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The Best Albums of 1987


What if I told you the two biggest hit songs of 1987 were by Gregory Abbot and Billy Vera & the Beaters?

Well they were. The songs in question are “Shake You Down” and “At This Moment,” two tunes I haven’t given a second thought to in the intervening thirty years. If you had asked me to name the top hits of the year without doing any research I never would have thought of these two. Go a little further down the list and you’ll start to find artists you may associate more with the era, like Madonna, Michael Jackson, U2, George Michael, Whitney Houston, and Bon Jovi. If you know me well, you probably know that not many of those folks are likely to make my list of the best albums of the year from thirty years ago. If you don’t know me well, check out last year’s article about the Best Albums of 1986 and the previous year’s highlight of the top long-form recordings of 1985. That should drive the point home. Since I turned 17 in 1987, I not only developed some intense attachment to the popular art forms of the time, but I also learned a bit of distaste for the stuff that I found less appealing. I’m sure most people who take art seriously go through this at some point in time and over the next few years it would develop for me pretty significantly.

Despite this, you should find some of my choices for the best of 1987 to be accessible enough.

Take a deep breath and dive in!
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Nope, Not a 1-Hit Wonder: 10,000 Maniacs

Pop culture memory is a funny thing. Songs and movies and TV shows leave an imprint on our brains that is unique. Our relationships to art are inescapably different from one another, but pop culture is also a shared experience, so there is a tendency for us to believe that our own experience matches that of those around us at least to a degree. Sometimes we are sorely mistaken.

If you had asked me to name the songs of 10,000 Maniacs that had hit the Top40 in the United States without referring to any official source, I would have most likely whiffed at the task big time. For example, I definitely would have guessed that the above song These Are Days was one of their bigger hits. It was featured in MTV commercials at the time of its release that played repeatedly, and my memory says that the actual video also got strong rotation on the video music channel. It’s a wonderful song about the realization that you are living the memories which will become some of the greatest in your life. It is one of the iconic songs of the band’s career.

but it never hit the Top40.
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