Today I went for a drive, something I usually do when I need to clear my head a bit. Just me, the open road, wind in my hair and some tunes, of course.
I was listening to an old “American Top 40” countdown by Casey Kassem. This time it was from this week in 1987. God, the 80s were the best for music. Anyway, Casey was in the Top 3 when my mind started to remember what would have been #1. I remember things like that pretty well. “Shakedown” (Bob Seeger) was at #3 this week. I remember this like it was yesterday, even the little story Casey told about how the song was originally supposed to be recorded by Glenn Frey, except he was sick at the time. The song was given to Seger and ended up being his only No. 1 hit. That sounds even more absurd today than it did then. How could Bob Seeger, with all his hits, never be #1 until “Shakedown” from the Beverly Hills II soundtrack came along?
The number 2 song in 1987 this week belongs to Heart. The song “Alone” was one of the biggest songs of that year, here and around the world. It would eventually top the Hot 100 for three weeks. “Alone” was the band’s second song to reach number 1, the first being “These Dreams”.
As I was driving and listening to the Top 40, I knew #1 was going to be “I Wanna Dance (With Someone Who Loves Me)” by Whitney Houston. I was right. Houston was spending its second week atop the countdown. “I Wanna Dance (With Someone Who Loves Me)” was her fourth consecutive single to reach No. 1. She would eventually release three more songs to reach No. 1, giving her 7 consecutive
No. 1s. You just don’t hear that kind of thing happening in the charts anymore.
What a great song “I Wanna Dance” was that year. It was the song of the summer if I remember correctly. However, it got me thinking. There have always been certain songs that have owned the summer. It happened every year.
Songs like “Dancing In The Streets” (Martha Reeves & The Vandellas), “Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay” (Otis Redding), “Summertime Blues” (Eddie Cochran) and “Margaritaville” (Jimmy Buffett).
Summer songs are a right of passage for every generation. The ones I remember most include Houston’s “I Wanna Dance,” but also include “Pour Some Sugar On Me” (Def Leppard), “Sweet Child O’ Mine” (Guns N’ Roses), “The Boys Off Summer” (Don Henley) ) and “My Prerogative” (Bobby Brown) to name a few.
Who can forget ‘Baby Don’t Forget My Number’ (Millie Vanilli), ‘She’s Driving Me Crazy’ (Fine Young Cannibals), ‘Love Will Never Do Without You’ (Janet Jackson), ‘Vogue’ (Madonna) or ‘ Gonna Make You Sweat” (C&C Music Factory). These are all songs that make you want to get up and dance. Isn’t that something you want to do during your summer fun?
There were some memorable ones in the 2000s like “Hot In Herre” (Nelly), “Umbrella” (Rihanna), “I Gotta Feeling” (Black Eyed Peas), “Crazy In Love” (Beyoncé), “Party Rock Anthem” (LMFAO), “Call Me Maybe” (Carly Rae Jepson) and “Blurred Lines” (Robin Thicke). And I really feel the need to mention Katy Perry. She managed to score a few like ‘I Kissed A Girl’ and ‘California Gurls’.
There really haven’t been any real attention grabbers lately in my opinion. This year is also looking pretty shitty. I know I know. Harry Styles is big right now. But “As It Was” isn’t all that great. Sure, it hit #1 for 6 weeks, but it’s boring. Others might argue Beyonce’s ‘Break My Soul’ – again, it’s not ‘Crazy In Love’. This summer’s choices are thin offerings. And no, I’m not getting old. The songs just don’t do anything for me.
When I got home, I asked Alexa to play me some new, upbeat music to change my mind. And then she played “About Damn Time” by Lizzo. The title even sums it up for me. This might be the song of the summer and it’s about time!
David T. Farr is a correspondent for the Journal. Email him at [email protected]