middle school, making out, and

middle school, making out, and other misadventures with lionel richie
I saw Lionel Richie making his token appearance as a guest judge on American Idol tonight, and it reminded me of something I intended to rant about before. Here goes…

Lionel’s greatness in the realm of big love ballads can’t be disputed. This is the man whose career has spanned three decades and who brought us Say You, Say Me and Hello and Penny Lover and Stuck on You and Do it to Me and Easy and Three Times a Lady and…well, you get the point. Anyone who can have one of his love songs turned into the soundtrack for an NFL commercial that makes grown men cry some twenty years later sho nuff got tha stuff. When Lionel talks love songs, I listen. [I’ve even inserted my Lionel Richie: Truly – The Love Songs cd for effect as I write. Pretend you’re listening to it as you read along. …guess I’m oooooooon my way.] Anyway, my interest was understandably piqued as I was flipping channels and saw Mr. Richie’s mug on VH1 the other night. I don’t know what the show was called, but it was one of the 637 programs they’ve produced to pay homage to the 80’s. In this particular segment, Lionel was offering a list of “the best make-out songs of 1989.”

(If you’re my Mom, you should probably stop reading here.)

For many, this particular list might have invited complete ambivalence, but not me. For me it couldn’t be more relevant. Behind some of my friends and ahead of others, I began making out in 1989…middle school dance, Crane County Youth Center, Alonna Smith. Maybe I shouldn’t be so specific, but it was somewhat public, and I’m fairly sure the statute of limitations has expired on any kiss and tell laws governing my behavior in ’89. Besides, we’re all grown ups now and we can laugh about these things…right?* As a last resort at rationalization, I’m pretty sure that she doesn’t read my blog (nor do any of her sisters that I might or might not have also made out with during my misguided adolescence).

Anyway, given all that I had personally invested in this list, I came away quite disappointed. It was both short and lousy. This is what Lionel gave us:

Right Here Waiting … Richard Marx
If You Don’t Know Me by Now … Simply Red
Love Song … The Cure

When he started with Richard Marx, I was on board. Right Here Waiting is a classic of the era, and it fits the criteria well. The other two I can take or leave – they were big hits, but I don’t think they belong in a top 10 (much less top 3) make-out songs of 1989. A cynic by nature, I’ve purposed to invest as much energy in reconstruction as in deconstruction in all of life’s little neighborhoods. In that spirit, we’re going to make our own list. My ten nominations (in no particular order):

Angel Eyes … The Jeff Healey Band
Patience … Guns N Roses
Look Away … Chicago
Heaven … Warrant
What I Am … Edie Brickell (hey, to each his own, right?)
When I Look Into Your Eyes … Bad English
When I’m With You … Sheriff**
Blame it on the Rain … Milli Van—sorry, wrong list
I’ll Be There for You … Bon Jovi
Every Rose Has its Thorn … Poison
The End of the Innocence … Don Henley

Just to prove the invalidity of Lionel’s list, I stuck to 1989 with all of those. Feel free to expand your nominations a bit beyond that so that they fit you. Not everyone was making out in 1989 (which is a good thing), but most of us were at least imagining it until we finally found someone willing to waste hours of their life swapping saliva with us. For others, all of this talk of making out stirs some unpleasant memories (or at least it should – I know who some of you were making out with in 1989). Even if you were a wiser kid than me or you wish you’d saved your lips much longer than you did, you can still get into the spirit of this. Cast your votes† for the above nominations or throw in your own via the Comment link or by email.

NOTE: This post does not represent an endorsement of thirteen year-olds making out at dances or behind the bushes or in the basement (or at the drive-in or in the old man’s Ford). I was stupid and wasted a lot of kissing. Not because Alonna or any of the others weren’t nice or cute or whatever, but because we were kids dealing in a commodity we didn’t understand. Anyway, if you miss the heart of this little jaunt through the past, you’re probably either too young or too old to be reading this particular piece. Try this one.

* I warned you, Mom.
** This was the song playing at the middle school dance when…well, you know.
† Anyone who was over 30 in 1989 is not eligible to vote. That’s gross.