College Countdown: First Billboard Top 20 Modern Rock Tracks, Fall 1988, 14 and 13

14. “Liar, Liar” by Debbie Harry
As the blonde in Blondie, few performers seemed more perfectly positioned for solo career success than Debbie Harry. She was no empty frontwoman, claiming a respectable number of songwriting credits on every one of the band’s albums, including contributions to every original track but one on the band’s 1982 swan song (at least for their original run), The Hunter. She was the face, voice and, for many, the total persona of the band. Striking out on her own didn’t exactly work out, though, and by the time the fall of 1988 rolled around, her first two solo outings had met with only mediocre sales and even more meager interest from radio. Still there was an automatic cachet to her name, which probably helped determine which song from the eclectic soundtrack to Jonathan Demme’s Married to the Mob would get pushed as a single. A cover of a song by the Castaways that hit the Top 20 in 1965, “Liar Liar” was sharp, brisk, wonderfully sung by Harry and entirely irresistible. As I recall, it did pretty well on the college charts over at CMJ as well, although those radio programmers also dug a little deeper into the album to give loving attention to another song that also turned up on a truly masterful album that was still a year-and-a-half away.

15. “High Time” by The Icicle Works
Given Billboard‘s relatively late entry into tracking modern rock singles, understandable as it may be given the radio landscape they were surveying through much of the eighties, citing career success on this chart makes from a shaky measure of the peaks of a band’s career. For example, look through the voluminous list of singles on the Wikipedia page for the Icicle Works and it appears that “High Time” is their only track to garner airplay among modern rock programmers, which a sad, unexplained dash resides in the corresponding column next to far bigger songs such as Evangeline, “Understanding Jane” and “Whisper to a Scream (Birds Fly).” “High Time” appeared on the band’s fourth studio album, Blind, which probably should have been their last one (there was one more widely ignored album released under the Icicle Works name in 1990, though most of the original members had departed by then). The song is so comparatively obscure that it doesn’t even ring a bell for me, and I really like Icicle Works. I can’t even find a good embeddable YouTube video for the song. Instead, I need to send you elsewhere.

An Introduction
20 and 19: “All I Wanted” and “Don’t Walk Away”
18 and 17: “Back on the Breadline” and “Motorcrash”
16 and 15: “Dumb Things” and “Don’t Go”

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