My first college semester over, and what did I have to show for it? I mean, aside from being a moody bastard that felt completely out of place no mater where they were? Well, my grades weren’t the best but they weren’t terrible. I was squeaking by hovering around a B- verging into C+ territory, primarily due to my inability to study correctly (and my moods interrupting said studying now and again). Surprising no one, I fell back into the terrible habit of handing in late homework and winging the tests as I could. Did I talk to someone about it while I was there? I don’t really remember, honestly. I remember going to some office where we talked about grades, but I think that was nearer the end of my freshman year.
Yeah, I know. I’m making it sound like I probably could have had some therapy, and in retrospect it probably would have helped, but at the time I was too stuck in the mindset of ‘I can’t afford that so I may as well work through it’ to even think about it. [That, by the way, would end up being my health rule of thumb the entire time I was in Boston.] I looked for those ways, and often found them in my writing — the poems and lyrics — and teaching myself to play guitar and bass properly.
Come December, I was ready for that winter break. Some time off to take T out for a date or two, and hang with the Vanishing Misfits gang who’d also returned for their breaks. Back during Thanksgiving break the Flying Bohemians had their last jam session at Nate’s house (it would also be our last session with him), and despite all the confusion and frustration all of us felt, we realized that we were also growing up and getting better at what we liked doing.
That was the eye-opener for me: I may not have been the best academically, but my writing and my music was improving by leaps and bounds. And perhaps I was even figuring myself out in a social way as well. Maybe things weren’t all bad after all…?
Electronic, “Getting Away with It” single, released 4 December 1989. Bernard Sumner from New Order? Johnny Marr from the Smiths? Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys? Anne Dudley from The Art of Noise? Hot damn, this sounded like a flipping amazing supergroup!! Even though this side project would be primarily Sumner and Marr’s, this was one hell of a great debut single, and it still gets play today.
The Rave-Ups, Hamlet Meets John Doe EP, released 5 December 1989. This countrified alt-rock band dropped a sneak peek of their new album that would drop in January, and the single “Respectfully King of Rain” got a ton of airplay on WFNX.
Indio, Big Harvest, released 7 December 1989. This is one of those ‘oh, THAT song!’ one-hit wonders, but what a hit it is! Even Eddie Vedder covered it (for the soundtrack to 2007’s Into the Wild). The album kind of feels like the last gasp of that late 80s polished lite rock, but what Indio did with it made it a tight and enjoyable album.
Bill Pritchard, Three Months, Three Weeks and Two Days, released 11 December 1989. Pritchard is a great songwriter that somehow never made it in the US and barely did in his native UK, and yet France and other European countries loved the hell out of him. He might come across as a bit cynical and jaded, but his melodies and clever wordplay were exactly what I was looking for to take that empty spot that Morrissey seemed to be vacating. Come to think of it, this album is very much kind of a proto-Belle and Sebastian in that it’s full of songs about dim hope, slim chances and autumnal romances. For an album that got almost zero airplay (WFNX played “Tommy and Co” very infrequently), this became one of my most-played tapes at the time. A sort of 180 from Pretty Hate Machine!
…and that was it for the new releases for that month for me, but of course this also meant that I had some time to focus on what I needed to put on the latest volume of my year-end mixtapes! And this was going to be an interesting mix at that. It ended up being a crossover of sorts, between the indie sounds of college radio and WAMH and the modern-rock sheen of commercial radio and WFNX. It bounced all over the place, and I think I’d finally learned how to make a proper extended mixtape series at this point, so it all worked out well. Here’s a few songs that popped up on Does Truth Dance Does Truth Sing: The Singles 1989, which I’d made on New Year’s Eve.
Ultra Vivid Scene, “Mercy Seat” from Ultra Vivid Scene, released 31 October 1988
Robyn Hitchcock, “Swirling” from Queen Elvis, released 1 March 1989.
fIREHOSE, “Time with You” from fROMOHIO, released 1 March 1989
The Cure, “Fascination Street” from Disintegration, released 2 May 1989.
Clan of Xymox, “Imagination” from Twist of Shadows, released 10 April 1989.
Bob Mould, “Wishing Well” from Workbook, released 2 May 1989.
The Wonder Stuff, “A Wish Away” from The Eight Legged Groove Machine, released 15 August 1988.
Public Image Ltd, “Warrior” from 9, released 30 May 1989.
Martin L Gore, “Gone” from counterfeit ep, released 12 June 1989.
Coming soon: a new year, a (hopefully) new me…?