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Best Alternative 80s Songs

Updated on May 6, 2013
Alternative 80s Music -B52s
Alternative 80s Music -B52s
Alternative 80s Music - Siouxsie & The Banshees
Alternative 80s Music - Siouxsie & The Banshees
The Smiths
The Smiths

Alternative 80s Music

Thanks first go to Cogerson for setting me down this nostalgic track. For me the 80s was a magical decade. I turned 18 in June 1981 and I was a singer and guitarist in a band - thankfully, none of the tapes we made still exist, listening to them would be savage amusement.

Cogerson and I were reminiscing about the 80s and some of the fab music that was around at the time.

I have very eclectic tastes, so some days I was listening to Human League and Duran Duran, I danced along to Billie Jean when I went clubbing and on my heavier days I was happy to 'pour some sugar on me' with Def Leppard or let my hair down to 'Livin' On A Prayer' BUT...I was actually a bit of a music anorak back in the 80s so most of the time I was listening to the other stuff - the more underground stuff, 'alternative' we called it (mainly cos not many people were listening to it).

I had a good mate called Tanya who had THE most amazing record collection, we used to sit in her bedroom on Sunday afternoons with a hangover and drink loads of tea whilst eating her mam's home-made butterfly cakes with butter cream and smoking cigarettes in between.

So here I am folks, with Tanya, the worse for wear and here's the stuff we were listening to.... hope you like it. Some of this is 30 years old and it still sounds great.

And some we never heard of again, I give you....'Carmel'

Carmel was a British singer who performed live a lot around Manchester before Manchester started to get famous as 'Madchester' late in the 1980s.

Carmel was around in about 1982/83 and she never made it big. I used to listen to this on a 12" single, amazing voice. She also had a song called 'Willow Weep', go check her out on You Tube.

B52s - Dirty Back Road

I always feel a bit agrieved for the B52s who will forever and ever be known for 'Love Shack'.

In the 80s, they made some of the best alternative music in the USA and I owned all of their albums on vinyl.

'Dirty Back Roads' was always my favourite of their songs. The B52s seem to split people into 2 camps - you either love em or hate em, I loved em!

Siouxsie and The Banshees

I could have picked any one of her songs, Tanya and I adored her but 'Spellbound' was always my favourite. Robert Smith of The Cure spent quite an extended period as their guitarist as a favour to Siouxsie when their own guitarist went AWOL. Some of their best stuff came out of this period.

Siouxsie also did a great cover of The Beatles 'Dear Prudence' and another good song was 'Happy House'. I had hair just like her, except it was dyed blonde; it took me hours to get it spiky!

The Smiths - started off 'alternative' but then they got popular

Well, I could have picked any of their songs really; I just loved them, so it came down to a toss-up between this one,'Please Let Me Get What I Want' and 'Still Ill'. Go to You Tube to see them do a brilliant live version of 'Still Ill' on Top of The Pops but just close your eyes and listen to this one - still gives me chills.

The Cure - A Forest

I could have chosen once of their crowd-pleasers, 'Friday I'm In Love' or 'Boys Don't Cry' but I wanted to give you a taste of just how alternative they were to begin with, back in the 80s.

Robert Smith is an amazing songwriter; if you don't believe me, just listen to his wonderful song 'Love Song' on Adele's album 21 - timeless.

Cocteau Twins -Aikea Guinea

Cocteau Twins were the ultimate 'shoegazers' band and I adored them in the 80s, 90s, 00s and I still listen to them every day now.

Elizabeth Fraser, their lead vocalist has one of the most amazing voices, she can go anywhere with her voice and you will follow.

Aikea Guinea is from about 1982 and is one of their gentler numbers - perfect for a Sunday afternoon hangover.

Cocteau Twins - An Alternative Frosty The Snowman

Alternative 80s - who else did we listen to?

Echo and The Bunnymen

Teardrop Explodes

The Associates

Dead Can Dance

The Clash

The Stranglers

Tears For Fears

The Lotus Eaters

I could go on and on but I won't - needless to say, I welcome comments from any other shoegazers out there and 80s aficionados. Hope you enjoyed this trip down Memory Lane.


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    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

      $1.00 for a B52s album is a great bargain Linda. I've always liked the band - I used to play 'Dirty Back Roads' on our old record player (yeah, I have it on vinyl not CD) and me and my younger sister used to sing it together.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

      Uninvited Writer, I had that album too :o), it had Husker Du: and the Police 'Driven to Tears' and a load of other post-punk bands, it was a double album. Happy Days! Many thanks for your comment.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I listened to the B52's quite often. I still do since I found their CD at a yard sale this past weekend for $1.00...I love bargains! Excellent hub!!

    • Uninvited Writer profile image

      Susan Keeping 5 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

      Jools, I had Urgh It's a Music War on cassette...there were some great songs on there. I discovered lots of bands through that.

      I loved English New Wave, so many great bands and songs...

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

      Audra, I am trapped in the 80s I think and I'm very happy about it :o), many thanks for your comment.

    • profile image

      iamaudraleigh 5 years ago

      You are always a person to turn to to hear great tunes! B52s rock, Siousie rules! You brought back great memories to a fun time in my life! Well done my friend...cheers!!!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 6 years ago from North-East UK

      Mar, your record collection sounds a bit like mine! Oingo Boingo feature on a live album I own called 'Urgh It's A Music War', forgot all about them.

      The 80s remains my favourite decade - also the beginning of my favourite band, Cocteau Twins career.

      Thanks so much for your comment.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 6 years ago from North-East UK

      jpcmc, many thanks for your comment!

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 6 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      I grew up listening to these alternative music. I love it. I have an eclectic taste in music, but these type has a special place in my heart. It's probably my age. lol

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 6 years ago from Jeffersonville PA


      You are way cool with your musical loves... I am enjoying this comment stream as much as your fabulous walk down some of my favorites in the "memory lane" department. I figure I am 2-years older than you.

      I am not at all surprised to hear that Brandon Flowers was influenced by the Pet Shop Boys... today, his (and The Killers) music sound the closest to me/ love it.

      I still reach quite often for my Depeche Mode, Cure, Smiths (love Morrisey...) Will always love the ska sound of Oingo Boingo. INXS is amazing. Eurythmics... Til Tuesday... I won't continue but I could.

      You did a fabulous job, girlfriend! UP & UABI. Hugs, mar.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 6 years ago from North-East UK

      Sounds like we were listening to very similar bands Deb, thanks for commenting!

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 6 years ago from Iowa

      I listened to a lot of the same music back in the day. I especially loved the Cure, the Smiths, the B52s, and the Clash of those you listed here. Fun hub.

    • wordscribe43 profile image

      Elsie Nelson 6 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

      I still love these bands. In fact, I still listen to the Smith's when I'm in a certain mood. And The Cure, love The Cure. Favorite though? The Clash! Thanks for the walk down memory lane.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 6 years ago from Shelton

      thanks for the memories almost forgot about Tears for Fears.. and a few others happy new years!

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I forgot all about Imogen Heap - she does great stuff. I will check out the weepies and two door cinema club. Thanks!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 6 years ago from North-East UK

      I love fleet foxes, elbow, the weepies (not really alternative I spose but I love em), Mumford and sons, two door cinema club, Imogen heap

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Hi Jools- Couldn't sleep this Christmas morning, although I tried. What a pleasure to come across your Hub and all this old. but wonderful music. I am about ten years older than you, but I loved almost all these groups, especially, Cocteau Twins, Tears for Fears, The Cure, and the B-52's.

      What alternative music that is being written today has caught your ear? Can't access my files right now and I am drawing a sleep deprived blank, but I really like Fleet Foxes, EastMountainSouth, Mumford and Sons. Oh, I am also crazy about Dessa and Elbow. Who would you recommend that is producing great music right now? Maybe write another Hub?? Thanks.

      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 6 years ago from North-East UK

      Rob thanks for your comments; I had a boyfriend then who was a huge Devo fan so I had to listen to 'Whip It' quite a lot. One of the Mothersbaugh brothers from Devo went on to write the theme tune to Rugrats! Loved Safety Dance and really liked Gary Numan when he first started out, happy days!

    • Robwrite profile image

      Rob 6 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      Hi Jools; Ah, I remember that 80s music well. I was in college and I loved that new wave sound. Songs like 'Facination', 'she blinded me with science', 'Safey dance', 'cars', 'whip it' and others were great stuff. I miss that kind of music. Thanks goodness for Youtube and Pandora.

      Fun hub. Well done.


    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 6 years ago from North-East UK

      Paradise7 - we used to sit in complete silence and listen to Carmel - such a shame she never made it big. There are a few of her videos on You Tube though so someone else really liked her too. Thanks for commenting.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 6 years ago from North-East UK

      The Writer's Dog - I was never a Goth but one song which almost made my list and didn't was The Cult and 'She Sells Sanctuary' which Tanya and I played to death. They were considered very Goth at the time although looking at that video on You Tube, they just look like some lads from down the pub!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 6 years ago from North-East UK

      Flora-Oops! I thought Cogerson was much younger than me so I will edit my hub accordingly. Thanks for commenting and yes, what was considered alternative soon became mainstream - the Human League, Duran Duran, Tears for Fears and Pet Shop Boys all started off as somewhat radical or different at the time but once other bands start to copy, you have a trend I suppose. All 3 of those bands are still going strong today, must have been something in the 80s water.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 6 years ago from North-East UK

      VMartinezWilson - I worked with a guy years ago who was a huge Beat fan; he saw them in concert all over the country and also loved Madness. They were never really my scene though I quite like The Specials and their spin off band, Fun Boy Three. Thanks for commenting!

    • profile image

      The Writers Dog 6 years ago

      Thank you, thank you, thank you! Great music! Great memories! Great Hub! I was a Goth and love The Cure, Siouxsie & The Banshees et all.

      May I suggest a "where are they now" style Hub?

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      Cogerson a wee baby in 1981? Well, if you call a young teenager a baby I guess so. :) I was 5 in 1981, much closer to your description :)

      I remember the 80s well. Funny, but a lot od music considered alternative then became much more standard and popular.

      Of the artists you discuss, mainstream or alternative, I listened to The Human League, Def Leppard, Duran Duran, Bon Jovi, B52s, the Cure, the Clash, and Tears for Fears.

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

      You're sure right about Carmel-what a voice!!!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 6 years ago from North-East UK

      Steve, Pet Shops Boys were quite alternative when they first came on the scene. Indeed, The Killers lead singer, Brandon Flowers says they were one of his favourite bands. They had such a huge hit with West End Girls that they became uber-popular more or less overnight. They did keep their stuff quite alternative though so we'll call you a 'shoe gazer' I think.

    • vmartinezwilson profile image

      Vanessa Martinez Wilson 6 years ago from Vancouver, WA

      I love the alterna scene in the 80s. Thanks for the walk down memory lane. My favorite song from the Cure then was Kiss Me, but I lived for Duran Duran's Secret Oktober and Depeche Mode's Black Celebration. The Smith's were a must as well as anything Morrissey. I was also a huge fan of English Beat, but they were more ska influenced than anything else.

      Thanks for turning me to Carmel, I've honestly never heard of them.

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Interesting hub Jools, I have to confess to being more of a Beatles and rock and roll fan but I was a bit of a Tears for Fears fan, loved Mad World.

      West End Girls by the Pet Shop Boys was a big fave too. Does that make me a shoegazer, or navelgazer or something? ;)


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