Most Famous College Rock Songs

March 17, 2022, a year ago


Most Famous College Rock Songs

College rock music is exactly what you think it is; alternative rock was made famous by being the go-to in student universities and colleges back in the 1980s and 1990s. Then, these students avoided mainstream rock, choosing to go with this funky beat. That’s how it became popular, while avoiding to do my homework.

The rock genre became uplifted when the two most influential alternative rock bands, R.E.M. and the Smiths, rose to fame. Their songs dominated radio waves and were an anthem in all the best colleges in California and the United States. These two paved the way for other college rock bands like U2, The Cure, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and so on. 

Although many bands became successful, the term college rock has now given way to alt rock. However, for the sake of this article, we would outline some of the famous college rock songs for people who are feeling melancholic or curious and would like to listen again.  

1. “Take the Skinheads Bowling,” by Camper Van Beethoven 

This is like the trademark of the California alt Rock band, Camper Van Beethoven. It received substantial airplay in almost all college radio stations back in the days, peaking at number 8 in the Indie chart. 

It was a part of their 1985 album “The Telephone Free Landslide Victory” written by David Lowery. Part of its appeal was that it didn’t have any particular meaning, as opposed to what was so rampant those days. This was one reason why many people resonated with the song, since it was all fun, without any contextual meaning. 

2. “Radio Free Europe,” by R.E.M. 

This is the debut single by the popular pop group in 1983. It was one of the most famous college rock songs of the era and was always played on both B.B.C. and commercial radio at the time. 

It was a part of their “Murmur” album for the I.R.S. records, and it peaked at number 78 in the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. 

The song was named after the United State’s broadcast channel, and R.E.M. sought to change the manipulation and misinformation caused by this station, by lending their voices. 

3. “Sheila Take A Bow,” by the Smiths 

This became the group’s highest-charting single throughout their musical lifetime. After it was released in April 1987, it reached no 10 in the U.K. singles Chart. 

Written by Johnny Marr and Morrissey, this song paved the way for many English rock troops for years to come, even among hard rock bands. This piece resonated more with the youths because it spoke of a romance between a couple; and how they wanted so badly to be with each other despite the odds. 

4. “Here Comes Your Man” by Pixies

Another one of the top songs of the 1980s was this beautiful piece written and sung by the top man of the Pixies band, Black Francis. It was part of their second album of 1989 titled “Doolittle.” Black wrote the song as a teenager, and after joining the band, the rest were reluctant to do it at first because it sounded a little off-genre for them. 

Thankfully, they did, and it was a huge win for them. According to Black, the piece reminds him of the calm before an ominous earthquake. He had been through four himself and spoke about being awed by the circumstances surrounding it. 

Metaphorically, the earthquake could also refer to human volatile emotions and how to handle it successfully. 

5. “The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness” by the Feelies 

Crazy Rhythms was released in April 1980, and this song was the biggest hit on the album. 
It featured post-punk and jungle pop, influencing many singers at the time. 

It became increasingly trendy amongst college kids because it addressed key issues that young ones face daily, the major highlights being laziness and social awkwardness. “Music is an expression of the soul in a way that is understandable to all that hears it,” explains Julie Hord, a writer at PapersOwl company. “You might be singing about life, death, fun, strife, and whoever listens to the lyrics relates most with what is theirs at that point in time. That’s what makes it so universal.” 

6. “Teen Age Riot” by Sonic Youth 

This was performed by Sonic Youth and was the first single from their album titled “Daystrean Nation.” It went viral and became very famous, receiving much airplay and recognition. 

It debuted at number 28 on the alternative play chart in the United States in December 1988. As of 1989, it rose to number 20. The song is about a realm where J. Mascis is the president of “alternative rock”. 

7. “Blister in the Sun” by Violent Femmes

This was released in 1983 by Violent Femmes as a debut album, and shortly after that, it began to make waves. It was released by Slash Records and written by Gano Gordon of Violent Femmes when he was just 18 years old. 

He initially wrote this as an entry for an audition he was hoping to win, and while — for some undisclosed reason — the audition didn’t happen, he joined a band in 1980 and went ahead with his song. 

Gano explains that the piece outlines a whole spectrum of issues, from drug abuse to a lack of sexual control, which was probably why it has a cult following of college kids after its release. 


Though rock might not be as popular as it was back in the days when most of these songs were written, there are still so many people interested in this genre. You should know that music doesn’t have to be blowing up the charts before you enjoy it. You can start your journey with the songs in the above list, then venture into more if you like. 

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