Sometime back, Stuck in the 80s treated us to Sean Daly’s top ten saddest songs of our favorite decade. At least, that’s what I remember the list as being.
I won’t go into my assessment of Sean’s list, but I will say that almost half of the list consisted of songs by or featuring Phil Collins. (Seriously, sometimes it seems these guys think that Phil Collins was the only musical artist of that decade. Well, him and Asia.) Sean’s list inspired me to do a list of my own. My list will feature very emotionally charged songs by just one artist; 80s critics’ darlings, The Replacements.
And you thought I was going to say The Smiths.
The Replacements were lead by one of the 80s’ (and all time, for that matter) finest songwriters, Paul Westerberg. Paul’s lyrics could funny, irreverent, and gut-wrenching. He certainly wore his heart on his sleeve. A fact he acknowledges on his first official solo album, 14 Songs, in the song ‘First Glimmer’.
Maybe these songs aren’t all sad, per se, but they are powerful, poignant works of musical art.
And none of them feature Phil Collins.
10) Johnny’s Gonna Die (Sorry, Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash)
A song about knowing your hero is a flawed human being destined for disaster. In this case, it’s about Paul’s hero, Johnny Thunders. Johnny died of a drug overdose in 1991.
“Johnny wants something what he ain’t got”
9) Answering Machine (Let It Be)
This is a song of the frustrations of attempting to achieve true connections to another person.
“How do I say ‘I’m lonely’ to/ An answering machine?”
8) Sixteen Blue (Let It Be)
I think every high school age boy should thank Paul for understanding and getting it right. This song can be considered the boys’ version of Janis Ian’s ‘At Seventeen’.
“I don’t understand/ Tell my friends I’m doin’ fine”
7) The Ledge (Pleased to Meet Me)
I love the sound of the guitars on this song. A song about a young man, standing on the ledge of a tall building, finally getting the attention he’s craved all his life only when he’s decided to kill himself. And, at the end of the song… he jumps.
“I’m the boy they can’t ignore/ For the first time in my life, I’m sure”
6) Skyway (Pleased to Meet Me)
A song about a love that seems as though it will never be fulfilled, fate keeps him away from the object of his desire.
“There wasn’t a damn thing I could do or say/ Up in the skyway”
5) Sadly Beautiful (All Shook Down)
Technically, this isn’t a 80s song (All Shook Down was released in 1990) and All Shook Down could be considered Westerberg’s unofficial first solo album, had the label not insisted on releasing it as a Replacements’ album. The song is just too damn good to leave off the list, so I’m grandfathering it in.
For me, the song voices the deeply felt regret that life goes by so fast and the joy of having lived at all. In every way, this song lives up to its title.
“Had no chance at all to let you know/ You left me sadly, beautiful”
4) Within Your Reach (Hootenanny)
The line I site says it better than anything I could write here.
“Live without your touch/ If I die within your reach”
3) Achin’ To Be (Don’t Tell a Soul)
Here we have the frustration of wanting to be loved and truly understood, and trying so hard, but still failing.
“If no one’s on your canvas/ Well, I’m achin’ to be”
2) Here Comes A Regular (Tim)
Anyone who has spent an appreciable amount of time drowning their sorrows at the local watering hole will feel a chord struck with this song.
“All I know is I’m sick of everything that my money can buy/ A fool will waste his life, God rest his guts”
1) Unsatisfied (Let It Be)
This is an anthem for anyone who has ever been mad as hell, and I guess that would be everyone.
“Look me in the eye/ Then tell me/ That I’m satisfied/ Are you satisfied?”
You can check out the Stuck in the 80s blog and find out how to download their podcast at http://blogs.tampabay.com/80s You may find a comment or two from me, I go by Dr. Dim.