Time once again to check in on the nascent alternative scene from thirty years ago–there’s a decidedly international flavor to my selections this go-round. I might be a little shorter and sweeter with accompanying text, but will try to make up for it by including a couple more videos than usual for your listening pleasure.
#28. Everything But The Girl, “Driving”
A big one on VH-1. Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt already had hits in their native UK, but this was their first taste of success on these shores. Four years later, they’d have a huge hit with “Missing.” Nice smooth one here.
#22. John Wesley Harding, “The Devil in Me”
Brit Wesley Stace took on the name of Robert Zimmerman’s eighth album for performance purposes and enjoyed a modicum of chart action in the very early 90s. A couple of former Attractions are backing up here. Strong voice, strong melody, strong words. He still records today.
#19. The Beautiful South, “You Keep It All In”
Our second entry from Hull (EBTG was, also). Born out of the Housemartins, a band with some mid-80s hits in England. Briana Corrigan wasn’t technically a member of the group at this point, but her vocals really help make this soar.
I had my Illinois officemate Paul rip their debut album Welcome to the Beautiful South from CD to cassette for me after I’d checked it out from the library; listened to it some but somehow this song failed to make an impression then. I regret that.
#18. Adam Ant, “Room at the Top”
Manners & Physique was the only album Ant released between 1985’s Vive Le Rock and 1995’s Wonderful. This was its big hit, such as it was.
#13. Del Amitri, “Kiss This Thing Goodbye”
I definitely enjoyed the singles from this Scottish band as they trickled out over the first half of the decade. This song was the first of theirs to catch my attention; I was reminded just days ago it actually made #35 on the Hot 100 in July.
#11. Michael Penn, “This & That”
Penn is the first American we’ve got going today. Utterly brilliant, and the obvious choice on March for a follow-up single to the epic “No Myth;” I was sorely disappointed it only reached #53.
#10. The Cramps, “Bikini Girls with Machine Guns”
And here ends our U.S. portion of the program. Stay Sick! was just the fourth studio release for punksters Lux Interior, Poison Ivy, and company, and it produced the only song of theirs ever to chart in any form in America.
#9. The Stone Roses, “Fools Gold”
Love that Madchester sound from my latter days in grad school. I think we all need the ten-minute version of this classic today.
#7. The House of Love, “I Don’t Know Why I Love You”
Definitely the shoulda-been-a-big-hit-but-wasn’t on this chart; super-catchy and worth cranking a time or two as you go about your work today. These guys had four songs make the Top 10 on this chart between 1988 and 1992. Not to be confused in the slightest with the contemporaneous U.S. band Book of Love, which was female-led and much more synth-oriented.
#5. Depeche Mode, “Enjoy the Silence”
In which our monarch seeks a bit of communing with nature while toting around a lawn chair. This was DM’s only U.S. Top 10 hit; it was mighty hard to escape that spring and summer.
#3. The Church, “Metropolis”
My friend Katie is a huge fan of the Church. Gold Afternoon Fix came out not long after I met her and Greg. “Metropolis” is no “Under the Milky Way” or even “Reptile,” but it’s plenty serviceable; I presume Katie enjoyed it a bunch.
#2. Sinéad O’Connor, “Nothing Compares 2 U”
The Lion and the Cobra was one of my very favorite albums in 1987-88 (I wrote a decent amount about it a couple of years ago), but I was unable to really dig into I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got. Sure, “I Am Stretched on Your Grave” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes” are sufficiently wicked, and this mega-Prince-penned hit deserved to make #1. There’s just nothing here that compares to “Mandinka.”
#1. Midnight Oil, “Blue Sky Mine”
Two Aussie bands in the Top 3. Like the Church, Midnight Oil couldn’t quite capitalize commercially on their hit album from two years earlier. Peter Garrett and his mates are still bringing the moral heat, though.