Cher – “Just Like Jesse James”

“Just Like Jesse James” was released as the second single from Cher’s 1989 album, Heart of Stone. The single was released in October 1989 and peaked at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

I was in the ninth grade when this song came out, and it grabbed me the very first time I heard it. There’s just something about the opening of this song that just grabs the listener’s attention and makes you want to listen to it. While it fit in with the music that was being released at that time, it also had a sound that wasn’t very common in pop at that time.

I’ve also always enjoyed the lyrics of the song, especially how much it incorporates images of Wild West bandit Jesse James as well as other phrases and images from the Wild West. To me, “Just Like Jesse James” has really stood the test of time, and it doesn’t sound dated. I enjoy this song just as much today as I did when it was being promoted as a single back in late 1989 and early 1990. It’s still one of my favorite songs on the Heart of Stone album.

At the time, I never saw a music video for “Just Like Jesse James,” because MTV never showed it; so I thought for years that there wasn’t a video for the song. I discovered that a music video does indeed exist for it when I found a couple of copies posted on YouTube. It turns out it’s nothing terribly spectacular; it basically intercuts footage from the “I Found Someone” music video with clips from Western films. And it also appears that the video uses an edited version of the song that fades out near the bridge.

I’m embedding a copy of the music video below, and I apologize in advance to any of my readers who are unable to view the video due to region blocking.

Technotronic – “Pump Up the Jam”

“Pump Up the Jam” was the lead-off single for Technotronic’s album of the same name. The single was released in 1989, and it peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in early 1990.

The song was a very catchy dance number, and it definitely sounds like a product of its time. Honestly, I can see why it performed so well at the time. While it didn’t age well, I have to admit that I still enjoy listening to it. It definitely still ranks up there as one of my favorite dance songs that came out while I was in the ninth grade.

Of course, we can’t get into a discussion of this song without getting into the controversy that arose. At the time the song was released, it was credited as being by Technotronic featuring Felly; also, the album was originally given this same credit. Felly is the woman who appeared in the “Pump Up the Jam” video and on the album cover. It came out that Felly didn’t actually sing or rap on the album; she was simply a model who lip-synched in the video.

I have to admit that I kind of suspected that something was up when I was listening to Rick Dees Weekly Top 40 one week, and Felly was interviewed during it. She didn’t speak a word of English and needed to have a translator in order to do the interview. Admittedly, the lyrics in “Pump Up the Jam” are rather simplistic and a non-English speaker could have learned how to perform it, but that interview bothered me at the time. Not too long after, my suspicions were proven to be correct. After it was discovered that Felly wasn’t an actual performer, the artwork for the album was changed, and the “featuring Felly” credit was removed as well. This lip-synching controversy ended up only being the tip of the iceberg for these kinds of scandals; later in 1990, the infamous Milli Vanilli scandal broke, and a short time later, Martha Wash accused C&C Music Factory, Seduction, and Black Box of using her voice on their recordings and not giving her credit.

The music video for “Pump Up the Jam” was definitely a product of its time. It’s a very late-1980’s club video, and there’s a lot of flashing lights, bright colors, cheesy text, etc. This video aged even worse than the actual song did. The video is about 25 years old, and watching it now can be a rather painful experience.

For those who are brave enough to watch it, I’ve embedded the video below. I apologize in advance to any of my readers who are unable to view the video due to region blocking.

Jody Watley – “Everything”

“Everything” was the third single from Jody Watley’s second album, Larger Than Life. The single was released on August 22, 1989, and it peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

I was in the ninth grade when this single was released, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well Jody could sing a ballad. The previous two singles from Larger Than Life (“Real Love” and “Friends”) were dance numbers, as were all the singles from Jody’s first album. Even though I myself hadn’t been through any romantic relationships at that point in my life, I could still sense the sincerity that Jody put into her delivery of the song. Even though it’s been about 25 years since this song came out, I still think it’s just as good today as when it was released in 1989.

The music video basically shows Jody on the road, as well as footage of her performing “Everything” on stage. There’s also some performance footage cut in that obviously didn’t come from a performance of this song, since she’s seen dancing in them. It’s not bad for the type of music video it is, but I always wished that there could’ve been some kind of story-based video made for the song. I have to guess that at the time a video would’ve been made for “Everything” that Jody was out on tour and couldn’t fit time into her schedule to actually a shoot a music video. Even with all that said, I’m grateful that “Everything” even got a music video, since there were some singles that came out in the late 1980s and 1990s that never had music videos.

I am embedding the video for “Everything” below, and I apologize in advance to any of my readers who are unable to view the video due to region blocking.

Rod Stewart – “Downtown Train”

“Downtown Train” was a song originally recorded by Tom Waits in 1985. In 1989, Rod Stewart recorded a cover of the song and included it on the Storyteller – The Complete Anthology: 1964-1990 release. “Downtown Train” peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in January of 1990.

This song was released when I was in the ninth grade, and I fell in love with the song instantly. There was just something about the sound of it musically that grabbed me, and Rod’s vocal performance sounded like he really meant what he said. At the time, I had no idea that it was a cover song; that was something I learned a little later. Unfortunately, as of this writing, I haven’t had the opportunity to hear the original Tom Waits recording in order to compare the two of them.

To this day, I still love Rod’s rendition of “Downtown Train,” and it still ranks as one of my favorite Rod Stewart songs of all-time.

The video isn’t anything terribly fancy, but it does provide a kind of story that ties in with the lyrics of the song. It’s a good video for what it is, and I still enjoy watching it over 20 years later.

I am embedding the music video below, and I apologize in advance to any of my readers who are unable to view it due to region blocking.

Billy Joel – “We Didn’t Start the Fire”

“We Didn’t Start the Fire” was the lead-off single for Billy Joel’s 1989 album, Storm Front. The single was released on September 27, 1989. The song ended up spending two weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on December 9 and 16, 1989.

“We Didn’t Start the Fire” is basically a history lesson, with names of historical figures, references to historical events, and pop culture references for the decades that this song covers. The song begins in 1949, the year Billy Joel was born, and goes through 1989, the year the song was written and recorded.

I was in the ninth grade when this song was released, and I thought it was fascinating. Admittedly, there were quite a few of the references I didn’t understand at the time the song was released, but I was still fascinated by the song. Over the years, I’ve come to learn more about the references that I didn’t know back in 1989, and my appreciation for this song has only grown because of acquiring that knowledge.

I’ve always liked the music video, too. Quite a bit of the video focuses on the evolution of a family. It begins with a newlywed couple moving into their new home, followed by the wife’s pregnancy and birth of their first child. There’s a skip in time to the baby, a son, going through his toddler and elementary school years. Then the focus changes to his younger sister, and we see her going from playing with Barbie dolls to being in high school and getting ready for a formal dance, to her burning bras while her older brother burns his draft card. Near the end, we see that the husband has died and then we see the wife with who I believe would be either her adult children or her grandchildren in a demolished house. In addition to seeing the family change, we also see the d├ęcor of the house change and the family members’ clothing styles change as the song goes through the various decades that it covers.

Not only did I acquire knowledge about some of the references in the song as I got older, I now understand a visual reference in the video that didn’t make sense to me for many years. At one point, the daughter is playing violin very badly and the mother is holding her hands over her ears. Then we see the mother take out a pill bottle, take a couple of pills, and then she’s playing the violin and looking zonked out. Several years later, I was exposed to the Rolling Stones’ “Mother’s Little Helper,” and I now understand that this is a visual reference to the popularity of valium (diazepam), the mild tranquilizer that was being prescribed to housewives in the 1960s.

Another thing I’ve come to realize about this song is the fact that, musically, it doesn’t really sound that dated. The only thing to truly date the song is the fact that the lyrics ends with references from 1989. “We Didn’t Start the Fire” is a song that I still really enjoy nearly 25 years after its initial release. My kids also seem to like it, too.

I’m embedding the video for “We Didn’t Start the Fire” below, and I apologize in advance to any of my readers who are unable to view the video due to region blocking.

Lou Gramm – “Just Between You and Me”

“Just Between You and Me” was the lead-off single for Lou Gramm’s second solo album, Long Hard Look. The single was released in North America on October 28, 1989, and it peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

This was another song that was released during my freshman year of high school. This AOR track also had a very strong pop hook to it, and it’s one of those songs I fell in love with rather quickly after hearing it for the first time. I just love how the music and Lou’s voice convey the emotion of the lyrics. It’s a song I really liked at the time, and it’s a song that’s really withstood the test of time. I enjoy it just as much now as I did when it first came out almost 25 years ago.

The music video to accompany the song was in black and white, and it features shots of Lou Gramm lip-syncing the song with shots of a couple going through both good and bad times in their relationship. I always thought that the “story” of the couple really helped to illustrate the song in the video.

I am embedding the video for “Just Between You and Me” below, and I apologize in advance to any of my readers who are unable to view the video due to region blocking.

Taylor Dayne – “With Every Beat of My Heart”

“With Every Beat of My Heart” was the lead-off single for Taylor Dayne’s second album, Can’t Fight Fate. The single was released in the United States on October 10, 1989, and it peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

When I first heard this song on the radio back in 1989, it caught my attention immediately. While it was still dance pop like a lot of the material on her first album, there was something about the arrangement that made it sound a little tighter and it sounded very pop accessible. Now that I’m older and listening to the material from Can’t Fight Fate now, I realize that the material on this album was pop material with a dance lean. With her first album, Tell It To My Heart, the material tended to be dance material with a pop lean.

“With Every Beat of My Heart” is a nice, upbeat song I enjoy listening to, but it’s not my favorite single from Can’t Fight Fate. I’m planning on covering my favorite single off the album a little further down the line.

I watched the video for “With Every Beat of My Heart” on YouTube after not seeing it for a number of years. After seeing it, I was like, “Wow, this is video is just so random.” It’s basically shots of Taylor Dayne intercut with very random images (like an old guy dancing in his underwear, a Dalmatian walking across a room, a bride and groom getting drenched with water, a vase of flowers falling over… I think you get the picture). I really like the song, but the music video… not so much.

I’m embedding the video for “With Every Beat of My Heart” below, and I apologize in advance to any of my readers who are unable to watch it due to region blocking.