Top Ten Summer Hits of 1988: A Look Back

Today marks the first official day of summer 2018 and that means some seasonal traditions are back on the blog! For the past few years, I have recounted the top summer tunes from the last 30, 20, and 10 years. It’s a chance to put on our nostalgia goggles and for me to take a look back on if the songs are a summer smash or summer bummer in hindsight. We begin with the tracks of 1988. As in posts from previous summers, I rank each ditty on a scale of 1 (awful) to 10 (classic) and reveal the most important detail of all – whether said song is on my personal Apple Music collection.

In the coming days, we’ll travel to 1998 and 2008. In July, I’ll get to the movie side recounting the top 10 hits, notable pictures, and flops of ’88, ’98, and ’08.

Let’s get to it!

10. “I Don’t Wanna Live Without Your Love” by Chicago

This group that’s been around for decades scored numerous power ballad smashes in the 1980s. This is… one of them. And it’s not nearly as memorable as many of their others from earlier in the period. That said, it nearly deserves an extra half star for its gloriously cheesy music video.

My Ranking: 5

Is It On My Apple Music: Yes (but only because I have their greatest hits downloaded… I never listen to this one)

9. “I Don’t Wanna Go on with You Like That” by Elton John

Keeping on with the “I Don’t Wanna…” themed hits of three decades ago… ok, so it may not be one of the legend’s classic tunes, but this synth heavy concoction is a well-crafted effort at a time when Elton’s career needed a boost.

My Ranking: 8

Is It On My Apple Music? Yes

8. “Make Me Lose Control” by Eric Carmen

Best known for “Hungry Eyes” from Dirty Dancing, Carmen’s follow-up is a decent sing-along in the car with the windows down experience.

My Ranking: 7

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

7. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns n Roses

One of the signature tracks from the band with its unmistakable guitar riff to start it off, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” is part of our DNA now. That said, there are certainly songs from GnR I would rank higher.

My Ranking: 8 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: Yes

6. “Hands to Heaven” by Breathe

The London pop group came and went fairly quickly, but ballad “Hands to Heaven” was their initial smash. Cheesy, sure. Solid chorus – yes.

My Ranking: 6 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

5. “Pour Some Sugar on Me” by Def Leppard

VH-1 ranked it the second best song of the 1980s in a poll and it certainly is the signature tune of the rock group’s career. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but it’s pretty darn iconic. I will, however, confess that the hair bands fad isn’t totally my cup of tea for the most part.

My Ranking: 8 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

4. “Hold On to the Nights” by Richard Marx

Another rather cheesy power ballad, this was nevertheless a smash from Marx that actually kept Leppard’s “Sugar” from hitting #1.

My Ranking: 6

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

3. “Monkey” by George Michael

The fourth single from his landmark Faith album, this uptempo dance track (with production assistance from Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis) gets the job done even if it doesn’t quite rank with some other classics from the 1987 multi-platinum effort.

My Ranking: 9

Is It On My Apple Music?: Yes

2. “The Flame” by Cheap Trick

A bit of a comeback single from the Illinois group, it found them traveling down the power ballad lane that dominated this particular summer. It’s fine. I don’t love it. Give me “I Want You To Want Me” any day.

My Ranking: 6 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

1. “Roll With It” by Steve Winwood

Is it catchy? Sure, but I was surprised to recall just how much of a hit this was. Four weeks at #1 and multiple Grammys, but I find it just perfectly adequate and far from a summer classic.

My Ranking: 7

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

I’ll have 1998 up soon! “I Don’t Wanna” keep you waiting long…

Music Biopics: The Name Game

A growing trend in movies for the past few years (and a bit beyond) is the musical biopic that incorporates one of the band or artist’s songs into the title. The latest example will come out this fall with Bohemian Rhapsody, the behind the scenes story of Queen.

2019 will bring us Rocketman with Taron Egerton as the legendary Elton John.

We’ve seen this trend in years past. For instance, the 1980s saw La Bamba about Richie Valens.

The 1990s gave us Angela Bassett in her Oscar nominated role playing Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It?

In 2005, we had Walk the Line with Joaquin Phoenix in his Academy nominated turn as Johnny Cash and Reese Witherspoon winning as June.

More recent ones have been in the hip hop world with Straight Outta Compton (N.W.A.) and All Eyez on Me (Tupac Shakur). There’s also Get On Up with Chadwick Boseman as the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.

So this got me thinking. What would be some other movie/song titles if certain iconic musicians got their biopic? For this blog post’s purposes, I tried to focus on artists where I feel a big screen treatment on them is at least feasible. In other words, while Rico Suave might be a spectacular title, I don’t envision two hours on Gerardo coming anytime soon.

There is already a Madonna flick reportedly in the works and it takes its name not from a tune, but from one of her tours – Blond Ambition. I suppose Material Girl or Like a Prayer could have worked, but Blond Ambition is just about perfect.

Some choices seem obvious. You gotta call the Bon Jovi story Livin on a Prayer, after all. And My Way seems like the natural fit for Frank Sinatra. And Born to Run for Bruce Springsteen. And there’s Piano Man for Billy Joel.

It doesn’t end there. Respect (Aretha Franklin) and Fire and Rain (James Taylor).

When it comes to some recently dearly departed legends, Prince presents a challenge because you can’t call it Purple Rain. And a number of his other massive hits don’t fit. When Doves Cry is probably the name the studio would go for considering it’s his biggest hit. Personally, I rather like the thought of My Name is Prince, taken from his Love Symbol album of 1992.

With Michael Jackson, Thriller would work but it’s hard to imagine Man in the Mirror not being the choice.

For David Bowie, Starman seems like the winner, but that’s also the name of a fairly well-known 1980s science fiction effort starring Jeff Bridges. That may not matter, but if so, Space Oddity or simply calling it Ziggy Stardust might fit.

Tom Petty? How about Free Fallin or Runnin Down a Dream. George Michael? Faith or Freedom. Whitney Houston? Tough one. Perhaps a studio would want I Will Always Love You. Maybe So Emotional works as well.

Some bands have more than one title that seem appropriate. Aerosmith has three great ones: Dream On, Sweet Emotion, or Walk This Way. With AC/DC – Back in Black or Thunderstruck.

Guns n Roses is an interesting one. Welcome to the Jungle is fantastic, but it was just the subtitle for the blockbuster Jumanji reboot. In this matter, you might have to go with their album name Appetite for Destruction, which is ideal.

Metallica could have For Whom the Bell Tolls or Enter Sandman. Nirvana might have Smells Like Teen Spirit as the studio choice, but I’m a little partial to Come As You Are.

I like Runnin with the Devil for Van Halen and I suppose Stairway to Heaven would be the choice for Led Zeppelin.

Let’s move off rock. How about Britney Spears? That may depend on what direction the studio goes. It could be Toxic or Stronger. Maybe Baby One More Time instead.

Stevie Wonder? Superstition or Sir Duke are possibilities, but I like Higher Ground.

With Bob Marley, maybe Get Up, Stand Up or One Love.

Circling back to hip hop, Fight the Power is the clear pick for Public Enemy and the same may hold true for Mama Said Knock You Out with LL Cool J.

And then there’s my favorite… the Rick James biopic Super Freak. Why hasn’t this been made already?

I could go on, but you get the idea. Let’s see if any of these suggested titles end up playing out in the future. Maybe there will be surprises… Barbie Girl: The Aqua Story, anyone?

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde is set in 1989 and that feels appropriate because it’s a gleefully rated R entry in an action genre that cranked out a lot more of those 30 years ago. It’s unapologetically violent, sexy, and stylish with a pulsating late 80s soundtrack booming all throughout (almost all throughout). It’s additionally uneven at times and confusing, but I didn’t care much because the good outweighs the bad and the bad people look good doing their thing.

David Leitch co-directed John Wick and we see those kind of kinetic fight scenes represented here as well. Charlize Theron is Lorraine, an MI6 agent dispatched to Berlin just days before the collapse of the Wall. While the Cold War is drawing to a close, she’s given the mission of retrieving a McGuffin (a wristwatch in this case) that hides the identities of secret agents.  She’s also teamed up with Percival (James McAvoy), an outlandish fellow agent who may or may not be on her side. Lorraine also gets friendly (very friendly) with Sofia Boutella’s French agent and the scenes between them aren’t something normally found in summer shoot-em-up material.

The story is told in flashback (not exactly an original touch) as Lorraine recounts her sordid Berlin experience to a CIA man (John Goodman) and other government big wigs. The villains change seemingly minute to minute. It’s a screenplay that never tires of double, triple, and quadruple crosses. Trying to piece it altogether at its conclusion may not be worth your time.

That said, certain sequences and the general cool vibe make it worth your while. It also doesn’t hurt to hear George Michael, A Flock of Seagulls and others singing along during the battle ballets. They’re a trip, but the most effective fight scene is a gloriously choreographed number with no music. It might be the finest action set piece using that distinction since Heat.

Theron has proven herself in several genres, but she sure seems comfortable in this one. McAvoy is having a blast as well. Atomic Blonde is shameless in a way that R rated action pics should be when they’re done well enough. And that alone sets it apart in the summer season.

*** (out of four)

Top Ten Summer Music Hits of 1987: A Look Back

As has become a summer tradition on this here blog, I’m taking you back 30 years, 20 years, and 10 years recounting the top 10 tracks of every season.

We begin today with 1987 before moving forward with 1997 and 2007 shortly. It’s a fascinating experience to relive the songs that were blaring (at least in this era) on our Walkmans and cassettes at this juncture.

Just as in years past, I will assign a scale of 1 (summer bummer) to 10 (seasonal classic) for each hit. I will also reveal whether or not said track is on my Apple Music.

As a side note, my series that will cover the summer movies of 1987, 1997, and 2007 will be coming your way soon as well.

Let’s get to it!

10. “Luka” by Suzanne Vega

OK, so you don’t usually pair “summer hit song” with a track about child abuse, but Vega’s largest hit of her career is a catchy little ditty. It earned a number of Grammy nominations. And just to slide a movie reference in, a deleted scene from Pulp Fiction reveals the character of Vincent Vega (John Travolta) may actually be a cousin of hers.

My Rating: 8

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

9. “Heart and Soul” by T’Pau

Not T-Pain for you youngsters. No, this is T’Pau, a British pop song fronted by Carol Decker that had some hits in the late 80s. “Heart and Soul” is a perfectly reasonable track you’d belt out in the car alone.

My Rating: 7 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

8. “Only In My Dreams” by Debbie Gibson

Teen Long Island pop princess Debbie Gibson (before she changed to her name to the more distinguished Deborah) had a huge hit with this ditty. It’s somewhat forgettable these days, but it’s an OK little pop confection.

My Rating: 5 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

7. “Who’s That Girl” by Madonna

And now for the real pop princess! This is the title track for Madonna’s 1987 box office dud that still managed to produce this hit. This has never been one of my favorite Madonna songs to be honest, but it’s decent.

My Rating: 6 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: Yes

6. “I Want Your Sex” by George Michael

The late British pop sensation gave radio programmers heart palpitations with this first single from his heralded solo debut Faith. The track also served as the third single for the soundtrack to Beverly Hills Cop II, which was the summer’s biggest hit movie. As is the case with plenty of other GM tracks, it’s terrific and so are the various remixes that followed.

My Rating: 9 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music? Yes

5. “La Bamba” by Los Lobos

This is, of course, the cover of the Ritchie Valens 50s smash that served as the lead single for the movie La Bamba. Truth be told, this is a track that grates on my nerves and maybe that’s due to its omnipresence three decades ago.

My Rating: 4 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music? No

4. “Shakedown” by Bob Seger

This is Detroit legend Seger’s only #1 single and it came from the Beverly Hills Cop II soundtrack. It was originally intended for the late Glenn Frey, who recorded “The Heat Is On” for 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop. Do I think it’s great? No, but I might not turn the dial if it comes on.

My Rating: 6

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

3. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2

The second single from their beloved Joshua Tree album, this is one of Irish rock band’s signature tunes and it deserves to be.

My Rating: 9 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: Yes

2. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” by Whitney Houston

Ms. Whitney’s dance inducing track here served as the first single from her second album and to this day, it will get bridal parties belting out the lyrics.

My Rating: 9

Is It On My Apple Music? Yes

1. “Alone” by Heart

Yeah, very few singers have pipes like Ann Wilson and this power ballad has tested the limits of many who attempt to keep up by themselves while sitting in traffic. Many have tried.

My Rating: 8

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

And there you have it! I’ll be back soon with 1997 and 2007…

 

Ladies and Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael

On Christmas Day – the world lost another musical icon in 2016 when George Michael passed at age 53. I’ve been a huge fan of the singer for whole life and I wanted to provide my personal Top 25 list of my favorite GM tunes. The listing also includes songs from his work in Wham! prior to him going solo in 1987. I did make the choice not to include covers. However, check out his covers of Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” and Queen’s “Somebody to Love” in particular.

For those not intimately familiar with this brilliant singer’s work, I urge you to explore your Apple Music or other streaming service to appreciate just how remarkable he was. And these 25 songs represent a solid start.

RIP George Michael.

25. “Monkey” from Faith (1987)

24. “Spinning the Wheel” from Older (1996)

23. “Outside” from Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael (1998)

22. “Fantasy” – B-Side Single (1990)

21. “Move On” from Older (1996)

20. “Amazing” from Patience (2004)

19. “I’m Your Man” from Music from the Edge of Heaven (1986)

18. “I Want Your Sex” from Faith (1987)

17. “Too Funky” from Red Hot + Dance Compilation (1992)

16. “A Different Corner” from Music from the Edge of Heaven (1986)

15. “The Edge of Heaven” from Music from the Edge of Heaven (1986)

14. “Hard Day” from Faith (1987)

13. “One More Try” from Faith (1987)

12. “Freedom” from Make It Big (1984)

11. “Kissing a Fool” from Faith (1987)

10. “Father Figure” from Faith (1987)

9. “Last Christmas” from Music from the Edge of Heaven (1986)

8. “Praying for Time” from Listen Without Prejudice (1990)

7. “Wake Me Up Before You Go -Go” from Make It Big (1984)

6. “Careless Whisper” from Make It Big (1984)

5. “Faith” from Faith (1987)

4. “Fastlove” from Older (1996)

3. “Cowboys and Angels” from Listen Without Prejudice (1990)

2. “Everything She Wants” from Make It Big (1984)

1. “Freedom ’90” from Listen Without Prejudice (1990)

Keanu Movie Review

It may be called Keanu with an adorable kitten named after the actor who gave us Neo/Johnny Utah/John Wick, but the debut feature starring Comedy Central’s “Key and Peele” could’ve been titled George Michael as well. The iconic 1980s British crooner gets his props throughout this action comedy that may have felt right at home in theaters when “Faith” and “Father Figure” were burning up the charts.

The duo’s basic cable program was a rather groundbreaking show with some truly inspired bits. You won’t really find that here. Instead, Keanu is a breezy if rather forgettable tale of the tail of the cat who captures the hearts of everyone who comes in contact with it. Jordan Peele is Rell, who’s depressed after his girlfriend broke up with him when that darn kitty comes into his possession. His best bud/cousin Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) is stuck in a dull middle class existence with a bored wife (Nia Long) who’s out of town for the weekend. The pair soon learn that Keanu is actually the property of a drug kingpin whose employees were recently mowed down by assassins known as The Allentown Boys (also played by Key and Peele). Before you know it, Rell and Clarence are posing as them in an effort to get the kidnapped Keanu back.

Their journey brings them to the underground L.A. drug scene and a crew led by Cheddar (Method Man) and Hi-C (Tiffany Haddish), who Rell has the hots for. Of course, they need nifty nicknames, too. Tectonic and Shark Tank suffice. As they try to find that fabulously cute feline, the guys teach some criminals the joys of George Michael in a humorous bit that just keeps going and going.

Maybe that’s part of the problem here. The shark out of water premise of Keanu barely can sustain itself for 100 minutes. There are moments sprinkled throughout that work well. An unexpected cameo from Scary Movie lead Anna Faris is amusing. Key and Peele do succeed in proving that their charisma on the small screen translates to the big one. And, yes, that kitten really is a gem. Yet the concept of these guys having to “get hard” (to borrow a phrase from a far worse Kevin Hart vehicle that uses similar plotting) is a rather familiar one. This is a talented pair at work, though. I wouldn’t hesitate to sign up when they get “One More Try”, as that hit song says from Mr. Michael.

**1/2 (out of four)