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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.