I started high school in August 1986. I’m not one of those people who sits around wishing I could be back in the “glory days” of my youth, but it’s not hard to be nostalgic about that time in your life.
The sounds of those days are etched in my mind in a big way. Here are five songs from the top of the charts in the last week of August 1986.
5. Take Me Home Tonight by Eddie Money
The lead single on Eddie Money’s 1986 album Can’t Hold Back, this single was also the album’s first release. It dropped in August. I bought a Walkman that summer and for some reason this is the song I remember listening to on it. I didn’t know who Eddie Money was at that point but I liked how he sounded. More importantly, I did know who Ronnie Spector was and I loved how she sounded. It was #4 on the rock charts in the last week of August, a harbinger of where it would later peak on the pop charts. (I have no idea why the “official” video is so hard to find in the US.)
4. “Higher Love” by Steve Winwood
Here’s another song by a 70s rock star who, in 1986, I had yet to hear about. It’s also a single that includes vocals by a singer I had heard of, Chaka Khan. “Higher Love” was the #1 song in the country 33 years ago this week, the first chart topper for the veteran rocker from bands like Traffic and Blind Faith, among others. I liked the song in 1986 but not in an obsessive way, it just sounded nice and you didn’t have to work hard to hear it.
3. “Papa Don’t Preach” by Madonna
Every Catholic boy and girl I knew in 1986 (which was kind of the only people I knew) loved Madonna. I didn’t matter what kind of music you were into either. It’s no mystery why, she was a big deal. In a way she was one part of the “holy trinity” that included Michael Jackson and Prince. Though she wasn’t as big as either the other two, those guys could never do what she did. Of course, the pubescent Catholic boys that we were, we loved Madonna for the simple and obvious reason. Her Catholicism and use of Catholic imagery (she often wore a rosary) added to that. It contrasted with her sexual style and lyrics in ways we fell for, though we were oblivious to the obviousness of that attraction. This song (it was #1 on the pop charts earlier in the summer but was at #3 this week) was her most controversial at the time, which is saying something. From what I remember it kind of felt less controversial in the Catholic way, though, but who knows. Side note: the video introduced me to Danny Aiello.
2. “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel
Another rock star who I hadn’t heard of until 1986, Peter Gabriel’s 1986 album So made him a household name for my generation. This was only a minor hit from the album——it was at #3 on the rock charts this week but never got higher than the 20’s on the Hot 100——but it was helped by songs like “Sledgehammer,” whose video was a game changer. The song would grow in popularity over the span of my high school years, aided by its inclusion in the iconic scene from the 1989 movie Say Anything.
1. “Rumors” by Timex Social Club
It was #8 on the Hot 100 this week, its peak position. But for me, it’s the song I most associate with the summer of 1986 and the start of my high school years. It’s not because of the topic. I wasn’t worried about “rumors” at the start of my high school years and those years never gave me a reason to change that. It was just “the” song a the time. One of my most enduring memories of the song was when one of my friend’s dad was driving us home and he was singing along like a pro——”In a camisole, she’s six feet tall, she’ll knock you to your knees!” This song is a time machine for me and it never fails to put me back to another time.