Whenever December 1 is a Saturday, that means Thanksgiving is as early as it can be, on November 22. On the morning of the 23rd, 1990, I hit the road, heading west. This was the second consecutive year I attended a wedding the Saturday after Turkey Day, both times for college friends. The festivities thirty years ago were in suburban St. Louis: my dear friends Mark H and Lana were tying the knot, more than eight years after they’d met. I served as best man; my toast centered on a plausible-yet-fictitious rendering of their first encounter, on the day Mark (and I) moved in at Transy–it is true that Lana, a returning student, was helping coordinate traffic in the back circle by the dorms that day…
Anyway, it’s time for the final Modern Rock Tracks installment of the year, from the weekend following those nuptials. What delights await?
#30. Concrete Blonde, “Caroline”
I keep getting reeled in by Johnette Napolitano’s earthy vocals. The band’s outfits in the clip are pretty all-world.
#27. Inspiral Carpets, “Commercial Rain”
More goodies from the UK in the Manchester mold. Catchy as all get out but the lyrics are, well, not that deep (“Mary’s crying for her baby, for her baby doll–ahhhhhhhhhh, commercial rain”). It would wind up on a mix tape I made in the summer of 1992, so I’m saving the vid for whenever I write that up.
#24. The Posies, “Golden Blunders”
Another mix tape treat–this time from 1994–but it’s so good, I won’t mind repeating myself should I wind up featuring it again. I’m willing to call this the best song on the chart. The Posies were a Seattle-area band, strictly power pop and not grungy in the least. The title feels like an obvious Beatles reference; Ringo covered it a couple of years later.
#23. Hindu Love Gods, “Raspberry Beret”
Warren Zevon + non-Stipe members of REM + late night recording session after much drinking = respectable Prince cover.
#19. Redd Kross, “Annie’s Gone”
The next three embedded videos today are from quality songs that somehow slipped under my radar in real time. First up, a California band led by a pair of brothers unafraid to make a fashion statement or three.
#17. Edie Brickell and New Bohemians, “Mama Help Me”
I get how folks can be turned off by Brickell’s overly precious writing. I do. This lead track from Ghost of a Dog had no chance of changing anyone’s mind about it, either. Like that album plenty, but “Mama Help Me” is among its lower tier of tracks.
#14. The Trash Can Sinatras, “Only Tongue Can Tell”
These guys from Scotland are still together thirty years on. I’m definitely picking up a Smiths vibe.
#12. INXS, “Disappear”
Much better than “Suicide Blonde.” This would be their seventh and last Top 10 hit on the U.S. pop charts; each peaked at a different position (they didn’t have a #4, #6, or #10 hit).
#10. The Connells, “Stone Cold Yesterday”
Greg had tipped me off earlier in the year to “Something to Say” from 1989’s Fun and Games. I don’t know how this gem got past me; give it a crank.
#7. Iggy Pop, “Candy”
For your consideration: Kate Pierson’s uncredited accompanying vocals, while not as pervasive, are the early 90s analogue of Stevie Nicks’ work in the late 70s.
#5. U2, “Night and Day”
In retrospect, this track can be seen as a second inflection point in the direction of their music. It’s definitely one of the highlights on Red Hot + Blue, the collection of Cole Porter covers that raised money for the fight against AIDS. (I’ll confess I’m also a big sucker for Iggy and Debbie Harry stumbling through “Well, Did You Evah!”)
#4. An Emotional Fish, “Celebrate”
Another Irish band that got some traction trying to sound a little like the boys at #5. What are the odds that Bono could have come up with a line like, “Well, I guess beauty does what beauty does best–it’s beautiful”? I’d lay 3-2 on it. This also was on one of my mix tapes and will likely receive mention in this space again someday.
#3. Sisters of Mercy, “More”
British Goth doesn’t do all that much for me, but I had to toss this one in when I learned that Jim Steinman co-wrote and co-produced it. I’m trying to imagine the conversation between Mr. Over-the-Top and lead Sister Andrew Eldritch that resulted in the collaboration. Eldritch: “Jim, I just loved what you did for Bonnie Tyler on ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart,’ especially the line about the powder keg. Listen–can you help me? I’ve got this lyric stuck in my head: ‘You keep me comin’ back for more.’ Any ideas on how to flesh it out?” Steinman: “Hmmm. We should be able to fit ‘like a kid in a candy store’ in somehow. That’s much more pedestrian that my ‘mountain of rocks/Crackerjack Box’ rhyme for Meat Loaf, but I bet we can make it work. My fee, you ask? All I request is to have a go at the control board.”
(You now know why I flamed out as a fiction writer.)
#1. Jane’s Addiction, “Been Caught Stealing”
Can’t say I’m much of a Perry Ferrell fan, yet here we are, with the big hit from Ritual de lo habitual at the top. On the other hand, when I was watching videos from this chart via YouTube a couple of nights ago, this was the song that brought my son over from his computer to listen more closely. Maybe it was the dog barking at the intro…