Those Stories Were A Good Read, But They Were Dumb As Well

My very favorite baseball player growing up was Tony Pérez, who played some third but mostly first during the Big Red Machine years. I get why baseball statheads think he’s a suspect case for the MLB Hall of Fame, but completely selfishly, I’m glad that he received the necessary percentage of votes for admission.

Pérez had come back to the Reds for the last three years of his playing career after stops in Montreal, Boston, and Philly, retiring at the end of the 86 season (I drove back from Illinois in September that year to attend Tony Pérez Day at Riverfront Stadium). I suppose he maintained ties with the organization afterward; he was named manager for the 93 season.

The Reds were expected to compete in 93, but got off to a rocky start, losing nine of their first eleven. They managed to get above water to 19-18 on May 16, but a 1-6 road trip to LA and SF led supposed wunderkind GM Jim Bowden to fire Pérez a week later. It was a pretty shocking move at the time; even though Davey Johnson, the successor, was effective over the next couple of seasons, I still wish Pérez (who’ll turn 77 in just four days) had been given the chance to right the ship. We’ll never know…

A little bit south of Cincy right around the time Tony got canned, some 29-year-old was putting the finishing touches on his latest mixtape marvel at his folks’ place. Perhaps we should check out what happened on its Side B:

1. Fire Town, “The Good Life.”
If I’d known six weeks ago I was going to live-blog this tape, I might not have written about Fire Town in my look back at the Modern Rock Tracks of early April 89. But here we are, so we’ll just let this fine tune roll again. I do like it as a lead-off song.

2. Stevie Nicks, “If Anyone Falls.”
Finally, an actual hit record–made #14 in the late fall of 83. I’d picked up Timespace: The Best of Stevie Nicks somewhere along the way, so I plucked one of my faves of hers from it for inclusion here.

3. Sundays, “Goodbye.”
Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic quickly became a fave album when I encountered in the late spring of 90, soon after it arrived on our shores from England. Harriet Wheeler and company definitely brought a Smiths-ish vibe to The Sundays’ music, and there is zero wrong with that. The follow-up, Blind, came out a couple months after I moved back to KY in 92 and was an automatic purchase. Alas, it was somewhat disappointing overall. “Love,” the first single, is just kind of there; the closing track, a cover of “Wild Horses,” is likely its most-remembered cut now but doesn’t do much for me, either. What does? “Goodbye,” the second song on the disk. Every bit the equal of their debut’s best tracks, it’s got both mesmerizing guitar work and dreamy-yet-haunting vocals.

4. Jags, “Back of My Hand.”
As promised, a great tune from the Rhino compilation UK Pop II (part of their DIY series). The UnCola featured a different recording of “Back of My Hand” on his show just ten days ago, but this is the version I’ve long known. It has everything a late 70s British power pop song should: chiming guitars, snarling vocals, catchy chorus. It even spent two weeks on the Hot 100 in June of 80. And note the “additional production” credit to The Buggles.

5. Tori Amos, “Precious Things.”
And when “Back of My Hand” got played last week, I dared to pray that Erik Mattox followed it with the song that always comes up next whenever I hear it now. A bit of a long shot that didn’t pay off, of course…

It wouldn’t surprise me if Little Earthquakes was the disk that got the most play at my place in 92 and 93. Frequently beautiful, occasionally raw, sometimes angry, but it’s always honest. Kudos to whoever it was at Atlantic that allowed Amos to rid herself of Y Kant Tori Read and make this album. Let’s get a dose of Angry Tori.

6. R.E.M., “World Leader Pretend.”
Even though the awesome Automatic for the People was getting regular play with me at the time of recording, I reached back for this album cut from Green. Well-known amongst the R.E.M. faithful for being the first song for which Stipe published lyrics. The whole homophone-yet-antonym bit with “raise” and “raze” is cool enough.

7. Nanci Griffith, “This Old Town.”
I’d been enjoying Griffith’s music for about four years at this point, but there’s just something about Other Voices, Other Rooms, her first album of covers, that deeply spoke to me from the first time I heard it.  “This Old Town,” co-written by Janis Ian, isn’t my favorite (that’s probably Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Morning Song for Sally”), but it’s not too far down the list, either.

8. Sam Phillips, “What You Don’t Want to Hear.”
There’s a Sam Phillips song on seemingly every tape I made between 92 and 94–even with Tori Amos around, Sam was totally where it was for me at the time. This one’s from 88’s The Indescribable Wow.

I’d been seeing someone for a couple of months at the time I made this tape, but it didn’t exactly feel like things were going right. A few weeks later I was driving over to her apartment one evening when this song came up, and it hit me it could easily be a message from her to me; I was proven correct just a few weeks later, though it took several more months for it to end completely.

9. Smiths, “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.”
I was barely aware of the Smiths toward the end of my college days; it was John who got me into their stuff, after we became roommates in 87. I love so very much of the hodgepodge that is Louder Than Bombs, but “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,” from 85’s The Queen Is Dead, may well be my single favorite song of theirs. Yes, the whole “to die by your side, well the pleasure, the privilege is mine” bit is ludicrous, but Morrissey convincingly taps into feelings of isolation, desperation, and loneliness, too. I don’t think I’d want to go home, either.

10. Darling Buds, “When It Feels Good.”
The British quartet Darling Buds did a tour of the U.S. toward the end of 92, opening for Mary’s Danish.  They were supporting their third album, Erotica (yeah, they had the misfortune of choosing the same title Madonna had that fall). Right after Thanksgiving, they played a club in Champaign. Greg was still in town, wrapping up his doctorate, and he tried to convince me to break away and drive 300 miles each way to see the show. Unfortunately, the timing didn’t work out–it was just my first semester on the job! But…

After the Buds finished their set, Greg worked his way over to talk to Andrea Lewis, their singer. He told her my tale of woe, grabbed one of the Mary’s Danish mailing list sign-up sheets from the stage, and asked Andrea for a souvenir. He promptly passed it on to me:


I totally treasure this.

Here’s another one that’s been played here before, the penultimate track on their 88 debut disk Pop Said… Still a charming little piece.

11. Peter Case, “This Town’s a Riot.”
The third album Mitchell Froom produced in 92 that I really enjoy is Six Pack of Love, from Peter Case. It’s definitely not in line with the rest of Case’s solo oeuvre–much more rock/pop than folk, with plenty of Froom’s recording studio gimmickry thrown in for good measure–but it’s a nice showcase of what Case could do. Might even hearken back a bit to his days in the Plimsouls…

Case made more than the occasional appearance on my 90s mix tapes. This one comes from his 89 release, The Man with the Blue…Guitar, which will be featured in another post sometime in the next few weeks. I find the lyrics in “This Town’s a Riot” plenty clever overall, starting off with, “I was standing on the corner of the Walk and Don’t Walk.”

12. Lindsey Buckingham, “Go Insane.”
It took me a long time to realize that the only Top 40 songs on this tape were solo hits by two members of the Mac (who’d even been married once). “Go Insane” had made #23 in the fall of 84. It’s only been in the last few months that a good-quality copy of the video was uploaded to YouTube (thanks, Lindsey!).

Remember when commercial cassettes started coming out in clear casing in the mid-80s? I’m thinking that Go Insane was one of the first of those I purchased:


Really solid album; the only ones I don’t find excellent are “Play in the Rain” and “Bang the Drum.” Wound up going on a Buckingham CD buying binge after Out of the Cradle was released in 92 and throwing on this one on toward the end of the tape.

13. Anne Richmond Boston, “Darling Be Home Soon.”
One of the coolest names in rock–how many folks have two cities as part of their name?

Closing out with a Lovin’ Spoonful cover by the vocalist for Georgia jangle-pop band The Swimming Pool Q’s. Greg had done his undergraduate work at Georgia Tech, so I’m pretty sure he’s the one who clued me in about Boston. The Big House of Time was her only solo disk and another one that hit cutout bins quickly. I can find only three of its songs on YouTube, so I’m lucky that “Darling Be Home Soon” is one of them. It does make for a good tape-ender. I nailed the landing, too–there aren’t but a couple of seconds of blank tape afterward, and then the play button on my boombox kicks off.

I’ll probably perform this sort of exercise again from time to time, even if there’ll be considerable overlap in who makes appearances; consider yourself warned…


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