"TALKIN' 'BOUT MY GENERATION"
IN-BETWEEN DAYS:  1983-‘87
By Jim Hutter
THE BANGLES: Starting life as “The Bangs,” this all-female L.
A. quartet fit perfectly with that city’s Paisley Underground
scene of the ‘eighties.  With their backcombed Jeannie
Shrimpton hair, Cleopatra eyeliner, and go-go boots, The
Bangles both looked and sounded the part.  Mixing garage rock
fuzztone with Mamas and Papas harmonies, their first two
releases (Bangles E.P. and All Over The Place) were retro
masterpieces.  Then mainstream aspirations manifested
themselves with the slickly produced Prince tune, “Manic
Monday.” It was downhill from there.  Big hair and cheesy
ballads followed, but never cheapened The Bangles’ earlier
legacy.  Through it all, doe-eyed singer Susanna Hoffs
remained doll city—totally!

THE BLASTERS:  If any group defined grassroots Americana
in the ‘eighties, it had to be The Blasters.  Led by the Alvin
brothers, Phil and Dave, the band played an adult form of
rockabilly that told tales of American woe worthy of John
Steinbeck.  Taking pride in their heritage, The Blasters often
recorded and toured with New Orleans elder statesman Lee
Allen on sax as an unofficial sixth member.  Many songs were
unforgettable.  “Long White Cadillac” told the tale of Hank
Williams’ final ride.  “Marie, Marie” was pure sexual angst set
to a danceable rockabilly beat.  The best was possibly
“American Music,” a paean to everything that should make us
proud of our nation.

THE CHESTERFIELD KINGS:  This upstate New York
quintet is the perfect musical time warp, playing Nuggets’-
styled garage rock for the past twenty-some years. They snarl
with defiance even snottier than The Standells at their
baddest.   With Vox teardrop guitars and Prince Valiant hair,
The Chesterfield Kings are more punk than Billy Idol could
ever hope to be.  Footnote:  guitarist Andy Babiuk has since
written a very informative book on every guitar and amplifier
played by The Beatles.

THE CURE:  Although Robert Smith’s ever-changing combo
dated back to the early days of punk, they really came to
prominence during the “In Between Days.”  Beginning as a
moody power pop band, they eventually morphed into synth
pop and then brought us some of the most delectably dark pop
ever recorded.  Robert Smith croons with an ache in his soul,
bending pained notes in the most appealing way.  With their
moody melodies, black clothing, and smudged eyeliner, The
Cure was defining Goth when most current followers were
still in diapers.

ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN:  Founded by Liverpudlian
Doors fan Ian McCullough, Echo and the Bunnymen have
produced some fine neo-psychedelic pop that does not sound
the least bit retro.  Attribute this to songwriting that
incorporates some of the most succulent minor chord melodies
and rock crooning that would put Cliff Richard to shame.  
Their finest moments include the unforgettable 1984 single,
“The Killing Moon,” and a snarky remake of “People Are
Strange” that was featured in the 1987 Psychotronic film,
“The Wild Boys.”  All are moody and marvelous.

THE FLESHTONES:  Some cynics believe that ‘eighties rock
was little more than a rehash of the three previous decades.  In
reality, it was a matter of drawing inspiration from the best of
the past to create something truly exciting in the present.  
Probably the best example of this type of revivalist reinvention
is The Fleshtones.  Tapping the best of ‘sixties garage rock
and ‘fifties rhythm and blues, The Fleshtones virtually invented
the concept of “Super Rock.”  The end result is more rocking
than punk, more danceable than disco, and unbelievably
exciting.  Although The Fleshtones never scored any Top 40
hits, singer Peter Zaremba gained momentary fame as the host
of MTV’s “The Cutting Edge” between 1984 and ’87.  Even
now, The Fleshtones remain together, releasing indie label
albums, touring incessantly, and continuing to excite Super
Rock fans everywhere.

GREAT PLAINS:  Some considered them cerebral college
rock.  Others thought of them as a garage band.  Both schools
of thought are correct regarding Great Plains.  The Columbus-
based indie label combo used extremely raw vocals and Farfisa-
driven arrangements as a backdrop to the confrontational
poetry of frontman Ron House.  A huge fan of Ray Davies,
House let his inner Kink show through many uninhibited and
alcohol-fueled performances.  It was only fitting that they
covered the jazz standard “Drunkard’s Blues” and made it
autobiographical.  They asked the musical question, “Why do
punk rock guys go out with new wave girls” in “Letter to a
Fanzine.”  Chances are they got the answer at their many
shows.

THE HOUSEMARTINS:  Mating slashing political commentary
with bouncy ‘sixties Merseybeat, the Housemartins gained a
degree of success on the British indie rock scene.  Leader Paul
“p.d.” Heaton fancied himself a poet and leftist muckraker.  
His scathing musical diatribes against Thatcher’s England
attacked class inequity with venom and sound remarkably
contemporary in post-Bush America.  In keeping with the
faddish nature of British rock, The Housemartins broke up
after two albums.  Heaton formed The Beautiful South, who
carry on the socio-political torch.  Bassist Norman Cook
changed his name to Fatboy Slim, and the rest is pop history.

HUSKER DU:  The Minneapolis trio may have been labeled
“hardcore” by the press, but there was one fine powerpop
band lurking under the wall of roaring guitars.  Led by dueling
songwriters Bob Mould and Grant Hart, Husker Du set
angstful lyrics to highly dynamic pop melodies, making their
overall sound much more intelligent and mature than the typical
scream and thrash hardcore outfit.  Even so, the band kept a
raw and fast sound even after signing with Warners in 1986,
ultimately inspiring the punk-pop movement of the ‘nineties
and beyond.
pleasing results.  His Beatlesque approach was a perfect fit
with the mid ‘eighties Carolina “jangle rock” scene.  Signature
song, “Every Word Means No,” is possibly the best record
The Monkees never made and is deserving of a place in the
Rock And Roll Hall of Fame.

THE LONG RYDERS: Kentuckian Sid Griffin went to L.A.
with a copy of The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo in his
arms, and never looked back.  Part of La-La Land’s mid-
‘eighties Paisley Underground, Griffin’s twelve-string
Rickenbacker showed off his McGuinn fetish beautifully.  
Bandmate Stephen McCarthy channeled the ghost of Gram
Parsons, and threw in bits of Bluegrass and vintage Nashville
for color.  The Long Ryders broke up in 1987, too soon to
reap the benefits of the 1988-1994 Alternative explosion.  Sid
Griffin, subsequently, has fronted various roots rock combos,
and writes intelligent articles for MOJO.

LOS LOBOS:  The truly “hip” are so often misunderstood by
the masses, and Los Lobos certainly fits the bill.  Just
mentioning the name of this East-L.A. combo often elicits
bigoted jokes.  The uninformed fail to realize that Los Lobos
was one of America’s best roots rock combos of the ‘eighties,
flavoring their sound with not only blues and country but
traditional Mexican Nortena as well.  Los Lobos finally hit the
top of the American charts in the summer of ’87 with a skillful
remake of Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba.”  While the group has
been criticized for scoring with such a stereotypical Chicano
tune, their recording was far superior to most of the dreck that
dominated the American Top 40 that year.  By the ‘nineties,
Los Lobos had degenerated into sub-Santana Latino blues-
rock, but their ‘eighties legacy remains fine listening indeed.  

MENTAL AS ANYTHING: Aussie quintet played their first gig
on top of a pub’s pool table, and in Australian bars, that’s for
sanitary reasons!   While it may be easy to write them off as
early ‘eighties “new wave” one-hit-wonders, there is much
more to Mental As Anything than spiky hair and synthesizers.
Mixing pop sensibilities, late ‘fifties Nashville, post-punk
quirkiness, and self-deprecating wit, The Mentals approach
predated Barenaked Ladies by over a decade.  Mental as
Anything weathered most of the ‘eighties and ‘nineties as one
of the most popular bands down under, but unheard of
Stateside.  

R.E.M.: Long before they gained mass acceptance as twee
artistes backed by baroque orchestration, R.E.M. was one fine
rock ‘n’ roll band.  Hailing from the same Athens, Georgia
birthing grounds as The B-52’s, Michael Stipe, Peter Buck,
Mike Mills, and Bill Berry created a brand of jangly folk-rock
flavored with a certain cryptic Southern Gothic.  Their
shimmering Rickenbackers drew superficial comparisons to
The Byrds, but it was Michael Stipe’s often incomprehensible
words that created an aura of mystery.  Not unlike the poetry
of e.e. cummings, the lyrics made very little literal sense, but
the choice of phrases could be highly evocative.  Initially
appealing to cerebral college nerds, R.E.M. made several
awesome albums for I.R.S., including their blockbuster debut
Murmur.  By 1988, the band scored American hits with “The
One I Love” and “It’s The End of the World as We Know It,”
and jumped ship to Warner Brothers.  Within two years, multi-
platinum sales had softened them into pretentious art rockers
playing ‘seventies-styled schlock rock.  Even so, their early
works are a splendid example of mid-‘eighties American
Underground rock.

THE REPLACEMENTS: Thanks to Paul Westerberg’s gruff
voice and chainsaw guitars, The Replacements drew initial
comparisons to The Clash.  In reality, Westerberg cared little
for early punk, instead drawing inspiration from The Faces and
The Stones.  The Minneapolis quartet certainly carried on the
gleefully obnoxious nature of their mentors with many live
shows degenerating into drunken train wrecks.  In the studio,
however, The Replacements were nothing short of brilliant,
thanks mainly to Westerberg’s dynamic songwriting.  He could
be very silly, producing titles like “Tommy Gets His Tonsils
Out” and “Gary’s Got a Boner.”  He could also be very
heartfelt, writing profound statements on angst and loneliness
in the form of “Answering Machine” and “Sixteen Blue.”  
Eventually, substance abuse and infighting did the group in,
splitting in 1991.  Fortunately, the band left behind a body of
work that sounds considerably less dated than many of their
‘eighties contemporaries.

THE SMITHS:  What happens when an Oscar Wilde wannabe
meets a Keith Richards aspirant?  If they are Stephen Patrick
Morrisey and Johnny Marr, they form The Smiths.  The pair
comprised one of the strongest British songwriting teams of
the mid ‘eighties.  Mixing Morrissey’s angstful (and often
darkly humorous) poetry with Marr’s splendid song-first
Britpop guitar, The Smiths produced a string of classic
releases between 1983 and ’87, including Meat Is Murder and
The Queen Is Dead.  Whenever Morrissey’s self-absorbed
crooning about death and depression seemed excessive, Marr’s
tasty and jangly licks brought everything back down to earth.  
The combination made for some brilliant listening during the
darkest moments of the Reagan/Thatcher years.

U2:  The Irish quartet may take their lumps from today’s
hipsters for gaining such massive mainstream popularity, but
their anthemic songwriting and high-energy performances have
made it all deserved.  Starting as an adolescent punk band in
the late ‘seventies, U2 churned out plenty of fine singles like “I
Will Follow” and “Gloria” during the new wave period.  Finally
breaking through to the mainstream with “War” in 1983, Bono,
Adam, Larry and The Edge did so with muscular tunes with
broad sweeping lyrical messages.  Their most heartfelt
moment was their Martin Luther King paean, “(Pride) In The
Name of Love” in 1984.  The band may have temporarily
blown their cool by growing coke dealer ponytails and
churning out the heavy-handed, self-indulgent, and pompous
“The Joshua Tree” in 1987, but its astronomical popularity
bought them the right to return to intelligently stripped-down
rock in the ‘nineties.

Further information on these artists can be found at www.
allmusic.com., the All Music Guide.
By 1983, the chic tastemakers decided that “new wave” was passé.  After all, those conservative rock
malcontents who wanted to turn the clock back to 1955, 1966, or 1977 failed to capture the fancy of
mainstream American youth.  MTV had intervened, giving a few of those artists surprise American hits, but by
that time, many punk pioneers had fallen by the wayside.  Blondie, The Buzzcocks, The Jam and Rockpile had
broken up.  The Clash fired a key member and degenerated into a hollow ghost of past glories.  In their place
rose a new breed of alternative band.  Rooted in the fashion fancy of New Romantics, this new strain focused
upon danceable electronic sounds and over-the-top androgynous fashion.  While some, such as Culture Club
and Depeche Mode, were meritous, others, such as Duran Duran, seemed like manufactured and
contrived teen idols.  The spirit of true punk, however, did not die—it went back to its rightful home,
the underground network of nightclubs, record stores, and independent labels.  
Let us then focus upon underappreciated artists from those “In Between Days” of 1983 to 1987.
©Copyright 2009-2010 Out Of The Blue.
All rights reserved.
THE BANGLES: Starting life as “The Bangs,” this all-female L.
A. quartet fit perfectly with that city’s Paisley Underground
scene of the ‘eighties.  With their backcombed Jeannie
Shrimpton hair, Cleopatra eyeliner, and go-go boots, The
Bangles both looked and sounded the part.  Mixing garage rock
fuzztone with Mamas and Papas harmonies, their first two
releases (Bangles E.P. and All Over The Place) were retro
masterpieces.  Then mainstream aspirations manifested
themselves with the slickly produced Prince tune, “Manic
Monday.” It was downhill from there.  Big hair and cheesy
ballads followed, but never cheapened The Bangles’ earlier
legacy.  Through it all, doe-eyed singer Susanna Hoffs
remained doll city—totally!

THE BLASTERS:  If any group defined grassroots Americana
in the ‘eighties, it had to be The Blasters.  Led by the Alvin
brothers, Phil and Dave, the band played an adult form of
rockabilly that told tales of American woe worthy of John
Steinbeck.  Taking pride in their heritage, The Blasters often
recorded and toured with New Orleans elder statesman Lee
Allen on sax as an unofficial sixth member.  Many songs were
unforgettable.  “Long White Cadillac” told the tale of Hank
Williams’ final ride.  “Marie, Marie” was pure sexual angst set
to a danceable rockabilly beat.  The best was possibly
“American Music,” a paean to everything that should make us
proud of our nation.

THE CHESTERFIELD KINGS:  This upstate New York
quintet is the perfect musical time warp, playing Nuggets’-
styled garage rock for the past twenty-some years. They snarl
with defiance even snottier than The Standells at their
baddest.   With Vox teardrop guitars and Prince Valiant hair,
The Chesterfield Kings are more punk than Billy Idol could
ever hope to be.  Footnote:  guitarist Andy Babiuk has since
written a very informative book on every guitar and amplifier
played by The Beatles.

THE CURE:  Although Robert Smith’s ever-changing combo
dated back to the early days of punk, they really came to
prominence during the “In Between Days.”  Beginning as a
moody power pop band, they eventually morphed into synth
pop and then brought us some of the most delectably dark pop
ever recorded.  Robert Smith croons with an ache in his soul,
bending pained notes in the most appealing way.  With their
moody melodies, black clothing, and smudged eyeliner, The
Cure was defining Goth when most current followers were
still in diapers.

ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN:  Founded by Liverpudlian
Doors fan Ian McCullough, Echo and the Bunnymen have
produced some fine neo-psychedelic pop that does not sound
the least bit retro.  Attribute this to songwriting that
incorporates some of the most succulent minor chord melodies
and rock crooning that would put Cliff Richard to shame.  
Their finest moments include the unforgettable 1984 single,
“The Killing Moon,” and a snarky remake of “People Are
Strange” that was featured in the 1987 Psychotronic film,
“The Wild Boys.”  All are moody and marvelous.

THE FLESHTONES:  Some cynics believe that ‘eighties rock
was little more than a rehash of the three previous decades.  In
reality, it was a matter of drawing inspiration from the best of
the past to create something truly exciting in the present.  
Probably the best example of this type of revivalist reinvention
is The Fleshtones.  Tapping the best of ‘sixties garage rock
and ‘fifties rhythm and blues, The Fleshtones virtually invented
the concept of “Super Rock.”  The end result is more rocking
than punk, more danceable than disco, and unbelievably
exciting.  Although The Fleshtones never scored any Top 40
hits, singer Peter Zaremba gained momentary fame as the host
of MTV’s “The Cutting Edge” between 1984 and ’87.  Even
now, The Fleshtones remain together, releasing indie label
albums, touring incessantly, and continuing to excite Super
Rock fans everywhere.

GREAT PLAINS:  Some considered them cerebral college
rock.  Others thought of them as a garage band.  Both schools
of thought are correct regarding Great Plains.  The Columbus-
based indie label combo used extremely raw vocals and Farfisa-
driven arrangements as a backdrop to the confrontational
poetry of frontman Ron House.  A huge fan of Ray Davies,
House let his inner Kink show through many uninhibited and
alcohol-fueled performances.  It was only fitting that they
covered the jazz standard “Drunkard’s Blues” and made it
autobiographical.  They asked the musical question, “Why do
punk rock guys go out with new wave girls” in “Letter to a
Fanzine.”  Chances are they got the answer at their many
shows.

THE HOUSEMARTINS:  Mating slashing political commentary
with bouncy ‘sixties Merseybeat, the Housemartins gained a
degree of success on the British indie rock scene.  Leader Paul
“p.d.” Heaton fancied himself a poet and leftist muckraker.  
His scathing musical diatribes against Thatcher’s England
attacked class inequity with venom and sound remarkably
contemporary in post-Bush America.  In keeping with the
faddish nature of British rock, The Housemartins broke up
after two albums.  Heaton formed The Beautiful South, who
carry on the socio-political torch.  Bassist Norman Cook
changed his name to Fatboy Slim, and the rest is pop history.

HUSKER DU:  The Minneapolis trio may have been labeled
“hardcore” by the press, but there was one fine powerpop
band lurking under the wall of roaring guitars.  Led by dueling
songwriters Bob Mould and Grant Hart, Husker Du set
angstful lyrics to highly dynamic pop melodies, making their
overall sound much more intelligent and mature than the typical
scream and thrash hardcore outfit.  Even so, the band kept a
raw and fast sound even after signing with Warners in 1986,
ultimately inspiring the punk-pop movement of the ‘nineties
and beyond.

LET’S ACTIVE:  Shortly after Mitch Easter gained critical
acclaim for producing the first few R.E.M. albums, he brought
his own band, Let’s Active, to the forefront of the American
underground.   Recording almost exclusively in his parents’
North Carolina garage, Easter mixed the youthful joy of
powerpop with the mind warp of psychedelia to some very
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