I’ve discussed this in the past, but it is worth dredging up once again. Back during the Summer of 1983, I worked at a resort in Southern Wisconsin. That summer was notable for many things, much of which I will not discuss on here. But, one thing that was fun was hanging out with a guy who created music in the vein of Elvis Costello and Marshall Crenshaw. I found the young man very interesting in that he was a walking jukebox when he had his guitar. He was great with making a medley out of songs by Buddy Holly, Elvis Costello, Marshall Crenshaw and himself. The medley made for a very interesting rock history lesson as his medley showed how these songs were all related.
Unfortunately, the only thing that all of the college rock artists had in common was a rejection by commercial radio. College Radio played everything from the rock music commonly associated with college rock, along with rap, reggae, and even thrash metal music. Quite honestly, these “modern rock” stations were the last gasp of terrestrial radio’s power to innovate. Personally, I never understood why radio “thought” no one wanted to listen to college rock music at the time. Stations were constantly adding new artists to their playlists throughout the Eighties, so long as those bands did not stray far from the sounds of Journey and Loverboy. So, no, the stations would never play Black Flag or Dead Kennedys due to non-traditional vocalists along with the rawness of their music.
Well, that is history. Today, there seems to be a little revisionist history is taking place as we begin to hear about some radio stations programming “classic” alternative, “classic alt.” So, let’s get going with the countdown.
25. Elvis Costello – “Veronica” (1989). When this song was released, many were excited to hear his collaboration with Paul McCartney. This was the biggest hit of those batch of songs the two great songwriters worked on. The two split their batch of songs on their two albums released in 1989: Costello’s Spike and McCartney’s Flowers in the Dirt.
24. Marshall Crenshaw & the Handsome, Ruthless & Stupid Band – “You’re My Favorite Waste of Time” (1983). How in the world did a song released as a B-side end up ranking so high? When the song is as powerful as this one is.
23. Dead Kennedys – “Holiday in Cambodia” (1980). No band was a lyrically provocative as the Dead Kennedys. Had this band had arisen during the grunge era, they might have been recognized as the geniuses that really were.
22. The Church – “Under the Milky Way” (1988). This song is often listed as being the greatest song by an Australian band. That speaks to the lasting quality of this song.
21. The Cure – “Just Like Heaven” (1987). On this song, The Cure dropped their trademarked moping and replaced it with a wistful optimism. And, they got a hit out of it.
Stay tuned tomorrow for the Top 20! Until then, follow Casey Kasem’s rule: Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars. Cheers!