In late 1987 and early 1988, there was a song that was frequently played on rock/pop stations in New England (and maybe across the country, but that’s where I was at the time). It was in a minor key, had a male vocalist, and had lyrics which suggested that the vocalist/protagonist had been recently released from an asylum or mental institution. It had a winsome, rather sad feel to it. It might have been sung by George Harrison, but I’m not at all sure of that.
REM- The One I Love
David Bowie- Ashes to Ashes (though the album it was on was released in 1980)
If it’s not those, I might be able to rack my brain and see if I can think of something else. The 80’s music I listen to is mostly on the New Wave side.
Do you remember if it was a synth-based song or was it more guitar based?
Slow tempo, almost elegiac in tone. Try as I might, I can’t remember any of the lyrics other than what I wrote in the OP (if I could, I’d have Googled it years ago). I’m almost certain it’s neither REM or Bowie, but I’ll check those out on iTunes. Having read the lyrics to “Cheer Down,” I’m sure it’s not that. I think it was mostly guitar and the singer’s voice; no synth that I remember.
Well, if you don’t find the song you’re looking for, you’ll at least get something out of this; the Bowie song is one of my favorites. I’m not a big fan of that particular REM song though.
U2’s album The Joshua Tree was release in 1987 and some of the songs from it seem like they might fit your criteria.
The Smiths’ album Strangeways Here We Come was also released that year. The song that immediately springs to mind is “Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me”. I’d be really surprised if it received radio play in the US though (or anywhere for this particular song). Plus this song doesn’t seem like it could easily be confused with George Harrison’s music. I don’t know how good the iTunes preview would be, because the song has a long intro that’s different from the rest of it.
It looks like George Harrison did release an album in 87, Cloud Nine.
Maybe this link will help you out. I found it by googling popular songs in 1987, there are several useful looking links that turn up, but the Wikipedia one looks the most useful.