Alternative 1980s: 15 More Songs Millennials Must Hear

Recently, Susan L.M. Goldberg posted this aforementioned list. It is a good list, don’t get me wrong, but I politely disagree that these songs typify the sound and feeling of the 1980s generation, as it is only one narrow “slice” of them (and a very “top 40 Pop” one at that). So here is an alternate list of our music for the millennial. Disclaimer – I am a member of this ’80s musical age group, so I am biased in this. Sue me, I got’s nothing.


To correct a misnomer, many people of my age-group generally do not hear Bruce Springsteen and connect with him. He is, and always was, far too generic, raspy “Pop” Rock for our tastes, background noise in a sea of great tunes. Remember, a big part of the thrust of this genre was to stake out a musical claim that was different than our recent forebears, not just copy them.

If we wanted to listen to 80s “Rock” done our way, we’d probably listen to something like this. These guys are basic and generic, yes, but they were ours

1. The Smithereens – “Only a Memory” (1986)

We loved Brit Two-Tone, exemplified by the following song:

2. English Beat – “Save it for Later” (1983)

Perhaps the most prolific 80s band you probably never thought of or remember, the British band XTC produced 9 top 40 hits over these years (their song “Dear God” has become the anthem for the Atheist movement).

3. XTC – Mayor of Simpleton (1988)

Agreed that Robert Palmer should be on this list.  Known in the industry as “the man who didn’t sweat,” Palmer suffered from an odd Endocrine issue from which he literally did not sweat. Regrettably, this health issue would later on cause cardiac problems that would ultimately end his life.

4.  Robert Palmer – “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On” (1985)

This song quietly became the anthem of a generation.  We were the “Kids of America.”  A one hit-wonder though she was, it resonated.


5. Kim Wilde – “Kids of America” (1982)

Can you feel the 80s angst here?  We were dark, moody, emotional, worried that the world might end in nuclear holocaust at any moment.  We loathed our older brothers and sisters, the Hippies.  We were deeper than they could ever be, those pontificating 60s radicals.  We’d show ‘em.

6. Duran Duran – “Save a Prayer” (1982)

Mid-80s, sophisticated crime movie theme music.

7.  Wang Chung – “To Live and Die in LA” (1985)

For the superficial, easily distracted “gimme” generation, want!

8.  Lene Lovich – “New Toy” (1981)

As I understand it, President Reagan viewed this video and thought it was actually just swell.  He got a real kick out of it.  Be that as it may, this song was something of an anthem for anti-nuclear protestors during the 80s.  They felt it was a fitting mockery of the President, that “Nuclear Cowboy.” Well, in the aftermath of all that, one will be in the history books forever  and the other merely a musical footnote. Still a damn good song though.

9.  Genesis – “Land of Confusion” (1986)

Something about this song makes you think of cruising around in your Punky/Wavey duds, on an overcast, drizzly early evening, looking for some fun.  Heading for the West End, ladies beware.

10.  Pet Shop Boys – “West End Girls” (1984)

About as 80s Pop as you can get, but sultry. A cool song.

11.  ABC – “When Smokey Sings” (1987)


Of course, we all had bales of this and were always trying to hide it from everyone –

12.  Glenn Frye – “Dirty Laundry” (1983)

During the early 80s, you could just not avoid hearing this sound on the radio.  This is something you’d likely hear played at 125 db at CBGB’s in New York City.  What does one even call this stuff?  Electro-Metro-Pop-Punk?  One thing is for certain, this isn’t older Bro’s Rock and Roll.

13.  November Group –“The Popular Front” (1982)

Was it even possible to go anywhere and not hear the B52s?  Kate Pierson and her “Big Hair” look.  She was everywhere.

14.  B52’s – “52 Girls” (1980)

If you were wise, you’d always remember “all the things she said.”  Well, we must’ve, most of us are married.

15.  Simple Minds – “All the Things She said” (1985)

So.  A more “definitive” list of 80s music for the Millennial to consider.


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