By Noah Hubbell
By Kiernan Maletsky
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
By Alex Distefano
By Darryl Smyers
By Jon Solomon
By Britt Chester
With KTCL, the Peak and what's left of KBCO all attempting to bend the ears of listeners who went to college during the early Eighties (and apparently lost their taste for musical adventure immediately thereafter), Denver's airwaves hang heavy with the work of artists who came to prominence when Ronald Reagan was still president, if not earlier. Some of the performers behind these songs faded faster than the photo on a fake ID, while others continue to dominate Denver's supposedly alternative airwaves for reasons that frequently owe less to the quality of their current efforts than to their past reputations. Together these acts combine to form a sort of Big Chill soundtrack for the Me Too Generation.
What follows is a categorized listing of the most overplayed songs from the genre that's come to be known by an extremely oxymoronic title: classic alternative. In addition, we've included a smattering of explanations why the very mention of these tunes should give you newfound respect for Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols.
TRIUMPHS OF STYLE OVER SUBSTANCE "Dead Man's Party," by Oingo Boingo (1985)
A cute concept and a catchy ditty that no doubt inspired the scrawling of crime-scene-style body outlines inside dorm rooms everywhere. But does this one-trick strain (and a host of others from Oingo Boingo) really justify the current status of annoying head Boinger Danny Elfman as one of the American film industry's busiest composers? Those who think so, I humbly submit, are dead wrong.
"One Thing Leads to Another," by the Fixx (1983)
"One Thing," a composition that comes complete with a pasty-white groove and more guitar effects than toppings on a Wendy's bacon cheeseburger, briefly convinced gangly Caucasians the world over that they could dance. Worse, it also inspired the English band that wrote it to continue penning their faux-apocalyptic treatises long after their haircuts went out of fashion. Singer Cy Curnin, whose appearance in a video alongside bona fide rock icon Tina Turner left him looking utterly superfluous, tried to spearhead a Fixx revival a couple of years ago. Thank your lucky stars he failed.
"Crazy," by Icehouse (1987)
Has anyone ever bought an Icehouse record? If so, why? With overwrought vocals and musical arrangements as cheesy as the Borden factory, this cut sounds incredibly generic--which is precisely why it gets spun to death on both modern-alternative and classic-rock radio. That's no mean feat considering that the band's career has been in a much-deserved deep freeze since shortly after this number's release.
"What You Need," by INXS (1986)
Take a relentless dance beat and shrill vocals courtesy of Mick Jagger wannabe Michael Hutchence, remix them in enough varieties to confuse Baskin-Robbins, and what do you get? A track that sounds so much like the rest of this Aussie band's output as to be all but indistinguishable from it. Fortunately for INXS, that's the way listeners at the tail end of the baby boom seem to like their rock and roll--but that doesn't mean the rest of us have to put up with it. Despite Hutchence's recent tabloid-pleasing dalliance down under the sheets with the former Mrs. Bob Geldof, this group ceased to be interesting around the time of Crocodile Dundee II.
ONE-HIT WONDERS AND FLASHES IN THE PANAVISION "A Girl in Trouble (Is a Temporary Thing)," by Romeo Void (1984)
A girl in trouble might be a temporary thing, but with its whiny sax licks and a simpering vocal, this slice of dance-floor dreck seems to last forever. Luckily, the aptly named Romeo Void disappeared shortly after this song's release (although that fat chick was kind of cute).
"Tainted Love," by Soft Cell (1982)
The only thing tainted by this song is the Motown legacy. By inserting a breathy verse of the Supremes hit "Where Did Our Love Go" into its dance-mix version of this hit, Mark Almond, the man behind Soft Cell, took a decidedly hard-sell approach to marketing his material. He succeeded all too well: "Tainted Love" remains a club and party staple for countless young revelers of slippery sexual orientation and even more questionable musical taste.
"I Melt With You," by Modern English (1982)
With its lushly romantic verses and driv-ing pop refrain, this act's only smash melted the hearts of many an aging new-waver when it first appeared. However, it also must have done something to their brains, for fans embraced with equal gusto a watered down and utterly unnecessary new recording of the song that surfaced within the last few years. As a result, this concoction can be heard in one form or another on a daily, if not hourly, basis throughout the city. The one consolation for music critics and other sensible folk is that the remake failed to revive Modern English's career.
"Pretty in Pink," by the Psychedelic Furs (1981)
Although this offering first emerged years before the John Hughes film that borrowed its title, the scruffy, sometimes inspired Furs might well have languished in almost complete obscurity had they not been lifted to prominence by this 1986 Hollywood vehicle. The ultimate ignominy, though, is that most listeners are unlikely to remember them for anything other than the rendition of "Pink" they made for the picture's soundtrack--a denatured, gussied-up take that was no doubt sanitized for the protection of Molly Ringwald fans. You know who you were.