Last Photo Together

It’s early August 2014, and Erlanger Christian Church has scheduled the folks at Lifetouch to come in and take pictures for a new edition of the church directory. By this point, Mom isn’t much of a morning person, so she called in and signed up for an early-to-mid afternoon time. There’s about a week left before my work schedule starts filling up again for the upcoming academic year, so it’s easy for me to drive up and take her to the church.

While we sit waiting in the hallway of the education wing, I see some folks I know from my years of attendance (I visit less often than annually these days). We chat a little, mostly catching them up on my life and family. Then it’s Mom’s turn.  We go into the gathering area where the camera and lights are set up, Mom slips off the tubing attached to her portable oxygen machine, and allows the photographer to arrange her arms and adjust the angle of her chin. He takes several photos and then we move across the hall to review them.

They aren’t very good. Mom has always complained that the camera shows no love for her. She’s not right about this in general, but maybe she is this time.  While we dither over what to do, a moment of grace arrives–the photographer offers to have her sit for another round. This creates delays for the people who’ve since arrived and are waiting in line, but no one complains (for this I’m grateful).

Perhaps in an effort to get Mom to relax, the photographer invites me to join her for a couple of shots. He even takes a couple of me by myself. Whatever his intent, it works. She has a couple of nice options now, and there’s a good one of the two of us.

Yes, he’s sensed a sales opportunity, but I don’t care. We purchase some of the pictures and then head off to Frisch’s for a late lunch. Mom won’t return to the church she grew up in and loved until the day of her funeral, seven months later.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love the picture.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 5/10/75: Roger Whittaker, “The Last Farewell”

My sister and I spent a fair amount of time in front of the television on weekday afternoons after we got home from elementary school and junior high. Our station of choice was the then-unaffiliated WXIX, Channel 19 in Cincinnati (it’s now a Fox affiliate). Generally they ran 60s sitcoms and animated features that had been put in syndication. Favorite shows included Speed Racer, The FlintstonesPetticoat Junction, and (especially) Gilligan’s Island.  There were healthy doses of Green Acres and The Andy Griffith Show along the way, too.

And of course I remember the commercials, especially the ones trying to get you buy something through the mail. Amy and I got suckered one time into buying Over 264 Instant Magic Tricks, which came with a prop or two. I recall being disappointed when the book arrived, already separated from its binding. I may have been expecting something a little more visually-oriented, as well—the text was too dense for ten-year-old me.

Then there were the music ads, too—compilations akin to the late 80s Freedom Rock set, I imagine—but also “greatest hits” albums from artists who never quite broke big in the U.S. Yes, I’m looking at you, Slim Whitman:

 

But I’m also casting a sideways glance over at Roger Whittaker:

 

It was quite a number of years before I realized that Whittaker had actually charted with “The Last Farewell.” Originally recorded in 71, it managed to gain traction stateside four years later in the time-honored tradition of a rogue radio station throwing it out there to its audience and watching it take off in response.  We’re hearing it debut at #40 on this show; it’d reach #19 before the end of June.

I’m not here to bury “The Last Farewell.” It’s a pretty tune, well arranged and sung. The whole mail-order music thing is easy for poking fun, but it did introduce me to a decently nice piece in this case.

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 Farr, 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:

AFarr

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:

GoInsane

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…

May93TapeSideB

I’ll Only Hurt You in My Dreams

Over the weekend I stumbled across one of my favorite mix tapes, created (I think) in May of 93. Since I had no tape deck, I recorded it at my parents’ house in Florence sometime after the end of my first year of teaching at Georgetown. My sister got married on the last Saturday of May, so it probably was a week or two before that.

It’s a Maxell XLII 100-minute tape, the brand I had been using for a few years. The music ranged from 78 to the then-present; most were five years old or less. My tastes leaned much more toward the college/alternative side of things by this point, but melody and pop sensibility were still important factors in what attracted my attention. Only two of the twenty-seven songs ever hit the Top 40; by the end, they may look a little out of place. Others should be familiar though many were obscure even in their supposed heyday. Yet, I still find almost everything on here quite appealing–you like what you like, apparently.

Today I’ll lay Side A on you; the flip will come sometime reasonably soon.

1. Belly, “Feed the Tree.”
After stints in the Throwing Muses and the Breeders, Tanya Donnelly formed her own alternative band Belly. They released two disks, Star and King. The former had a few songs make noise on the alternative charts; “Feed the Tree,” one of my faves of 93, even managed to hang out for four weeks in the 90s on the Hot 100 right about the time I was having it lead off the tape.

Toward the end of my tape-making days, I would sometimes write a line from one of the included songs on the labels that went on each side of the cassette. I didn’t do it for this one, but I’m certain that the title of this post, a lyric from “Feed the Tree,” was plastered on one side of a ‘stuff’ tape I gave to James later in 93.

 

2. Los Lobos, “Wake Up Delores.”
Mitchell Froom (co-)produced three of the most distinctive sounding and enjoyable albums of 92; two of them have cuts on this cassette. The first one up is the second track on Los Lobos’ fantastic disk Kiko, one of its best. A few others from Kiko and their previous release, The Neighborhood, graced other tapes I made around then.

 

3. Squeeze, “If I Didn’t Love You.”
One of the disks in regular rotation at the Friday night gatherings with old college friends that I started attending in 92 was Singles–45’s and Under, from Squeeze. That led to a pretty thorough investigation of their back catalog. My favorite, by a decent amount, is Argybargy, which I first encountered in the September 80 issue of Stereo Review, courtesy of Joel Vance (and americanradiohistory.com):

Squeeze1

Squeeze2

These days, its two best-known songs are “Pulling Mussels (from the Shell)” and “Another Piece of My Heart.” The nod for top track from Argybargy in these quarters, though, goes to the seduction-thwarted-by-‘not-tonight-dear’ tale of “If I Didn’t Love You,” in part for the line “Singles remind me of kisses/Albums remind me of plans.” I don’t dispute the greatness of “Vicky Verky,” however–within a year I’d put it on a different tape.

 

4. Grace Pool, “Radio Religion.”
The first of several true obscurities. Grace Pool came of New York, fronted by the wife-and-husband team of vocalist Elly Brown and session musician Bob Riley. They released two albums (the first is more synth-driven, the second features guitars to a greater extent) that failed to make much of an impression, but I managed to scoop both up before they disappeared into the ether. Several tracks turned out to be worthy of repeated listens over the years. One of the best is the fourth cut on the self-titled debut disk; “Radio Religion” is a danceable rejection of that format found frequently on the AM dial.

 

5. Curve, “Coast Is Clear.”
I got interested in Curve when I heard “Horror Head” from their full-length debut disk Doppelgänger at Record Service in early 92. Before long, I picked up Frozen, one of their earlier EPs, which contained “Coast Is Clear.” It’s by far the heaviest and most techno piece on the tape, but I still dig it. Singer Toni Halliday pulls zero punches here: “You could be my father for all the love you show…it’s never enough to swallow those pills, now I’m sick and always will be.”

 

6. Adam Schmitt, “Can’t Get You on My Mind.”
If power pop is your thing and you aren’t familiar with Adam Schmitt, get thee over to Amazon posthaste and spend around $10 to score a Very Good used copy of World So Bright. It’s one of my favorite disks from 91, completely brilliant with hooks galore. (The followup from 93, Illiterature, rocks a little harder but has many fantastic tunes, too.) Schmitt was (is?) from Chicago, so World got promoted decently down in Champaign-Urbana. The wordplay in the title of the putative lead single, “Can’t Get You on My Mind,” is enough to make it an instant power pop classic before you even hear a note. Please listen to this.

 

7. In Tua Nua, “All I Wanted.”
Up next is a bit of a driving rocker from an Irish band whose name translates to “the new tribe.”  Greg turned me on to this the year we roomed together. It was a modest hit in Ireland and a minor one in the UK in 88; I say it deserved much more attention than it received.

 

8. Sarah McLachlan, “Into the Fire.”
When I wrote three months ago about Sarah McLachlan’s “Vox,” I observed how blown away I was when I began hearing “Into the Fire” in the spring of 92, enough to make a purchase of Solace worth it all on its own. She’d matured so much in three years: “I will stare into the sun until its light doesn’t blind me/I will walk into the fire until its heat doesn’t burn me/And I will feed the fire…”

 

9. Reivers, “Star Telegram.”
I’m kind of spoiling a possible future Destination 89 post here. I’ve written before how I got turned on to Austin’s Reivers in 91-92; their 89 release End of the Day is one of my all-time favorite albums, period. This sweet ode to the days of their youth and the newspaper from Ft. Worth is one of the few tunes from this disk you can find on YouTube. While John Croslin’s vocals tend a little to the monotone, the harmonies with co-singer Kim Longacre are oh-so-good. Definitely another album worth trying to find.

 

10. Wonder Stuff, “Welcome to the Cheap Seats.”
Maybe the main attraction now of this song from 91 is Kirsty MacColl’s background vocals. It’s a fun enough romp by a British band who’d first come to my notice a couple years before via the delightful “Don’t Let Me Down, Gently.”

 

11. Matthew Sweet, “Girlfriend.”
Sweet’s breakthrough, such as it turned out to be. Terrific song, terrific album cover. (Makes it appropriate to publish this on a Tuesday, I guess.) Crank it.

 

12. Glass Eye, “God Take All.”
Here’s another Austin band. Greg interviewed them on air at WPGU when they came to C-U on tour in the very late 80s to promote their album Hello Young Lovers. “God Take All” was one of the cuts they were featuring. Greg played it for me one time and the rest became history; now you’re getting your chance to hear it.

 

13. Suzanne Vega, “When Heroes Go Down.”
The amount of tape left is winding down, so we’re closing with a couple of shorter pieces. Mitchell Froom also produced Vega’s 92 release 99.9˚F (they got married before long and had a kid, too). It was quite the departure for Suzy V, but I enjoyed it through and through. The sub-two-minute, tongue-twisting “When Heroes Go Down” isn’t one of its very best tracks but it’s well above serviceable here.

 

14. Jilted John, “Jilted John.”
And we end the first side with a bit of a letdown, easily the lamest song on the whole tape. I’d bought Rhino’s two UK Pop disks from their DIY series earlier in the spring (check out HERC’s recent review here) and was charmed by quite a number of their tracks. Then there’s the incredibly juvenile “Jilted John,” a #4 UK hit toward the end of 78. It was funny the first few times I heard it, but in the end it’s a bunch of infantile, not-so-edifying name-calling. Graham Fellows, the bloke who recorded as Jilted John, turns sixty in just a couple of weeks.

There’s a much better song from UK Pop II coming up on side B.

 

Hoping to turn the tape over soon, but right now there are finals to grade. If you liked even some of this, the second half should be of interest, too. As you can see in the picture at the top, Side B is ready to play.

May93TapeA

American Top 40 PastBlast, 5/3/80: Gary Numan, “Cars”

I was listening to SiriusXM’s 1st Wave on my way to work Friday, and happened to catch Larry the Duck talking about a list of top new wave hits that had recently been created/discussed on their music talk station, Volume. He was kind enough to recap the top five. Having heard a decent chunk of SiriusXM’s top classic rock tracks of all time back in March, I was immediately concerned that they might make some, shall we say, suspect choices. Let’s see what we think of it, shall we?

#5. Depeche Mode, “Just Can’t Get Enough”
No shock that DM would be represented. This doesn’t necessarily feel like it should be their top-ranked song, but it did lend its name to a Rhino compilation series of new wave songs…

#4: New Order, “Blue Monday”
You knew New Order would make it, too. No gripes whatsoever with this selection.

#3: Modern English, “I Melt with You”
Well, this is a pleasant surprise—I don’t expect to see personal inner-circle HoF songs get close to the top of countdowns like this.

#2: Gary Numan, “Cars”
Numan was only 21 when “Cars” was recorded. I think of him as a one-hit wonder but he’s had a good amount of chart success in the UK and has steadily released new material over the past forty years. MTV played this quite a bit even into 84; those opening frames of Gary in slo-mo are so familiar.

#1: Soft Cell, “Tainted Love”
An all British Top 5, the top three of which are by acts that are remembered stateside for only one song. For a while this was the record-holder for most consecutive weeks (43) spent by a single on the Hot 100 (the last nine of those it was ranked between #96 and #99—shenanigans, anyone?). It’s not a terrible pick for this position.

“Cars” debuted at #48 on the initial Harris Top 50 chart, on 3/29/80. It took until the first weekend of June for it to make #1, where it stayed for two weeks. There wasn’t anything on Top 40 radio then that sounded at all like this; at year’s end, I somewhat subjectively ranked “Cars” as my #11 song of 1980. (Added: forgot to mention that “Cars” is #18 on this show and would reach #9.)

American Top 40 PastBlast, 5/6/72: Chi-Lites, “Oh Girl”

While looking over this chart, I remembered that this week’s #11 and future #1 song, the Chi-Lites’ melancholy “Oh Girl,” got covered by Paul Young while I was in grad school. That got me wondering: how many #1 songs of the 70s had re-makes hit the Top 40? With my trusty Joel Whitburn book in hand, I found twelve that had done so by 2002. I don’t claim the list is exhaustive—I can’t vouch for anything from the last sixteen-plus years—so you’re more than welcome to tell me what I’ve overlooked (nothing obvious, I hope). I’ll say up front the Flack/Hathaway version of “You’ve Got a Friend” doesn’t count (since its run was contemporaneous with James Taylor’s) nor does the Four Seasons’ 94 remix of their own “December 1963 (Oh What a Night).”

Here it is, in chronological order of the 70s versions that hit #1, including peak position/month/year of the covers:

“Venus,” Bananarama (#1, Sept 86)
“Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Aretha Franklin (#6, Jun 71)
“I’ll Be There,” Mariah Carey (#1, Jun 92)
“Let’s Stay Together,” Tina Turner (#26, Mar 84)
“Without You,” Mariah Carey (#3, Mar 94)
“Oh Girl,” Paul Young (#8, Oct 90)
“Lean on Me,” Club Nouveau (#1, Mar 87)
“I Can See Clearly Now,” Jimmy Cliff (#18, Jan 94)
“The Loco-Motion,” Kylie Minogue (#3, Nov 88)
“Lady Marmalade,” Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya, and Pink (#1, Jun 01)
“Play That Funky Music,” Vanilla Ice (#4, Feb 91)
“Don’t Leave Me This Way,” Communards (#40, Mar 87)

Some notes:
–My original intention was to grade both the ‘original’ (discussion of the quotes momentarily) and the cover on a 10-point scale, but the exercise was not all that useful. First, all the ‘originals’ scored between 7 and 10—they’re really good songs!—and second, my biased ears didn’t find any cover to be better than (or even as good as) what came before. Ergo, the grades got cut from this writeup.
–Not all of the 70s #1 hits can lay claim to being truly ‘original.’ The obvious one is Grand Funk’s “The Loco-Motion,” which is itself a cover of a #1 song from the 60s. “Don’t Leave Me This Way” was first recorded by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. Badfinger wrote and recorded “Without You” before Harry Nillson did.
–Notice how many times the re-make hit the Top 10. Sometimes a good song is just a good song, although honestly, a cover of a good song isn’t always good (looking at you especially, Kylie and Ice).
–The cover that I graded closest to the original was Aretha’s take on “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” She did a fabulous job of making the song her own. (S&G received the only 10 I doled out, by the way, but I gave six 9s, including Aretha.)
–This brings up a question that’s occurred as I’ve re-listened to the covers this week: what’s the point of doing a re-make? Was there an artistic reason in these cases for doing so? Club Nouveau and the Communards (and maybe Bananarama) get graded up on this account; Young and Minogue definitely get knocked down, and possibly Carey as well.
-Tina gets a lot of slack in this regard, as having some commercial success with her remake was a necessary condition to cut the rest of what became Private Dancer. Let’s be grateful she made a dent in the charts with this.
–Difficult to say the Jimmy Cliff take on “I Can See Clearly Now,” which appeared on the Cool Runnings soundtrack, is radically different from that of Johnny Nash, but it’s a nice, uplifting piece.
–Yes, it’s really hard to call the Vanilla Ice a cover, but once one adopts the stage name Vanilla Ice, it’s an obvious career move to record yourself singing/rapping the phrase, “Play that funky music, white boy.”
–I think I was already too old for much of pop in 2001 when Aguilera, Lil’ Kim and company recorded “Lady Marmalade” for the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. I honestly don’t know what to say about it, so I’ll let others chime in if they wish.

To circle back to where this all started, I suppose it’s time to let the Chi-Lites do their thing. I’d be willing to go so far as to say it’s the closest thing to a 9.5 out of the eleven non-“Bridge” songs under discussion.

SotD: The Connells, “Something to Say”

I’d met Greg, along with some other good friends, in late 89 at the bridge club in Champaign (more on bridge a little later in the year). I’ve mentioned him occasionally before: working on a PhD in Electrical Engineering, had spent some of his early grad school days deejaying at the quasi-university-affiliated AOR station in town, WPGU, extremely well-versed in power pop and college rock from the late 70s on. He knew so much more than I about a wide variety of artists, and I owe him a lot when it comes to the musical explorations I undertook through most of the 90s.

When I started hanging out at Greg and Katie’s apartment in early 90, I quickly discovered that he was an avid (maybe even bordering on obsessive) CD collector. One thing he told me pretty early on was that it was his goal to acquire everything released in 89 (it was a joke, of course—we even laughed about it this past summer when we got together—but like with all jokes, there was an undercurrent of truth to it). He and I spent a lot of time over the next couple of years conducting raids on the cutout bins of CDs in the music stores around Campustown.

Greg was generous about letting me borrow CDs and was always anxious to introduce me to stuff he was hoping I’d like—this is how I learned all about the Go-Betweens and Darling Buds.  Another song he played for me early on was “Something to Say,” the lead track and first single from Fun & Games, the third album by Raleigh, NC band The Connells. It took a few listens for me to gain a decent appreciation of it, but a couple years later I made sure to commit it to a mix tape I created just a few weeks before moving back to KY.  In 93, The Connells released their outstanding album Ring; that’s worth a closer examination here someday in the future.

“Something to Say” seems to be about looking back, seeing missed/failed opportunities, and feeling regret. Can’t seem to avoid the first of these; hope I can minimize the other two.

It was #8 on the Billboard’s 5/6/89 Modern Rock chart, down one from its peak the previous week.