College Countdown: KROQ-FM’s Top 40 Songs of 1987, 20 and 19

20. “Rain in the Summertime” by the Alarm
I tend to heap scorn on the copycat programming choices made by “commercial alternative” radio during my time served there in the mid-nineties, when the surest route to chart success was delivering a passable Eddie Vedder impression. (Why, I did it just the other day!) However, it was hardly a new phenomenon then, nor was it confined to those further up the dial who could seek out ad dollars without restriction. Throughout much of the decade prior, the labels that catered to college radio were always happy to open their checkbooks to any band that jangled like R.E.M. And then there was the Alarm, a Welsh band that had been together since the late nineteen-seventies. They’d had a couple of modest hits earlier in their recording career, but nothing that really compared to “Rain in the Summertime,” the lead single off of their studio album Eye of the Hurricane. The song had the good fortune (or the artful, well-timed calculation) to sound a lot like a earnest, poppy U2 offering at the precise time the Irish band absolutely exploded with The Joshua Tree. For at least the next few years, the Alarm became a nice stand-in for U2 fans, providing big, anthemic pop hits to help fill in the ever-increasing gaps between new releases from their primary favorites. That didn’t last all that long, however, as the Alarm formally broke up in 1991. The inevitable reunion gigs started up about ten years later, and lead singer Mike Peters also pitched in to help the occasional peer band secure their own lucrative nostalgia tour.

19. “Behind the Wheel” by Depeche Mode
While the 1984 single “People are People,” from Depeche Mode’s album Some Great Reward, was a significant hit in the United States, peaking at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, it was actually a later album release that is largely considered the band’s American breakthrough. Music for the Masses, Depeche Mode’s sixth studio album, was released in September of 1987. They didn’t manage to push another single into the U.S. Top 40, but several different tracks did manage to chart, and the album itself became their best selling to date. The album is considered an important step in the evolution of the band, in part because it was the first time they worked with a producer outside the well-traveled stable of studio technicians favored by their label, Mute Records. (It kind of sounds like the same old Depeche Mode to me, but then I was never that big of a fan.) “Behind the Wheel” was the third single off of the album. It was formally released on December 28th, but it had clearly grabbed the attention of KROQ programmers before that, as it reached a healthy position on the station’s year-end chart when it was revealed on air just three days later. This is the first of three Depeche Mode songs on the countdown.

An Introduction
40 and 39: “4th of July” and “Bizarre Love Triangle”
38 and 37: “Heartbreak Beat” and “Not My Slave”
36 and 35: “Alone Again Or” and “Absolute Perfection”
34 and 33: “Love Removal Machine” and “The Passenger”
32 and 31: “It’s Still Warm” and “Hourglass”
30 and 29: “Alex Chilton” and “We Care a Lot”
28 and 27: “Crazy” and “It’s a Sin”
26 and 25: “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Rules and Regulations”
24 and 23: “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” and “Twenty Killer Hurts”
22 and 21: “We Close Our Eyes” and “Please”

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