What the hell is college rock? It’s a rather ambiguous descriptor for music that came out in the early to mid-1980s that didn’t fit well into defined rock or pop genres. It mainly got played on college rock stations—and that’s where the name comes from. A couple of these bands—R.E.M., Talking Heads, and U2 especially—moved into the mainstream by the middle of the decade, but others—like the Smiths—kept a small but devoted (obsessive) following. In the genre lifecycle, College rock morphed into alternative, which was later displaced by indie. Nothing gold can stay, Johnny.

Listen to “Best College Rock Songs” on Apple Music.