On this episode, I am talking about my favorite songs from the 1987-1988 school year. Not only was this my first year of high school (my sophomore year, in fact) but I was away from home for the first time at something akin to a boarding school in New Canaan, Connecticut.
How to Listen:
Reading, Watching, and Listening to:
- 11/22/63 – Stephen King
- Daredevil (Season 2) – Netflix
- This is What the Truth Feels Like – Gwen Stefani
1987 was a strange year for me. It started off with unexpected sorrow, when a close friend died in a motorcycle accident. I was barely 13, and in the final semester fo my senior year for middle school. Until that point, the only funerals I had every been to were those of older relatives and elderly members of the church. Nothing had ever hit so close to home. On the afternoon of that late winder funeral, I found myself on a Metro North train platform in the Bronx, bound for New Canaan, Connecticut. I was on my way to visit and interview for a spot in the ABC program to attend New Canaan High School in the fall of that same year. I remember not wanting not to leave that day as we mourned the loss of a friend that I considered my big brother. My parents left the decision to me as to whether I would keep my commitment and go on the scheduled visit, or request a future date. I didn’t know if I was running away from something or running to something back then–what 13 year old boy is that introspective any way–but I chose to take the train ride. Seven months later I was moving into a boarding house, sharing a room with two other young men from NYC as we prepared to begin our sophmore year of high school. It also happened to be my first year of high school thanks to an accelerated Junior High School program. My prized possession were a JVC dual cassette, boom box, with a 3-band graphic equalizer and detachable wired speakers. This was the backdrop of a musical journey that would dramatically expand my horizons.
Madonna’s True Blue, and George Michael’s Faith were the two albums that I owned. The former, I made cassette copy from the vinyl LP and the latter I owned the album on cassette. Beyond that I had a collection of “pause mix”cassettes that I recorded from the daily countdowns on 107.5 WBLS and 98.7 KISS FM. Before the school year was over, I would be introduced to INXS, U2, Whitesnake and a host of other rock and pop acts outside of the realm of rap, R&B and urban contemporary. Today’s list of songs are veritable cornucopia of the Billboard Top 100 hits from 1987 and 1988.
Lean on Me – Club Nouveau
My cousin called one of the local radio stations in New York and had this song to our fallen friend. I still tear up whenever I hear this song.
Need You Tonight – INXS
I heard this for the first time in the dressing room in the Theater Department and New Canaan High while waiting for my old man makeup. I was Uncle Smelicue in the Fall production of Dark of the Moon. This song still gets me hype. Before this Prince, Elvis, and the Beatles were the extent of my exposure to rock music.
Manic Monday – The Bangles
One of our two live-in tutors at the ABC house, owned this album on CD and he would let me listen to it. Most people would point to Walk Like and Egqyptian as their favorite from the A Different Light album but not me. Turns out the song was written by Prince under the pseudonym Christopher
Here I Go Again – Whitesnake
Two Words: Tawny Kitaen. If you were a teenaged boy and you ever saw the video, you know what I mean.
Mony Mony – Billy Idol
They played this song over and over at a party during a Mock UN trip that I attended. If you were a teenager when this song was out, then you know the provocative “call and response” chant that you shouted when this song was played. “HEY! HEY WHAT? (This show is not explicit so I won’t say the rest)
The Way You Make Me Feel – Michael Jackson
During the time I lived in New Canaan, the President/CEO of Pepsi Cola and his family lived there. He donated tickets for us to see the Michael Jackson Bad Tour at Madison Square Garden. This is still my favorite concert experience of all time. The model from the video for this song walked out on stage when they performed it live.
I Want to Be Your Man – Zapp & Roger Troutman
Me and few of the other guys were invited to an party at an all girls school in Greenwich, Connecticut. I had my first real slow dance to this song with a really cute girl from the Bronx.
(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life – Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes
This was a hit song from the hit soundtrack from the movie Dirty Dancing. A movie that no one would admit they saw but everyone seemed to know the songs and quote the movie.
La Isla Bonita – Madonna
I loved all the songs from Madonna’s True Blue album, and because I had made a cassette copy of the vinyl album, I listened to all of the songs in order over and over again. La Isla Bonita may have been my favorite because it so happened to be the one I could play on my Casio keyboard. It was really cool and had drum pads.
Faith – George Michael
From the opening organ chords that called back to Wham’s Freedom transitioning to the frantic acoustic guitar strumming, you knew you were in for something different. The title song to George Michael’s solo debut grabbed you by the throat and didn’t let go until you had listened to a wonderful mix of rock, dance, and R&B. This album, with it’s string of hit singles commanded the Pop and R&B charts for more than a year. It stayed in one of the dual cassettes of my boom box and I literally listened to it every day when I was living in New Canaan.
During the past week, two icons from my formative years passed away. Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor from the groundbreaking Hip Hop group A Tribe Called Quest and comedian/actor Gary Shandling. Both were talented men that shared their unique gifts with the world. One provided the soundtrack of my high school and college years, the other made me laugh until my sides hurt. Both were wordsmiths that understood the power of language. They will both be missed. My condolences go out to the family, friends, and fans.