Well, ’87 is when things start to get a little sparse. There are still some really good songs but the quantity of quality stuff encounters a steep drop-off. If you are interested why I started doing these Top 10 lists (and for the top 10 of 1980) check out my 1980 post. For the others click, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1986.
10. At This Moment, Billy Vera – As you know if you’ve been reading these lists, I’m a sucker for sappy love ballads – especially those that are of the baby-please-don’t-leave variety. I’m also a sucker for pedal steel guitar. This song has a slow gospel feel to it that turns country when the pedal still kicks in and then changes yet again to 50’s-style ballad when the horn section enters. The vocals display some of the most genuine emotion that you’re going to find in a song from this era. The guy sounds like he’s really hurting. If I remember correctly, the first time I heard this song was on an episode of Family Ties. Only after that did I start hearing it on the radio.
9. I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight, Cutting Crew – Alright, let’s get one thing straight – chicks dig this song! If you wanted to get a girl in “the mood” back in 1987 all you had to do was pop this cassette in the car stereo and your night just got a little more interesting. The guitar in this song has that edgy, reverby 80’s signature to it. The vocals aren’t great in that they sound like they could be any of the androgenous Brit bands of the time. But the melody and overall production value of the song make up for that.
8. Tonight, Tonight, Tonight, Genesis – I kind of had a wierd relationship with Genesis. I liked pretty much every single they released but I never bought any of their albums. To further confuse things, sometimes I didn’t know if a song was a Genesis or Phil Collins solo single. This song however was one that I had to own and so I bought it on 45, one of the few 45’s I ever bought. This song has a similar feel to “In the Air Tonight”; real atmospheric and kind of menacing. The lyrics of the verses didn’t seem to make much sense. “I’m comin’ down, comin’ down like a monkey” – what the hell does that mean?
7. Will You Still Love Me, Chicago – This is the first single from Chicago 18, as well as the moment that the group said “Peter who?” Despite Peter Cetera leaving the group the band continued their dominance of the mid to late 80’s charts by pumping out another power ballad with a memorable, catchy melody. I mainly remember this song because a girl that I liked invited me to go to the Chicago concert with her and her church youth group. I thought that this was a sign that she was into me. Later though I found out she was interested in one of my friends who was one of those guys that no girls where ever interested in (you know the type I’m talking about). Regardless of this painful memory I still dig the song.
6. The Next Time I Fall, Peter Cetera & Amy Grant – Much like #7, this song hears Peter Cetera ask “Chicago who?” This was his second post-Chicago solo hit and his proof that he could come out with catchy, melodic power ballads on his own. This song caused quite a bit of controversy at my church. Amy Grant up to this point had been a Christian artist and many of the faithful thought that she was betraying her ideals by doing the mainstream crossover thing. My only problem with it was that she sounded really sexy which caused me to think about her in ways that made me feel dirty…but in a good way.
5. Notorius, Duran Duran – With the jangly disco guitar bit and the popping bass line this song saw Duran Duran back in a big way. The horns added a great layer to the song and the melody was up there with all of their great songs. And of course “Notorious” continues their tradition of lyrics that either don’t make sense, are silly or both at the same time. Just a sample: “You own the money, you control the witness. I leave you lonely, don’t monkey with my business.” I hate it when people monkey with my business…I think.
4. The Lady In Red, Chris de Burgh – Chris de Burgh just sounds really cool and smooth in this song. This song is a straight-forward ballad and the only thing that makes it sound like an 80’s tune is the atmospheric keyboard part in the background. Otherwise, I think it could have been a pop standard in any generation. This was a great one to slow dance to at the school social.
3. Mandolin Rain, Bruce Hornsby – Hornsby is another one of those artists that, although I like every single he released, I never bought any of his albums. For some reason this song sounds like Autumn to me. It makes me think of leaves changing colors, pickup football games on the weekend and starting to pull out the sweaters from the back of the closet. Of the two songs that charted for Hornsby in ’87 (the other was his huge hit “The Way It Is”) this one was by far the less popular. I like it better because it’s more melodic and I never did like the preachiness of “The Way It Is”.
2. Don’t Dream It’s Over, Crowded House – My wife is a huge Crowded House fan and would have killed me if I didn’t include one of their songs on this list. However, I can happily say that I included “Don’t Dream It’s Over” without any coercion from her. I love this song. From the reverby guitar bit to the Hammond B3 organ solo that manages to sound classic and contemporary at the same time to the vocals, everything in this song works together to create a distinct sound. You won’t confuse Crowded House with any other band from the 80’s because they have a unique style that’s all their own.
1. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, U2 – U2 finally made the big time with their release of The Joshua Tree in 1987. This is one of only two U2 songs that have reached #1 in the US; the other was “With Or Without You” from the same album. I’m a big U2 fan mainly due to a girl named Sydney that I was in Economics and Psychology classes with in high school. We didn’t really run in the same circles, but both those classes had assigned seating and we sat next to each other in both of them. She knew I was into music and in a band and told me that I really needed to check them out. Before then I had heard U2 on the radio but hadn’t bought any of their albums. I went out and picked up The Joshua Tree and War at the same time and was blown away. I picked this song over “With Or Without You” because I like the gospel theme of it. I always like the fact that U2 could put overt references to Jesus and Christianity in their songs and not suffer in popularity. It’s got a very memorable melody and of course Bono’s vocals are classic. This song would probably make my list of top 10 U2 songs if I was forced to make one.