College Countdown: KROQ-FM’s Top 40 Songs of 1987, 18 and 17

18. “The Sweetest Thing” by U2
Having the natural contrarian spirit of a teenager, I was somewhat dismissive of U2’s The Joshua Tree at first. For one thing, my sensibility was well into the process of being shaped by the cranky irony of David Letterman’s late night endeavor, so the thudding sincerity of Bono and the boys instinctively rankled me. There was a point when even I had to concede that the record was exceptional, though. The thing that finally broke my defiant stance was “The Sweetest Thing.” The track was originally released as one of the B-sides on “Where the Streets Have No Name,” the third single from the massive hit album, and I figured that if the band made a song this good and still couldn’t find a way to wedge it onto their proper album, that proper album was probably worth my time. The song was apparently written by Bono as a gift for his wife, meant to apologize for missing her birthday because he was committed to Joshua Tree recording sessions. It apparently developed a pronounced appreciation among U2 fans, as it was chosen some ten years later to be released on another single, this time as the A-side, in conjunction with one of the band’s Best of albums. By that time, of course, U2 was a megalith, so it wasn’t enough to just being back the song. It needed to be reworked, given a shiny new music video (featuring Bono’s wife, Alison Hewson, only fair since it’s her song and all) and even a tie-in candy bar. I prefer the modesty of the first time around, but there’s my curmudgeonly side popping up again. This is the second of four U2 songs on the countdown.

17. “Rent” by Pet Shop Boys
“Rent” was the third single released from the 1987 album by Pet Shop Boys, actually. It also had the task of following the song that proved to be their biggest success since debuting with the chart-topper “West End Girls.” The second single was “What Have I Done to Deserve This,” a song probably most notable for reviving interest in the great Dusty Springfield, who provided guest vocals. “Rent” didn’t have a similar hook to stir interest in commercial radio programmers–it was just a plain old merging of airy disco and soulful yearning, as Pet Shop Boys were wont to create–so it went almost entirely unnoticed by Top 40 radio. It was different at KROQ. There it was the pair’s biggest song of the year. This is the second of two Pet Shop Boys 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”
20 and 19: “Rain in the Summertime” and “Behind the Wheel”

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