Fear Is Not The End Of This

Work duties and prepping for the start of the new Strat-O-Matic season have led to lighter blogging the last little bit. I’m finally ready to roll with the second side of one of my last mix tapes, so with further delay…

Dionne Farris, “I Know”
What’s this? A big time, full-blooded, mega pop hit of the 90s? I picked up Wild Seed–Wild Flower pretty early on, after seeing the vid for “I Know” a couple of times, and prior to its ten-week run on top of Billboard‘s Mainstream Top 40 chart. Catchy stuff, so it’s a little surprising that Farris never had much of a follow-up. (The other well-known song on which she appeared–Arrested Development’s “Tennessee”–is on another of my tapes, however.)

The Rave-Ups, “These Wishes”
I’ve raved on about this Pittsburgh-to-LA band before. It’s great to see that all the tracks from The Book of Your Regrets have recently become available on YouTube. That 1988 release was already out of print by the time I started getting into these guys, so it was lucky I stumbled across a copy for sale online in the very early days of the pre-eBay Internet. If this mix tape blogging thing keeps going, “These Wishes” won’t be the last we hear from it.

The Reivers, “Do What You Wanna Do”
Another band (this one’s from Austin) that kept making repeated appearances on tapes. This is from their fourth release Pop Beloved, and is one of just a few of its tracks with a video on YouTube.

Live, “I Alone”
When I first heard “Operation Spirit” during my last months in Illinois, I didn’t predict the kind of success this Pennsylvania outfit would have with their second album Throwing Copper (or the evolution of singer Ed Kowalczyk’s hairstyle, for that matter). The choicest cut from Copper is “Lightning Crashes,” but “I Alone” was the song that really put them on the map and probably catches more of the mid-90s alternative zeitgeist.

Duran Duran, “The Reflex”
What would this song have done on the charts without Nile Rodgers’s remix? It’s definitely not a #1 tune without it.

One of my very faves from Double Duran back in the day; it’s probably slipped a couple of notches over the last quarter-century.

Sam Phillips, “Standing Still”
Back in December I posted a picture of a Usenet review of Kirsty MacColl’s Kite I had printed out back in 1991. It was one of two from that period I’d saved; the other was for Sam Phillips’s Cruel Inventions. The author nods favorably at a line from “Standing Still” (“Starting with ashes I’m building fire”), even going so far as to claim that T.S. Eliot might approve. Don’t know about that, but it’s a standout track on a standout album.

The Jayhawks, “Miss Williams’ Guitar”
If you asked me to name the best concert I ever attended, a strong contender would be the Wilco/Jayhawks show I saw in July of 1995. It took place at the Kentucky Theater in downtown Lexington, which had been exclusively a movie house back when I was in college. My future fianceé was tromping around Germany at the time with her sister, and I was in the middle of my first year working the science/math camp for high schoolers our college offers. Tomorrow the Green Grass was maybe my favorite disk at the time, so I connived to break away from any evening duties I might have had to check them out; my seat was around 8-10 rows away from the stage. Wilco was touring in support of A.M., and they were awesome. But it was the Jayhawks who had my heart at the time, and they weren’t disappointing in the least. One particular highlight occurred when Victoria Williams came out on stage before they played this song–she was dating guitarist Mark Olson at the time (they’d later marry).

The leading possibility for the Louisville cemetery referenced in “Miss Williams’ Guitar” is Cave Hill, just a little east of downtown. Well-known folks buried at Cave Hill include Muhammad Ali and Colonel Harland Sanders; my wife’s paternal grandparents are there, too.

Victoria Williams, “You R Loved”
Apparently I couldn’t resist the temptation to follow up with Miss Williams actually playing her guitar. Some of her many fans in the biz tried hard to break her with 1994’s Loose, but the public sadly wasn’t buying. “You R Loved” comprises today’s sermon; yes, that’s Mike Mills singing backup.

Marti Jones, “It’s Too Late”
Not the first time I’ve spun this track from Match Game here.

Missing Persons, “Destination Unknown”
While I greatly enjoyed “Words” back in the summer of 1982, the followup mysteriously escaped my notice for almost ten years. Deserved much better than its #42 peak in November/December that year; it’s likely Missing Persons’ best song.

Joan Osborne, “St. Teresa”
Maybe Osborne got earlier buzz in my neck of the woods than some other places because she’s a Kentucky native, as I bought Relish in the spring of 1995, months before “One of Us” hit the charts. My top tracks from Relish, though, are the slinky “Ladder” and lead-off song “St. Teresa” (co-written with former Hooters Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman, who also play on the entire album).

Bill Lloyd, “Trampoline”
Lloyd had been one-half of a moderately successful country duo with Radney Foster in the late 1980s. His 1994 solo disk Set To Pop got a lot of favorable press as a power pop gem, but it never grooved me all that much. The exception was “Trampoline,” a catchy ditty about a girlfriend who just may be bipolar. In an alternate universe, I might have used the line “God bless our daily bread, coffee, and Dramamine” as the title of this post.

Texas, “Future Is Promises”
Another song featured previously in a Forgotten Albums post. Album closers often make good tape closers.

I hope to do this sort of thing again in a few months’ time.

Try To Get Some Sleep

Coincidence or not, I began buying less music and making fewer tapes in the months after meeting my future wife in 1995 (and if it’s not coincidence, I’d do it all over again, dear). Besides, I was in my early 30s–maybe I was already getting a little long in the tooth for the alternative scene?

1995 was the last year I made mix tapes, too. It’s been a little while since I took a look at a tape, so let’s queue up one of my last gasps at the art form:

Weezer, “My Name Is Jonas”
Not long before I started this blog, I did a short Facebook series on my five favorite Weezer tunes (not that I have an extensive knowledge of their body of work). “My Name Is Jonas” clocked in at #4; if you must know, “The Good Life” was #1.

That Blue Album is a mighty sweet disk, you know?

Sugar, “A Good Idea”
I don’t know why I thought it was a good idea to include a song about a dude drowning his girlfriend (I hadn’t paid any attention to the lyrics, no doubt–had just dug the sound). I’m going with the notion that it is a good idea not to link to the vid, though.

The Darling Buds, “Burst”
A #50 hit in the UK toward the end of 1988. It’s track two on Pop Said…, and was perhaps the first indication that the Buds were going to be of great appeal to yours truly.

Adam Schmitt, “Illiterature”
Title song from Schmitt’s second album, which came out in late summer of 1993. Even if it’s louder, darker, and not nearly so winsome as World So Bright, Illiterature definitely has its moments. I think this is one of three songs from it that graced mix tapes; I really love its energy.

Madder Rose, “Car Song”
One of those cases where you buy a CD based on that song you heard on the radio. There are elements of the grunge sound that I like moderately well, like the extra guitar crunch that comes after being fairly quiet, as we get here on the refrain (the female vocals of Mary Lorson are another attractive element). Completely unrelated to the tune of the same name that came later from Elastica. I should go back and give Panic On another listen or two.

The Cocteau Twins, “The Itchy Glowbo Glow”
“Carolyn’s Fingers” was the song that reeled me into the world of the Cocteau Twins, but these days I think this dreamy thing just might be the best cut on Blue Bell Knoll. I want it to go on and on, as it takes me to some other place that I just don’t want to leave.

Lush, “Undertow”
Emma Anderson wrote the majority of the tracks on 1994’s Split, but it’s Miki Berenyi’s contributions, particularly “Kiss Chase,” “Hypocrite,” and “Undertow,” that stand out to me.

The Call, “The Walls Came Down”
Our first of three trips back to my college days on this tape. I’m forever grateful to Warren for tuning me into these guys. Michael Been looks so young here…

Danielle Brisebois, “What If God Fell from the Sky”
Yes, it’s Stephanie from late-era All in the Family, all grown up and doing that mid-90s music thing. She co-wrote this with Gregg Alexander of recently-reconstituted New Radicals fame (Brisebois was a member of the band, too). I’ve not researched it, but I’ve long wondered if this song was based on personal experience.

Matthew Sweet, “We’re the Same”
100% Fun is my favorite Matthew Sweet album–it’s just solid from end to end. “We’re the Same” was the second single. I must say I’m not convinced of the musical prowess of the band in the video.

Buffalo Tom, “Taillights Fade”
I’ve written about “Taillights Fade” before, and how it reminds me of my first weeks on the job here at Georgetown. I can’t explain how and why it speaks to me, but it sure does.

Blur, “Boys and Girls”
This didn’t sound anything like the Madchester-ish “There’s No Other Way,” their previous hit. (The same applies to “Song 2”–woo-hoo!) Completely loopy, but I still like it.

I was today years old when I learned that Damon Albern inserted a line of German right before “But we haven’t been introduced” (Du bist sehr schön–my wife tells me that’s “You’re very pretty”). I’d always heard it as “Deep obsession,” which I guess makes some sense, too.

Scandal, “Goodbye to You”
I’m strongly inclined to say that mid-1982 to mid-1983 (I’ll leave the exact endpoints vague for now) is now my favorite twelve-month period of 80s music. I think it’s the mainstreaming of new wave sensibilities, morphing into the second British Invasion, that makes the period shine. “Goodbye to You” is a prime example of what makes me think fondly of it all.

Marshall Crenshaw, “Let Her Dance”
And we close out the first half with Marshall doing Bobby Fuller up nicely. I couldn’t not link to this silly but nonetheless cute video set to it. I want to believe these three are siblings, but the height differential between the guy and the twins makes me dubious…

Back with side two soon.

Still I Have Not Found My Way Out Of This Night

Spring of 1994. I’d just turned thirty, and was wrapping up my second year at Georgetown. An active summer, both professionally and socially, lay ahead. Mid-June would find me at Purdue for a nine-day workshop on constructivist learning as it applied to an upper-level class I’d be teaching for the first time come fall (the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman occurred while I was there). By the end of the month, I was blowing money I didn’t really have on my first trip to the Europe, where I was able to meet up with John and Ann in Paris, then Toby and Kasia in Zurich. A couple weeks after returning, I was back on the road to visit Greg and Katie in Maryland for a few days (that’s when I saw Sam Phillips perform).

This cassette was a companion on at least that Purdue trip, and maybe to MD, too. We visited side A last week; let’s now see what awaits on side B. There are plenty of long-time favorites.

B-52’s, “Roam”
It’s not my favorite song from Cosmic Thing. It’s still plenty good, though. There’s a song off Voice of the Beehive’s Let It Bee, called “I Walk the Earth,” with a similar theme. I’ve got that one on another tape…

The Darling Buds, “Long Day in the Universe”
From the Buds’ third album Erotica. That album is a much more challenging listen than their first two pop-oriented disks, but it’s not without its highlights.

Suzanne Vega, “Blood Makes Noise”
Short yet so sweet. 1987 me would have been flabbergasted that Vega would sound like this five years later. Producer/future husband Mitchell Froom can be fairly criticized for going overboard in the studio during this era (he also handled Kiko for Los Lobos and Six Pack of Love for Peter Case in 1992). The gadgetry and gimmickry couldn’t overwhelm a catchy tune like this, though. It legit should have been her third pop hit.

The Polecats, “Make a Circuit with Me”
On trips to Chicago in the early 90s, I’d often tune the radio to WXRT. This came at my roommate John’s recommendation; our tastes overlapped enough that he knew I’d enjoy it. One of the songs XRT introduced to me was this 1983 rockabilly/New Wave treasure out of England–I heard it more than once traveling up and down I-57. A clever extended metaphor on all things electric, I cannot understand how it wasn’t a big hit. I’m grateful the folks assembling the Living in Oblivion series saw fit to include it on one of their compilations.

I suppose it’s possible that some exec was trying to leverage the Stray Cats’ recent success promoting this band whose name and sound bore passing resemblances to Brian Setzer’s group. It was a worthwhile gambit–I know I’d rather listen to “Make a Circuit with Me” than “(She’s) Sexy + 17.”

Texas, “Fade Away”
Big bunches of this cassette reflect recent purchases. Rick’s Road, the third album from these Scottish rockers, was among them. On the first few listens, only the second track, “Fade Away,” stood out. It wound up being the fourth single released in the UK, though it didn’t chart there. Still a groovy, soulful, bluesy number.

Jane Wiedlin, “At the End of the Day”
Tangled sank like a stone when it came out in 1990. I’d heard “World on Fire” around that time, and wasn’t too surprised that it couldn’t build on the success of the awesome “Rush Hour” from two years before. In spite of that initial impression, eventually I plucked Tangled out of a cut-out bin to give it a shot. There are a few real highlights: the title track is good, “99 Ways” is super charming (it also made a tape), and I think “At the End of the Day” could have been a minor hit had it been released as a single.

Matthew Sweet, “Time Capsule”
In between Girlfriend and 100% Fun came Altered Beast; I was never able to get into it like those other two. “Time Capsule” was easily its best song. Hope bugs don’t freak you out–apparently Sweet was cool with them.

Brenda Kahn, “I Don’t Sleep, I Drink Coffee Instead”
This must have been another song I first encountered on WRFL in the fall of 1992. I scooped up Epiphany in Brooklyn not long after. Kahn’s punk-folk reminds a little of Cindy Lee Berryhill, who’d had a couple of albums a few years earlier. Kahn definitely has sass and a way with words. The references to Louisville and “a couple of Hoosiers” being “well-traveled in two states of the Union” may have caught my ear first, but there’s a lot more going on in this sub-2:30 piece.

Bettie Serveert, “Tom Boy”
There are some great songs on Palomine, the 1992 debut from this Dutch band. I noted in the very early days of this blog that the intro to “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” reminded me a lot of the opening notes of “Tom Boy.” Bettie Serveert is still an ongoing project; they last released an LP almost four years ago.

Monte Warden, “Feel Better”
I saw Monte Warden open for someone–probably Béla Fleck and the Flecktones–at the Kentucky Theater in the spring 0f 1993. I don’t buy CDs at concerts all that often, but I must have liked Warden’s Texas sound enough that night. “Feel Better” shows a hint of early Elvis and has a raucous guitar solo smack dab in the middle; definitely worth a listen still.

Warden’s career started in Austin with The Wagoneers. Several years ago he and the band reformed. They’re still together.

The Indigo Girls, “Least Complicated”
I guess the release date of Swamp Ophelia–5/10/94–gives me a big clue as to when this tape came together. “Least Complicated” has to be among my top 5 Indigo Girls songs.

Eighteen of the tape’s twenty-six songs feature female vocals–I’ve not been lying to you over the years about where most of my music money was going in the first half of the 90s.

Lisa Germano, “Energy”
Germano’s second album Happiness was originally put out on Capitol in the summer of 1993. Something must have gone sideways between Mellencamp’s fiddler and Capitol shortly thereafter, because it was re-released on 4AD six months later. I have the original CD, which includes a cover of “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'”–it was stripped from the reissue. That wasn’t the only change, apparently–Kenny Aranoff’s drum track has been removed from “Energy” in what we hear below. To me, this changes the whole nature of the track, ironically sucking much of the song’s energy away.

Iris DeMent, “My Life”
Some might think “My Life” too maudlin, but it spoke to me the first time I heard it, among the songs that invariably bring tears to my eyes. I believe I can check off at least the first two items from DeMent’s list in the chorus. I can’t help but notice she phrases those in past tense, while the third–“I can give comfort to my friends when they’re hurting”–concerns both the present and the future. I can aspire to do the same.

Over this past weekend I learned of the passing of a woman I went to college with. We overlapped only one year, and I didn’t know her all that well. We had a number of mutual friends, though, so I would see her occasionally in those first few years after I graduated. Full of life and humor, a genuinely nice and caring person–it’s cruel for the world to be robbed of folks like her far too many years early. She became a librarian, and served as director of the system in the county where she grew up over the last dozen or so years of her life. Reading anecdotes involving her these last few days on FB awakens me once again to the good we can do just by being present with one another.

Rest in peace, LJ.

It’s A New Breakthrough, It’s An Old Breakdown

A week between posts is a lengthier gap than normal for me, but there are reasons. I’ve been distracted some by my newfound interest in Strat-o-Matic, gearing up for a second month-long tournament (I did not reach my goal of .500 play in the first one, but hope springs eternal). We’ve drafted again and I’ve been spending too much time thinking about lineups, opponents, etc.

I’ve begun prep work for the fall semester, learning the content of a new class I’ll be teaching and starting a short course on structuring online classes. We’re beginning to get information from the Provost’s office about how teaching in the fall will (or may) be conducted. It’s going to be a busy summer; I’ll mostly be planning for bad-case scenarios.

But I’ve also been feeling the weight of current events and experiencing a bit of guilt over not acknowledging that in this space. I am not a deep thinker and possess a lifelong aversion to conflict, so perhaps it’s better to say little. I’ll leave it at this: 1) over the last few years, I believe I’ve begun to awaken to how much my white, American, middle-class maleness shelters me from the poor-to-horrific treatment so many blacks, other people of color, women, and LGBTQ people regularly receive; 2) I’m embarrassed it’s taken so long for this to penetrate deeply; 3) I can do so much better myself going forward. If that makes me heading down the road to becoming woke, so be it.

On to some music. I was churning out mixtapes at a pretty regular rate between 1992 and 1995. Here’s side A of one that was likely produced around May of 1994, as it includes several songs from purchases I made that spring (it was a regular in my car’s tape deck by June).

Lindsey Buckingham, “Countdown”
Didn’t really get into “Wrong,” the first single from LB’s 1992 release Out of the Cradle, but the follow-up sure was a winsome, catchy piece.

Sam Phillips, “Signposts”
One of the true musical highlights from the first half of 1994 was Phillips’s mash letter to middle-era Fab Four fans, Bikinis and Martinis. (It’s not just the sound she tried to capture; song titles include “Same Rain” and “Strawberry Road,” and there’s also a cover of Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth.”) This is one of three songs from it that made its way to mixtapes. Wound up seeing her do a set at an outdoor festival in the DC area that summer.

The Monroes, “What Do All the People Know”
80s New Wave nostalgia was already on its way by early 1994, when EMI started releasing its Living in Oblivion series. There are at least three songs I ripped from Vols. 2 and 3 for this effort. First up is a great lost hit from 1982 (first mentioned here a couple of years ago). You never know what might have happened chart-wise had their record label not folded soon after its release. I’m wondering now if I heard this on WCLU the summer before I left for college–it must have been on their playlist then.

Siouxsie and the Banshees, “Kiss Them for Me”
With “Peek-a-Boo” and this one, SatB put out two of the era’s most arresting sounding college rock lead singles. The Eastern influences made this stand out particularly.

Adam Schmitt, “River Black”
As much as I like its sound, for several years now I haven’t been able to look past that this is a story song that culminates in killing a woman for rejecting the narrator’s advances (or maybe he’s an abusive boyfriend). I’m not saying I’ll skip over it the next time I put World So Bright in my CD player, but I’m not going to embed a video here.

I enjoy power pop quite a bit, but have to admit that misogyny–casual and otherwise–appears in it with some frequency.

Voice of the Beehive, “I Say Nothing”
A trans-Atlantic group, fronted by California sisters Tracey Bryn and Brooke Belland; the Brits included Danny Woodgate, former drummer for Madness. I’d picked up Let It Bee, VotB’s 1988 debut, sometime in the spring. It’s got a few excellent tracks, and this one is my favorite. The slide into singing about arcades is a bit goofy, but I think youthful enthusiasm overcomes that. The single version softens more bad male behavior: the line “He’ll rip your heart in two” we hear below replaces “He’ll rip you right in two” from the LP version.

The Gin Blossoms, “Allison Road”
I’m a big fan of New Miserable Experience. “Hey Jealousy” is my pick for the album’s high point, but “Allison Road” isn’t all that far behind. What would this video look like today–would someone be lugging 40″ flat panel TVs through a house, up and down the stairs?

T’Pau, “Heart and Soul”
One of my faves from the summer of 87, this is another from a Living in Oblivion disk. I suppose it’s the juxtaposition of Carol Decker’s two very different sets of vocals overlaid on each other that made it such a stunner.

Lush, “Nothing Natural”
Not sure why a cut from Split, their early 1994 release, isn’t here instead (“Kiss Chase” and “Hypocrite” did appear on other tapes). Lush has any number of great songs, but this 100% pure shoegazer (produced by Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins, if you couldn’t tell) is decidedly my favorite. The official video is cool, but only features the single edit.

The Sugarcubes, “Coldsweat”
I don’t like this song as much as I used to, but those final, ferocious forty seconds still deliver a shiver.

Counting Crows, “Omaha”
My sister lived in Spokane for almost a year right after she got married in May 1993. I visited her and my brother-in-law early the following January and picked up August and Everything After while I was out there. I’ll confess to having been hooked on “Mr. Jones” for quite some time; here’s another of its many fine tracks.

Shawn Colvin, “Round of Blues”
I kinda dissed “Steady On” a few months ago, but “Round of Blues,” from Colvin’s second album Fat City, is brilliant–I think it’s her best song.

Kim Wilde, “Kids in America”
Reached back again to 1982 to wind up side one. Y’all already know I really love this one.

Side two leads off with a big hit but on average it songs are less well-known; a recap will appear soon.

What We’re Doing Here Today Won’t Make The Bad Life Go Away

This college professor’s life has seemed to get only more work-consumed as the semester rolls toward its end. A few observations with just a little over two weeks to go:

–I have to believe that it’s my first-year students that have had it the roughest in the craziness of the last few weeks. They were still in the process of learning how to do college when everything got turned upside-down, and several of those I have this term are the ones who’ve struggled most to remain engaged. I’m fortunate in that my lowest-level class is first-semester calculus; based on conversations with colleagues, students in general education courses, just wanting to complete their math credit, have had more issues.

–I elected to turn the assigned meeting times for my two calculus courses into office hours/question-and-answer sessions over Zoom. Rather than try to lecture in real time, I’ve spent a good number of hours recording videos where I work examples on an iPad screen for these students to watch when convenient. Based on the number of views I’m seeing, I regret to report that to date these appear to be underutilized. Nevertheless, I’m persisting, hoping to knock out the final videos this weekend.

–I’m essentially holding class at the regularly scheduled times for my two upper-level classes. It helps that they’re smaller, but it’s also true that non-freshfolk are simply more invested in major-related courses. Rapport was already established, everyone’s showing up–it’s gone as well as I could have hoped.

–Most of the time I’m recording my Zoom sessions and linking to them afterward, so that students who can’t/don’t attend can view what they missed. I generally trim off the beginning of the video before posting, since it’s usually either students waiting for teach to arrive or me making small talk with them before getting down to business. While I’m not thrilled at all at the sound of my own voice, it’s positively painful to have to watch myself interacting with my students day after day during the editing.

What my students see on Zoom. I usually hold court in the basement; that’s our CD shelving unit on the right. In this staged shot I’m only pretending to look at a monitor I have set up next to my work laptop.

–As stressed as I am, I know many of my students have it worse than I do. I’m trying to keep that in mind in our interactions. And I feel bad for our seniors, who’ve had what’s supposed to be a celebratory last few weeks go completely off the rails.

–The pressure to “get back to business” seems to be mounting in a number of places. I get it, but I don’t see how we’re remotely ready to even begin approaching what used to be normal. Without breakthroughs on either the testing/monitoring side or the treatment side (preferably both), it sure feels like we’re in for a long, long slog. I wish that weren’t the case.

I really haven’t felt that I can take much time these last couple of weeks for writing. But it’s Friday, so I’m putting the grading and recording aside for one evening and tucking into a tape I recorded around the end of 1991. The A side is standard-issue Harris mixtape stuff, almost all of which I’d listen to anytime still. The flip contains what was then a recently-acquired favorite CD: Pop Beloved, the Reivers’ fourth album. Here’s a recap of the mixed side.

World Party, “Is It Too Late?”
“Okay. Roll it.” Kicking off with the lead track on Kurt Wallinger’s second outing as the mastermind of World Party. Goodbye Jumbo is one of my favorite albums from 1990, and we’ll be seeing two other fantastic songs from it in Modern Rock Tracks posts later this year.

Cocteau Twins, “The Spangle Maker”
Another band with a 1990 release (Heaven or Las Vegas) that had two Modern Rock hits. This one, though, is from The Pink Opaque, a compilation mostly plucked from their mid-80s EP releases. Elizabeth Fraser is at her best when you understand less than 40% of what she’s saying, which fortunately is virtually all of the time.

Edie Brickell and New Bohemians, “He Said”
A bit of a train wreck here, jumping from the ethereal jaggedness of the Twins to the hippieish musings from Brickell and company. It’s a toss-up for me as to which of the New Bohemians’ albums is better. The highs on Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars are way high, but Ghost of a Dog might have a little more consistency. “He Said” is easily my favorite on GoaD.

Loey Nelson, “Railroad Track”
The subject of my first Forgotten Albums feature. I mistakenly claimed then that “Railroad Track” was on the tape I wrote up this past January. C’est la vie.

John Hiatt, “Memphis in the Meantime”
My favorite Hiatt album is Slow Turning, but 1987’s Bring the Family, his breakthrough, is awfully good as well. Last week I mentioned that I heard “Fish and Whistle” at my college roommate’s wedding rehearsal party back in October 1991; I want to say those musicians played this prime cut that night, too.

And just when did Code-A-Phones become passé?

The Go-Betweens, “Love Goes On!”
The first half of my favorite two-fer on a tape; I liked the combination of this epic Go-Betweens song with the next one so well, I put ’em back-to-back on a mix CD a decade later. And yes, I’ve featured these two songs before. I’ll say it again, though: go get 16 Lovers Lane if you like this song–I love that album so, so much.

Sam Phillips, “Raised on Promises”
Phillips’s first three albums after moving away from the Contemporary Christian scene are all excellent; over time, I’ve come to decide that the middle one, Cruel Inventions, is the best of the bunch. “Raised on Promises” kicks off an epic trio that ends the disk. (As noted, this song has been blogged here before; that post references an event mentioned above. Everything circles around everything else, it seems.)

10000 Maniacs, “Hello In There”
I wasn’t the only one who thought of this song at John Prine’s passing last week. My good friend Greg remembered it from the CD single for “You Happy Puppet,” noting it may have been his first exposure to Prine’s work (I’m willing to bet he and I bought our copies of that single at the same time). And my blogger pal The Old Grey Cat gave the song a signal boost this past weekend, too. While I worry now that Peter Asher helped make this a little perkier than it should be, it’s always the version that plays in my head when the song gets mentioned.

Lori Carson, “Way of the Past”
When I saw last week that COVID-19 had also claimed the life of Hal Willner, I immediately recalled that he had produced Carson’s debut Shelter. The title song had appeared here in January; this is that album’s most charming track. In another world, it could have been an AC hit.

Grace Pool, “Me Without You”
Lead single from Where We Live, the second album by this New York band that went nowhere. Another song that deserved more of a look than it got; both Grace Pool albums are worth tracking down.

Depeche Mode, “Policy of Truth”
Maybe every tape needs to have a hit single on it? Probably liked this more at the time than I do now, though it’s hardly bad. I will say that it filled the tape out almost perfectly.

You Will Never Know Until You Read Between The Lines

The music on side two of Way Cool Stuff is on average way more obscure than that of side one. Either in spite of or because of that, I think I like it a little better now. Greg’s responsible for making me aware of tracks 1, 4, 8, 9, 10, 13, and 14, so blame him if you don’t find it all that. I’m ready to dig in, though.

The Way Moves, “Revel (In Your Time)”
We start with a band whose name likely inspired the name for the tape. These guys came out of Chicago and released two albums before breaking up in early 91. This was the lead single from the second of those, Favor and Disgrace. Pretty song about getting out there and living–in a more just world it would have been a hit. You can be one of the first couple dozen folks to see this video–it went up on YouTube just last month. Gotta love the vocalist’s name: Skid Marks.

Marti Jones, “Be Myself Again”
I held this one back in my recent write-up of Match Game, Jones’s second LP, in anticipation of this day arriving. “Be Myself Again” is the only song on the album for which Jones has (co-)songwriting credit. Another clip recently added to YouTube, but I don’t like the way it sounds here–a little thin and slightly sped up.

The Rave-Ups, “Respectfully King of Rain”
Thirty years ago this song was about to make a little noise on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. Chance was the third and final full release for this Pittsburgh-to-LA band; it’s not as good as their previous album The Book of Your Regrets. And I don’t like this song as much as I did when I made the tape. It sounds good, but the story told is simply kinda dumb. There’s a real video for the song–I’m certain I saw it on 120 Minutes back in the day–but I’m not finding it.

The Katydids, “Lights Out (Read My Lips)”
Another band that didn’t last much longer after failing to strike gold, this time out of the UK. The Katydids released two albums in the early 90s before getting dropped by their label and folding. “Lights Out” wasn’t the first single released to radio from their Nick Lowe-produced, self-titled debut–we’ll get to that one later this year–but it’s my favorite song from a pretty solid disk, another could’ve-been-hit. Vocalist Susie Hug posted a copy of the official clip for this song, but neither the audio nor video are particularly good.

The Lightning Seeds, “Pure”
The Lightning Seeds went on to be an actual band, but the first disk under that name, Cloudcuckooland, was essentially an Ian Broudie solo project.

Apparently, I lied in my previous post–I’d completely forgotten that Tears for Fears was not the only act on this cassette with a Top 40 song. “Pure” reached #31 in July and August of 90. Good on us.

R.E.M., “Fall on Me”
Back in fall of 86 I thought this had a shot to be R.E.M.’s first sizable hit. I was pretty wrong–it only reached #94–but it a year later they would break through commercially in a big way.

Concrete Blonde, “God Is a Bullet”
The first of four songs on this side that made the Destination 89 series. Rather than embed again, I’m giving you links. This came up in June

Will and the Bushmen, “Blow Me Up”
…while this one appeared just last month.

The Darling Buds, “Honeysuckle”
Great song from Crawdaddy, one of my favorite albums from 90. There’s more to be featured from this disk later this year.

Icehouse, “We Can Get Together”
Fun to see Iva Davies before he went all mullet on us. This is a completely excellent new wave-y cut. I’m including the UK version of the song because the vid is pretty cool, as well as making a somewhat punker contrast with the US version I know so well now. To my regret, I didn’t hear this back in 81, but it did reach #62 here in the States.

10000 Maniacs, “A Campfire Song”
A favorite from In My Tribe. Merchant would revisit the theme of this song–unchecked greed–in “The Lion’s Share” on their next album, Blind Man’s Zoo. The two songs occupied almost identical spots on their respective disks, in the middle of side two. Nice to have a second appearance on this side from Michael Stipe, too.

Texas, “Fool for Love”
One of those already covered, back in September

Fetchin Bones, “Deep Blue”
…and another from June.

The Way Moves, “Crown of Thorns”
I didn’t often put two songs from the same band on a tape, but I guess I liked the effect of bookending here. “Crown of Thorns” came from their self-titled debut disk. Definitely a darker, different sound from “Revel (In Your Time).” The embed has the entire album–I can’t seem to cue it up to start in the right spot–you’ll want to start at 35:19.

Hear The Creak That Lets The Tale Begin

Around the time I graduated from college I began making mixtapes to send to my roommate James. As I believe I’ve noted before, the first one was called simply “Stuff,” and that word was weaved into the titles throughout the series, which ran roughly annually through 95. Contents usually came from relatively recent acquisitions, though I’m sure I dipped back for seconds when a disk really caught my attention. I know that he still has (most of) them; I’d love to take my boombox down to his house one of these years and remind myself what I’d thought worthy of his attention back then.

What I didn’t do much of between 88 and 91 was make mixtapes for myself. The biggest obstacle was that I didn’t own a tape deck that hooked into my CD player–I imagine I generally made the tapes for James when I went to my parents’. I also prevailed upon my officemate Paul some, and his house must be where Way Cool Stuff was recorded, sometime in the opening half of 91. It’s the first tape from the CD era I kept that captures some ways in which my tastes had diverged from Top 40 and even AOR radio.

As you can see, years of exposure to sunlight have taken a big toll on what I wrote on the sleeve back then:

That’s enough opening chatter–let’s play some tunes.

The Waterboys, “Fisherman’s Blues”
Kurt Wallinger’s departure may have allowed/pushed Mike Scott to move his band’s music in a more traditional direction. It could be that I bought this disk because of “World Party,” but this is the one that kept me coming back. The first of 3.5 title songs on this side of the tape.

U2, “Seconds”
Second song on the tape, second song on War–guess that’s all fitting enough. It’d be awfully hard for me to rank the songs on U2’s third album. The competition is mighty fierce; I really like this one, and it still might come in as low as sixth or seventh.

The B-52’s, “Song for a Future Generation”
I was aware of this prior to Cosmic Thing‘s breakout, but it was only afterward that I took the time to check out Whammy! from the Urbana Free Library to dub it onto a tape. Looking up the lyrics online for this writeup has given me a new perspective on the song: some sites indicate that most of the lines are questions and not declarative statements. I still like it a bunch, but do wonder if it would be just as good if they’d cut off the last thirty seconds or so.

Lori Carson, “Shelter”
Title song from a possible candidate for a future Forgotten Albums post. Carson came out of NYC/Long Island and spent a big chunk of the 90s in Anton Fier’s circle as a member of the Golden Palominos. This song/album is much more in the sensitive singer/songwriter vein; I find a lot of it pretty endearing.

Tears For Fears, “Sowing the Seeds of Love”
Only song on the tape to have made the Top 40.

Rickie Lee Jones, “Flying Cowboys”
Think I’d picked up this CD from Columbia House. “Satellites” was the putative single, but it was the title track that spoke to me most.

John Hiatt, “Real Fine Love”
While I like Slow Turning and Bring the Family better, Stolen Moments got plenty of play right after I bought it in 90. This is the opening track, one that I suspect does a pretty good job of describing Hiatt’s state of mind at the time.

Suzanne Vega, “Rusted Pipe”
I didn’t dig on Days of Open Hand nearly as much as either of Vega’s first two albums. This was one of the few songs from it to make a strong impression. “Rusted Pipe” was the other of Suzy V’s songs to get the re-mix treatment from DNA, though not with any of the success of their work on “Tom’s Diner.”

The Pretenders, “Message of Love”
Yes, Pretenders II is rather lacking in comparison to its predecessor (who doesn’t cringe at “Bad Boys Get Spanked” or “Jealous Dogs”?) It’s got some great tunes, though: “Day After Day,” the cover of “I Go To Sleep,” and two of my top five from Chrissie: “Talk of the Town” and the one we have here, “Message of Love.”

The Pursuit of Happiness, “When the Sky Comes Falling Down”
I spun up “I’m an Adult Now” back on my son’s 18th birthday, but here we’ve got one of my two favorite songs from Love Junk, this Canadian band’s debut disk. Solid pop rocker, with great female background vox to boot.

The Sundays, “I Won”
Reading, Writing and Arithmetic was a big favorite in the latter half of 90. “Here’s Where the Story Ends” is of course the main attraction, but “I Won” isn’t far behind.

The Smiths, “Panic”
As so often was the case, a pretty short song to end a side. Big, big fan of Louder Than Bombs; this highlight is one that John and I rocked out to many a time.

The A side was all essentially self-discovered; we’ll see Greg’s influences several times on the B side (there will also be a few repeats of songs already blogged). That’ll come your way sometime soon.

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.


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:


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:


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…


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):



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.