written and produced by jazz bassist Marcus Miller, this will hit #1 on the Soul charts, shakin’ booties for years to come. Like this one…

34. Aerosmith – Angel

I remember hearing a story about Joe Perry being bummed that Dream On eventually became a big hit for Aerosmith because they didn’t want to be known as a band that plays slow songs. I’m sure a decade of eating dirt sandwiches that you have to make yourself changed his tune. This will become their biggest hit until another ballad usurped it in 1998.

33. Suave – My Girl

OHW – Did we really need a New Jack version of the Temptations classic? The answer is no. Now please turn this example into a Dr. Rick Progressive Insurance commercial.

32. Terence Trent D’Arby – Wishing Well

I remember sitting in the back of a particular class that I can’t remember which subject it was, who taught it, or how I passed. All I remember about the course was the constant laughter between my two other friends and me. And a picture I drew of a restaurant called Terence Trent D’Arby’s. There was a wishing well out front and a speech bubble from the window that said, “Two Beef N Cheddar’s and make it funky now, boys.” I wish I still has that drawing.

31. The Church – Under The Milky Way

OHW – We’re about to start an Australian four-play on the Top 40, beginning with a Sydney quintet, who released an incredible album, Starfish, as their fifth. It contains this, their only US Top 40, and it’s now even the best song on the album. But it is an easy one to learn guitar and sing to.

30. INXS – New Sensation

What Men At Work was to the early 80s, INXS was to the later 80s, and then some. Their sixth album, Kick, was on the verge of making them superstars, and it already spawned a #1 smash, Need You Tonight, and a #2 hit, Devil Inside. This may be the song that most sounds like their previous work, more specifically, like a band rather than an overproduced product with a pretty boy lead singer. I’m bummed that I never saw them live (baby live). It will reach #3 and not feature a trumpet.

29. Midnight Oil – Beds Are Burning

OHW – Seriously, who had this group on their 88 bingo card? But good on ya, if you did. This story about the unfair treatment of Aboriginal tribes and the theft of their native lands became a hit all around the world, eventually reaching #17 in the U.S., a land with a similar history

28. Icehouse – Electric Blue

THW – Icehouse cracked the Top 20 in early 88 with the lead single from their sixth album, Man Of Colours, called Crazy. John Oates had been a fan of the group and wrote a song with lead singer Iva Davies, which became single number two. It was their biggest hit in America, climbing to #9 and their biggest Down Under reaching #1.

27. Def Leppard – Pour Some Sugar On Me

The Def Lep train is riding full steam down the track. Their third single from Hysteria, the title track, became their fifth Top 40 hit and first to reach the Top 10. This one will best it and almost get to the top, held down only by Richard Marx’s Hold On The Nights.

26. Pebbles – Mercedes Boy

Here’s another future bridesmaid, this one getting the stiff arm from Cheap Trick’s The Flame. It’s the second big hit from her debut album and features production from the Gap Band’s Charlie Wilson. The single was remixed into a more radio-friendly version than the album cut. It will reach #1 R&B and hit #2 on the Dance Club charts. It’s also one of the few songs that remind me of that summer. [Paradise by Sade is another and is sitting at #48 this week.]

25. OMD – Dreaming

After spending the first half of the 80s releasing synth-pop albums to the indifference of most Americans, OMD collected four Top 40 hits during the second half, including this tune that was featured on The Best Of OMD, which I happily purchased on CD on release.

24. Times Two – Strange But True

OHW – The California duo of Shanti Jones & Johnny Dollar got a big career boost (for them) when they released their debut and were hired to open for Debbie Gibson. I’m sure only the high-dollar babysitters splurged on the 45, which falls from its peak of #21. Steve Barri, who produced Billy Don’t Be A Hero and Undercover Angel, helmed the boards for this one as well.

23. Poison – Nothin’ But A Good Time

There is nothin’ more depressing than the line, and it don’t get better than this. Also, that’s the tagline for Old Milwaukee beer, so…

22. Al B. Sure – Nite And Day

OHW – Al celebrated his 21st birthday with a hit record as this Quiet Storm staple climbs up six more notches on its way to the Top 10. Also, there’s no one better in the biz for my money to break it down like Kyle West. Me’shell Ndegeocello did a fine cover of this in 2019.

21. The Deele – Two Occasions

OHW – Here’s a Cincinnati synth-funk sextet that released their third album in late 1987, Eyes Of A Stranger. This ballad was the second single from the album, and their only crossover hit, traveling up to a zenith of #10. It features lead vocals by Kenneth “Babyface” Edmunds, and its success plus the former Pebbles hit, Girlfriend, which he and bandmate LA Reid wrote and sang on, gave the duo the encouragement to quit the band and establish LaFace Records

Fun Fact: Babyface received his nickname from Bootsy Collins. That’s cred.

KEY

  • OHW – One-Hit-Wonder
  • THW – Two-Hit-Wonder
  • PFK – Perfect for Karaoke
  • RAR – Rite-Aid Rock
  • RFW – Ripped from Wikipedia
  • STA – Second Time Around

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