Tuesday, November 3, 1987

George Michael released Faith: November 3, 1987

Originally posted November 3, 2011.

“A superbly crafted mainstream pop/rock masterpiece,” SH Faith was George “Michael’s stunning solo debut after four years in the lightweight British duo Wham!” MR and it made him “an international solo star.” SH He scored four consecutive #1 hits in the U.S. with singles from the album (“Faith”, “Father Figure”, “One More Try”, and “Monkey”) and book-ended those with two more top 10 hits (“I Want Your Sex” and “Kissing a Fool”). Some of those songs “were among the decade’s best pop.” MR

Faith’s ingenuity lies in the way it straddles pop, adult contemporary, R&B, and dance music as though there were no distinctions between them.” SH The album made Michael “the first white solo artist to hit number one on the R&B album charts. Michael had already proven the soulful power of his pipes by singing a duet with Aretha Franklin on the 1987 smash ‘I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),’ but he went even farther when it came to crafting his own material, using sophisticated ‘70s soul as an indispensable part of his foundation.” SH

However, he didn’t just cross genres. He was equally successful at “funky dance-pop and airy, shimmering ballads.” SH As for the former, “Michael appropriates the Bo Diddley beat for the rockabilly-tinged title trackSH In regards to the latter, there was “the heartfelt ballad Father Figure.” MR However, he also proved “himself a better-than-decent torch singer on the cocktail jazz of Kissing a Fool.” SH

“Michael arranged and produced the album himself, and the familiarity of many of these songs can obscure his skills in those departments – close listening reveals his knack for shifting elements in and out of the mix and adding subtle embellishments when a little emphasis or variety is needed.” SH

“Though Faith couldn’t completely shake Michael’s bubblegum image in some quarters, the album’s themes were decidedly adult.” SH With its “wicked R&B groove” MR I Want Your Sex was the most notorious example, of course, but even the love songs were strikingly personal and mature, grappling with complex adult desires and scarred by past heartbreak.” SH

“All of it adds up to one of the finest pop albums of the ‘80s, setting a high-water mark that Michael was only able to reach in isolated moments afterward.” SH “Unlike so much 1980s treacle, this disc hold ups surprisingly well.” MR

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Tuesday, September 1, 1987

Dirty Dancing soundtrack is released: September 1, 1987

Originally posted September 1, 2012.

image from fanpop.com

The fall of 1987 marked the onset of my junior year in college. One of the hottest movies around was Dirty Dancing. I wasn’t interested, but ended up going – with five women. Hey, who would turn that down? Well, I thought the movie was cheesy and eye-rolling, but my movie companions loved it. They swooned over Patrick Swayze and all but danced in the aisles to the music.

Ah, yes. The music. As popular as the movie was and as much as women loved Patrick Swayze, the driving force was the music. The soundtrack was an unlikely blockbuster. In the mid-‘80s, soundtracks to Flashdance, Footloose, and Top Gun became huge sellers on the strength of well-crafted pop songs by known commodities. Each album mustered a couple top ten hits and at least one #1 each and then peppered the album with filler.

Dirty Dancing opted for new songs by artists with decades-old hits. Eric Carmen (“Hungry Eyes”) hit #2 in 1975 with “All By Myself” while Bill Medley (“I’ve Had the Time of My Life”) had huge hits as part of the Righteous Brothers duo in the 1960s (“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”, “You’re My Soul and Inspiration”, “Unchained Melody”). The best known commodity was Medley’s duet partner, Jennifer Warnes, who had topped the charts in 1982 with “Up Where We Belong,” a duet with Joe Cocker from the movie An Officer and a Gentleman. Sure, she’d had a #1 hit, but who would’ve gambled that she had any more hits in her?

On top of that, the album sprinkled in well known hits from the ‘50s and ‘60s, which certainly fit the setting of the movie, but didn’t seem like a winning formula for a successful soundtrack. Somehow, though, it worked – primarily because these are well-done slices of pop music from the present and the past that, unlike many soundtracks, often tie in well with scenes in the movie. “While this may not be ‘the time of your life,’ as the album cover advertises, it is a fun collection.” TH Hey, it’s hard to beat going to a movie with five women who want to dance in the aisles because of the music.


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Tuesday, July 21, 1987

Guns N’ Roses released Appetite for Destruction: July 21, 1987

Originally posted July 21, 2013.

image from critical-solution.com

Release date: 21 July 1987
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Welcome to the Jungle (10/3/87, #7 US, #24 UK, #37 AR, sales: 0.5 m) / It’s So Easy / Nightrain (7/29/89, #93 US, #17 UK, #26 AR) / Out ta Get Me / Mr. Brownstone / Paradise City (1/21/89, #5 US, #6 UK, #14 AR) / My Michelle / Think about You / Sweet Child O’ Mine (6/11/88, #1 US, #6 UK, #7 AR, sales: 0.5 m) / You’re Crazy / Anything Goes / Rocket Queen

Sales (in millions): 15.0 US, 1.95 UK, 30.4 world

Peak: 15 US, 5 UK


Review: “Guns N’ Roses’ debut, Appetite for Destruction was a turning point for hard rock in the late ‘80s – it was a dirty, dangerous, and mean record in a time when heavy metal meant nothing but a good time.” AMG Guns N’ Roses embraced “the wasted rock star lifestyle with such earnest determination that you’d think they invented it.” GW As guitarist Slash said, “When we had to go up against whatever was going on at the time, there were no gritty rock bands, and we were sort of a break-through rock band, sort of a fluke in a way.” GW

On the surface, Guns N’ Roses may appear to celebrate the same things as their peers – namely, sex, liquor, drugs, and rock & roll.” AMG In addition, this is music “wallowing in a bluesy, metallic hard rock borrowed from Aerosmith, AC/DC, and countless faceless hard rock bands of the early ‘80s.” GW However, GNR were an “L.A. blend of surface glamour and nasty underbelly.” BL Their debut album is a mix of “exquisite pain, uncorked rage and pure rebellion meet[ing] in a full metal racket.” UT The band “played lacerating music that was tough, ugly and sometimes misogynistic.” GW “There is a nasty edge to their songs, since Axl Rose doesn’t see much fun in the urban sprawl of L.A. and its parade of heavy metal thugs, cheap women, booze, and crime.” AMG Their music was “tough, ugly” GW and built on a “sleazy sound that adds grit to already grim tales…[which made] Rose’s misogyny, fear, and anger hard to dismiss as merely an artistic statement; this is music that sounds lived-in.” AMG

Initially radio and MTV didn’t embrace the album, but label honcho David Geffen finally convinced the video music channel to give the band a chance. “Once music fans got a look at Guns N’ Roses, they liked what they saw: five tough dudes who weren’t all gussied up like Cinderella.” GW but made “raw, hard-driving, classic-sounding rock and roll.” GW It was “metallic enough for metalheads but melodic enough for the chicks. Glam Metal kids weren’t embarrassed to be seen with it, yet Bob Seger fans could drink beer to it.” GW

Sweet Child O’ Mine

The band also demonstrated an ability to write hits. On Sweet Child O' Mine, Rose showed the band wasn’t just about being fast and loud. He showed he also was vulnerable. AMG It was unique as power ballads went – it rocked out even as it went straight for the heart.

Welcome to the Jungle

Elsewhere “the charging Welcome to the JungleAMG and the driving Paradise City showed that there was still a place in the top ten of the pop charts for the rockers as well. These were gritty tales in which Rose was “conveying the fears and horrors of the decaying inner city.” AMG He did the same thing on other album cuts, such as the well-known “heroin ode Mr. Brownstone.” AMG

Paradise City

“But as good as Rose’s lyrics and screeching vocals are, they wouldn’t be nearly as effective without the twin-guitar interplay of Slash and Izzy Stradlin, who spit out riffs and solos better than any band since the Rolling Stones, and that’s what makes Appetite for Destruction the best metal record of the late '80s” AMG and the “hardest-rocking outfit since Aerosmith.” BL

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Saturday, June 27, 1987

Whitney Houston Has the #1 Single and Album: June 27, 1987

Originally posted June 27, 2011.

Whitney Houston’s eponymous 1985 album was one of the most successful debuts in history. She became the first solo female artist to have three #1’s from one album. AW The album was named to the Definitive 200 album list from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Dave’s Music Database names it one of the top 1000 albums of all time.

Click photo for more about the album.

Following up a classic can be a daunting task. Many have fallen victim to “the sophomore slump”. On June 27, 1987, Whitney made as big a declaration that she would not fall into such a trap. In its seventh week on the chart, her song “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” rang the bell at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for the first of two weeks. It was her fourth consecutive trip to the pinnacle.

“Dance” was the kickoff single for Houston’s second album, 1987’s Whitney. It debuted at #1 on the album chart the same week that “Dance” was crowned champion on the singles chart. It was the first album by a female singer to debut at the top. Only three male artists could claim the feat before that – Elton John, Stevie Wonder, and Bruce Springsteen. WK

Click photo for more about the album.

Houston wasn’t done making history, though. The album’s next three singles (“Didn’t We Almost Have It All”, “So Emotional”, and “Where Do Broken Hearts Go”) would also ascend to the pinnacle of the U.S. pop charts. She became the first artist in history to send seven consecutive singles to the peak. The Beatles and Bee Gees each had six.

Not surprisingly, with such success on the singles chart, the album became one of the biggest in history. Its 11 weeks as the biggest album in the U.S. also make it one of the biggest #1 albums in U.S. chart history. An estimated 24 million in worldwide sales also lands the album a spot on the list of the top 100 all-time world’s bestsellers. The Whitney Houston album also made both of those lists. The Whitney album would also join its predecessor as one of the DMDB top 1000 albums of all time.

  • Whitney Houston’s DMDB music maker encyclopedia entry
  • AW AllWhitney.com
  • WK Wikipedia

  • Monday, March 30, 1987

    Prince released Sign ‘☮’ the Times: March 30, 1987

    Originally posted March 30, 2012.

    image from indiewire.com

    Release date: 30 March 1987
    Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Sign ‘O’ the Times (3/7/87, #3 US, #10 UK, #1 RB) / Play in the Sunshine / Housequake / Ballad of Dorothy Parker / It / Starfish and Coffee / Slow Love / Hot Thing (11/14/87, #63 US, #10a RB) / Forever in My Life / U Got the Look (with Sheena Easton; 8/1/87, #2 US, #11 UK, #10 RB) / If I Was Your Girlfriend (5/30/87, #67 US, #20 UK, #9a RB) / Strange Relationship / I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man (11/14/87, #10 US, #29 UK) / The Cross / It’s Gonna Be a Beautiful Night / Adore

    Sales (in millions): 2.25 US, 0.3 UK, 4.5 world

    Peak: 6 US, 4 UK


    Review: “Soul, sex, excess: everything U listen 2 Prince 4.” BL “It took Prince three years to nail a worthy follow-up to 1984’s 13-times-platinum Purple Rain,” BL but this double album, “the most expansive R&B record of the Eighties,” RS500 shows Prince pushing “his own boundaries on a sprawling rock-soul soundscape dotted by searing messages and wild mood swings.” UT It “silenced people…wondering whether superstardom had made Prince lose his touch,” DBW reminding the world he was “merely the most gifted pop musician of his generation.” RC

    “With songs culled from a series of aborted albums” TL – including the “the aborted triple album Crystal Ball and the abandoned Camille project” AMG – “during the nadir of Prince’s Purple Rain hangover, Sign O’ the Times has no business being anything but a career-sinking mess.” TL Instead, it not only “topped [Purple Rain] artistically,” BL but “it’s the best album of the ‘80s.” TL

    “Fearless, eclectic, and defiantly messy,” AMG “this kinky double disc” BL “falls into the tradition of tremendous, chaotic double albums like The Beatles, Exile on Main St., and London Calling – albums that are fantastic because of their overreach, their great sprawl. Prince shows nearly all of his cards here, from bare-bones electro-funk and smooth soul to pseudo-psychedelic pop and crunching hard rock, touching on gospel, blues, and folk along the way.” AMG Along the way, he “electronically gender-bent his vocals and achieved epic musical sprawl without sacrificing intimacy.” BL “Most of this is attributable to genius; Prince flips back and forth between R&B and rock like a kid popping wheelies.” TL

    For the first time since 1982’s 1999, Prince eschewed his backing band, The Revolution, “and hit the studio by himself, putting together four sides that acknowledge all his musical influences while remaining uniquely his.” DBW “He sounds liberated, diving into territory merely suggested on Around the World in a Day and Parade. While the music overflows with generous spirit, these are among the most cryptic, insular songs he’s ever written.” AMG

    “The lyrics show Prince in a rare state of maturity. Usually his lines range from overt sexual come-ons to garbled references to God, but here Prince actually has something to say. Prince decries the ills of society” RV on “the apocalyptic title trackRS500 “ track among his alternating visions of hope and despair.” RV When he does tackle his more traditional fare he does so with songs like The Cross, a “relgious rock anthem to die for,” DBW and the “gender bending” DBW If I Was Your Girlfriend, in which Prince sings as ‘Camille,’ an “alter ego personified by scarily sped-up tapes.” AMG The result is “the most disarming and bleak psycho-sexual song Prince ever wrote.” AMG

    The Revolution do make an appearance on It’s Gonna Be a Beautiful Night, “a funky, but slight live recording…[which] contains his first flirtation with rap.” DBW Prince also delivers , “heavy funk” DBW on Hot Thing, “the Stax revamp on Slow Love,” RS500 and the “lovely, complex ballad Adore with perhaps his finest vocal performance.” DBW

    There’s also “the equally chilling Strange Relationship. These fraying relationships echo in the social chaos Prince writes about throughout the album. Apocalyptic imagery of drugs, bombs, empty sex, abandoned babies and mothers, and AIDS pop up again and again, yet he balances the despair with hope, whether it’s God, love, or just having a good time. In its own roundabout way, Sign ‘O’ the Times is the sound of the late ‘80s – it’s the sound of the good times collapsing and how all that doubt and fear can be ignored if you just dance those problems away.” AMG

    U Got the Look

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    Tuesday, March 17, 1987

    U2 released The Joshua Tree: March 17, 1987

    Originally posted 3/17/12. Updated 3/17/13.

    Release date: 17 March 1987
    Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Where the Streets Have No Name (4/4/87, #13 US, #4 UK, #11 AR) / I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (3/28/87, #1 US, #6 UK, #2 AR, #16 AC) / With or Without You (3/21/87, #1 US, #4 UK, #1 AR, #23 AC) / Bullet the Blue Sky (4/4/87, #14 AR) / Running to Stand Still / Red Hill Mining Town / In God’s Country (4/11/87, #44 US, #48 UK, #6 AR) / Trip Through Your Wires / One Tree Hill / Exit / Mothers of the Disappeared

    Sales (in millions): 10.0 US, 2.67 UK, 30.0 world (includes US and UK)

    Peak: 19 US, 12 UK


    Review: U2’s blockbuster album The Joshua Tree was released on St. Patrick’s Day in 1987. It spent 9 weeks at #1 in the U.S. and went on to sell 10 million copies. It sold another 20 million worldwide. The album also ranks high on the list of The Top 100 Albums of All Time.

    In the early 1980s, U2 built a following first with college radio and then album rock. By 1984’s “Pride (In the Name of Love)”, they’d even hit the top 40 of the pop charts. The band “were now spending more and more time with rock legends like Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan” QM and were, as Rolling Stone magazine declared, “a band utterly determined to be Important.” RS With its “inspirational, larger-than-life gestures...that’s precisely what [The Joshua Tree] sounds like.” RS

    The Joshua Tree was “U2’s most varied, subtle and accessible album” RS as the group learned “to combine their multi-textured sound with the kind of melodies that fans could sing as well as sway along to.” QM Their “sonic trademarks are here: the monumental angst of Bono’s voice, the driving pulse of Adam Clayton’s bass and Larry Mullen Jr.’s drums and the careening wail of the Edge’s guitar.” RS

    The group also jettisoned the themes of political freedom from their earlier music and opted “to focus on the more accessible topic of human relationships.” RV This is also “a record steeped in religious imagery;” RS the album takes its name from a gnarled tree in the American Southwestern desert which early Mormon settlers interpreted as the prophet Joshua pointing the way to the Promised Land. RS
    Highlights include Where the Streets Have No Name which belongs “on the short-list of best album openers.” TL The instruments slowly build until it all “explodes into an orchestra of restlessness to match its searching lyrics.” RV The “yearning” I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For serves as “a crusade for religious, romantic or self-discovery.” RV “The album’s masterstroke, however, is With or Without You.” AZ “Bono’s aching voice and declarations of obsession prevails as the defining musical moment of a decade.” RV

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