It took a few months of duking it out at the bridge club in Champaign before I became good friends with Greg, Katie, Toby, and Karl. They’d started going in the last half of 1989, around the same time I had gotten back into it. Toby had played quite a bit growing up in the super-competitive DC bridge scene and was a natural at the game; the other three (two fellow physics grad students and a spouse in EE) had learned of his mad skills and pestered him to teach them.
The summer after I fell in with them, Toby and I got around to playing a couple of games at the club. Initial results were pretty promising, so we started looking at the tournament calendar to see where could take on a larger field. We settled on a regional in Cincinnati, to be held the first weekend of October, mostly because we could get free housing by staying with my parents.
We drove down on Thursday and played in two-session pairs events on Friday and Saturday–I must have gotten someone to cover my classes. Friday turned out only so-so; the high point of the day was walking down to Riverfront Stadium between sessions. This was the year the Reds came out of nowhere to win the World Series, and they’d just snagged Game 2 of the NLCS (a day game) against the Pirates. In the parking lot beneath that uninspiring concrete bowl, we got to see greats such as Jose Rijo emerge and walk to their waiting vehicles (no autographs, alas).
Saturday, though, was mighty sweet. Despite my inexperience, we charged out to a big lead in the afternoon session of our event and held on to first place in the nightcap. It would be a few years before I’d earn that many masterpoints in a single event again.
That win was thirty years ago today, the same day that Billboard listed the songs below in their Modern Rock Tracks chart. May be time to spin a few tunes…
#28. Ultra Vivid Scene, “Special One”
UVS was ostensibly a band, but it was mostly just Kurt Ralske doing his thing. This song is a VU-meets-“September Gurls” affair, with a big assist from Kim Deal of…
#23. The Pixies, “Velouria”
I imagine I tuned the radio to WOXY 97X on our way in and out of Cincy. This is one of the first songs I recall hearing on 97X in this period, maybe from Labor Day weekend? Not as melodic as “Here Comes Your Man,” but I guess it’s fine enough.
#22. Mojo Nixon, “Don Henley Must Die”
My officemates and I had several good laughs three years earlier when Nixon and Skid Roper released “Elvis Is Everywhere,” though we never found a way to incorporate it into our shrine to the King. Much as I liked some of the songs on End of the Innocence, this send-up was reasonably well-deserved.
#21. Los Lobos, “Down on the Riverbed”
I absolutely love The Neighborhood and Kiko from these guys. Neither one sold remotely near as much as “La Bamba,” but I suppose I’m grateful at least one song from them charted somewhere here in the U. S.
#19. The Darling Buds, “Crystal Clear”
Speaking of albums I adore… Crawdaddy has got to be in my Top 10 for 1990. The Buds are veering away to a degree from what made Pop Said… so charming, echoing more of what some of the other UK bands on this chart are doing. But Andrea Farr still makes it all her own.
#14. Aztec Camera, “Good Morning Britain”
Roddy Frame said he tried to write this song to sound like something Mick Jones (non-Foreigner edition) would do. He did so well that he managed to get Mick to play and sing on it.
#13. Soho, “Hippychick”
Greg was pretty unhappy any time “Hippychick” came on, tricked into thinking he was about to hear “How Soon Is Now?” instead.
#10. The Heart Throbs, “Dreamtime”
My big find from this set. It sounds exactly like something that WOXY would have played, though I don’t have any recollection of hearing it. Definitely feels like a precursor to Lush and other shoegazer bands. Their lineup included two sisters of Pete DeFreitas, the drummer for Echo and the Bunnymen who’d died the year before in a motorcycle accident.
#9. The Cocteau Twins, “Iceblink Luck”
Stan Freberg parodies usually focused on one aspect of their target and just drove it into the ground (the snare drum on “Yellow Rose of Texas,” the piano on “The Great Pretender”). For “Sh-Boom,” Freberg took aim at the supposed difficulty in understanding its lyrics (come to think of it, ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic took the same tack on “Smells Like Nirvana”).
I felt like Freberg’s character in “Sh-Boom” when I heard Elizabeth Fraser sing quite clearly “That will burn this whole madhouse down” on “Iceblink Luck.” I’m not supposed to be able to understand you, Elizabeth!
Despite that, Heaven or Las Vegas may well be the Twins’ most solid album overall–certainly their most accessible.
#8. The Charlatans UK, “The Only One I Know”
Greg and I invented our own term for the music coming out of the UK in the very early 90s–we called it wakka-wakka, I guess because of some combination of its rhythms and guitar sounds (it’s all wrapped up in the Madchester movement, I know–maybe it’s what other folks called baggy?). It’s a tossup as to whether “The Only One I Know” or the Stone Roses’ “Fool’s Gold” is my quintessential wakka song.
(I Stand Corrected: Greg reminded me in a recent conversation that it was actually Katie, his wife, who came up with wakka-wakka. He and I just ran with it, apparently.)
#7. DNA featuring Suzanne Vega, “Tom’s Diner”
I won’t repeat the story of how this hit came about–I’m just glad Vega didn’t try to put the kibosh on it. But now I’m wondering if the sound of 99.9°F was influenced by the success of this?
#4. INXS, “Suicide Blonde”
You’re just not very likely to follow up a huge smash like Kick with anything nearly as successful. X was a game effort, I guess, but this first release tried too hard to sound like some of their earlier–and better–songs.
#3. Living Colour, “Type”
Vernon Reid, Corey Glover, Muzz Skillings, and Will Calhoun followed up Vivid with Time’s Up. I remember hearing this lead single from their sophomore effort a few times.
#2. The Soup Dragons, “I’m Free”
Scottish band hops on the wakka-wakka bandwagon with this cover of an old Stones song.
#1. The Cure, “Never Enough”
I’d forgotten about Mixed Up, the Cure’s album of remixes. Smith and company did include this rockin’ new tune. In spite of the later success of Wish and “Friday I’m In Love,” I’ll go on record as saying that we’d already seen the best this band had to offer by this point.
And with that…we’ll dip back into the MRT charts in early December.