It’s a busy week, so let’s cut to the chase. Here are five top five songs from the first week of September 1987.
5. “Casanova” by LeVert
LeVert was an R&B vocal trio founded and led by Sean and Gerald Levert, two brothers who were the sons of Eddie Levert, leader singer and founder of the O’Jays. They sat atop the R&B charts in the first week of September 1987 with this song, which also made it to the top ten of the Hot 100. It wasn’t the mot unique song but it was catchy and had some hop to it. You don’t need much more than that.
4. “Dude Looks Like a Lady” by Aerosmith
I suppose this felt like a clever concept song to this legendary hard rock band from Boston, but it felt a little problematic to me, kind of like the anti-“Lola” by the Kinks. Still, this song––which was the first released from their album Permanent Vacation––was popular enough. When combined with the album’s other hit records (“Angel” and “Rag Doll”) it helped to usher in the band’s “comeback.” The song was co-written by Desmond Child, who was hitting the top of the rock charts pretty regularly back then with other groups like Bon Jovi.
3. “Learning to Fly” by Pink Floyd
I knew who Pink Floyd were in 1987, but I wasn’t all that interested in their music. This song––which was released in September 1987 and debuted at #5 on the rock charts––was the first of theirs that I liked. The present-day me thinks it’s not much when compared to their best, but it’s something. It would hit the top spot on the rock charts by the end of the month. I’m not sure about this but it might be the band’s last “hit” record. although since this was the first album without Roger Waters, some purist might say it didn’t really count anyway.
2. “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” by Michael Jackson and Siedah Garrett
There was no one bigger in the musical world of my universe than Michael Jackson. By 1987, however, it was five years since Thriller and all its accompanying mayhem. But at the end of August that year, Jackson released a new album––Bad––and this was its first single. A love song was an unexpected first release for a new album by the “King of Pop” (although he hadn’t seized that moniker yet) and a duet was even more of a surprise. At the end of this first week of September, it was #2 on the Hot 100 and the R&B charts, on its way to top spot on both in two more weeks.
1. “La Bamba” by Los Lobos
The greatest band from East L.A. covering the iconic song of the most famous Chicano rock ‘n roll singer in history. It almost can’t go wrong, but the brilliance of Los Lobos makes this cover of Ritchie Valens’ 1958 song even better than just good. I remember thinking how they made it more Mexican (no surprise considering their depth of knowledge of traditional Mexican music and they skills with Mexican strings) and more Chicano (it’s got that East L.A. groove they do so well) all at the same time. It didn’t hurt that the song came from the soundtrack of the film of the same name, a biopic of the late, great rock star. Directed and written by famed playwright Luis Valdez, the film was the biggest thing in “Chicano America” since Fernandomania. I still think of it as a kind of “holy” thing. The best part of the cover, however, isn’t in the movie. It’s the little bit of something extra that comes at the end of the song.