1986 will be remembered for the horrific explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which killed all seven crewmembers aboard. Other events that year were the death of Metallica bassist Cliff Burton when the band’s tour bus crashed in Sweden; the Iran-Contra affair; the Mets beating the Red Sox in the World Series in which everyone remembers the ball rolling through Bill Buckner’s legs; and Mike Tyson winning his first fight. But as music is usually the soundtrack to events we remember, here are some of the best songs from 1986:
"No More I Love Yous," The Lover Speaks
(The Lover Speaks)
"Love Walks In," Van Halen (5150)
This was the beginning of the Sammy Hagar era, and this song was the closest thing to a ballad that Van Halen ever recorded. It wasn’t that the band was going soft, it’s just that they were starting to weave melodies into their songs.
They only had one album, and you might likely recognize this song more from when Annie Lennox covered it. But, as the band name suggests, the album is full of brooding, Brit-pop songs about love and love lost. And it’s awesome.
"Back In The High Life Again," Steve Winwood
(Back In The High Life)
True story: I worked with this dude named Vinnie when this album came out. Vinnie said guys like Winwood could put out an album after taking several years off, and "Boom, high life, baby." It had only been four years since Winwood’s previous effort, but I know what Vinnie meant, and I have a feeling he personally talked Winwood into releasing this album.
"Take My Breath Away," Berlin (Count
Three and Pray)
Yeah, this is a sappy love song, but after landing in the film "Top Gun" and becoming a hit, it’s hard not to include it here.
"She Brakes For Rainbows," The B-52’s
(Bouncing Off The Satellites)
This was a bit of a departure for The B-52’s, a bit laid back compared to past hits like "Rock Lobster." But considering it was recorded before the death of guitarist Ricky Wilson, and released shortly after, the somber mood on the record comes through more than anything.
"Dead Man’s Party," Oingo Boingo (Dead
The perfect track for a Halloween mix is also the perfect track for a 1986 mix. And a reminder that Danny Elfman is pretty freaking talented.
"If She Knew What She Wants," The Bangles
Let’s recap the members of the Bangles: A bassist named Michael (yes, a girl). Pass. Two hot sisters Debbi and Vickie Peterson. Pretty hot, but not when compared to Susanna Hoffs: Off the charts hot. I still get a rush of blood to the groin when I hear her sing.
"Venus," Bananarama (True Confessions)
A band called Shocking Blue first recorded this song in the late sixties, but hot chick pop group Bananarama turned it into a dance hit in 1986.
"Blood and Roses," The Smithereens (Especially
The Smithereens churned out some alt/pop ear candy back in the day. This was their first single, and for my money, it’s still their best song.
"All I Want," Howard Jones (One To
It was difficult for Howard to follow up his hit machine, 1986’s Dream Into Action that spawned hits like "Life in One Day," "No One Is To Blame," and "Things Can Only Get Better." But this album was pretty damn good, too.
"Suzanne," Journey (Raised On Radio)
Before Journey hung up Steve Perry’s long jacket, they released this album that was sure to be a letdown after the magic of Escape and Frontiers. And it pretty much was, but there were a few great tracks like this one on it.
"Livin’ On A Prayer," Bon Jovi (Slippery
A mega-smash for a mega-band, and another song that is practically synonymous with 1986. The mouth guitar intro is about one of the most recognizable riffs in rock history.
"In Your Eyes," Peter Gabriel (So)
Most folks remember this song from Cameron Crowe’s film, "Say Anything," but more than that it was a hit song on a breakout album of epic proportions for this former member of Genesis.
"Human," Human League (Crash)
It wasn’t the Human League’s biggest single, but this song about infidelity is one of their most powerful.
"Amanda," Boston (Third Stage)
Did it really take Boston eight years to release the follow up to Don’t Look Back? It sure did, and it sure was a bummer for fans that stuck it out. But this single was a nice consolation on an otherwise uneventful album.