College Countdown: KROQ-FM’s Top 40 Songs of 1987, 1

1. “Just Like Heaven” by the Cure
The third single from the Cure’s 1987 double album release, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, was a clear breakthrough for the band, at least in the United States. It was their first song to cross into the Billboard Top 40, although just barely. What’s more, the band that MTV had been toying with for a couple of years found themselves with a very secure place on the trend-setting cable network. Maybe that was in part because the smitten exuberance of the song helped the band shake off some of gothy cobwebs that shrouded them from a certain swatch of music fandom. Even the lead single from the same album, “Why Can’t I Be You?,” had a little sad self-loathing built right into the title. “Just Like Heaven,” on the other hand, was a lovely bit of poppy joy. The opening lyrics (“‘Show me how you do that trick/ The one that makes me scream,’ she said/ ‘The one that makes me laugh,’ she said/ And threw her arms around my neck/ ‘Show me how you do it/ And I promise you, I promise that/ I’ll run away with you/ I’ll run away with you'”) are so spectacularly evocative that I still can’t hear them (or, as I just discovered, type them out) without feeling a happy clenching in my chest that echoes the obviously throbbing heart of Smith as he sings them. He wrote the song for Mary Poole, his girlfriend at the time. The two were married the year after “Just Like Heaven” became a hit. They’ll celebrate their silver wedding anniversary this summer. That should be enough to make all the old goth kids feel old.


And that’s it for this chart. Since the Academy Awards are one week from today, this space will be turned over to a little Oscar talk. The College Countdown returns in two weeks with the introduction of our next chart. Be prepared for a long haul.

Previously…
An Introduction
40 and 39: “4th of July” and “Bizarre Love Triangle”
38 and 37: “Heartbreak Beat” and “Not My Slave”
36 and 35: “Alone Again Or” and “Absolute Perfection”
34 and 33: “Love Removal Machine” and “The Passenger”
32 and 31: “It’s Still Warm” and “Hourglass”
30 and 29: “Alex Chilton” and “We Care a Lot”
28 and 27: “Crazy” and “It’s a Sin”
26 and 25: “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Rules and Regulations”
24 and 23: “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” and “Twenty Killer Hurts”
22 and 21: “We Close Our Eyes” and “Please”
20 and 19: “Rain in the Summertime” and “Behind the Wheel”
18 and 17: “The Sweetest Thing” and “Rent”
16 and 15: “Is It Really So Strange?” and “The Motion of Love”
14 and 13: “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “No New Tale to Tell”
12 and 11: “A Hazy Shade of Winter” and “The One I Love”
10 and 9: “Never Let Me Down Again” and “With or Without You”
8 and 7: “True Faith” and “Dear God”
6 and 5: “Need You Tonight” and “Why Can’t I Be You”
4 and 3: “Lips Like Sugar” and “Strangelove”
2: “Girlfriend in a Coma”

College Countdown: KROQ-FM’s Top 40 Songs of 1987, 2

2. “Girlfriend in a Coma” by the Smiths
“Girlfriend in a Coma” was the first single from Strangeways, Here We Come, the final studio album from the Smiths. Indeed, by most accounts the band was in the midst of splintering apart as the track was slipping up the U.K. charts. The B-side even houses the last song the Smiths ever recorded, “I Keep Mine Hidden.” The A-side is, of course, pretty notable all on its own, inspiring countless covers and even the title to a novel by an author who never tires of clinging at references that will make him seem cool by association. Peaking on the U.K. charts at #13 (the Smiths never made an appearance on the equivalent chart in the States), it was the highest ranking single from their final proper release. Besides the odd, memorable angle to the lyrical story in the song, it also has the sort of hook that burrows into the brain and takes root. As a sort of parting shot, it’s another reminder that we lost a terrific band when the Smiths broke up. This is the third of three songs by the Smiths on the countdown.


Previously…
An Introduction
40 and 39: “4th of July” and “Bizarre Love Triangle”
38 and 37: “Heartbreak Beat” and “Not My Slave”
36 and 35: “Alone Again Or” and “Absolute Perfection”
34 and 33: “Love Removal Machine” and “The Passenger”
32 and 31: “It’s Still Warm” and “Hourglass”
30 and 29: “Alex Chilton” and “We Care a Lot”
28 and 27: “Crazy” and “It’s a Sin”
26 and 25: “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Rules and Regulations”
24 and 23: “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” and “Twenty Killer Hurts”
22 and 21: “We Close Our Eyes” and “Please”
20 and 19: “Rain in the Summertime” and “Behind the Wheel”
18 and 17: “The Sweetest Thing” and “Rent”
16 and 15: “Is It Really So Strange?” and “The Motion of Love”
14 and 13: “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “No New Tale to Tell”
12 and 11: “A Hazy Shade of Winter” and “The One I Love”
10 and 9: “Never Let Me Down Again” and “With or Without You”
8 and 7: “True Faith” and “Dear God”
6 and 5: “Need You Tonight” and “Why Can’t I Be You”
4 and 3: “Lips Like Sugar” and “Strangelove”

College Countdown: KROQ-FM’s Top 40 Songs of 1987, 4 and 3

4. “Lips Like Sugar” by Echo & the Bunnymen
I was still playing catch-up with college rock in 1987, so my true first impression on many of the bands that prospered there, including those that had been around for a while, was based on how fans were viewing the music they were making right that moment. So I was under the impression that Echo & the Bunnymen were some sort of perpetual disappointment. I’ll admit it: I was sort of a dumb kid. The British band’s fifth album was released in 1987. Self-titled, it was inspired a lot of agitated hand-wringing from the faithful because it sounded like a sell-out release, a blatant stab at commercial success. That’s been a perpetual bugaboo for indie-inclined music listeners for ages, though it used to take a few albums to reach that point, whereas now the backlash usually starts some time right before the one month anniversary of the debut release. “Lips Like Sugar” was the second single from the album, following “The Game,” and it’s surely one of the band’s best-known songs. It may have been disappointing to some, but I have to admit it always sounded pretty good to me.



3. “Strangelove” by Depeche Mode
“Strangelove” was the advance single from Depeche Mode’s Music for the Masses release in the U.K. in April 1987, some five months ahead of the album. A solid success for the band back home, it was deemed somewhat out of step with the other material developed for the full-length effort and was remastered and slowed down to better suit the downbeat gloominess of the other tracks that would surround it. That was the original theory anyway, but it was later clarified that the real issue was that the band felt the single was too cluttered sonically, and that’s why they wanted it stripped down. The album version spent two weeks atop the U.S. Dance charts in the summer of 1987, flanked by number ones from the unlikely company of Whitney Houston and Georgio. Despite this, Sire Records felt that the song hadn’t done as well in the U.S. as it could have–certainly it didn’t crossover, peaking at #76 on the Billboard Hot 100–so they rereleased it a year later, informally dubbing it “Strangelove ’88,” though it was never officially labeled as such. I think I’ve got that all correct, but honestly who knows? This is the third of three Depeche Mode songs on the countdown.


Previously…
An Introduction
40 and 39: “4th of July” and “Bizarre Love Triangle”
38 and 37: “Heartbreak Beat” and “Not My Slave”
36 and 35: “Alone Again Or” and “Absolute Perfection”
34 and 33: “Love Removal Machine” and “The Passenger”
32 and 31: “It’s Still Warm” and “Hourglass”
30 and 29: “Alex Chilton” and “We Care a Lot”
28 and 27: “Crazy” and “It’s a Sin”
26 and 25: “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Rules and Regulations”
24 and 23: “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” and “Twenty Killer Hurts”
22 and 21: “We Close Our Eyes” and “Please”
20 and 19: “Rain in the Summertime” and “Behind the Wheel”
18 and 17: “The Sweetest Thing” and “Rent”
16 and 15: “Is It Really So Strange?” and “The Motion of Love”
14 and 13: “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “No New Tale to Tell”
12 and 11: “A Hazy Shade of Winter” and “The One I Love”
10 and 9: “Never Let Me Down Again” and “With or Without You”
8 and 7: “True Faith” and “Dear God”
6 and 5: “Need You Tonight” and “Why Can’t I Be You”

College Countdown: KROQ-FM’s Top 40 Songs of 1987, 6 and 5

6. “Need You Tonight” by INXS
The Australian band INXS could reasonable claim that they’d already broken through on the U.S. charts when they released Kick, their sixth studio album, in October of 1987. Their prior effort, 1985’s Listen Like Thieves, just missed the Top 10 of the Billboard album charts and yielded a Top 5 hit in the lead single, “What You Need,” which MTV seemed to play about as much as their top of the hour astronaut bumper. That taste of success was a grain of salt compared to the deluge of flavor that came with Kick, an album that carried four Top 10 songs, including its lead single, which became the band’s first and only stateside chart-topper. Again, MTV was a mighty contributor to the song’s success, especially when the video was rereleased with a tag of “Mediate,” the song that “Need You Tonight” segues into on the original album, delivered in a riff on Bob Dylan’s famed “Subterranean Homesick Blues” proto-video from the opening of the 1967 documentary Dont Look Back. In those heady days of 1987, giving the MTV VJs something new to talk about was guaranteed to provide a boost to a song’s commercial prospects.



5. “Why Can’t I Be You” by The Cure
Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me was the seventh studio album by The Cure, so their collective persona was well-established. They may not have had huge hits in the U.S. by this point, but they were just well-known enough that upending their gloomy, goth reputation had a lot of charm to it. Music video director Tim Pope knew that, and he’d also worked with the band often enough to know that they were totally game to push against the caricature of their image. As Pope explained at the time, “The Cure are not afraid to do anything, and Robert doesn’t particularly want to look cool. Because of that, you can make great films with them. There’s none of this pop star pretension with him at all.” To that end, Pope got the band to dress up in silly costumes (notably, Smith adorned in a bear suit) and clumsily dance to simple choreography for the music video connected with “Why Can’t I Be You?,” the first single from the double album. The song was a perfect introduction to the more jubilant sound (still merged with some fairly glum lyrics) the band adopted on the new record, and it was quite the success. However, an even greater success was yet to come. This is the first of two songs by The Cure on the countdown.


Previously…
An Introduction
40 and 39: “4th of July” and “Bizarre Love Triangle”
38 and 37: “Heartbreak Beat” and “Not My Slave”
36 and 35: “Alone Again Or” and “Absolute Perfection”
34 and 33: “Love Removal Machine” and “The Passenger”
32 and 31: “It’s Still Warm” and “Hourglass”
30 and 29: “Alex Chilton” and “We Care a Lot”
28 and 27: “Crazy” and “It’s a Sin”
26 and 25: “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Rules and Regulations”
24 and 23: “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” and “Twenty Killer Hurts”
22 and 21: “We Close Our Eyes” and “Please”
20 and 19: “Rain in the Summertime” and “Behind the Wheel”
18 and 17: “The Sweetest Thing” and “Rent”
16 and 15: “Is It Really So Strange?” and “The Motion of Love”
14 and 13: “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “No New Tale to Tell”
12 and 11: “A Hazy Shade of Winter” and “The One I Love”
10 and 9: “Never Let Me Down Again” and “With or Without You”
8 and 7: “True Faith” and “Dear God”

College Countdown: KROQ-FM’s Top 40 Songs of 1987, 8 and 7

8. “True Faith” by New Order
New Order’s 1986 album, Brotherhood, may have still had an impact in 1987 (see #39 below), but it was the two-record set released during the year proper that represented a major turning point for the band. Called Substance or Substance 1987, depending on how deeply one feels the need to accede primacy to the Joy Division collection of the same name released the following year, the album compiled all of New Order’s singles and b-sides up to that point, although some of them in rerecorded or otherwise modified form. To help fill out the track listing, the band recorded two new songs, as well, releasing them as a fresh single to help promote the release. “1963” wound up as the B-side, as the band’s U.S. management decided the other new effort, “True Faith,” was far more likely to help the band break through on this side of the Atlantic. Chalk one up for the suits, as “True Faith” represents New Order’s first appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Indeed it was also their first Top 40 song in the U.S., remarkably one of only two times that band managed that achievement (the second instance arrived some six years later, with “Regret,” which is also New Order’s highest charting single in the States). This is the second of two New Order songs on the countdown.



7. “Dear God” by XTC
Andy Partridge of XTC was so certain he’d failed with “Dear God” that it wasn’t initially included on the band’s masterful 1986 album, Skylarking. As he later put it, he thought he fell short in writing about a subject as vast and complex as humanity’s desire to believe in something larger and the exploitative power apparatus constructed around that desire. Instead, it was originally issued as the B-side to the first single from the album, the very fine but far less seminal “Grass.” The emergence of “Dear God” is generally attributed to college radio DJs, undoubtedly drawn in by the song’s inspired anti-authority, along with the simple fact that it’s a marvelously constructed pop song. Of course, any song that dared to challenge the existence of capital G God in Ronald Reagan’s America was sure to raise some hackles, and that’s just what “Dear God” managed to do, inspiring great animosity and at least one documented instance of a bomb threat called in to a radio station that had the track in rotation. Fairly quickly, Geffen Records realized it would be useful to have the song everyone was talking about on the album they were trying to sell, and Skylarking was reissued with “Dear God” displacing “Mermaid Smiled.” “Dear God” eventually got another release on a single, this time taking up residence on the A-side.


Previously…
An Introduction
40 and 39: “4th of July” and “Bizarre Love Triangle”
38 and 37: “Heartbreak Beat” and “Not My Slave”
36 and 35: “Alone Again Or” and “Absolute Perfection”
34 and 33: “Love Removal Machine” and “The Passenger”
32 and 31: “It’s Still Warm” and “Hourglass”
30 and 29: “Alex Chilton” and “We Care a Lot”
28 and 27: “Crazy” and “It’s a Sin”
26 and 25: “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Rules and Regulations”
24 and 23: “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” and “Twenty Killer Hurts”
22 and 21: “We Close Our Eyes” and “Please”
20 and 19: “Rain in the Summertime” and “Behind the Wheel”
18 and 17: “The Sweetest Thing” and “Rent”
16 and 15: “Is It Really So Strange?” and “The Motion of Love”
14 and 13: “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “No New Tale to Tell”
12 and 11: “A Hazy Shade of Winter” and “The One I Love”
10 and 9: “Never Let Me Down Again” and “With or Without You”

College Countdown: KROQ-FM’s Top 40 Songs of 1987, 10 and 9

10. “Never Let Me Down Again” by Depeche Mode
The second single from Depeche Mode’s Music for the Masses, “Never Let Me Down Again,” was the a fairly weak performer, by some measures anyway, compared to the other tracks released in the first wave of the album’s promotion. Of the first three singles, for example, it was the lowest charter on the U.K. charts and the only one that didn’t manage a Top 5 showing on the U.S. Dance charts (lead single “Strangelove” even managed to top that particular chart for two weeks). Nonetheless, it was one of those songs that connected with the deeper fan base, with the band quickly determining that was the perfect track to close shows in the late eighties. While it seems the consensus had solidified around the theory that the song’s lyrics are about drugs, there was just enough mystery at the time to inspire rampant speculation, including the Village Voice huffing at one point that the track was a metaphor for gay sex (while the Village Voice, of all publications, would condemn the song for that is beyond me). Mojo magazine also notes that the song’s coda includes a “coy tribute” to Soft Cell’s “Torch.” This is the second of three Depeche Mode songs on the countdown.



9. “With or Without You” by U2
The first single from The Joshua Tree made it clear that U2 was about to rise to a significant new level. It was far and away the band’s biggest hit to that point, topping the Billboard Hot 100 chart for three weeks in the late spring, and it was unavoidable. According to Bono, the lyrics were inspired by his own conflicting feelings about balancing life in a rock band with the desire to be more present for his domestic responsibilities (he’d married Alison Stewart in 1982; the couple’s first child arrived in 1989, so it’s entirely possible that the good Irish Catholic boy was thinking about starting a family when he was tinkering with the song). It evidently took a long time to get from conception to the finished product, with the band regularly considering the abandonment of the track when they couldn’t develop an acceptable approach to it, and it was only once Bono sought ideas on the arrangement from his friend Gavin Friday that it first began to fall into place. Now, of course, it’s one of the songs that absolutely defines U2, thanks in no small part to the ever so serious music video. This is the fourth of four U2 songs on the countdown.


Previously…
An Introduction
40 and 39: “4th of July” and “Bizarre Love Triangle”
38 and 37: “Heartbreak Beat” and “Not My Slave”
36 and 35: “Alone Again Or” and “Absolute Perfection”
34 and 33: “Love Removal Machine” and “The Passenger”
32 and 31: “It’s Still Warm” and “Hourglass”
30 and 29: “Alex Chilton” and “We Care a Lot”
28 and 27: “Crazy” and “It’s a Sin”
26 and 25: “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Rules and Regulations”
24 and 23: “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” and “Twenty Killer Hurts”
22 and 21: “We Close Our Eyes” and “Please”
20 and 19: “Rain in the Summertime” and “Behind the Wheel”
18 and 17: “The Sweetest Thing” and “Rent”
16 and 15: “Is It Really So Strange?” and “The Motion of Love”
14 and 13: “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “No New Tale to Tell”
12 and 11: “A Hazy Shade of Winter” and “The One I Love”

College Countdown: KROQ-FM’s Top 40 Songs of 1987, 12 and 11

12. “A Hazy Shade of Winter” by the Bangles
“A Hazy Shade of Winter” was first recorded and released as a single by Simon & Garfunkel in 1966, about a year-and-a-half before it took up residence deep on Side Two of their album Bookends. The song charted at #13 for the duo, making it their fifth straight entry in the Billboard Top 40. Around twenty years later, the Bangles were recruited to contribute a song for a movie soundtrack, because it was the eighties and that was what happened then. The band was still basking in the enormous success of their 1986 breakthrough release, Different Light, so they were an ideal choice to provide music to Less Than Zero. The movie itself had huge expectations attached to it, thanks to its source material novel standing as the sort of literary sensation now reserved for young adult adventure romances (and even creepier books that purport to ratify the existence of Heaven). The Bangles chose to cover a song that had been part of their repertoire for a while and delivered a surprisingly tough version of “Hazy Shade of Winter.” It wound up as one of the band’s biggest hits, peaking at #2 on the Billboard charts, just like “Manic Monday.” I have a friend who never let any natural opportunity pass to inform those around them that he saw the Bangles play this song live in concert and that their version was far better than Simon & Garfunkel’s. I realize that’s not an incredibly interesting anecdote, but members of my tribe were probably expecting it to be here, so here it is.



11. “The One I Love” by R.E.M.
There’s no question that “The One I Love,” the lead single from Document, is the demarcation point between the first and second phases of R.E.M.’s long career. They had absolutely ruled college radio throughout much of the eighties, but it wasn’t until this song, off of their fifth studio album, that everyone else decided they really needed to take notice. With that, it was the proverbial floodgate. The band didn’t just make their first appearance on the cover of Rolling Stone, but they were dubbed “America’s Best Rock & Roll Band” on that cover. They’d had only meager attention from commercial radio previously–even “Fall on Me,” which I erroneously think of a track that nearly crossed over, stalled out at an unimpressive #94 on the Billboard chart–which didn’t hinder “The One I Love” as it became the band’s first Top 10 hit. Document also proved to be R.E.M.’s last for I.R.S. records, and they moved on to major label Warner Bros. by the next year’s Green. They didn’t exactly become chart stalwarts after this, with only three more Top 10 songs and none as high as that after 1991. R.E.M. was still the artist that best represented how college rock could graduate to the big time (or at least quasi-big time) and still keep it’s independent spirit.


Previously…
An Introduction
40 and 39: “4th of July” and “Bizarre Love Triangle”
38 and 37: “Heartbreak Beat” and “Not My Slave”
36 and 35: “Alone Again Or” and “Absolute Perfection”
34 and 33: “Love Removal Machine” and “The Passenger”
32 and 31: “It’s Still Warm” and “Hourglass”
30 and 29: “Alex Chilton” and “We Care a Lot”
28 and 27: “Crazy” and “It’s a Sin”
26 and 25: “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Rules and Regulations”
24 and 23: “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” and “Twenty Killer Hurts”
22 and 21: “We Close Our Eyes” and “Please”
20 and 19: “Rain in the Summertime” and “Behind the Wheel”
18 and 17: “The Sweetest Thing” and “Rent”
16 and 15: “Is It Really So Strange?” and “The Motion of Love”
14 and 13: “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “No New Tale to Tell”