That’s Great It Starts with an Earthquake: My Top 5 Favorite ’80s College Rock Songs

8.4 husker du
Hüsker Dü

I had a great time going back through my old albums and CDs to listen to this music that I have brought to you for the past two weeks. The Police, R.E.M., U2, The Cure and The Smiths were the superstars of the genre at the time, while The Replacements, Pixies, Bob Mould/Hüsker Dü, Depeche Mode and New Order walked away as the big influences from the genre. Still, to this day, we have a group of artists that are underappreciated by Boomers since these artists represent the first batch of rock music that the Boomers did not understand.

Now, for your information, thanks to a long time friend who happens to be in the radio industry, suggested that I work on a historical view of alternative music. So, I plan to back up to do a week’s worth of music that lead up influenced the new wave and college rock of the 1980s. Then, I will forge forward into the alternative music of the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s. This whole thing has been a blast from a music nut like me. Plus, I get to appease the dormant historian in me (I come from a family of history teachers and owners of history/political science/sociology degrees, with my wife and me being the only Kellers without history-related degrees). As some of my former students can attest, I have always enjoyed showing how certain genres of music have developed over time. So hang on people! This crazy trip through alternative music is just beginning and going deeper than you could have imagined.

With that said, let’s get to my Top 5 Favorite 80s College Rock Songs!

8.4 husker du - makes no sense at all

5. Hüsker Dü – “Makes No Sense at All” (1985). The band that took pop songs and then played them faster than any group before them played with more distortion ever imagined tones things down a bit to show the true inner power pop band that always was the beating heart of the band. However, the lyrics were true Eighties cynicism that grew in the hearts of many early alternative artists as a reaction to how they were being screwed by the lack of trickle in the trickle-down economic policy of Reaganomics.

8.4 Pixies-Debaser

4. Pixies – “Debaser” (1989). This is the sound of grunge music being birthed. This is one of the songs that influenced Kurt Cobain’s use of the quiet-loud-quiet alternation of verse-chorus-verse. Pixies developed here and on several of their others songs from their 1989 classic album Doolittle.

8.4 u2 - i still havent found what im looking for

3. U2 – “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” (1987). In 1987, U2 assume the mantle of being the world’s biggest band upon the release of The Joshua Tree. This was the second single that hit #1 from this album. This song is a gospel song dressed up as a rock song with lyrics that spoke volumes about what it was like to be in your twenties in the Eighties. What a brilliant song that tapped in to the zeitgeist of a budding generation.

8.4 the smiths - how soon is now

2. The Smiths – “How Soon Is Now” (1985). This song is often listed as the #1 song of this genre by critics. It’s classic haunting opening salvo sets the tone of the song that this is not a typical song by The Smiths. The band takes us on a crazy psychedelic trip through the insecure mind of a twenty-something in the 1980s.

8.4 R.E.M._-_It's_the_End_of_the_World_as_We_Know_It_(And_I_Feel_Fine)_(United_States)

1. R.E.M. – “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” (1987). Here’s the collective media-overload purge that our generation needed. Michael Stipe’s rapid-fire listing of events and paranoid visions that brought our worries to a head just as the chorus was comforting us as we learned to harness our power that would result in the election of Bill Clinton.

Well, ladies and gentlemen! There you have it. I hope you are enjoying this ride as much as I am. Have a great weekend and I will be back.

Author: ifmyalbumscouldtalk

I am just a long-time music fan who used to be a high school science teacher and a varsity coach of several high school athletic teams. Before that, I worked as a medical technologist at three hospitals in their labs, mainly as a microbiologist. I am retired/disabled (Failed Back Surgery Syndrome), and this is my attempt to remain a human. Additionally, I am a serious vinyl aficionado, with a CD addiction and a love of reading about rock history. Finally, I am a fan of Prince, Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, R.E.M., Hall & Oates, Springsteen, Paul Weller & his bands and Power Pop music.

2 thoughts on “That’s Great It Starts with an Earthquake: My Top 5 Favorite ’80s College Rock Songs”

  1. Another list complete.

    While looking at the songs you had listed up through yesterday, I correctly surmised your Top 3 though I was off on their order so you win again, Keller. Here are some other facts and figures from the Top 200:

    Both the average and median year of release was 1985.

    As expected from the median result, 1985 had most songs with 33. Runner-up up was 1988 with 28. 1984 and 1987 tied for third most with 22 songs each.

    37.5% of the songs were from the first half of the Eighties while the remaining 125 songs were from 1985-1989.

    R.E.M. was the most listed artist with nine songs followed by The Cure with 8. Top 5 was rounded out by three artists with five tracks each: The Replacements, The Smiths and U2.

    Top 11 artists accounted for more than 25% of songs listed.

    Only one song was listed twice: #158 showed up again at #52 and was also one of 48 songs that appeared on this list AND on your list of Top 300 New Wave Songs.

    Peter Gabriel and New Order each placed three songs on both lists.

    Bring on the next list. Please.


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