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.

Fall86TapePlayList

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

1988 Three Female Artists Mix Tape, Part 3: Sinéad O’Connor, The Lion and the Cobra

I don’t think there was any album rocking my world more at the end of 87/beginning of 88 than Sinéad O’Connor’s debut release. It feels like this is another one that came to my attention via Rolling Stone, but who knows for sure. That winter, John and I took to calling her the “bald Irish woman.” She knew how to grab your attention with her appearance, but it was the music that held it.

I’ve listened to this album more than I have the ones from Jane Siberry and Basia, so I’m more familiar with the tracks from The Lion and the Cobra that I didn’t include on this tape than the corresponding tunes from The Walking and Time and Tide. That makes this the one place where I’m sorta second-guessing myself about song selection: even though “Troy” is one of O’Connor’s more notable songs, if I had the chance for a do-over, I might swap that and something from Basia out for “Jackie” and “Just Call Me Joe.”

It’s a stunning recording overall, particularly in light of Sinéad being only 20 and serving as her own producer. The raw emotion, the combination of confidence and naiveté, and that voice all come together to crash over the listener in waves. I didn’t drown, and I kept going back for more.

I picked up the follow-up, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, shortly after it came out in 90. Yes, “Nothing Compares 2 U” is a star turn, but outside of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and “I Am Stretched Out on Your Grave,” I just wasn’t able to get much into it. It could be that I seek out musical talent like I do fantasy baseball players—always looking for the up-and-comer as opposed to the established star. Once O’Connor had that mega #1 song, I shuffled off looking for who might be next. She did herself no favors in terms of public regard with her behavior, almost from the beginning, though I recognize that abuse and mental illness are in play. I’ve not kept up with her music at all since the mid 90s, but I’m glad that she’s been able to continue recording.

I started with probably my second-favorite track, “Jerusalem.” It gives a solid overview of her vocal range; listen to how she sings the title, in what passes for a chorus.

 

Despite what I said above, “Troy” is a masterful, emotional piece. It strikes me as very personal/autobiographical, with her youth showing through maybe just a little too much.

 

While the opening song “Jackie” really does grab your attention, it wasn’t hard to hear the possibility of a hit record when it ended and “Mandinka” fired up. I still hear it on the radio every so often. I love, love, love it, and wish it’d become a bigger thing.

 

One gift I got from my parents at Christmas 87 was a key fob that beeped (three sets of six beeps) when you whistled–I had the well-earned reputation for losing track of my keys. Apparently, the notes O’Connor hit toward the very end of “Just Like U Said It Would B” (that title may have indicated it was inevitable that she’d record a Prince song someday, huh?) were right at the frequency of the fob’s sensor.  I can still hear the fob going off–twice, maybe thrice, each time I played this on my turntable–as she’s wailing the title over and over in those final 45 seconds. It was a great concluding song for the tape.

 

1988 Three Female Artists Mix Tape, Part 2: Basia, Time And Tide

One of the Illinois math faculty who regularly showed up at Coslow’s on Friday afternoons in the second half of the 80s was Jerry Uhl, an analyst. Prof. Uhl was certainly one of the more memorable mathematicians in the department in those days. He had a quick wit and a voice (as well as vocal mannerisms) that easily lent to imitation—my officemate Will was known to do a not-too-shabby Uhl impersonation from time to time. I never took a class from him but he was one of the interrogators on my second try at passing a real analysis oral comprehensive exam; though I’m sure I stumbled and fumbled over the course of that hour, he and his colleague agreed I’d done acceptably. One of his advisees during my time there was the sister of recently-deposed Yankees manager Joe Girardi.

It’s fair to say that Uhl both worked hard and played hard. During my years in C-U, he lived by himself in a log home several miles east of Urbana and twice a year he invited the math department, including grad students, out for big, extended parties (once in May right after the year was over, and the other in the fall). I went to a few of these, particularly in my first three years. Yes, there was always plenty of beer, but we also had ample opportunity for outdoor games (I got my first exposure to bocce ball at one of these shindigs), strolling the grounds, and even talking some math.

I feel fairly certain it was the Saturday of Uhl’s May 88 party that I became enamored of “Time and Tide,” by Polish chanteuse Basia Trzetrzelewska.  I must have come across it on VH-1, even though it wouldn’t hit the Top 40 until a few months later. It didn’t take long for me to go out and get the disk and play the title track over and over. It’s a pretty sweet album overall, with lots of jazzy touches. I enjoyed it enough that summer to put five of its tracks on the mix tape that Jane Siberry opened—the side change comes between the second and third of them. I jumped all around again in my sequencing; these are songs 3, 8, 2, 10, and 1.

I was too timid/reserved to really get to know Jerry Uhl—he and I had almost polar opposite personalities—but it’s clear that he was warm and gracious to many, many people. For a better idea about him, here’s a link to the talk that Bruce Reznick, my dissertation advisor, gave at Uhl’s memorial service after he succumbed to cancer toward the end of 2010.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1988 Three Female Artists Mix Tape, Part 1: Jane Siberry, The Walking

During the 86-87 academic year I lived in Sherman Hall, which was then one of two dorms at the University of Illinois for graduate students. I was assigned room #457, in the tower portion of the complex (there was also a long, two-story corridor of rooms—the two sections shared a lobby and a basement commons area). My room was part of a suite for three students in the southwest corner; we shared a narrow hallway, a sink, and a teensy toilet/shower stall. Mine was the smallest of the three, the one with the western exposure, which meant it got really hot in the afternoons during both the beginning and the end of my time there.

Sherman Hall is on the northwest corner of 5th and Chalmers, in Champaign. Two blocks east and two blocks north, just over the line into Urbana, is Altgeld Hall, the mathematics building, where I took classes and would soon have my office. Close to halfway in between, on the northeast corner of 5th and John, is an outdoor mini-mall of small shops/restaurants. When I walked by on a visit this past May, it was clear that in the intervening 30 years there’d been a complete turnover of the businesses operating there. I can remember a coffee/bagel shop (whose name I now forget) that I went to a couple of times. There was Coslows, the bar/restaurant where many math grad students and a few faculty would gather on Friday afternoons for pitchers of beer. And there was a video rental place called That’s Rentertainment, which also for a while loaned out compact disks. (Sometime in the very late 80s they were made to cease-and-desist the rental of CDs, citing copyright issues. I dropped by during the subsequent liquidation of their inventory and scored Marshall Crenshaw’s Mary Jean and 9 Others.)

I didn’t have my own CD player until March 88, but Jim, one of my roomies in the apartment on West Elm during 87-88, already had one as part of his stereo system, which he graciously allowed to be ensconced in our communal living space. His collection of disks was not all that large, but my memory is that it was pretty solid, mostly AOR with some good New-Wavy stuff thrown in. (I did commit his copies of Oingo Boingo’s Dead Man’s Party—a great disk—and Tears for Fears’ The Hurting to cassette.) I also regularly borrowed CDs from the Urbana Free Library and checked stuff out from That’s Rentertainment. At this point my musical tastes were continuing to evolve away from Top 40 radio and I was spending more and more time (and money) trying to discover what I hoped were up-and-coming artists. My two primary sources for finds in the late 80s both had the initials RS: Rolling Stone magazine and Record Service, a store located on Green Street in Campustown, less than a block away from Altgeld. I’m pretty certain that I first heard of Jane Siberry, a quirky, art pop performer, through Rolling Stone.

Siberry came out with The Walking in May 88.  It was her fourth album, but first major-label release. Hard to know now what it was I might have seen in Stone’s review that intrigued me, but this was the period when I was really focused on female artists (87 had been the year of discovering Suzanne Vega, 10000 Maniacs, and Kate Bush, among others). Perhaps they compared her to Bush in some way?

I didn’t rush out to buy The Walking; I’m thinking I rented it first, but concede I may have gone to the library instead. In some respects, it made for a difficult listen—all the songs are rather long and a few didn’t initially strike me as being overly melodic—but there were also some real keepers on it. I did eventually purchase a used copy of the CD.

A couple of years later, I listened to some of Siberry’s earlier stuff at the encouragement of Jon, a friend I’d made at the bridge club who was a grad student in agronomy. Her second album, No Borders Here, is amazingly good; highlights include “Mimi on the Beach,” “Follow Me,” “The Waitress,” and “Symmetry (The Way Things Have to Be).” Wouldn’t surprise me if I feature one or more of those someday. I didn’t get into the follow-up, The Speckless Sky, as much, though “One More Colour” is among her best. I didn’t pay too much attention to her later work, either.  “The Life Is the Red Wagon,” from 89’s Bound by the Beauty, is the one I like most from the post-Walking period. She’s kept on recording steadily through the years, definitely (and maybe even defiantly) charting her own unconventional path, dabbling in various genres, forming her own recording company, and even changing her identity, to Issa, for a few years.

Sometime that summer of 88, before John and I split from Jim, I took a cassette and recorded the four tracks from The Walking that I especially liked. It was the beginning of a tape with thirteen songs by three female solo artists, all of whom came from outside the U.S. (Siberry is Canadian). This is the first of three installments in which I feature those songs. I didn’t pay attention to the artists’ sequencing at all (intentionally, and if I can allow myself a little bragging, I’d say effectively): for instance, the Siberry selections are, in my ordering, songs 6, 4, 7, and 2 on the CD.

I opened with the stellar title-like track, “The Walking (and Constantly).”

Next came a goofy (but delightful) song with an equally goofy (but delightful) video, “Ingrid (and the Footman).”

Third was the more solemn “The Lobby.” This video seems to have been recorded by a fan almost 20 years after the song was originally recorded. I’m impressed that Siberry went along with it.

I wrapped up with my then-and-still favorite, “Red High Heels.”

I’m putting together Spotify playlists for each of these three posts, and I’ll pull them all together into one when I’m done.

Sixty Minute Tape, Song 16: Northside, “Take 5”

Late in 2016, I posted on Facebook about the contents of a mix tape I put together sometime in early 92.  It’s the only sixty-minute tape of its kind in my collection.  Here’s the last of the modified versions of those sixteen posts.

The “Madchester” sound (originating in Manchester, England) and its evolutions made landfall in the US during my last couple of years of grad school.  “Step On” by Happy Mondays and “The Only One I Know” by the Charlatans are probably the two songs that I most distinctly remember, but I also heard stuff by (among others) the Farm, Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets, and Soup Dragons.  In the end I liked it all well enough but was never an ardent fan.

Northside is another band that usually gets lumped in with that scene.  Greg plugged me into this one.  Somewhat silly but also pretty infectious and groovy–I dig the “More Than a Feeling” feel to the riff in the background.