40. “4th of July” by X
Releases in 1987, See How We Are was the sixth album by the Los Angeles band X. Notably, it was also their first without founding guitarist Billy Zoom, who reportedly left because he was frustrated by the band’s lack of commercial success (he had delivered an ultimatum regarding the need for a hit ahead of the band’s prior album, Ain’t Love Grand!, in 1985). To replace Zoom, X recruited Dave Alvin shortly after he left the Blasters. “4th of July” was the only song on the album not written by John Doe and Exene Cervenka, emanating instead from the pen of Alvin, who also included it on his solo debut that same year (the album was titled Romeo’s Escape in the U.S. and Every Night About This Time just about everywhere else). Given that it almost belongs to X purely by brief association (Alvin left the band after the sole album, not even appearing on the following year’s live effort), it seems odd to call it the best song X ever recorded, but I can’t help it. The song is direct and wisely emotional, incredibly evocative in the depiction of a heartrending relationship involving people that “gave up trying so long ago.” It’s a song that merits a place in steady rotation far more than one day per year.
39. “Bizarre Love Triangle” by New Order
As arguably New Order’s most recognized song, its hard to think of “Bizarre Love Triangle” as kind of a bust, but that was largely the case when it was originally released in the fall of 1986. Though it made some headway on the dance charts, it failed to even crack the Billboard Hot 100 (at least until it was re-released in 1995 and rocketed all the way up to a peak of #98 on the charts) and didn’t even fare all that well in their U.K. home, where eight of their first twelve singles had made the Top 40. In fact, its lack of commercial success seemed to halt efforts to cull hits from Brotherhood, the 1986 album from which it sprung. Instead, the band and the label presumably concentrated on their next project, the following year’s compilation Substance 1987. That release pulled together the 12-inch versions of many of the band’s singles, including “Bizarre Love Triangle,” showing up is a crisper version that was about two minutes longer. Though the KROQ chart officially lists Brotherhood as the album associated with “Bizarre Love Triangle,” I’m assuming that the Substance version has something to do with the song’s success on ’87 playlists, so that’s the version I include below. This is the first of two New Order songs on the chart.