A Dozen Alternative and New Wave Songs With Lasting Power
“New Year’s Day” U2
“New Year’s Day” is the most underrated U2 hit – despite the fact it was the band’s first breakout song. Bono originally wrote the lyrics as a love song to his wife, but then he rewrote it about the Polish solidarity movement. The bass line really kicks major league butt – and the Edge even experiments with keyboards.
“I Ran (So Far Away)” A Flock of Seagulls
A Flock of Seagulls redefined “hair” band, as in bad hair – with lots of points, barbs, and swoops. Jay-sus! But the song “I Ran (So Far Away)” (see video above) still holds up amazingly well. The tune is much more complex and layered than you’d expect from a New Wave pop song. When it was released in 1982, the MTV video featured the band in a room full of mirrors and aluminum foil – which was considered edgy at the time – being stalked by babes painted different colors.
“A Promise” Echo & the Bunnymen
The “Echo” in the band was the sound machine. “A Promise” is classic post-punk tune released in 1981 and really established Echo & the Bunnymen as a band to watch. The song has a fantastic backbeat with a mysterious, almost mystical lyric treatment. Who knew a bunch of rabbits could play music so well?
“A Night Like This” The Romantics
The Romantics may have suffered from having terrible branding. They were a hard-rocking Detroit alternative band, yet because they formed on Valentine’s Day, they decided to call themselves “The Romantics.” Bad move. They are generally remembered for the hit “What I Like About You,” but the band’s best song is definitely 1980’s “A Night Like This.” It simply rocks.
“Save It For Later” The English Beat
The best of the British ska bands, The Beat, really outdid themselves with the 1982 “Save It For Later,” which admittedly isn’t really a ska song, but a boppy New Wave pop tune (see video below). An instrumental version of the song appeared in the teen movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” in 1986.
“Too Far Gone” The Feelies
As we’ve noted before on DaRK PaRTY – the Feelies should have been huge. You want guitar work? Do you punk-infused alternative music that steamrolls over speed bumps? Then look no further than the underrated “Too Far Gone” from 1988. Smash mouth pop at its finest.
“Birth, School, Work, Death” The Godfathers
The Godfathers had bad timing. They were an alternative rock band in London before, you know, there was really such a thing. So they never hit the big time. But you won’t get a more cynical, anthem like song than “Birth, School, Work, Death,” which takes on more meaning these days than it did in 1988.
“Shelter” Lone Justice
Lone Justice was a flash in the pan 80s act that played country infused New Wave. The 1986 song “Shelter” is a love song – but sung so passionately by lead singer Maria McKee that it just becomes infectious (as well as highly emotive).
“Driver 8” R.E.M.
It’s really no surprise that R.E.M.’s music holds up three two decades later. After all, they were one of the band’s (along with U2) that shaped music in 1980s. But “Driver 8” from 1985 deserves special recognition as one of the band’s most rocking tunes. The song is about a train. Go figure.
“Blood and Roses” The Smithereens
Another band that managed to avoid mainstream success. Yet the band was influential. Supposedly the 1986 album “Especially For You” was a favorite of Kurt Cobain and the best song on that album is the funk-infused “Blood and Roses.”
“Pale Shelter” Tears for Fears
Tears for Fears is a band that people like to mock these days, but they made some good music. “Pale Shelter” is a love song – between children and their parents. How’s that for original? The song was released in 1986, but didn’t become a hit until the band remixed it a few years later. It’s the remix that makes the song work. “Fisherman’s Blues” The Waterboys
This is, by far, the Waterboys’ best song – a mix of traditional Irish music, country, and rock. It’s a beautiful song and dedicated on the 1988 album of the same name to the Greenpeace.
How about you? Any 1980s songs that still work for you and you’d like to recommend? We’re all ears.