Modern Rock Tracks, 4/3/93

The second weekend of March 1993 was notable on a couple of levels. Up and down the east coast, it’s remembered for the late winter Storm of the Century/”bomb cyclone,” a massive low pressure system that formed over Florida and spent a couple of days wreaking havoc as it headed north. Lexington was relatively spared, though travel east and south were well nigh impossible due to snow and high winds.

More locally, I had a blind date that Friday evening, arranged by a friend from college. We met at a record store in the mall, drove to a nearby restaurant for dinner, and wound up renting a movie and watching it back at my apartment (Sister Act, I believe). On Saturday, I was able to drive north on I-75 amid the flying flakes to attend the afternoon wedding of a(nother) college friend.

The date went well enough; she and I wound up seeing each other with varying frequency for a little more than a year. She was certainly nice, but in retrospect it should have been–and maybe was–clear pretty early on (to both of us) there was insufficient long-term compatibility. For whatever reason, it took more time than it should have (at least for me) to fully acknowledge that. I think we more or less made a successful transition to “just friends” before completely losing touch.

Anyway, on to the MRT chart from earlier this month:

29. Dada, “Dim”
I like this driving track much better than “Dizz Knee Land.” Gotta love a line like “Can’t this car go ’cause I can still see where I am.”

28. Ween, “Push Th’ Little Daisies”
I’m on record as being a fan of Pure Guava‘s “The Stallion Pt . 3.” A little of these guys does go plenty far in my world, though.

27. The Candyskins, “Wembley”
Another British troupe that came and went so quickly I didn’t quite notice. Fun little number, I will say.

22. The Tragically Hip, “Courage”
You know, it’s a blot of my record that I know essentially nothing about the Hip. That’ll be changing soon.

18. World Party, “Is It Like Today?”
Right or wrong, I didn’t get into Bang! the way I had the excellent Goodbye Jumbo. I probably like “Give It All Away,” which won’t be discussed in a future installment, better than “Is It Like Today?”

17. David Bowie, “Jump They Say”
Black Tie White Noise was Bowie’s first solo release in six years, a reunion collaboration with Nile Rodgers. At the least it wasn’t nearly the commercial success they’d enjoyed a decade earlier with Let’s Dance.

14. Hothouse Flowers, “Thing of Beauty”
If I heard this thirty years ago I don’t remember, and that’s a shame. “Thing of Beauty” describes the song itself, an uplifting, joyous romp. Hothouse Flowers didn’t come close to getting the Stateside attention they should have.

12. Tasmin Archer, “Sleeping Satellite”
I bought only three of the albums represented in this post–those from World Party, Belly, and Tasmin Archer. That feels a little low for this series?

I think my friends Greg and Katie were the ones to put me on to “Sleeping Satellite.” Really nice tune, and it even went Top 40, reaching #32 in early June.

10. Lenny Kravitz, “Are You Gonna Go My Way”
One of the more memorable opening riffs from this period, and maybe the song among those mentioned here (it’s either this or #4 below) that’s best remembered today?

6. Living Colour, “Leave It Alone”
Vernon Reid and compatriots were back for a third time with Stain, which would turn out to be their last album for a decade. “Leave It Alone” is a more-than-worthy entry in their canon.

4. Sting, “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You”
Don’t know why but it felt to me like it’d been only about a year since The Soul Cages, instead of two. Here’s another sign that my sense of what makes a Top 10 hit was out of kilter, as I would have pegged this as reaching higher than #17 on the Hot 100.

2. Belly, “Feed the Tree”
Easily my favorite song in this post. Tanya Donelly showed, at least for a few shining moments, why she deserved attention outside of her work with Throwing Muses.

1. Depeche Mode, “I Feel You”
Speaking as someone who only knows DM singles (so take what I say with an appropriate amount of salt), “I Feel You” didn’t impress nearly as much as the stuff on Violator. My sense is that Songs of Faith and Devotion was their first post-peak release; you’re welcome to tell me how wrong I am.

Modern Rock Tracks, 2/6/93

I’ve let things get away from me in this series, so I better quickly play catchup so that I can tackle the next installment sometime in April.

I’d opened 1993 up by traveling to San Antonio for the big, annual national mathematics conference. I attended two workshops, hung out with friends from Illinois who were on the job market, and did a tiny bit of sightseeing (including the Riverwalk and yes, the Alamo). By early February I was engrossed in teaching lots of statistics and getting my first shot at first-semester calculus (I’m amused to realize as I write this that three-quarters of my teaching load this semester is the same as thirty years ago).

As for the music on the MRT chart around that time? Let’s dive in…

29. Black 47, “Funky Céili (Bridie’s Song)”
I don’t think I knew until assembling this post that Black 47 was an American band (though vocalist Larry Kirwan is Irish-born)?

The EP I have with “Funky Céili” on it also contains the epic “Maria’s Wedding,” in which our narrator/hero drunkenly ruins his ex-lover’s nuptials in the hopes of getting back together with her. Yeah, that’s a workable plan…

26. King Missile, “Detachable Penis”
One I regularly heard on WRFL (Lexington’s eclectic college radio station) on my commute to and from work that first year at Georgetown. In this spoken-word piece, our narrator/hero owns the title object, loses it while partying at a friend’s house, and subsequently suffers the indignity of having to buy it back from a street vendor.

24. Suzanne Vega, “99.9° F”
One of two songs I could have written up in the previous installment but passed on because I knew I’d have another chance to highlight them in February (the other is #6). Another thing they share is I like other songs on the respective albums much better–in Suzy V’s case, I’m more of a fan of “In Liverpool,” “As Girls Go,” and “When Heroes Go Down.”

21. Daniel Ash, “Get Out of Control”
Love and Rockets turned out to be only on hiatus; Foolish Thing Desire would be Ash’s last solo venture for a decade. “Get Out of Control” is pretty tasty, though I’m seeing what feels like a sly and subtle homage to “Addicted to Love” in the video, with women playacting as musicians.

16. Michael Penn, “Long Way Down”
Free-for-All didn’t grab me at first listen the way March had, and I never wound up giving it much of a chance. I’ll admit that “Long Way Down” wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the earlier album.

15. The Sundays, “Goodbye”
My favorite song in this post. Grateful for the three albums the Sundays put out; wouldn’t have minded at all had there been a few more.

13. Starclub, “Hard to Get”
I do this exercise as much to uncover gems I missed back in the day as to revisit old friends (with the proliferation of alternative radio stations as the 90s progressed, slipping past my radar may be harder going forward, though). Here’s a UK band that lasted only for one release. “Hard to Get” has some pleasing hooks and jangle; I think I would have liked it.

10. Soul Asylum, “Black Gold”
The Twin Cities represent with this second notable track from Grave Dancers Union. The third would break things wide open for a while for Dave Pirner and company.

9. Stereo MCs, “Connected”
This one just screams big hit to me, so I’m surprised to see it only reached #20 on the Hot 100 (and #18 in the band’s native Britain). My days as a tastemaker, if there ever were any, apparently were already past.

6. 10000 Maniacs, “Candy Everybody Wants”
Connecting back to what I said at #24, give me “Noah’s Dove,” “Eden,” and “Jezebel” any day over “Candy Everybody Wants.”

3. R.E.M., “Man on the Moon”
What would they have titled Andy Kaufman’s biopic if R.E.M. hadn’t written and recorded this song?

2. Duran Duran, “Ordinary World”
I was caught completely off-guard by this comeback single, hitting the U.S. almost exactly a decade after “Hungry Like the Wolf” had (and also peaking at #3 Pop).

1. Jesus Jones, “The Devil You Know”
There aren’t going to be many #1 songs on this chart in the coming years that are brand new to me, but somehow Perverse, the followup LP to breakthrough Doubt, eluded my attention. Truth be told, based on initial impressions here, that’s okay.

Modern Rock Tracks, 12/5/92

I’m in the middle of finals week right now, hoping to have grades submitted by Wednesday or Thursday. I wouldn’t call this my favorite semester ever–prep has been more of a slog than usual, for one thing–but I’m hopeful of better things in the spring.

Thirty years ago I was about to go through my first round of final exams as a real-life professor. I’m sure I’d learned a lot over the course of the previous four months, though there can be no doubt multiple missteps were made along the way. I’d be teaching the lower-level courses–college algebra and elementary stats–over and over in the coming years, so one hopes I scaled the learning curves for those classes quickly. The upper-level ones, though–introduction to mathematical proof and calculus-based probability–wouldn’t come my way again for a long time (roughly twenty years for the former, maybe ten for the latter).

Modern rock was still more elusive on the radio in my world at this point than I wanted, so a few of the songs below are (unfortunately) brand new.

30. Sunscreem, “Love U More”
I do remember hearing this one at the time, but don’t think I ever knew the name of the band. Hard not to get in a better mood listening to it, that’s for sure. Was this a groundbreaking track in a way, helping tear down the boundary between techno and alterntive?

29. Mudhoney, “Suck You Dry”
Not the first time this song has been mentioned here. (Go ahead, click the link–it’s a good post, about the University of Kentucky’s true college radio station.) Influential as they were on the grunge scene, they’ve not grown on me over the years.

27. Shawn Colvin, “Round of Blues”
Another veteran track on the blog, appearing at least twice before. Can’t pass up another opportunity to hype my fave Colvin song, though.

24. Blind Melon, “Tones of Home”
How did I not know that “No Rain” wasn’t the first song featured from Blind Melon? I’m hearing a little Perry Ferrell in Shannon Hoon’s vocals here, which isn’t a compliment.

17. Thomas Dolby, “Eastern Bloc”
Dolby references “Europa and the Pirate Twins” throughout, and the beat is straight from “I Want Candy.” I hope that sounds appealing, because the execution of the concept is flawless.

16. Supreme Love Gods, “Souled Out”
Band out of Fresno that broke up after their one and only album. Ironic, then, that the standout line on “Souled Out” is “We are all together.” Based on the one song, I wouldn’t have minded hearing more from them.

15. Paul Weller, “Uh Huh Oh Yeh”
Weller will turn 65 next year, still cranking out albums to this day. This soulful opening cut from his self-titled solo debut does feel a bit like a declaration of independence, kicking out the style yet not bringing back the jam.

10. Lemonheads, “Mrs. Robinson”
The original is an inner-circle Hall of Fame song, of course. Evan Dando and company play it pretty straight and still come up with a cover that isn’t pointless in the slightest.

8. Dada, “Dizz Knee Land”
This was moderately clever the first few times I heard it; eventually it wore out its welcome with me.

7. R.E.M. “Ignoreland”
“I know that this is vitriol/No solution, spleen-venting/But I feel better for having screamed/Don’t you?” The angriest, most overtly political song they ever did?

6. Neneh Cherry, “Trout”
Two in a row with Stipe hanging around at the mic–he helped with the lyrics, as well. Interesting as this is, it was impossible to re-capture the magic of “Buffalo Stance.”

4. Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, “Not Sleeping Around”
The big moment in the States for NAD, as they’re steaming toward #1 on this chart. Like it, but I’m hearing a lot of the waning Madchester influence. I do know I’ll have this song in mind the next time I’m in an outdoor aviary at the zoo.

3. Peter Gabriel, “Steam”
I don’t know–this sure seems to be not much more than a hybrid of “Sledgehammer” and “Big Time”–and not as fresh as either.

2. The Sundays, “Love”
I didn’t get into Blind the way I did Reading, Writing,and Arithmetic, but that’s not because Harriet Wheeler’s voice is any less appealing. We’ll have my favorite cut from this second album next time.

1. Soul Asylum, “Somebody to Shove”
Sometimes it all comes together, even on a band’s sixth album. I like “Black Gold” and “Runaway Train” a lot, but they’re no match for the ferocity and intensity of “Somebody to Shove.” It hasn’t been often that the best song on the chart is sitting at #1–that’s the case this time, though.

Modern Rock Tracks, 10/3/92

My first day on the job as an assistant prof of math was also the day that Hurricane Andrew strafed Homestead, FL. My office that year was three doors down from the one I’ve occupied since–one of my new colleagues was on leave, taking classes toward a doctorate at the University of Kentucky, so I temporarily took over his space. I had four different preparations, all new to me. I certainly came to understand a lot of undergraduate math much better in those years as I had to figure out how to explain stuff to other people.

Every fall we get a two-day break in October; this year’s is tomorrow and Friday. It must have been around the same time thirty years ago, and I couldn’t resist the chance to head back to Illinois for the weekend. The main memory I have of the trip is watching one of the debates at Jay and Michelle’s house, perhaps the veep debate when Ross Perot’s running mate Vice Admiral James Stockdale famously uttered, “Who am I? Why am I here?”

When I wasn’t teaching or getting ready to do so, I was either playing Minesweeper on the new Windows 3.1 machine in my office or checking out music stores in Lexington, forever on the hunt for CDs. I count six acts below whose 1992 releases wound up in my collection.

28. Mary’s Danish, “Leave It Alone”
That breakthrough never happened for this L.A. outfit, and they split following the release of American Standard. They opened for the Darling Buds on tour that fall; Greg scored perhaps my most treasured rock-related artifact from Buds singer Andrea Lewis when he saw the two acts in concert that December.

25. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Breaking the Girl”
RHCP’s more sedate songs definitely hold more appeal for me. There’s a lot to recommend here–syncopated rhythm, cacophonous percussion solo, flute sounds from the mellotron…what more could one want?

23. Morrissey, “Glamorous Glue”
Moz has been a frequent presence on this chart throughout this series of posts, though I don’t make note of his contributions all that often. Today I’m enjoying the muscular guitar work on “Glamorous Glue,” so he gets mentioned this time (okay, “Tomorrow” is also on here at #15).

22. Utah Saints, “Something Good”
It’s been stunning and immensely satisfying to see “Running Up That Hill” click with the youngins this year. It’s not the first time since 1985, though, a cut from Hounds of Love has resurfaced: a British house duo that looked to the American West for their name sampled “Cloudbusting” (both vocals and video) to great effect only seven years after it first hit the scene.

21. Sinéad O’Connor, “Success Has Made a Failure of Our Home”
O’Connor’s next move after her breakthrough cover of Prince was to take on this Loretta Lynn classic. It’s a fascinating re-invention that was soon to be overshadowed by a public outcry: 10/3/92 was the day of the Saturday Night Live appearance during which O’Connor tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II.

19. Kitchens of Distinction, “Smiling”
Straightforward pop out of the UK. The Death of Cool wound up in my collection on a whim, and this track from it graced one of my 1994 mixtapes. I dig the band’s name.

13. Screaming Trees, “Nearly Lost You”
Trees singer Mark Lanegan passed away this past February at the age of 57. While “Nearly Lost You” is a fantastic track, I’ll always think fondly of Lanegan for contributing vocals to “Sneakers” on the Sandra Boynton children’s CD Dog Train (a favorite in our house fifteen or so years ago).

11. Too Much Joy, “Donna Everywhere”
Catchy tune and sophomoric lyrics, neither of which should surprise any fan of the band.

10. 10000 Maniacs, “These Are Days”
Our Time in Eden turned out to be the swan studio album for the Natalie Merchant-era of 10K Maniacs. It was quite the way to go out, as it’s their most fully realized work.

Thirty years on, “These Are Days” has become one of my songs-of-the-year for 2022; you can read why here.

8. Pearl Jam, “Jeremy”
Never was a particular fan of this one, but feels like I should mention its presence. It was inescapable on MTV for far too long.

6. Sugar, “Helpless”
A few weeks ago my Twitter feed made sure I knew that last month marked 30 years since Copper Blue‘s release. I’ve really soured on “A Good Idea” over the years, but “Helpless” is a delight.

4. R.E.M., “Drive”
Those opening weeks at my new job sure saw the release of a lot of great albums (see #10 above, #2 below, among others). Most of the time I think that Automatic for the People is the best of the bunch, even if this homage to “Rock On” didn’t jazz me initially.

3. INXS, “Not Enough Time”
I’m not sure why INXS’s star faded as quickly as it did after Kick. Here we are, just two albums out, and this is their final Top 40 hit. Darn fine song, too.

2. Suzanne Vega, “Blood Makes Noise”
Mitchell Froom took Peter Case, Los Lobos, and Vega all on wild-but-rewarding rides in the studio in 1992. 99.9°F was quite the departure from Suzy V’s earlier work, but I was on board from the start.

1. Peter Gabriel, “Digging in the Dirt”
Gabriel’s six-year break between So and Us coincided perfectly with my years away from Kentucky. The video for “Digging in the Dirt” feels somewhat like an attempt to recreate the magic of “Sledgehammer.” Even if Peter came up short on that front, this is a very nice song.

Modern Rock Tracks, 8/1/92

July and August 1992 were busy months. I was trying to cram in some final good times with IL buds before I rode off into the sunset while also making preparations for that upcoming new life as an assistant prof in KY. In mid-July a bunch of us traveled to Bettendorf, IA for a couple of days of bridge; a little more than a week later, I took off with my friend Jay for Toronto to the summer nationals and another crack at the non-Life Master Grand National Teams event. This time, I was playing with Mark L, since his old partner Milind had graduated; at the other table, Jay would be with Chris, my partner in Las Vegas the year before. Unlike the previous two years, we would advance out of the first round, but that’s as far as we made it.

After saying our farewells to Mark and Chris, Jay and I headed north and east, camping out a couple of nights and taking a quick survey of Montreal. By Wednesday, 7/29, we were back in Toronto for a day of bridge and an evening of baseball.

It was a pretty good pitching matchup, Dave Stieb vs. Kevin Appier. The soon-to-be World Champions lost to the woeful Royals that evening, 5-2. It was the only time I got to see George Brett, who was in his next-to-last season, play; alas, he went 0-4 with an IBB.

From there, it was a whirlwind of travel: Thursday it was back to Champaign-Urbana, and on Friday I drove to my parents’. That was because Saturday, August 1, was my 10th year HS reunion, to be held not far from the high school at a park that hadn’t existed in the early 80s. It was a beautiful day (this was the summer that was significantly cooler than normal, likely due to the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines), and the location was perfect for those who already had small children in tow. One of my classmates who attended was then working for the public radio station at nearby Northern Kentucky University. She had a couple of tickets that she couldn’t use for Sunday night’s Mary Chapin Carpenter concert in Cincinnati–guess who snagged one of them?

The following week, it was another two trips between IL and KY. The first was to load everything for moving and then cart it to an apartment on the southeast side of Lexington; the second was to take my office-mate Paul back to Champaign–I’d needed to rent a small U-Haul and he had graciously offered to drive it. With my UIUC days literally in the rear-view mirror, I had around two weeks to tackle prepping a new set of classes and commence adjusting to the post-student life.

With all those miles being logged in SE Indiana in my ’86 Camry over those weeks, there was plenty of opportunity to listen to my then-favorite station, WOXY (97X), out of Oxford, OH. What might I have heard then? I imagine the 8/1/92 Modern Rock Tracks chart can offer some ideas.

27. PJ Harvey, “Sheela-Na-Gig”
Polly Jean was just 22 years old when her music began crashing on these shores. I’m sure I heard “Sheela-Na-Gig” at the time, though I have stronger memories from a couple years later of watching Beavis and Butt-Head comment on “50 Ft. Queenie.”

26. Toad the Wet Sprocket, “All I Want”
While I do have a fondness for some of the edgier stuff that emerged in Modern Rock world, I’m definitely a sucker for melodic, guitar-driven alterna-pop from the likes of Toad the Wet Sprocket. This would go to #15 on the Hot 100 in September.

22. Beastie Boys, “So What’cha Want”
I’ve said it before, but the Beasties’ growth into a respected act, given their juvenile initial splash, was a genuine surprise to me. You can bank on “Sabotage” getting featured in this series a couple of years from now.

21. The Levellers, “One Way”
I get an amped-up Waterboys feel from the Levellers, I guess because Mark Chadwick sounds plenty like Mike Scott to me on this tune. I purchased a promotional CD single for “One Way” at some point in the first half of the 90s; it’s a good one.

19. XTC, “Dear Madam Barnum”
I don’t think Nonsuch has as many highlights as Oranges and Lemons or (especially) Skylarking. “Dear Madam Barnum” is without a doubt one of them, both catchy and funny.

17. Paul Westerberg, “Dyslexic Heart”
16. Electronic, “Disappointed”
7. Siouxsie and the Banshees, “Face to Face”

Multiple movie soundtracks at the time were centered on or featured alternative music. “Dyslexic Heart,” my favorite of these, comes from Singles. “Disappointed” is one of three songs on the chart appearing in Cool World (the others are David Bowie’s “Real Cool World” at #25 and the resurgent “Sex on Wheelz,” from My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, at #20). “Face to Face” surfaced in Batman Returns, the only flick of the three I saw back then.

14. Catherine Wheel, “Black Metallic”
The video doesn’t look familiar, so this must be one I learned of via 97X. I’m still a fan.

13. Temple of the Dog, “Hunger Strike”
Grunge was never much my scene, but I can recognize “Hunger Strike” as a remarkable musical moment, with the iconic voices of Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder coming together before either was well-known.

12. Del Amitri, “Always the Last to Know”
While I never bought any of this Scottish group’s albums, I rather liked all three of their songs that scored U.S. airplay and chart action (of which this is the second). It would peak on the Hot 100 at #30 in October.

6. U2, “Even Better Than the Real Thing”
Bono and the boys were still pumping out the singles from Achtung Baby. Seems like they could have come up with a better line than “gonna blow right through you like a breeze,” though.

5. The Lemonheads, “It’s a Shame About Ray”
From that brief moment when Juliana Hatfield joined forces with Evan Dando. I’ve got the re-issue with the added cover of “Mrs. Robinson.” Both the title track and “Rudderless” found their way to mix tapes.

2. Faith No More, “Midlife Crisis”
It’d been a long time since I heard this one; I remember it mostly for the “bleed enough for two” line. Again, what groups like FNM were selling wasn’t what I was inclined to buy–though maybe in their case I was still appalled at the flopping fish scene from the end of the video for “Epic.”

1. B-52s, “Good Stuff”
Down to a threesome at this point after Cindy Wilson took leave. Not that this is bad, but in retrospect it feels like Cosmic Thing was not only cathartic but depleting.

Modern Rock Tracks, 6/6/92

May and June were busy months thirty years ago. I covered part of what happened then in early 2020, but to recap briefly: after going 0-for-March-and-April on getting job interviews, I scored opportunities at a couple of small schools, one in northern Indiana in mid-May that didn’t pan out, and one in north-central Kentucky during the first week of June that did. Once I had an offer from my soon-to-be (and still current) employer in hand, I scheduled my dissertation defense; it wound up happening on my father’s 61st birthday, toward the end of June.

I spent a lot of time on the road during this period: if I’m reconstructing correctly, it was home to Kentucky after classes ended to see family and college friends, up to Indiana for the first interview, over to Urbana again for a few days, including an appearance at a bridge tournament, then back to Kentucky for the second interview. During that second trip to the Bluegrass, my 81-year-old grandmother underwent heart surgery, so lots of relatives were around to visit. (She came out of it just fine, living almost nine more years.) Gran was the first to learn of my job offer; I leaned over and whispered the news to her in her hospital bed.

I was mostly flipping between stations while in the car throughout the period, sometimes Top 40 (big fan of what Tom Cochrane and En Vogue had on offer that spring), occasionally country (Mary Chapin Carpenter was the main attraction–more on her in the August installment of this series, believe it or not), and college/alternative when I could find it. As usual when traveling between Florence and Indianapolis, I’d tune in to WOXY in Oxford, OH. That’s how I was introduced to several of the songs discussed below–#24, #16, and #14, in particular.

25. Tom Tom Club, “Sunshine and Ecstasy”
Dark Sneak Love Action, the Club’s fourth album, had just been released. “Sunshine and Ecstasy” is trippy and groovy, but there is no mystery as to why Tina or Chris were featured as vocalist on any Talking Heads tune.

24. Meryn Cadell, “The Sweater”
Boy, do I love this piece. It’s so eminently quotable, and you can be sure many of its lines run through my head plenty–“different is NOT what you’re looking for,” “Monday…wear the sweater…to school,” “definitely wear lip gloss,” “you realize that love made you temporarily blind.” The favorite, though, gets wheeled out anytime a certain synthetic substance arises in conversation, in almost any context: “100% acrylic.”

23. Curve, “Horror Head”
Hearing “Horror Head” in Record Service prompted me to buy Doppelgänger and led to a minor obsession with Curve. Maybe a tossup whether this or “Coast Is Clear” is my fave of theirs.

Greg was already familiar with Toni Halliday’s 1988 solo work Hearts and Handshakes–you can definitely hear in “Time Turns Around” where her future was headed.

21. Pearl Jam, “Even Flow”
This was a much bigger hit on the Album Rock Tracks chart. Gotta say I’d much rather hear it now than “Jeremy.”

18. L7, “Pretend We’re Dead”
The first compact disk I purchased in 1990 (don’t ask me why or how I remember) was an obscure compilation called The Radio Tokyo Tapes, Volume 4: Women. Radio Tokyo was a studio in Los Angeles operated by Ethan James, who served as the disk’s producer and also played on several of the tracks. The overall conceit of the (wildly eclectic) compilation was to try to break some new female voices/bands. A few of the acts appearing on Women did wind up with record deals, but the only one to have any sort of chart success was the rock quartet L7. (For the really curious, here’s a link to “Sweet Sex,” their contribution to Women.)

Now I need to pull that CD out and listen to its highlights (there are a few) again.

17. Ride, “Twisterella”
Time for this post’s lost gem–I’m aghast at having missed it in real time. Amazingly close to perfect: fabulous bass line, snazzy drum fills, chiming guitars, charmingly cryptic lyrics, and everybody’s showing their best moves in the video, to boot. Put this one on replay.

16. Indigo Girls, “Galileo”
Rites of Passage is my favorite album from Emily Saliers and Amy Ray, and this meditation on reincarnation (which includes what I’ve always taken as a playful jab at Shirley MacLaine) is one of its best songs.

14. Annie Lennox, “Why”
Diva was the first we’d heard from Lennox post-Eurythmics. She gives a great performance on “Why,” though I happen to like “Walking on Broken Glass” and “Little Bird” better.

12. Material Issue, “What Girls Want”
Maybe Destination Universe was a case of sophomore slump, a bit rushed to capitalize on the momentum of International Pop Overthrow? I’ll admit I wasn’t as taken by “What Girls Want” as I had been with their earlier singles.

11. The Beautiful South, “We Are Each Other”
We last visited the Beautiful South a little over two years ago, when “You Keep It All In” paid a trip to the MRT charts. This one turned out to be their most popular song on this side of the pond.

7. Cracker, “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)”
Things former Camper Van Beethoven leader David Lowery and his new band think are needed: a new kind of tension, true words of wisdom, and a new Frank Sinatra. Another folk singer, on the other hand…

5. The Charlatans, “Weirdo”
This one sure had gone down the memory hole, not that it’s especially regrettable to be the case. Two weeks earlier it had been #1 on this chart. The Charlatans had only a little more success on the U.S. alternative scene but kept generating hits in Britain for another decade.

3. The Soup Dragons, “Divine Thing”
In contrast, this Scottish band was almost to the end of their line; Hotwired would be their final album to generate any traction anywhere. “Divine Thing” would make the U.S. Top 40 in September, eventually peaking at #35. I’ll grant it’s got a memorable riff.

2. The Cure, “Friday I’m in Love”
The days-of-the-week litany in the verses is cute enough, but it’s the bridge that pulls everything together and convinces me that our protagonist really is in love, dammit.

1. XTC, “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead”
Is Peter a stand-in for JFK? Jesus? Some random populist dude? All or none of the above? Got me; what I do know is I was disappointed that Nonsuch became the last new music from XTC until almost the end of the decade.

Modern Rock Tracks, 4/11/92

By mid-April 1992, my job search for a college math position was languishing. An interview in February at a regional school in northwest Indiana had bombed (looking back it’s easy to see that now; then, I had to be told by the chair of the search committee just how far down I was on their ranked list of interviewed candidates). Around this time, a small school in Illinois to which I’d applied did send me a letter, essentially offering me a job sight unseen. That, along with the accompanying minuscule salary, set off enough red flags to cause me to quickly decline. I was beginning to countenance the possibility of staying at UIUC another year, leading me to put off scheduling the defense of my dissertation.

Probably the most memorable event of the spring was a trip to Maryland that Greg, Karl, and I took over a long Easter weekend to see Greg’s wife Katie. Like this year, Easter fell pretty late in 1992, on April 19. All three of us had research assistantships without teaching duties that spring, so we left early on Thursday morning in my 1986 Camry, easily the most reliable of the vehicles at our disposal.

It’s about 700 miles between Urbana, IL, and the Maryland suburbs northeast of DC, so despite switching off drivers, it was a pretty long day. We all crashed at Katie’s apartment–being poor grad students, Karl and I slept on couches or in sleeping bags on the living room floor. It was nice to meet Chrissie and Lisa, Katie’s roommates (and also first-year math grad students at UMD), after learning some about them over the previous months via Greg and Katie’s phone conversations.

It was a pretty laid-back time. I don’t recall going into DC to do any sightseeing–I imagine overall we stayed within a decent radius of the apartment, though I’m sure a visit to a record store or two was high on the list of things to do. I tuned into the alternative station WHFS when I could, as I had done three months earlier when in Baltimore for the math conference where I’d had some initial interviews.

The guys did drive up to Baltimore ‘s Inner Harbor on Friday evening to see the fourth-ever game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards–we sat in the right field bleachers.

The O’s won 8-0, the fourth consecutive time one of the teams had failed to score in the new park. Rick Sutcliffe started for Baltimore, pitching the last of his career 18 complete-game shutouts; the offensive hero was first baseman Randy Milligan, who had two jacks and 6 RBI. The main thing I recall from the evening, though, is the razzing from the fans (one of whom might have been Greg) that Rob Deer, playing RF for the Tigers, endured throughout.

On the way home on Easter, we made the mistake of assuming that a straight line was the quickest way between two points, and lost a few hours on the back roads of northern West Virginia and southern Ohio. I don’t know now whether it was planned in advance, but we veered a little south to Florence to spend Sunday night with my parents and sister (who happened to be home at the time), arriving back in IL on Monday afternoon. A long trip for a short visit, but well worth it.

As for what was on the Modern Rock Tracks chart (and likely WHFS’s playlist) at the time, well, let’s take a gander…

30. Cowboy Junkies, “Murder, Tonight, in the Trailer Park”
This still-active Canadian outfit, best known for their cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane,” never could quite break through. At one point I owned Black Eyed Man but I’m not finding it in my collection now.

28. Tori Amos, “Silent All These Years”
My favorite song of the year, from my favorite album of the year. I’d picked up Little Earthquakes by this time, and Greg and I had already connected Amos to her past life as Y Kant Tori Read.

WHFS was also playing her version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (which is included on the soon-to-be-released “Crucify” EP) while we were visiting.

27. Peter Case, “Dream About You”
I like Case’s third solo album, Six-Pack of Love, quite a bit–I believe I bought it on that trip. While I get the criticism about Mitchell Froom’s (over-)production, “Dream About You” is still a pop delight.

20. E, “Hello Cruel World”
I was last-week-years-old, doing research for my radio show featuring many of the songs on this chart, when I learned that E (Mark Oliver Everett) went on to found the band Eels (“Novacaine for the Soul”) later in the decade. This catchy number deserved more attention.

18. Lush, “For Love”
If Lush is on the countdown, you can be sure I’m going to note it and embed a video. “For Love” was their second and last MRT Top 10 song. It’ll be another four years before they appear here again (how “Hypocrite,” from Split, didn’t score remains a mystery to me).

17. Nirvana, “Come As You Are”
Currently, the owner of the second-longest run on the chart (13 weeks)–the endurance champ is still to come.

10. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Under the Bridge”
I’m not a big RHCP fan by any means, but I’ve always really, really liked “Under the Bridge.” Can’t help but note, though, that seemingly every song of theirs I’ve heard on the radio since bears at least some resemblance to it.

9. Concrete Blonde, “Ghost of a Texas Ladies’ Man
Johnette and company had peaked in various ways with their previous release Bloodletting; I wasn’t as impressed with this first single from Walking in London.

7. James, “Born of Frustration”
Seven came out on the heels of the re-recorded “Sit Down” from the previous year. “Born of Frustration” was its second single, but the only one to make a dent in the U.S.

5. The Sugarcubes, “Hit”
It’s been a long time since I’d heard “Hit,” but after taking a listen preparing this post, I can unequivocally say it’s the ‘Cubes best song–I’d completely forgotten how good it is. Stick Around for Joy was their swan song, though–in just over a year, we’d be treated to Björk’s first solo project, Debut.

4. Sarah McLachlan, “Into the Fire”
The song that informed us that McLachlan was well on her way. The stuff on Vox is nice enough, but “Into the Fire” was a major step forward. Likely my favorite of hers.

3. David Byrne, “She’s Mad”
From his second post-Heads solo album Uh-Oh. The video has lots of special effects that were revolutionary at the time but sure feel dated now. I do like the line, “If sex is a weapon, who’s winning the war?”

2. U2, “One”
The previous week’s #1, in its fifteenth of twenty-three weeks in MRT-land. Sure, Bono’s lyrics got more and more precious over time, but I’m giving him a pass on this tune.

1. The Cure, “High”
Wish was about a week away from its release. “High” isn’t the album’s most enduring track–we’ll be featuring that one in June–but it definitely satisfied Cure fans’ appetites after almost three years without new material.

Modern Rock Tracks, 2/1/92

At the beginning of February 1992 I was well into my search for a tenure-track job at a college or university. I’d blanketed the country with packets containing a cover letter, my CV, and statements summarizing my dissertation research and teaching philosophy. I was not discriminating in where applications were sent–part of that was naivete, though it was true that the market was probably a little tight, with a number of mathematicians from the former Soviet Union looking to migrate to the U.S. Three weeks earlier, we’d all descended on Baltimore for the Joint Mathematics Meetings to give talks and attempt to impress institutions that were hiring with our potential. I participated in the Employment Register, which was run in a manner comparable to a speed-dating event. Both applicants and employers submitted lists of desirable targets, and a computer did its best to make matches. Applicants spent the better part of a couple of mornings visiting tables for 15-minute stretches. (I have no idea how many success stories arose from this practice, but it was still going on twenty years later–I got to participate on the employer side three times over the years.)

While I also had a few more extended interviews outside of the Register, I returned to Illinois without the sense I’d made a favorable impression anywhere. Truth be told, I really hadn’t given enough thought over the past couple of years about how I might contribute to the profession, and I imagine that showed when I talked with prospective future colleagues. The one thing I did come to realize as the process unwound was that I felt better suited for a smaller liberal arts place (much like my undergraduate institution) than a regional state school or (heaven forbid) a research university.

Three nice things from that conference external to any of the goings-on: 1) I had my first experience with Indian cuisine one evening–I’ve been a huge fan ever since; 2) I was able to hang some with Katie, who was in the middle of her first year at the University of Maryland; 3) I got a chance to listen WHFS, D.C.’s alternative rock station. It was a welcome change of pace from the options in Champaign-Urbana. That said, I was already aware (through 120 Minutes, mostly) of a number of the songs on this Modern Rock Tracks chart. It’s one I’ve been anxious to tuck into for some time, so without further ado…

#28. Lush, “Nothing Natural”
I’ve written about my affinity for “Nothing Natural” before, on a mixtape write-up–it’s the song that really turned me on to Lush.

#27. My Bloody Valentine, “Only Shallow”
Under all the noise–and despite the vocals being buried in the mix–there’s a conventional song structure here (although with an instrumental interlude instead of a chorus). Loveless is regarded as a masterpiece, but it also proved to be a dead-end for MBV–how do you follow up something like it?

I am a big fan of this song.

#25. Pearl Jam, “Alive”
Something tells me we’ll be hearing more from these guys.

#23. The Real People, “Window Pane”
I noted last go-round how some album covers (for records I never bought) from this period plant me right back in the Campustown Record Service. Here’s another one, seen below. Not sure I heard “Window Pane” back then. It’s a nice piece, but I think it would have gotten more notice had it been recorded about a year earlier.

#21. The Lightning Seeds, “The Life of Riley”
The title of the U.S. 1940s-50s radio and TV series The Life of Riley came from an already well-known expression. After reading through the Wikipedia page for that show, I now understand where a phrase my mother and grandmother frequently used–“What a revolting development this is” –originated.

I realize this really doesn’t have anything to do with Ian Broudie’s latest single, but that’s part of the price you pay for coming here.

#19. Lloyd Cole, “Tell Your Sister”
Cole borrows ‘Rue Morgue Avenue’ from “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” but this solid rocker about an other-side-of-the-tracks relationship bears no other resemblance to Dylan.

#14. Live, “Operation Spirit (The Tradition of Tyranny)”
The pride of York, PA, made a little noise with debut album Mental Jewelry. This Jerry Harrison-produced tune is just a little too earnest; I’m more of a fan of songs on their 1994 breakthrough Throwing Copper.

#13. Social Distortion, “Bad Luck”
Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell helped Mike Ness and band maintain the momentum their previous, self-titled release had established. “Bad Luck” wound up as their greatest success on the MRT chart.

#12. Midge Ure, “Cold, Cold Heart”
The former singer for Ultravox strikes with a single from his third solo album, Pure. No relation to the Hank Williams classic (or the recent Dua Lipa/Elton John hit, for that matter)–instead it’s a uplifting tune with a delightful African feel. Somehow I overlooked this one back in the day; it was the discovery of the weekend.

#11. Saint Etienne, “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”
There’s a strong chance this will be the best Neil Young cover you hear today. Even if I think it goes on a little too long, these Brits came up with an irresistibly trippy groove. This gets two big thumbs up as well.

#4. Matthew Sweet, “Girlfriend”
Another excellent song featured on an earlier mixtape post. Twelve days after this chart date I’d hear Sweet play this in concert, opening for Robyn Hitchcock.

#7. U2, “Until the End of the World”
#2. Lou Reed, “What’s Good”
#1. The Talking Heads, “Sax and Violins”

The top ten is chock-full of tunes off the soundtrack of Wim Wenders’ Until the End of the World. U2 still has “Mysterious Ways” on the chart at #15, as well as yet another song from Achtung Baby that we’ll address come April. “What’s Good” also appeared on Reed’s Magic and Loss, while “Sax and Violins” showed up on the Heads’ compilation Sand in the Vaseline. Somehow this last song escaped my notice then; I’m making up for lost time now.

Modern Rock Tracks, 12/7/91

The American Contract Bridge League has just wrapped up its first in-person National tournament in two years (they usually hold them three times annually, in March, July, and November–host cities vary from tourney to tourney). My friend Mark L jetted off to Austin on Thanksgiving Day and quickly garnered a third-place finish in a big team event–congrats, Mark! I’ve never been good enough at the game to attend any and all Nationals, but I’ve often showed up for a few days when they’re geographically close.

That was the case in late November 1991, when the Fall Nationals landed in Indianapolis–fortunately for me, the midpoint between grad school and home. I played both weekends, on either side of Turkey Day (yes, one could spend the holiday at the card table if one so chose). On the first weekend, my friend Chris and I drove over from Champaign to play in a multi-day pairs event for non-Life Masters. We survived the first-day cut, and were in contention for a high finish going into the last session. For a brief moment that evening, it felt like we might have a shot at glory, but it was not to be.

As for the world of modern music from thirty years ago, it’s the usual mix of bands from the UK making their mark, along with a few tasty American entries. Let’s see what had us licking our chops.

28. Top, “Number One Dominator”
Please let me know if you know anything about this British troupe. Their sound is very much of the times—almost to the point of being derivative, already—but they seem to have disappeared without a trace after releasing Emotion Lotion.

25. Ian McCulloch, “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye”
A cut from the Leonard Cohen tribute album I’m Your Fan. My recollection is that R.E.M.’s version of “First We Take Manhattan” got the most notice.

22. Dire Straits, “Heavy Fuel”
Don’t want to be a snob, but it feels a little strange to see Mark Knopfler and company on this chart. The song was at #1 on the Album Rock Tracks chart this week.

21. The Pixies, “Letter to Memphis”
Somehow, I don’t remember hearing anything from Trompe le Monde when it came out. This is a nifty little tune.

20. Texas, “In My Heart”
Lead single from their second LP. I bought Mothers Heaven because I’d enjoyed Southside so much, but it never clicked with me the same way. That said, I’ll be playing this song on my radio show this Thursday.

19. Enya, “Caribbean Blue”
Much more lilting than “Orinoco Flow,”though not nearly as immediately arresting.

17. Curve, “Coast Is Clear”
Hypnotic beat, brutal lyrics. I’m a big fan—it made a mixtape that I wrote up a couple of years ago.

16. This Picture, “Naked Rain”
Last December when the Irish band An Emotional Fish appeared in this series, I commented on the similarity between their sound and that of U2. In response, my friend Greg emailed me with the following: 

“Now if you want complete U2 wannabe poseurdom, you need to listen to Energy Orchard (“Belfast” 1990) or This Picture (1989-1995). Now there are two bands completely devoid of independent creativity.”

Based on “Naked Rain,” I think Greg was being too harsh on This Picture (it’s probable he was being a little over-the-top, too). I like its intensity.

15. Teenage Fanclub, “Star Sign”
Not that these guys aren’t good (they are), but apparently choosing to channel Big Star can garner your band positive critical reception.

14. The Smithereens, “Tell Me When Did Things Go So Wrong”
I knocked Blow Up last go-round; this brief song feels much more like classic Smithereens fare.

12. Blur, “There’s No Other Way”
Did Blur garner its moderate 90s success only because of chameleon-like changes in style as musical fashions evolved? I dunno, but their singles still rock my world from time to time.

11. Kate Bush, “Rocket Man”
Another tribute album out at the time was Two Rooms, meant to suggest the method by which Bernie Taupin and Elton John collaborated. Kate sure made this her own.

8. Dramarama, “Haven’t Got a Clue”
We’re getting to the tail end of the era where 12” album covers dominated the scene inside record stores. From this countdown alone, I can remember seeing those for current releases from the Pixies, Teenage Fanclub, Blur, This Picture, U2, and Dramarama in various spots around Record Service in Champaign at the end of 1991. Dramarama’s new one was even called Vinyl, of all things.

7. The Ocean Blue, “Ballerina Out of Control”
The top comment on this video proclaims The Ocean Blue as “the best British band to ever come out of Pennsylvania.” They deserved more attention than they ever received.

9. U2, “The Fly”
1. U2, “Mysterious Ways”

I’m an unrepentant fan of Achtung Baby, and I’ll even go so far to say that I’d rather listen to it than The Joshua Tree these days. They’re absolutely glomming on to sounds emanating from the UK, but to these ears it’s a brilliant synthesis rather than blatant copycatting.

Modern Rock Tracks, 10/5/91

My fall of 1991 was a mix of work and play. By October, my advisor had assured me the results I had in hand were sufficiently novel and substantial to comprise a dissertation; still, I was investigating additional cases and beginning to accumulate other bits of new knowledge. Academic job postings for the 1992-93 year had begun showing up in the Director of Graduate Studies’ office, so efforts at constructing teaching and research statements for applications were underway, too. I was also playing a ton of bridge, having made trips to tournaments in St. Louis and Ft. Wayne since the school year had started.

And there was music to listen to at Greg’s and my apartment. Much of it was hitting the Modern Rock Tracks chart of the day, so it’s natural to take our usual gander at bits and pieces of that. (About a third of the songs written up below didn’t register with me at the time.)

30. Gary Clail On-U Sound System, “Human Nature”
Starting off this month with a sermon, almost literally: this club hit is channeling parts of a Billy Graham speech (according to Wikipedia, anyway). Current mood: Clail’s thesis isn’t incorrect, at least across too-wide swaths of the population.

26. The Blue Aeroplanes, “Yr Own World”
I don’t recall having seen a group list a dancer as one of its official members before, but thirty years on, Vojtek Dmochowski is still with the band. Vocalist Gerard Langley’s sing-speak is a cross between the Godfathers’ “Birth, School, Work, Death” and the Nails’ “88 Lines about 44 Women.”

24. Mary’s Danish, “Julie’s Blanket”
Circa came out a couple of years after MD’s debut There Goes the Wondertruck… and produced this gem, undoubtedly the only song in recorded history with the parenthetic subtitle pigsheadsnakeface. After one more album in 1992, the band chose to pack it in.

It’s the month for interesting (?) covers. Circa includes a take on “Foxey Lady.”

22. The Golden Palominos, “Alive and Living Now”
Drunk with Passion mostly features collaborations between head Palomino Anton Fier and ex-Information Society member Amanda Kramer. It also includes songs co-written with Bob Mould and Michael Stipe; “Alive and Living Now” is sung by the latter.

19. Big Audio Dynamite II, “The Globe”
Mick decides to sample a song from his old band, and makes it work. Sure seems like I heard this a lot more than “Rush” back in the day.

15. Siouxsie and the Banshees, “Shadowtime”
If there’s fault to find with “Peek-a-Boo” and “Kiss Them for Me,” it’s that each has a whiff of novelty to them. Maybe that’s enough to push the utterly delightful, elliptic “Shadowtime” into the conversation about Siouxsie’s best song?

13. Voice of the Beehive, “Monsters and Angels”
Honey Lingers, the Beehive’s second album, produced their first song to make the pop charts here in the U.S.; “Monsters and Angels” would reach #74 in November. (The album also contains an overhaul of “I Think I Love You,” with melody and chorus you expect, but musical backing that could have only been created in 1991 Britain.)

Edward Hopper fans may or may not enjoy this video.

12. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Give It Away”
RHCP’s ascension had begun with Mother’s Milk and their cover of “Higher Ground,” but Blood Sugar Sex Magik is the album put them on almost everyone’s radar. Wouldn’t object if “Give It Away” were about a minute shorter, though.

11. Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
Welcome to the grunge era. I’ll admit that I found “SLTS” revolutionary; to me, it’s the closest thing I’d know to hearing “Satisfaction” in the mid-60s.

8. Lloyd Cole, “She’s a Girl and I’m a Man”
One of two songs in this Top 10 on a mix tape I made in early 1992 (#5 is the other). I’ve not liked its title for some time, but a fair reading of the lyrics leads one to conclude Cole isn’t necessarily on the side of the “man.”

7. Squeeze, “Satisfied”
Play was the fourth post-reunion album from Difford, Tilbrook et. al., the first after Jools Holland’s second departure, and the final with Gilson Lavis on drums. “Satisfied” would be their last song to garner chart action of any sort outside of the UK.

5. Northside, “Take Five”
One huge advantage Katie had over Greg after she moved to Maryland was access to mighty fine alternative radio. WHFS, 99.1, was the absolute bomb compared to anything we had in the hinterlands of Urbana-Champaign. “Take Five” is one of the songs she passed on to Greg (and hence me) that fall/winter. Yes, it’s goofy, but I way dig it.

4. Billy Bragg, “Sexuality”
Can’t say much for Bragg’s voice, but he does have a way with a tune. Kirsty MacColl does her usual bang-up job on backup vocals, as well as hamming it up behind Billy’s back.

2. The Smithereens, “Top of the Pops”
Greg brought Blow Up back to the apartment pretty much immediately after its release. Overall I wasn’t as impressed as with previous efforts, particularly “Too Much Passion.” I worry they were a wee bit too passionate about reaching the top of the pops.

1. Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians, “So You Think You’re in Love”
Cult favorite enjoying his last relatively decent commercial success, Perspex Island. These days he’s hanging out in Nashville with Australia native Emma Swift, who released an album of Dylan covers last year.