Every Billboard Modern Rock/Alternative #1 Single (Part 1: The 1980s)

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Parachute Woman, Jan 7, 2019.

  1. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Greetings! Calling all chart lovers, alternative rock lovers and general fans of daily track threads... I'll soon be wrapping up my Joni Mitchell albums series and decided to launch my next major project on the forums. I have long been a follower and fan of the Billboard Alternative Songs chart. Mirroring the threads on the forum covering the Hot 100, the R&B charts, the country charts (and probably more I'm forgetting!) I am today launching a series of threads in which we will discuss every song that has topped this particular Billboard chart.

    Some background:
    This chart was launched on September 10, 1988. It was then called the Modern Rock Tracks chart, and kept that name until 2009 when Billboard changed the name to Alternative Songs. It is the same chart and is still running strong today. Here's what Wiki has to say on the matter:

    "The chart was introduced as a companion to the Mainstream Rock tracks chart and its creation was prompted by the explosion of alternative music on American radio in the late 1980s. During the first several years of the chart, it regularly featured music that did not receive commercial radio airplay anywhere but on a few modern rock and college rock radio stations. This included many electronic and post-punk artists. Gradually, as alternative rock became more "mainstream" (particularly spearheaded by the grunge explosion in the early 1990s), the Alternative Songs and Mainstream Rock Songs charts began featuring more of the same songs. However, the formats would differentiate themselves by the late 2000s. Today, the Alternative Songs chart favors more indie rock, indie pop, and synth-pop bands while the Mainstream Rock Songs chart favors more hard rock and heavy metal music."

    This chart is based solely on radio airplay on American alternative and modern rock radio stations.

    Why this chart?
    I have been listening to alternative/modern rock radio since 1996 when I was about eight years old. The chart celebrated its 30th birthday in September. This is a format and style of music I cherish and I have been a passionate follower of this particular Billboard chart for years. I think listening to every song that went to #1 on this chart (plus all those others that cracked the top ten) gives a brilliant portrait of the history of this genre: not just what was popular, but what kinds of music were even considered 'alternative' at different points over the last 30 years. We'll cover everything from big names like Red Hot Chili Peppers and U2 to names like Sisters of Mercy, Butthole Surfers, Morrissey and modern groups like Cage the Elephant and Black Keys. Every time it seemed like alternative music may have been dying, things switched up, new sounds came into style and the chart was reborn.

    I also think this forum could do with more discussion of post-1980 music, if I'm being honest. :) I hope other lovers of alternative music will enjoy these threads. And maybe some folks will find some new favorite music!

    I'm going to split the series into four parts (one for each decade) so people can jump in and out as they get interested. And to keep things to fairly manageable lengths! This first thread, for the '80s, will be much shorter than the others as we will only be coming about 1 and 1/3 years.

    Periodically, we will also discuss songs that didn't reach #1 but made a major impact on the charts all the same.

    How will it work?
    I'll post information about the next chart topper about once a day. I may go slightly slower than that at the beginning as people find the thread and start getting involved. Anyone who wishes to participate can share their thoughts, memories and opinions about the song in question, the artist, the music video, the times of it's release...I like to keep my threads on topic, but I also always encourage lovely conversation. This is a passion project for me and I honestly just hope a few folks are interested. Please invite anyone you think might be! :D

    Let's begin!

    We start things off today with the song placed at #1 on the Billboard Modern Rock tracks chart in the chart's very first week of existence, September 10, 1988:

    1. "Peek-a-Boo" by Siouxsie and the Banshees

    #1 for 2 non-consecutive weeks
    * This song would be named the #1 song of the year for this chart at the end of 1988.

    "Peek-a-Boo" is a song by English rock band Siouxsie and the Banshees. It was released in 1988 as the first single from the band's ninth studio album, Peepshow. Melody Maker described the song as "a brightly unexpected mixture of black steel and pop disturbance" and qualified its genre as "thirties hip hop".[1] "Peek-a-Boo" was rated "Single of the Week" in both Sounds and NME. Sounds wrote that it was a "brave move", "playful and mysterious".[2] NME described it as "Oriental marching band hip hop" with "catchy accordion." They then said : "If this nation was served by anything approaching a decent pop radio station, "Peek A Boo" would be a huge hit."[3]

    PopMatters retrospectively placed it at number 18 on their list "The 100 Greatest Alternative Singles of the '80s", saying that its instrumentation was "inventive" with "ingenious vocal phasing".[4]

    For context and to see where we began, the entire top ten in this very first week of the Modern Rock chart:
    01. 'Peek-a-Boo' by Siouxsie and the Banshees
    02. 'Just Play Music!' by Big Audio Dynamite
    03. 'Crash' by the Primitives
    04. 'Breakfast in Bed' by UB40 & Chrissie Hyde
    05. 'Tumblin' Down' by Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers
    06. 'Intoxication' by Shriekback
    07. 'All That Money Wants' by Psychedelic Furs
    08. 'Wild Wild West' by Escape Club
    09. 'What's the Matter Here?' by 10,000 Maniacs
    10. 'What's on Your Mind (Pure Energy)' by Information Society
  2. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    In my opinion, a brilliant way to start off the series. 'Peek-a-Boo' is an inventive, addictive, highly engaging track that showcases the potential of the 'alternative' scene in the late '80s. Siouxsie's vocal is incredibly charismatic, the arrangement is bizarre and hooky with that crazed accordion and the aesthetic of the music video suits the composition perfectly. It only got to #53 on the Hot 100, but this brand new Billboard chart proved that there was a home for this kind of music alternative to the mainstream. A knock-out of a track and a great opening piece for this chart, which will go down many different roads over the next 30 years of chart activity.
  3. seed_drill

    seed_drill Forum Resident

    Tryon, NC, USA
    I only know this song from Beavis and Butt-head, with Beavis screaming PEAK-A-Boo along with the video.
  4. Retro Hound

    Retro Hound Forum Resident

    Pittsburg, KS
    Well, I started college in August of 1988, so this be a fun thread to follow.

    Although, I have to say, I've never cared for Peek-A-Boo. Sorry.
  5. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    All opinions are welcome! I certainly don't care for every one of these chart toppers myself. :p Thank you for checking out the thread.
    Mr.La Page and Retro Hound like this.
  6. seed_drill

    seed_drill Forum Resident

    Tryon, NC, USA
    I was in the, "well, that's interesting, but I can't see myself actually wanting to listen to that repeatedly" camp. I was in college in 1988, but, unfortunately, our school had sold their student radio license to an NPR affiliate AND we didn't have cable, so the only music I heard was what my buddies and I owned. Radio sucked in Asheville in the 80's.
    Retro Hound and Parachute Woman like this.
  7. Paully

    Paully De gustibus non est disputandum

    Kiss Them For Me was alway my favorite by them followed Cities In Dust. Peek-A-Boo always felt disjointed to me.
    jdsher, BZync and ralphb97 like this.
  8. Geee!

    Geee! Forum Resident

    Allow me to break your rules immediately.

    04. 'Breakfast in Bed' by UB40 & Chrissie Hyde

    I think the UB40 record is one of their best, and this duet better than their Sonny & Cher cover.

    09. 'What's the Matter Here?' by 10,000 Maniacs

    We wore out In My Tribe and I always considered this such a great song. I was living in Montreal part of that year going to school & this was a continual listen on my Walkman.
  9. Grant

    Grant Audiophile and Music Fan

    United States
    I doubt i'll participate much in this thread, but i'll keep an eye on it.
    Parachute Woman likes this.
  10. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I'm not too fussed about the rules. :) I was planning to bring in discussions of non-number ones throughout the thread. I really appreciate you just commenting! That 10,000 Maniacs track is one of my favorites as well and In My Tribe was a fabulous album. I grew up on Natalie Merchant, as she is one of my mom's favorites.

    I'm glad to see so many female artists in this earliest chart. At least through about 1995, this chart was quite friendly to female alternative acts. Sometime after Jagged Little Pill, it became much more male-dominated.
    Geee! likes this.
  11. HeyBullfrog

    HeyBullfrog Forum Friend

    Great thread idea! Growing up, I didn't know about zines and had no familiarity with "underground" scenes, so the modern rock/alternative chart --along with 120 Minutes -- was vital in introducing me to artists and sounds I came to love that were underrepresented on the Hot 100 and Top 40 radio.

    "Peek-A-Boo" is a catchy song that sounds fresh 30 years on; feels right to have Siouxsie as the chart's first #1.
    Parachute Woman likes this.
  12. gregorya

    gregorya Forum Resident

    This promises to be an interesting read... I will say that the term "alternative" always bothered me, but who cares?... it's all about the music... :)
    Shaddam IV and Parachute Woman like this.
  13. Retro Hound

    Retro Hound Forum Resident

    Pittsburg, KS
    Back then we also called it College Rock, or following MTV, Postmodern Rock. I don't remember the term Post-Punk until many years later.
    Witchy Woman and Parachute Woman like this.
  14. Retro Hound

    Retro Hound Forum Resident

    Pittsburg, KS
    I was in a similar boat, I went to a mid-sized state university, and we didn't have a local station playing this stuff. I did have a subscription to Rolling Stone magazine, and I'd go in the music stores and buy CDs based on the cover art or the name of the band. At the time I had just got out of the Army and had a good amount of money each month while I was in college (and went to a cheaper school and worked) so I was buying 4 or 5 CDs a month. Those days are long gone!
    seed_drill and Parachute Woman like this.
  15. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Glad to see at least a little bit of interest. I have flagged the thread in my signature to try to reach more members who might have an interest. I would tag people but I'm honestly not sure who! And thank you for starting to share your personal experiences. That's just the kind of stuff I love to read, especially about the scene and reactions to the songs at the time as I was born the same year as this chart (1988) and wouldn't start listening until the mid-'90s.

    I'm going to go ahead and post the second song to try to keep the thread somewhat near the top of the music corner and to try to build a bit of momentum...:)

    2. "Just Play Music!" by Big Audio Dynamite

    #1 for 1 week

    "Just Play Music!" is a song by English band Big Audio Dynamite in 1988 as the first single from their third studio album Tighten Up, Vol. 88.

    In the US, it was the second song to top Billboard's then-new Modern Rock songs chart.

    A heavily-edited version of the single's "B" side, "Much Worse", is used as the introduction of WBAI's talk radio programme "Off the Hook".
  16. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Just Play Music!
    I went through a major Clash phase when I was 16-17. I had all of their records and I remember blasting the Clash the first time I ever drove in my car after I got my license. By extension, I checked out Big Audio Dynamite when I was in college and had access to iTunes to easily sample. Mick Jones was always my favorite member of the Clash (I know most would pick Joe, but I always liked Mick's uber-melodic songs). "E=MC2" was a favorite song of mine at the end of my teen years. I'm not super familiar with BAD's material, but I do like most of what I've heard. They had a cool blend of sounds and styles. A little bit funky, a little bit dancey... "Just Play Music!" is infectious and fun with a nice groove to it and a real sense of positivity. I do quite like songs about the joys of music, as it is very easy to relate. They aren't a well remembered band nowadays, but Big Audio Dynamite did some interesting stuff in the '80s.
  17. Sound of the Suburbs

    Sound of the Suburbs Forum Resident

    I agree that BAD are unjustly overlooked now. They were quite ahead of their time using samples. I loved their first two albums and still play them today. E=MC2 is a great song. It's about the films of Nicolas Roeg and uses a lot of dialogue from his film Performance. You could do that in those days without getting sued by lawyers!
    AlienRendel and Parachute Woman like this.
  18. Kevin In Choconut Center

    Kevin In Choconut Center Offensive Coordinator

    Binghamton, NY
    I was in my early twenties when all of this started. Between what some of my friends listened to, a good free-form college radio station, and two killer record stores whose employees made great recommendations, I got to hear a lot of this stuff when it was all still new. Some of it I'm no longer familiar with, but some of those late 1980s/early 1990s tracks are still part of my regular listening, all these years later.
    Parachute Woman likes this.
  19. RudolphS

    RudolphS Forum Resident

    Rio de Janeiro
    Good idea for a thread.
    Peek-A-Boo is without doubt among the strongest Banshees' late-period songs. It was also a welcome departure from Siouxie's trademark gothic style, which by then had grown a bit tiresome.
    Never cared much for B.A.D. The idea in the mid-'80s of mixing rock with electronica seemed a great and innovative idea on paper, but the execution was less satisfying, IMO. E=MC2 is still a classic, but much of their work now sound very cluttered.
    By the way, looking at those early alternative charts, it seems the list is dominated by english acts. Weird, because the late '80s were the glory days of US alt/indie rockers like Sonic Youth, Pixies, Galaxie 500, R.E.M, etc.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2019
  20. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Yes, interesting point. Early MTV was also dominated by British acts (in part because so many British acts had been making promo videos for years) leading to the second British Invasion. By the early '90s, this particular chart will get more American as alternative got very popular and multiple American scenes exploded (grunge, pop/rock, pop/punk, etc.)
    WilliamWes and seed_drill like this.
  21. RudolphS

    RudolphS Forum Resident

    Rio de Janeiro
    Maybe stuff like Sonic Youth or Pixies was a bit too alternative for this alternative chart? (Just speculating here).
  22. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    The charts were totally based on radio airplay. Sonic Youth and Pixies both charted here, it's just neither ever hit #1. Sonic Youth got as high as #4 (with the song 100%) and also had a top ten with Kool Thing. Teen Age Riot hit #20 in 1988, the year we are currently covering.

    Pixies had three top five hits on this chart in the late '80s--Monkey Gone to Heaven, Here Comes Your Man and Velouria--plus two more in the '90s and a #11 as well.

    It's a top 40 chart. Every great alternative band couldn't hit #1. Other major names of the genre (Soundgarden for instance) also never had a #1 but had many hits on the chart and got major airplay in this format.
    Dan C, Shaddam IV and RudolphS like this.
  23. Retro Hound

    Retro Hound Forum Resident

    Pittsburg, KS
    #1 songs on any chart can be misleading.

    I need to dig out a couple of mixtapes I did then and list out what songs I have on them.
  24. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Well, perhaps not misleading but definitely only one part of the picture. I am going to try to bring in other top ten songs on the chart throughout our discussions, in addition to the #1s.

    As an example, this fantastic song peaked at #3 on the chart, behind our first two #1s and I think it's an alternative classic:

    'Crash' by the Primitives

    As melodic, jangly and ear-worm hooky as any of the great singles by R.E.M. or the La's during this same period.
  25. Soopernaut

    Soopernaut Forum Resident

    Des Moines,IA
    I think "Crash" was the best song in that top 10, with "All That Money Wants" as 2nd best. The SatB and B.A.D. songs never appealed to me, too weird and too dancey. Much of that top 10 seemed very dance oriented.

Share This Page