August 1987: Debbie Gibson Debuts with OUT OF THE BLUE
Summer 1987: Americans beat the heat by flocking to cinemas for screenings of The Lost Boys and Robocop, while the chart-topping sounds of Starship, Whitney Houston, Whitesnake and the Bangles blared out of car stereos from Sacramento to Albany. Shows like The Golden Girls and A Different World ruled the network TV roost, and fast-food king McDonald's attempted to clean up its fat-saturated image with fresh salads. This is what the world looked like when Debbie Gibson released her debut album, Out of the Blue, on August 18, 1987.
"I was still in high school while demo-ing my debut album, so I had a studio in my garage," Gibson reminisced to People in 2017 about her those golden years. "My friends thought that was so cool. During a blizzard, they all came over and we came up with an original song called 'Rappin’ on a Snowy Day.' We were a bunch of suburban kids trying to rap."
Making Out of the Blue was a bare-bones affair: "I recorded my early hits in producer Fred Zarr’s basement laundry room," the singer recalled. "There was this sheet hanging on a clothesline; if you pulled it back, there was his washer and dryer. (Laughs) I only got lint in my throat once!," adding that "I used Carvel Ice Cream rainbow sprinkles as my shaker on all of the demos for the Out of the Blue album."
Gibson's garage band beginnings are testament to her abilities, as she wrote every song on Out of the Blue, and co-produced the album. The singer worked with intention, with very definite goals in mind: "When I wrote 'Only in My Dreams,' I intentionally set out to write a song you could hear on the radio," she explained. "It worked!"
Released in February as Gibson's first single, "Only in My Dreams" simmered on the chart for months, picking up steam over the summer before peaking at #4 on the Hot 100 for the week of September 5, 1987. The #1 song in America that week: Los Lobos with "La Bamba."
Just as "Only in My Dreams" was peaking on the charts (and pop culture as a whole, thanks in large part to the music video's hold on MTV), "Shake Your Love" was released as the second single from Out of the Blue. The high-energy dance-pop tune was another hit on radio and MTV, skipping all the way to #4 on the Hot 100 for the week of December 19, 1987.
Gibson's hit streak continued with the Out of the Blue title track, with the peppy mid-tempo tune making a strong run up the charts, peaking at #3 on the Hot 100. The song's music video also introduced one of the singer's trademark looks: a simple black hat.
I got my signature black hat on (radio DJ) Scott Shannon’s Christmas radio special from (actor) Michael Damien. I took it off his head!," Gibson remembered. "I had black hats made up to take on tour with me. I threw my hat out into the audience at the end of every show. Ryan Seacrest‘s sister Meredith caught one of them!"
It was the fourth single from Out of the Blue that proved to be the chart-topping charm: "Foolish Beat." The sax-blasted ballad sauntered all the way to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week of June 25, 1988, making Gibson the youngest person to write, produce, and perform a number-one single entirely on her own at the tender age of 17.
By 1988, Debbie Gibson had established herself as a pop star to watch. With a series of top 10 singles to her credit, the singer's debut album, Out of the Blue, rose to peak position #7 on the Billboard 200 for the week of February 27, 1988. The #1 album in the country that week: George Michael's Faith.
"When I listen back to that album, I hear all my teenage enthusiasm," Gibson said in 2017. "I hear all the excitement of what was going on, and I hear all my influences of the time, like Madonna and George Michael, Cyndi Lauper. It was interesting for me to be a teen making music for teens, but simultaneously being in the thick of being a teen music fan at the same time. I just feel that connection to all of that when I listen to it.
"And I’m really proud of it. I think the productions really stand up,” she added. “I still sing live to those … tracks, which is hysterical. I’ll sing ‘Out of the Blue’ live to that instrumental that you heard on the album. It still sounds really full and crisp.”