Flashback: Top 10 Modern Rock singles this week 25 years ago

Posted by Chris Gerard
February 19, 2014 10:36 AM |

Starting in September, 1988, Billboard Magazine started publishing a "Modern Rock" Top 40, reflecting the growing importance of college radio and alternative bands that weren't necessarily making a dent on the increasingly more pop and R&B dominated Hot 100 singles chart. Holding the top slot on the chart in the first week of its existence was "Peek-a-Boo" by Siouxsie & The Banshees. The chart would be renamed "Alternative Songs" in 2009. 

Here's a look back at the Top 10 Modern Rock singles this week a quarter-century ago, on the Billboard Modern Rock charts from the February 18, 1989 issue. 

10. Enya - "Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)" 

Irish artist Enya's biggest commercial success came with "Orinoco Flow" from her album Watermark. It paused this week at #10 on its way down from a peak of #6. It would also hit #24 on the Hot 100 singles chart, and #6 on the Adult Contemporary chart. It was a #1 hit in the U.K. and through much of Europe. 

9. New Order - "Fine Time"

The first single from their fifth album Technique, "Fine Time" spent 13 weeks on the Modern Rock chart and peaked at #3. Like most of their singles, it barely made a dent on the pop chart in America, but it did reach #2 on the dance chart and #11 on the U.K. pop singles chart. 

8. Fine Young Cannibals - "She Drives Me Crazy"

The big commercial breakthrough for British trio Fine Young Cannibals was "She Drives Me Crazy" from their album The Raw & The Cooked.  It was a #1 pop hit and would peak at #5 on the Modern Rock chart. 

7. Midge Ure - "Dear God"

Former Ultravox vocalist Midge Ure had his biggest solo success in the U.S. with "Dear God," the second single from his 1989 solo album Answers to Nothing. "Dear God" would eventually reach #4 on the Modern Rock chart.

6. Violent Femmes - "Nightmares"

Best known for early '80s college radio classics "Blister in the Sun" and "Gone Daddy Gone," Violent Femmes continued releasing studio albums up until 2000. From their 1989 album "3," "Nightmares" would eventually peak at #4 on the Modern Rock Chart, their second highest placement after "American Music" which hit #2 in 1991 (of course the chart didn't exist when their early '80s classics were released.)

5. Cowboy Junkies - "Sweet Jane"

Canadian band Cowboy Junkies released their critically acclaimed album The Trinity Sessions in 1989, and it included their solemn and beautiful take on Lou Reed's classic "Sweet Jane." It spent 17 weeks on the Modern Rock chart and peaked at #5. 

4. Elvis Costello - "Veronica"

In only its second week on the Modern Rock Top 40, "Veronica" leaped to #4 on its way to eventually hitting #1. The poignant "Veronica" is from Costello's 1989 album Mighty Like a Rose. He'd hit #1 again on the Modern Rock chart in 1991 with "The Other Side of Summer," but of course the chart didn't exist when his classic singles from the late '70s and early '80s were released. "Veronica" was the biggest crossover single in Costello's career, reaching #19 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart, one of only two American Top 40 hits in his legendary career (the other being "Everyday I Write the Book" which hit #36 in 1983). 

3. The Replacements - "I'll Be You" 

The first single from The Replacements' sixth album Don't Tell a Soul, the melodic rocker "I'll Be You" was the band's most commercial offering yet. It hit #1 on both the Modern Rock and Mainstream Rock chart and was their only entry on the Hot 100, peaking at #51. Two other singles from "Don't Tell a Soul" reached the Modern Rock chart: "Back to Back" (#28) and "Achin' to Be" (#22). The Replacements would reach the top again in 1990 with "Merry-Go-Round" from their final album, "All Shook Down." 

2. R.E.M. - "Stand"

Slipping back to #2 after reaching the top, "Stand" was the second straight #1 on the Modern Rock chart from R.E.M.'s Green following first single "Orange Crush." R.E.M. is one of the most successful artists in the chart's history with 26 total appearances, including six #1's (in addition to the two mentioned above, they hit the top with "Losing My Religion" (1991), "Drive" (1992), "What's the Frequency Kenneth?" and "Bang and Blame" (both from 1994). "Stand" was one of the band's biggest overall hits, also hitting #1 on the Mainstream Rock chart and #6 on the Hot 100. 

1. Lou Reed - "Dirty Blvd."

A few notches back at #5 we heard a cover of a classic Lou Reed song, and the man himself reached the apex this week with "Dirty Blvd." It spent a total of four weeks at the top, becoming his biggest hit in many years.  "Dirty Blvd." is from his acclaimed New York, one of the most successful albums of the recently departed Lou Reed's long and legendary careery 

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