Five 1980s bands who broke up too soon

Bands who left us far too early.
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LET’S ACTIVE, 1983-1988 (4.5 albums)

Just as REM played their first gig opening for The Brains, North Carolina’s Let’s Active played their first show opening for REM. Both shows took place in Atlanta. REM’s producer at the time, Mitch Easter, had started the band, and the boys from Athens gave him a shot on stage. Let’s Active put out a series of bright, jangle-pop albums before their break-up at the end of the decade. That break-up may have had more to do with the break-up of Easter and his wife – Let’s Active’s singer/guitar player Angie Carlson – than anything attributable to music or success.

Things began changing for the band when original rhythm section Faye Hunter (bass) and Sara Romweber (drums) left in the mid-‘80s. The sound grew a little harder and it began to look as if what Easter really needed were some session players as opposed to an actual band. Regardless of how it ended, their early single “Every Word Means No” remains a stone-cold classic of early college radio jangle pop – one of the best songs of the ‘80s.

THE HOUSEMARTINS, 1986-1987 (2 albums)

First things first. If you’re feeling depressed, stop reading a find The Housemartin’s single “Happy Hour.” Better than Paxil and Lexapro put together. You can’t listen to Paul Heaton’s voice and that jangly melody and not feel better (whether you pay attention to the lyrics or not.) That’s not to say the rest of their debut album, London 0 Hull 4 isn’t filled with other great tunes.

Their second and final album, The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death, had plenty of effervescent pop as well, though their roots as a Christian-leaning band become a little more obvious. Whether you buy into the spiritual message in a song like “Caravan of Love,” it’s impossible to resist the gorgeous a cappella harmonizing.

The Housemartins broke up, apparently amicably, after that second album, and all the members went on to fine careers, with Heaton and drummer Dave Hemingway forming The Beautiful South, guitar player Stan Cullimore becoming a successful author and journalist, and bass player Norman Cook becoming Fatboy Slim. (Disclaimer: no statements about the effectiveness of antidepressant medication or songs that might replace them should be taken seriously.)