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CHART ATTACK! #33: 5/23/87


I didn’t think it’d be possible to churn this out for today, but right after writing that “Chartless” post, I had the idea that maybe I could take a Top 10 and split it between a few of us.  And that’s what I did.  I’m brilliant, I know.

Yesterday morning, I requested some help, and received great entries from:

Kurt, recently retired blogger, but who will continue to make appearances at many sites, thankfully;
Robert, who will be displaying his comedic talents as part of The Fowler Family Radio Hour over Memorial Day weekend in South Carolina; (holy cow, I feel like Leno!);
Mike, of the snarky Down With Snark, who exclaimed “This is a great week!” after only hearing #9 and #10;
Me, who is seriously thinking about delegating these entries on a regular basis.

All three got back to me in record time with their insightful and witty comments, and made this CHART ATTACK! possible.  So without further ado, here we go, collectively attacking May 23, 1987!

10.  Talk Dirty To Me – Poison  Amazon iTunes
9.  La Isla Bonita – Madonna  Amazon iTunes
8.  Always – Atlantic Starr  Amazon iTunes
7.  Big Love – Fleetwood Mac   Amazon iTunes
6.  Heat Of The Night – Bryan Adams  Amazon iTunes
5.  (I Just) Died In Your Arms – Cutting Crew  Amazon
4.  You Keep Me Hangin’ On – Kim Wilde  Amazon iTunes
3.  The Lady In Red – Chris de Burgh  Amazon iTunes
2.  Looking For A New Love – Jody Watley  Amazon iTunes
1.  With Or Without You – U2  Amazon iTunes

10.  Talk Dirty To Me – Poison

Kurt:  I was working at a record store when this was released. I’ll never forget the day we opened the box of albums and the cover of Look What The Cat Dragged In was staring back at us. My co-worker picked it up, studied it for a second or two and pronounced that, “these chicks are pretty hot!” It was only after we cut open the shrink rap and gave that sucker a spin did we realize that these were dudes! True story.

Anyways, once this single hit, there was no stopping this album. It’s everything arena rock was supposed to be: big, dumb and catchy. They were the modern day Cheap Trick (even though Cheap Trick was still around, no one paid attention to them until they hooked up with outside songwriters for “The Flame” later in the decade). We didn’t listen to Poison for CC Deville’s woeful guitar playing or because they wanted to save fly ridden African children. Nope, we listened to Poison while we drank warm Schlitz beer and tried to get with whatever girl looked appropriate depending on how much Schlitz we drank. In essence, this is true “cock rock.”

9.  La Isla Bonita – Madonna

Michael:  I wasn’t sure what I was going to say about this. It’s one of my favorite Madonna songs. It was the 5th consecutive top-5 single off True Blue (it hit #4 in the US and #1 all over the world). The video features a young Benecio Del Toro. That was all I could think to say.


Then I checked Wikipedia.

You know why I love Wikipedia? Here’s the first sentence of the Wiki for La Isla Bonita:

“La Isla Bonita” (The beautiful island) is a 1987 single by Madonna. The composition was written by Patrick Leonard and Bruce Gaitsch, and originally intended for Michael Jackson for his Bad album, who, according to Gaitsch, turned it down.


I cant even get my head around that. What about Michael Jackson’s prior work made the authors think that a latin song, about heterosexuals, with nylon string guitar and spanish lyrics would appeal to el rey de la música popular? I guess it makes sense though. Every songwriter on earth was probably trying to get Michael to sing their song in the post Thriller years. It begs the question, how many of Billboard’s top 100 pop songs from 1987 were actually intended for Michael Jackson? I would conservatively guess 57, including “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” “Always,” “I Want Your Sex,” “Little Lies” and “Keep Your Hands To Yourself.”

Leonard also co-wrote “Cherish,” “True Blue,” “Like a Prayer,” “Live to Tell” and “Who’s That Girl.” Impressive.

Bonus: here’s a live version from the “Confessions” tour:


8.  Always – Atlantic Starr

Robert:  This song was made for wedding receptions. I may have even been to some receptions where it was played, but I can’t remember.  It just feels like it was intentionally created for that special day when two people exchange vows and promise to stay together for the duration of the final trimester. Lo and behold, when I looked up the lyrics for “Always” on the Internet, the first search result I got was from a site called weddingvendors.com. (Right above the lyrics was a banner ad with the following headline: “Is your wedding at risk?” Not if you play “Always”!)

Matthew Bolin talked about Atlantic Starr’s “Secret Lovers” in Chart Attack #21, and I talked about the group’s “Masterpiece” in Chart Attack #23, which means together we’ve covered all three of Atlantic Starr’s Top 10 pop hits. (This baffles my mind.  – JH)   Now let us never speak of them again.

7.  Big Love – Fleetwood Mac

Jason:  I can’t be positive, but I believe this song might have been my first introduction to Fleetwood Mac.  (Oh, stop raising your eyebrows at me.  I was 10 at the time.)  This was the first summer that I went to sleepaway camp, and I remember taking an acting class (I was a hit with the ladies) that began each session with a meditation-type warm-up.  It was supposed to be a time of quiet reflection, deep breathing, tranquility, all that jazz.  Only problem was that our warm-up occurred at the exact same time as the warm-up for the dance class in the studio next door.  That class – every session, without fail – did their warm-up to “Big Love.”  So my very first meditation sessions – 10 years old – included that oddly synthetic “oh/ah/oh/ah” from this track.  (Both voices, by the way, are Buckingham.)  I think I may even have a cassette tape lying around somewhere from when I recorded the meditation session…with “Big Love” playing, muffled, in the background.

“But Jason,” I hear you saying.  “I don’t give a shit about the first time you heard ‘Big Love.'”

That’s a good point.  But this is what you get when I’m rushing around, people.  What can I tell you.

The studio version of “Big Love” is nothing special (although awesome for its lack of Stevie Nicks), and I’m not sure that many people would have ever given it a second thought had Lindsey Buckingham not released his blistering solo version on Fleetwood Mac’s reunion live album.  I’m sure you’ve seen this already, but you should watch it again.


6.  Heat Of The Night – Bryan Adams

Kurt:  A few years prior, there was almost no bigger pop/rock star than Bryan Adams. His “Reckless” disc pumped out single after single and they all were hits (six of the ten tunes hit the Top 15). Even the non-singles were getting significant radio play leading me to believe that it rivaled “Thriller” in this department.

So when you’re on top of the arena rock world, what would you do in advance of your next album? If you said, “release a slow, plodding and ultimately boring track as the first single,” you would be correct. In fact, the whole album of Into The Fire was like Evil goateed Spock as compared to Reckless being the clean-shaven and logical Spock. I mean, when you’re singing songs about the plight of Native Americans, no longer do the “Kids Wanna Rock.” I think this one hit the Top 10 on Bryan’s name alone. There’s no other way to explain how a song THIS boring was successful.

5.  (I Just) Died In Your Arms – Cutting Crew

Michael:  Look Jay, your favorite, a ridiculous parenthetical in the title!  (Grrrr. – JH)

This is a great song. It totally encapsulates the late 80s. It has staccato synths, whammy-bar heavy, pointy-headstock guitar histrionics and completely unintelligible lyrics.  (Seriously: “she’s loving by proxy?” “the cat’s in the cradle?” What?) This was the Cutting Crew’s only US hit, going all the way to number 1 and hitting the top 5 in the UK as well.

Here’s the video:


The lead guitar player, Kevin MacMichael, ended up playing with Robert Plant after EMI dropped Cutting Crew. One hopes Robert made him lose his Cutting Crew era hair, though. How would one describe it? Mushroom cloud mullet?  All kidding aside, I think the guitar in this song is great, especially the harmonies at the end.

Kevin passed away in 2002, and the lead singer, Nick Van Eade reformed Cutting Crew recently. For more information about Cutting Crew than you probably ever wanted to know, please go here(Also, check out Jefito’s recent Cutouts Gone Wild! on Cutting Crew – JH)

4.  You Keep Me Hangin’ On – Kim Wilde (download)

Jason:  This song is one of the few in Billboard chart history that have reached #1 twice by different artists.  (There have been nine in total, and only one instance this decade – anybody wanna take a guess?)  The song first hit #1 in November of 1966, yet another Holland-Dozier-Holland smash hit for the Supremes (this single was immediately following “You Can’t Hurry Love”), and reached the top of the charts again for Wilde in 1987.  In 1968, it was also a #6 hit for Vanilla Fudge.  But fuck them.  We’re here to talk about Kim Wilde.

I was all set to apologize (or, at the very least, hang my head in shame) for not knowing initially that this was a Supremes cover.  But two points in my defense:  first of all, I was just a lil’ Hare going in circles at the roller rink (which is where I’m convinced I first heard this song), and second of all, the cover has been adapted so accurately to the sound of the ’80s that it legitimately sounds like it could be an ’80s original.  At least that’s the story I’m going with.

Other than 1982’s “Kids In America,” this was Kim Wilde’s only U.S. hit.  She still remains quite popular in Europe, and is still quite attractive.  (A little Ripa-ish, no?)

3.  The Lady In Red – Chris de Burgh

Robert:  Two years ago I was in a sketch show in Chicago called Absence of Absence; one of the sketches centered on a foul-mouthed University of Wisconsin football fan wearing a red UW Badgers sweatshirt. The scene begins with the female fan screaming some obscenities at the Badgers’ coach after a bad play. The man sitting next to her instantly falls in love. Cue “The Lady in Red.”

That sketch was the one thing most people remembered about the show. (I didn’t come up with it, so I’ll admit I was jealous.) The payoff of Chris de Burgh’s romantic ballad being played over an otherwise silent, slow-motion scene, which ends with the obnoxious fan and her admirer accidentally inciting violence in the stands, had people laughing throughout. Comic juxtaposition can be a hoot.

Wikipedia says “The Lady in Red” went to #1 in 25 countries, but it peaked at #3 on the U.S. pop chart (it may have gone to #1 on the adult contemporary chart; I wouldn’t be surprised). The song was inspired by de Burgh’s wife, and I like the sentiment of it, which boils down to this: “Because I’ve been taking you for granted recently, I’ve forgotten what a knockout you are. Please kick me in the face the next time I forget. Thanks, sweetie!”

2.  Looking For A New Love – Jody Watley (download)

Jason:  “Looking For A New Love”: released 1987.  Terminator 2: Judgment Day released 1991.  So you tell me: is the cold, hard truth that the famous Arnold line “Hasta la vista, baby” was a direct quote from a Jody Watley song?  I mean, I know Jody Watley wasn’t the first to say it…or was she?  Was she the first one to use it in a way that would affect popular culture?

As I mentioned in a previous Attack, Watley left the group Shalamar (isn’t that the last word in the Family Ties theme song?) in 1984 and began her solo career with this track in late 1986.  Although the song peaked here at #2 (damn you, U2!  Damn you, Cutting Crew), it still remains one of the biggest hits of 1987, and I love it.  I pretty much love anything Jody Watley released on her first two solo albums.  However, I gotta be honest – she’s looking kinda freaky these days.

1.  With Or Without You – U2

Jason:  See the stone set in your thighs, see the blah blah blah zzzzzz.  I’m betting I’m in the minority here, but I just can’t bring myself to like U2 as much as I want to, or as much as I’m supposed to.  This would probably make for a pretty good discussion all by itself, separate from this post.  I own U2 albums, I have the hits collection, but yet when a U2 song comes on my iPod or the radio, I skip or change the dial.  That pretty much includes this song.  I’m not saying it’s not a pretty song.  I’m not saying the lyrics aren’t great lyrics.  I’m just saying that I think it’s overrated.

Either way, when “With Or Without You” reached #1 the week prior, it became the first U2 single to do better in the States than in Europe, where it stalled at #4.  It also was the band’s first #1 in America.  The follow-up single, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” also reached #1, but they haven’t had another chart-topper on the Hot 100 since.  The closest they’ve come is “Desire,” peaking at #3.

And that’ll do it for this week!  Thanks again to Kurt, Robert and Mike for jumping in at the last minute and making this entry possible!  Have a great holiday weekend and see you next time!

  • One little nit-pick. The Cutting Crew’s second single, "I’ve Been in Love Before" peaked at #9, and their 3rd, "One for the Mockingbird", squeezed into the Top 40 at #38.Oh, and the only #1 this decade that was a remake of a #1? That’d be "Lady Marmalade", 1st by Labelle, and then it a few years back with Christina Aguilera, Mya, Pink, and Li’l Kim. I won’t hesitate to say that the remake was probably a success due to the combination of the publicity for the  "supergroup" quartet, and the tune’s "spanktacular" video, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

  • You’re obviously correct about "Lady Marmalade," and I’m fine with your nit-pic about Cutting Crew since I didn’t write it.  Nice work!

  • I like that you had contributors to this Chart Attack!  There was some truly funny stuff in this edition. Kurt: your comment on Spock had me rolling.  Jason:  great zinger on Kim Wilde looking like Kelly Ripa.  I confess to owning almost every Kim Wilde album recorded, so there.  Pelt me with rocks and garbage. Jody Watley looks like Chaka Khan nowadays…And I’m in full agreement about With or Without You.  I love U2, but With or Without You is my least favorite U2 song.

  • jb

    I was working at an elevator music station in 1987, and I seem to recall that we played "Always," "The Lady in Red" and "Talk Dirty to Me."
    No, wait, that can’t be right.

  • Actually DeBurgh has said in many interviews that "The Lady in Red" was about Lady Diana. The only reason why I suspect this is true is because the assertions came before she died. After she died, everyone claimed every song was about her. Nothing makes a procession like death, don’tcha know. DwD

  • One last thought: during the La Isla Bonita years, Madonna was seriously suffering through a Whitino phase… Actually, it would be feminine gender, so let’s say Whitina. <Nah, making her a dude was funnier. Whitino it is.> A Whitino is an obvious Caucasian who can’t help but over-pronounce Spanish words in dialect. We had a reporter in the NY area once who, I believe, was actually Jewish but married a Latino person. She would have the sound of a very Jewish woman right until she said her last name – then the RRrrrs rolled out faster and more furious than Donald Trump’s obvious sexual attraction to Rosie O’Donnell (Admit it, The Don – you want her booty). All of that is to say that Maddy pronounced "San Pedro" like "Zom Bay-dro", and over lousy speakers it sounded like she sang, "I fell in love with some bagels". What were you expecting from me, people? Greil Marcus? DwD

  • Bob

    While I still maintain that Charlene’s “I’ve Never Been To Me” is the worst hit song ever, Chris de Burgh’s “The Lady In Red” is definitely in the ballpark.

    And Lindsey Buckingham has to be one of rock’s more underrated guitarists. His playing on the “Big Love” video is amazing.

  • jhensy

    1. No, the opening line to "La Isla Bonita" is
      "I fell in love with some Dago…."
    according to a co-worker of mine at the time. I cannot hear it any other way now, and now neither will any of you.
    2. The sexual pants and grunts in "Big Love" really pissed off oldies DJ Cousin Brucie (Bruce Morrow), back when WCBS would play a current hit once an hour. He went into a spiel after the song like, "C’mon kids… do we really need to have things like that in our music? There’s no place for that, etc." It was a classic old man, get-off-my-lawn moment; Cousin Brucie obviously picturing (like we all did) Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie trading grunts while bumping each other sexually at the mike.
      It was a bummer for all of us to find out it was Lindsey doing a vocorder thing by himself in the basement.

  • I  know what you mean about U2.  I have their CDs too, but for some reason, I’m just not that big a fan.  "With or Without You" was just OK…one of their biggest hits, and it was just OK for me.  I totally believe U2 is extremely talented and all that, but I don’t really follow them like I do other bands.  And I skip past their songs on my ipod too!   This Chart Attack is like a deja vu of a post I did a couple weeks back.  1987 was a good year!

  • I remember those songs well.  I saw U2 in concert at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe about 10 years ago.  I thought they were only okay.  Lots of hype.

  • Matt

    Bono’s megawail at about the 3:00 mark of With or Without You is the ultimate U2 litmus test… how you feel about it pretty much describes how you feel about their entire catalogue in general. (Personally, I get goosebumps…)

  • Like the curmudgeonly hot-rodder in "American Graffiti" who grouses that "Rock and roll has been going downhill ever since Buddy Holly died," I will vouchsafe that U2 has been on the skids since everything after "War." But hey! Willie! I saw them at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, on the Zoo tour, supported by Public Enemy and the Sugarcubes. (Bono and Bjork in one sitting. A buddy of mine had an extra ticket, what can I say.) They had booked this venue at the last minute when their San Diego appearance was canceled; some girl in San Diego who had won an MTV contest to see them there had to settle for a live video feed. Wasn’t she the lucky one.
    I do think "Where The Streets Have No Name" would be a nice piece for saxophone quartet.

  • Thanks for reminding me of a long-held curiosity.
    I don’t believe anyone in the history of the Internet has addressed this, but what’s the deal with "La Isla Bonita" and "The Usual Suspects"?
    First line of the song: "Last night I dreamt of San Pedro…"
    First scene of the movie: "San Pedro, CA — Last night"
    Then Google tells me that Benicio del Toro was in the "La Isla Bonita" video. It seems a little too connected to me. Like that "Dark Side of the Moon" / "The Wizard of Oz" parallel.

  • Very interesting, Neel.  Get Bryan Singer on the phone, stat!

    "The sexual pants and grunts in ‘Big Love’ …"  Jason and Mike, I think you should change your cover band’s name to The Sexual Pants.

    I see what you guys mean about U2, and I don’t even own any of their albums.  I do like a lot of their hits, yet not enough to buy "The Best of 1980-1990" or any others.  I didn’t like "With or Without You" in 5th grade, but it grew on me over the years, and Bono’s wailing, as referenced by Matt, does give me goosebumps now.  One band I would compare U2 to these days is Wilco.  Up until 2004’s "A Ghost Is Born" I owned every Wilco album, although I didn’t become a fan until 2002.  "A Ghost Is Born" bored me, and although I don’t begrudge Wilco for drifting away from their "Being There" and "Summerteeth" sounds, their experimental side doesn’t do much for me.  I like "Sky Blue Sky" better than "Ghost" after the first few listens, but maybe Jay Bennett was the guy who was pushing Tweedy toward big hooks and melodies.  Anyway, my point is that U2 has been overhyped over the years, and we’ve probably all had U2 fans question us for not liking them as much as they do, and after four years of living in Chicago, I like Wilco less than I did before I moved here mainly because people act like you’re automatically supposed to worship them.  Screw that!  I’m taking my ball and going home!

    Jason, I like your "Big Love" story.  I truly give a shit, brah.  And you’re right that Kim Wilde’s version of "You Keep Me Hangin’ On" sounds very ’80s.  She disguised its origins very well for youngsters like us at the time.

    Dw, Wikipedia mentioned the Princess Diana connection for "The Lady in Red," even noting that Diana went backstage at a Chris de Burgh concert to thank him for writing a song about her since she often wore red.  But the lyrics definitely make a case for a married man, or longtime boyfriend, who’s forgotten just how beautiful his wife/girlfriend really is.  Plus I’d hate to think that Princess Diana was vain enough to think that any song about a lady wearing a red dress MUST BE about her (Stevie Wonder’s "The Woman in Red," anyone?), a la that story in Bebe Buell’s autobiography where she thinks Prince is saying "Bebe, you’re much too fast" instead of "Baby, you’re much too fast" in "Little Red Corvette."  Gimme a break, Bebe.

  • You totally called me "brah."

  • Yeah, I did, but don’t be such a puss about it, brah.

  • Gemma

    Prince did not write the song Little Red Corvette about Buell. He never had met her when he wrote that song.
    Bebe’s day is over and these rock stars are now sleeping with women half her age.