Like A Garden In The Forest That The World Will Never See

Over the weekend I took some small steps in a gargantuan task—organizing and culling (with an emphasis on culling) artifacts from younger days. I’ve started by looking through a few bins that focus mainly on the college years. Do I still need notes I took in various classes in the mid 80s? Uh, no, though for the moment I’m holding on to the papers I wrote in my literature and history classes, as well as the various false starts that arose when I took creative writing. I’m trying to be a little deliberate in how I tackle the piles—there are definitely treasures amongst the debris.

A few items I came across had been misfiled—some from high school, some from grad school. One of the latter type is a piece of paper that clearly outlines the songs to go on a mix tape. I’ve written out the times for almost all of them and indicated what the order was to be. The only thing missing is the tape itself. James doesn’t think it’s one I sent to him—it’s certainly possible I shipped it off to another friend, or maybe it broke years ago (for a while I used some cheapie cassettes whose end pulled off the reel when the player finished with a side). I dunno.

The interesting thing to me now is that I listed only titles, not artists. Quite a few of the tracks are album cuts from stuff in my collection at the time, and many were immediately recognizable, such as songs from Dire Straits, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Pretenders, the Kinks, Heart, Peter Gabriel, and Tears for Fears (plus two each from R.E.M. and Talking Heads—I didn’t often duplicate artists on a tape). But I also saw songs listed that didn’t feel familiar at all. A little Internet sleuthing brought on a few “oh my” moments yesterday afternoon. Bear with me as I go on about four of them now.

The Outfield, “I Don’t Need Her”
Had completely forgotten about this one. It’s the third track on side one of Play Deep, coming right after “Say It Isn’t So” and “Your Love,” which certainly meant I heard it plenty back in college. Maybe “I Don’t Need Her” gets play somewhere, but not that I’ve noticed in over thirty years. It should.

INXS, “Biting Bullets”
The thing all these songs have in common is that they come from albums I didn’t (or couldn’t) re-purchase on CD. I’d gotten Listen Like Thieves during my last semester of college, while “What You Need” was blowing up the radio. “Biting Bullets” is a solid upbeat tune; glad to make its reacquaintance.

Big Country, “Just a Shadow”
I was mighty impressed with The Crossing, the debut album from Big Country, enough to buy Steeltown soon after it was released. Unfortunately, most of the songs on Steeltown just didn’t have the same strong sense of melody and hook as those on The Crossing, so I wound up not giving it that many listens. One of the exceptions was the closing tune, “Just a Shadow.” It spent a month on the UK charts in Jan/Feb of 85, reaching #26 there. I won’t let this one slip past me again.

Naked Eyes, “Once Is Enough”
Looks like five of the songs on this list came from cassettes I owned at the time (the ones whose exact times aren’t listed—see below). I did have a dual cassette player then, so I must have dubbed from them—going with something other than vinyl was also not a standard mix tape practice for me. Yet, I have the evidence I did it this time.

Like with Big Country, the follow-up release from Naked Eyes didn’t match up to the debut. But I thought the final song on side one of Fuel for the Fire was one of their very best. Somehow, “Once Is Enough” didn’t make the cut for either of the first two Naked Eyes compilations—that has to be how it’d slipped down my memory hole.

One of the things that Casey did on AT40 that I generally liked was his recitation of a song’s lyrics, often on the outro. It’s a practice I’m certain I emulated from time to time during my college radio days. While I don’t have any specific memory, I’d lay pretty good odds that I cited the line “Killing time can murder love” after playing “Once Is Enough” on WTLX in late 84 or early 85.

One other commonality I noticed while doing this writeup: all four of these acts have had one of its members pass away. John Spinks of the Outfield and Rob Fisher of Naked Eyes both died from cancer, while Michael Hutchence and Stuart Adamson’s deaths were ruled suicides. RIP to all.


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