My friends and I have a term of endearment for radio songs that we listened to as kids: they are known as “Driving-to-the-Bank-with-Your-Mom Songs.”
Every generation has songs like this, but I’ll explain the criteria anyway: these are songs from the mid-80s to early-90s that were on the radio or the cassette player all the time. In fact, they were on the radio so much that it seemed that every time you were in the car running errands with your mom, you heard them.
Technically, you didn’t have to be going to the bank. These songs also could have been playing while you were being dropped off at school or going to baseball practice or the grocery store. And, not to quibble semantics, but you could have also been schlepped around by your dad while hearing these songs. The point is, they take you back to that car ride when you hear them.
Without further adieu, here’s my top ten, in no particular order. How about you? What are your favorite “Driving-to-the-Bank-with-Your-Mom Songs”?
10. “Warrior” by Patty Smyth and Scandal (1984). Catchy tune. According to my mom, this was playing on the radio the day she dropped me off for my first day of kindergarten. A little known fact about Patty Smyth: she auditioned to sing for Van Halen after David Lee Roth quit in 1985.
9. “How Will I Know” by Whitney Houston (1985). Because of Whitney’s recent death, I had to include one of her songs. I distinctly remember the Whitney Houston (1985) cassette being around the house and in the car.
8. “Roam” by B-52’s (1989). “Love Shack” – also by the B-52’s – is a little too obvious, and I actually remember “Roam” as more of a car song. Other than these two songs, I couldn’t name another B-52’s song if you held a gun to my head.
7. “Hungry Eyes” by Eric Cartman (just kidding, the artist is actually Eric Carmen (1987)). This song appeared on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack (1987), and for a time, I thought Carmen was saying “hungry owls.” This amused—and still amuses—my mom and dad.
6. “Candle in the Wind” by Sir Elton John. This was released in 1973, but I first heard it when it was re-released as a live single in 1987, when it reached number six on the U.S. charts. This is one of the two songs that I know were written about Marilyn Monroe. The other? Def Leppard’s “Photograph” (1983).
5. “She Drives Me Crazy” by Fine Young Cannibals. This song hit number one in the U.S. in April 1989, just as I was completing my banner year in the second grade. A nice guitar riff; maybe I purchased this on iTunes, and maybe I didn’t.
4. “Invisible Touch” by Genesis. This was at the height of the “is this a Genesis song or Phil Collins solo song?” confusion. Collins had taken over Genesis and transformed them from a lame British prog-rock band into a lame British pop-rock band, and that’s a compliment. A definite summer car song in 1987.
3. “Things Can Only Get Better” by Howard Jones (1985). Ho-Jo is Britain’s finest export, the standard by which all pop artists post-1985 would be judged. Actually, he was a one-hit wonder, but this song was the soundtrack to many trips to TCF Bank. Years later, I heard the infectious “whoa whoa whoa whoa, whoa whoa” bridge while at a bar; I didn’t know who the artist was, but I had to get the song on my iPod. I typed in the “whoas” on Google and found the song within five minutes. I love the Internet.
2. “Papa Don’t Preach” by Madonna (1986). The Material Girl ruled the radio in the mid-80s. For some reason this song reminds me of driving to Milwaukee’s south side to visit my grandparents; “Preach” hit number one in 1986 and probably was in heavy rotation during these drives.
Watch the “Papa Don’t Preach” video here. Warner Bros. doesn’t want people to be able to embed this song. Jerks.
1. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears (1985). I still like this song a lot and actually own other music by Tears for Fears. Also known as the theme song to Dennis Miller’s HBO show in the 1990s, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” still reminds me of growing up in the 1980s.