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The 80s Were Awesome: Top 7 Iconic Alternative Songs of the 80s

John Bridges is a published author of history, and politics. His doctorate is in criminal justice.

The 80's Were Awesome

The 80's Were Awesome

The 80's Were Awesome

Top 7 Iconic Alternative Songs of the 80’s

One things that bonds Children of the 80’s is music. We hear a song and it brings us back to that wonderful era. While we share a love for the music now called classic rock, we may not agree on what the best genre was. The genre you listened to did more than just entertain us, it defined part of who we were. It didn’t matter what genre of music we liked, there were awesome bands in all genres.

For me that genre was alternative. Alternative is a catch phrase that is best described as different than mainstream music. Punk, New Wave, Indy and Underground music merged into one. It was fun and catchy music that was not created to climb the pop charts, it was meant for a niche crowd.

Some of the most iconic alternative rock songs that we all equate with the 80’s was ironically made in the 70’s which disqualified them from this list. The Buggles, “Video Killed the Radio Star”; the B-52’s, “Rock Lobster”; Gary Numan’s, “Cars” and M’s, “Pop Musik” were all made in 1979. They still help define the 80’s which is why I mention them here.

Final qualifier, Iconic does not necessarily mean best. It means it represents the period. The top 7 picks are songs that will hopefully bring each of you back to a memory of the awesome times we had in the 80’s.

#7 Whip It by Devo (1980)

Devo is a band that began in Akron, Ohio in the 70’s. It’s first big hit was “Whip It” in 1980. The group was made up of 2 sets of brothers who had a cult following affectionately known as Spuds. Form their red flowerpot hats, yellow jumpsuits and dead-pan expressions, they were nothing if not unique. One hidden fact: Devo was chosen to be the back-up band for Toni Basil’s first album which included the hit song, “Mickey”.

#6 Love Shack by The B-52’s (1989)

The B-52’s is a band that began in Athens, Georgia in the 70’s. They are known for their over the top costumes, big hair, electronic back-up sounds and nonsensical lyrics. They collaborated with several other groups including David Byrnes of the Talking Head and fellow Athen, Georgians, R.E.M.. he name of the band is said to have derived from the bee hive hair style originally worn by Kate Pearson resembling the nose once of an airplane.

#5 Turning Japanese by The Vapors (1980)

The Vapors are a new wave band from Surrey, England. In the United States they were truly a one hit wonder. There other songs did garner fans elsewhere. The Vapors credit the success of this song to a salacious rumor started by an unknown fan. The rumor was that the song was secretly about sexual self-gratification. Nobody knows how or why the rumor got started.

#4 Sex by Berlin (1982)

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This is the song that you always loved to hear…except when you were in the car with your parents…then it was kind of awkward. Berlin is a band from Orange County, California. None of the members have any connection to Berlin or Germany. The name was selected to make them sound more exotic and European. The band started out as new wave but successfully crossed into several genres including the romantic song, “Take Your Breath Away” featured in the movie “Top Gun”.

#3 It's the End of the World as We Know It by R.E.M. (1987)

R.E.M. is a band from Athens, Georgia. The Band is most known for Michael Stipes unique haunting voice and Peter Bucks unique guitar style. The two met is a record shop when they were both trying to purchase the same records. They began talking about music and decided to try a collaboration. They were joined by 2 of Buck’s friends and embarked on their first show in an abandoned church. At the time they still had no name for the band. The name R.E.M. stands for rapid eye movement, a reference to the dream state some of their slower songs emulate. They have successfully crossed into several music genres.

#2 Blister in the Sun by The Violent Femmes (1983)

The Violent Femmes is a band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In their early days they would play in coffee houses and on street corners. It was when they were playing a street corner outside a concert venue featuring the Pretenders that Chrissie Hyndes of the Pretenders discovered them and spontaneously asked them to do a set after the opening band….that night. They were an instant hit. Their first album was also an instant hit. The bands name started as a joke, but it stuck.

What's Your Opinion

#1 Safety Dance by Men Without Hats (1982)

Men Without Hats got their start in 1977, in Montreal, Canada. The young band members were very much into fashion and despite the cold winters of Montreal, they yielded to style over practicality and refused to wear hats. They began as a group called Wave 21. In 1980 they created their most well-known song Safety Dance which became an iconic 1980’s song. Chief member Ivan Doroschuk created the song as a protest song against the Montreal disco clubs. He was known to have many altercations with club bouncers for pogo dancing; a punk music form of dancing that involves bouncing, it is similar to slam dancing

Think You Know the 80's: Try This Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. On November 17, 1981, 30 million Americans tuned in to watch who's wedding?
    • Charles and Diana
    • Prince Edward and Sarah Fergusen
    • Luke Spencer and Laura Webber
  2. Which is not a Pacman Ghost?
    • Inky
    • Blinky
    • Tinky
    • Sue
  3. What was the orginal name of the Cabbage Patch dolls?
    • Backyard Babies
    • Little People
    • People Pets
    • Garden Patch Crew
  4. Ronald Reagan gave jars of this candy to White House guests
    • Herseys Kisses
    • Gum Balls
    • Jelly Beans
    • Peanut Brittle

Answer Key

  1. Luke Spencer and Laura Webber
  2. Tinky
  3. Little People
  4. Jelly Beans


Dr John Bridges (author) from Portland, OR on July 11, 2018:

Wesman, sorry about the quiz. I wanted to put some challenging questions in this one

Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on July 11, 2018:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the 1980s. Glad its over. :) I flunked the quiz at the end.

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