Like most summers in southern California, the summer of ’87 was hot and exciting, especially on Melrose Avenue. The street was a few years into its creative renaissance with music, art, and fashion colliding in ways that drew international attention.
Driving down the street, day or night, in the summer of ’87 you’d have heard a wide variety of tunes, and plenty by artists from right here in Los Angeles. We’ve put together a Spotify playlist that represents that special summer, thirty years ago. Enjoy!
It’s the 30th anniversary of the release of one of rock’s most legendary albums, Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction. Its first single, “Welcome to the Jungle,” still stands as one of the best songs in rock history. Its blending of guitar-focused classic rock and the bombast of the Sunset Strip ushered in years of big hair, tight leather, and badassery.
Speaking of, Motley Crue was on its fourth album, Girls, Girls, Girls by the summer of 1987. The entire album captured the stereotypical L.A. lifestyle of the era: fast, brash, sexy, and totally inebriated. This single was a shout out to strip clubs around the country, with special emphasis on the Hollywood scene. Melrose, motorcycles, Motley Crue.
There was a lot of attitude being slung around in music that summer. Even Michael Jackson was a street tough for a minute in the title track of his album Bad. Not only did the song itself have resonance, the video fashion took hold all over Melrose, with a fresh take on leather jackets, belts, and boots.
On the smoother R&B tip, “Wishing Well” was THE summer of ’87 jam. From the debut album Introducing the Hardline According to Terance Trent D’Arby, it was on heavy rotation in many of the Melrose shops and mostly definitely what was in the ears of the Walkman wearers on the streets.
Brit pop was always a staple on Melrose, both in the record and clothing stores. When Bananarama dropped WOW! and its hit single “I Heard a Rumour” the girl trio’s playful inspiration was everywhere. Known for colorful videos with Cher-level costume changes, cowgirl and Carmen Miranda styles were must-haves.
Unexpected? Yes. Excellent? Hell yes! For their album Crushin’, Brooklyn hip hop trio The Fat Boys enlisted OG SoCal boy band The Beach Boys to sing back up on a cover of The Safari’s surf classic, “Wipeout.” Fun fact: “I Heard a Rumour” is on the soundtrack of The Fat Boys movie, Disorderlies.
One of 1987’s must-see movies was La Bamba, the sweet and sad story of rock and roll star Ritchie Valens starring Lou Diamond Phillips. East L.A.’s Tex-Mex legends Los Lobos recorded the title track and delivered a #1 hit and brought some Latin dance inspiration to summer festivities.
With the single “Touch of Grey,” the twenty year old hippie jam band the Grateful Dead successfully introduced itself to a new generation. Maybe it was the dystopian lyrics that met the agitation of younger audiences. Maybe it was their very first video. In any event, Dead merch got stocked up on Melrose and remains there now that smoking weed from your tie-die teddy bear is legal.
Madonna’s influence will never NOT be on Melrose. Every fashion statement she’s made since the early 80’s has an iteration in boutiques down the block. In 1987, though, she gave us two looks from Who’s That Girl: the pixie blonde ‘30s starlet from the movie, and the dark-haired and oversized jacket mystery woman from the video. The title track was a clothing store constant.
“Luka” definitely wasn’t typical summertime music: a folk-pop song about child abuse. But somehow Santa Monica-native Suzanne Vega was able to get her Top 10 downer onto radios and into our heads, even on sunny carefree Cali days.
Enjoy the Melrose Summer of ’87 playlist Spotify here:
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