In the spring of 87, my future officemate Will began doing me the occasional favor of putting LPs on cassettes for me (I’ve mentioned before that Paul, another officemate, did this sort of thing with CDs in later years). We’d had a couple of classes together in the fall of 86, but it wasn’t until January, when I stumbled upon him, Paul, and John studying for prelims, that a friendship began. He grew up in West Virginia, had come to C-U after leaving a job in Atlanta, and was a few years older than I. As with many folks over the years, music was an initial common bond.
The cassettes were a mix of albums from both our collections; I had records that I wanted to listen to in the car, and he was more than happy to share things with me he really liked. He’s the one who introduced me to early REM, XTC’s English Settlement, and Dylan’s Infidels. And on the other side of the Dylan tape he put a band I’d never encountered before, the Golden Palominos, their 85 release Visions of Excess.
The Palominos wound up being a rotating mix of performers and singers across more than two decades, with the only constant in the end being founder/drummer Anton Fier. Excess, their second release, was more or less the beginning of the carousel, and has a number of interesting performances. Mike Stipe sings the first three tracks, all of them pretty darn solid. John Lydon does pretty much what you might expect on “The Animal Speaks,” even opening with a belch. Jack Bruce, of Cream fame, has his turn at the mic, too. It was a song featuring the one female vocalist, however, who stole this show as far as I’m concerned.
I had to ask Will who it was singing “(Kind of) True,” the cut that completely knocked me out. There was no reason to be familiar with Syd Straw, but I filed the name away. She popped up again in 89—I think I can remember talking about her debut disk Surprise with my agronomist friend Jon. Her career never took off (she sings backup on a few other disks in my stash, though), but this one performance is more than enough for a lasting spot in my pantheon of tunes.
Pretty certain this led off a mix tape I made for James, maybe the all-female-singer extravaganza I once assembled for him. You have to crank the volume to hear it, but at the very beginning Straw says, “Oh, yes indeed,” right before the guitar kicks in. For a while I wrote a lyric from one of the included songs on the labels that went on each side of cassettes I made; those three words would have been a natural choice on that occasion.