S1: Welcome to hit parade. A podcast of pop chart history from Slate magazine about the hits from coast to coast.
S2: I’m Chris M.A. chart analyst. Pop critic and writer of Slate’s why is this song number one series on today’s show. Last month’s edition of Hit Parade took us back three decades to the fall of 1989.
S3: In this episode we’re going to stay at the exact same moment in pop chart history. You may recall in that early fall of 89 the song topping the Billboard Hot 100 was the first single from Janet Jackson’s new album Rhythm Nation called Miss you much.
S4: But in the middle of its four week run at number one right behind Miss New much was a rather unlikely number to smash by a band that could not have sounded much different from Janet Jackson where Miss New much was exuberant danceable and romantic. The song and the runner up slot was moody introverted self-deprecating and in its own way also very romantic. In fact that number two hit was literally called Love Song.
S5: The Cure. A band from the town of Crawley England had turned post punk and goth culture into stadium packing Rock and even in this moment chart conquering pop. But they were not alone. In 1989 just weeks earlier in the dog days of summer a trio from Northampton England called Love and Rockets had reached the top three on the U.S. charts with a catchy sexy somewhat spooky goth pop song called So a lot.
S2: That same summer in U.S. dance clubs. A group of former punks turned goths turned synth rockers from Manchester called New Order were commanding the floor with pulsating music aggressive bass lines and email lyrics.
S3: And near the end of 1989 debuting on the Hot 100 was a new single from a band from Basildon England. Like the cure Depeche Mode had turned do me angsty and dramatic new wave music into stadium packing rock. Just one year prior in fact they’d sold out the Rose Bowl and this new Depeche Mode hit had the provocatively sacrilegious title personal Jesus.
S4: All of these hits were not only penetrating the pop charts they were also commanding Billboard’s newest chart modern rock tracks which chronicled the music that used to be the province of American college radio but was rapidly moving from the left of the dial to the center. The Cure Depeche Mode new order. These bands were modern rock Kings in 1988 and 89 and so was another morose and rather arch young man. The former frontman of the Manchester band The Smiths who went by a single name Maurice. The 1980s were already strong for British pop in the U.S. the first half of the decade led by pompadour and new romantic bands had even been dubbed the second British invasion.
S3: But there was a major difference between the more decadent New Wave that stormed the charts in the first half of the 1980s and the darker rock. Toward the end of the decade the music got heavier the lyrics gloomier and yet even these gloomy late 80s British rock bands were at root producing irresistible pop music that was waiting to break whether played on jangly guitars. Or thundering guitars. Or icy synthesizers.
S6: These songs went from seemingly uncommercial to music for the masses not only in England but eventually in America. These were the moody rockers who helped turn New Wave into alternative before grunge before industrial before electronic.
S3: Today on hit parade.
S4: We chart the breakthrough of the subgenre that’s been called everything from mope rock to goth rock to sad bastard music. The moment when this melodic melancholia began turning platinum in the United States it has been said that the British are a more self-deprecating people than we Americans are. But three decades ago on the Billboard charts if I may paraphrase Morrissey the so-called Pope of mope heaven knows we were all miserable now.
S5: And that’s where your hit parade marches today. The week ending October 21st 1989 when the cure’s love song reached an improbable number two on Billboard’s Hot 100. Marking a new pop peak for dooming dark and gothic British alternative rock on the American charts. Okay buddy.
S3: I was just trying to cheer us up so go ahead but aren’t the most sad bastard music see if I care in the movie High Fidelity released in 2000 when Jack Black’s record store clerk character Barry complains about sad bastard music. He’s just been confronted by some sullen indie rock by a Scottish band Belle And Sebastian but when British author Nick Hornby first invoked the term in his book High Fidelity in 1995 he could just as easily have been talking about any number of bands from the United Kingdom over the prior two decades.
S7: This facetious term has been applied to several gloomy when and melodramatic UK rock bands of the late 20th century.
S3: The fact is there is no one term for the British alternative rock that crossed over in America in the 1980s and 1990s. Some call it goth rock. But not all of it is terribly gothic.
S8: Some use mope rock which besides being snarky belies how bright and catchy.
S9: Much of this music actually is.
S10: These bands are not even unified by their primary instruments.
S3: Some of the leading lights of UK alternative rock in this period were fundamentally guitar rock bands while others almost exclusively favoured the synthesizer. Some even converted themselves from guitar combos into synth pop acts with a dark edge.
S11: Let’s just say this and you’ll have to trust me as a generation Xer of a certain age. If you went to high school and college when I did and you liked one of these bands you probably liked them all. Maybe you were the class nerd or the one at school with black nail polish or eyeliner no matter what your gender. Maybe you were a jock but also secretly IMO. And this was the music you played in the sanctity of your bedroom or Walkman especially if you were an American team in the 80s or early 90s and you loved these bands. Their relative lack of popularity at the time was the point.
S6: Call it what you will.
S3: These bands all fell under the rubric of what rock critics and the music industry called very broadly post punk because no matter what the prior emergence of punk. A much louder angrier music made all of this dark rock. Possible. The emergence of punk in the mid 1970s in both America. And England. Was a seminal event.
S12: But it was particularly seismic across the United Kingdom. The emergence of the Sex Pistols in 1976 inspired numerous would be musicians including in provincial areas outside of London. Members of two of the groups we will discuss in this episode New Order and The Smiths were present at the Pistols legendary June 1976 show. At Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall. A gig where fewer than 50 people were in the audience but seemingly half of them. Formed. Bands.
S3: But the bands who would eventually lead the post punk and goth rock movements were not only wedded to the sound of punk. Virtually all would owe a stylistic debt to such legendary classic rockers as the iconoclastic David Bowie. And the stylistically bold glam rock combo Roxy Music. Russo. Took to the bands of post punk would combine punks anger alacrity and economy with the theatricality and moodiness of glam and art rock. To be sure early on the bands that formed in the Sex Pistols wake sounded more like punk.
S13: Joy Division were a quartet of Manchester natives men communions in British parlance they formed after seeing that Sex Pistols gig in 1976 Joy Division’s subversive satirical band name was taken from the Nazis name for their sexual slavery department at their formation in 1977. Joy Division’s clipped punk energy made them sound at first like most British bands formed in the Pistols wake but they were also paying attention to other contemporaries who were broadening the boundaries of punk like Susie and the Banshees.
S14: The London group fronted by Susan Janet valiant a.k.a. Susie Sue had the energy of punk but from the start layered in tribal drumming and sinister vocals that would anticipate the sound of gothic rock. Decades later Pitchfork magazine would write quote without Susie Sue Goff might never have taken root.
S3: Unquote inspired in part by Susie Joy Division’s sound evolved becoming more distinctive and spooky. Two performers were especially vital to the sound of Joy Division and would cast a long shadow.
S15: Bassist Peter Hook who played his bass as if it were a lead guitar and vocalist Ian Curtis who began singing in a foreboding baritone. Both of these sounds intensive bass and gloomy vocals would become core elements of post punk and goth rock. And by 1978 and 79 these Gothic elements began cropping up on other British rock singles. Bough house a quartet from Northampton named after the iconic early 20th century German art school helped define goth rock in the popular imagination. Their single Bela Lugosi is dead in the late summer of 1979 would serve as a skeletal blueprint for the entire Goth subculture flashing ahead for years just before House broke up.
S16: The group would perform an immortal version of their classic in the 1983 vampire movie The Hunger bough house would prove deeply influential.
S17: Despite lasting just a few years but another proto goth band emerging in this period would have far greater longevity.
S18: Robert Smith a young guitarist and songwriter from Crawley had been playing in bands with schoolmates since the early 70s.
S8: By 1976 inspired by the emergence of the Sex Pistols and by early post punks like Susie Sue Smith joined a group who called themselves malice and eventually the easy cure. The self effacing but quietly assertive Smith never intended to sing. But he wound up with the task when a string of vocalists fell out of the group. He would later tell Musician magazine quote I hated my voice but I didn’t hate it more than I hated everyone else’s voice unquote.
S18: Smith shortened the band’s name from easy cure to the cure and they began performing a tight brand of post punk that matched Joy Division in its minor key moodiness particularly on killing an hour at a lyrical adaptation of the philosophical novel The Stranger by Albert Camus.
S8: This single whose provocative title. Robert Smith would take pains to explain was a literary reference not a racist manifesto nonetheless helped establish the cure’s propulsive enigmatic sound.
S3: But like Joy Division the cure in this phase were punk as much as postpartum.
S7: Even more than on killing an Arab on Boys Don’t Cry. Robert Smith began to define the cure’s lyrical outlook. He conveyed passion by shrouding it in expressions of remorse regret and self recrimination. Smith’s voice in particular sounded morose even when he was singing romantic lovelorn lyrics.
S3: As catchy as Boys Don’t Cry was dirge like post punk from the likes of The Cure Joy Division and bough house was not chart music at the end of the 70s not even in their native England. It would take until the dawn of the eighties for one of these bands to score an actual UK Top 40 hit.
S13: And by that time that band had reached a sad conclusion Love Will Tear Us Apart. Would prove a blueprint for all of modern and alternative rock. In the decade to come the song reached number 13 on the UK charts in the summer of 1980 and it even made the lower rungs of the American dance charts. It was a down tempo dance track for depressives a gloriously sad song saddest of all was that when it crested on the charts its vocalist was gone. In the spring of 1980 singer Ian Curtis. Just days before Joy Division was set to begin a tour of America that threatened to make the compelling but clinically depressed frontman a star died by his own hand in his flat in Cheshire. Curtis was 23 years of age. Love Will Tear Us Apart. Became an elegy for Joy Division itself but remarkably the remaining members chose to carry on. The band’s guitarist Bernard Sumner would step forward as their vocalist and by 1981 the former Joy Division became New Order.
S19: They would soon evolve away from the more punk derived sound of Joy Division and find greater commercial success.
S3: But their contemporaries in post punk were if anything getting darker.
S4: When the cure finally broke into the UK top 40 in 1980 it was with the brooding rumblings single of forest. Robert Smith had determined that full on gothic rock was the core of the cure’s sound but his pop instincts meant that even the cure’s darkest singles were swooning and he just.
S6: Charlotte sometimes. A 1981 single that preceded the cure’s darkest album yet pornography was dreamlike and desperate and it scraped the middle rungs of the British charts.
S15: By this time the cure joined a wave of bands fully embracing the golf persona.
S3: Robert Smith changed his look to a mask of white makeup dark lipstick and eyeliner and a shock of spiky spidery hair.
S11: He had befriended Susie Sue of Susie and the Banshees who also embraced the spiky haired goth look. And as for the Banshees recordings even as the tempos were faster they became ever more golf in their ghoulish.
S15: Spellbound reached number 22 in the UK in 1981.
S17: Golf music was gradually becoming more commercial to straight Susi albums Kaleidoscope and juju went Top 10 in the UK in 1980 and 81 and the cure’s unremittingly dark pornography made the top 10 as well.
S2: In 1982 that’s when Robert Smith chose to make the first major stylistic turn of his career.
S8: It is hard to overstate what a sharp turn the song Let’s go to bed was for the cure. In 1982 the band’s label fiction records warned Robert Smith that it might alienate his golf fans. But Smith himself felt he needed it for his own sanity. After the gloom of albums like pornography what was remarkable wasn’t just that it was a straight ahead three minute pop song after all boys don’t cry had already been a form of punk pop as far back as 1979.
S3: Let’s go to bed. Was also the most cheerful synth pop Robert Smith had ever produced. Well almost. Smith maintained his droll dummy persona captured in lyrics like well I don’t care if you don’t and I don’t want it if you don’t. All embedded in a cheeky dance song about sex in the UK. Let’s go to bed. Was only a modest hit reaching number 44 in late 1982. But in America it quietly began the cure’s breakthrough. Robert Smith had picked a promising moment to go pop for the first time since the 1960s British bands were doing unusually well on the U.S. charts. But the bands of this second British invasion were far more accessible than Robert Smith. Even at his catchiest.
S20: Thanks to the 1981 launch of MTV by 1983 the U.S. airwaves and the billboard hot 100 were awash in British synth pop. But the preferred stream was so-called New Romantic music exemplified by the glamorous and stylistically confident Duran Duran like goth New Romantic music was also a descendant of both 70s punk and the glam rock of bands like Roxy Music.
S3: And like the Goths. These MTV friendly bands piled on the makeup and piled up their hair. But the new romantic bands leaned on the glam side of the post punk equation and they made their music more overtly danceable such as Google Google’s top 5 1983 hit to shock. Some new romantic bands even openly emulated the sound of American pop and R and B most especially the soulful Culture Club fronted by the willfully androgynous Boy George. Compared with Duran Duran. Culture Club and Kaja goo goo the cure. Even at their most pop were still a bit down for U.S. Top 40 airplay in 1983 and 84.
S21: But America boasted not only dozens of college radio stations which would play more adventurous music our coastal cities also hosted major market commercial New Wave stations like Kaye rock in Los Angeles w LIRR in Long Island New York and Boston’s W F an X on these stations.
S3: Let’s go to bed was a smash. While these stations did not report to Billboard’s Hot 100 at the time making songs like Let’s go to bed ineligible to chart they made the cure stars to a generation of urban and especially suburban middle class teenagers having shook off his early golf blogs. Robert Smith continued to produce pop songs that fused the cure’s dark droll profile with more playful lyrics like 1983 as the love cats. And more danceable beats like. The walk.
S19: In the UK. Both of these were sizable hits the walk reached the top 10 Love Cats the top 15. In America both were among the most played songs on new wave radio stations in 1983. And the cure were not the only post punk act edging closer to dance music. At this time.
S22: In 1983 the rechristened new order issued their album power corruption and lies a seminal blend of rock instruments and electronic rhythms. The album was anchored by the groundbreaking electro dance single Blue Monday which would go on to sell three million copies as a 12 inch single and remains reportedly the biggest selling 12 inch of all time.
S2: New Order and The Cure were initially guitar based bands who evolved towards synthesizers and dance beats. But around this same time a different British group was evolving in the other direction. They would remain devoted to synths for their entire career. But unlike the goth bands they started off much more sprightly before getting darker named for a French magazine whose title roughly translates to fast fashion Depeche Mode went through several incarnations in the late 70s. In the wake of punk before discarding most of their traditional instruments in favor of synthesizers just can’t get enough. Their first UK Top 10 hit was written by then band leader Vince Clark in a bouncy New Wave Style even as vocalist Dave Kahan sang in a two tonic croon that would have worked just as well on a goth. Just can’t get enough was a number eight UK hit in 1981 and in the U.S. It even made number 26 on Billboard’s Club Play chart. But it would be essentially the last single of its kind for Depeche Mode.
S3: Not only their most cheerful pop dimmest hit ever but the last single written by the restless Vince Clark. He would leave Depeche Mode after only one album 1980 ones speak and spell and he went on to form several synth pop acts over the next decade including the assembly and erasure. His very first band after Depeche Mode Yasu known as Yaz in the U.S. scored an immediate hit in the spring of 1982 with only you. This left Depeche Mode to forge ahead without Clark and they tapped keyboardist and guitarist Martin Gore to take over the songwriting. Gore proved a diverse flexible songwriter with a much darker lyrical bent. Even on seemingly upbeat singles like the 1983 hit get the balance right throbbing dance beats were paired with cynical lyrics. By the time of the 1984 album some great reward. Martin Gore had come into his own as Depeche Mode as leader penning songs about everything from romantic betrayal to God’s very existence to on the unnervingly catchy master and servant consensual sadomasochism.
S20: By 1984 Depeche Mode had become college and new wave radio staples in America.
S3: That year alone Ella’s K rock listed four songs by The Band among its top 100 for the year sitting alongside Depeche Mode on K Rock’s playlists that year also with multiple hits was a newer band causing a sensation with alternative rock fans on both sides of the Atlantic. They would round out the sound of 80s UK rock not only by largely rejecting synthesizers you might call them the opposite of Depeche Mode but also by taking lyrical melancholia to new heights of grandiosity.
S23: In every way. The Smiths were the ultimate band for young people bemoaning a cruel world. Led by one Steven Patrick Morrissey an impassioned man Kunin of Irish heritage who proclaimed himself both celibate and an ardent vegetarian. The Smiths were defined not only by Morrissey’s verbose knowingly pretentious lyrics but by their ace guitarist.
S7: Johnny Marr was arguably the most influential British guitarist of his era. His distinctive style of chiming arpeggio aided guitar was widely imitated at a time in the mid 1980s when American indie rock was led by RTM e m a band we discussed in a prior Hit Parade episode who were defined by the jangly playing of guitarist Peter Buck.
S3: The Smiths. Johnny Marr became in essence the British answer to Ari M with a jangle that fused 60s rock and eighties post punk and paired it with Morrissey’s arch witty and often self flagellation lyrics.
S20: In the UK. The Smiths were consistent hit makers scoring 18 top 40 hits between 1983 and 1986 all on the British independent label Rough Trade.
S3: In America the Smiths never scored a Hot 100 hit but to listeners of college and alternative stations the Smiths were acknowledged rock heroes within their first year.
S20: How Soon Is Now paired a Johnny Marr tremolo guitar riff topped by searing electric stamps with what might be Morrissey’s most impassioned vocal originally issued as a b side in 1984. How soon is now quickly became the Smiths most played song on American alternative radio ranking just outside the top 20 of K Rock’s top songs of 1984.
S19: Remarkable in the peak year for new romantic synth pop. What how soon is now lacked in electronics it more than made up in atmosphere and it would later be covered by more than a dozen artists.
S3: By 1985 all of the pieces were in place for the black clad bands of UK goth indie and post punk to break wider in America.
S11: But it would take a few catalysts to bring these groups up from the underground. The first arrived in the summer of 85 when one of these bands finally belatedly went Top 40.
S21: People are people was a single from Depeche Mode 1984 album some great war. The song took more than a year to break in America.
S24: But when it did it broke beyond college and Alternative Radio. MARTIN Gores lament against racism and war crossed over to top 40 pop stations peaking at number 13 on the hot 100 in August of 1985. Casey Kasem counted it down.
S25: Once a week with 1840 and you know your favorite songs are doing across the USA like the first American hit for the English band with a French name Depeche Mode.
S3: They climbed four notches to thirteen with people are people but D M’s top 40 crossover proved a fluke. It would be their last American pop hit for nearly five years. Moreover it seemed to have no coattails despite the fact that other bands of Depeche Mode generation were now producing some of their most accessible material to date.
S26: The Cure’s 1985 album the head on the door split the difference between the band’s pop melodies and Robert Smith’s gloomiest lyrics. It dominated college radio and reached number 59 on the Billboard album chart higher than any cure studio album to date. Its lead single in between days a soaring love song about feeling too old to fall in love topped alternative radio playlists and it was quickly followed by the cure’s most infectious dance song to date. The percolating minimalist and moody close to me. Within a month of close to me’s release Robert Smith’s friend Susie Sue produced what would be regarded as the Banshees most irresistible single.
S20: Cities in dust maintained Susie’s edgy goth persona but packaged in a skittering club beat. It not only scraped the top 20 in the UK but reached number 17 on the U.S. club play chart Susie’s biggest American dance single to date.
S17: By 1986. None of these British post punk bands had managed to score a gold album in America let alone platinum even though to the nation’s black clad goth kids Robert Smith and Susie Sue were already icons. What the scene needed was a bigger showbiz connection perhaps a connection to a Hollywood movie and filmmaker John Hughes had just the thing.
S27: John Hughes was the poet laureate of eighties team in the mid 80s. He directed or produced three consecutive films with his actress mused Molly Ringwald that defined High School for Generation X. All three were infused with music. 1984 is Sixteen Candles featured new romantic songs by the likes of Spandau Ballet and Kaja Google and 1985 as the Breakfast Club had generated a number one hit. Simple Minds Don’t You Forget About Me. For 1986 is pretty in pink. Named for this Psychedelic Furs song. Hughes went further curating a soundtrack album that played like an alt rock mixtape. It would do for 80s post punk what the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack had done for 70s disco.
S28: Fueled by its biggest single Orchestral Manoeuvres in the darks. If you leave a love song that has become a radio perennial The Pretty in Pink soundtrack reached the top five on the Billboard album chart in the spring of 86 that made it not only the most successful soundtrack to a John Hughes movie but the biggest American chart success. Most of the acts on the album would have OMD lovelorn track a number four hit in the spring of 86 was joined on the album by much edgier material from the likes of Echo and the bunny the Smiths and New Order.
S29: Shellshock new orders latest hybrid of all truck and club music made its debut on Pretty in Pink and reached number 14 on Billboard’s club chart. New orders fourth straight top 20 U.S. dance single after Blue Monday confusion and the perfect kiss.
S17: Pretty in Pink was well-timed for new order as they were finally starting to break on the U.S. charts their low life album had cracked the Billboard album chart just a few months earlier but the band that couldn’t have timed Pretty in Pink any better was the Smiths.
S30: Like how soon is now. Please please please let me get what I want was originally a 1984 b side that took on a life of its own. This gentle dreamless yearning ballad with mandolin by Johnny Marr and a sighing vocal from Morrissey was a favorite of John Hughes. He even placed an instrumental version of the song in his other 1986 film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Appearing as the last track on pretty in pink. Please please please let me get what I want was many Americans introduction to the Smiths. And the band was ready to capitalize on their higher profile with their most accomplished album.
S22: The Queen is Dead landed in June 1986 just weeks after the Pretty in Pink soundtrack peaked on the album chart. It would wind up the Smiths most acclaimed album and spent the rest of the year on the Billboard album chart though it generated no American Top 40 hits. The Queen is Dead topped many 1986 critics polls and dominated college and alternative radio playlists with songs that would become all rock standards like there is a light that never goes out. The boy with the thorn in his side and one of Morrissey’s most self-referential hits big mouth strikes again.
S31: That big mouth would get Morrissey into trouble more than once. For the rest of his career and it essentially led to his band not surviving the 1980s at various times the willful frontman feuded with guitarist Johnny Marr bassist Andy Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce and tensions would eventually lead Ma to quit the band in 1987. The queen is dead would be the last studio album The Smiths would issue. While still together in their final year they would issue a few more classic singles including Ask and panic.
S27: And in 1987 before Ma quit the Smiths recorded one final studio album Strange ways. Here we come led off by the MTV favorite girlfriend in a coma.
S32: But by the time Strangeways arrived in the fall of 1987 the Smiths were no more. Though they would end up with an impressive roster of UK hits the what if question that still dogs the Smiths to this day is if they had remained intact just a bit longer could they have become U.S. superstars. They missed America’s embrace of British post punk by only a year or two.
S17: So it fell to the other bands of that generation to break America for UK mope rock in the final years of the 1980s. And there was plenty of gloom to go around.
S27: Remember Depeche Mode had started off their career in the early eighties with bouncy synth pop and even after their songs got lyrically edgier.
S29: In the mid 80s under band leader Martin Gore they were still catchy enough to be the first band to score a U.S. top 40 hit. But starting in 1986 when DRM titled their new album Black Celebration Gore provided singer Dave Garn with lyrics that were both sensual and ominous and the music had an industrial throng.
S27: By 1987 Depeche Mode had eliminated most traces of their earlier techno pop sound.
S32: Perversely this made them bigger than ever especially on music for the masses. Their 87 album whose title was both accurate and ironic. Accurate because it became Depeche Mode as first U.S. Top 40 album peaking at number 35 and ironic because to them music for the masses meant digital dirge is with hooks.
S33: Tracks like Never Let Me Down Again. Sounded like high school anthems for the end of days. New Order two were refining their sound 1986 as bizarre love triangle combined relentless dance beats and romantically confused deceptively melancholy lyrics.
S34: It would become new orders sleeper hit a top five U.S. club song in 1986 a highlight on their 1987 compilation substance and a late blooming pop radio staple. Years later it would even scrape the Hot 100. In 1995 nearly a decade after it first came out to this day Bizarre Love Triangle remains new orders most played radio song despite never reaching the top 40 in either the U.S. or the U.K. Bizarre indeed.
S17: But it was a bonus track on the substance collection that gave new order its first ever American Top 40 hit and again as with Depeche Mode going darker worked for New Order.
S28: True Faith. A do me dance anthem with allusions to drug addiction and quote a childhood I lost replaced by fear unquote peaked at number 32 in December of 1987.
S17: Even the former members of vow house were beginning to find favor on the U.S. airwaves. Love and Rockets a trio that spun off from the goth band in 1985 after its breakup produced a heavier and punchier form of post punk.
S29: In late 1987 their anthemic fist pumping no new tale to tell found favor on American rock stations alongside the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Aerosmith. The song peaked at a remarkable number 18 on billboards album Rock.
S17: But no UK post punk alter rock band in the late 80s seemed to possess more promise or potential than the cure.
S35: Even as band members cycled in and out of the lineup including on again off again and on again bassist Simon gallop and guitarist Paul later Pearl Thompson Robert Smith remained the fixture the leader and the guiding force and his songs kept getting stronger. In early 1987 the cure’s first collection of singles standing on the beach quietly went gold in America nearly a year after its release. Despite peaking on the Billboard album chart at number 48 in short even without a top 40 hit the cure’s secret army of U.S. fans was growing.
S29: Three months after standing on a beach went gold the band issued its most ambitious album to date. The double LP. Kiss me Kiss me Kiss me 18 new songs all penned by Robert Smith who apparently had not lost his playful sense of humor. To this point the cure had scored virtually no Hot 100 hits to prior singles had bubbles under the chart and 1980 fives In Between Days had spent a solitary week at number 99. But with why can’t I be you. The log jam began to break the horn inflected orange bee flavored and slightly lewd single broke into the middle of the Hot 100 peaking at number 54 in the summer of 87. That set up the cure for at last their top 40 breakthrough.
S36: Just like heaven remains Robert Smith’s most acclaimed composition hailed by both Rolling Stone and pitchfork magazines as one of the greatest songs of the nineteen eighties a track that builds one instrument at a time has no lyrics for nearly a minute and deploys its title only once at the very end. This is the cure’s archetypal pop song romantic but mournful giddy and lovelorn on the Hot 100. Just like heaven reached number 40 making it just barely. The Cure’s first American Top 40 hit reaching its peak the first week of January 19. By 1988. It was obvious alternative rock was serious business in the United States. Magazines like CMJ trouser press and the Gavin report had been tracking U.S. college hits for most of the last decade.
S17: And on MTV shows like The Cutting Edge and 120 minutes had been showcasing indie leaning videos for several years.
S37: The glossy surface of the machine lies the underground comics scored in 120 minutes two hours into the future of music every Sunday night at midnight Eastern 9:00 Pacific here on MTV.
S17: While alternative rock was still no threat to the likes of Michael Jackson Madonna and Bruce Springsteen it could no longer be regarded as merely a poor relation to mainstream pop music. If major rock acts like Springsteen could have their own album Rock chart and dance acts like Madonna had a club play chart bands like The Cure Depeche Mode and New Order deserved a better yardstick of their growing cultural influence. Later that year billboard finally obliged.
S32: The billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. Launched in September 1988 its very first week the number one song was by a post punk and goth rock veteran. Susie and the band she’s their hit peekaboo topped a chart that featured an eclectic variety of college radio favorites and alt rock radio demigods from Big Audio Dynamite to 10000 Maniacs information society to the sugar cubes. Patti Smith to the Psychedelic Furs.
S38: With this chart launch billboard announced that mass market alternative culture was open for business in essence as I often say music charts are feedback loops. They reflect popularity not only in the music business but back to the music business which then makes that music more popular. From the day it launched the modern Rock Tracks chart affirmed not only that alternative rock was bigger than ever but that a lot of it came with a British accent. This Brit rock had Germany would come to a head in nineteen eighty nine one by one each of the godfathers of UK post punk would score bigger hits than they had ever seen in America before New Order got the ball rolling.
S29: In 1988 New Order spent several months on the island of IBF soaking up the burgeoning acid house and techno scenes and recording what became their most experimental club oriented album. They called it technique the first single fine time debuted on the modern rock chart in January 1989 and flew into the top three. Remarkable for such a cutting edge track far from the rudiments of rock at U.S. dance clubs fine time rose to number two becoming new orders biggest U.S. hit to date.
S17: A few months later the follow up single round and round did even better. Rising to number one on the Club Play chart and number six at modern rock.
S28: At a time when new orders hometown of Manchester was emerging as the center of rave culture and transforming into Mad Chester. The album was transmitting a similar clip of that scene to a suburban American audience. New orders fellow man Coonan’s the Smiths were already broken up by 1989.
S39: But their former lead singer had launched a solo career just in time to exploit the U.S. modern rock boom. Morrissey’s first couple of solo singles issued in 1988 missed the launch of the modern rock chart by mere months. But when last of the famous international playboys arrived in early 89 Mars was welcomed onto the chart like a king playboys peaked at number three in the spring of 89. And he scored two more hits. That year alone. In fact no song chart would ever welcome Morrissey as warmly as the U.S. modern rock chart. From 1989 to 1992 he racked up eight top 10 hits in a three year period again had the Smiths lasted past in 1987.
S17: Based on this evidence they would likely have achieved chart conquering status in America. Meanwhile also in the spring of 1989 Depeche Mode were about to issue a live album. Some critics at the time poked fun at the band’s live performances based on a faulty perception that D M’s music relied on pre-programmed synthesizers.
S33: But no one was laughing at the sounds of roaring crowds on Depeche Mode One on One. That’s because those crowds were filling a stadium. In 1988 Depeche Mode signed on to be the subject of a film by legendary documentarian D.A. Pennebaker.
S32: Who a generation earlier had pioneered the music documentary with Bob Dylan’s. Don’t look back. Monterey Pop. And David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars for 1 0 1 Pennebaker shot the finale of Depeche Mode as music for the masses tour who’s one hundred and first show took place at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena California.
S17: The film captured the extreme devotion of fans traveling cross-country to see the show as well as the frenzy at the concert itself.
S28: Both the one to one film and its soundtrack were issued in the spring of 1989.
S17: The one to one album peaked just outside the top 40 in April and then in May of 89.
S40: Just as the Depeche Mode live album and single were peaking came the album that would dominate the year in modern rock and define alternative rock. For a generation and it came from the Cure seven years earlier with frothy pop singles like let’s go to bed and the love cats the cures Robert Smith had turned away from the heaviest darkest goth rock for the sake of the cure’s career and his own mental health. But with the album disintegration the pendulum swung back.
S41: Robert Smith wrote his darkest set of songs since 1980 is pornography and yet the songs sounded massive majestic stadium size. This time the pop world was ready.
S40: Disintegration would become the cure’s biggest selling and most acclaimed studio album eventually shifting more than three million copies worldwide. The LP release was led off by fascination Street a muscular goth rock anthem that spent seven weeks atop the modern rock truck fascination street would wind up the second biggest modern rock hit of 1989.
S17: The only song bigger was the hit that ushered it out of the number one spot and ironically it was those bough House alumni love and rockets replacing the cure. One set of golf veterans injecting another.
S39: So alive was the lead single from love and rockets self-titled fourth album a slinky March to the sound of 70s glam rockers T Rex. So alive topped the modern rock chart in June stayed there for more than a month and then improbably crossed over to the pop charts. By August 89 so alive peaked on the hot 100 at number three.
S42: Better by far than any band of Love and Rockets generation had done on the U.S. pop charts to date higher than Depeche Mode or Susie or new order or the cure. This was the last mile Love and Rockets had cracked open top 40 playlists to UK post.
S17: That summer the cure and Love and Rockets would tour together. Even playing New Jersey’s Giants Stadium essentially matching Depeche modes Rose Bowl feet a a certain gangly awkward chart following future podcast host himself. Just out of high school caught the Giants stadium show Pixies were also on the bill. It was awesome.
S43: At this. The Cure’s moment of bigness. They came back with their biggest single from disintegration. They’re big for pop immortality. Love Song was perhaps Robert Smith’s most vulnerable composition. He called it quote an open show of emotion. It was direct and it turned out musically irresistible. Love Song was the hot one hundredth highest new entry the week of August 12th 1989 debuting at number 58.
S5: Two weeks later it hurtled into the top 40 a month later it was in the top 20 then the top 10. The week after that finally three weeks later love song peaked at number two behind only Janet Jackson’s misread much a pity perhaps that it didn’t hit the top spot but one suspects a number one pop hit might just have been a little too much for Robert Smith.
S17: The same week love song peaked on the hot 100 disintegration was certified platinum in America. The album had spent six solid months on the Billboard album charts top 30 longer than current LP is by superstars like Prince and the Rolling Stones. And while love song was by far the cure’s biggest pop hit on the modern rock chart disintegration kept racking up hits well into 1990 including the dreamlike creepy spider Fantasia lullaby. And the slow burning sleeper hit. Pictures of you.
S32: As the 80s drew to a close. Americans had finally to varying degrees made hit makers out of the cure.
S17: New Order Suzy and the Banshees Morrissey and love and rockets and they turned Depeche Mode into stadium fillers but DRM hadn’t actually scored a U.S. pop hit in over five years. So in the final weeks of 89 Martin Gore deployed a new Depeche Mode single with a very American sound. It was the twang of the Old West Prost with just a touch of blasphemy.
S44: Personal Jesus was not the first song Martin Gore had written on a guitar but it was the first Depeche Mode single with the guitar as its primary instrument sonically. The song was a total departure from any prior Depeche Mode single producer Mark Ellis a.k.a. a flood. Fresh off producing nine inch nails seminal debut album pretty hate machine helped turn personal Jesus into a kind of industrial roots music. It was organic and synthetic rustic quirky even a little intimate but you could dance to it. Personal Jesus changed the public’s perception of Depeche Mode broadening their appeal and establishing them for the last remaining rock ists who disdained synthesizers as fundamentally a rock band which of course they had been all along. The song peaked at number three on the modern rock chart. In October of 1989 almost half a year later personal Jesus also crossed over to the hot 100. Cracking the top 40 and peaking at number 28 in March of 1990 the song’s broad popularity built huge anticipation for Depeche Mode next LP violator which would wind up the biggest selling most hit generating and most widely acclaimed Depeche Mode album ever.
S32: Violator opened higher on the Billboard album chart than any prior DRM album had peaked save for 1987 as music for the masses and then it eclipsed them all rising into the top 10 higher even than the cure’s disintegration had gone the year before. Enjoy the silence. The album’s latest single became Depeche Mode its first modern rock chart topper hitting number one in April 1990 and their only pop top 10 hit peaking at number eight.
S17: Depeche Mode were final American radio ditties the album’s third single policy of truth essentially an alt rock version of R.N. BS I heard it through the grapevine has reimagined by Martin Gore was another smash. No one at modern rock and no 15 on the hot. UK post punk would never be as popular as it was at the turn of the 1990s especially at alternative rock radio stations. From 1989 through 1991 UK acts commanded Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart more than 60 percent of the time to a generation of American kids alternative music was British music of course. By late 1991 the alter rock pendulum began shifting back across the Atlantic as Nirvana exploded and a generation of Pacific Northwest grunge bands broke on the charts but even after the grunge explosion UK post punk never fully went away. Over the next two decades the cure would release another half dozen albums that would break into the Billboard Top 40.
S32: Though disintegration remains their top seller the band’s 1992 album Wish actually charted higher thanks in part to more accurate Soundscan chart technology in the 1990s wish peaked at number two and generated the deathless Top 20 pop hit Friday. I’m in love.
S45: Depeche Mode to not only continue to do well on the U.S. charts they evolved with the Times in 1993 Depeche Mode followed up the best selling violator with the chart topping songs of faith and devotion and their sound.
S38: Spurred on by leather clad lead singer Dave Garn went even deeper into guitar rock territory as exemplified by the modern rock. No one hit I feel.
S35: Morrissey continued as a staple of all rock playlists deep into the 90s as well. And he too turned up the guitars his 1992 modern rock. No one tomorrow was produced by glam rock veteran Mick Ronson formerly of David Bowie’s band.
S32: And in 1994 Mars topped the modern rock chart again with a song that crossed his indie pop with grungy guitars and a very Morrissey lyric. The more you ignore me the closer I get. Finally the fractious New Order whose members often debated how deeply to veer from rock to dance music managed just one more album in the 1990s.
S17: However when the Euro dance friendly Republic arrived in 1993 at a time when grunge had fully taken hold on the American charts it nonetheless both charted higher than any previous New Order album and generated their biggest U.S. hit regret. A number one modern rock and number 28 pop hit. And by the way this 90s post-mortem doesn’t even include Suzy and the Banshees who scored their biggest hit in America in 1991. Or the new order side project electronic which paired Smiths Guitar God Johnny Marr with New Order frontman Bernard Sumner.
S29: All of these acts topped the modern rock chart in the early 90s before the UK post punk watershed petered out even as these bands began to recede on the charts.
S17: In the late 90s and into the 21st century they continued to cast a long shadow. In America countless bands adopted UK post punk and goth rock attributes their melancholic outlook was echoed by Nine Inch Nails. Their broke old pop arrangements were emulated on punk band Blink 182 as anomalous hit by misusing. And of course their spooky fashion sense. One could argue that the cure Susie Sue and bough House all but invented the look of your local malls Hot Topic store. More important a generation of mid aughts emo bands like New Jersey’s My Chemical Romance took both visual and sonic inspiration from the cure. It took well into the 2010s for these bands to be accorded the industry stature they deserved to date only three of them have been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
S45: The Cure Depeche Mode and the Smiths. The bands I often affectionately refer to as the holy trinity of British mope rock the Smiths have yet to be inducted and possibly never will the former bandmates have been publicly feuding for years and loudly refused to play together again. The big mouth Morrissey still able to alienate even his own fans continues to tour and confound audiences worldwide. Depeche Mode have made the Rock Hall ballot multiple times and as I speak they are nominated again in 2019.
S32: Some observers say 2020 may be their year. One hopes that Joy Division and New Order may someday join them on the Rock Hall ballot.
S17: And the cure. Just this year after multiple nominations Robert Smith and his bandmates were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by the way. In the same year as Janet Jackson the artist who 30 years ago this month sat next to them on the Hot 100 self-proclaimed cure acolyte Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails did the honors inducting the band a million records and have been an essential touchstone.
S46: In the genres of post punk new wave goth alternative shoegaze and post rock.
S47: You can hear their clear influence on countless fans today including my own.
S48: For his part Robert Smith looked both proud and sheepish standing on stage his hair piled toward the ceiling his face dabbed with makeup.
S17: Standing in front of nine current and former members of his more than 40 year old band it is not very golf to exalt in a moment like this but Robert Smith warmly thanked the army of Cure fans voted for us.
S49: Very nice surprise today. Listened to the music business show you just enjoy what we do. It’s been a fantastic videos.
S50: And then Smith and his bandmates still touring regularly to this day picked up their instruments for a five song set filled with both obscure kitties and the hits that made the cure an improbable multi platinum band in the late 1980s. Teams of my generation called The Cure the alternative. In retrospect maybe they we were just the new normal. I hope you enjoy this episode of hit free. My producer is Justin D right. And we also had help this episode from Rosemary Belson and John Molly the managing producer of Slate podcasts is junior Thomas and Gabriel Roth is the editorial director of Slate podcasts. Check out their roster of shows at Slate dot com slash podcasts. You can subscribe to hit parade wherever you get your podcasts. In addition to finding it in the Slate Culture Gabfest feet if you’re subscribing on Apple podcasts Please rate and review us while you’re there. It helps other listeners find the show. Thanks for listening and I look forward to leading the hit parade. Back your way. Until then keep on marching on the one. I’m Chris.
S51: You made me feel like.