College Countdown: First Billboard Top 20 Modern Rock Tracks, Fall 1988, 10 and 9

10. “What’s On Your Mind (Pure Energy)” by Information Society
I’ll admit to having my own preferences that decisively inform my perspectives on different music eras in different regions. For example, Minneapolis in the nineteen-eighties is strictly the punk-influenced rock ‘n’ roll of Hüsker Dü and The Replacements for me. This is despite the fact that the biggest-selling artist to hail from the city during that decade had a very different sound indeed. So maybe it shouldn’t be that hard for me to wrap my head around the notion that Information Society and their dippy, skippy pop music started in the land of flannel and skyways. “What’s On Your Mind (Pure Energy)” was a single from the band’s self-titled album which managed to make into all the way to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the Dance chart. Like other tracks on the album, it includes sample from the original Star Trek television series, notably Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock saying the two words that provide the song the parenthetical part of its title.

9. “What’s the Matter Here” by 10,000 Maniacs
There are all sorts of specific aspects of the commercial modern rock chart that made it clearly different from the college radio equivalent. For one thing, there was often a much longer lead time between the release of new music and its success on commercial radio, and then that success could be drawn out over a much longer time. In My Tribe, the breakthrough release from 10,000 Maniacs, originally came out in the summer of 1987. I think it’s fair to say that the album was generally old news to college radio programmers by the fall of 1988 (except, of course, for those certain college boys for whom Natalie Merchant never went out of style). Sticking strictly to singles meant that those broadcasters that resided away from the left side of the dial found “What’s the Matter Here” as fresh as can be when Elektra Records gave it a hearty push over a year after it was first heard by attentive fans. Since DJs are always looking for something to talk about, it probably helped that the very direct lyrics gave them a chance to seem smart behind the microphone as they thoughtfully unpacked the song’s somber commentary on the ills of child abuse.

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”
14 and 13: “Liar Liar” and “High Time”
12 and 11: “Up There and Down There” and “Christine”

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