College Countdown: First Billboard Top 20 Modern Rock Tracks, Fall 1988, 2 and 1

2. “Just Play Music” by Big Audio Dynamite I’m sure the expectation was that Big Audio Dynamite would have a significant breakthrough with their 1988 album, Tighten Up, Vol. ’88. The main preoccupation for Mick Jones after departing the Clash has enjoyed some amount of success with their first two outings, especially garnering some attention when Jones reunited with his former bandmate Joe Strummer on B.A.D.’s sophomore release, No. 10, Upping Street, with Clash co-producing the record and co-writing several songs. They’d spent a chunk of 1987 opening for U2 on a world tour that just so happened to be … Continue reading College Countdown: First Billboard Top 20 Modern Rock Tracks, Fall 1988, 2 and 1

College Countdown: First Billboard Top 20 Modern Rock Tracks, Fall 1988, 4 and 3

4. “Breakfast in Bed” by UB40 I’m going to try and untangle just what was going on with UB40 on the Billboard charts in the fall of 1988. On the Hot 100 chart, the band was rapidly climbing with a new version of Neil Diamond’s “Red, Red Wine,” which would eventually reach #1 (preceded and followed at the top of the chart by absolute junk). It’s probably more accurate to describe the gently loping, Brit boy reggae of the UB40 take as a cover of Tony Tribe’s 1969 go-round with the song. Diamond reportedly didn’t especially care for the good … Continue reading College Countdown: First Billboard Top 20 Modern Rock Tracks, Fall 1988, 4 and 3

College Countdown: First Billboard Top 20 Modern Rock Tracks, Fall 1988, 6 and 5

6. “Intoxication” by Shriekback Dave Allen was the bassist for Gang of Four, a band that fully understood the value of a killer rhythm section. He left the band after the release of their sophomore effort, Solid Gold, and formed Shriekback with Barry Andrews, who was previously the fourth member of XTC. By the time 1988 rolled around, Allen had given up on the group and departed. In the absence of his former compatriot’s fierce, propulsive basslines, Andrews apparently decided to accelerate the band’s gradual evolution to a commercially polished, club-friendly outfit. Nothing like KC and the Sunshine Band cover, … Continue reading College Countdown: First Billboard Top 20 Modern Rock Tracks, Fall 1988, 6 and 5

College Countdown: First Billboard Top 20 Modern Rock Tracks, Fall 1988, 8 and 7

8. “Wild Wild West” by The Escape Club Well, yuck. The divide between the Billboard chart and my memories of the fall of 1988 is no vaster than it is right here. Maybe it’s some sort of protective blackout in my brain, but I don’t remember the title cut from the goony British quartet’s sophomore release crossing our airwaves at all. It was surely everywhere else, though, going to very top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts, a pretty damning indictment of the state of Top 40 radio that fall, especially when the chart-toppers from before and after its one … Continue reading College Countdown: First Billboard Top 20 Modern Rock Tracks, Fall 1988, 8 and 7

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

College Countdown: First Billboard Top 20 Modern Rock Tracks, Fall 1988, 12 and 11

12. “Up There Down There” by Patti Smith It was a big deal when Patti Smith released the album Dream of Life in 1988. It had been almost ten years since the last album that bore her name and Smith had spent the interim living a life of domestic serenity in the suburbs of Michigan with her husband, Fred “Sonic” Smith, and their two children together. She had gone from a seismic force practically reinventing rock ‘n’ roll with the sheer passion of her vocals and the jagged anger of her songwriting to a brilliant phantom who largely sat out … Continue reading College Countdown: First Billboard Top 20 Modern Rock Tracks, Fall 1988, 12 and 11

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

College Countdown: First Billboard Top 20 Modern Rock Tracks, Fall 1988, 16 and 15

16. “Dumb Things” by Paul Kelly & the Messengers Paul Kelly had been plying his trade for several years in Australia before he got a chance to take a crack at American audiences. He started performing in the mid-seventies and release the first album with his original backing band the Dots in 1981. He had greater success in his homeland when he assembled a new group to play with him. Called the Coloured Girls, after those that go “Doo doo doo doo doo-doo” in a certain Lou Reed song, they caused a little snag when A&M records came calling with … Continue reading College Countdown: First Billboard Top 20 Modern Rock Tracks, Fall 1988, 16 and 15

College Countdown: First Billboard Top 20 Modern Rock Tracks, Fall 1988, 18 and 17

18. “Back on the Breadline” by Hunters & Collectors Hunters & Collectors formed in the early nineteen-eighties in Australia, quickly building a strong reputation as a propulsive live act. Except for those with an instinctive skill for combing the imports section of their local record store, the band didn’t really register in the U.S. until I.R.S. Records signed them up, probably inspired by the surprise success of Midgnight Oil’s Diesel and Dust briefly created a intense record company craving for all things that could be accurately described as both Aussie and epic. I.R.S. took the band’s 1987 album What’s a … Continue reading College Countdown: First Billboard Top 20 Modern Rock Tracks, Fall 1988, 18 and 17

College Countdown: First Billboard Top 20 Modern Rock Tracks, Fall 1988, 20 and 19

20. “All I Wanted” by In Tua Nua I have only the vaguest recollections of this song being played at my college radio station in the fall of 1988, and believe me when I maintain that an awful lot of my recreational time that fall was spent with a fellow who would have been especially partial to a band led by a pretty Irish singer. The song is certainly lodged deep in my brain, though, so it was probably getting some spins from us back then. Even at the time, In Tua Nua was probably best known for their tangential … Continue reading College Countdown: First Billboard Top 20 Modern Rock Tracks, Fall 1988, 20 and 19