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“What really matters is what you like, not what you are like… Books, records, films — these things matter.”
— High Fidelity

Etcetera

Best Songs of 1987

Not that I would ever play them again, but it’s times like these that I’m a little sad I no longer have my cassette tape collection. If I did, I could share with you images of my handful of artifacts from this era, most of them of the cheesy variety. But not only do I cop to having the likes of Exposé, Rick Astley, Basia, and Belinda Carlisle back in the day, I will proudly and confidently include them 30 years later on this list.

Same goes for the 45s—we call them 7-inches now, but when I talk about ones I got back then, I still use the old terminology—that I do in fact still have in my collection: Whitesnake, Richard Marx, and Bananarama.

Somewhere in between cool and uncool were my Michael Jackson and INXS tapes, and my David Bowie and Terence Trent D’Arby 45s. So maybe, in hindsight, this 30-years-after-the-fact selection of my favorite songs of one of the better musical years in the entire decade of the ’80s isn’t as much of a retcon as I thought it would be.

In fact, maybe I have always been able to bridge the populist and the obscure. After all, I feel most comfortable in the space between. Those mainstream radio hits are the ones I use to mark time, and the underground rarities are the ones I use to differentiate myself from the masses. The combination of the two then becomes the epitome of my taste, and my desire to drift between poles of interest. I think all my lists make great use of that push-pull, and these 100 tracks are no exception.

For these year-end lists, I like to undertake the seemingly impossibly task of creating an hours-long mix. The order you see below represents that effort, which you can listen to via Spotify. Sadly all 100 tracks aren't available—curse you Def Leppard!—but you get the general idea. Track notes to come eventually or maybe never.

  1. Reunion Wilderness

    Gentle Sound

    The Railway Children

    Reunion Wilderness

    Virgin

    Notes

  2. Midnight to Midnight

    Heartbreak Beat

    The Psychedelic Furs

    Midnight to Midnight

    Columbia

    Notes

  3. Shoplifters of the World Unite

    Shoplifters of the World Unite

    The Smiths

    Shoplifters of the World Unite 7"

    Rough Trade

    Notes

  4. Saint Julian

    World Shut Your Mouth

    Julian Cope

    Saint Julian

    Island

    Notes

  5. Blow Your Cool

    What’s My Scene?

    Hoodoo Gurus

    Blow Your Cool

    Elektra

    Notes

  6. Earth Sun Moon

    No New Tale to Tell

    Love and Rockets

    Earth Sun Moon

    Big Time

    Notes

  7. Happy?

    Seattle

    Public Image Ltd.

    Happy?

    Virgin

    Notes

  8. Diesel and Dust

    Beds Are Burning

    Midnight Oil

    Diesel and Dust

    Columbia

    Notes

  9. Electric

    Love Removal Machine

    The Cult

    Electric

    Sire

    Notes

  10. Whitesnake

    Here I Go Again

    Whitesnake

    Whitesnake

    Geffen

    Notes

  11. Bad Animals

    Alone

    Heart

    Bad Animals

    Capitol

    Notes

  12. Heaven on Earth

    Heaven Is a Place on Earth

    Belinda Carlisle

    Heaven on Earth

    Geffen

    Notes

  13. Wow!

    I Heard a Rumour

    Bananarama

    Wow!

    London

    Notes

  14. Whenever You Need Somebody

    Never Gonna Give You Up

    Rick Astley

    Whenever You Need Somebody

    RCA

    Notes

  15. Actually

    What Have I Done to Deserve This?

    Pet Shop Boys

    Actually

    Manhattan

    Notes

  16. Bridge of Spies

    Heart & Soul

    T’Pau

    Bridge of Spies

    Siren

    Notes

  17. Brasil

    Soul Food to Go

    Manhattan Transfer

    Brasil

    Atlantic

    Notes

  18. Let It Loose

    Rhythm Is Gonna Get You

    Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine

    Let It Loose

    Epic

    Notes

  19. Who's That Girl

    Who’s That Girl

    Madonna

    Who’s That Girl

    Sire

    Notes

  20. It's Better to Travel

    Breakout

    Swing Out Sister

    It’s Better to Travel

    Mercury

    Notes

  21. Spanish Fly

    Head to Toe

    Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam

    Spanish Fly

    Columbia

    Notes

  22. Out of the Blue

    Only in My Dreams

    Debbie Gibson

    Out of the Blue

    Atlantic

    Notes

  23. Whitney

    I Wanna Dance With Somebody

    Whitney Houston

    Whitney

    Arista

    Notes

  24. Everlasting

    Pink Cadillac

    Natalie Cole

    Everlasting

    Manhattan

    Notes

  25. Just Gets Better With Time

    Rock Steady

    The Whispers

    Just Gets Better With Time

    Solar

    Notes

  26. The Big Throwdown

    Casanova

    LeVert

    The Big Throwdown

    Atlantic

    Notes

  27. Nobody Beats the Biz

    Nobody Beats the Biz

    Biz Markie

    Nobody Beats the Biz

    Prism

    Notes

  28. Paid in Full

    I Know You Got Soul

    Eric B. & Rakim

    Paid in Full

    4th & Broadway

    Notes

  29. Pump Up the Volume

    Pump Up the Volume

    M/A/R/R/S

    Pump Up the Volume 12"

    4AD

    Notes

  30. Touched By the Hand of God

    Touched By the Hand of God

    New Order

    Touched By the Hand of God 7"

    Factory

    Notes

  31. Never Let Me Down

    Day In Day Out

    David Bowie

    Never Let Me Down

    Virgin

    Notes

  32. Permanent Vacation

    Dude (Looks Like a Lady)

    Aerosmith

    Permanent Vacation

    Geffen

    Notes

  33. Richard Marx

    Don’t Mean Nothing

    Richard Marx

    Richard Marx

    MCA

    Notes

  34. Bangin

    Since You’ve Been Gone

    The Outfield

    Bangin’

    Columbia

    Notes

  35. Outside Looking In

    What It Feels Like

    BoDeans

    Outside Looking In

    Slash

    Notes

  36. The Sound of Music

    Change With the Changing Times

    The dB’s

    The Sound of Music

    I.R.S.

    Notes

  37. 2x4

    Things Fall Apart

    Guadalcanal Diary

    2x4

    Elektra

    Notes

  38. Whisper Tames the Lion

    The Friend Song

    Drivin’ n’ Cryin’

    Whisper Tames the Lion

    Island

    Notes

  39. I'm No Angel

    I’m No Angel

    The Gregg Allman Band

    I’m No Angel

    Epic

    Notes

  40. Two Fisted Tales

    I Want You Bad

    Long Ryders

    Two Fisted Tales

    Island

    Notes

  41. Trio

    Wildflowers

    Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris

    Trio

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  42. Pontiac

    If I Had a Boat

    Lyle Lovett

    Pontiac

    Curb

    Notes

  43. Bring the Family

    Have a Little Faith in Me

    John Hiatt

    Bring the Family

    A&M

    Notes

  44. Let Me Up

    It’ll All Work Out

    Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

    Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough)

    MCA

    Notes

  45. Angel Band

    Angel Band

    Emmylou Harris

    Angel Band

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  46. Savage

    I Need You

    Eurythmics

    Savage

    RCA

    Notes

  47. Robbie Robertson

    Broken Arrow

    Robbie Robertson

    Robbie Robertson

    Geffen

    Notes

  48. See How We Are

    See How We Are

    X

    See How We Are

    Elektra

    Notes

  49. Sentimental Hygiene

    The Factory

    Warren Zevon

    Sentimental Hygiene

    Virgin

    Notes

  50. Solitude Standing

    Luka

    Suzanne Vega

    Solitude Standing

    A&M

    Notes

  51. Strange Fire

    Strange Fire

    Indigo Girls

    Strange Fire

    Epic

    Notes

  52. Tallulah

    Bye Bye Pride

    The Go-Betweens

    Tallulah

    Beggars Banquet

    Notes

  53. Eye of the Hurricane

    Rain in the Summertime

    The Alarm

    Eye of the Hurricane

    I.R.S.

    Notes

  54. The Joshua Tree

    One Tree Hill

    U2

    The Joshua Tree

    Island

    Notes

  55. Echo & The Bunnymen

    Lips Like Sugar

    Echo & The Bunnymen

    Echo & The Bunnymen

    Sire

    Notes

  56. Hysteria

    Pour Some Sugar on Me

    Def Leppard

    Hysteria

    Mercury

    Notes

  57. Appetite for Destruction

    Sweet Child O’ Mine

    Guns N’ Roses

    Appetite for Destruction

    Geffen

    Notes

  58. Less Than Zero

    Hazy Shade of Winter

    Bangles

    Less Than Zero

    Def Jam

    Notes

  59. Exposure

    Let Me Be the One

    Exposé

    Exposure

    Arista

    Notes

  60. Jody Watley

    Looking for a New Love

    Jody Watley

    Jody Watley

    MCA

    Notes

  61. Make It Last Forever

    I Want Her

    Keith Sweat

    Make It Last Forever

    Elektra

    Notes

  62. Push It

    Push It (Remix)

    Salt-N-Pepa

    Tramp 7"

    Def Jam

    Notes

  63. Bigger and Deffer

    I Need Love

    LL Cool J

    Bigger and Deffer

    Def Jam

    Notes

  64. Rock the House

    Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble

    DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince

    Rock the House

    Jive

    Notes

  65. Unlimited!

    I Want to Be Your Man

    Roger

    Unlimited!

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  66. Wings of Love

    If You’d Be Mine

    Shuggie Otis

    Wings of Love

    Epic

    Recorded in 1987, released in 2013

  67. Tango in the Night

    Everywhere

    Fleetwood Mac

    Tango in the Night

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  68. Time and Tide

    Time and Tide

    Basia

    Time and Tide

    Epic

    Notes

  69. Nothing Like the Sun

    Englishman in New York

    Sting

    Nothing Like the Sun

    A&M

    Notes

  70. Franks Wild Years

    Way Down in the Hole

    Tom Waits

    Franks Wild Years

    Island

    Notes

  71. Faith

    Father Figure

    George Michael

    Faith

    Columbia

    Notes

  72. Bad

    Man in the Mirror

    Michael Jackson

    Bad

    Epic

    Notes

  73. Introducing the Hardline

    Wishing Well

    Terence Trent D’Arby

    Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby

    Columbia

    Notes

  74. Sign O the Times

    U Got the Look

    Prince

    Sign ‘O’ the Times

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  75. Kick

    New Sensation

    INXS

    Kick

    Atlantic

    Notes

  76. Tunnel of Love

    Tunnel of Love

    Bruce Springsteen

    Tunnel of Love

    Columbia

    Notes

  77. Document

    The One I Love

    R.E.M.

    Document

    I.R.S.

    Notes

  78. In My Tribe

    Like the Weather

    10,000 Maniacs

    In My Tribe

    Elektra

    Notes

  79. Foxheads Stalk This Land

    I Kiss the Flowers in Bloom

    Close Lobsters

    Foxheads Stalk This Land

    Fire

    Notes

  80. Daddy's Highway

    Tragedy

    The Bats

    Daddy’s Highway

    Flying Nun

    Notes

  81. Music for the Masses

    Never Let Me Down Again

    Depeche Mode

    Music for the Masses

    Sire

    Notes

  82. You're Living All Over Me

    Little Fury Things

    Dinosaur Jr.

    You’re Living All Over Me

    SST

    Notes

  83. The Uplift Mofo Party Plan

    Behind the Sun

    Red Hot Chili Peppers

    The Uplift Mofo Party Plan

    EMI

    Notes

  84. Darklands

    Cherry Came Too

    The Jesus and Mary Chain

    Darklands

    Blanco y Negro

    Notes

  85. Forget

    Progress

    Mission of Burma

    Forget

    Taang!

    Notes

  86. if'n

    Soon

    fIREHOSE

    if’n

    SST

    Notes

  87. Huevos

    Bad Love

    Meat Puppets

    Huevos

    SST

    Notes

  88. All Through a Life

    Hidden Wheel

    Rites of Spring

    All Through a Life

    Dischord

    Notes

  89. Son of a Gun

    Son of a Gun

    The Vaselines

    Son of a Gun 7"

    53rd & 3rd

    Notes

  90. Surprise Surprise Surprise

    All for the Best

    Miracle Legion

    Surprise Surprise Surprise

    Rough Trade

    Notes

  91. Boylan Heights

    Over There

    The Connells

    Boylan Heights

    TVT

    Notes

  92. Squirrel and G-Man

    Oasis

    Happy Mondays

    Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face

    Factory

    Notes

  93. Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me

    Just Like Heaven

    The Cure

    Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me

    Elektra

    Notes

  94. The Men Who Loved Music

    Get Outta My Cave

    Young Fresh Fellows

    The Men Who Loved Music

    Frontier

    Notes

  95. Happy All the Time

    You Are Leaving

    Primitons

    Happy All the Time

    What Goes On

    Notes

  96. La Bamba

    Come on Let’s Go

    Los Lobos

    La Bamba

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  97. In the Dark

    Touch of Grey

    Grateful Dead

    In the Dark

    Arista

    Notes

  98. Cloud Nine

    When We Was Fab

    George Harrison

    Cloud Nine

    EMI

    Notes

  99. The Lonesome Jubilee

    Check It Out

    John Mellencamp

    The Lonesome Jubilee

    Mercury

    Notes

  100. Pleased to Meet Me

    Alex Chilton

    The Replacements

    Pleased to Meet Me

    Reprise

    Notes