N.W.A, "Straight Outta Compton". The first single from the first album (if we ignore N.W.A. and the Posse, which we probably shouldn't) by one of the most influential bands of all time.
UB40 were finishing their set on the main stage, and [Stevie] Wonder's equipment was set up, plugged in and ready to be rolled on after a 10-minute act on a side stage. He was about to walk up the ramp to the stage when it was discovered that the hard disc of his synclavier, carrying all 25 minutes of synthesised music for his act, was missing. He said he could not play without it, turned round, walked down the ramp crying, with his band and other members of his entourage following him, and out of the stadium.
There was an urgent need to fill the gap he had left and Tracy Chapman, who had already performed her act, agreed to appear again. The two appearances shot her to stardom, with two songs from her recently released first album, "Fast Car" and "Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution". Before the concert, she had sold about 250,000 albums. In the following two weeks, she was said to have sold two million.
Here's what I don't get. "Fast Car" was the first single from that debut album, and it had been out for a couple of months by the time of the Mandela concert. Chapman played three songs in her scheduled appearance. None of them was "Fast Car". What was she saving it for? Luckily, she still had it in her back pocket when she had to return to the stage to cover for Wonder, and the rest is history.
My Bloody Valentine, "You Made Me Realise". I should also provide a link to one of the legendary live performances of this song. "You Made Me Realise (30-minute 'Holocaust' version)"
Cowboy Junkies, "Sweet Jane". Lou Reed has said this is his favorite cover of this song. Guess he never heard the Mott the Hoople version. Nice to see Johnny Carson enthuse over Cowboy Junkies in the video I linked to for them.
Boogie Down Productions, "My Philosophy". Early "Political Rap". Thirty years down the road, they are less influential than N.W.A, and somewhat overwhelmed by what the last group on this list was doing at the same time.
Lyle Lovett, "If I Had a Boat". I could be wrong, but I think people consider Lovett to be on a par with the likes of John Prine, who introduces Lovett in the video. A long career with plenty of album and single releases will do that. Me, I think Prine is a national treasure, while I tend to best remember Lovett as an actor in things like The Bridge.
Roxanne Shante, "Go on Girl". From the soundtrack to Colors. Roxanne, who started when she was 14 and was a major part of the famous "Roxanne Wars", is as influential as anyone on this list. KRS-One rapped "Roxanne Shante is only good for steady fucking". The reply:
Now KRS-ONE you should go on vacation
With that name soundin' like a wack radio station ...
So step back peasants, poppin' all that junk
Or else BDP will stand for Broken Down Punks
'cause I'm an All-Star just like Julius Erving
And Roxanne Shante is only good for steady servin'
The House of Love, "Destroy the Heart". Even after pouring over the Internet, I feel like I know nothing about this band. I'm pretty sure I'd never heard of them until this song ended up on the list. (A quick look at Last.fm tells me this is the first time I have listened to them.)
Public Enemy, "Don't Believe the Hype". I guess hip-hop had arrived by 1988, since four of these songs fit the genre. For all of P.E.'s greatness, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back is their best, a true milestone. Nothing on this list, including all the ones I said were influential, come close to the importance of that album.
(Sorry, no My Bloody Valentine.)