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The Fantastic 40 – Episode 8: Top-40 Chart Domination for 1987

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Welcome back to The Fantastic 40:

My personal journal of the artists whose work dominated Billboard’s Top 40 for a calendar year between 1980 and 1991.

This time around, we’re looking at 1987.

What were the stories of 1987s Fantastic 40?

The trend: Soundtracks, soundtracks – everywhere .

Although this had been going on through the ’80s with mega-hit albums from “Urban Cowboy,” “Flashdance” and “Footloose” among them, 1987 boasted nine artists:

From No. 1 Madonna (“Who’s That Girl?” and “Causing a Commotion…”)

To No. 35 Wang Chung (“Hypnotize Me” fromInnerspace”) – whose discographies included a Top 40 hit from a movie.

The other seven?

The Bangles:

Los Lobos:

George Michael:

Starship:

Prince:

The Jets:

and Genesis, whose “In Too Deep” was featured in the cult film “Mona Lisa” almost a year before the song hit the Top 40.


New names:

Poison… (34)

…and Bon Jovi (15) lead the pop/metal wave that’s beginning to build in 1987.

Bon Jovi undoubtedly would have placed in the Top 5 had the popular album tracks “Never Say Goodbye” and “Edge of a Broken Heart” been released as singles.

Richard Marx kicks off his hit streak at No. 24 with two Top 5 singles,

…while one notch higher, Jody Watley debuts as a solo artist.

Teen sensations Debbie Gibson

and the Jets enter, respectively, at Nos. 17 and 10.

And album act U2 finally catches fire as a singles act placing at No. 3,

…one step below vocal trio Expose, making their debut in the runner-up spot.

George Michael begins his solo run at No. 26.


Final bows:

Five major artists of the decade:

John Cougar Mellencamp (36)

Lionel Richie (37)

Cyndi Lauper (30)

Billy Idol (21)

and Bruce Springsteen (39) – place for a final time in the Fantastic 40, although each will have Top 40 hits in the years to come.

Fleetwood Mac ride four hits from their “Tango in the Night” CD to land at No. 6.

Back-to-back Top 10 hits bring Smokey Robinson (25) to the 40 in the same year that ABC sings his praises in their Top 5 smash “When Smokey Sings.”  

 

Only in 1987:

Hard to believe it, but Eddie Money’s one time in the Fantastic 40 spotlight came this year via his singles from the CD “Can’t Hold Back.”

Also enjoying their time in the sun:

Los Lobos (29)

Whitesnake (27)

Bruce Hornsby and the Range (22)

Robbie Nevil (19)

Europe (18)

Crowded House (16)

Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam (14)

…and Cutting Crew (13.)


Time and again:

Chicago returns at No. 31,

and Bryan Adams is back at No. 28 – and neither is done.

Heart (7,)

Genesis (9,)

and Huey Lewis and the News (5) continue their winning ways.

And Michael Jackson makes a modest re-entry at No. 40.

The next year: he’ll be closer to the top.

…to be continued…

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Chuck Small

Journalist-turned-high school counselor. Happily ensconced in Raleigh, N.C., with hubby of 31 years (9 legal).

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ISurvivedPop
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October 17, 2023 4:10 am

ROBBIE NEVIL!

Delighted to see him on here.

JJ Live At Leeds
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October 17, 2023 8:41 am

Finally! I’ve heard of everyone of this years top 40. Even if in the case of Expose and Eddie Money its only thanks to Tom’s column or hanging round here.

It feels to me like a year of transition. Still plenty of huge names synonymous with the 80s but some are passing their chart peak. Acts like The Jets and Debbie Gibson feel like part of a younger demographic and a move towards teen pop. Then some of the other new intake like Cutting Crew, Lisa Lisa and Expose won’t be hanging round long in terms of top 40 lifespan.

I had no idea Smokey Robinson had a late career upturn either. Always learning.

Virgindog
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October 17, 2023 9:24 am

Smokey has a new Tiny Desk Concert that’s surprisingly good.

Phylum of Alexandria
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October 17, 2023 9:25 am

Gasms.

rollerboogie
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October 17, 2023 10:49 am

First thing that came to my mind as well, with the mention of Smokey. It’s sad and very funny at the same time.

rollerboogie
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October 17, 2023 10:52 am

A world where Eddie Money is not known by someone until mentioned in Tom’s column is a strange world to me indeed, but I am aware there are plenty of ubiquitous names across the pond that I don’t know too.

cappiethedog
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October 18, 2023 11:55 pm
Reply to  rollerboogie

When Ronnie Spector passed away, “Take Me Home Tonight” was the first song I thought of. I had no concept of old in 1987. Spector was only 44. I thought Eddie Money wrote it. Doesn’t matter. Still great.

Phylum of Alexandria
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October 17, 2023 9:28 am

Some great stuff this year, though it’s getting heavier on the white dude rock tunes.

Thank goodness for lighter fare by Madonna, George Michael, and Expose.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2v8YragSIuI

Virgindog
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October 17, 2023 9:36 am

I still don’t know how to Wang Chung tonight, but I can Clang Thwack.

rollerboogie
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October 17, 2023 10:57 am
Reply to  Virgindog

The preferred option!

rollerboogie
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October 17, 2023 11:00 am

Lots here! I’ll just say those Crowded House songs hold up, as does the Hornsby.
The Final Countdown is great until the singing starts.
If La Bamba got anyone to dig deeper into Los Lobos, then it’s a win, even though they likely view it as an albatross.

JJ Live At Leeds
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October 17, 2023 11:54 am
Reply to  rollerboogie

I bought La Bamba and the follow up Come On Let’s Go. I didn’t dig any deeper. In my defence I was only 11 and Los Lobos weren’t exactly prime pre-teen pop material and they definitely weren’t getting any radio play here with their own material. My tastes weren’t quite mature enough to deal with them at that time.

rollerboogie
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October 17, 2023 1:28 pm

Sadly, not much airplay here, either. Only other song that charted here other than the two you mentioned was “Will the Wolf Survive” at #78.

Pauly Steyreen
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October 17, 2023 11:57 am
Reply to  rollerboogie

I have Elmo to thank for my love of the Kiko album.

https://youtu.be/uhzh2LHPzOo?si=HLUI4ESBFcfzn6Wz

rollerboogie
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October 17, 2023 1:29 pm
Reply to  Pauly Steyreen

fantastic!

Pauly Steyreen
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October 17, 2023 12:02 pm

Gotta send my love to the Jets.

R.S.Wonham
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October 17, 2023 12:54 pm

1987 is the year that the US music charts started to fall off for me with less innovative musical acts starting to flow into the mix (Expose, anything Hair Metal, Cutting Crew, Jets). They were infinitely less riveting than Duran, D.Mode, a-ha, Culture Club, and a whole bunch of others. Additionally, some big names with better material earlier on in their careers, were resurging (Mac, Heart, Starship, Eddie Money). Other names became more Corporate and frankly, boring (e.g., U2). It was all very safe and less edgy (Richard Marx case-in-point). My BFF, who was a MASSIVE U2 fan, was appalled by their new fanbase. “Like, this is the best album, ever, and Bono is so hot”. UGH! Some fine pop songs from all of the above, but the excitement of the joyous music from 1980 – 1986 was starting to diminish and fuel my switch to albums/CDs. Still some fantastic tunes and artists, with Crowded House, Lisa Lisa, Madonna, Springsteen, Bangles, George Michael, and Prince as favorites.

stobgopper
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October 17, 2023 2:22 pm
Reply to  R.S.Wonham

Always amused by hardcore fans being somehow offended with those new fans coming aboard when a performer gets big. Enjoy it! Share the back catalog. You were right.

cappiethedog
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October 19, 2023 12:02 am
Reply to  R.S.Wonham

I’m going to rehash my theory that Simple Minds’ chart successes drove Bono up the walls, so he consciously wrote “With or Without You”, which plays better to a stadium crowd than “A Sort of Homecoming”, a song that I can’t find performed live on any album.

Zeusaphone
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October 17, 2023 1:08 pm
Low4
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October 17, 2023 1:25 pm

I always heard it: I just diet in your arms tonight.

Doesn’t sound like much fun.

stobgopper
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October 17, 2023 2:18 pm

As an aspiring lyricist back in the Middle Ages, I wrote what I thought was a dense, sprawling, ‘American Pie’-like paean to love, religion, cars, girls, and the late Seventies. Think ‘Surfs Up’-era Beach Boys, Jim Steinman, and a high-school essayist taking on the meaning of life. Title: ‘Faith.’ Then, GM and his razor-sharp throwback. I tore out the page with the lyrics, crumpled it up, and threw it away, knowing I’d been infinitely bested.

LinkCrawford
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October 17, 2023 8:31 pm
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Your mom found that crumpled paper and saved it. Later she gave it to a friend who kept it in a box with other ephemera. The box will be discovered by her granddaughter in 2068. She will post it online and it will be put to music and sell a zillion copies in several solar systems going triple uranium. You will be a household name (albeit after your death). Such is the life (and death) of a true artist.

LinkCrawford
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October 17, 2023 8:33 pm
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(It is recommended that you keep your uranium record stored in a lead case).

mjevon6296
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October 18, 2023 12:26 am

It was around now that I grabbed some friends and went to a Bangles concert at Six Flags Over Texas. (I know, I know…but this was about as wild as I got back then.) I had gotten to know and love them from their “All Over The Place” album and was happy they were now enjoying success with hit songs.

I was so disappointed in that they played that show as if their main fans wanted to see a “sex sells” type of show instead of the harmonies and ear hooks that had made me a fan. The music was still great but they really laid it on thick with the seductive-acting stuff.

I still listen to “All Over The Place” and their Greatest Hits often but kinda grew up a little that day learning about marketing choices and image control.

blu_cheez
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October 18, 2023 6:55 pm

What a killer year of pop music – still not 1983, but, a ton of great stuff here. Another terrific article, Chuck!

Last edited 4 months ago by blu_cheez
cappiethedog
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October 18, 2023 11:43 pm

Before the chorus, when lead singer Jack Hues employs a hip-hop trope and name-checks himself, I thought “Everybody Have Fun Tonight”, was…(hangs head in shame) David Byrne. Yes. I thought I was hearing the latest single from Talking Heads. In my defense, “Wild Wild Life” was very commercial, the most conventional song Byrne ever wrote, the kind of song Andy Partridge admits to trying to write in “The Mayor of Simpleton”.

The two songs aren’t worlds apart, like, say, “Born Under Punches” and Wang Chung’s fleeting moment in the limelight.

Fun fact: Nobody in The Hues Corporation actually has the surname Hues.

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