Sunday, August 31, 1986

The Rainmakers “Downstream” released as single


The Rainmakers

Writer(s): Bob Walkenhorst (see lyrics here)

Album Released: August 1986

Album Charted: September 13, 1986

Single Released: May 11, 1987

Peak: 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.16 video, 0.11 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

In 1983, singer/songwriter, guitarist and drummer Bob Walkenhorst formed a three-piece bar band with guitarist/singer Steve Phillips and bassist Rich Ruth. The trio, known as Steve, Bob and Rich, formed in Kansas City and became popular in the Midwest, evolving into the Rainmakers after the addition of Pat Tomek on drums. That group never gained widespread national attention, although they remained a regional favorite and surprisingly gained an audience in Norway.

The Rainmakers released their self-titled debut in 1986. The album included newly recorded versions of “Let My People Go Go,” “Nobody Knows,” “Big Fat Blonde,” and “Information,” all songs originally recorded for the 1984 Steve, Bob and Rich album Balls. Among the new material the most notable was the song “Downstream.”

The song celebrated the band’s Missouri roots with references to rock-and-roll architect Chuck Berry, President Harry Truman, and writer Mark Twain. The homage to Berry is especially appropriate considering how much the band draws their roots-rock sound from artists such as him, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Bruce Springsteen. He also explained that when he first teamed with Steve Phillips, they were both CCR “fanatics – it was the best band that ever existed: hard, powerful vocals yet simple song structures.” LR Walkenhorst also said, “I admire Springsteen a lot…he hasn’t contradicted himself; he’s not acting like a god.” PK

Its also fitting that “Downstream” references Mark Twain. The history page on the Rainmakers’ website describes the band as combining “the guitar power of Berry with the social wit of Twain into a unique brand of Missouri rock n’ roll.” RM It’s also been said that their “though-provoking rock and roll…recalls the lyrics of T-Bone Burnett…and the early Rolling Stones.” PK “Cross a more literate John Mellencamp with Webb Wilder and you have this…band sized up.” AMG


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First posted 7/12/2022; last updated 12/29/2022.

Lyle Lovett released his self-titled debut album

Lyle Lovett

Lyle Lovett

Released: August 1986

Peak: -- US, 14 CW

Sales (in millions): --

Genre: alt-country/Americana


Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Cowboy Man [2:48] (11/1/86, 10 CW)
  2. God Will [2:13] (2/21/87, 18 CW)
  3. Farther Down the Line [3:05] (7/12/86, 21 CW)
  4. This Old Porch (Lyle Lovett/Robert Earl Keen) [4:16]
  5. Why I Don’t Know [2:41] (6/6/87, 15 CW)
  6. If I Were the Man You Wanted [3:57] (9/23/89, 49 CW)
  7. You Can’t Resist It [3:08]
  8. The Waltzing Fool [3:49]
  9. An Acceptable Level of Ecstasy (The Wedding Song) [3:30]
  10. Closing Time [3:43]

All songs written by Lyle Lovett unless noted otherwise.

Total Running Time: 32:30


3.706 out of 5.00 (average of 16 ratings)

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

While this is the closest Lyle Lovett has come “to making a straight country disc,” AMG he also made it clear on his debut that “he was an eccentric in the great Texas tradition…Rather than sounding like the new boy in Nashville, he presented himself as the odd but likable distant relative of Guy Clark and Jesse Winchester.” AMG

“While This Old Porch and If I Were the Man You Wanted proved he could write a sincere and affecting song as well as anyone, they also made clear that he wasn’t cut out for Nashville-style radio-ready singles, while the ironic Cowboy Man and the wickedly cynical cheating song God Will proved Lovett possessed a genius for taking traditional formulas and giving them a hard twist.” AMG

“The jazzy sway of An Acceptable Level of Ecstasy (The Wedding Song) offers a witty and engaging preview of the blues-flavored sound Lovett would hone on later albums, and in this context the tunefully obsessive You Can’t Resist It sounds like the great pop hit he never had.” AMG

“While under Tony Brown’s production (and with a team of Nashville session vets backing him up) some of the sharper edges of Lovett’s musical personality were smoothed down.” AMG Still, his “reedy but soulful voice shines through, and a casual listen confirms that Lovett’s music was just as strong as his lyrics. Along with Steve Earle’s Guitar Town, Lyle Lovett was one of the most promising and exciting debut albums to come out of Nashville in the 1980s, and like Earle’s album, this set a high bar for what would become an exciting and idiosyncratic career, proving first-rank singer/songwriters didn’t just come from New York or Los Angeles.” AMG

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First posted 5/18/2022.

Monday, August 25, 1986

Paul Simon released Graceland


Paul Simon

Released: August 25, 1986

Charted: September 13, 1986

Peak: 3 US, 18 UK, 14 CN, 15 AU

Sales (in millions): 5.0 US, 2.2 UK, 15.6 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: pop/world music


(Click for codes to charts.)
  1. The Boy in the Bubble (Paul Simon/Forere Motloheloa) [3:59] (2/21/87, 86 US, 15 AR, 26 UK, 46 AU, 17 DF)
  2. Graceland (Paul Simon) [4:48] (11/15/86, 81 BB, 69 CB, 34 AC, 38 AR, 71 CN, 62 AU, 5 DF)
  3. I Know What I Know (Paul Simon/General MD Shrinda) [3:13] (29 DF)
  4. Gumboots (Paul Simon/Lulu Masilela/Jonhjon Mkhalali) [2:44] (34 DF)
  5. Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes (Paul Simon/Joseph Shabalala) [5:45] (2/87, 69 AU, 2 DF)
  6. You Can Call Me Al (Paul Simon) [4:39] (8/9/86, #20a BB, 26 CB, 22 GR, 21 RR, 15 AC, 42 AR, 4 UK, 11 CN, 2 AU, 5 DF)
  7. Under African Skies (with Linda Ronstadt) (Paul Simon) [3:37] (15 DF)
  8. Homeless (Paul Simon/Joseph Shabalala) [3:48] (6 DF)
  9. Crazy Love, Vol. II (Paul Simon) [4:18] (31 DF)
  10. That Was Your Mother (Paul Simon) [2:52] (37 DF)
  11. All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints (Paul Simon) [3:15] (34 DF)

Total Running Time: 43:18


4.635 out of 5.00 (average of 27 ratings)

Quotable:Graceland became the standard against which subsequent musical experiments by major artists were measured.” – William Ruhlmann, All Music Guide


(Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

When it came out, Graceland was “lauded as the folk singer’s comeback record, it made a cultural impact far greater than anyone could’ve possibly guessed.” PM In 1984, Paul Simon was reeling from his failed marriage to Carrie Fisher, a reunion with Art Garfunkel which soured, and the ho-hum reception of his album Hearts and Bones, which Robert Christgau said “was a finely wrought dead end, caught up in introspection, whimsy, and the kind of formal experimentation only obsessive pop sophisticates even notice.” VV

Simon was musically rejuvenated by a bootleg called Gumboots: Accordion Jive Hits, Volume II. Heidi Berg, a singer-songwriter who had worked with Simon as a producer, loaned him the tape WK and, according to myth, Simon hopped a flight to Soweto immediately after hearing it “to learn more about the township jive called umbaqanga,” TL which Simon has called “the reggae of the ‘80s.” VV In reality it was a few months later before Simon embarked on his African pilgrimage. Nonetheless, it remains “the most spontaneous thing the world’s most rational songwriter is even rumored to have done, and that sense of liberation and adventure is all over Graceland.” TL

Simon requested Warner Bros. contacts to track down the artist responsible for the tape. WK When it was pinpointed as either South African vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo or the Boyoyo Boys, WK Simon was dismayed. The United States had imposed economic sanctions on South Africa because of its apartheid government. RV Simon said, “Too bad it’s not from Zimbabe, Zaire, or Nigera. Life would have been more simple.” VV Nonetheless, Simon knew he had to work with these artists. South African record producer Hilton Rosenthal made the arrangements for Simon and Roy Halee, the engineer for Graceland to go to Johnannesburg in February 1985 to spend two weeks recording. WK

The “former folkie” UT threw “his ears open to a host of new players and singers” TL and created “exotically fanciful collaborations” UT with the aforementioned Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Boyoyo Boys as well as Lulu Masilela, Tao Ea Matsekha, General M.D. Shirinda, and the Gaza Sisters. WK Simon also brought a trio of musicians back to the States to help him record – guitarist Ray Phiri, bassist Baghiti Kumalo, and drummer Isaac Mtshali. VV

Back in the States, he also worked with the Everly Brothers, Linda Ronstadt, Los Lobos, and Adrian Belew, incorporating “a great number of musical styles, including zydeco, Tex-Mex and African vocal music.” NRR The mix of those styles with Simon’s “always perceptive songwriting” AMG made for “a fascinating hybrid that re-enchanted his old audience and earned him a new one.” AMG His introduction of world music into a pop arena gave listeners “that magical combination: something they’d never heard before that nevertheless sounded familiar.” AMG

“The South African angle…was a powerful marketing tool,” AMG but it wasn’t without controversy. The United Nations initially blacklisted Simon for violating the boycott. TL However, Simon’s relationship with the music was “deep and committed.” VV Not only did he pay the musicians triple-scale and give them composer credits, he brought Ladysith Black Mambazo to New York for a Saturday Night Live spot VV and brought them on tour.

The songs themselves are not political, for the most part. Simon professed, “I’m no good at writing politics.” VV There is “the protesty title Homeless,” VV which is “almost entirely a capella” RV and featured “stirring harmonies” VH1 from Ladysmith Black Mambazo, as did the “highly poetic Diamonds on the Soles of Her ShoesAMG Both were “exquisitely melancholic evocation[s] of African beauty and desolation.” VH1

“As eclectic as any record Simon had made,” AMG it also marked “a surprising new lyrical approach (presaged on some songs on Hearts and Bones):” AMGGraceland was the first album Simon ever made in which the rhythm tracks were recorded first, and the exuberant, propulsive tempos make even his gorgeous lament ‘Losing love/ Is like a window in your heart/ Everybody sees you’re blown apart,’ seem buoyant.” TL

Songs like The Boy in the Bubble showed Simon had “evolved as a lyricist on this album with lines that took on an almost Dylan-esque quality.” RV The song’s “pensive refrain…was as hopeful and socially conscious as any song he would ever write: ‘The way we look to a distant constellation / That’s dying in the corner of the sky / These are the days of miracle and wonder.’” RV It is “his most acute and visionary song in many years.” VV

Simon largely eschewed “a linear, narrative approach to his words,” AMG and evoked “striking images and turns of phrase torn from the headlines or overheard in contemporary speech.” AMG He experimented with exotic rhythms and chord structures, RV such as on the “satiric I Know What I Know.” AMG

The title cut details a road trip “‘through the cradle of the Civil War’ to Elvis’ mecca” VV and hints “that somehow the world’s foremost slave state is a haven of grace: ‘Maybe I've reason to believe/We all will be received/In Graceland.’” VV The song won the Grammy for Record of the Year.

An element of humor shows up in the hit single, You Can Call Me Al. VH1 The song, which has been interpreted as being about midlife crisis, references an incident in which Simon and his then-wife Peggy were at a party and mistakenly referred to as “Al” and “Betty.” The video featured Chevy Chase lip-syncing Simon’s vocals while Simon lip-synced the backing vocals and played various instruments. The two men – marked by a foot in height difference – eventually dance to the song together.

Initially the song failed to reach the top 40 in the U.S., but after Graceland won the Grammy for Album of the Year, the song recharted, peaking at #23. Outside the U.S., it made the top 10 in several European countries.

“It is difficult now to recall the enormous impact of this trans-cultural album,” VH1 but Graceland “became the standard against which subsequent musical experiments by major artists were measured.” AMG With it, Simon created music “heard across the globe” AZ and it still reaches “generations of music enthusiasts…unaware of how pivotal that one album was” AZ in birthing “the idea of World Music.” AZ It wasn’t “the first time that Simon or other Western and non-Western cultures intersected, but Graceland marked a watershed moment where world music began to emerge from being a series of isolated musical pockets to an institutionalized transnational music scene.” PM “Over the past 35 years, no American album has changed the world-music landscape more than Paul Simon’s Graceland.” PM


A 2004 reissue added alternate versions of “Homeless,” “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes,” and “All Around the World or The Myth of Fingerprints.” A 2012 reissue included those as well as demo versions of “You Can Call Me Al” and “Crazy Love” in addition to Paul Simon telling the story of Graceland.

Review Sources:

First posted 3/23/2008; last updated 6/5/2024.

Wednesday, August 20, 1986

Huey Lewis & the News “Naturally” released on Fore! album


Huey Lewis & the News

Writer(s): Johnny Colla, Huey Lewis (see lyrics here)

Released: August 20, 1986 (album cut)

First Charted: --

Peak: 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.41 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Huey Lewis & the News formed in San Francisco in 1979. Their self-titled 1980 debut failed to chart, but 1982’s Picture This reached #13 and went gold, thanks to the top-ten hit “Do You Believe in Love?” Two more singles charted – “Hope You Love Me Like You Say You Do” (#36) and “Workin’ for a Livin’” (#41), but this didn’t seem like a band that would go on the have much more success. In fact, they were just getting started.

Their Sports album was one of the unexpected hits of 1983. “Heart and Soul,” “I Want a New Drug,” “The Heart of Rock and Roll,” and “If This Is It” were all top-10 hits, aided by the band’s likable presence in fun videos on MTV. The album also had a fifth hit with the top-20 “Walking on a Thin Line.” The blockbuster success of what had become the world’s most successful bar band led to the album reaching #1 and selling seven million copies.

They followed up with “The Power of Love,” a #1 song from the 1985 movie Back to the Future. Between that and the monstrous success of Sports, the band were in an unexpected position when recording their next album. As Lewis said, “We had never released a record to any expectations before…There was a certain amount of pressure that was new to us.” UCR

They delivered with the 1986 album, Fore!, a three-million seller which also hit #1 on the album chart. They scored two #1 songs (“Stuck with You,” “Jacob’s Ladder”) from the album as well as three more top-10 hits (“Hip to Be Square,” “I Know What I Like,” and “Doing It All for My Baby”).

As successful as the singles were, the album also featured some killer non-single cuts such as “Simple As That” and “Naturally.” The latter was an a cappella tune which sounded like it could have been written and recorded fifty years earlier. It was the last song they recorded fo the album. UCR It started as a slower song, but then they made it more up-tempo. It was released as a B-side for “Doing It All for My Baby.”


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First posted 12/27/2022.