Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Steve Wariner, “You Can Dream of Me”

“You Can Dream of Me”

Steve Wariner

Written by John Hall and Steve Wariner

Radio & Records

#1 (2 weeks)

January 24 – January 31, 1986


#1 (2 weeks)

March 1, 1986

To my nineties ears, this is the first Steve Wariner record I’ve heard so far.

His vocal talents are subtle, and were clearly honed over time.  I thought “Some Fools Never Learn” was easily his best song so far, but I was yearning for the Wariner that I knew to show up on the vocal track.

He’s definitely here on “You Can Dream of Me,” which doesn’t reach the same lyrical heights as “Some Fools Never Learn,” but Wariner’s performance compensates for the difference.  He’s finally interpreting his songs, giving nuance to the lyric by stretching out his voice on specific words for emphasis.

It’s a bittersweet song and he establishes that feel so perfectly.  I’m not sure if I’ll end up as on board with eighties Steve Wariner as I remain for nineties Steve Wariner  (and especially nineties Arista Steve Wariner.)  But we’re getting there.

“You Can Dream of Me” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. This is my favorite Steve Wariner song. I love everything about the production, and in particular, the guitar playing.

    Lyrically, I also love the songwriting. Wariner didn’t miss very much for me in the 80s but this was his peak for me.

  2. It is fun to hear people reflecting on what was Wariner’s best decade.

    Here, he certainly sounds like he has found his lane vocally with a relaxed and breezy confidence.

    So much of Wariner’s appeal is about tasteful restraint.

    Add him to the list of underappreciated stars from the ’80s who typically don’t get their due in retrospectives or overviews of the decade best artists.

    We are into 1986 now with this hit.

    Country listeners and fans know what is coming.

    I am wondering exactly when country music sins so deeply that it will be determined it needs saving.

  3. I think you will like some of Wariner’s entries in this feature going forward. For a lot of casual 1990s country fans, they remember him for his comeback in the latter part of that decade and not much else. I know you know him from more than that, but a lot of his 1980s stuff kind of seems forgotten in comparison. I love “Some Fools Never Learn”, which you already covered…but there’s some stuff from him coming later that I consider as some of my favorite tracks from the decade. Hopefully, you enjoy some of them.

    Again, I give this website credit for doing this kind of deep-dive on number ones in the 1980s , because while I certainly don’t agree with every grade you give…you keep a fairly open mind on most of the material. It’s very easy to go with the common tropes, and disregard the more dated sounding material/synthesizers, and only say that it started getting good when Ricky Skaggs/George Strait/Reba/ the Judds broke through, or when Randy Travis/Dwight Yoakam/Steve Earle had initial success with their albums in 1986. It’s also easy to ignore the lesser known names. But, to get a better idea of how the music was during this period…it’s important to actually listen to it with an open mind. It would’ve been very easy to trash something like Dan Seals “Bop”, but I think you did a nice job contextualizing the song, and appreciating the songcraft of it. That’s kind of the beauty of this decade for me…I enjoy the more traditional/influential stuff from the bigger names as much as anybody, but…I love some of the forgotten gems from artists like Dan Seals, Gary Morris, and Michael Johnson as well. I believe you made note of this, but I think people think of the late 1980s as a beacon of traditional country music, and that’s not entirely true. And honestly, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think the best elements of pop country and traditional country, and just good songwriting in general, led to the success country music enjoyed in subsequent decades. And some of the music of these “forgotten acts” were more influential than people might think.

    • I remember Bryan White talking about what a big influence Steve Wariner was on him. It’s funny how all of his Billboard solo number one singles came in the 80s, but all of his gold albums came in the nineties. He really benefited from changing labels from MCA to Arista, and then Arista to Capitol.

  4. Haven’t taken a deep dive of Steve Wariner albums of hits but when I look at his wiki page and see how long he was a hit maker I’m surprised that he isn’t in the hall of fame. Then when I do go through his hits as unfair as this might be a lot of them aren’t very memorable. Never anything bad but he seems to have a lot of forgotten hits and not many career defining songs. That being said I do enjoy “Small Town Girl”, “Some Fools Never Learn”, “The Weekend”, “I’m Already Taken”, “The Tips of My Fingers” quite a bit.

  5. There was good reason Wariner titled his 1996 Arista instrumental album “No More Mister Nice Guy.”

    He was the consummate Nashville good-guy, a poor man’s Vince Gill. Wariner’s reputation was one of quiet consistency. He was the insanely talented guitarist with the unassuming vocals and profile.

    Wariner continued to successfully chart hits into the ’90s while so many other stars from the ’80s fell entirely off the relevancy cliff, admittedly, in many cases, for reasons beyond their control.

    Nonetheless, Wariner had a chart presence post 1986 all the way up until 1999. Yet, his name is seldom mentioned alongside John Anderson or Tanya Tucker as country stars who enjoyed a successful second act during the new country nineties boom.

    In the sports world, a common conversation when assessing a player’s legacy is how to balance and properly value productivity versus longevity, especially when the latter boosts the former.

    Wariner continued to mature and develop as an artist. That professional perseverance and artistic endurance is commendable and noteworthy.

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