Greetings, Glancers! On the surface 1987 is one of those years I always get excited about – some of my all time favourite movies were released in Predator, Robocop, The Lost Boys, Near Dark etc and at least two of my all time favourite albums came out – Bad, and Appetite For Destruction. Elsewhere, Bon Jovi and U2 released smash hit singles and albums, MTV was launched in Europe, Kyle Minogue left Neighbours and started a singing career, and hair metal was peaking in excess.
What of the wider world? Terry Waite was kidnapped, Budd Dwyer killed himself on TV, Iran-Contra further embarrassed Reagan, Platoon won Best Picture at The Oscars, plans for Euro Disney were put in place, The Simpsons first appeared in an early form, Lester Piggott went to prison, and the IRA bombed Enniskillen.
Back in the musical world, the biggest singles of the year included a variety of novelty songs – La Bamba, Never Gonna Give You Up, rock anthems – Livin’ On A Prayer, Where The Streets Have No Name, and pop classics – The Lady In Red, I Wanna Dance With Somebody Who Loves Me. As always, I’ll be giving my thoughts on one of the Top Tens of the year and providing an alternative list for anyone interested in 1987. Company… March!
So, a little about me before a little about the song. When I was younger we used to have these family employee Christmas parties where we would go to Pantomimes. One year it was bombed, so we didn’t go back to the panto. Other times we would go to the Cinema, or to indoor play places, or just have some hall hired for the day/night. At one of these events there was a disco and a quiz, and I seemed to be one of the older kids there (by older we’re talking me being 8 or 9). I remember answering as many questions as I could to the point that the DJ was getting annoyed and wanted to give someone else a chance. Anyway, I won a Bee Gees Live Concert on VHS. I probably knew the band before then, but that was my main introduction to them.
They are another ones of those bands that I’ve liked a lot of their songs, haven’t liked others, but never had any desire to seek them out. Spoiler Alert – I hope to cover them in a new Nightman Listens To series. All that is to say – I like this song.
I never really liked this song. I never really liked George Michael. I like Last Christmas, and I like Wake Me Up Before You Go Go, but almost everything else I’ve heard from him has been balls. This is a middling one for me – I don’t hate the song, and there are parts I like enough to know that I’ll sing it every so often. But it’s an average song, nothing more.
As 80s pop bands go, Bananarama are one of the bands that I somehow avoided. Leader Of The Pack, Help, I know those, but that’s about it. I’m sure I’d remember more if I heard them. This is immediately 80s – big ridiculous synth and drums. I recognise parts of this. Hilarious, unnecessary dance moves in the music video. Why do people dance in music videos? I’ve definitely heard the chorus before. It’s cheesy, cheery rubbish, and the video is questionable. Mostly harmless junk.
What is this? More 80s drums and synth. Oh right, now I know it, obviously. I knew I knew the name, but couldn’t place it. I never watched Miami Vice which is apparently where this is from. I probably saw a few episodes of it, but for whatever reason I was more of an A-Team, Knightrider guy. It’s an iconic piece of music that probably most people know even if they, like me, don’t know what it’s from. I’ve no idea why this was a hit over any other 80s theme, but there you go.
Spoiler Alert #2 – Fleetwood Mac is another band I want to cover in a Nightman Listens series. I have a friend who is a diehard fan, but again I mostly know a bunch of singles, a few of which I love. From the name, I don’t know this. The intro and verse is typically 80s, that atmospheric vibe I love. The verse is sort of familiar, then the chorus comes and I slap myself because of course I know it. Everyone looks incredibly stoned in the video too, which is nice. I’ve no idea why they are dressed like Victorian farmers either. I like it, even if some of the backing vocals are terrible and the video is shocking – a decent enough song.
Erasure. One of my least liked/most disliked bands. Along with Lighthouse Family, UB40, Enya, probably others. I can’t even remember why anymore, but I’m sure we’ll find out. Ponky pumpy horny synthy intro, drunken sounds in verse, annoying vocals. I think it’s more the style rather than the voice I don’t like. This doesn’t feel at all like a single. It’s not terrible, it’s not great… I’m not sure what it is aside from being all over the place.
Billy Idol always struck me as a bit of knob. All dressed up like a punk rock or metal superstar, but releasing songs which BROS could just as easily have released. Obviously this is a cover. It’s not all that different from the original, just with a bit of an 80s overhaul. It’s another traditional rock’n’roll song so you can guess how it sounds – the energy, the rhythm, the rises and falls – nothing special but still better than most of today’s chart pap.
I like It’s A Sin – who doesn’t? But I’ve never been crazy about these fellas either. This doesn’t seem familiar. Talking vocals, silly whisper noises in the background, already off to a losing start. Singing is marginally better, melodies a little bland, but I appreciate the plaintive feel. I assume the lyrics are heartfelt, some feeling does come across. It’s not bad, but it’s not something I’ll remember or seek out again.
Another rock ‘classic’ that was played, for the ladies, at my local Metal bar on Saturday nights. It’s basically a pop ballad the likes of which you’d hear a boy/girl band write, but with added guitar. That’s the thing about hair metal – you had some genuinely accomplished musicians, then you had those who could just about get by, but in the main the songs were throwaway pop garbage. Guitars and androgyny were hot in the 80s, so all these pretty boys with guitars would form bands for a quick buck, suck, or fuck – and most of them are terrible. Nevertheless, those who succeeded, those who are still discussed today knew how to write a catchy tune which all music fans could enjoy, even if there was very little under the surface or face-paint.
The only artist here I hadn’t heard of so I’m going to go out on a limb and say this was a novelty hit. It certainly starts in that vein with some sort of caveman chant that you just know idiots of the time would have chanted. The verse vocals are fine, and then the chorus drops and I remember it all. So, I’m not sure what the intent behind the song or the lyrics were, aside from trying to make a bunch of money and capitalize on the idiocy of 80s culture. Musically, it beats the equivalent today – there is a variety of instruments, there is some semblance of vibrancy, but it’s still a pile of crap. It seems to be selling a dance instead of being a song on its own merits. If we compare it to Walk Like An Egyptian – another song which created a cutesy dance craze – there’s a clear gulf in talent and creativity between the two.
So, that was an accurate depiction of 80s pop music. Does that mean it represents the decade or the year in music truthfully? No. Does it show the breadth of talent of those who were making music then? Absolutely not. As we have already established, chart music rarely does. Therefore, here is an alternative list of songs released in 1987 which you may find more appealing – and I’m even keeping it mostly pop!
- With Or Without You – U2
- Sign O’ The Times – Prince
- Just Like Heaven – The Cure
- Smooth Criminal – Michael Jackson
- Sweet Child O’Mine – Guns ‘N’ Roses
- Heaven Is A Place On Earth – Belinda Carlisle
- Satch Boogie – Joe Satriani
- Fairytale Of New York – The Pogues
- It’s The End Of The World As We Know It – REM
- Rhythm Is Gonna Get You – Gloria Estefan
Let us know in the comments if you have any memories of 1987 – the music, the movies, and everything in between!