SotD: The Bird and the Bee, “My Love”

Just learned that The Bird and the Bee have released a new album featuring, of all things, covers of first-generation Van Halen tunes (when I heard the new take on “Jamie’s Cryin'” last night, I thought that voice sounded an awful lot like Inara George’s).  This isn’t the first tribute album they’ve done; just maybe I need to go back and check out what they did with Hall & Oates material nine years ago.

In the spring of 2009 I had some release time to attend a class on mathematical modeling in the biological sciences at the University of Kentucky (honestly, it was a super fun experience). At the time I was on a kick of listening to the UK public radio station, which features “rock and roots” music (think World Cafe with extra blues thrown in), on my drives back and forth to Lexington.  “My Love,” from the then-current Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future, caught my ear a few times that semester, enough to look for it on YouTube. I don’t know now if I found the quite charming Official Video then, but I did discover the marvel shared below, apparently created for a film school assignment. Glad to see that it’s still available for viewing. I’ll go on record as giving the clip a thumbs-up, but fair warning: the highs are high and the lows are low.


SotD: Donna Summer, “This Time I Know It’s for Real”

In the spring of 89 I caught wind of a summer employment opportunity: three professors in the math department ran summer camps for high school students, and they were in need of a grad student to watch over their charges in the dorm. Maria, a good friend of Kate and the incumbent in the position, wasn’t able to do it again and tipped me off.  I’d had three years of similar experience for computer camps at Transy, so I figured I had at least a decent shot of snagging the job. I applied, interviewed, and was fortunate to be hired by Professors Jerrard, Paley, and Dornhoff.

Like the science/math camps I’ve done at the college where I work, the students arrived on a Sunday afternoon and left twelve days later (according to the records I’ve kept, the dates were July 9-21). My duties were important, but limited: I had no interaction with the campers during the academic part of their day—I was there simply to maintain control on the floor when the students were in the dorm. I don’t know why, but the camp didn’t use university housing; instead, we were staying in Hendrick House, a privately-owned facility on the east edge of campus (there were a few such enterprises around campus during my time in C-U, including one right next to Sherman Hall, but many more exist now).

All told, there were about thirty high schoolers taking one of two courses of study. I still have the official pictures of the groups—more were enrolled in Computers and Math than in Convex Sets and Combinatorics (that second topic sounds pretty cool to me, though). From what I remember of my interactions with them, they were bright and well-behaved (if you’re actively choosing to go to a summer math camp, the probability of being a troublemaker is pretty low). They did contrive to have a toga party of sorts on the final evening, but even that didn’t remotely get out of hand. At least two wound up enrolling at Illinois, as I saw them on campus sometime in the fall of 90.

No particular music I associate with this event, so I’ll just lay Donna Summer’s last Top 40 hit on you today. It’d been Fall 84 since she’d gotten much notice, when “There Goes My Baby” had reached #21. It’s no “Hot Stuff,” but to be honest, “This Time I Know It’s for Real” is one of my favorites of hers; I hear convincing excitement about being in love (of course, she’d been happily married to Bruce Sudano for almost a decade) . Summer was around 40 when she recorded this, so perhaps in a different place from her Queen of Disco days—the Stock Aitken Waterman sound seemed to suit, at least for one song. The director of the video definitely put together something to match—everyone is acting pretty happy to share in Donna’s joy. I assume those are her two young daughters we see toward the end? The clip was on VH-1 plenty during the song’s run on the charts (it was coming off a #7 peak by mid-July).

Sorry there aren’t any wacky escapades to relate about my experience watching over the math campers—maybe the main thing about those two weeks was that I earned some $$, most of which went to pay for August’s travel. I would have loved to do it again, but the next summer a bridge tournament conflicted with the dates…hmmm, looks like I’m getting a little ahead of myself on a couple of fronts.  We’ll come back to bridge next week.

Not Bitter Any More

Several years ago, my wife customized the ring tones on her phone for the folks who by far call her most often: our son, her sister, and me. Martha conducted a deliberate and thorough search for music that reflected something about the caller. For Ben, she chose the opening measures of Beethoven’s “Für Elise;” it was the piece he was working on at the time. When Ruth calls, it’s the “Javanaise” movement of Claude Bolling’s Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano, which they first encountered in a music appreciation class they took their first year of college. Since the two of them talk a couple of times a day, I hear it a lot!

Coming up with something for me turned out to be a little more difficult, since my tastes are decidedly less classical. Martha wanted something without vocals, and because she would be editing an .mp3 file, it’d be easier if it came from the beginning of the song. I thought about what was in my collection that I really liked and also had at least 30 seconds of intro. After considering two or three pieces, we agreed that “Bitter Sweet Symphony,” from the UK band The Verve, would work nicely.

I’ve been aware for some time about the kerfuffle between Verve leader Richard Ashcroft and the Rolling Stones, but hadn’t dug deep in trying to understand the details. I knew that The Verve had sampled something from a Stones piece but for the life of me couldn’t determine anything in “Bitter Sweet Symphony” that sounded like it was out of the Jagger/Richards playbook. And I’d read that songwriting credit and royalty issues were involved in the resolution of the dispute.

I probably didn’t know, however, that Ashcroft and his former bandmates had received essentially nothing for their biggest smash. Until now. I’m not a lawyer, but this has to be a much more equitable solution than what was in place. Well done, all.




SotD: The Connells, “Something to Say”

I’d met Greg, along with some other good friends, in late 89 at the bridge club in Champaign (more on bridge a little later in the year). I’ve mentioned him occasionally before: working on a PhD in Electrical Engineering, had spent some of his early grad school days deejaying at the quasi-university-affiliated AOR station in town, WPGU, extremely well-versed in power pop and college rock from the late 70s on. He knew so much more than I about a wide variety of artists, and I owe him a lot when it comes to the musical explorations I undertook through most of the 90s.

When I started hanging out at Greg and Katie’s apartment in early 90, I quickly discovered that he was an avid (maybe even bordering on obsessive) CD collector. One thing he told me pretty early on was that it was his goal to acquire everything released in 89 (it was a joke, of course—we even laughed about it this past summer when we got together—but like with all jokes, there was an undercurrent of truth to it). He and I spent a lot of time over the next couple of years conducting raids on the cutout bins of CDs in the music stores around Campustown.

Greg was generous about letting me borrow CDs and was always anxious to introduce me to stuff he was hoping I’d like—this is how I learned all about the Go-Betweens and Darling Buds.  Another song he played for me early on was “Something to Say,” the lead track and first single from Fun & Games, the third album by Raleigh, NC band The Connells. It took a few listens for me to gain a decent appreciation of it, but a couple years later I made sure to commit it to a mix tape I created just a few weeks before moving back to KY.  In 93, The Connells released their outstanding album Ring; that’s worth a closer examination here someday in the future.

“Something to Say” seems to be about looking back, seeing missed/failed opportunities, and feeling regret. Can’t seem to avoid the first of these; hope I can minimize the other two.

It was #8 on the Billboard’s 5/6/89 Modern Rock chart, down one from its peak the previous week.

SotD: Melissa Etheridge, “Similar Features”

My mother turned 59 on Wednesday, April 12, 1989. I gave her a call that evening, but not from my apartment: I suppose I had been doing some work in my office on campus, so I hoofed it next door to the Illini Union, where I used a pay phone in its basement (I guess I wasn’t able to use my calling card from the phone in the office). We didn’t talk all that long that night, but Mom told me she’d had a good day—both she and Dad were doing fine.

The weekly Math Colloquium at Illinois was always on Thursday afternoons. Usually folks gathered a little before the talk in the commons area on the second floor of Altgeld Hall for cookies and coffee; we’d then migrate to the big lecture room across the hall to hear our guest lecturer. The details are long lost to me now, but the speaker on 4/13/89 must have been at least a moderately big name in the math world. That evening there was a reception for the speaker at the hosting professor’s house. Even though I didn’t often go to such events often, I made an exception this time. Mostly I stood on the periphery of things (as is my wont), but I do remember engaging in a couple of conversations.

One was with a grad student from the institution of the Colloquium speaker (perhaps it was her advisor who’d given the talk?). The other was with Bruce Reznick, a ten-year member of the math faculty who was just about to receive his promotion to Professor. He’d taught the abstract algebra course I’d taken my first semester there, almost three years earlier. I’d really enjoyed the class, in part due to the growth in mathematical maturity I experienced, but also because Bruce was friendly and kind and liable to crack a joke at virtually any moment (he came by that honestly—his father had been a comedy writer for Hope, Paar, Carson, among others). I hadn’t taken a class from him since, yet there he was, making time to chat for a bit with an aimless third-year grad student.

And aimless I was. It hadn’t become any clearer to me since passing most of my exams in January how I was going to proceed on to the dissertation phase. I was continuing to read papers with a faculty member in algebraic number theory, but wasn’t getting close to determining a problem I might want to tackle. A suspicion was growing stronger inside that I wouldn’t be following my current path much longer. Where to turn, though?

Suddenly, right there at the reception, something clicked: what about Bruce? His areas of study were wide-ranging enough so as to defy easy classification, but I thought there was sufficient overlap with subjects that interested me. He had just one grad student at that time, and she was just about to finish up, so he should have room to take me on if we both thought it would work. Plus, it was clear he would be supportive. I headed home that evening resolved to talk with him soon about his work in more detail and to ask for papers I could read that might give me the beginnings of an idea for a dissertation problem. I didn’t know how things would turn out, but for the first time in a while I felt hopeful.

Baseball season was just ten days old, so it’s a solid guess that John and I watched highlights on SportsCenter after I got back to the apartment. I was worried, though—my throat felt a little scratchy, a sign that I might be coming down with something. As a precaution, I took some cold medicine just before going to bed, something that would make me drowsy. I had to teach in the morning, but I expected its effects would wear off in plenty of time.

I’m certain that pill was why I didn’t hear our phone ring at around 2am.

My first thought when I arrived at his hospital room, thirty years ago this morning, was that I’d never seen anyone quite with that color before—an ashen gray.

It was about six hours later, and I was at the ICU in St. Luke West, about two miles from my parents’ house. I walked from the door of the room to his bedside and sat down. His left hand was resting by his side, over the covers. I picked it up—it was colder than any hand I’d held. His eyes opened and slowly turned toward me; there may have been a weak smile.

“I came anyway, Dad.”

John, of course, had answered the phone and roused me. Mom was reasonably calm as she delivered the headlines: Amy had taken Dad to the ER; it was likely to have been a heart attack; he had given her instructions to tell me not to drive back to KY right then. We talked for just a few minutes. Maybe my head wasn’t clear from the medicine, but as the call ended I was planning on going back to bed so that I could teach reasonably coherently in the morning before heading out for home. John set me straight with an “Are you crazy?” look and assured me my class would be covered. I rang Mom back and told her I’d be on my way soon.

I didn’t stay at the hospital all that long—after all, he was in the ICU. The initial reports were encouraging enough. Dad was very weak but stable, there didn’t seem to serious damage to heart muscle, and the worst appeared to be over for the time being. I got a little breakfast at home and took a short nap before heading off to Warsaw, about thirty miles away, with Amy to break the news to our 87-year-old Aunt Birdie. On the way there, Sis filled me in on some details.

It was unusual for Amy to be spending the night in Florence—by this time she was working and taking classes in Richmond, ninety minutes south on I-75. Yet by sheer fortune there she was, sleeping on the couch in the living room (likely she’d been reading after turning the TV off) when Dad came stumbling down the hall, sweating beyond profusely. He’d reported not feeling right pretty much all day Thursday, but things were now an order of magnitude or two worse. Amy didn’t take the time to put in her contacts before driving Dad to St. Luke; it’s fortunate that she didn’t have far to go (I can imagine Dad would have resisted calling an ambulance—might be a coin toss as to whether he got the care he so needed as quickly as possible this way).

It took me a few minutes to get fully awake and throw some clothes, etc. in a bag. I’ll bet I had to get gas and grab some caffeine before I hit the road, too. It was a clear night and I pretty much had I-74 all to myself. There was no trouble in staying alert, though—it was as if I hadn’t taken anything for the feared cold, which never came.

Despite being a preacher’s kid for the first eleven years of my life, I’ve never really been one to pray. At this point in time, I was about four years in to an extended hiatus from going to church, as well. Even though I was in a pre-cellphone-era information vacuum and plenty worried, I didn’t offer up any words of supplication as I sped down the road.

The sun started coming up as I rolled across the bridge over the Ohio River into KY. As I pulled off the interstate, I allowed myself to wonder how different life would be going forward.

Aunt Birdie had taken the news as well as could be expected, and after a while, Amy and I headed back. The rest of the weekend is mostly a blur now, but we soon learned very good news. Dad’s problem had arisen due to a small blockage, but another vein had fully taken over the role of the defective one.  No stent, no bypass surgery, no anything required—he just needed to take better care of himself. I felt comfortable enough with the state of things to go back to IL on Sunday evening, though I returned home regularly for a few weeks.

Dad had been a bit overweight for his frame prior to the attack—not anymore after he got released. Almost as soon as he arrived home, he tried to get out and walk. Toward the beginning it was hard to go more than a couple hundred yards, but over time, he built up to a few miles each day. After he returned to work, he’d do laps inside the vault of the bank between customers. I joined him when I was home, and sometimes on our jaunts around the neighborhood he’d tell me a little about his personal history, before marriage and kids.

Dad faithfully walked for years and never had another problem with his heart. He fell just months shy of living an additional quarter-century.

It hasn’t escaped my notice that I’m now only about 30 months away from being the age Dad was at the time of the attack. I’m quite possibly in worse shape than he was then. Discipline and exercise are needed.

It’s funny the things you remember at stressful times. I must not have grabbed any cassettes to take with me before I hurtled through IN in the middle of the night, so I wound up flipping stations on the radio for four-plus hours. As I got close to home, I realized there was just one song I’d heard twice on the trip.

I’d bought Melissa Etheridge on vinyl sometime in the fall of 88 but had listened to it just a few times. The fine opening track, “Similar Features,” was easily the song that I enjoyed the most. I noticed when it was released as a single with accompanying video in the spring of 89; it had crawled onto the Hot 100 at #94 (as high as it would get) just a week earlier.

I never think of this song without being taken back to that star-filled night ride when I truly didn’t know what the future held, and vice versa.


(And yes, Bruce became my dissertation advisor.)

SotD: Madonna, “Like a Prayer”

Brief notes from the last half of March 1989:

–Spring Break started on St. Patrick’s Day. I drove to Richmond, IN, where my MA cousin Sandi was a junior at Earlham College, a Friends-affiliated school. On Saturday, we drove to Indianapolis, where we met up with John and Ann and did the highly-regarded Children’s Museum (to my regret, that’s a place Martha and I never took Ben, though we visited analogous places in several other cities).

–Maybe the real reason for going to Indy happened that night: the Bulls were in town to play the Pacers.  John and I had talked for the better part of two years about wanting to see His Airness do his thing in person, and we knew we were never going to get seats easily at Chicago Stadium. The Bulls were a much better team that year (almost 20 games ahead of the Pacers in the standings at that  point), but it’s not easy to win on the road in the NBA; Indiana pulled out a 9-point win behind a strong 30-point effort from Chuck Person (on the Bulls’ side, Jordan had 28, Pippen 24). It remains to this day the only NBA game I’ve ever attended (the Cincinnati Royals moved out of town, toward Sacramento via Kansas City, right at the moment we were re-locating to Walton).

–After the weekend, it was on to Florence to hang with my parents for a few days. Easter was on the very early side in 89, March 26. We’d invited Sandi to join our big family Easter dinner, hosted by one of my first cousins. She didn’t have a car, so I went and got her on Saturday (Richmond was about 90 minutes away). It wasn’t too far afield to drive back to Illinois via Earlham on Sunday afternoon. That week was the only time we saw each other while she was in IN.

At the time, I’m sure I figured that was my last trip to KY before the end of the school year. I’d be back in less than three weeks.

Madonna’s new release “Like a Prayer” was just starting to make noise on the charts as Spring Break hit (leaping 13 spots to #25 on the 3/25 Hot 100). At first I found the song’s title an odd echo of/contrast to the lead single from Ms. Ciccone’s second album, but it wasn’t before long there was plenty of separation between the two in my mind. I quickly found “Prayer” to be vastly superior to “Like a Virgin.” I absolutely love the chord progressions in the bridge (and how many songs lead off with the bridge?); I’ll even go on and claim it’s one of her very best singles. The video generated plenty of controversy and calls for boycotts in real time with its appropriation of religious symbolism in the service of, well, what Madonna was selling. As we know now, though, she wasn’t anywhere near done pushing the envelope.

SotD: Roxette, “The Look”

Sometimes your instant reaction is completely, laughably, 100% R-O-N-G, and maybe the best you can do is just own up to your grievous error. Here’s one of mine from thirty years ago.

It’s late winter/early spring of 89, and I’m starting to hear a new song from a previously unknown-to-me Swedish duo. The video’s getting plenty of play, too: the male vocalist has spiky hair, and his attractive bleach-blonde partner is mainly singing backup. The action in the clip takes place in the skeleton of a house which looks like maybe it was built inside a warehouse; most of it is shot in the “bedroom.” The lyrics are quick bites, modestly intriguing (“kissin’ is a color,” “lovin’ is the ocean”) and the production values are solid, but something feels just a little off to me. After a few listens/views, I make my pronouncement: this twosome is destined to be a one-hit wonder. I’m not especially shy about sharing my thoughts with friends.

And then I find out I’ve been completely conned about the balance of power in Roxette: Marie Fredriksson is the actual star of the show. After “The Look” hit #1, they immediately prove me wrong with the #14-peaking “Dressed for Success,” but things are just getting started. Their next five songs all make the top 2 in the US, including the mega-smashes “Listen to Your Heart” and “It Must Have Been Love.” Sure, Per Gessle takes major turns at the mic in “Dangerous” and “Joyride,” but for the next two-plus years (stateside, anyway–success lasts longer in Europe), to me it seems like we’re all just living in Fredriksson’s world, even if we might not fully recognize it.

Thirty years ago this week, “The Look” was making its move, jumping from #25 to #13. It reached the top on the 4/8/89 chart.

If you’re going to make a bad snap judgment, it may as well be a doozy.

SotD: Enya, “Orinoco Flow”

My best recollection of my music video-watching habits in 89 is that they’d bifurcated away from mainstream MTV; by day I often checked into the more adult contemporary stylings of VH-1, while on Sunday nights I fed my growing college-rock tendencies by watching 120 Minutes. There’ll be plenty of evidence of both strands as the year progresses.

Today, we’re hitting the VH-1 side with the charming “Orinoco Flow” from Irish singer-songwriter Enya. Both sound and visuals appealed immediately, and it wasn’t too long before I picked up Watermark. Thirty years ago this week, “Orinoco Flow” was on the cusp of hitting the Top 40 (#45 on the 3/4/89 Hot 100). Despite being a worldwide smash—it went Top 10 in over a dozen countries, including #1 in the Netherlands, Ireland, Israel, Switzerland, and the UK—it would make only #24 here. On the other hand, it did go Top 10 on both the AC and Modern Rock charts here in the U.S., a sign that it really was in my sweet spot at the time.

The song essentially name-checks a number of islands, ports, and bodies of water around the globe. It wasn’t until I started writing this up that I looked into some of the references. In doing so, I’ve learned some things about West Africa, the Inner Hebrides, the Philippines, and Madagascar, among other places. I’ve enjoyed the research.

It took over twelve years for Enya to hit the Top 40 again; “Only Time,” first released in 2000, received much airplay in the aftermath of the 9/11/01 attacks and reached #10.

Finally, Watermark is notable on a personal level: I believe it was the only point of intersection in my and Martha’s CD collections when we got married.

SotD: Sarah McLachlan, “Vox”

Last week I noted the oddity of Tanita Tikaram doing her best work before she was 20, despite having multiple opportunities afterward to grow and flourish. Today, it’s another artist who started quite young, with a significantly weaker initial effort, but who went on to fulfill her promise, and then some.

Sarah McLachlan’s first album, Touch, came out in her native Canada in October 88 and was released in the US a few months later, around the time she was turning 21. Somewhere over the course of the year, “Vox” got decent play on VH-1—it seems like that might have been late summer or early fall? (So even though it was already out as a single in early 89, yes, maybe I should be posting this in six months or so—them’s the breaks.)  I remember the video because of the sheer piece of fabric McLachlan uses as a prop, and the song for its bouncy synth and the lines, “They start to limply flail their bodies in a twisted mime/And I’m lost inside this tangled web in which I’m lain entwined.” Not great poetry by any means, but it definitely succeeded in getting lodged in my brain.

I didn’t buy Touch, but did eventually check the CD out from the Urbana Free Library; my officemate Paul dubbed it onto a cassette for me, along with Julia Fordham’s Porcelain (speaking of songs I know because of late 80s VH-1, I hadn’t thought about “Happy Ever After,” a very fine track from Fordham’s self-titled 88 debut, in a long while until digging through my cassette stash). Can’t say I listened to that tape much, alas.

So, yeah, “Vox” is not super-special, but it got me to file McLachlan’s name away in my head. I was absolutely floored when I started hearing “Into the Fire” from Solace on the radio in the spring of 92. Such a huge leap of maturity and confidence—one of my favorites from that year. It wasn’t as big a commercial breakthrough as it was artistic, though; it took her third album, Funblling Toward Ecstasy, released two years later, to make people worldwide really notice.

SotD: Guns N’ Roses, “Welcome to the Jungle”

I spent a good chunk of Labor Day weekend 1988 visiting my college friends Mark and Lana, who live in suburban St. Louis. We spent the early part of Sunday afternoon watching their former hometown NFL team play their first regular-season game as the Phoenix Cardinals, who just happened to be going up against my team, the Cincinnati Bengals. The game’s outcome was uncertain until a goal-line stand in the final minute secured a 21-14 victory for the Bengals. It turned out to be the beginning of a magical season for the team with stripes on its helmets.

There was no great reason to think going in to the 88 season that Cincy would do well. They were coming off a desultory 4-11 effort in the strike-afflicted 87 campaign; I can recall seeing a piece on the local news at that season’s end (guess while I was home for Christmas in 87?) announcing that Sam Wyche was being retained. They did have a quality QB in Boomer Esiason, though, as well as a solid offensive line, James Brooks at RB, and a good set of DBs; maybe I shouldn’t have been so pessimistic?

The Bengals started off 6-0, and along the way they discovered a new weapon to spark a fearsome rushing attack within their innovative-at-the-time no-huddle offense: Elbert “Ickey” Woods, a fullback taken out of UNLV in the second round of the draft. Over the final thirteen games of the season, he scored 15 TDs, ran for over 1000 yards, and became an overnight sensation with his goofy touchdown celebration dance, the “Ickey Shuffle.” (Perhaps just as importantly, his not-so-smooth moves led to the beginning of the NFL’s crackdown on endzone celebrations.)

Very early in the fall, before anyone could tell that the Bengals would actually be good, Dad mentioned to me that they were playing at home Thanksgiving weekend. When he asked if I’d be interested in going, I quickly said yes—I’d attended a few Bengals games over the years, but it’d been a little while since I’d seen one. Little did we know at the time that game would be the one to determine home field advantage in the AFC.

The opponent was the other surprise team in the conference, the Buffalo Bills. On that chilly late November afternoon, Buffalo was riding high at 11-1 (the Bengals had fallen back a little bit from their hot start and were 9-3). Dad, Amy, and I were in the upper deck of Riverfront Stadium (the “red seats”), in section 331. That’d be right field if we were there for a Reds game, but I’m visualizing it as a corner of one endzone in its football configuration.  There were a number of Bills fans around us, and we learned about their cheer, “Let’s Go Buffalo.”

The home team won pretty easily that day, 35-21—Ickey got to shuffle three times—and I drove back to Urbana that evening a happy camper (as an aside, it turned out to be the last time saw an NFL game in person). In the remaining three games on the docket, Cincy went 2-1, the Bills 1-2; the road to the Super Bowl would go through Riverfront. Buffalo came back for the AFC title game, and went home losers again (it was just the beginning of a great run of sorts for the Bills, though—they went to, but lost, the next four Super Bowls). Seven years after their first visit, the Bengals were back in the big game…

…and facing the same team they had in Super Bowl XVI, the San Francisco 49ers. That game had taken place during my senior year in high school, and while the final score was respectable (26-21), it hadn’t been a close affair. Would the rematch be different?

I took Super Bowl XXIII in at a party hosted by one of my fellow math grad students, Ken, and his girlfriend Laura. It was a competitive but low-scoring game; the Bengals led 13-6 at the end of three quarters and took a 16-13 lead on a FG with under three-and-a-half minutes to go. I dared to hope.

But of course Joe Frickin’ Montana was under center for the ‘Niners. He engineered a 92-yard drive, hitting John Taylor for a TD with under forty seconds to go. For the remainder of the game and a couple of minutes afterward, I stared blankly at the TV. “Dammit….dammit,” was about all I could say or think.

That game took place thirty years ago today. The Bengals have been somewhere between horrible and occasionally better than okay pretty much ever since. Their last playoff win came in January 91, against the Houston Oilers(!).  More than half of that time they’ve been coached by the recently-fired Marvin Lewis, who certainly wasn’t bad but was kept on at least a couple of years too long. I’m curious to see how a new set of coaches will do, even though I’m much less invested in the NFL than I used to be.

At some point in that season, GNR’s “Welcome to the Jungle” became a theme song of sorts for the Bengals, and “The Jungle” became the nickname for their stadium. My recollection is that one of the radio guys in town came up with the idea—Bengals live in the jungle, right?  It’s stuck through the years—when they moved in 2000 from Riverfront to their new digs just down the river, Paul Brown Stadium, the moniker came along with them (though it’s hardly been a fear-inspiring venue for the most part).

The timing of the song’s chart run was pretty much perfect for the Bengals’ season: “Welcome to the Jungle” was released as a single in October, peaked at #7 at the end of the calendar year/football season, and was just about to fall off the Top 40 on Super Bowl Sunday (although maybe that was a sign of some kind…)

While I’m not a huge fan of Axl, Slash, Izzy, and the rest (though I readily admit “Sweet Child O’ Mine” is legit great), what other song can I play today?  Thinking back on that day from 30 years ago, all I can say it’d be mighty fine to see the Bengals finally win the big one, just once.