It was around this time I was beginning to hang out with Greg, his wife Katie, and their friends Toby and Karl. Bridge was the initial common point of interest, but golf and frequent Sunday evening gatherings with other physics grad students soon entered the mix. Oh, and music, too: Greg was soon to expand my landscape immensely, though the snapshot below is mostly stuff I’d found on my own.
29. Shawn Colvin, “Steady On”
I like Shawn Colvin–I’ve got a few of her albums. She did fabulous background vocal work on several Suzanne Vega tunes, perhaps most notably “Luka.” I dig her huge hit “Sunny Came Home” plenty, though my favorite Colvin song is Fat City‘s “Round of Blues.” Yet I wasn’t able to get into her first solo single, the title track from her debut. I just don’t pick up much melody?
28. Michelle Shocked, “On the Greener Side”
Shocked’s breakthrough (such as it was) Short Sharp Shocked got a lot of play on my stereo when it came out in mid-1988, among the last slabs of new vinyl I ever bought. For some reason, I never got around to checking out the follow-up, Captain Swing (though I did get Arkansas Traveler later). None of her videos are on YouTube, and she has precious little presence on Spotify. I did find a copy of the clip for “On the Greener Side” on Vimeo through her website. It’s fair to say that Shocked charted an idiosyncratic career path, with questionable (to put it mildly) judgment in spots.
24. The Smithereens, “Yesterday Girl”
20. The Smithereens, “Blues Before and After”
Two more gems from 11. While I heard “Blues Before and After” on WPGU quite a bit, the gorgeous power pop of “Yesterday Girl” flew below my radar for far too long. Beatle-philes will recognize a deep tip of the cap to the Fab Four in the clip.
13. UB40, “Here I Am (Come and Take Me)”
I’d much rather hear Al Green (or “Going Down to Liverpool,” for that matter), yet here we are, anyway. The lads, a year-plus beyond the re-release of “Red Red Wine” improbably shooting to #1 here in the States, tried to catch lightning again with a second album of covers, Labour of Love II. It took a while this time, as well: “The Way You Do the Things You Do” made #6 on the Hot 100 in the fall, and it’d be more than a year before “Here I Am” got pop radio love, reaching #7 in July of 1991.
12. They Might Be Giants, “Birdhouse in Your Soul”
The Johns, having gained cult-favorite status with fabulously quirky songs like “Don’t Let’s Start,” “They’ll Need a Crane,” and personal fave “Ana Ng,” snagged a major-label deal prior to their third album. They also got a big video budget for the lead single from Flood. Unfortunately, “Birdhouse in Your Soul” was not a commercial success, though it’s awfully fun.
11. The Wonder Stuff, “Don’t Let Me Down, Gently”
Righteous, driving pop tune; in another world it might have been a decent-sized hit (it did go Top 20 in the UK). Instead, it stalled out right here in Modern Rock land–the Stuff turned out never to have the stuff to make our pop charts. The vocalist, Miles Hunt, still has a variant of the band going today.
9. Electronic, “Getting Away with It”
In which three stars from the UK college rock/dance scene form one of the few non-AOR supergroups. Johnny Marr, Bernard Sumner, and Neil Tennant all on the same project? Yeah, I’ll go for that, though it’d be more than a year before we got anything beyond this single.
6. Kate Bush, “The Sensual World”
It’s no “Love and Anger,” but the Eastern-flecked title cut from Bush’s then-current album is still mighty fine.
2. Peter Murphy, “Cuts You Up”
Peter Murphy apparently tried his best not to let the success of his former bandmates from Bauhaus get him down. Eight months after “So Alive” began rocking our world, Murphy released this magnificent piece. While it would only reach #55 on the Hot 100 in May, “Cuts You Up” spent the next seven weeks on top of this chart. It’s easily my favorite song on this list.
1. The Psychedelic Furs, “House”
I’d stopped paying attention to the Psych Furs after “Heartbreak Beat” got them their first Top 40 hit (though I can’t explain why–a few years later I fell in love with “Am I Wrong” from Love Spit Love, Richard Butler’s next band). They had one just more album in them after Book of Days spawned this Modern Rock chart-topper. Even though they’ve been reunited going on two decades, they’re just now getting around to recording again; expect a new album in a few months.