Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1987

There was a noticeable drop off in the quality of the music from 1986 to 1987.  Many more of the Billboard Top 100 from 1987 had a gimmicky quality to them, and as a result they were pushed off the list.  The style of music was obviously changing as power ballads with great melodies and lyrics were replaced with trite dance tunes from groups like Wang Chung and others.  I found this list much harder to compile because many of the songs with sing-able melodies were, for lack of a better term, gay.  I found myself forcing songs like, “Somewhere Out There”, “Only In My Dreams”, “Never Gonna Give You Up”, and “Lady In Red” off the list for this very reason.  I have to be honest, most of the songs on this list would not have even been considered for the 1983-1985 lists, but you have to go with what you have.

20. “Open Your Heart”, Madonna– Madonna was hitting her stride when she released True Blue.  This song typified the dance music style that dominated her music for the next four or five years.  It is upbeat and causes you to tap you feet when you listen to it.  I chose it over the title track from this album.

19. “Faith”, George Michael– Speaking of gay, coming in at number nineteen we have this little ditty by George Michael that was one of the most popular songs of the year.  It definitely had a strong melody, and you almost have to move when you hear it.  By this time, George Michael had realized that Wham was nothing without him, so he decided to destroy them by leaving the band and going out on his own.  I found his flamboyant arrogance to be off-putting.

18. “Mony Mony”, Billy Idol– I found Billy Idol’s act fairly off-putting also, but much less gay than George Michael’s.  Idol came across as the guy with the biggest case of short-man’s syndrome in the music business.  He was always taking a swing at the screen, and his music often reflected this quality.  I put this song on the list because of its staying power and popularity on movie soundtracks.  Idol shouted his vocals more often than he sang them, but his songs were catchy if also very gimmicky.

17. “We’ll Be Together”, Sting– I like sting, and his tenor vocals quite a bit, but this would probably not even make my top ten songs featuring him.  It is very upbeat and different from most of his other stuff.  It is definitely quirky, and the video reminds me of later Janet Jackson material.

16.  “Electric Blue”, Icehouse– It took an Australian group to carry on the tradition of bands like Naked Eyes, The Thompson Twins and Simple Minds in 1987.  The keyboard sound is very 1980s as is the whole tone on the tenor vocals.  The girl in the video is also Hot!

15. “Bad”, Michael Jackson– Again, I found myself trying to keep this song off the list because of the whole pedophilia thing, but it was simply too big of a song for me to do so.  The tune is unmistakable as it begins with the guitarist hammering out six heavily distorted notes before the drums kick in.  There is no other song that is more associated with Michael Jackson.

14. “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, Def Leppard– This is one of those songs that I had no idea what the lyrics were.  I don’t even remember what crazy words I substituted for the actually lyrics, but I am sure they were funny.  It is the epitome of the rock anthem, and almost forces the listener to stand up and clap his hands above his head (very ’80s).

13. “Little Lies”, Fleetwood Mac– This instrumentation in this song is very 1980s from the keyboard, to the drums and the guitar.  As I have said earlier, I did not start listening to Pop/Rock music until the 1980s, and as a result I did not know anything about Fleetwood Mac’s earlier work.  I also did not like hype, so when they had their comeback in the ’80s, I was taken aback by all of the hype that went along with it.  This set me against them early on.  As I have grown older, I have realized that their music was pretty good.  Linday Buckingham has a nice voice, and the melody of the song is easy to sing along with.  I always said back then, that Stevie Nicks must have sold her soul to the devil (yes, I heard the witch rumors) for good looks and fame, because ‘Lord knows she can’t sing.”  That may have been a little harsh too.  She was nice to look at, but her voice had a very different tone to it.  It sounded like she was a smoker, but she hit her notes, and her tone still had a full sound.

12. “Wanted Dead or Alive”, Bon Jovi– The acoustic guitar part on this song is what makes the song.  Even the lead guitar has a picked sound that conveys the old west sound that is the point of the song.  Jon Bon Jovi is very affected, but that is what you get with these guys, and you should not expect anything else.  The song is very commercial, and has been used for products as well as theme songs for television programs.

11. “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, Crowded House– For anyone who grew up in the ’80s, this is known as the “hey-now” song.  As far as being able to sing along with a memorable melody goes, it does not get much better than this.  The baritone/second tenor voice of the lead singer is also easy to sing along with (at least for me).  His vocal has a very good tone to it, and the chorus is well backed by other singers.

10. “The Finer Things”, Steve Winwood– This is my personal favorite song by Winwood.  The keyboard and sax set a mellow mood at the beginning of the song.  Winwood has a pretty high voice, but the chorus is still good to sing along with, even if you have to sing an octave below him.  It is bubbly and upbeat but he keeps it from going the way of a group like Wham, for instance.

9. “(I Just) Died In Your Arms”, Cutting Crew– The staccato keyboard with the cello at the beginning of the song set a good 80’s mood for the song.  When the guitar and drums come in, it becomes a standard 80’s power ballad, and that’s a good thing.  The vocal is good, but I was creeped out when I read the Wiki for this song.  It says, “The words ‘I just died in your arms tonight’ originally came to Van Eede while he was having sex with his girlfriend [I’ll have to try that.  Usually I just think about baseball.], ‘death’ being an often-used metaphor for orgasm.”  This would be the lyrical equivalent of too much information.  However, I find his thought processes to be strange.  I know I’m not the one who usually thinks about death while I’m making love.

8. “Mandolin Rain”, Bruce Hornsby and the Range– Hornsby’s strong piano chops are highlighted throughout this song.  This song is cool and melow.  It in no way makes you want to do anything very active while you listen to it.  Hornsby’s vocals are excellent and easy to listen to.

I have a memory of this song associated with Six Flags Over Texas.  During my junior and senior years in high school, I had a car and a season pass to Six Flags ($44.00, greatness).  I would go all summer long, once or twice a week.  That year I remember that Six Flags had ponied-up and bought Bose speakers that piped music throughout the park, especially for those standing in line.  The only problem was that they only had about 25 minutes of music on the loop that they were playing, so you got to hear the same songs over and over as you stood in line all summer long.  “Mandolin Rain” was one of the songs, and I bet I heard it 1,000 times at the park that summer.  It says something that I still can listen to it and enjoy it today.

7. “In Too Deep”, Genesis– This was the second song released off their mega-album Invisible Touch, and it is clearly influenced by Collins’ extremely successful solo albums that were released prior to it.  The song is much slower and subdued than much of the older Genesis material.  It has a very nice acoustic quality that comes from dual acoustic guitars, and a grand paino.  It has one of my favorite vocals from Phil Collins, and I chose it over “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight”.

I went to the Invisible Touch concert when it came to Dallas.  Unfortunately, I was unimpressed.  “Mama” was dark and great, but, for the most part it was just a bunch of Abacab stuff, which I did not know at the time.  He did not even sing “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” even though the concert was sponsored by Michelob.  He didn’t sing one Phil Collins’ song, and Mike and the Mechanics did not do any of their stuff.  I learned another thing that night.  You can have too many 10 minute drum solos in a concert.  There was no encore, and finally it was over.  I later heard that Collins’ was sporting a 102 degree temperature during the concert, but I still felt short-changed by the whole thing.

6. “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life”, Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes– This is one of the best duets of the 1980s.  Bill Medley is better known as a Righteous Brother, and he can definitely bring the vocals.  The song’s popularity was increased by the fact that it was associated with the huge 80s chick flick Dirty Dancing.  The harmony is great, and the chorus builds to a point where the two singers sound enraptured.

5. “Alone”, HeartAnne Wilson and Heart continued their dominance of the mid-eighties with another of their signature power ballads.  The soft start with the piano/keyboard at the beginning of the song with Anne Wilson’s softer voice sounds great.  Then, chorus the powers in and provides the signature Heart sound.   If you want to win American Idol, do a great version of this song (see Carrie Underwood).

4. “The Next Time I Fall”, Peter Cetera and Amy Grant– In the summer of 1986, I got very involved with a youth group at one of the local churches in my home town.  I also got into CCM (Christian Contemporary Music for the heathens out there), just as it was hitting its zenith.  Amy Grant was the biggest name in CCM at the time.  As her popularity continued to grow, she began to experiment with crossing-over into popular music.  First, her Unguarded album failed to mention God anywhere, and many CCM fans noted that the songs could be as much about a boyfriend as about God.  Then, she actually released a few songs onto the secular (not Christain, again for you heathens) market.

I remember that there was actually a debate on the local radio station (KOJO, later KLTY) in Dallas as to whether her music should be played at all on their station any more.  I knew that these ideas were wrong-headed even as a pompous high school kid.  Christianity can be very divisive and counter to its own goals a lot of the time.  Here we had a young woman who could have drawn more people to their station and the religion by crossing-over into mainstream music, but the first thought was to drive her away.

It’s funny to listen to CCM today.  As sad as it has become, one thing is easy to see.  They have reversed their attitudes, and any secular song that could be reinterpreted with a positive Godly message is re-recorded by Christian Artists (almost always not as well as the original).

As far as the duet mentioned above goes, it was one of my favorites of the decade.  Cetera definitely has the lead role in the song, but Grant’s harmonies are what make it great.  She also looks good in the video.  The original version with the heavily synthesized keyboard sound was good, but there is a live version with a full orchestra that sounds even better.

3. “Will You Still Love Me?”, Chicago– Fans of any successful group in the 80s would wait on pins and needles for the inevitable news that their favorite band had broken up (or a key member had died).  The worst part was that it was often career suicide for all involved.  This, however, was not the case for Peter Cetera and Chicago.  He left the band shortly after it finished recording Chicago 17 in 1985, but both he and the band experienced great success with their next albums.  Chicago replaced Cetera with Jerry Scheff and picked up right where they left off recording great love songs and power ballads.  “Will You Still Love Me” is a great example of one of these.  Scheff actually sounds a lot like Cetera on the vocal, and the keyboard/piano led instrumentation picks up right where Chicago 17 left off.  The orchestral backing on the song sounds great, but the strings and light horns do not deliver the standard “Tower of Power” horn sound that is expected from Chicago.

2. “Doing It All For My Baby”, Huey Lewis and The News– Once again, Lewis delivered the be-bop style that his fans looked for.  I love the horns and Hammond organ sound at the beginning and throughout the song.  Lewis’ vocal is as good as ever.  Topping out at #93 on the Billboard Top 100 for the year, this song is easily the most underrated song of his career.  I have a tip for anyone who wants to hear this song.  Download it from Itunes.  The video is 7:53 long, it is horrible, and you will never be able to get that part of your life or the part of you that died as you watched it back.

1. “With Or Without You”, U2– I explained on an earlier post that I was not a fan of U2 in the 80s, and I don’t even know why.  Let me say now, that if for no other reason than their two big songs of 1987, “With Or Without You” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, they are a great band.  I committed at the start of this not to put more than one song from a given group on any year’s list, but either one of these two songs would have held the top spot in 1987.  I had a hard time choosing which one I like best, and it came down to popular culture and the inclusion of “With or Without You” in the seminal episode of Friends that made the decision for me.

Top 20 80s Pop/Rock Songs (Category)

Top 20 1980’s Pop/Rock Songs By Year (Criteria)

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1980

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1981

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1982

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1983

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1984

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1985

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1986

 

 

Advertisements

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1985

20.  “Careless Whisper”, Wham!– My gay-dar was working well by the time the George Michael led group came along.  This probably explains why I did not care for them too much.  However, I’ll have to admit that they had some huge hits in the mid 80s containing very catchy tunes.  The problem with Wham was that their bubbly style made them seem like a male version of the Go-Gos, and that is not a good thing.  That is why I ended up choosing “Careless Whisper” with its ballad style over their bigger hit “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go.”

19.  “Saving All My Love For You”, Whitney Houston– I tend to react negatively to hype, and Whitney got a lot of it when her voice blasted onto the scene, but even back then I could not deny that she was a great singer.  Her songs are not easy to sing along with, for the most part, because they are all a showcase for her incredible vocals.  I chose “Saving All My Love For You” over “You Give Good Love”, but they both are about the same.

18.  “Separate Lives”, Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin– This is easily one of the best duets of the 80s.  Her voice and style of singing hold up well with his as they trade off throughout the song.  It reached #1 in the Billboard Top 100, and was featured on the soundtrack to the great date movie, White Nights.

17.  “One More Night”, Phil Collins– As I did in 1984, I will treat the duet above as a group performance, and include another song by Phil Collins as a result.  “One More Night” was one of four songs that charted off Collins’ great album, No Jacket Required.  I had the album, and like most of the albums that I really liked in that era, I wore it out.  I would know any song off of it if I heard it today, and there are some that did not even chart that I liked a lot such as “Long, Long Way to Go” that featured Sting singing the backup vocals.

16.  “We Belong”, Pat Benatar– This was always my favorite Pat Benatar song.  It was a departure from her earlier ‘rocker-girl’ music and it featured a nice melody and vocal.  I’m not sure if it is a guitar or a keyboard at the beginning of the song but in any case, it is iconic, and I immediately knew the song when heard it at the end of Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby.  That scene where Sacha Baron Cohen is chasing Will Ferrell down the track is classic, and I will probably always associate this song with it in the future.

15.  “We Are The World”, U.S.A. For Africa– Anyone that was young during this era knows this song.  It was a great song, and it was great to see that many of the most popular singers in the world at that time could get together for a good cause.  If this were done today, it would undoubtedly feature Bono, which ever 80s or 90s groups were coming out with a new album, recent groups whose popularity is waning (see Britney Spears), the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus and all the failed American Idol winners and finalists.  But, the original truly pulled in the powerhouses of pop music at the time.  Solos included: Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Kim Carnes, Cyndi Lauper, Huey Lewis, Daryl Hall, Steve Perry, Kenny Loggins, Bruce Springsteen, Al Jarreau, and James Ingram.  Other artists included: Randy Jackson, Marlon Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Harry Belafonte, Tito Jackson, JaToya Jackson, The Pointer Sisters, Lindsey Buckingham, Jackie Jackson, Waylon Jennings, Jeffery Osborne, Sheila E., Bob Geldof, Bette Midler, John Oates and Dan Aykroyd (odd).  Awesome.  And, it could never be done today.  What, no Bono?

14.  “The Search Is Over”, Survivor– This song continued Survivor’s string of great power ballads.  The lead vocals have a nice tone to them, and the song is easy to sing along with.  I chose it over “I Can’t Hold Back” from the same year.

13.  “Lay Your Hands On Me”, Thompson Twins– I love the whole tone to the vocals on this song, and the choral part is even better.  This song was released on their Here’s To the Future album which was the 6th album released in five years for the prolific androgynous British band.

12.  “What About Love”, Heart– Heart burst on the pop scene in 1985 with the release of their debut album, Heart.  It was a smash hit for sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, as was their first of many hits, “What About Love.”  The band led by Ann Wison’s strong vocals was one of the dominant groups in pop music for the next few years, and was easily the biggest girl band of the decade.  Routinely, their songs are attempted by contestants on American Idol, and just as routinely, those contestants are roundly criticized because their vocals are not near as good or as strong as Ann Wilson’s vocals.

11.  “Things Can Only Get Better”, Howard Jones– Howard Jones is a great keyboardist, and I love his vocals.  All of his melodies pop, and are easy to sing along with.  I would recommend his The Best of Howard Jones from 1993 to anyone.  The backup singers, made up of the members of the female backup group, Afrodiziak (genius) sound great and help to make the song.

10.  “Money For Nothing”, Dire Straits– This is one of the iconic songs of the 80s.  It would be one of the best one-hit-wonders if the band had not had another hit, but their success never again approached the popularity of this song.  It, of course, begins with Sting’s unmistakable falsetto vocals ethereally asking for his MTV with a keyboard appropriately setting the eerie mood.  Then, the guitar bangs in with the very recognizable riff that continues throughout the song, and it takes off as a tribute to the easily attained fame and riches to be found in the music industry.  The vocals, described by lead singer Mark Knopfler as Sprechstimme, are by definition, vocals that fall somewhere between speaking and singing.  There was some controversy at the time involving the lines containing the words “chimpanzee” and “faggot”, and there were accusations of sexism, racism and homophobia leveled against the band which they denied.  The video filled with cool animation was groundbreaking for MTV, and it was one of their most played that year.

9.  “The Power Of Love”, Huey Lewis and The News– This and “Back in Time” were both featured in the 80s hit movie Back to the Future.  “The Power of Love” has all the qualities of a great Huey Lewis song, strong vocals, big band sound, and a bopping 50s-like rock and roll beat.  I remember seeing Huey Lewis in concert in the 80s.  It was one of the best that I ever saw.  He had the Tower Of Power horn section with him, and at one point, every person with the stage crew, the band and the horn section were on stage at the same time singing and dancing to their doo-wop sound with leather jackets on.

8.  “Material Girl”, Madonna– I chose “Material Girl” over “Crazy For You” and “Live To Tell” because it is the song that I think of when I think of Madonna.  The video with her playing the part of Marilyn Monroe from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was great.  She looked sexier to me with her clothes on in this video than she did in later videos when she took them off.  Her voice has a good, if squeaky, tone to it that matches the Monroe’s vibe.

7.  “Heaven”, Bryan Adams– This and “Cuts Like a Knife” are my two favorite Bryan Adams’ songs.  I liked this song a lot because I could sing it, and it was a cool power ballad.  It still gets a lot of play, and can be heard every season on American Idol.

6.  “You’re The Inspiration”, Chicago– This is probably the most popular song Chicago ever recorded (and that is a lot of songs), but it is not my personal favorite- that would be “Love Me Tomorrow”– or even my favorite from Chicago 17– that would be the unreleased “Remember the Feeling.”  However, that does not mean it is not a great song.  Peter Certera proved, once and for all, that Bill Champlin should be a backup singer for the group with this song.  Certera left the band shortly thereafter.

5.  “Head Over Heels”, Tears For Fears– This was another great hit for the semi-androgynous British pop band.  The key board part that sounds like falling rain as it repeatedly moves down the scale let’s you know what song you are listening to from the beginning.  The lead vocals are very clean, and the backup falsetto vocals match nicely on the verses and chorus.  I chose this song over their bigger hit “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” because I like it better, but they are both great songs.

4.  “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”, Simple Minds– What a youth rebellion anthem!  I mean, it just doesn’t get any better than this.  Every child of the 80s reading this sees Judd Nelson at the end of The Breakfast Club walking away with his fist (for some reason) in the air in a defiant statement that said, “You might burn me with cigarettes, but I’m still too cool even for myself!”  The song is cool too.  It was the class song for thousands of senior classes that year (pretty much all of the classes that were not gay enough to choose “Friends” as their class song).

3.  “Can’t Fight This Feeling”, REO Speedwagon– Have you ever had a friend who you could not stand to be around when he was with his girlfriend?  When I was in college my roommate was going out with my girlfriend’s roommate (We both eventually married these ladies- I asked mine out first.  He married his first).  There was really no avoiding being around them quite a bit.  The problem was, for instance, at night as I would be watching television in our living room, he would be on the phone with her calling her pet names likes ‘Snoogums” and such.  They would get to the end of he conversation, and then would come the ‘I love you’, ‘no, I love you more’ session (five minutes minimum), and then the ‘hang up’, ‘no, you hang up’ session which rarely ended before I was contemplating ending my own life.

Then there was being with them.  You were never really with them.  They were with each other in their own little world getting as close as the clothes on them would allow, and calling each other pet names in sweet high pitched voices totally oblivious of the fact that every around them was visibly ill.  I swear.  I had to eventually sit my roommate down and explain the concept of ‘too cute’ to him.

All during this time, “Can’t Fight This Feeling” was their song.  He played it all the time.  She played it all the time.  They played it all the time.

I think it says a lot about the greatness of this song that through all of that, I still liked it.  And, here it is at #3 on my 1985 list.  It’s probably better than that even, but I hold a long grudge.

2.  “Take On Me”, A-Ha– This song is another of the great one-hit-wonder songs of the 80s.  The Norwegian pop band A-Ha, fronted by Morten Harket, used this song to feature his soaring vocals that hit before-unseen heights for a male voice in popular music.  It also has a signature keyboard part that makes the song instantly recognizable.  The video for this song was one of the most popular of the 80s featuring a sappy love story between a guy in a comic and a girl.  What made it special was its use of animation and real-life video in the same frames bringing the comic book characters to life, then having them interact with the real-life characters almost seamlessly.  The girl is very cute also.

1.  “I Want To Know What Love Is”, Foreigner– What a great song.  This may be the best power ballad of all time.  The vocals are great, and adding the gospel choir brought it to a whole new level.  The keyboard, as with most good power ballads, is great also.

Top 20 80s Pop/Rock Songs (Category)

Top 20 1980’s Pop/Rock Songs By Year (Criteria)

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1980

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1981

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1982

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1983

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1984

 

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1986

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1987

Dating Disasters

Analytical guys, like me, often do not have a lot of luck in the dating scene while they are growing up.  Females are a mystery, the ultimate ‘x’ in any equation.  The more you evaluate the possibilities, the more frightening they become.  Most of the time, I would simply procrastinate in asking-out a girl that I liked until she was no longer available.

That being said, I did actually get up the courage to ask several girls out while I was in high school, and surprisingly some of the young ladies actually said yes, even though I am sure I was visibly shaking when I asked, and made a hasty retreat once they said, “Yes” because I had not planned for what to do if they actually responded positively.  Once these girls had accepted my offer, there was the obvious panic of what to actually do on the date.  This required extensive planning, but was usually curtailed by my financial realities.

There are four particular dating disasters that occurred before I finally was able to get married and free myself from this continual torture.  The first was my first real date.  I had met a shy and very pretty girl at church.  She was blond and had a nice body also.  I decided that the best way to trick her into going out with me was to incorporate her love for her God into a date with myself (genius).  So, I asked her out to a Christian concert (obviously, I had no thoughts of ‘making a move’ on this date).

I picked her up in plenty of time to go see the ‘Carry the Light’ tour at Reunion Arena in Dallas.  I was driving a 1977 Cougar, and it was a ‘boat.’  I picked her up, and she looked nice.  We went to eat dinner, and then got onto I-35 heading south.  Almost immediately, I realized that I had made a tactical error.  I-35 was going through a makeover where there were machines eating about a foot of back-top off of the road in order to get to the old concrete.  Eventually, the highway department put a nice new concrete road in, but on this day, the project was still a work in progress.  Even though I was traveling against the flow of traffic, it was awful.  I was literally inching along and the 90 degree plus weather quickly took a toll on my ten year old car.  Soon, the gauges on my dash were informing me that my engine was overheating.  So, after apologizing, I turned the air conditioner off, and asked her to roll down her window.  Later, I actually turned the heater on for a minute in the hope that this would help dissipate the hot air from the engine compartment.  I’m sure she was loving all of this, but the car was making it.

We made it all the way to the point where cars were attempting to get into the parking lot.  It was stop-and-go once again, only this time there were three lanes of traffic trying to get up a hill into the parking lot.  This was simply too much for the Cougar, and it died.  As I sat there in the center lane wondering what to do, a bus hit the back of my car (no kidding) while trying to get around me.  Defeat.

Eventually, the nice policeman who was directing traffic into the parking lot decided something had to be done.  He stopped traffic and allowed me to push my car backward across the intersection, and up against a curb (facing the wrong way on a one-way street).

I, however, would not admit defeat so easily.  We walked the rest of the way to the arena, and I was sure that I would never see my car again.  I called my dad collect on the way into the venue, and told him of my dilemma.  He told me to enjoy the show, and meet him near the end so that he could help me with my car.

I do not remember a lot about the show other than a guy playing classical guitar with his feet (amazing).  I do not remember that we said two words to one another, and before the end of the show, we left to find my dad who had already shown-up and put water in my radiator for me.

This is when the one good thing in the whole evening occurred.  The nice policeman who had helped me park my car, had come back after I left and had written a personal note on the back of his card asking other officers who might happen by not to give me a ticket of have my car towed.

After getting my car restarted, I drove her home in complete defeat.  I never asked her out again, and I really don’t remember talking to her much after that.  She did not seem to mind.

Another dating disaster occurred about a year later.  I had gone out with a girl to help her to feel better after she had had a bad breakup…, big mistake!  She formed some sort of quick attachment to me, but the truth was that I was infatuated with her best friend.  I really liked her friend a lot, and she was probably my first real crush.  She was a short, cute brunette who had a very nice body.  She did have a glass eye (hardly noticeable), but that did not bother me at all.

I finally got the nerve to ask her out, and she agreed to go to dinner and a movie with me.  We went to a decent restaurant and then set off for the theatre.  I chose a terrible John Candy movie called Summer Rental.  Oh, if he’d only died before he made this abomination.  The movie was bad enough, but I once again made a tactical error.  I had planned to ‘make a move,’ and put my arm around her during the movie, but as we went to sit down, I realized that I had entered the row on her left, The Side With Her Bad Eye!  This froze me.  I kept wanting to put my arm around her, but in my mind, I kept seeing her jump or even scream as she wondered if a rat or something worse were crawling across her shoulder.  For the most part, I sat in paralyzed frustration for the rest of the movie.

After the movie, I took her home, and actually worked up the courage to go for the ‘good night kiss.’  This worked out for me, and she later said that she would go to the Homecoming Dance with me.  However, her friend felt some sort of a betrayal in the fact that the two of us had gone out, and began to treat us both badly.  A couple of weeks later, I got a note from her explaining that she wanted to be the other girl’s friend more than she wanted to be my boyfriend.  Defeat.

Later, in college, I had determined to get more dates.  I asked out the girl that eventually became my wife.  I remember meeting her that week because there was about a foot of snow on the ground, and this was very unusual for Shawnee, OK where I went to school.  I asked her to go see Rain Man which was big at the theatre, and it turned out to be a good date movie, for once.  The main problem I had with this particular date occurred early in the day, as I went out to my car (the Nova, pronounced ‘No-Vah”- Spanish for ‘it does not go’).  I walked up to the car, and saw that my right front tire was completely on the ground beneath the snow, so I decided to change the tire in a foot of snow.  I was wearing jeans which were by no means waterproof, but they were the best thing that I had for the job.  I lay down and scooped out the snow from behind the tire and up under it so that the jack would fit under the axel.  I got the car jacked up, and then realized to my horror that the wheel was frozen to the axel.  Oh…F…u…d…g…e!  But, I didn’t say ‘fudge.’  I then found a hammer in my trunk and actually tried to beat the tire off of the axel for several minutes with no luck (this seemed kind of dangerous).  I finally lowered the jack, put the car in gear, and felt the wheel break free of the axel.  I was then able to change the tire after jacking the car back up.  When I was finished, I swear that I could have stood my frozen jeans up against the wall.  The date that night, however, went well.  The same could not be said for our next movie date.  It should be noted that my wife (who I was dating at the time) had led a somewhat sheltered life up to that point in a small town in Western Oklahoma.  Her family never really went to the movies, and most of their television watching involved The Waltons or Little House on the Prairie.  I, on the other hand, considered myself to be a man of the world.  I saw most of the big movies every year, and tried to see most movies that were nominated for Academy Awards.  That year, there was a movie that was getting a lot of Oscar buzz, and so we decided upon my recommendation to go see… The Accused.  I remember feeling sort of dizzy the first time they went through the rape scene, and then looking over to see the horror on my date’s face.  You would think that showing the same violent rape five or six times from different points of view in a movie would desensitize the viewer to some degree.  This, however, was very much not the case.  I probably should have just left, but a familiar paralyzing fear had me in its icy grip.

The only good move that I made that night was when I reached over and hugged my future wife to me, burying her head to protect her from having to see the violence one more time.  Suffice it to say. The Accused IS NOT A GOOD DATE MOVIE!  In the end, I guess it all worked out for me because she said, “Yes” when I asked her to marry me later (no, not that night).  I guess at that point she was just too frightened to say, “No.”

 

Does the Constitution Say Anything About Grooming Issues?

There are several reasons that it would be good to go back to the 1950s.  One of these involves grooming issues.  Back then, a man wore his hair short, the only way his barber knew how to cut it.  Of course, there was the occasional ‘greaser,’ but even those guys had nice hair by today’s standards.

It was the 60s and hippies that destroyed hair in America.  The 70s were just an extension of the 60s and in the 80s hairstyles were just a mistake.  It took us until the end of the 1980’s and the introduction of the show “Friends” to finally get a handle on hairstyles once again.

In the last few years, for the most part hairstyles have improved, except in one area, the dreadlock.  Dreadlocks are way out of hand.  This phenomenon seems to have come out of the sports world, and proliferated itself on the heels of the institution of the ‘Emmitt Smith Rule’ in which players were no longer allowed to remove their helmets in the field of play.

Players like Troy Polamalu have started to wear dreadlocks so long that they come out of their helmets and go significantly down their backs.  The problem is that the league did not deal with this issue early on.  There are several reasons for the league to outlaw this nonsense:

  1. It’s unsightly.  It just looks bad.
  2. It’s not part of the uniform.  In a league where you can be fined for not wearing your socks in the correct manner during a game, It seems to be a little hypocritical to allow a player to wear his hair so long that neither the player’s number nor his name can be seen clearly.
  3. It is either dangerous or unfair.  I believe that it is dangerous to tackle these players by the hair (though it could serve as an effective deterrent).  It could easily break a neck, but on the other hand, it is unfair to protect these players against being tackled by their hair as it covers their whole back in some cases.  There was actually a flag thrown for unsportsmanlike conduct in a Cowboys/Steelers game when Polamalu was tackled in this manner after an interception.

Of course, this is all bogus, and the league will have to deal with it eventually.  Now, the player’s union has become involved in support of the players who want ridiculously long hair, and the league has allowed the argument to be changed into a racial issue.  This will make it much harder to deal with.

A similar subject occurred this week when a court allowed a Rastafarian to sue his employer, Jiffy Lube over a new policy that required employees to be clean-shaven.  He is suing on religious grounds.  I do not see how this lawsuit (which was dismissed once already) can be allowed to go forward.  There is no inherent right to dress the way you want to in the workplace.  Many jobs require their employees to wear uniforms, and most county health departments will not allow employees at restaurants to have facial hair.  What happens when a Muslim woman claims that she must wear a head-covering in her job at a bank, for instance?  Or, what if some kooky religion that bans clothing comes along?  Will we then be forced to employee a naked nurse (I actually support this in some cases)?  The implications are huge, and as we all know, in the civil courts in America precedent is everything.  Once Pandora gets out of this box, we are all in trouble.

In closing, Get A Haircut!

Customer Service

I have always been big on customer service.   I work in a service industry and I am proud of the service that I provide for my customers and my customer service skills.  I must confess that there are times when I may have not shown the greatest skills in customer service.  For example, there was the time when I owned my own business that I told a nun to take her “laptop and get the f*** out!”  It should be noted that as a businessman I had already broken several of my own business policies in an attempt to give this particular person extraordinary service.  Suffice it to say that if Jesus were indeed married to this particular woman, it would explain why he spends so much time in heaven.  I do hate an ingrate, but I can say that I probably could have handled the situation better at the time…, maybe.  So, disclaimers aside, I thought I would deal with the issue of good customer service, and treating a customer well in today’s post.

As I drove to work this morning thinking about this, I was transported back to high school over twenty years ago.  I remember working at a Minyard’s Food Store as a bagger when I was in high school.  It was a nice and growing experience.  I remember once when there was an incentive program to encourage employees to be courteous to customers.  If an employee was seen by the manager doing something extra in the form of customer service for a customer, the employee received a star on a button.  At the end of the program, the employee with the most stars got $50.  I still remember going to the back of the store and getting a chair for an old woman to sit in while she waited for her ride to pick her up after shopping.  That particular $50 seemed to spend better than the other money I earned after I won it.

I also remember an episode of bad customer service that happened to me during this time.  We closed the store at night, and were usually finished cleaning up around 1:00 a.m.  Since we had only had one 15 minute break since 5:00 p.m., most of the guys I worked with were hungry when we got off work.  Lucky for us, the only fast food restaurant in town that was open that late, a Burger King, was in our parking lot.  I usually gave a couple of the guys a ride home, so on the way out we would swing through the drive-through and pick up a few burgers.  The other benefit was the fact that two or three of the local hotties worked the late shift at the Burger King, and we would flirt with them.  We did this pretty much every night, and honestly, we were the only business that they had between 12:30 and 2:00 when they closed.

In high school, there were times when I could be a bit of a knucklehead, and one night I decided to put my knuckleheadedness to work for me.  On that evening, knowing that the particular hottie that I liked the best was working, I decided it would be cool if I drove through the drive-through backward.  We did this without incident, and when we got to the window, there she was with a sweet little giggle.  I could tell she really thought it was funny, as did the other employees, except for the manager.  He walked over to the window, and yelled at me saying, “If you guys ever do this again, we won’t serve you.”  Here I was, his only business, and he was threatening me.  I looked right at him and said, “You won’t have to worry about that” (I really think this college-age punk was just jealous that we were pulling away some of the attention from his bevy of high school hotties).  To this day, I’ve never been back to that particular Burger King, and I subconsciously choose the other burger joint whenever I see a Burger King and another fast food place together.

When I was in college, I received a crash course (almost literally) in customer service when I road Greyhound one weekend to go home from school.  It was bad enough that the bus took 10 hours to make a 3 hour trip, but I swear the driver was on methamphetamine as he drove, and I was not the only one of the passengers to notice.  I stowed my baggage, and watched them put it on the cargo hold.  It held almost all of my cloths which, like any college student, I was bringing home to be cleaned for free.  The baggage was labeled as mine.  The ride was truly frightening, and I was glad when we got to my destination in Denton.  It had been obvious for most of the trip that the driver was running behind, and that he would have used a hyper drive to make the bus go even fast if it had been available to him.  When we got to Denton, he played his customer service card.  He informed the ten or so of us that there was no record of our luggage on his paperwork.  This, of course was a lie.  He simply did not want to take the time to get our luggage off the bus.  It told him which baggage compartment my luggage was in, and that it was labeled with my information.  He refused to even look for it.  Since most of my worldly possessions consisted of clothes at this time, I was reluctant to lose them in this manner.  It told him that I would not leave the bus until he looked for my stuff.  He actually touched me trying to get me off the bus at one point, but quickly let go, and threatened to call the cops.  Eventually, I relented.  I wish to this day that I had pushed it further and seen what the highway patrol would have had to say to him…, or me.

Of course, it was a holiday weekend, and my mom had to drive me to down-town Dallas, and spend about four hours of the weekend that I wanted to use for rest and recuperation retrieving my luggage.  They did not even offer an apology.  I informed my parents that we would be finding me transportation or I would not be going back to school.  It was an empty threat because I liked school, but it worked.  I have never considered riding the bus anywhere since then.  In fact, I will go out of my way to tell people of the awful service I received from Greyhound.  Don’t ever user this company (how’s that?).

I guess the best example that I can find has to do with car maintenance.  Since I was in high school, Just Brakes has run commercials touting brake service for $100 for each set of brakes.  Anyone who has ever been to this place knows it is a lie. 

I had to get my brakes done one day, and I could not get a ride, so I was stuck at Just Brakes for several hours waiting for the work to be completed.  I proceeded to watch them up-charge every person who came through the door.  It was shameful.  The pitch was the same every time.  They would insist on replacing the same “worn-out” items on each car that they serviced (including mine).  It was fascinating that every car regardless of make, model or year would have the same problems with their brake systems.  For instance, they recommended replacing a particular spring on every car that came in.  The spring was $30 and the labor was extra.  As the day wore on, I watched every person who came through the door get charged over $600 to get their brakes done.  Anyone who balked at the price was told that if they did not have all of the recommended service done to their cars, then Just Brakes would not warranty them.  Of course, Just Brakes had already done work and labor by this time, so they had these people (including myself) over a barrel.  I thought about refusing the warranty, but something about the people who ran this particular outfit made me think that doing so would simply make me a good candidate for the example they needed to scare everyone into paying their fees.  You know, the guy who did not pay for the warranty, and oops, his brake line was worn out, came apart and led to his untimely death.  So, I sat there awaiting my fate like a WWII gypsy, and when my turn came, I paid their exorbitant fee.  But, I determined never to go there again, and I encourage you, unless you like to be lied to and have your money stolen not to use them either.

A good mechanic is hard to find, but since I found one, and his service is the best example I have ever seen of consistent, great service combined with a fair price, I will mention him here.  The business is 40-M Tire and Alignment in Lewisville, Texas (He does more than just tires and alignments).  His great service, often doing things such as plugging a tire for free, has led me to recommend him to every person that I know.  My whole family and many friends still use him.  I will still drive the 40 miles to get service from him if it is possible, and I can even trust him not to take advantage of my mother’s lack of automobile knowledge.  He treats her very well, often refusing payment for his services.

The best example of great service from him occurred when I was getting some work done to my vehicle.  I asked to have the front brakes done, an alignment, and an oil change.  On the way out the door, I remembered that I needed to get an inspection that month so I asked him for that also.  He said that the rest would be no problem, but that he did not do inspections.  I said, “Ok, just do the other stuff.”  He called me before 12:00 noon that day and told me my vehicle was ready.  When I went to pick it up, he said, “I went ahead and took it down the street and got it inspected for you.”  He did not even charge me anything extra!  Now that’s service!  And, this was all coming from a guy whose lot you could barely park in because of the amount of business he did.  I guess there was a reason for that.

 

If you have customer service stories (good or bad), please feel free to tell me (and the world)about it in the form of a comment.