30 Years of Music: 1987

If you had told Teenage-Me that Adult-Me would end up liking so many songs from the 1980s, Teenage-Me would have declared Adult-Me extremely lame. Or whatever dismissive term I might have been using in the mid-’90s. Not cool, anyhow. Somewhat unsurprisingly, I no longer care whether or not I’m very cool, so let the singalong begin…


Caroline – Fleetwood Mac

Oh hey, we’ve ventured into territory where I’m familiar with album tracks that were not released as singles. Tango in the Night is not my favorite Fleetwood Mac album, and the tension within the band comes across in the dispassionate portions of the music, I think, but there are still some gems. “Caroline” is a Lindsey Buckingham-penned song, likely about an ex-girlfriend. I like songs with names as their titles – that’s the literary side of me coming out – and I love the drums in “Caroline.” Before coming up with my list of songs for this week, I hadn’t heard this song in a long time, and I’d forgotten how much I love it.

Where the Streets Have No Name – U2

Joshua Tree, as a whole, is outstanding, but I decided to feature “Where the Streets Have No Name” for its soaring, rock-n-roll church quality. The video shows the chaos of their rooftop concert in Los Angeles, and the thrill of the crowd watching it all unfold. I love singing along to this song, and it’s definitely among my favorites from U2.

Your Song – Elton John with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

In Alphabet Soup: The Letter T, I mentioned Elton John’s “Tonight,” from this same concert. The album itself came out in 1987, and though I’m already a fan of his, adding the symphony orchestra is just… Man, it’s great, isn’t it? At some point, I really need to buy this whole recording because every time I hear a song from it, a bit of the heavy pressure within my chest evaporates.

La Bamba – Los Lobos

Give me a music biopic, and you are almost guaranteed my interest. La Bamba is one of my all-time favorite movies, and Spanish-speaking music must be a subset of my love, since Selena is also another one I’ll watch a million times over. Because yo hablo español un poquito, pero un poquito malo [I speak a little Spanish, but a bit badly], I’m also reasonably good at learning lyrics in Spanish. If you haven’t seen La Bamba, do give it a shot.

Paradise City – Guns n’ Roses

Appetite For Destruction – Get. In. What a fantastic debut album. I could have gone with “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” or just about any other song on this Guns n’ Roses album, but I love “Paradise City” for its crunchy guitar and how it puts all the hair-metal bands of the same era to shame. Guns n’ Roses were not a hair metal band; they arrived as already legendary rock n’ roll.

Angel – Aerosmith

Forgive me, for I am a sucker for this Aerosmith ballad. I like a lot of Aerosmith in general, and could have maybe picked “Rag Doll” instead, but the first time I heard “Angel,” it made me stop what I was doing and pay attention. It’s lovely, and sort of sad, and I don’t care what anyone says, Steven Tyler really is one of the best rock singers. I mean, look at him. Listen to him. Could he have done anything but be a frontman? I’d wager not. No, Aerosmith’s new music is not all that interesting, but I still love this song.

Jane Says – Jane’s Addiction

The above video is from the ’90s (with Flea on bass!), but “Jane Says” did indeed come out in 1987. I’m not a huge Jane’s Addiction fan, but I really love this song. Perry Farrell is an unusual specimen of singer and performer, but I think he might be one of those people who was either going to do exactly what he has done with his life, or he’d forever be that weird guy at the party that everyone knows, but no one is quite sure what he does.

Faith – George Michael

Well, of course, we have to have “Faith” in here. It’s only one of the biggest songs and albums of ever. Though I’m not so interested in his current stuff, ’80s and ’90s George Michael is music I love without embarrassment. Looking back at all his old videos, I really don’t know how people thought he was straight – maybe it was just hopeful ladies who thought he was cute (which, yes, he is) who chose to believe it. I don’t know. Of course, we can fancy those who would never fancy us, but maybe in 1987, a larger percentage of people had yet to figure that out.

Finest Worksong – REM

I could’ve talked about “The One I Love,” also off Document, but I dunno… I felt like listening to the less obvious pick. “The One I Love” is outstanding, but the steady-drum-pound in “Finest Worksong” is too. Once more, I must say that the mister is totally wrong about REM (and U2) being “boring.” We could be married for a million years, and I will maintain my position. *side-eye*

The Way You Make Me Feel – Michael Jackson

Yet another album full of songs I could have featured. This time, I based my pick on, “What do I want to listen to right now?” This song won, and what a song! As I’m playing it, my son is having a major dance party. Have one of your own.

When you’re finished, take a gander at Wikipedia’s 1987 Music Roundup and let me know your favorites for this week.

By Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

8 replies on “30 Years of Music: 1987”

Every time I open these posts, I feel transported back in time.

Appetite for Destruction was a big turning point in my life — its sort of where I crossed over from listening to pop acts into more aggressive music. I remember that this change happened over the summer in middle school, so that I left at the end of the year one person and came back another in the fall. I still mourn that this band fell apart so badly. (I wrote in more depth about this in my ‘5 Albums That Changed My Life’ post.)

Never Gonna Give You Up came out in ’87. It’s so tempting to Rick Roll :-) Instead I’ll just list …..

Just Like Heaven – The Cure (One of the top 5 songs of all time, anyone who tries to remake it deserves swift punishment)

In God’s Country – U2 (I can’t hardly listen to any U2 these days, Bono gets on my nerves so bad he ruined the music for me, but this song is always aces)

True Faith – New Order

Wishing Well – Terence Trent D’Arby

It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) – R.E.M.

And this gem:

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