The following is a list of songs that topped the Billboard Pop Charts during the summer months of the second half of the 1980s. I offer this as my farewell kiss to summer, one of the three tolerable seasons we have in the Northeast.
OK, everyone, time to find some clothes to put on!
25) The Greatest Love of All -- Whitney Houston (1986): This song was rapidly ascending the pop charts, becoming one of those songs that no one could escape. The overly-sincere among us believed every word, while the smarty pants in the back chortled like they did at everything in life.
24) On My Own -- Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald (1986): I've already picked this as one of my worst summer songs, so I won't bother to elaborate, except to say I haven't changed my mind. Maybe I just hate mellowness?
23) Holding Back The Years -- Simply Red (1986): Mellowness in and of itself is not the problem. It's that if you listened to commercial radio in the 1980s, everything had this gloss to it. So, even if you potentially liked a song, it would get all gunked up with the rest of the mess. In a time of revolution, for instance, me and Simply Red might've made it.
22) Sledgehammer -- Peter Gabriel (1986): No kidding, I thought this was a McDonald's commercial when I first heard it. I don't listen closely to words and often substitute the ones I want over the ones that are actually there. I'm cool with Peter Gabriel, but he should've let me handle this one. I can turn a superstar into a household name among old people!
21) Papa Don't Preach -- Madonna (1986): The 1980s were a desperate time -- though, compared to today it was a goshdarn renaissance of art and culture -- and I clearly remember feeling a sense of relief when this song would come on the radio at work. Yes, yes, believe it or not, this song was a relief compared to the other stuff they played.
20) Higher Love -- Steve Winwood (1986): There was a time when I liked Steve Winwood. I've even liked some of this later work. But I tuned in and turned off on this one. There's no sadder moment than when you have to turn to a prospective date and say, "I can't love you because I got V.D." I caught it from this song.
19) With Or Without You -- U2 (1987): It takes quite a bit to outdull yourself. But U2 did the impossible. That's what people liked about them. Sometimes people don't want to rock, they want to be saved. OK, but can I pick who saves us?
18) You Keep Me Hangin' On -- Kim Wilde (1987): Kim "Kids In America" Wilde took the videowaves by storm with that awesome hair that no young hormonally-functional teen could resist! But what's she doing with that Vanilla Fudge tune? She's acting like it's an old Motown song or something?
17) I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) -- Whitney Houston (1987): She wanted to dance with someone who loved her and she eventually settled on Bobby Brown? Weird. She might have been served equally as well declaring, "I Want To Know What Love Is."
16) Alone -- Heart (1987): Adapting to the 1980s meant losing a piece of yourself and working out a grand compromise. It's always fascinated me how artists qualify their 1980s successes and their audiences often appreciate it with a wondrous laugh at those "crazy" times. Own it, people! Because it was obvious how ridiculous it was at the time. Time doesn't absolve all wounds. You're still on the hook!
15) I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For -- U2 (1987): Just in case "With Or Without You" was too darn exciting for you, this ring-the-bell classic of street-wandering played out like aural Xanax, a calmative with more of that "spiritual thirst." In the old days, men like this went door to door. Those without musical talent still do.
14) La Bamba -- Los Lobos (1987): Hey, it worked for Ritchie Valens, surely it could work three decades later for Los Lobos. If this is what it takes to get people to pay attention to a legitimate rock 'n' roll band, who's to complain? And if people came out of the movie theater after viewing the movie of the same name with a fleeting interest in the old days of R 'n' R, then I hope they made a few impulse buys worth remembering.
13) One More Try -- George Michael (1988): Never think that just because I don't like something that I'm casting aspersions on those who enjoy this stuff. I'm just glad that Otis Redding and Sam Cooke recorded in the eras that they did, because otherwise their records might have sounded like this. Unless you think those guys would've aimed for retro and been as successful as Solomon Burke throughout these years.
12) Together Forever -- Rick Astley (1988): Any song by Rick Astley that isn't "Never Gonna Give You Up" makes me wish I was listening to that song and not whatever I'm hearing. I have no idea why and I don't think analyzing my feelings would be a wise use of my time. Next!
11) Foolish Beat -- Debbie Gibson (1988): I get it! Teen music by teenagers for teenagers! Just like Rod Stewart making old, cranky music for old, cranky people! The world delivers! And Clint Eastwood smiles.
10) Dirty Diana -- Michael Jackson (1988): For those wondering why MJ rarely shows up on these summer lists, I can only figure it's because most of his albums were released in the Fall. So, when Bad saw release on August 31, 1987, it took until the next April for the album's fifth single, "Dirty Diana," to be released and rise to the top for the summer of 1988. It's all about timing!
9) The Flame -- Cheap Trick (1988): Sometimes it feels as if the entire world is on a time-delay. Shouldn't Cheap Trick have been running the pop charts in the late 1970s? But then Nick Drake probably should've sold some records in the 1970s.
8) Hold On To The Nights -- Richard Marx (1988): For anyone who thinks being a music critic or whatever it is you want to call this thing of ours, I point you to the many exhibits on display here. Do you think I woke up this evening and thought, "Boy, I can't wait to occupy my mind with Richard Marx today?"
7) Forever Your Girl -- Paula Abdul (1989): Since MTV guaranteed the 1980s would be a visual decade, it had to have visual appealing stars who could dance. Bachman-Turner-Overdrive were effectively finished.
6) Wind Beneath My Wings -- Bette Midler (1989): Fight the real enemy.
5) I'll Be Loving You (Forever) -- New Kids On The Block (1989): I get it! Kid music by kids for kids! Raffi don't lose that number!
4) Baby Don't Forget My Number -- Milli Vanilli (1989): Did they sing this? Does it matter? Did we have to ruin the lives of two men doing things that are now common practice among the jet-set? Or have you climbed too high to see my point of view?
3) Good Thing -- Fine Young Cannibals (1989): It's not faint praise if I say I never minded Fine Young Cannibals. In fact, it's nearly a rave! It's almost a classic! It's potentially life-changing! I could love this song! Could you?
2) If You Don't Know Me By Now -- Simply Red (1989): Written by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff and first made famous by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, "If You Don't Know Me By Now" was later made famous again by Ricky Gervais, who covered the song as "David Brent" from the UK version of The Office. Sometime in between, Simply Red ran it up to the top of the charts. Set your watch, Justin Bieber should be nailing this tune in about five years!
1) Cold Hearted -- Paula Abdul (1989): Imagine my surprise when I found out from another Y! Music Blog -- Framed, if you must know -- that we have a Y! Music Accuracy Desk that I could have been calling all this time to help me find "facts" for this list. Can you imagine how boring that would be? Petition your congressman today to Keep the Internet 'Fact-Free' for another year!