CMJ Top 250 Songs, 1979 – 1989, 103 – 101

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103. The Mighty Lemon Drops, “Inside Out”

Other bands that started plying their tunes in the nineteen-eighties had the advantage of fertile local scenes. That wasn’t the case for the Mighty Lemon Drops, who hailed from Wolverhampton. “When we started out in early 1985, there wasn’t much going on locally,” said guitarist Dave Newton. “Not even in nearby Birmingham, with a few exceptions, such as the Nightingales and Pigros. As for Wolverhampton, there was absolutely nothing of note.” But a band as good as the Mighty Lemon Drops is going to draw attention, no matter the geographical limits. They wound up signed to a new subsidiary of Chrysalis Records with a Sire Records deal for their U.S. distribution. By the time their sophomore album, World Without End, arrived, in 1988, they could convince themselves there were no limits to the success that could be achieved, especially with a purely perfect single like “Inside Out.” Even at the time, the band knew it. “Now we’ve got no excuses,” Newton noted. “But we’ve never made records for the charts. We’ve never expected to get to #1. If ‘Inside Out’ gets to #50, we’ll be happy because it will be our best position yet.” The single didn’t reach those heights on the U.K. charts, peaking at #74, but it was a breakthrough on college radio. “Inside Out” became a hit on the left end of the dial, and World Without End took the top sport on the college album charts.

 

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102. Hoodoo Gurus, “Bittersweet”

With a name like Hoodoo Gurus, it’s easy for a band to be tagged as a little goofy. Certainly the Australian pop-rockers played to that image with their early music, crafting songs that may have been sharply smart and catchy, but also defaulted to a decidedly unserious outlook. By the time of their sophomore album, Mars Needs Guitars!, released in 1985, they were already prepared to downplay their cheekier side. “I’ve tried to be a bit straighter, because I wanted to actually communicate with people more directly rather than infer things that may not have been there,” lead singer and chief songwriter Dave Faulkner said shortly after the album was released. “I didn’t want them to be joke songs.” Obviously, the album title indicates a sense of humor was still firmly intact, but lead single “Bittersweet” declared a willingness to be more sincere. Years later, Faulkner acknowledged the song was a test, for both the group and their fans. “At the time, I didn’t think that a) the band would want to play it and b) our audience would want to hear it,” Faulkner said. “I was happily wrong on both counts.” The single was a Top 20 hit on Australia’s charts, and it took only three weeks for the corresponding album to be certified gold in the country.

 

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101. The Bolshoi, “A Way”

According to Trevor Tanner, lead singer and guitarist for the U.K. band the Bolshoi, the group’s bond was cemented by a certain level of musical ineptitude. “The blokes in our band are such bad players that if they left, no other group would have them,” he announced at the time their debut album, Friends, was trying to make headway on the charts. “I think that is probably one of the reasons we all get on so well and have stayed together.” That motivation for staying connected may have had its limits. There were only two full-lengths from the Bolshoi, after all. When the trickily-titled single “A Way” was released off of the album, in 1986, it seemed poised to deliver a breakthrough. Certain corners of the music press weighed in with praise. That doesn’t automatically sell records, though. “Everyone seemed to like the song, but it didn’t get much airplay on the radio,” Tanner said. “That seemed strange and we found it a bit surprising really.” Maybe the lyrics taking swipes at the lurking grimness and toxic hypocrisies in suburban life were a little too tart for the track to be fully embraced.

 

As we go along, I’ll build a YouTube playlist of all the songs in the countdown.

The hyperlinks associated with each numeric entry lead directly to the individual song on the playlist. All images nicked from Discogs.

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