My first day on the job as an assistant prof of math was also the day that Hurricane Andrew strafed Homestead, FL. My office that year was three doors down from the one I’ve occupied since–one of my new colleagues was on leave, taking classes toward a doctorate at the University of Kentucky, so I temporarily took over his space. I had four different preparations, all new to me. I certainly came to understand a lot of undergraduate math much better in those years as I had to figure out how to explain stuff to other people.
Every fall we get a two-day break in October; this year’s is tomorrow and Friday. It must have been around the same time thirty years ago, and I couldn’t resist the chance to head back to Illinois for the weekend. The main memory I have of the trip is watching one of the debates at Jay and Michelle’s house, perhaps the veep debate when Ross Perot’s running mate Vice Admiral James Stockdale famously uttered, “Who am I? Why am I here?”
When I wasn’t teaching or getting ready to do so, I was either playing Minesweeper on the new Windows 3.1 machine in my office or checking out music stores in Lexington, forever on the hunt for CDs. I count six acts below whose 1992 releases wound up in my collection.
28. Mary’s Danish, “Leave It Alone”
That breakthrough never happened for this L.A. outfit, and they split following the release of American Standard. They opened for the Darling Buds on tour that fall; Greg scored perhaps my most treasured rock-related artifact from Buds singer Andrea Lewis when he saw the two acts in concert that December.
25. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Breaking the Girl”
RHCP’s more sedate songs definitely hold more appeal for me. There’s a lot to recommend here–syncopated rhythm, cacophonous percussion solo, flute sounds from the mellotron…what more could one want?
23. Morrissey, “Glamorous Glue”
Moz has been a frequent presence on this chart throughout this series of posts, though I don’t make note of his contributions all that often. Today I’m enjoying the muscular guitar work on “Glamorous Glue,” so he gets mentioned this time (okay, “Tomorrow” is also on here at #15).
22. Utah Saints, “Something Good”
It’s been stunning and immensely satisfying to see “Running Up That Hill” click with the youngins this year. It’s not the first time since 1985, though, a cut from Hounds of Love has resurfaced: a British house duo that looked to the American West for their name sampled “Cloudbusting” (both vocals and video) to great effect only seven years after it first hit the scene.
21. Sinéad O’Connor, “Success Has Made a Failure of Our Home”
O’Connor’s next move after her breakthrough cover of Prince was to take on this Loretta Lynn classic. It’s a fascinating re-invention that was soon to be overshadowed by a public outcry: 10/3/92 was the day of the Saturday Night Live appearance during which O’Connor tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II.
19. Kitchens of Distinction, “Smiling”
Straightforward pop out of the UK. The Death of Cool wound up in my collection on a whim, and this track from it graced one of my 1994 mixtapes. I dig the band’s name.
13. Screaming Trees, “Nearly Lost You”
Trees singer Mark Lanegan passed away this past February at the age of 57. While “Nearly Lost You” is a fantastic track, I’ll always think fondly of Lanegan for contributing vocals to “Sneakers” on the Sandra Boynton children’s CD Dog Train (a favorite in our house fifteen or so years ago).
11. Too Much Joy, “Donna Everywhere”
Catchy tune and sophomoric lyrics, neither of which should surprise any fan of the band.
10. 10000 Maniacs, “These Are Days”
Our Time in Eden turned out to be the swan studio album for the Natalie Merchant-era of 10K Maniacs. It was quite the way to go out, as it’s their most fully realized work.
Thirty years on, “These Are Days” has become one of my songs-of-the-year for 2022; you can read why here.
8. Pearl Jam, “Jeremy”
Never was a particular fan of this one, but feels like I should mention its presence. It was inescapable on MTV for far too long.
6. Sugar, “Helpless”
A few weeks ago my Twitter feed made sure I knew that last month marked 30 years since Copper Blue‘s release. I’ve really soured on “A Good Idea” over the years, but “Helpless” is a delight.
4. R.E.M., “Drive”
Those opening weeks at my new job sure saw the release of a lot of great albums (see #10 above, #2 below, among others). Most of the time I think that Automatic for the People is the best of the bunch, even if this homage to “Rock On” didn’t jazz me initially.
3. INXS, “Not Enough Time”
I’m not sure why INXS’s star faded as quickly as it did after Kick. Here we are, just two albums out, and this is their final Top 40 hit. Darn fine song, too.
2. Suzanne Vega, “Blood Makes Noise”
Mitchell Froom took Peter Case, Los Lobos, and Vega all on wild-but-rewarding rides in the studio in 1992. 99.9°F was quite the departure from Suzy V’s earlier work, but I was on board from the start.
1. Peter Gabriel, “Digging in the Dirt”
Gabriel’s six-year break between So and Us coincided perfectly with my years away from Kentucky. The video for “Digging in the Dirt” feels somewhat like an attempt to recreate the magic of “Sledgehammer.” Even if Peter came up short on that front, this is a very nice song.