The 10 Best '80s Alternative Songs

Next week one of my favorite ’80s movies (and of all time), The Breakfast Club, will return to theaters with a newly restored version for its 30th anniversary. I feel old.

In honor of The Breakfast Club re-release, here are my picks for the top ten thirteen ’80s alternative songs. These songs most remind me of my life in the ’80s so this is hardly a definitive list of the best. Feel free to chime in with your own favorites in the comments.

I tried to pick no more than one song from each band. Here they are in no particular order: (LANGUAGE WARNING ON SOME OF THESE)

1. “Eighties” by Killing Joke, released 1985

Why? It’s called “Eighties!” And it’s a great song.

 2. “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division, released June, 1980

This one barely makes it on to the list since it was released in 1980, but it’s important because it appeared a month after the tragic suicide of band member Ian Curtis. (ProTip: watch 24 Hour Party People.)

3. “Still in Hollywood” by Concrete Blonde, released 1986

This song has such an ’80s alternative beat, you can’t help but want to rock out to it. “She had purple painted cheeks and glitter on her eyes” — it doesn’t get more ’80s that that.

4. “She Sells Sanctuary” by The Cult, released 1985

It’s hard to pick one song from The Cult — “Rain” and “Nirvana are close — but “Sanctuary” will always be my favorite. Albums Love, Electric, and Sonic Temple from the Cult will never do you wrong. Also great: “Spiritwalker” off Dreamtime.

Obligatory picture of Ian Astbury:

The Cult in concert at the Fillmore, Silver Spring, Maryland, America - 20 Aug 2013

5. “Institutionalized” by Suicidal Tendencies, released 1983

Yes, it’s sort of obvious that this song would make the list, but really, all I wanted was a Pepsi and she wouldn’t give it to me.

6. “Desire (Come and Get It)” by Gene Loves Jezebel, released 1985

“I’ve been a ball of fire in your arms desire.”

7. “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” by Specimen, released 1983

Whenever I hear this song, I smell clove cigarettes and Aquanet. No one cared that much about the ozone layer back then.

8. “Cities in Dust,” Siouxsie and the Banshees, released 1985

I never wore as much eyeliner as Siouxsie, but how could anyone? Best line in the song: “Hot and burning in your nostrils, Pouring down your gaping mouth.”

9.Blue Monday” by New Order, released 1983

It’s tough to pick one New Order ’80s song and “Blue Monday” is tied with virtually every song off of Power, Corruption and Lies; Low-Life; and Brotherhood.

Here’s the video to the ’88 version. I prefer the version off Power, Corruption and Lies

10.This Is Not a Love Song” by Public Image Limited, released 1983

What else is there to say other than Johnny Rotten’s got a great voice for expressing teen angst. And just a great voice. PiL is another band where it’s hard to pick just one. Same Old Story is another favorite.


11. “Pigs in Zen” by Jane’s Addiction, released 1987

Jane’s Addiction is one of my favorite bands. Perry Farrell has such a distinctive and beautiful voice. This is another band with many great songs in the ’80s, I could listen to the entire album of Jane’s Addiction or Nothing’s Shocking without thinking about moving on to something else.

12. “Rise Above” by Black Flag, released 1981

Because it’s Black Flag. Damaged is a great album and so is Slip It In.

13. “Kool Thing” by Sonic Youth, released 1990 (yes, it’s 1990 but really close to the ’80s so I’m going to go with that)

“I just wanna know, what are you gonna do for me?/I mean, are you gonna liberate us girls/From male white corporate oppression?”

So that’s my list — let me know in the comments what songs most remind you of the ’80s.