Modern Rock Tracks, 10/6/90

It took a few months of duking it out at the bridge club in Champaign before I became good friends with Greg, Katie, Toby, and Karl. They’d started going in the last half of 1989, around the same time I had gotten back into it. Toby had played quite a bit growing up in the super-competitive DC bridge scene and was a natural at the game; the other three (two fellow physics grad students and a spouse in EE) had learned of his mad skills and pestered him to teach them.

The summer after I fell in with them, Toby and I got around to playing a couple of games at the club. Initial results were pretty promising, so we started looking at the tournament calendar to see where could take on a larger field. We settled on a regional in Cincinnati, to be held the first weekend of October, mostly because we could get free housing by staying with my parents.

We drove down on Thursday and played in two-session pairs events on Friday and Saturday–I must have gotten someone to cover my classes. Friday turned out only so-so; the high point of the day was walking down to Riverfront Stadium between sessions. This was the year the Reds came out of nowhere to win the World Series, and they’d just snagged Game 2 of the NLCS (a day game) against the Pirates. In the parking lot beneath that uninspiring concrete bowl, we got to see greats such as Jose Rijo emerge and walk to their waiting vehicles (no autographs, alas).

Saturday, though, was mighty sweet. Despite my inexperience, we charged out to a big lead in the afternoon session of our event and held on to first place in the nightcap. It would be a few years before I’d earn that many masterpoints in a single event again.

That win was thirty years ago today, the same day that Billboard listed the songs below in their Modern Rock Tracks chart. May be time to spin a few tunes…

#28. Ultra Vivid Scene, “Special One”
UVS was ostensibly a band, but it was mostly just Kurt Ralske doing his thing. This song is a VU-meets-“September Gurls” affair, with a big assist from Kim Deal of…

#23. The Pixies, “Velouria”
I imagine I tuned the radio to WOXY 97X on our way in and out of Cincy. This is one of the first songs I recall hearing on 97X in this period, maybe from Labor Day weekend? Not as melodic as “Here Comes Your Man,” but I guess it’s fine enough.

#22. Mojo Nixon, “Don Henley Must Die”
My officemates and I had several good laughs three years earlier when Nixon and Skid Roper released “Elvis Is Everywhere,” though we never found a way to incorporate it into our shrine to the King. Much as I liked some of the songs on End of the Innocence, this send-up was reasonably well-deserved.

#21. Los Lobos, “Down on the Riverbed”
I absolutely love The Neighborhood and Kiko from these guys. Neither one sold remotely near as much as “La Bamba,” but I suppose I’m grateful at least one song from them charted somewhere here in the U. S.

#19. The Darling Buds, “Crystal Clear”
Speaking of albums I adore… Crawdaddy has got to be in my Top 10 for 1990. The Buds are veering away to a degree from what made Pop Said… so charming, echoing more of what some of the other UK bands on this chart are doing. But Andrea Farr still makes it all her own.

#14. Aztec Camera, “Good Morning Britain”
Roddy Frame said he tried to write this song to sound like something Mick Jones (non-Foreigner edition) would do. He did so well that he managed to get Mick to play and sing on it.

#13. Soho, “Hippychick”
Greg was pretty unhappy any time “Hippychick” came on, tricked into thinking he was about to hear “How Soon Is Now?” instead.

#10. The Heart Throbs, “Dreamtime”
My big find from this set. It sounds exactly like something that WOXY would have played, though I don’t have any recollection of hearing it. Definitely feels like a precursor to Lush and other shoegazer bands. Their lineup included two sisters of Pete DeFreitas, the drummer for Echo and the Bunnymen who’d died the year before in a motorcycle accident.

#9. The Cocteau Twins, “Iceblink Luck”
Stan Freberg parodies usually focused on one aspect of their target and just drove it into the ground (the snare drum on “Yellow Rose of Texas,” the piano on “The Great Pretender”). For “Sh-Boom,” Freberg took aim at the supposed difficulty in understanding its lyrics (come to think of it, ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic took the same tack on “Smells Like Nirvana”).

I felt like Freberg’s character in “Sh-Boom” when I heard Elizabeth Fraser sing quite clearly “That will burn this whole madhouse down” on “Iceblink Luck.” I’m not supposed to be able to understand you, Elizabeth!

Despite that, Heaven or Las Vegas may well be the Twins’ most solid album overall–certainly their most accessible.

#8. The Charlatans UK, “The Only One I Know”
Greg and I invented our own term for the music coming out of the UK in the very early 90s–we called it wakka-wakka, I guess because of some combination of its rhythms and guitar sounds (it’s all wrapped up in the Madchester movement, I know–maybe it’s what other folks called baggy?). It’s a tossup as to whether “The Only One I Know” or the Stone Roses’ “Fool’s Gold” is my quintessential wakka song.
(I Stand Corrected: Greg reminded me in a recent conversation that it was actually Katie, his wife, who came up with wakka-wakka. He and I just ran with it, apparently.)

#7. DNA featuring Suzanne Vega, “Tom’s Diner”
I won’t repeat the story of how this hit came about–I’m just glad Vega didn’t try to put the kibosh on it. But now I’m wondering if the sound of 99.9°F was influenced by the success of this?

#4. INXS, “Suicide Blonde”
You’re just not very likely to follow up a huge smash like Kick with anything nearly as successful. X was a game effort, I guess, but this first release tried too hard to sound like some of their earlier–and better–songs.

#3. Living Colour, “Type”
Vernon Reid, Corey Glover, Muzz Skillings, and Will Calhoun followed up Vivid with Time’s Up. I remember hearing this lead single from their sophomore effort a few times.

#2. The Soup Dragons, “I’m Free”
Scottish band hops on the wakka-wakka bandwagon with this cover of an old Stones song.

#1. The Cure, “Never Enough”
I’d forgotten about Mixed Up, the Cure’s album of remixes. Smith and company did include this rockin’ new tune. In spite of the later success of Wish and “Friday I’m In Love,” I’ll go on record as saying that we’d already seen the best this band had to offer by this point.

And with that…we’ll dip back into the MRT charts in early December.

Modern Rock Tracks, 8/4/90

I’d spent much of the 1989-90 academic year reading papers co-authored by my advisor Bruce Reznick. It wasn’t until the summer of 1990 that I began work on what would become my dissertation. I’ve seemingly kept a copy of every draft I passed onto Bruce for review–they’re stored in the bottom drawer of a file cabinet in my office. The earliest one I can find is dated July 3; the next seems to be from the 27th (written up after I’d returned from my mini-vacation/bridge trip to Boston, but right before my roommate’s wedding). Here’s where I was in the first week of August (it’s four pages long):

Those are Bruce’s comments in red. I know that it’s not remotely meaningful to virtually everyone reading this, but there’s already a germ or two of some results that made it into the final product.

By the end of August, I had worked up eleven pages’ worth. Come October, I’d be learning in earnest about the mathematical typesetting program LaTeX; the handwritten drafts would quickly disappear.

But there was music playing all around me then, too. The Modern Rock Tracks chart dated 8/4/90 includes several songs I was digging on heavily at the time, though a number of those listed below weren’t known to me then.

28. Michael Penn, “Brave New World”
This was a big favorite from March, and my choice for a third single, too. Didn’t make any chart noise, but that can’t stop me from giving it a spin and cranking it today.

26. The Candy Flip, “Strawberry Fields Forever”
When you’re from the UK and your band’s name is a reference to a drug cocktail, your next move might well be to make a dreamy cover of one of the Fab Four’s psychedelic classics.

25. John Hiatt, “Child of the Wild Blue Yonder”
Hiatt was coming off two critically-acclaimed (and completely excellent) albums, so it’s not terribly surprising that Stolen Moments isn’t quite as good. Still, JH performing at 80% peak capacity outdistances many others.

19. Something Happens, “Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello (Petrol)”
Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like there was a big spike in music coming over from Ireland following the mega-success of The Joshua Tree. Can’t say this band out of Dublin has a great name, but “Hello…” is a pretty sweet track. Caught the tail end of it a couple of weeks ago on U2’s SiriusXM channel.

17. The Katydids, “Heavy Weather Traffic”
Back at the beginning of the year another song from this British band’s debut album was featured in one of my mixtape posts. Part folky/jangly, part tasteful pop–they’re one of many bands out of the UK that just didn’t get their due. If you’re still into buying CDs, it appears you can get a used copy of this disk for a very reasonable price.

15. Happy Mondays, “Step On”
Madchester’s surge in the U.S. started several months earlier with the Stone Roses. At this point it was beginning to pick up steam; just wait until we get to October. Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches was the Mondays’ chance to shine, and they didn’t miss, particularly with “Step On.”

14. World Party, “Put the Message in the Box
My favorite this go-round (in spite of it utilizing the trite arms/charms rhyme), a simply brilliant synthesis of all things late 60s. Play it until you get heard.

12. Hothouse Flowers, “Give It Up”
One of 1988’s “It” bands (legitimately so) came out with their second album Home earlier in the summer. This is a good, energetic piece, though it bears at least a passing resemblance to their earlier hit “Don’t Go.”

10. Boom Crash Opera, “Onion Skin”
So much good stuff at this time was coming from across various ponds, mostly UK/Ireland, but you can’t ignore Australia. Midnight Oil is up at #4 with “King of the Mountain,” and here’s a band with perhaps more of an INXS big sound. If I heard this much, I don’t remember it, but I’m listening to it now.

7. Sonic Youth, “Kool Thing”
Goo was the first of their albums to chart. The Youth aren’t exactly my style, but I can see how they would appeal.

6. The Railway Children, “Every Beat of the Heart”
I really liked this song from the first time I heard it, even eventually snagged the CD Native Place from a cutout bin. Not quite sure why that feeling faded so quickly; maybe I should dig it back out.

5. Aztec Camera, “The Crying Scene
One of the big downsides about not having a full-blown college/alternative radio station in Champaign-Urbana was that, as my tastes kept turning in that direction, I wound up missing out on some very interesting tunes. 120 Minutes could only go so far, and I wasn’t quite yet at the point of regular listening to WOXY out of Oxford, OH, on my trips back home. So, I’ve been using these posts as one means of learning about what I missed.

This is the best song to date I’ve found from those explorations. Strong melody, worthwhile lyrics (“We were two in a million,” “Life’s a one-take movie”), catchy chorus, sweet guitar solo. Video’s got a number of images that stick, too, including a battle of sorts between protesters and police in the rain, complete with reporter on the sideline. I discovered this clip a couple of months ago, just as the protests following the killing of George Floyd began; I haven’t stopped watching it, or thinking about it, yet. I knew “Oblivious” from watching MTV in college, but Scotsman Roddy Frame has something entirely else going on here. It’s time for a deeper dive into his music.

3. David J, “I’ll Be Your Chauffeur”
Another one that slipped by me at the time. I was aware of fellow Love and Rockets member Daniel Ash’s solo work from seeing it at Record Service, but I guess this one was less obviously placed? Nice tune, even it’s no “No New Tale To Tell.”

1. Concrete Blonde, “Joey”
Not my favorite song of theirs, but I’m glad Johnette and company got to enjoy some commercial success. I’ve found that, once I stopped looking at the Hot 100 religiously in the late 80s, I regularly overestimate how well any number of songs I really like did in terms of peak position. Stuff I figured should easily have gone Top 5, or even #1, fall fairly short. “Joey” is a case in point: later in the fall, it would peak at #19. Not bad, but as much as I heard it, as good as it sounds, that seems…a little disappointing. But we can celebrate it topping MRT thirty years ago today.

Modern Rock Tracks, 6/2/90

It’s time once more to take a look at some of what appeared on the right side of page 18 in the Billboard magazine dated thirty years ago today.

28. The Cure, “Pictures of You”
The fourth and final single from Disintegration.

26. Julee Cruise, “Falling”
Don’t know if it’s really the case or not, but it feels like every one of these MRT posts has a dear favorite sung by a woman sitting somewhere in the 20s. Yes, it’s now been thirty years since Twin Peaks was all the rage and we got to know the music of Julee Cruise. I picked up Floating Into the Night back then; might just have to give it a spin now, especially for “Rockin’ Back Inside My Heart.”

24. The Sidewinders, “We Don’t Do That Anymore”
These guys from Tucson eventually had to change their name to the Sand Rubies. Here’s their second and last time on this chart. Nice song that I seem to be discovering just now.

19. Big Dipper, “Love Barge”
Seems like a barge is not really the metaphor you want to invoke when talking about love. I get that “Love Boat” was already taken, but still… Beantown rockers on their major label debut; they soon split up.

18. Jerry Harrison, “Flying Under Radar”
Harrison’s first solo album, The Red and the Black, spawned very little interest when it came out in 1981 (though my college roommate and I both dug “Slink“). His next effort, 1988’s Casual Gods, was much better received. Walk on Water didn’t do as well two years later, but “Flying Under Radar” is a perfectly serviceable rocker.

15. Social Distortion, “Ball and Chain”
Mike Ness and band had their greatest commercial success with their 1992 album Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell, but things had started rolling with their eponymous third LP. This was its first single.

12. Suzanne Vega, “Book of Dreams”
Days of Open Hand never grooved me the way Suzy V’s first two albums had, or 99.9° F would. That doesn’t mean I would have minded if she’d gotten a hit single or two from it.

10. The Pretenders, “Never Do That”
Packed! is sort of overlooked in Chrissie’s oeuvre–it certainly didn’t make much of a commercial dent. It still had a couple of notable tracks; we’ll get another one in the fall (no, not “Hold a Candle to This”).

8. Adrian Belew and David Bowie, “Pretty Pink Rose”
What happens when the Twang Bar King meets up with the Thin White Duke? A pretty rockin’ cut, that’s what. Wish there were a higher quality clip hanging out on YouTube.

7. Lloyd Cole, “Downtown”
After watching the accompanying video for this track, I can safely say I have no desire to see the Rob Lowe/James Spader flick Bad Influence, on whose soundtrack this song appears. It’s also on Cole’s first solo album after breaking up with the Commotions.

5. Sinéad O’Connor, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”
I dig it a bunch; it’s an honest, though sniping, take on where she found herself after the whirlwind success of The Lion and the Cobra.

3. The Sundays, “Here’s Where the Story Ends”
Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic is a fantastic record, one of my fave albums from 1990. Plenty of Smiths vibe to both music and lyrics, and Harriet Wheeler’s voice is a charmer. Brilliant song, certainly my favorite on this list.

I associate this song with a trip to Atlanta I took with my parents over Memorial Day weekend. Dad had a side business as a numismatic coin dealer for several years in the 80s and 90s, and for a while he made an annual pilgrimage to a show there.

2. World Party, “Way Down Now”
Excellent stuff near the top this time; “Way Down Now” isn’t far behind the Sundays’ effort above at all.

1. Depeche Mode, “Policy of Truth”
Talked a little about this one a couple of months ago; it’s fine enough, but I don’t need to play it again today.

Modern Rock Tracks, 4/7/90

Time once again to check in on the nascent alternative scene from thirty years ago–there’s a decidedly international flavor to my selections this go-round. I might be a little shorter and sweeter with accompanying text, but will try to make up for it by including a couple more videos than usual for your listening pleasure.

#28. Everything But The Girl, “Driving”
A big one on VH-1. Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt already had hits in their native UK, but this was their first taste of success on these shores. Four years later, they’d have a huge hit with “Missing.” Nice smooth one here.

#22. John Wesley Harding, “The Devil in Me”
Brit Wesley Stace took on the name of Robert Zimmerman’s eighth album for performance purposes and enjoyed a modicum of chart action in the very early 90s. A couple of former Attractions are backing up here. Strong voice, strong melody, strong words. He still records today.

#19. The Beautiful South, “You Keep It All In”
Our second entry from Hull (EBTG was, also). Born out of the Housemartins, a band with some mid-80s hits in England. Briana Corrigan wasn’t technically a member of the group at this point, but her vocals really help make this soar.

I had my Illinois officemate Paul rip their debut album Welcome to the Beautiful South from CD to cassette for me after I’d checked it out from the library; listened to it some but somehow this song failed to make an impression then. I regret that.

#18. Adam Ant, “Room at the Top”
Manners & Physique was the only album Ant released between 1985’s Vive Le Rock and 1995’s Wonderful. This was its big hit, such as it was.

#13. Del Amitri, “Kiss This Thing Goodbye”
I definitely enjoyed the singles from this Scottish band as they trickled out over the first half of the decade. This song was the first of theirs to catch my attention; I was reminded just days ago it actually made #35 on the Hot 100 in July.

#11. Michael Penn, “This & That”
Penn is the first American we’ve got going today. Utterly brilliant, and the obvious choice on March for a follow-up single to the epic “No Myth;” I was sorely disappointed it only reached #53.

#10. The Cramps, “Bikini Girls with Machine Guns”
And here ends our U.S. portion of the program. Stay Sick! was just the fourth studio release for punksters Lux Interior, Poison Ivy, and company, and it produced the only song of theirs ever to chart in any form in America.

#9. The Stone Roses, “Fools Gold”
Love that Madchester sound from my latter days in grad school. I think we all need the ten-minute version of this classic today.

#7. The House of Love, “I Don’t Know Why I Love You”
Definitely the shoulda-been-a-big-hit-but-wasn’t on this chart; super-catchy and worth cranking a time or two as you go about your work today. These guys had four songs make the Top 10 on this chart between 1988 and 1992. Not to be confused in the slightest with the contemporaneous U.S. band Book of Love, which was female-led and much more synth-oriented.

#5. Depeche Mode, “Enjoy the Silence”
In which our monarch seeks a bit of communing with nature while toting around a lawn chair. This was DM’s only U.S. Top 10 hit; it was mighty hard to escape that spring and summer.

#3. The Church, “Metropolis”
My friend Katie is a huge fan of the Church. Gold Afternoon Fix came out not long after I met her and Greg. “Metropolis” is no “Under the Milky Way” or even “Reptile,” but it’s plenty serviceable; I presume Katie enjoyed it a bunch.

#2. Sinéad O’Connor, “Nothing Compares 2 U”
The Lion and the Cobra was one of my very favorite albums in 1987-88 (I wrote a decent amount about it a couple of years ago), but I was unable to really dig into I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got. Sure, “I Am Stretched on Your Grave” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes” are sufficiently wicked, and this mega-Prince-penned hit deserved to make #1. There’s just nothing here that compares to “Mandinka.”

#1. Midnight Oil, “Blue Sky Mine”
Two Aussie bands in the Top 3. Like the Church, Midnight Oil couldn’t quite capitalize commercially on their hit album from two years earlier. Peter Garrett and his mates are still bringing the moral heat, though.

Modern Rock Tracks, 2/3/90

It was around this time I was beginning to hang out with Greg, his wife Katie, and their friends Toby and Karl. Bridge was the initial common point of interest, but golf and frequent Sunday evening gatherings with other physics grad students soon entered the mix. Oh, and music, too: Greg was soon to expand my landscape immensely, though the snapshot below is mostly stuff I’d found on my own.

29. Shawn Colvin, “Steady On”
I like Shawn Colvin–I’ve got a few of her albums. She did fabulous background vocal work on several Suzanne Vega tunes, perhaps most notably “Luka.” I dig her huge hit “Sunny Came Home” plenty, though my favorite Colvin song is Fat City‘s “Round of Blues.” Yet I wasn’t able to get into her first solo single, the title track from her debut. I just don’t pick up much melody?

28. Michelle Shocked, “On the Greener Side”
Shocked’s breakthrough (such as it was) Short Sharp Shocked got a lot of play on my stereo when it came out in mid-1988, among the last slabs of new vinyl I ever bought. For some reason, I never got around to checking out the follow-up, Captain Swing (though I did get Arkansas Traveler later). None of her videos are on YouTube, and she has precious little presence on Spotify. I did find a copy of the clip for “On the Greener Side” on Vimeo through her website. It’s fair to say that Shocked charted an idiosyncratic career path, with questionable (to put it mildly) judgment in spots.

24. The Smithereens, “Yesterday Girl”
20. The Smithereens, “Blues Before and After”

Two more gems from 11. While I heard “Blues Before and After” on WPGU quite a bit, the gorgeous power pop of “Yesterday Girl” flew below my radar for far too long. Beatle-philes will recognize a deep tip of the cap to the Fab Four in the clip.

13. UB40, “Here I Am (Come and Take Me)”
I’d much rather hear Al Green (or “Going Down to Liverpool,” for that matter), yet here we are, anyway. The lads, a year-plus beyond the re-release of “Red Red Wine” improbably shooting to #1 here in the States, tried to catch lightning again with a second album of covers, Labour of Love II. It took a while this time, as well: “The Way You Do the Things You Do” made #6 on the Hot 100 in the fall, and it’d be more than a year before “Here I Am” got pop radio love, reaching #7 in July of 1991.

12. They Might Be Giants, “Birdhouse in Your Soul”
The Johns, having gained cult-favorite status with fabulously quirky songs like “Don’t Let’s Start,” “They’ll Need a Crane,” and personal fave “Ana Ng,” snagged a major-label deal prior to their third album. They also got a big video budget for the lead single from Flood. Unfortunately, “Birdhouse in Your Soul” was not a commercial success, though it’s awfully fun.

11. The Wonder Stuff, “Don’t Let Me Down, Gently”
Righteous, driving pop tune; in another world it might have been a decent-sized hit (it did go Top 20 in the UK). Instead, it stalled out right here in Modern Rock land–the Stuff turned out never to have the stuff to make our pop charts. The vocalist, Miles Hunt, still has a variant of the band going today.

9. Electronic, “Getting Away with It”
In which three stars from the UK college rock/dance scene form one of the few non-AOR supergroups. Johnny Marr, Bernard Sumner, and Neil Tennant all on the same project? Yeah, I’ll go for that, though it’d be more than a year before we got anything beyond this single.

6. Kate Bush, “The Sensual World”
It’s no “Love and Anger,” but the Eastern-flecked title cut from Bush’s then-current album is still mighty fine.

2. Peter Murphy, “Cuts You Up”
Peter Murphy apparently tried his best not to let the success of his former bandmates from Bauhaus get him down. Eight months after “So Alive” began rocking our world, Murphy released this magnificent piece. While it would only reach #55 on the Hot 100 in May, “Cuts You Up” spent the next seven weeks on top of this chart. It’s easily my favorite song on this list.

1. The Psychedelic Furs, “House”
I’d stopped paying attention to the Psych Furs after “Heartbreak Beat” got them their first Top 40 hit (though I can’t explain why–a few years later I fell in love with “Am I Wrong” from Love Spit Love, Richard Butler’s next band). They had one just more album in them after Book of Days spawned this Modern Rock chart-topper. Even though they’ve been reunited going on two decades, they’re just now getting around to recording again; expect a new album in a few months.

Modern Rock Tracks, 12/2/89

Last month I indicated that quarterly reviews of Hot 100s from thirty years ago were unlikely to continue. There’s just not enough familiarity with the hits of that time to warrant my efforts, especially since I’d too often want to take potshots at the stuff I do recognize. The bimonthly forays into the Modern Rock Tracks charts I started back in April, though–that’s been fun. There’s plenty I don’t know on them as well, for sure, but the fruits of my research are much more in line with my tastes of the day. It’s a feature I hope to keep going for a good while.

Let’s take a look at a dozen of the songs on the 12/2/89 chart.

30. The Del Fuegos, “Move With Me Sister”
Band out of Boston with what turned out to be their final modicum of success prior to breaking apart. Warren Zanes, brother of leader/vocalist Dan, had already bailed on the band by this point; he’s now a VP at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

While I was dimly aware the Del Fuegos back in the day, I must confess that for more than a quarter of a century, hearing their name has immediately brought to mind a different song with the word “sister” in its title. The link takes you to an affecting oral history of the Juliana Hatfield Three hit published in Spin five years ago–you won’t regret clicking through to it.

28. The Primitives, “Secrets”
Another pop charmer from the Coventry quartet. In a more just world, folks would have been listening to this instead of NKOTB.

22. David Byrne, “Make Believe Mambo”
Byrne released his first post-Heads solo work, Rei Momo, a little over eighteen months after Naked. It’s chock-full of Latin rhythms and dance styles, and perhaps pointed him in the direction of the amazing Brazil Classics series he began curating shortly thereafter.

I was today years old when I learned that personal fave Kirsty MacColl is singing backup on this song (then-hubby Steve Lillywhite helped Byrne with the production of Rei Momo).

17. Deborah Harry, “I Want That Man”
Toward the end of 88, The Escape Club had a #1 hit with the odious “Wild Wild West,” a song that featured the forward-looking phrase, “Heading for the 90s…” One year later and a decade ahead of its time, Harry is warning us, “Here comes the twenty-first century…” Granted, King Crimson beat her to this punch by two decades, but I do wonder: how many other songs were out there around this time, or earlier, referencing the upcoming century?

“I Want That Man,” written by Thompson Twins Tom Bailey and Alannah Currie, was a big hit in Australia but hardly made an impression here in the States. I think Harry under-sings it a bit, but it’s a darn catchy tune.

16. Dramarama, “Last Cigarette”
Band from Jersey. Had a few songs get some Modern Rock chart action, but this ode to the day’s final nicotine fix is the one I know best.

11. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Higher Ground”
RHCP’s campaign to conquer the music world entered its next stage with the release of Mother’s Milk late in the summer. Impossible to better the original version of this song, but they gave it a more than credible effort.

9. Lenny Kravitz, “Let Love Rule”
I’m not a big Kravitz fan but do appreciate his approach to the craft. This was our first peek at his retro stylings.

7. The Mighty Lemon Drops, “Into the Heart of Love”
This band from the UK had made some noise a year earlier with the very good “Inside Out.” While this tune isn’t quite as memorable, it is reminding me I should dig a little into their catalog.

Back in 91, I ran across their epic cover of “Another Girl, Another Planet,” on the Just Say Anything sampler from Sire Records. Truth be told, I’m pretty sure I like it better than the original.

4. The Smithereens, “A Girl Like You”
A bit of a breakthrough, as this lead single from 11 became the Smithereens’ first Top 40 hit (one of two). Really solid band that never received their due measure of success.

3. The Jesus and Mary Chain, “Blues from a Gun”
Another band that featured a pair of brothers, this time from Scotland. I knew them by name back then but hadn’t bothered to check ’em out. Big mistake–I would have been all over this blistering track if I’d been paying attention.

2. Kate Bush, “Love and Anger”
Between hearing “Running Up That Hill” at the end of 85 and getting the compilation LP The Whole Story a little over a year later, I felt like I’d become a big Kate Bush fan. A little dabbling into her back catalog hadn’t impressed as much, however, though I took the plunge and bought The Sensual World soon after it was released anyway. It did not go into heavy rotation, and I think I eventually sold it. Listening to “Love and Anger” again these last few days is giving me stirrings of regret over that decision; I didn’t fully appreciate the greatness of this song back then.

Yes, we have a David Gilmour sighting about two-thirds of the way through the vid.

1. Ian McCulloch, “Proud To Fall”
First solo hit from the (former) lead singer of Echo and the Bunnymen, in what turned out to be a non-permanent parting of the ways. Not a bad tune, but I can’t say it leaves a strong impression, either. They didn’t play it when I saw E&tB in concert in the summer of 18. In its fourth and final week at the top; “Love and Anger” would replace it.

Modern Rock Tracks, 10/7/89

Time for our next visit to the nascent alternative scene of thirty years ago. I knew, and generally enjoyed, most of these twelve tracks in real time, but a few came my way over the next year or two via future roommate Greg.

#29. Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, “Look Who’s Dancing”
The Marley progeny released One Bright Day one year after their breakthrough Conscious Party. It included this track, which got play on the video channels and was coming off a Top 10 peak here.

#28. The Rolling Stones, “Mixed Emotions”
Yes, this was their best lead single since “Start Me Up,” but it sure feels out of place.

#17. Depeche Mode, “Personal Jesus”
Debuting–the year of DM domination begins…now…

#13. The Stone Roses, “She Bangs the Drums”
…while the Madchester movement was also gaining a purchase on these shores. Greg wheeled out The Stone Roses a few times when we began hanging out in 90; somewhat bizarrely, the almost ten-minute “Fool’s Gold” is the track that made the deepest impression then, but “She Bangs the Drums” is an absolute pop delight.

#12. The Primitives, “Sick of It”
Lovely, the 88 debut disk from Britain’s Primitives, is a drop-dead gorgeous album, well worth a write-up someday (and well worth you seeking it out). The following year, Tracy Tracy, Paul Court and company released Pure–while it has some good tunes, including “Sick of It,” it doesn’t hit Lovely‘s heights with anywhere near the same frequency. The Primitives sold more product than Welsh counterparts The Darling Buds, but I’ve generally favored the Buds over the years.

#10. The Sugarcubes, “Regina”
Another lead single from a second LP. I’d bought Life’s Too Good, the Icelanders’ debut, and rather liked it at the time–I’m not sure it’s aged especially well. (Björk showed she was a force of nature right off the bat, of course.) “Regina,” from Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week! was okay, but not enough to get me to listen to the new album much.

#9. Squeeze, “If It’s Love”
Having achieved some US chart success with two singles from their 87 album Babylon and On, Squeeze might have thought they finally had some commercial momentum. Frank proved otherwise. “If It’s Love” is a pretty nice track, but it would only make noise in Modern Rock-land.

#7. Camper Van Beethoven, “Pictures of Matchstick Men”
My first music-themed Facebook post was on May 28, 2011, and featured this song (I’d heard the Status Quo original at Walgreens earlier in the day). Morgan Fichter’s violin sucks me in and doesn’t let go. There’s a lot of great stuff in the top half of today’s list–this is in the running for best of the bunch.

#5. The Ocean Blue, “Between Something and Nothing”
And so is this propulsive, energetic piece. It wound up leading off a mix tape I made in the spring of 92. The quartet, originally from Pennsylvania, still features two of its original members; they released an album earlier this year.

#4. The Alarm, “Sold Me Down the River”
It was somewhat surprising these guys never truly cashed in. “Sixty Eight Guns” makes me think of my early MTV-watching days, and “Rain in the Summertime” is a pretty nice tune. “Sold Me Down the River” would reach #50 on the Hot 100, their best US showing.

#3. Tears for Fears, “Sowing the Seeds of Love”
In which Orzabal/Smith channel their inner Lennon/McCartney. It generally works; I still dig it.

#1. The B-52’s, “Love Shack”
Greg and Katie saw Berlin/OMD/B-52’s in DC last month; I was pleased to learn that Cindy is back with the band. Greg saw fit to record the “Tin roof/Rusted!” moment and send it my way–the crowd was more than ready for it.

I’ll listen to this song anytime.

Modern Rock Tracks, 8/5/89

What was happening in the world of music that might get played on Postmodern MTV/120 Minutes at the beginning of August 89? A bunch of kick-ass songs, that’s what.

#30. Darling Buds, “Let’s Go Round There”
Pop Said… came out in the States in early 89, but the Darling Buds had been releasing singles in the UK for a while before that. They experienced middling success there, and none here, until a slightly remixed version of “Let’s Go Round There” clawed its way onto the lower strata of this chart. They’d have more success the following year on the MRT chart with a couple of tracks from the followup album Crawdaddy. I’ll glom onto just about any excuse to play some Buds.

 

#26. Texas, “I Don’t Need a Lover”
Odd name for a band from Scotland. Their debut album Southside got a lot of play in my car for a good while–it’ll crop up as a Forgotten Album in the coming weeks. They got big in Europe and other parts of the world, particularly in the late 90s, but never caught on in the U.S. Always liked this song quite a bit.

#19. Chris Isaak, “Don’t Make Me Dream About You”
Isaak’s third album, Heart Shaped World, had come out in June, and this was its first featured track.  The album tanked at the time, but became a smash eighteen months later after “Wicked Game” was featured in the David Lynch flick Wild at Heart.

#15. Mary’s Danish, “Don’t Crash the Car Tonight”
This isn’t the Mainstream Rock chart, so one doesn’t necessarily expect too many of the entries to rock out. Mary’s Danish, who were based in L.A., is bringing the heat on this track, though. The voices of co-leads Gretchen Seager and Julie Ritter play off each other nicely.

 

#11. “Radio Silence,” Boris Grebenshikov
Grebenshikov is one of the figures present at the birth of rock music in Russia in the 70s and 80s. This is the title track of the one album he released in the West, produced by Dave Stewart.

 

#10. Adrian Belew, “Oh Daddy”
Belew was born in the same city I was (think there’s a fifty-fifty chance it was the same hospital, too), and grew up not too far from my hometown–Warren tells me some of his HS teachers reported having Adrian (who was known as Steve then) as a student. He’s played guitar for a loooong list of bands, but is best known for his work with King Crimson. There are also a few solo albums to his credit; the fourth of those, Mr. Music Head, came out spring 89. It included his best shot at a real hit single, though Belew had to go meta to do it. “Oh Daddy” features questions from then 11-year-old daughter Audie (which now makes her…oh, I don’t want to think about it) about his lack of chart action.

 

#6. The Call, “Let the Day Begin”
Warren has introduced a lot of good music to me over the years, but his greatest gift in that regard is likely the Bay Area band The Call. They had three complete, absolute classics in”The Walls Came Down,” “I Still Believe,” and “Let the Day Begin,” plus a slew of songs almost as good (I’m especially fond of their 86 release Reconciled). True commercial success eluded them, however unfair that may be. In two weeks it’ll have been nine years since leader Michael Been passed away at age 60. This is probably my favorite song on this list.

 

#5. Hoodoo Gurus, “Come Anytime”
Fun, fabulous Aussie rocker. Always a treat to crank; shoulda been a hit single.

 

#3. Pixies, “Here Comes Your Man”
You couldn’t stop Doolittle in the summer of 89, you could only hope to contain it. For some reason I heard “Here Comes Your Man” much more frequently back then than “Monkey Gone to Heaven,” which could explain why I like it more even today.

#2. Public Image Ltd, “Disappointed”
I didn’t pay any attention to this one thirty years ago, but it’s got plenty of appeal now. Lydon is as shrill as ever, and that’s okay. We get a new way to interpret the phrase, “That’s what friends are for.”

#1. B-52s, “Channel Z”
Cosmic Thing was the first album from the B-52s following the death of guitarist Ricky Wilson almost four years earlier. The sorta-title song “Shake That Cosmic Thing” had been on the MRT chart for a few weeks before this, but the ascension of “Channel Z” gave the first indication that they were soon to graduate from cult favorite status.

 

Come back next week for the quarterly visit to the Hot 100 of thirty years ago.

Modern Rock Tracks, 6/3/89

When the first week of June 89 rolled around, the Modern Rock Tracks chart in Billboard was less than a year old. The first MRT was published in the 9/10/88 issue; sitting atop was the mighty fine “Peek-A-Boo,” from Siouxsie and the Banshees. The chart is given a home on page 16, along with the Album Rock Tracks chart, and that’s where it seemed to stay–I’ve found it there in all the subsequent issues I’ve examined so far. There’s a note under the banner each week: “Compiled from Commercial and College Radio Airplay Reports.” Might be interesting to dig around for more detail on the methodology…

But let’s look now at some of what was rocking college towns across the US thirty years ago today:

#25. Concrete Blonde, “God Is a Bullet.”
I think I first encountered this L.A. band my first year in grad school, seeing their video for “Still in Hollywood” in the evenings on MTV a few times. While “Joey,” their pretty big hit from the second half of 90, is by far the song of theirs you’re most likely to know now, this scorcher is better. It rocks heavier than my usual fare, but some combination of Johnette Napolitano’s vocals and the subject matter (still oh-so-germane today) completely sucked me in; it wound up on a favorite mix tape I recorded in 91. Turn. It. Up.

 

#21. Depeche Mode, “Everything Counts.”
A live version of their single from six years earlier. We were just months away from seeing “Personal Jesus” and the rest of Violator dominate the modern rock scene for the better part of a year.


#14. XTC, “King for a Day.”

“Mayor of Simpleton” had topped this chart for five weeks back in April; this time it’s Colin Moulding’s turn with the pen and at the mic as the follow-up from Oranges and Lemons takes its shot (it reached only #11). It’s another one whose lyrics still seem applicable now. Excellent song.


#10. Bob Mould, “See a Little Light.”

Hüsker Dü had broken up a couple of years before, and the first solo efforts from two of its members had surfaced. Grant Hart went first, releasing his 2541 EP in late 88 (that title cut is mighty awesome). Bob Mould then came out with Workbook; this first featured cut was quite the departure from the days of Dü.

 

#7. 10000 Maniacs, “Trouble Me.”
In My Tribe was totally my scene for most of the latter half of 87, so there’s little doubt I bought Blind Man’s Zoo as soon as it came out. Zoo turned out to be my least favorite Maniacs major-label album (Natalie Merchant era), though, and I wasn’t an especially big fan of this single (which reached #44 on the Hot 100 in August).


#5. Pixies, “Monkey Gone to Heaven.”

My first exposure to this Beantown band, soon to be followed by “Here Comes Your Man.”  I get why a lot of folks dug them.

 

#4. Joe Jackson, “Nineteen Forever.”
Jackson was coming close to the end of his first pop/rock phase by this point. He ended the 80s with Blaze of Glory; this track was the only one from it to receive much attention.


#3. Cult, “Fire Woman.”

These guys from the UK really aren’t my thing, though I’ll cop to thinking “She Sells Sanctuary” is a pretty good song. “Fire Woman” wound up being their most successful track stateside, hitting #46 on the Hot 100 and #2 on this chart.


#2. Love and Rockets, “So Alive.”

Three-fourths of Bauhaus hung together after the split in 83 to form Love and Rockets. I liked “No New Tale to Tell,” sung by David J, a fair amount when it came out in 87. Since Daniel Ash is the vocalist on “So Alive,” it didn’t click with me at first that this could be from the same band. Very solid track, and soon to be a chart-topper here for five weeks.

 

#1. Cure, “Fascination Street.”
My only Cure purchases were a cassette copy of the singles compilation Standing on a Beach and a 45 of “Why Can’t I Be You?” There’s absolutely a lot of good stuff among their earlier work. It was fasc…, er, interesting to watch them explode in popularity as the 80s wound down. This spent seven weeks at the top of the Modern Rock Tracks chart, but their biggest splash was yet to come.

 

Modern Rock Tracks, 4/1/89

My musical tastes were trending toward “modern rock” by the end of the 80s, more and more so as its name changed to alternative. Let’s take a look at what’s going on in Billboard vis-à-vis Modern Rock (MR) thirty years ago (two thoughts are occurring to me—first, maybe I should have been doing this all year as part of Destination 89; second, I suspect I’ll now come back to this every couple of months for a while).

Thirty tracks were listed each week, many of which never became familiar. I’ll hit on several I knew then or know more about now.

#28: Tanita Tikaram, “Twist in My Sobriety.” I discussed Tikaram’s debut album, including this fab song, two months ago. It’s at the beginning of a three week run on this chart.

#21: Proclaimers, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).” I heard this only a few times back in the late 80s. We couldn’t escape the Reid twins four years later, though, when this song‘s inclusion on the soundtrack for Benny and Joon helped launch it to #3 on the Hot 100.

#15: Cowboy Junkies, “Sweet Jane.” I’d given in to the buzz and purchased The Trinity Session soon after it came out (it’s got a solid take on “Walkin’ After Midnight” as the closing track). It’s on its way down the MR chart now. Pandora’s algorithm has served this up to me just a little too often over the years.

#7: Morrissey, “The Last of the Famous International Playboys.” There are many, many Morrissey songs with titles that only he would dare attempt to use.  This is one of them.

#5: Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians, “Madonna of the Wasps.” I’d guess I was introduced to this by 120 Minutes. Very fine jangly tune—could listen to it several times in a row these days.

#3: Replacements, “I’ll Be You.” Shame on me, I guess—I never got that much into Paul Westerberg and crew. Heard this as much as any of their songs, and it just didn’t grab me. What should I go back and hear of theirs now?

#2: Elvis Costello, “Veronica.” Did not appreciate this one nearly enough at the time. An utter charmer, it’s Costello’s biggest hit in the U.S. (made #19 on the pop charts a couple months after this). Dementia has been mercifully rare in my family (only my father’s mother suffered it), but I am seeing it take hold of a few people I hold dear as I grow older.

#1: XTC, “Mayor of Simpleton.” Well, it’s one of those times where the best song on the chart sits at the top. I wouldn’t get Oranges and Lemons until a couple of years later, but I was a ginormous fan of this update of Sam Cooke’s “What a Wonderful World” in real time. It’d spend five weeks in this spot and deserved every single one of them.

I’ve skipped over a couple of songs of interest to me. One in the top 10 will get featured in a Forgotten Albums post next week; the other I want to spotlight a bit more now.

A couple years prior, a band from Madison got a record deal based on their performance in MTV’s Basement Tapes competition. I heard “Carry the Torch” from Fire Town a few times on WPGU in 87, but didn’t consider it anything special. The title single from their second (and final) disk The Good Life was much more interesting. It’s sitting at #20 on the MR chart this week, and would get a couple spots higher before falling off before the end of the month. I like it a whole bunch, but even so, I’ve long had the feeling that Fire Town was trying to make some Grand Statement on the American Condition with this song and wound up missing the target a little. I tracked the CD down fairly early on; eventually “The Good Life” would lead off side two on my one of my favorite mix tapes, made in the spring of 93.

If I’d seen this nifty video back in 89 (I’m positive I didn’t), it sure wouldn’t have occurred to me that the drummer might someday (co-)produce albums of the magnitude of Gish, Siamese Dream, and Nevermind. Or that he and the guy in the beard singing the second verse of “The Good Life” would later have a huge smash of their own after recruiting a female vocalist from Scotland who’d come to break your soul apart and wanted your misery poured down on her.