WIS Presents: The Boston Years III

After some time avoiding my roommate and getting to know other people in my dorm who were more chill and less hipster — and occasionally heading home on the Fitchburg line train to get my head together and maybe meet up with T for an afternoon — I think I finally figured out where I was going. Or at least found a goal to aim for, at any rate. I may not have gotten the radio station position I wanted (that would come next semester) but I did find a work-study day job at the school that would bring many fond memories and calm moments.

The Emerson College library at the time was at 150 Beacon, a half-block up from our ‘campus’ center and the parking spot for the school shuttle. It was five floors and a basement squeezed into a former mansion — the only stairway that reached all six floors was the servant’s, where the old-school iron-gate elevator was — and it was the perfect place to hide if you wanted to study without being bothered by anyone. And down in the drafty and often chilly basement was the Media Center, which held a few classrooms, the music library, and a few a/v suites shoehorned in as well. That was my job for all four years plus two summers: hanging down there at its front desk, taking classroom reservations, setting up videos and 16mm films for the film teachers, and recording the daily newscasts for the TV teachers. It became my haven and my hiding place and one of my favorite places to be. To this day I still have occasional dreams about it, even though the building’s long been sold off and divided into condos.

Happy Mondays, Hallelujah EP, released 1 November 1989. This, I think, was my official introduction to what would soon become known as Britpop. I remember hearing this on WMDK one evening when I’d gone home for a weekend break, and the DJ was super excited about the ‘new sound’ coming out of England that was steeped in club grooves but still maintained its rock swagger. I instantly fell in love with its psychedelic grooviness and that it was just so out there, totally different from the moody post-punk college rock I’d been mainlining for the last few years yet not flippant and lightweight like most dance pop was at the time. While most alt-rock stations were looking westward towards Seattle, I was once again looking eastward towards London.

The Stone Roses, ‘Fools Gold’ single, released 13 November 1989. Soon after the Mondays came another Manchester band, one I was more familiar with from its debut album released just a few months earlier. (I didn’t initially lump them in with the Britpop sound as they felt more like a post-punk/garage band hybrid to me at the time.) I instantly fell in love with the nine-minute 12″ version of this song for its blissed-out groove jam as well as its janky drum loop. This one often reminds me of my years working at the college library, as WFNX would play it quite often.

Morrissey, ‘Ouija Board, Ouija Board’ single, released 13 November 1989. Out of all his between-album singles of the time, I probably liked this one the best because it was just a simple quirky oddity squeezed in between the political ‘Interesting Drug’ and the overindulgent ‘November Spawned a Monster’. It’s a throwaway, but it’s a fun throwaway.

The Primitives, Pure, released 14 November 1989. This band’s second album lightened up slightly on the sugary flower-pop sound and leaned a bit heavier on the rock that drove their initial hit “Crash”. There’s some really great deep cuts on this album and I don’t listen to it nearly enough as I should.

Ministry, The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste, released 14 November 1989. The album between the college radio favorite The Land of Rape and Honey and the breakthrough Psallm 69 gets overlooked a lot, and I think it’s partly because it’s a ‘more of the same’ record, but it’s got some great tracks on it that got some major radio play on WFNX at the time. I tended to listen to this one on my headphones whenever my roommate was pissing me off too much.

Duran Duran, Decade, released 15 November 1989. Their first official greatest hits record was absolutely perfect collection of their hit singles in chronological order that proves just how amazing this band was throughout the 80s. Even if you had every album and single they’d put out, you wanted this because it was such a great mix.

The Creatures, Boomerang, released 22 November 1989. Siouxsie and Budgie’s side project away from the Banshees always focused more on the musical styles that their main band couldn’t (or wouldn’t) quite pull off, and this one delves deep into a lot of different styles like jazz and even a bit of flamenco. I got to meet the two of them at Newbury Comics in Harvard Square when they did a signing!

Severed Heads, Rotund for Success, released 22 November 1989. This was one of my most favorite finds during my freshman year, picked up used at Nuggets in Kenmore Square. They were one of those bands I was familiar with (thanks to 120 Minutes) but never owned anything as I could never find their stuff. I bought this only on the strength of having heard the single “Greater Reward” at some point, and I completely fell in love with it. This became one of my Walkman go-tos when I was heading home on the train for the weekend. The band isn’t for everyone, but this record certainly is, and I highly recommend it.

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More to come — when the end of the year brings hope for change, however desperate it may be.

WIS Presents: The Boston Years II

One month into my college years and of course I was already thinking, what the fuck have I gotten myself into? It was a perfect storm of harsh truths and brutal realizations: I clearly was not programmed for academia, or at least never properly trained for it (or, as I would figure out much later in life, unaware that I could find mental and emotional workarounds that would help me make it all work). People similar to my closest friends in high school (aka the Vanishing Misfits) were nowhere to be found in this school full of budding actors, writers and filmmakers already imagining themselves the next maverick auteur. Any creativity I tried to bring to the table was met with side-eyes and wincingly seen as hardly original. [And see, this is precisely why I eye-roll like mad whenever I see the latest theoretical discourse and debate on Twitter. Because I’ve already witnessed enough of this kind of self-aggrandizing horseshit for one lifetime, thank you very much.]

I can definitely see what direction I was heading in with the poems and lyrics I was writing at the time…I’d gone past the Cure-like gothic doom and straight into the unfiltered fuck-you of punk at that point. My other mistake here was that I’d used my long-distance relationship as an anchor to keep me sane. I always treated T with love and kindness, but damn I am so surprised she never slapped me upside the head and told me to grow the fuck up.

ANYWAY. I had a lot of shit to contend with, a lot of life lessons to catch up on, and a spiral of self-triggered depression to slide into. I always did my best to keep my head above water and found whatever distractions I could to keep me from getting any worse. And thankfully, the music was there to help.

Jesus Jones, Liquidizer, released 1 October 1989. No one really knew what to make of this band’s wild mix of industrial, dance and hard rock at first, other than it was noisy and you could dance to it. Most everyone’s familiar with “Right Here Right Now” but there’s so much more to this band than what you expect. Their first album is much more twitchy and aggressive but also a really fun listen.

Galaxie 500, On Fire, released 1 October 1989. Well before Dean Wareham started Luna, he was one third of this proto-quietcore band out of the Boston area that became the favorite of all the local college radio stations. Their spin was that their music often took on a hazy, almost psychedelic feel.

The Jesus + Mary Chain, Automatic, released 9 October 1989. Their third album (fourth if you count the b’s-and-rarities Barbed Wire Kisses from 1988) took them in an altogether different direction, seriously toning down the feedback and ramping up the beats. They kept the volume, though, and it ended up making this album a huge hit.

Lush, Scar EP, released 9 October 1989. It all started here for this band, a six-track record that took the time-honored 4AD sound and vision (dreamy melodies, heavy on the reverb, 23 Envelope cover, natch) and ramped up the volume. This was a label changing from its chamber-pop high and into a new sonic landscape. I remember hearing “Scarlet” on WZBC (Boston College’s station) for the first time and being completely blown away by it…I headed to Tower Records the very next day and bought the cassette!

The Blue Nile, Hats, released 16 October 1989. I remember my first shift at WECB, Emerson’s AM station (with the reach of just our dorms at the time), “The Downtown Lights” was one of the tunes on the rotation I had to play, and I absolutely fell in love with it. The band are kind of a peculiar mix of 80s adult pop sheen, smooth jazz and new wavey synthpop, but they pull it off wonderfully.

Erasure, Wild!, released 16 October 1989. Their follow-up to The Innocents was far more club-oriented and while it may not have been as memorable as some of their previous albums, it’s certainly enjoyable. Early in 1990 I saw this band for the first time at the Orpheum in downtown Boston and they put on an absolutely ridiculous and super fun show that I still think about from time to time!

Kate Bush, The Sensual World, released 17 October 1989. I was late in getting into her music (I didn’t own anything of hers until her hits collection The Whole Story) but I did get this one soon after it was released. It kind of reminds me of U2’s Unforgettable Fire in that I feel a sort of self-contained warmth when I listen to it. It’s a mature and low-key record that’s got some fantastic songs on it.

The Smithereens, 11, released 18 October 1989. The Jersey band’s third record (its name and album cover hinting at Ocean’s Eleven) is just as powerful and energetic as their previous — and they’re still downtuning their guitars a half-step here — but so many of these songs are just begging to be cranked up. [And if the lyrics to “A Girl Like You” sound familiar, it’s because the song was originally written for the John Cusack movie Say Anything but not used as it pretty much gave the entire plot away!]

Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine, released 20 October 1989. If there’s one album that bridges the gap between my life in the late 80s and what was to come in the early 90s, it’s this one. An album so full of spite, pain, depression and desperation that distilled what I was feeling at the time, all wrapped up in one record. And when they came to town in November to play on Landsdowne Street just outside Kenmore Square, I was there in the mosh pit, pissed off and needing to bleed it all out of my system. I would often return to this one album whenever I knew I was veering towards the darker side of my moods. And believe me, I returned to it a lot for a few years there.

Men Without Hats, The Adventures of Women & Men Without Hate in the 21st Century, released 30 October 1989. After the surprising popularity if 1987’s Pop Goes the World and its title track, the Hats followed up with another AOR-level popfest that might not exactly be chartworthy but goes in some really interesting and unexpected directions, including the pro-feminist anti-abuse single “Hey Men” and a fascinating cover of ABBA’s “SOS”.

The Psychedelic Furs, Book of Days, released 30 October 1989. The Furs closed out their stellar 80s run with a heavy, murky record full of tension and discomfort, but it features some of my favorite later-era songs of theirs as well, including the above. [TW: the video has a lot of strobe effects.]

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More to come soon!

WIS Presents: The Boston Years I

I’ve been putting this off for years, and I think it’s high time: let’s take an extended look at the music that I listened to in my five years while living in Boston, from September 1989 to August 1995. That’s five years’ worth of music, so this one’s going to take quite a lot of time. Which is fine, because I’ve been wanting to revisit a lot of these!

Some of these albums will have good memories tied to them. Some of them won’t. Some of them will just be background soundtracks while others will have deep personal meaning. It was five rollercoaster years of good and bad, and I think it’s high time I made peace with them.

I started Emerson College in the fall of 1989, living on the third floor (room 306) of Charlesgate, the tall former hotel that sits on the corner of Beacon and Charlesgate East, just a few blocks east of Kenmore Square. This was back when the school’s campus — such as it was — was situated at the other end of Back Bay, at the intersection of Beacon and Berkeley. I’d take the school shuttle from one end to the other most days, but walking the length (just under a mile) wasn’t so bad either.

Mind you, I was going in with good intentions that may have been extremely rose-colored and innocently hopeful, and it didn’t quite turn out the way I’d expected. I was hoping for a cool roomie with excellent tastes in college rock and ended up with a somewhat rude hipster that merely tolerated me. I was trying to maintain a pre-internet long-distance relationship that I too often became overdependent on. My so-so grades remained so-so (most likely a mix of ADD-like distraction, depression and not really knowing how to study properly), and I was perpetually broke.

On the plus side? I’d brought my bass with me and practiced on that thing like no tomorrow. I used some of my spare time writing outtakes and comic strips. And I could easily head home for the weekend just by jumping on the train at North Station. That’s the one thing I remember the most during those years: those trips home to clear my brain and reset my mood, and coming back on Sunday evening refreshed for another round.

Love and Rockets, Love and Rockets, released 4 September 1989. Their fourth album was a distinct change from their previous three, veering away from the dreamlike acoustics and hippie psychedelia and heading straight for noisy post-punk of the Jesus & Mary Chain variety. While the teaser single “So Alive” — the first L&R single to hit the American charts and kickstarting an alternative renaissance just a few years before grunge took over — was a pure pop song, the rest of the album went from the anger of “**** (Jungle Law)” to the boisterous groove of “Motorcycle” and back. It’s an odd album, but it’s definitely a good one.

Camper Van Beethoven, Key Lime Pie, released 5 September 1989. This was kinda sorta CVB’s swan song for the 80s, as lead singer David Lowery headed off to form the very successful Cracker. (They didn’t really brake up so much as go on hiatus, sneaking out a few songs here and there on the interim.) This was also another good example of a well-loved indie band vanishing just as its popularity was rising and had joined a semi-major label (Virgin).

Soundgarden, Louder Than Love, released 5 September 1989. Well before Superunknown and even Badmotorfinger, these PNW guys were making their way through their original sludge-metal sound and heading from indie label SST to major A&M Records. It was definitely not in my wheelhouse at the time — I was still deeply immersed in the slightly less angry post-punk/college rock soundscape — but after giving it a few listens courtesy of my freshman year college roommate, it grew on me.

Big Audio Dynamite, Megatop Phoenix, released 5 September 1989. This can kind of be considered the last album of the first BAD phase, before the 1990 band member shuffling, and on its own it’s a stellar achievement. While it’s not as experimental as their previous records, every song is a banger and it remains one of my favorites.

Julee Cruise, Floating Into the Night, released 12 September 1989. It is fascinating how this project stemmed from David Lynch’s inability to snag the rights to This Mortal Coil’s “Song to the Siren” for his movie Blue Velvet. A few years and a theme song for a truly weird TV show later, Cruise debuted with this absolutely glorious album of extreme delicateness. And “Falling” really is a lovely song, even after all these years.

Lenny Kravitz, Let Love Rule, 19 September 1989. Lenny’s first album was a huge hit on WFNX, its title track getting immediate heavy rotation. I was drawn to this album because it refused to be pigeonholed into one specific genre — it could fit just as easily on alternative radio as it could on pop and R&B stations — and his songcraft was absolutely stellar from the first song.

The Sugarcubes, Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week!, released 20 September 1989. Their sophomore follow-up to the career-defining Life’s Too Good suffered a little by being overly long and containing a few filler tunes, but in retrospect it really is a good album despite that.

The Mighty Lemon Drops, Laughter, released 20 September 1989. The follow-up to the band’s fantastic World Without End sounds more polished and mature, and contains some absolutely lovely tracks, including their biggest hit “Where Do We Go from Heaven” which has been described as their take on The Church’s “Under the Milky Way”.

Tears for Fears, The Seeds of Love, released 25 September 1989. Their third album, coming four years after their smash Songs from the Big Chair, led them in some new directions: psychedelic pop, and soul. “Sowing the Seeds of Love” borrows heavily from The Beatles, while the moving “Woman in Chains” is a stunning single that became one of their most popular later hits.

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That’s quite a month to start off my college years, yeah? I remember I bought most of these up the street in Kenmore Square, either at Nuggets (back when they were in a musty basement) or at Planet Records just up the block. Suffice it to say, I knew that living right down the street from a shopping district that would certainly take all my money and then some was going to be a dangerous thing. Did that stop me, though…? Heh.

Stay tuned, maybe we might even make it to the end of 1989…?

Favorite Albums: Think Tree, ‘eight/thirteen’

I never really got along with my freshman year roommate in college for various reasons and we rarely had anything in common except certain tastes in music. We both leaned heavily towards college radio and things alternative. He was quite a bit more into the indie scene than I was — he went to all the shows whereas I was just fine sitting alone on my bed with the headphones on listening to it — but occasionally our paths crossed and we introduced each other to different bands.

Think Tree was one of his favorites that he foisted upon me pretty early on, and I loved them immediately. They were a local Boston band that defied any easy description; they seemed to embrace the same gloomy semi-industrial sound of Nine Inch Nails (but without the apocalyptic nihilism), the off-kilter humor and weirdness of Butthole Surfers (but without all the body-horror jokes) and maybe even a bit of the musical ubernerdiness of Wire (but without getting too arty about it).

“Hire a Bird” was their first official single, dropped at the tail end of 1989, and it was a huge favorite of the college radio stations, as well as both WBCN and WFNX, who had always gone out of their way to champion any local band with pride. It’s definitely a weird song but it’s catchy as hell. Singer Peter Moore delivers his vocals with an affected hillbilly grampaw lisp (something he’d do for most of their first album and live sets), over a bed of Will Ragano’s acoustic guitar, Jeff Beigert’s popping percussion, and the samples and synths of Paul Lanctot and Krishna Venkatesh. The resulting din is so off-kilter yet weaves around itself so perfectly that it works. And surprisingly, the song is a highly poetic sermon about the dangers of environmental disaster, with a semi-hopeful ‘at least we’re trying to fix it all’ chorus. The final sample that ends the song, lifted from the football game scene in Robert Altman’s MASH and taken completely out of context to underscore the song’s theme (‘we are our own enemy’), was the icing on the cake.

It took nearly a full year for the band to finish off and release their first album eight/thirteen, but it was highly anticipated by the local fans and stations. Record delays are always a dangerous thing, because when they are finally released, the scene that the record would easily fit into often no longer exists in that form. There are so many excellent albums out there that never quite reach their full potential due to fans having moved onto the next sound or scene. [This, alas, would happen to Think Tree themselves when they spent nearly two years between this and their second album Like the Idea, which is great on its own yet failed to find interest in a scene now obsessed with grunge and Britpop.]

The songs of eight/thirteen feature the best of their live set of 1988-90, hitting all their heights and highlighting their car-crash style. Sometimes it’s serious and gloomy, other times it’s funny and poppy, sometimes it’s both at once. Songs like “The Lovers” are goth dance, while songs like “Memory Protect” hint at the sample-heavy clang of Einsturzende Neubauten or Test Dept.

I got to see Think Tree a few times live during my college years, and I firmly believe that was their best platform, as they put on a raucous, hilarious, and completely bonkers show every single time. You never knew what was going to happen, or what the hell Moore was going to sing or chant about next (he had a brilliant ability to riff a wild fire-and-brimstone sermon like a demented Elmer Gantry, especially on songs like live favorite “The Word”). They would sing about prehistoric monsters (‘Iguanodon’), strong women of the wild west (1992 single ‘Rattlesnake’) and the strangeness of religions (‘Holy Cow’, another live favorite with its wonderful chorus “you worship the thing that goes moo!”) and whatever else they could think of and make it sound both freakish and fun at the same time. It was like watching a band that would have fit perfectly on The Adventures of Billy and Mandy. Album closer “The Moon” (formerly the b-side to the “Hire a Bird” single) is a perfect example of this.

Moore has recently dropped a few Bandcamp releases from the band over the years, with two live rarities albums in 2020 and a demos-and-b-sides rarities album this year (fittingly, all of them dropped on August 13). eight/thirteen is still available for streaming and downloading elsewhere, though Like the Idea is still a bit harder to get due to it having been released on Caroline Records. Most of their songs are available on YouTube, alongside a few interesting rarities like a Dutch TV appearance. Moore would continue his musical career (and his musical oddness) under the name Count Zero and even popped up as a bandmate for Blue Man Group! This album does remain quite the oddity but it’s still one of my favorites from my college years.

Mixtape: Listen in Silence…The Singles II

This one reminds me of Silver Lake Cemetery. In that short summer between graduating high school and entering college, I got a job at my home town’s Public Works department and spent the entire season mowing the several local cemeteries. Silver Lake had always been my favorite because it was the biggest and most varied in landscape and we could take our time with it. We could easily find a quiet spot and hide for an hour if we wanted. It gave me a lot of time to think. I went through cases of AA batteries listening to my Walkman that summer.

I really love this one a lot; I played this one to the point of nearly wearing it out. It’s full of songs then getting airplay on 120 Minutes, WMDK, records picked up at Al Bum’s and Main Street Music, with a few oddities thrown in. I’d started it with the two first tracks on each side, requested from a friend’s music collection, and I built it up from there. The idea was for the first side to be upbeat and/or energetic, with the flipside being downbeat and/or moody. It wasn’t the last complete mixtape of my hometown teen years — the first Untitled gets that honor a few months later, which I’ll post here at a later time — but it does have that feeling of finality, which was deliberate, especially with that Smiths/Joy Division double-punch at the end. I was more than ready to escape this place and head out into the real world.

[Side notes: The Procol Harum song does stick out a bit, but the reason it’s there is because it was used prominently in the movie New York Stories which my friends and I had gone to see that summer. The GnR song sticks out a bit too, and that was because it had originally been added more as an add to my collection rather than an integral part of the mixtape, but it does kind of fit moodwise. The two Love and Rockets songs are in fact the very same song, played in completely different styles, fitting in perfectly with my upbeat/downbeat theme.]

Listen in Silence…The Singles II, created June 1989

Side A
1. That Petrol Emotion, “Creeping to the Cross”
2. Siouxsie & the Banshees, “The Killing Jar”
3. The Cure, “Babble”
4. The Smiths, “The Queen is Dead”
5. Soul Asylum, “Sometime to Return”
6. Love and Rockets, “Motorcycle”
7. The Cure, “Fascination Street [Extended Remix]”
8. Voice of the Beehive, “Beat of Love”
9. The Smiths, “Shoplifters of the World”
10. Camouflage, “That Smiling Face”

Side B:
1. Guns n’ Roses, “Patience”
2. Talk Talk, “Life’s What You Make It”
3. REM, “The One I Love”
4. Procol Harum, “A Whiter Shade of Pale”
5. Julian Cope, “Charlotte Anne”
6. Ultra Vivid Scene, “Mercy Seat”
7. Love and Rockets, “I Feel Speed”
8. The Cure, “Plainsong”
9. The Smiths, “Reel Around the Fountain”
10. Joy Division, “Atmosphere”

Martin Gore’s ‘Counterfeit ep’ De-Counterfeited

The mini-album is thirty years old as of this past June. It was one of my favorites to listen to during that summer and right into my freshman year in college. Gore has always been one of my favorite songwriters, as he certainly knows how to write an absolutely gorgeous ballad like “Somebody” and a brilliant pop gem like “Enjoy the Silence”. This record popped out just a few months after Depeche Mode’s live album 101 and sometimes gets overlooked, especially since it’s a set of six covers. It’s more of a curiosity than anything else, but you can definitely hear how deeply they influenced Gore’s songwriting style over the years.

So! Instead of posting the Martin Gore versions, I thought I’d so something I’ve been wanting to do for years: listen to the originals in this running order! Enjoy!

Track 1: “Compulsion”, originally by Joe Crow. I’d never heard this version until a few months later when someone on WZBC (Boston College’s station) played it. It’s a good example of the brittle and sparse post-punk synthwave from the early 80s.

Track 2: “In a Manner of Speaking”, originally by Tuxedomoon. This is one of those bands I’d heard so much about (thanks in part to the Trouser Press Record Guide and plenty of music journalists) but never heard at all until years later, because they were just so damned hard to find!

Track 3: “Smile in the Crowd”, originally by The Durutti Column. One of Factory’s first signings, they didn’t translate at all here in the States unlike their label mates Joy Division/New Order. Essentially a one-man-band of Vini Reilly (plus whoever happens to be around to help), his output is surprisingly lengthy, and he’s still putting out music years later.

Track 4: “Gone”, originally by The Comsat Angels. Now this band I knew about (they were called “The CS Angels” in the US) and I really liked their Chasing Shadows record from a few years previous. Sadly it took me forever to get around to getting the rest of their discography! They’re a great band worth checking out.

Track 5: “Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth”, originally by Sparks. An American band that ended up being so much more popular in the UK, they nonetheless had a dedicated following here. They’re kind of weird and quirky, but they write such amazing songs! Yet another absurdly prolific band.

Track 6: “Motherless Child”, traditional. It’s not known which version Martin Gore was inspired by, if any, but his version seems closest to the slow gospel version of The Les Humphries Singers and Liz Mitchell.

Walk in Silence 21

Love And Rockets

(Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns/Getty Images)

The summer of 1989 was spent mostly in cemeteries.

No, I hadn’t decided to go full-on goth…I was in the Cemetery, Park and Tree Division of the DPW, lugging lawn mowers in the back of the town trucks around to most of the local cemeteries.  We on the summer help team would cut the grass around the headstones and the odd niches, and one of the regular full-timers would come riding around on a John Deere and cut the rest.  We’d usually be one or two sections ahead of the riders, so occasionally we’d sneak into one of the wooded areas and enjoy the shade.  The cycle of cutting was such that by the time we made our rounds at all our usual stops, it was time to cut the grass on the first location again.  My favorite cemetery to mow was Silver Lake; it’s the largest in town (a few of my relatives are buried there), so it would take a few days to finish, and we’d have so much more time to goof off.

Me?  I got along just fine with everyone at the job.  They thought I was a bit weird, wearing my Cure and Smiths tee-shirts and all and listening to that weird shit, but I gave as good as I got, and got the job done as needed.  I brought my Walkman (I finally had an official Sony by that time!) and listened to all kinds of stuff during my job, both old and new:  Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade, Bauhaus’ Swing the Heartache: The BBC Sessions, most of my 1988-89 compilations to date, The The’s Mind Bomb, Concrete Blonde’s self-titled, The Cure’s Disintegration and The Head on the Door, most of Cocteau Twins’ Treasure, The Moon and the Melodies and most of their EPs from that era, and so much more.  I’m pretty sure I went through fifty or sixty dollars’ worth of AA batteries that summer.

I also started focusing a bit more seriously on the writing.  The IWN had pretty much gone into stasis, the Belief in Fate project was complete, so I focused mostly on my lyrics and poetry writing.  I also worked on my guitar chops, both on my bass and on my sister’s acoustic.  I’d gotten better, though my chord-shifting still needed a hell of a lot of work.  Given that I was outside for most of the day and hiding inside in the evening during the hot summer, I didn’t have much else to do except listen to a lot of music and let my influences get the best of me.

This was a bit of a double-edged sword, as I found myself returning to my ‘morose bastard’ ways again, even though I was in a strong relationship and was heading out into the Big Bad World in a few months.  Perhaps it was a bit of melancholy I felt in realizing that I’d finally be letting go of both the good and the bad of my youth.  Maybe it was a bit of sadness that I’d be heading off to Boston and leaving Tracey back home for another three years.  Maybe it’s that I’d be even further away from my friends and would have to start over from scratch.  Maybe it was that I really had no idea what I truly wanted to do, but I was afraid to admit it, especially after I’d already committed to my choice of college.  Maybe it was a bit of all of this.

The end of the summer came quickly.  I worked pretty much all the way up to the last few weeks of August, taking maybe a week off before I was to head out the first week of September to my new destination.  Which meant any last minute music dubbing and compilation making would need to be done post haste!

fiasco

It also meant that, for a very brief time, I’d get to see all my Misfit friends again.  Chris borrowed his grandfather’s cabin out on Packard Pond north of town, and invited most of the Misfit crew in for a three day get-together (which he’d amusingly named a ‘fiasco’).  It was a purposely low-key party, just like most of ours, in which we listened to music, played various games, watched silly movies and cartoons, and went swimming.  There was even a tag sale up the street that we went to, where I bought a few things for my impending college years.  It was the vacation we all needed then, a few days of doing nothing but sleeping in, goofing off, chatting and just having fun.

If anything, I’d say this was the point where our friendship had truly become more than just being high school friends.  Many of us have drifted various ways over the years, but that summer was the moment when I truly knew that many of these people would be in my life for years to come.  I wouldn’t know when I’d be seeing them again after this, or if we’d be in constant touch with each other (remember, this was 1989, well before anyone of us used the internet)…but I knew that, despite that, we’d still find a way to make it happen.

I’d borrowed my mom’s car for that weekend, so I was one of the last people to head out when the party was over.  I packed my belongings in the back seat, helped Chris clean up, and saw him off.  He’d be heading back to his parents’ house for a bit and then head back to UMass in a few days, I’d be leaving the first week of September for Boston.

The Last Home Year had finally come to a close.

Throwback Thursday: Spring 1989

Ah, twenty-five years already, then? A quarter century already since I was a pimply, music-obsessed, self-proclaimed nonconformist and budding writer, twitchy and moody and waiting for my senior year in high school to be over and done with so I could go out and live in the Big Bad World. My senior year felt like a badly scripted, unwanted denouement, to be honest. I really should have been a year ahead. I say this now, well after the fact, because after twenty-five years of contemplation, I realize it wasn’t that I was lazy or had any learning deficiency, it’s that I was bored. And boredom begets distraction. And distraction begets so-so grades. And I never quite got out of that slump, not really. I think if I’d graduated in 1988 instead, it would have forced me to put more effort into it, made me work to my potential. It would have made me mature a hell of a lot quicker. As it happens, I ended up coasting for the rest of my education years instead when I should have excelled.

But that’s a different post altogether. This is a music blog, isn’t it?

Credit: flyerize.com

Credit: flyerize.com

Spring 1989 was right about the time when that beloved radio subgenre of mine, college rock, finally emerged from its late night perch and started making its presence known elsewhere. Well, that’s not entirely true. There’s a lot more to it than a wider audience. Consider the following:

–In late 1988 (the September 10th issue, to be exact), Billboard acknowledged the subgenre for the first time with a “Modern Rock Tracks” chart.

–The Top 40 of the late 80s was in flux, with all different kinds of pop music gaining traction. Top 40 rock was giving way to Top 40 dance music. Many production-ready sounds had emerged as well, thanks to production houses like Stock Aitken Waterman. This was especially embraced by the poppier end of the MTV playlist, thanks to heavy rotation as well as shows like Club MTV. This let the occasional unexpected hit sneak into the charts now and again, giving other subgenres an opening for success.

–The rock sounds of early in the decade and the one before it–the arena rock, the LA glam metal, the Michael-Mann-approved, Miami Vice-ready mood pieces, and the last dregs of 70s bar band sounds–had begun to age, and age badly. Harder, more serious rock like Guns n’ Roses and Metallica became the accepted norm. [Come to think of it, this is probably around the same time many FM rock stations divided between “current rock” and “classic rock” formats.]

credit: discogs.com

credit: discogs.com

–Several British subgenres of rock emerged or were noticed in America about this time as well: shoegaze, Madchester, Britpop, etc. Many were noticed and release by major American labels at this time. They may not have made high chart placement, but they were starting to get noticed. Several local US scenes were gaining traction as well: Seattle, Boston, Athens, and so on.

–Even the American punk scene was in flux, many of its major late-70s/early-80s players (Hüsker Dü, The Replacements, Black Flag, et al) either having broken up, evolved considerably, or on their way to self-destruction. There would always be the hardcore punk in its many sounds and guises, and it would remain in the shadows where it wanted to be, but the newer sounds were more steeped in the post-punk sound–equally as emotional in its delivery, but more melodic and adventurous in its sound. This sound was less influenced by the DIY punk ethos and more by the UK post-punk sounds of just a few years earlier.

credit: thequietus.com

credit: thequietus.com

–Two years earlier in late 1987, we also saw an influx of uniquely college-rock bands releasing highly lauded albums, elevating them past the college-radio-only playlists and onto commercial radio: The Smiths, The Cure, Depeche Mode, REM, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and so on. Many of these were on Warner Bros-related labels, and a number of them had the backing of Sire Records head Seymour Stein. [Seriously, we need a bio of this man, STAT…he was such a big influence on the New Wave scene.]

By 1989, for this music nerd and self-proclaimed nonconformist, I felt both liberated and a little saddened by this change in the weather. On the one hand, I was thrilled that the music I had so loved since that fateful evening in April 1986 was finally getting its due…but at the same time, it felt like it was losing its mystique in the process. After all, this was the music I listened to on my own. It was my music, the songs that spoke to me. I tried to take the high road with this one, though…I felt it was high time my peers stopped listening to the prepackaged crap that radio was feeding us and listen to music with substance.

Credit: discogs.com

Credit: discogs.com

Style versus substance…that was the big debate of the 80s, wasn’t it? Do you want something pleasing to the eyes and ears but superficial, or do you want something of deep meaning but not exactly pretty to look at or listen to? I’d like to think that’s why New Order chose Substance as the title for its 1987 hits collection (and by extension, its Joy Division collection as well); they may also be making sequenced dance music, but put “Blue Monday” side by side with “Never Gonna Give You Up” and one can definitely hear the difference. One was destined for status of classic dance track that’s still embraced today, the other the subject of a hokey (yet admittedly amusing) internet meme. The genre could be similar, but the quality couldn’t be any more different.

Then there’s also the change that comes with the change in decades as well. It’s often been noted that the last few years of a decade tend to show a decline in the interests that once defined them–the flower power of 1967 gave way to the high-octane politics of 1968; the blissful haze of the 70s gave way to the discontent of the late 70s. The paranoia and the wackiness of the early 80s was giving way to the more serious and reflective late 80s. There was also the fact we were coming in on the last decade of the millennia as well. We wondered what the 90s would bring us–the promised jetpacks? World peace? Information at our fingertips? The possibilities!

I’d like to think that this calmer introspection was yet another piece in the puzzle that led to college rock, and in effect other rock subgenres, becoming more acceptable. Yes, I know, it might be a stretch, but think about it–when you’re thirteen, things you dislike are stupid (or in the 80s New England parlance, fucken retahded), but when you’re hitting eighteen and about to head off to college, these things aren’t as important on your popularity scale and you start accepting different things easier. Where Metallica was once only listenable to those long-haired smoking weirdos who wore denim jackets and drove to school in Camaros, in 1989 they had a massive hit with the song “One”–a song based on a 30s war novel at that. By 1989 we had chart hits from Faith No More, Fine Young Cannibals, Love and Rockets, REM, The B-52s, Nine Inch Nails, and more.

Credit: discogs.com

Credit: discogs.com

In early May, just as I was finally winding down my educational years in my small hometown, The Cure released what would be considered their best album ever, Disintegration. It was prefaced by two different singles: in the UK, the slinky and creepy “Lullaby” reached all the way to #5, and in the US the darker and angrier “Fascination Street” became their first US chart hit, hitting #1 on the new Modern Rock Tracks list. This was new stuff for those unfamiliar with the band, and for those like me and my close friends, this was definitely new stuff. The Cure had always retained a darker sound since their inception, but after the much brighter sounds of 1985’s The Head on the Door and the poppier, more psychedelic sounds of 1987’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Disintegration was an altogether different affair. It was epic not only in scope but in sound, “mixed to be played loud so turn it up” as the liner notes suggest. It was as dark, it was moody, and it was absolutely, stunningly gorgeous.

This album fit perfectly as a final step towards the end of the decade, and it was the soundtrack to the last remaining days I spent in my hometown. I’d spend the summer working for the DPW in the town cemeteries, and I’d be listening to this album on repeat on my Walkman while I pushed lawn mowers all over the place. I’d listen to it at night that summer, now that WAMH out of Amherst College was off the air for the season. I’d been writing a gloriously doom-laden teen roman à clef and several poems/lyrics at the time (you know how it is when you’re that age), and used this album as a soundtrack as well. And when August rolled around and my buddy Chris had his first of a few “fiasco” parties as his grandfather’s cabin out on Packard Pond, this album got heavy airplay both on our tape players while we laughed, played cards and did other silly things, and again on my Walkman as I finally climbed into bed later that night.

On the last day of that party, after we all cleaned and straightened up and headed back to our homes, I sat on the front porch at my parents’ house and listened to it one more time on my headphones, composition book in hand in case inspiration arose. “Homesick” came on, and I latched on to the lyrics: “So just one more, just one more go / inspire in me, the desire in me, to never go home.” It was the perfect ending quote to my life up to that time–not that I don’t like it here, but PLEASE give me a reason to move on. It was the end of summer, I’d be heading to Boston for college in a month, and I was just itching to get started with the new chapter of my life. And to add to the bittersweet end of the season, the last track, “Untitled”, came on with its slightly-offkey melodica intro, creating a melody that would repeat ad nauseum until all the instruments left again, leaving the offkey melodica drifting way. The lyrics to “Untitled” were the polar opposite of “Homesick”, a last tearful goodbye delivered with such a mortal finality it felt like heartache. While the former was “okay, time to move on and embrace the future”, the latter was “oh, and by the way–you can never return to the past.”

Indeed, I could not, no matter how much I may have wanted to.

*

I’ve returned to my past many times over the years, mostly with writing works in progress, song lyrics and poems, and quite a few blog posts, but I understand that I can’t stay there indefinitely. It took me little while in college to understand that, but I eventually got over it. Now, I enjoy heading back to the days of the late 80s, especially with my overly large music collection. I like to listen to what came out back then and compare it to what’s out now. I can see and hear the cycles now, the songs of yesterday hidden in the songs of today. I talk with many of the same people in that circle of friends online now, even though a continent separates us. I might not be the twitchy self-proclaimed nonconformist anymore, though I am still that writer and music nerd.

So I think after twenty-five years, it’s a good balance.

WiS: We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use It!!

I’ve been wanting to write this post since the two remastered cds came out in the middle of last year, and now I can finally do so! We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use It!!, aka Fuzzbox here in the states, was a cute and punky quartet out of Birmingham UK, and one of my first music crushes when I started listening to alternative rock. They’d been brought to my attention right about the same time as Sigue Sigue Sputnik in the glossy music mag Star Hits, and upon seeing their crazy-colored and spritzed hair and Goodwill-chic punky fashion, I was completely hooked–which in all honesty wasn’t really hard, considering it didn’t take much to rebel in a small town like mine. They made me realize punk wasn’t just about rebelling against society, like American punk had suggested–it was also about doing your own thing, however out there it might be, and not giving a shit about what other people thought about it.

Fuzzbox was only together for a short time, releasing only two albums and a handful of singles (like most punk bands were wont to do during the 80s, it seems) before going their separate ways, but they were just so damn fun to listen to that it didn’t matter.

Credit: last.fm - l-r, Tina, Vix, Magz & Jo

Credit: last.fm – l-r, Tina, Vix, Magz & Jo

Fuzzbox started sometime in 1985 with four friends who’d decided to start a band. And like any punk band worth their salt at the time, mastering your instrument wasn’t exactly high on the list of priorities. Consisting of Vickie Perks (aka Vix) on vocals, Tina O’Neill on drums and sax, and sisters Maggie (aka Magz–vocals, keys and guitars) and Jo Dunne (bass, guitars and keys), they immediately jumped in on the occasional open mike night at the local bars and learned their chops onstage. It’s said Maggie was the creator of the band name, announcing that they did in fact have a fuzz distortion guitar pedal they were about to use.

Their debut single was the gritty and poppy “XX Sex”, with shockingly direct feminist lyrics about exploitation and sexism in the media. They followed up with a ridiculous and silly summer single with labelmates The Nightingales and Ted Chippington with “Rockin’ with Rita”, and by summer’s end they were given a spot on the highly influential NME C86 compilation with “Console Me”. They prefaced their debut album that October with a jittery and bass-heavy single about unrequited love, “Love Is the Slug”, my musical introduction to them via MTV’s 120 Minutes.

Credit: fuzzbox.angelfire.com

Credit: fuzzbox.angelfire.com

Bostin’ Steve Austin (released as a self-titled album here in the states, but with the same cover) was released in December of 1986, featuring a dozen gems about the girls’ life in Birmingham–not just containing the teen heartbreak of “Love Is the Slug” and “Jackie”, it also contains the confrontational “XX Sex” and “What’s the Point” (their follow-up single released in January of 1987) and “Preconceptions”, as well as a weirdly hypnotic cover of Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky”. The quality of the music here is surprisingly tight, even when it hints at sounding on the verge of disintegrating into a distorted mess. Vix’s lyrics alternate between playful, angry, and emotional, and despite the simplicity of the melodies there’s a lot going on musically. The stop-start of “You Got Me”, the building tension in “Love Is the Slug” and even the 60s-girl-group pastiche of “Hollow Girl” works perfectly.

Bostin’ Steve Austin got a ridiculous amount of play on my tape players between early 1987 and mid-1989–this was the side of punk that I gravitated to, the revelation that I didn’t have to try fitting in with the in-crowd anymore. I didn’t really need to do much, of course–wear some of my college rock tee-shirts, my grandfather’s green trenchcoat, and let my hair grow out of its quintessentially 80s spiky ‘do (but not to the point of longhaired metaldom), and start writing music reviews for albums hardly anyone else in my school listened to.

Meanwhile, Fuzzbox disappeared for a short while, and would reappear in early 1989 with a completely new and unexpected look and sound. I admit I wasn’t entirely sure how to approach it at first, having twitched and thought “oh god, they’ve become Jem and the Holograms.” But there was something about it…something about the slick late 80s production, the chart-ready poppiness, that called to me. I began to realize that this was the forbidden candy for me as a fan of college rock, the ultimate test: do I dare admit that, after labeling myself an alternative music nerd and a nonconformist, that I actually enjoyed this admittedly catchy music?

Credit: www.independent.ie - clockwise from top left: Vix, Maggie, Tina, Jo

Credit: http://www.independent.ie – clockwise from top left: Vix, Magz, Tina, Jo

Gone was the thrift-shop fashion as well, replaced by glitz and glamour. The fuzziness of their sound was also gone, replaced by shiny synthesizers and sequencers. They now had an outsider as a cowriter of songs in the form of session musician/producer Liam Sternberg. And yet…

…and yet, there was something about this new album, Big Bang, that I just could not give it up. I was older and now in college, and yet the music hinted at the readymade poppiness of 80s Top 40, the kind that was throwaway and yet catchy and likable at the same time. The Brummie humor was still there, hiding in the lyrics of lead single “International Rescue”, a loving ode to the Gerry Anderson tv classic Thunderbirds (and, in the video, a humorous nod to Jane Fonda’s Barbarella as well).

Credit: musicstack.com

Credit: musicstack.com

Big Bang kicked off with the irresistibly poppy “Pink Sunshine” (and also released as the second single) and my immediate reaction was to wonder where the hell my punk goddesses had gone off to…but I soon understood what they were doing. This wasn’t about rebelling, not anymore. It was about being an adult now, having gotten over the teenage growing pains. These were the Brummie girls stuck in their jobs, dealing with the drudgery of the real world and letting it all loose at the end of the working week.
There’s a lot of flirting and emotion going on with this album, and that’s part of what makes it so irresistible. There’s the rocking sci-fi of “Fast Forward Futurama”, the heartbreak of “Self!” (featuring the guitar work of none other than Queen’s Brian May!), and the gorgeous dancefloor bliss of “Versatile for Discos and Parties” (quite possibly my favorite track off the album). There’s even a brilliant cover of Yoko Ono’s “Walking on Thin Ice”, retaining the song’s mystique but giving it additional emotional beauty. The album ends on a very somber yet lovely note with a track called “Beauty”, which sounds like nothing else they’ve ever recorded.

Big Bang‘s shameless pop wasn’t shameless at all–it was a loving tribute to the dance pop of the decade, one that was about to come to a close. The sound of 80s pop would age, and often not for the best, but when it was done right, it was still fun to listen to. A few years later, once I discovered anime movies and series, from Urusei Yatsura and Silent Möbius and later to the Gall Force series and Sailor Moon, I began to realize that, thanks to Big Bang, I now had begun a long-lasting love affair with Japanese Pop (aka J-Pop). I began seeing the album as an unintended but spot-on paean to the J-Pop so prevalent in the credits and montages in anime, and that made me love the album even more. It’s pure pop, but it’s still irresistibly fun.

In 1990 they would release a final single, “Your Loss My Gain”, written for a never-realized third album, and while it seemed they were progressing in a more mature pop direction, they soon split up. They all went their separate ways. Only Vix remained in the music industry, recording under various band names including Vix n’ the Kix. Three compilations would surface a bit over a decade later: two albums of demos and outtakes called Fuzz and Nonsense and Rules & Regulations to Pink Sunshine: The Fuzzbox Story, and a greatest hits collection amusingly titled Look at the Hits on That (a very Fuzzbox-worthy pun title). And in 2010, Vix, Maggie and Jo reunited with the help of Vix’s backing band for a one-off single, a cover of M’s classic track “Pop Muzik”. Sadly, Jo would pass away from a cancer-related illness in 2012, but a year later, Vix decided it was time to rerelease the band’s 80s discography. Bostin’ Steve Austin would finally have its debut on compact disc, and Big Bang would contain all the remaining 80s tracks, including the “Your Loss My Gain” single.

We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use It!! was a band that influenced not just my listening habits but my way of life when I was growing up in the late 80s; it was a refreshing view of punk-as-freedom rather than punk-as-anger, and helped me realize that the music I listen to, then and now. My tastes still lean towards the alternative, but I’m not above the shamelessly pop, especially if it’s done well. In relistening to Bostin Steve Austin I now hear a lot of the intelligence and fearlessness in the lyrics, which makes me appreciate it all the more. And as an added bonus, they’re there if all I want is some great and fun music to listen to.

Check it out:
Bostin Steve Austin: Splendiferous Edition, at Amazon.co.uk
Big Bang!: Orgasmatron Edition, at Amazon.co.uk
“Pop Muzik” single on iTunes

WiS Notes – The Last Home Year

When I started my research for the Walk in Silence project last year, I’d decided to write some personal notes and reflections on how college radio affected me in the late 80′s.  It was a brief overview of what I want to cover in this book that lasted for twenty-five installments, a sort of a detailed outline of memories, thoughts on influential (to me) bands and albums, friendships, and such.  I’ll be posting these sporadically on the site over the next few weeks or so.

THE LAST HOME YEAR

Considering how I desperately wanted to escape the small town by the end of my senior year, I ended up spending a lot of time planting memories and even a few long-lasting friendships then.  Of course at the time I was doing my best to trim anything extraneous that I didn’t want to bring with me to college.  This was my preparation to start a new phase in my life and not look back.  (Best laid plans, but that’s another story entirely…)

I’d decided to call it “The Last Home Year” in honor of it being the last time I’d be there before heading out into the Big Scary World.  The title pretty much mostly referred to the music side of things—especially listening to WAMH.  I have four cassettes that I gave that name to, as that was apparently going to be the last year I’d listen to the station.  If I recall, it might have also been the last year for the student at Amherst who ran the “Haphazard Radio” show, by then one of the best shows ever that I’d heard.

This last half of the year was spent doing a lot of different things.  There was my budding relationship with Tracey, my preparation for college, hanging out with Kris…and it kept me busy
and distracted enough that I wouldn’t fall into a funk.  I was also heavily into my writing at the time as well—after finishing off the Infamous War Novel, I’d started revising it, reimagining and reworking certain parts of it.  There was also the poetry and lyrics, which I’d work on at any available moment (usually study halls and late at night, and sometimes at the radio station).  And there was Belief in Fate,  the story that started as fiction but soon became a fictionalized diary of real events, including my relationship with Tracey.  I kept myself as busy as possible, and I think it wasn’t just to avoid depression, but to kickstart my creative juices that had been semi-dormant for too long.

The start of 1989 seemed promising, musically…bands I’d gotten into in 1987 (New Order, the Replacements, XTC, and so on) were now releasing new titles at the start of the new year.  It sounds strange to say it, but while 1988 had a “late night” left-of-the-dial feel to its indie rock, 1989 started sounding more open, more fresh, like the previous year had been winter and it was now becoming spring—if that makes sense.  The music and the attitude seemed more outgoing and positive, as if it knew it was gathering more steam in becoming the prevalent rock genre, as it did a year or so later.  Many of these songs were getting significant airplay on college radio, and to some extend on the progressive stations like WMDK as well.  Lastly, they were also getting more play on 120 Minutes, which had become the de facto alternative show on TV.  Little by little, I’d also hear some of these songs on regular rock radio (that is, when I listened to it), and during the daytime on MTV.  Not much, but every now and again a gem would pop up. A more radio-friendly track like Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives Me Crazy” would show up on playlists, even if it had a weird video.  Most of these songs would stay on radio over the years, becoming AOR or Adult Alternative staples that you could listen to while at work.

[Side note:  I know there was a subculture of indie kids out there at the time that swore off this lighter alt.pop by decreeing it as selling out.  I should know, I had to contend with them in
college.   Still, it was stuff I liked, and I appreciated it because it was well-written music and good stuff compared to the overproduced pop of the time.  While I considered myself somewhat of a nonconformist, I certainly wasn’t a purist…I just couldn’t see myself rebelling against things I actually liked.]

I suppose some of this optimism came from my new relationship at the time.  So much so that I remember telling Tracey that after all those years of being moody and embracing dark ideas in my writing, now that I was with her I was kind of missing that dark side.  It sounded goofy at the time but it made sense—much of my poetry through most of 1988 was dark and angry or moody (and reminiscent of the Cure), and now that I’d fallen in love with someone, that moodiness had seemed kind of trite and lost its allure.  Which in effect was kind of interesting in that some of my non-relationship inspired poetry reflected  loss of something I felt close to for so long.  Funny how I felt that towards emotions I was used to, and not my fellow classmates.

And of course at the start of May, there was the new Cure album, Disintegration.

I’d heard they’d be coming out with a new album that year, and by that time I was a huge fan of the band—I’d gotten into them via Standing on a Beach and had gotten a few of their earlier albums on cassette, and 1987’s Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me was on  heavy rotation for quite some time.  The first US single off this new album, “Fascination Street”, had been released in late April (and the UK’s first single, “Lullaby”, had garnered some college airplay as well) and I found the cassette single in my Walkman on many a morning on the way to school.  My first reaction to the single was that of awe, as it was darker and heavier than the singles on their last few albums (their previous single was the silly “Hot Hot Hot!!!” which, interestingly enough, had been released around the same time as Buster Poindexter’s similarly titled song—guess which one got more commercial airplay?).  Chris and I were both eagerly awaiting the release.  He bought it on the release day (May 2nd), and I bought it soon after.  I remember hearing it at a mall department store’s music section, and couldn’t wait to pick it up.  And when I did, I wasn’t let down.

The Last Home Year, like I said, was that of preparation.  With my music collection, I had decided that bringing the entire thing to college would probably be a bit much—the same with
the books I had and the stories I was writing at the time.  On a more personal level, Tracey and I saw each other as often as we could, going out on dates and hanging out during the
school day.  My mindset at the time was that I’d finally gotten to the point of escaping this small town—not so much that I was bored or angry with the town itself, but the restrictions it had put on me over the last few years.  I knew that once September rolled around, I’d be in Boston, staying up all hours, going to used record stores when I wanted, and hanging out with all sorts of new people.  I wasn’t so much sick of the people I’d known since childhood, as I just wanted to branch out.

Listening to the radio and my music collection got me through most of that.  There were, of course, bouts of depression and loneliness (the downside being that I’d be further away from most of my friends from two years previous), and most of that was grist for the writing mill—the passages of Belief in Fate and my poetry in particular.

The Last Home Year was also the year of Killing Music By Home Taping.  Let’s be honest, I understood the worry behind that movement, but when you’re a high school student saving up for college and you want to beef up your collection in preparation for it, you end up bothering all your friends with cool collections, stock up on blank tapes from Radio Shack, and dub like crazy.  I’d done that the previous year with Chris—added to the fact that I’d made a list of my own collection for others to borrow if they wanted to copy from me—and it worked out well.  I’d go over to friends’ houses and peruse their collections (holding back on the urge to organize it for them), and sometimes borrow over the weekend.  Some people I could count on certain styles and genres—Chris usually had the alt-rock and punk stuff I didn’t have, Kris had the John Hughes soundtracks, REM and the poppier stuff, Nathane had the weird industrial and punk stuff, and the Cocteau Twins I didn’t have.  I remember one time at my shift at WCAT where Kris and I were chatting on the phone shooting the breeze and making plans on who was going to borrow what at the end of the week.  That isn’t to say I avoided buying music—in fact, I made even more trips down to Amherst and Northampton (and Leominster) with my sisters or my Dad (or Chris and the gang if they were home) and bought many new and used things from the stores out that way.  I even bought a number of cheap titles from Columbia House, something I did well into college.

Suffice it to say, I accumulated quite a lot of music in early 1989…

30 November 2010 – 4 January 2011