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.

Sixty Minute Tape, Song 15: Wall of Voodoo, “Mexican Radio”

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.  I’ll be re-upping modified versions of those sixteen posts over the coming weeks.

One day sometime in 84 when my friends and I were watching MTV in our student center, this video came on and was followed by the Call’s “The Walls Came Down.”  That may well be my pick for the greatest one-two punch the channel played in its heyday.  I can’t help but notice how young Stan Ridgway and company look here.  This is a great, great song.

 

Sixty Minute Tape, Song 14: Robert Ellis Orrall and Carlene Carter, “I Couldn’t Say No”

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.  I’ll be re-upping modified versions of those sixteen posts over the coming weeks.

I heard this duet on WLAP-FM a number of times toward the end of my freshman year in college and immediately loved it (still do).  While I did get the Orrall EP that featured it somewhere along the way, I was glad the song eventually showed up on one of Barry Scott’s Lost 45s CDs.  It reached #32 in May 83.

Both Orrall and Carter had success in country music later on.  He had a couple of modest hits in the 90s but mostly prospered as a songwriter.  Carlene was married to Nick Lowe (she’s featured prominently in the “Cruel to Be Kind” video) for a number of years and tried her luck in the pop field prior to 83.  Eventually she chose to embrace her legacy as June’s daughter.  I picked up her country breakthrough I Fell in Love when it came out in 90, in part because I knew of her from today’s song; it’s a great disk.  I got the chance to meet and chat briefly with her after a show in Lexington 3.5 years ago.

Sixty Minute Tape, Song 13: House of Schock, “Middle of Nowhere”

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.  I’ll be re-upping modified versions of those sixteen posts over the coming weeks.

The Go-Go’s hit the scene during my senior year in high school.  Their debut album Beauty and the Beat is an outstanding pop record, and I loved “Vacation,” the title track of the follow-up.  They broke up in 85 but have had temporary reunions every once in a while since, including a farewell tour last year.

I don’t know what Kathy Valentine did musically after they split, but the other four did have varying degrees of success in their post-Go-Go worlds.  Belinda Carlisle (several albums, four top 10s) and Jane Wiedlin (a few albums, one top 10) both pursued solo careers.  Charlotte Caffey was part of a trio called the Graces (one album, a minor hit single).  And Gina Schock formed her own group, House of Schock (Ellen DeGeneres’ brother Vance was in the band).  They released one self-titled album in 1988 that went (maybe oddly fittingly?) nowhere, but it did contain this single, an absolute gem which caught my fancy a couple of years later.

Sixty Minute Tape, Song 12: Bourgeois Tagg, “I Don’t Mind at All”

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.  I’ll be re-upping modified versions of those sixteen posts over the coming weeks.

I was paying much less attention to the Billboard Hot 100 chart (and to be honest, an increasingly higher percentage of the music on it) by the late 80s.  None of the songs thus far on this tape had made the Top 40; here’s the first of two.  Wearing its Beatles influences on its sleeve–and then some–this fine and pretty tune reached #38 in December 87.

Sixty Minute Tape, Song 11: Romeo Void, “Never Say Never”

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.  I’ll be re-upping modified versions of those sixteen posts over the coming weeks.

Because I don’t recall hearing this one when it was released in the early 80s, I tend to mistakenly think of it as belonging to the early 90s.  Here’s a hot take for you:  this song and “Rock Lobster,” two totally jamming pieces that are more than worthy of their places in the canon, are just too darn long. I contend that both simply run out of steam and wouldn’t suffer from being a couple minutes shorter.  I assume it’s the single version in the video; this is just about right.  I made my own edit when recording the tape by fading the full version out, well, a couple minutes early.

Sixty Minute Tape, Song 10: Reivers, “In Your Eyes”

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.  I’ll be re-upping modified versions of those sixteen posts over the coming weeks.

I traveled between Urbana, IL and Florence, KY a number of times each year while in graduate school.  As I’ve mentioned previously, sometime in the very late 80s I started tuning in to the amazing WOXY (97X, The Future of Rock and Roll), a modern rock station located in Oxford, OH, for the stretch between Florence and Greensburg, IN.  I learned a lot about what turned into the alternative music scene over those 90-or-so minute periods.  I wish the station still existed.

During one of those trips in late summer of 91, on State Road 1 in SE Indiana, I heard “Breathin’ Easy” by the Reivers, an Austin band unfamiliar to me.  Intrigued, I told my roommate Greg about it.  Not surprisingly, he knew about them, as he had a couple of their LPs.  After listening to those albums, they quickly became my “it” band for that last year in Illinois (and for a couple of years beyond, too).  I bought the new CD (Pop Beloved, their fourth release) and soon began what became an obsessive hunt for the CD versions of Saturday and End of the Day, their second and third albums (even though they were only 4 and 2 years old, respectively, they’d already gone out of print).  For months, EVERY time I went to a record store, I’d head straight to the R’s, then to the used CDs (remember, this was pre-Internet).  Finally, in the summer of 92, just a few weeks before I moved back to KY, I found them used while visiting friends in St. Louis.

I know the Reivers aren’t the greatest band of all time, but I enjoy their music thoroughly to this day.  The voices of Kim Longacre and John Croslin blend so well (though you don’t get to hear much evidence of that today), and the melodies are just plain appealing.  As it turns out, they broke up soon after I first learned of them, though they’ve periodically reunited for shows in Austin, and even released a new album in 2013.

This is one of my favorites –a charming rocker about being in love.  Contrary to the annotation below, it’s from 1987.

Sixty Minute Tape, Song 9: Raisins, “Fear Is Never Boring”

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.  I’ll be re-upping modified versions of those sixteen posts over the coming weeks.

For a while in early 80s Cincinnati, the Raisins were definitely a thing; they had a locally produced LP and got a fair amount of love on the radio.  Their ship never quite came in, although a few years later most of them teamed up with Adrian Belew for a couple of national releases as the Bears.

I was completely shocked last year when I found an actual (albeit rather low-budget) video for this song–in the comments on YouTube, its poster reveals he did sound work for the Raisins for a period of time.  The Bears also recorded it for their debut disk, but in my book their version lacks the spontaneity, edginess, and downright fun of the original.  Enjoy.