In 1984, my sophomore year of high school, I received from a friend a mix tape that his brother"s college roomie made called "Punk Junk." It wasn"t much punk, but a whole lot of junk, but over time I"ve come to appreciate it as the greatest compilation of shitty music ever assembled. I don"t mean shitty as in no redeeming value, but shitty in that no one is adding any of these songs to the Rock Canon. Only now, with the help of the Internet (especially the All-Music Guide), I have been able to assemble a complete and correct list of song titles and artists, with a little tidbit of info to add to knock out anything useful your brain might have acquired. SIDE ONE
1. "My Spine (Is the Bass Line)" - Shriekback (1983) There are supergroups - in which well-known members of prominent bands split off to form their own combo - and then there"s Shriekback, the ultimate second-string supergroup. It was formed by the first keyboard player for XTC and the first bass player for Gang of Four - good acts, yeah, but these guys weren"t responsible for any of it. Still, this is a damn good song. 2. "Change" - Tears for Fears (1983) It"s too bad Roland Orzabal got tagged as some sort of synth-rocker, because he can turn out a damn rich pop song. Like this one. 3. "Danseparc" - Martha and the Muffins (1983) I always thought this was called "Everyday Is Tomorrow," because that"s the actual chorus, but I just discovered the real name of this song last week on, of all things, the official Martha and the Muffins Web site. It"s a lesson to you kids out there - don"t come up with a dumb name for your band. 4. "People Are People" - Depeche Mode (1984) I got a CD of their greatest hits from 1981-"86, and the music has aged better than you"d think. 5. "Big in Japan" - Alphaville (1984) These guys are German, and they appear to be still releasing albums. Maybe they care in Germany. This song does not date well. 6. "Pale Shelter" - Tears for Fears (1983) I guess the band"s downfall was in booting out their keyboard player, who co-wrote a lot of their songs. 7. "Lined Up" - Shriekback (1983) Apparently this was their biggest hit in Britain. 8. "Blasphemous Rumours" - Depeche Mode (1984) Sometime I"d like to hear this song blasting at a wake. 9. "Where Is This Love?" - The Payola$ (1983) Q95, of all stations, used to play this band a lot, in particular "Eyes of a Stranger" from their 1982 album. 10. "The Politics of Dancing" - Re-flex (1983) This British group"s demise began when this song was rejected for the Footloose soundtrack. So there they are, one degree from Kevin Bacon. SIDE TWO
1. "Voices" Carry - Til Tuesday (1983) I saw them open for Hall and Oates. I"m so ashamed to say I once paid good money to see Hall and Oates. I bought a T-shirt, too. No wonder I couldn"t get a date in high school. 2. "Every Word Means No" - Let"s Active (1983) Mitch Easter built up R.E.M. and the whole indie North Carolina scene and for that, he"s a footnote in musical history. 3. "Crackin" Up" - Nick Lowe (1979) At his peak here as one of the greatest songwriters ever. Plus, you"ve got to love his sense of humor. After David Bowie released "Low," Lowe put out an EP called Bowi. 4. "Never Said I Loved You" - The Payola$ (1983) Not to harp on "Eyes of a Stranger," but that"s on the Valley Girl soundtrack, the second-best movie soundtrack of the 1980s (after Repo Man). 5. "Love Cats" - The Cure (1983) I think any listener would find this song either highly bubbly and bouncy or the most annoying freakin" thing they"ve ever heard. I can"t decide. 6. "Violent Love" - Oingo Boingo (1980) This ska-flected song by future movie composer Danny Elfman"s band was written by - WILLIE DIXON! I"m guessing his version doesn"t sound remotely like this. 7. "Nice Legs Shame About Her Face" - The Monks (1979) While most prog-rockers were wheezing out their formulas, the rhythm section for the Strawbs put together a jokey New Wave band. And damned if they didn"t pull it off. 8. "Why Don"t You Kill Yourself?" - The Only Ones (1981) Apparently one of New Wave"s Lost Acts. They had a song "Another Girl, Another Planet" that is supposed to be brilliant and was covered by the Replacements, among others. The lead singer (who Paul Westerberg apparently ripped off quite a bit) was a Syd Barrett-like drug casualty for a while. The drummer, speaking of old prog-rockers, played with Gary "Dream Weaver" Wright and Mick Jones of Foreigner in Spooky Tooth. Sounds like a dentist"s band. 9. "Da Da Da" - Trio (1983) In 2000, this song became popular in a VW ad. Its 17-year cycle makes this the cicada of songs. Expect a big return in 2017. 10. "A Certain Girl" - Warrenn Zevon (1982) This is a cover of an Allen Toussaint-written song (a little N"awlins for ya). It"s off The Envoy, an album that, despite Zevon"s terminal illness, still has not been released on CD. 11. "Add It Up" - Violent Femmes (1983) I didn"t go to parties much during high school, but it sure seemed like this song played at every one of them, just so everyone (especially the girls) could scream the line, "Why can"t I get / just one FUCK." It seems so quaint now. Now Eminem spits out 37 varieties of the F-word, and all anyone can do is ask for more Cheetos. 12. "Big Man Restless" - Kissing the Pink (1983) The band, to ease off the sexual reference, changed their name on subsequent albums to KTP. 13. "Flesh for Fantasy" - Billy Idol (1983) Speaking of concert embarrassments, this was my first show, and I thought I was the biggest tough-ass for going and getting a Billy Idol muscle shirt, which highlighted my model-ready arms, in the sense that there was nothing but bone to them.