Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! We've got a full playlist all set for you, to enjoy during the consumption of turkey et al., to drown out your relatives' argument about politics, or to lull you to a lovely food coma rest (also feel free to use it as your Black Friday alarm clock, where appropriate).
  1. ZZ Top, "I Thank You"
    We begin in a kind of obvious place, ZZ Top's 1980 cover of the Sam & Dave classic. This version hit just #34 on the pop charts, but not to worry -- the boys from Texas would soon embark on a tremendous run of popular success, charting 31 straight singles in the Rock Top 40 between 1981 and 2000, and even scoring back-to-back pop Top 10s with "Legs" and "Sleeping Bag."
  2. Delbert McClinton, "Giving It Up For Your Love"
    By far the biggest single of McClinton's career, he was already pushing 40 when it hit #8 pop in 1980 (Delbert's first-ever single came out all the way back in 1965). Still, he's been a recognized force in the Texas music scene for years, and fits right in here ("giving" following "thank" as far as titles go, right?)
  3. Bonnie Raitt, "Have A Heart"
    As coincidence (or good playlist planning) would have it, McClinton matched up with Raitt in 1991 on a duet called "Good Man, Good Woman." It got a bit lost in the shuffle of Bonnie's blockbuster Luck of the Draw album...if only because it's sandwiched between what became her two signature songs, "Something To Talk About" and "I Can't Make You Love Me." But it did win a Grammy. And this song, from Raitt's equally good Nick of Time, starts with one of the all-time great openers: "Hey! Shut up!"
  4. Bruce Springsteen, "Hungry Heart"
    I am thankful for Bruce Springsteen's River box set (which I was given by my brother-in-law last Christmas) and accompanying tour (which I took my dad to see in January). The third disc of the set, which lays out The River in its primitive single-album configuration, contains the unaltered original recording of "Hungry Heart," which I've included on Spotify tonight. If it feels sluggish: The version you're most familiar with was sped up by a half-step.
  5. Sting, "Fortress Around Your Heart"
    I am also thankful for the chance to see Sting in concert, which I did earlier this year on his tour with Peter Gabriel. (My mom, who I took to that show, and I also saw him star in his musical The Last Ship on Broadway last year.) He didn't play this at his show, but it's possibly my favorite solo single of his. It certainly is the most Police-sounding.
  6. The Police, "Synchronicity II"
    And as if on cue...my second-favorite Police single (only topped by "Every Little Thing...") It's amazing to me how few Police compilations this has ended up on over the years; it was a Top 20 hit and remains a radio staple here in the U.S. Alas, I feel it hasn't gotten its due, perhaps because of the whole Loch Ness Monster motif? I do like the Rice Krispies name-drop, though...
  7. Billy Joel, "Sometimes A Fantasy"
    Seeing Billy live for the first time in 10 years was easily one of my highlights this year, and he was in fine voice in an energetic and entertaining show in Philadelphia. And to top it all off, I was thrilled that he played this (and that it was great), my favorite off of Glass Houses, one of his best and most consistent albums front-to-back.
  8. Philip Bailey feat. Phil Collins, "Easy Lover"
    Now Phil Collins is a guy I'd love to see if he comes around in 2017. I'm thankful he's even able to go out on tour after some severe back problems and such over the last several years. He doesn't really drum anymore, but his voice still sounds crisp, as heard in his "Easy Lover" duet with Hamilton star Leslie Odom Jr. earlier this year. And Odom's talented, but Bailey will never be beat on this hit track.
  9. Randy Travis, "Forever And Ever, Amen"
    Travis' recent TV appearance -- cameoing to sing the last line of this 1986 instant classic -- reminded us just how far he has come since a massive stroke earlier this decade. "Forever And Ever, Amen" hit #1 on the country charts just like a parade of Randy's other singles in the late 1980s and into the 1990s, but few had the lasting impact that this one did.
  10. James Taylor feat. J.D. Souther, "Her Town Too"
    James Taylor should be thanked for never straining to change the formula. You buy a new James Taylor record these days, it sounds much the same as his work from 45 years ago. "Her Town Too," only 35 years old, was his last major Billboard hit, peaking at #11. J.D. Souther's warm harmonies add another level to this song that was more or less a naked autobiography of Taylor's breakup with Carly Simon.
  11. Stevie Wonder, "Overjoyed"
    I am thankful for my wife, even though she didn't agree with me that this would make for a good wedding song ;) It's an accurate representation of how I feel, though, and contains some of Stevie's best chord changes; no easy list to crack. What does spoil it somewhat is the pond-splashing electronic percussion that immediately dates the song to the mid-80s.
  12. Madonna, "Like A Prayer"
    If there is any doubt that this is Madonna's best single, I'd like to hear your opinion on what's better. The video, as you know by now, was wildly controversial in its day. But the song has now influenced generations of songwriters, perhaps most notably Taylor Swift on her acclaimed album 1989 -- specifically the track "How You Get The Girl," which if not in subject matter, then certainly in structure, is a virtual rewrite of Madonna's classic.
  13. Terence Trent d'Arby, "Wishing Well"
    Terence goes by a different name now, but under TTd', he left us with one of the most soulful singles of the late '80s. I didn't appreciate its true greatness until it appeared in a long-ago episode of the Web series Live from Daryl's House, reimagined as a duet between Daryl Hall and indie powerhouse Matt Nathanson. And yep, its iconic keyboard hook made it to that rendition (and a clever reference in a Family Guy episode).
  14. Daryl Hall & John Oates, "Everything Your Heart Desires"
    H&O had not put out new music in four years -- fans having had to be satiated by a Hall solo album and a live LP -- when the Philly duo returned in 1988 with "Everything Your Heart Desires." It's a great latter-day hit for the boys, and climbed all the way to #3 on the charts, but was not even their best song on the radio at the time. That would be Icehouse's signature hit "Electric Blue," co-written by Oates and passed over by Hall. Too bad...would have been great to hear him sing it.
  15. Richard Marx, "Should've Known Better"
    That old "best first track on debut album" debate of mine rears its ugly head with "Should've Known Better," one of four massive hits on Marx's first album, from 1987. We mentioned J.D. Souther before; he of course was a frequent Eagles collaborator, and Marx got together an Eagles mini-reunion (Joe Walsh, Randy Meisner, Timothy B. Schmit) on the track "Don't Mean Nothing." Speaking of...
  16. Jackson Browne, "For A Rocker"
    Browne, as you probably know, co-wrote "Take It Easy" with Glenn Frey, and cut a version of his own after the Eagles' take became a hit. By 1983, Browne was a major star in his own right, and the uptempo "For A Rocker" (one in a series of "For A..." songs on his albums) closed both the album Lawyers in Love and, along with it, the most commercially successful period of his career.
  17. Thompson Twins, "Lay Your Hands On Me"
    I'm thankful for remixes. The version of "Lay Your Hands On Me" you're listening to on Spotify is what's been referred to as the U.S. or "rock" mix from this synthpop group, with an extended, guitar-driven intro. I personally wouldn't have it any other way; that setup lends a lot of bite to this simmering track.
  18. Information Society, "What's On Your Mind (Pure Energy)"
    Presented here is the familiar radio mix of what most people would agree is Information Society's most famous song. It filled a void where groups like Duran Duran had been, at a time when DD was still churning out hits ("I Don't Want Your Love") that were good, but not up to the level of what they'd been producing three or four years prior.
  19. Todd Rundgren feat. Bobby Womack, "The Want Of A Nail"
    This 1989 Rundgren single, which missed the pop charts, would have easily faded into obscurity were it not for the 2003 movie Camp, a cult favorite among theater kids like myself -- I was 16 when it came out. A cast performance of "The Want Of A Nail" is, somewhat inexplicably, the movie's grand finale...despite its most notable star (Anna Kendrick in her film debut) being left out.
  20. Robert Palmer, "I Didn't Mean To Turn You On"
    Thankful for covers. Palmer's white-hot read on Cherrelle's 1984 song, penned by the soon-to-be-famous Minnesota duo of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, is the best thing about his 1986 Riptide album...that's right, even better than "Addicted To Love." This hit version (#2 pop) was produced by Palmer's Power Station bandmate Bernard Edwards, the former Chic bassist.
  21. Fleetwood Mac, "Gypsy"
    I didn't make this connection until reading it in a recent YouTube comment, but "Gypsy" shares many compositional characteristics with another favorite of mine, Bonnie Raitt's 1991 hit "Not The Only One" (yet another terrific track on Luck of the Draw). As for "Gypsy," it came out in the wake of Stevie Nicks' first solo album but is singularly distinctive in both hers and Fleetwood Mac's catalogue because of Lindsey Buckingham and Ken Caillat's (yep, Colbie's dad) expert production.
  22. Pet Shop Boys, "West End Girls"
    In a way, one of the first great rap singles. If you know '80s music, you likely know all the words to all the verses of this one. And it's resonated with me, for some reason, more than any other PSB hit...even the just-as-big "What Have I Done To Deserve This?," which benefits as well from a co-lead vocal cameo by Dusty Springfield.
  23. Michael Penn, "No Myth"
    It's a fairly common last name, but yes, Michael is the older brother of actors Sean and the late Chris Penn. "No Myth," from his 1989 album March, was a distinctive turn-of-the-decade smash, a Crowded House carbon copy with well-placed Shakespearean references. The Crowded House comp isn't a coincidence: both Penn and his wife Aimee Mann (of 'Til Tuesday) and CH singer Neil and his son Liam Finn did versions of the Beatles' "Two Of Us" for Sean Penn's I Am Sam soundtrack.
  24. Crowded House, "Better Be Home Soon"
    Speaking of...here's to hoping you've all arrived home safely after your Thanksgivings. "Better Be Home Soon" was the most impactful Crowded House single off their second album, Temple of Low Men, but missed the Top 40. That lends credence to the theory that Crowded House was a two-hit wonder ("Don't Dream It's Over" and "Something So Strong") in the States, but they had plenty of other great moments: "World Where You Live," "Weather With You," and the 1991 tearjerker "Fall At Your Feet."
  25. Tears for Fears, "Everybody Wants To Rule The World"
    The '80s song I'm most thankful for. I even like the Lorde cover. But nothing can come close to the original.