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1987 - Songs of The Year

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by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler...Former teacher... Scientist... Published author... Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published August 17th 2018
Soundtrack to your life
1987 Songs of The Year
Some years in your life stick with you for whatever reason. Good, bad or a weird mixture of both, these years mark signposts in our lives that we latch onto like beacons in the night of our past.

Welcome to 1987.

1987 was the year I did year 12, matriculation. At St Ignatius College in Adelaide, I reached what I hoped would be the end of five years of Catholic education (it wasn't the end, but that's by the by). I reached a maturity that was incomplete, and I had a life that was amazingly full. Parties, drinking, friends – school was secondary to the life I was leading.

Now, regular readers may have noted that I am somewhat interested in music. During 1987 some school friends started a band and I became involved in a very peripheral level. I started to go to live gigs (the old Tivoli Hotel – 'The Tiv' – was the preferred venue). And my music collection started to grow at a stupid rate.

Don't tell me you didn't have too many of these on your bedroom floor... / Source: Pixabay

But music for me is more than background noise. I sometimes think my life has a soundtrack, one chosen by a director with an eclectic and warped taste. And so we come to 1987.

How many awesome songs were released in 1987?!

Here I Go Again by Whitesnake; I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For by U2; Lean On Me by Club Nouveau; Faith by George Michael; Star Trekkin' by The Firm; Crazy Crazy Nights by Kiss; Tougher Than The Rest by Bruce Springsteen; Crazy and Electric Blue by Icehouse… the list is pretty impressive. Of course, other songs released in 1986 charted in 1987 (Walk Like An Egyptian by The Bangles springs to mind, as well as several Genesis songs), making 1987 a really good year for the Blue Light Disco scene.

So, anyway, here's 10 of my favourites from the year. A little bit about each song, a little bit about why it is important to me… and the song itself. Lose yourself in a year that is 31 years ago…

1) Always On My Mind by Pet Shop Boys

A song that I totally forgot about in my awesome cover songs piece written for WeekendNotes, and my bad for letting that happen. Taking the Willie Nelson / Elvis Presley slow, sad lament and turning it into a slightly more upbeat track, but keeping the emotion in it, the Pet Shop Boys hit pay-dirt. The slightly monotonous singing style actually helps convey that feeling of desperation.

So… this song was released towards the end of the year… not long after my own egocentricity, arrogance and moronity saw me lose Barbara and Clare from my life. In the manner of teenage boys everywhere, I wrote awful poetry (so nothing's changed there, then) and listened to sad songs. And this one, on vinyl, on 45, was one on constant repeat. It's a sad memory but a good song. For what it's worth, I still miss Clare and Barbara…

2) I Think We're Alone Now by Tiffany

Ooh, this is gonna get me flamed! This remake (I actually owned the original as well by Tommy James) was a quirky, upbeat little song that featured the rather cute Tiffany. Standard pop fluff of the time, it was good enough to see kids fill the floors at Blue Lights and sing along to the chorus and, for some reason, I've always liked it.

At the time, I read Tiffany was about my age, maybe a little older (she's actually almost a year younger), and fell for her, and fell for the song as a consequence (maybe… it's been a long time since I studied psych). This song is just a good bit of joy from the era. I also have to say that I watched several awful movies solely because she was in them, and even watched a bit of Australia's version of I'm A Celebrity… for the same reason. Oh, she appeared in Mega Python Vs Gatoroid with fellow 1980s pop starlet Debbie Gibson, resulting in this exchange:
Debbie: I think we're alone now.
Tiffany: There doesn't seem to be anyone around.
Well, I laughed.

3) With Or Without You by U2

This was the lead single (I think) from the Joshua Tree album, the first U2 album I bought. I loved the guitar sound, loved the lyrics and thought the singing was powerful and heartfelt. The whole album was great, by the way, but this song was what inspired me to buy it, even if I found the video clip a little cheesy.

There is no real backstory for me involving this song, just that I liked it a lot. It was not played at Blue Light Discos, it featured heavily on FM radio at the time and it was a song even some adults liked. But that didn't matter – it was a bit of a writing that got me. Great song.

4) I Want Your Sex by George Michael
I wanted to hate the George Michael solo album Faith because I did not like Wham! at all. Some critics at the time derided it. One said it showed that Andrew Ridgeley was the true creative genius behind the group. Ouch! But this song straight away got me. I reckon it's because the lyrics were like nothmiddle-classe class white Australians had really heard before, but its rhythm and beat also got us going.

This song had a weird little story for me. We were at a Blue Light Disco at Campbelltown when the DJ put this track on. Barely 30 seconds in he stopped it, to the collective noises of disapproval from those in attendance. Apparently, it was deemed too naughty for us teenagers to listen to. It made me want to here it all the more. By the way, I denied liking it for years because my middle sister liked George Michael… ahh, sibling rivalry. You suck.

5) Heart And Soul by T'Pau

Pop piece with lots of vocal overdubs and a lavish backing sound and some rather complex lyrics as well, this is one of those under-rated pop masterpieces that occasionally pops up in various places but is essentially forgotten.

This song to me represents a relationship after the aforementioned one with Barbara crashed and burned. And represent it in not a good way. The lyrics: "Leaving you ain't easy now / Loving you's the harder part…" represented how I felt about this girl (though love is certainly stretching the depth of the emotions involved) and so this song has some sad connotations but I still really like it.

6) Sign O' The Times by Prince
The first single from the Prince album of the same name, this track is simply one of the best written tracks of the 1980s. Its sparse production and music underly a song with a striking message. This is a genuine protest song, railing against some of the terrible things in the 1980s – AIDS, drug use, government waste, the gang problem… It really seems nothing's changed in 30 years, doesn't it?

In 1988 I was forced back to St Ignatius and in English, I decided I did not like the poetry we were being forced to read (sorry out there, but I find Judith Wright and Bruce Dawe dull). However, we had to write a poetry essay for the final exam. I decided to choose protest songs. And it was based on this track that I did that. My English teacher hated it and gave me 12/20. I went to the head of English and complained; he remarked it, gave it 17/20 and told me to use more quotes and increase the number of songs I used. I ended up doing well in English, so I guess his advice worked. And all thanks to a Prince song.

7) Wanted Dead Or Alive by Bon Jovi

Yes, I know the album it came from (Slippery When Wet) was released in 1986, but this track wasn't released as a single until 1987, so it qualifies. This song, with its sparse guitar sound and really good lyrics, stood as being different from previous Bon Jovi tracks, and so I think that's why people gravitated towards it. Yes, it was the era of the power ballad, but this wasn't just an 'I Love You' song – this was about the life of a musician on the road all the time. Wonderful. I also learnt years later that a version of this played at some awards show gave MTV the idea for the Unplugged series.

At parties of the time, this became a middle of the night favourite to put on the stereo and scream along to the lyrics (to call what we did "singing" would be stretching the truth a lot). While this is another band that my middle sister liked, I didn't hide the fact I liked it as well. This song was too good for that.

8) Midnight Blue by Lou Gramm

Solo single from the lead singer of the band Foreigner, Midnight Blue is another one of those 1980s tracks that seems to have been forgotten by subsequent generations of music listeners. It is a rock-pop song, with an upbeat tempo and jaunty sing-along chorus. The few times I heard it at Blue Lights it certainly didn't clear the dance floor. A forgotten gem.

Again, no real back-story to this song. I actually found it by accident. I was looking for a song at a record store called 'Midnight Blue' by Louise Tucker (awesome song!) and the guy behind the counter had no idea what I was talking about and gave me this one instead. I took it home, listened to it and, well, it's here on this list.

9) Brilliant Disguise by Bruce Springsteen

After the pop-rock sensibilities of the Born In The USA album, in 1987 Springsteen released Tunnel Of Love. It's a sadder album, looking at love gone wrong, and more synthesised than his previous work. While I like the track Tougher Than The Rest, this one song stood out for me on the album. I think the lyrics were the main thing, speaking to a teenaged boy in ways that only teenaged minds really understand, despite its very adult themes. As an adult, I can appreciate it more now, but the fact it spoke to me at two different times in my life shows how masterful the song-writing is.

So, because of my previous noted loss of relationship and friendship, this whole album really struck a chord with me at a time when I was emotionally vulnerable. I bought the cassette and listened to it on my Walkman at night when I couldn't get to sleep, which, of course, only made things worse. But nothing can take away from the fact it is one of Springsteen's finest songs, and that is saying something.

10) Fairytale of New York by The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl

Best Christmas song ever! The tale of two people in a dysfunctional relationship trying to come to terms with each other, the song emphasises the fact that many people have a terrible time at Christmas. The lyrics are actually quite sad, but it maintains that Irish "jig" feel and the singing complements it perfectly. Really good song.

Troy, a mate until recently, put together an album of alternate Christmas tracks some time in the late 1990s, early 2000s. 'Weird Al' Yankovic, Ren & Stimpy, Kevin 'Bloody' Wilson… all the usual suspects appeared. And this song as well. Even listening to those tracks, this song stands out as one awesome Christmas song. Maybe it won't be sung by carollers, but it will be played every year on Rage

So, there you have it. The year in music. Please, comments are always welcome.
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Your Comment
Very entertaining. I wasn't familiar with all these songs - thanks for introducing me to some new ones.
by May Cross (score: 3|5489) 472 days ago
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