Editor’s Note: PJ Lifestyle’s Commenter-In-Chief and classic rock guru Allston has been developing an extraordinary series chronicling the best songs by era. Get caught up on his previous installments: “Alternative 1980s: 15 More Songs Millennials Must Hear,” “15 Classic 1970s Songs Millennials Should Know,” “15 More Classic 1970s Songs for the Millennials,” “15 More 1970s Songs Showcasing the Decade’s Wide Range,” and “Your 15 Song Introduction to The New Wave Punk Sound That Ended the 1970s“
I have great memories of this period in time. It seemed you just could not turn on the radio without hearing yet another incredible song. “New Wave” was now mainstreamed, increasingly accepted as a valid “sound.” Yes, a lot of it was a bit cheesy, but some great tunes came out of this brief period of time.
I threw in this 1976 proto-Punk gem because, well, Joan Jett and Lita Ford. Do I require a better reason, I ask you?!
1. The Runaways – “Cherry Bomb” (1976)
This guy is a punk Mick Jagger on speed. He is a human handball. I suspect someday, he will abruptly stop moving during his act and then spontaneously self-combust on-stage. Whoosh! The audience, I am certain, will believe it’s all a part of the show.
2. Iggy Pop – “Lust for Life” (1977)
Such a brief existence… the Jam had 18 Top 40 singles in the United Kingdom, from their debut in 1977 to their break-up in December 1982, including four number one hits.
3. The Jam – “Modern World” (1977)
Perpetually locked in leather and dirty Levi adolescence. Hanging out in the garage, drinking cheap beer and playing way-too-loud music at 2 AM.
4. The Ramones – “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” (1978)
This song was unexpected when it aired. We all knew the Smokey Robinson version, yet here it was done up as Brit Two-Tone? A fun tune though.
5. The English Beat – “Tears of a Clown” (1979)
These people must be billionaires by now, their songs have been so widely played. Another one of those bands that you just could not escape hearing.
6. B-52s – “Dance this Mess Around” (1979)
“There’s a kid I know but not too well / He doesn’t have a lot to say…”
7. The Feelies – “Crazy Rhythms” (1980)
In the official video, one of the guys seated at the table is Richard Branson. Apparently he was there to meet the band for some or another reason and unexpectedly got sucked into being in their video.
8. XTC – “Generals and Majors” (1980)
They chose “Martha and the Muffins” as a temporary name, until they could figure out a better one. Never did, and they are known by it to this day.
9. Martha and the Muffins – “Echo Beach” (1980)
Very ’80s “eerie.” Experimental and odd, which was it’s charm.
10. Siouxsie and the Banshees – “Happy House” (1980)
“Iszy bitzy witzy itzy everywhere” gave “Inna-Gada-Da-Vida” a run for its money. Of course, this is an old American tradition, nonsensical words as part of the lyrics.
11. Echo and the Bunnymen – “Do it Clean” (1980)
When I first heard this band, it was the song “Roxanne.” I wondered who the hell this nasal, whiny, pseudo-Jamaican intoned act was and just how did they even get onto the air? It wasn’t until they did some stuff like this that I came to appreciate them.
12. The Police – “Invisible Sun” (1981)
It’s an inevitability that this song would eventually pop up. Supposedly, if you are given this number by your carrier, your telephone life instantly becomes a living hell of random date requests, mouth-breathers and sexual innuendos. Woo-Hoo!
13. Tommy Two-Tone – “867-5309” (1981)
There’s a rhythm and cadence to the Neats that just screams ’80s.
14. The Neats – “Red and Gray” (1982)
I think the ‘0s generation perfected the “I am here, but a million miles away” meme. A great song!