Walk in Silence 0


I’ve been listening to college radio and alternative rock for thirty years as of this week.

Currently, I’m kind of cheating and switching between the XMU station on SiriusXM, RadioBDC, and a host of college stations via their streaming feed, but the point remains — the singer here (Paul Westerberg at his alcoholic best/worst on Let It Be) is barely making it through the song without stumbling.  You can hear the liquor in his voice.  It’s a classic song of generational discontent, as Wikipedia points out.  I heard the same thing back then, in my bedroom, late at night, and I felt the same thing: who the hell let him close to the mike?

But truly, that was exactly what endeared me to the alternative rock genre, and still does to this day.  The fact that studio time was given to a musician of middling proficiency and questionable talent amused me then, and impresses me now.  Well — at this point, anyone with a laptop, a few microphones and some cheap recording and mixing software can lay down their own music.  And thanks to the internet, they no longer need to jockey for position at the local radio station or bar; they can upload their latest song on Bandcamp hours after making the final mix, and let their small tribe of listeners know it’s out there.

There’s a lot of excellent indie rock out there if one chooses to actively look for it.  Some listeners like myself spend far too much time and money on it, but we love it just the same.  Again with the internet: many college stations stream their shows on their website, so someone like myself, now living in San Francisco, just over a mile from the Pacific Ocean and a view of the Golden Gate Bridge just outside my window, can listen to the broadcast of Boston College’s WZBC.

The only thing missing, in my mind, is having a blank cassette at the ready, in case one of my favorite songs comes on.

That’s one of the original facets of alternative/indie rock, really…the ability to look in the face of popular culture and loudly and proudly profess that you’re not going to play that game, at least not by those rules anyway.  One of the whole points of the genre, harking back to the original UK punk wave of the late 70s (and much further back, depending on which rock genre you’re thinking about), was to make sounds under one’s own rules.

It was about a certain style of anarchy –a personal anarchy, wherein one fully embraces who they are and what they want to be, where one stops trying to fit in where they obviously don’t belong, where they find their own path without outside influence.  Be what you want to be, and fuck ’em if they can’t deal with it.


Every music fan has that story:  where did you first hear that new song, that favorite band, discover that new genre?  Every fan has a story where they heard a song or found a new radio station or a new genre for the first time where it just clicks: YES!  This is the thing that has pierced my soul, has connected with me in such a deeply personal way that I will never hear it the same way again!

Okay, maybe not in so many words: often it starts out with a distraction.  Yeah, I kind of dig this track.  It makes you stop and notice it.  You may not know exactly why just yet, but you’re not going to dwell on that right now.  But its primary job has been fulfilled: it’s gotten your attention.  You may be intrigued for the moment but forget it a half hour later, or it may stay with you for much longer, so much that you’ll end up looking for it the next time you’re at the local music shop.

Or, if you were like me in the middle of the 80s, you’d have a small ever-circulating pile of half-used blank tapes near your tape deck, and if you liked the song that much, you’d slam down the play and record buttons and let ‘er rip.

This is the story of how I got from there to here.


 Let me start with this: I was part of the inaugural MTV generation.  I was ten going on eleven.  I remember when I first saw the channel when it was offered on our newly-minted Time Warner Cable system, the first cable service in my hometown.  I remember the beige-colored box with the light brown label on top, listening all the channels we’d be getting.  I remember seeing MTV for the first time.  [For the record: my first MTV video was .38 Special’s “Hold On Loosely”.]  And most of all, I remember it was channel 24.  Even before we got cable, I’d already made plans to park my butt in front of the television and soak in the musical goodness.  Any music I heard from about 1982 onwards was considered Something Awesome in my book, especially if it had a video.  But even if it didn’t, that one network opened up something within me that turned music from a passing interest into an obsession.

Around the same time, I had pilfered the radio that had been gathering dust in the kitchen (an old model I believe must have been purchased at one of the local department stores a few decades earlier), and it was now at my desk.  I’d made little marks on the dial where my favorite stations were.  I’d fallen in love with rock radio.

Was it different from the sort-of-occasional listenings of records from our family collection, or the albums we’d take out from the library, or whatever was playing on the car stereo during family roadtrips?  In a way, yes.  Even then I’d gotten into the habit of listening to certain radio stations, but not to such an obsessive extent.  I’d gone from ‘now and again’ to ‘every single morning’ to ‘pretty much all day long’.  Other boys my ages were probably watching sports or playing outside or whatever it was we supposed to do, but I was perfectly happy sitting right next to the radio and enjoying each new song that came on.

The obsession with countdowns started around this time.  That was the fault of one of my older sisters who’d taped various songs off the radio at the turn of the decade, and had recorded part of the year-end countdown on the rock station we all enjoyed, WAQY 102.1 out of East Longmeadow.  A year or so later the torch was passed to me (well, more like I snagged it as she headed off to college).  WAQY had a contest in which, if you sent in the correct countdown list, they’d pick a random winner and give away every album that was on it.  Who was I to turn that down?  With an insane amount of focus and intent for a preteen, I wrote each artist, song on lined paper and duly mailed it in.  Never won, of coure, but that didn’t stop me from listening with rapt attention.

Thinking back, that’s probably what fueled my music obsession the most — between the countdowns and MTV, as well as radio in particular, I was glued to my desk or the living room couch, wondering what song or video would come next.

That went on for most of that decade, really.  From about 1981 or so onwards, I would always have a radio on, or I’d watch a good hour or so of MTV, just soaking everything in.  I really wasn’t too choosy about what songs came up, as long as they caught my interest.  That was partly due to listening to whatever my sisters were listening to in the 70s.  I could take Chicago’s easy-listening comeback albums the grandiose prog rock of Rush, and the guitar jangle of early REM.  A lot of the rock stations back then were more adventurous in their playlist, mixing past and present genres without a second thought.  Within the span of an hour I could hear the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Dire Straits, Van Halen, and maybe even an Ozzy or an AC/DC track.  In the early days of FM radio, there was always some element of free-form.

I was given a massive playlist to choose from, and I devoured pretty much all of it.

Current Book Status: Oh wow I thought I’d be outta here by now

I kind of hinted at this on my LJ yesterday, but I may as well make it semi-official here: I’m planning on releasing Walk in Silence, the book, in April of 2016.

So, what does this mean?  Well, for me, it means that I have six months to get my sh*t together, get a final version written, edited, formatted and ready for publication.  Yes, I will be doing the same as ADoS and self-releasing it through Smashwords and Amazon.  This, on top of working on the final revision and edit of The Persistence of Memories, other projects, and the Day Job.

Why April 2016?  Because that will mark thirty years (April vacation 1986, to be precise) since I’d discovered college radio and kickstarted an obsession that hasn’t gone away. I think an anniversary release would work nicely.  It’ll be tough, but I think I can do it.  It’s not a strict deadline, but that’s the one I’m aiming for.

So what’s the current status of the book, anyway?   That’s…a good question.  I have about six or seven different versions in various states of (in)completion, copious notes, a hell of a lot of reference material, but nothing actually complete.  Sure, it’s kind of crazy for me to think I can get it from complete disarray into a finished product in six months.  Especially when the theme of the book kept changing — I was originally going to write about the ‘college rock’ sound of the mid to late 80s.  Then I was going to write just about my obsession with it.  Then I was going to compile a history of the sound.  And then I realized that none of them really quite connected with what I wanted to write in the first place.  So while I distanced myself from it and worked on the ADoS release in the interim, I kept the project in the back of my mind and let it percolate.  What did I really want to do with it?

I can’t rightly say what it’ll exactly be about at this time, but now that I have time and inclination to complete this project, I’m happy to say I have a much clearer idea, and will be starting in on it this weekend.

In the meantime, don’t be surprised if you start seeing more 80s-themed posts and videos here within the next few months!  🙂

Writing Walk in Silence, the book

You may have seen my occasional tweets, or my weekend updates at my trusty old Live Journal, in which I’ve been voicing my surprise at how quickly Walk in Silence, the book, has been coming along.  As of today, I’m a few pages in to Chapter 5, in which I talk about key events of 1986 that bring me closer to my long-standing obsession with alternative rock–in this case, MTV’s addition of The Monkees, Monty Python’s Flying Circus and 120 Minutes, as well as my discovering college radio during spring break.

I chose to plot this book similar to how I’ve seen a number of creative non-fiction books written: the opening prologue introducing the ultimate key moment of the entire book (my discovering college radio), and in the ensuing first few chapters explaining how I got to that point.  In this case, this includes my other musical obsessions, namely the Beatles, listening to radio in general, and being a part of the first generation of MTV viewers.  Other things pop up, including Miami Vice, classic rock, American Top 40, and other decidedly non-alternative points.  Now that I’m back to that same prologue point, I can move forward focusing mostly on the alternative sounds from here on in.

The bit that surprises me the most is how far I’ve gotten in such a small time.  This is definitely a rough and relatively short first draft, as the word count is only at around 12k, but given the chronology I’ve given myself, I still have a ways to go.  I music collection did not expand nearly as much until around 1986 or so anyway.  Once I hit that Defining Moment, I was not only buying new alt-rock music, but catching up with the older stuff as well.  A good portion of this book will actually focus around 1986-1989–both around the time the genre started gaining more ground, as well it being a time of personal growth for me.

I haven’t given myself a hard deadline to get this first draft finished, but I have made a tentative guess that I should be done with it by the end of summer, perhaps sometime into early autumn.  By far the fastest I’ve ever written any book, first draft or no.  I think I’ve chalked this one up to the fact that I’ve been thinking about this stuff since the time the music came twenty some-odd years ago, and that I’ve been doing light research on it for at least five or six.  At this point I’m putting it all in focus and getting it all down on the screen.   Do I know how long the future drafts and revisions will take?  I’m not thinking about that right now, to be honest.  I just want to get it all out at this time; I’ll start fixing it on the next go-rounds.

Making it official…

Just posting here for posterity to say that I’ve just now (well, about 7:10pm PT, so a short time ago) officially started work on the BOOK of Walk in Silence. There’s two reasons for this:

1. I’m about twenty chapters away from finishing off the major revision of the Mendaihu Trilogy, and have noticed that I’ve been getting a lot more work done via my tablet just before bed than in the hour or so I usually give myself after dinner, so those last twenty chapters will be worked on there.

2. I’ve been itching to start something new for a good couple of years now, especially now that I’m on a good creative roll, and I’ve decided I just can’t wait anymore. It’s high time for me to kick this project into high gear.

Of course everything is in place: many of my reference books are about five feet away in a bookcase, I have SiriusXM’s “Classic College Radio” channel playing, I have a bottle of Dr Pepper open, and I’m finishing off my pint of Ben & Jerry’s Boston Cream Pie ice cream. [I can’t really say that it should be Mountain Dew and Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips–those are official Mendaihu Universe snacks, not WiS snacks. Not that I’m trying to set a new, fattening and sugary precedent here.]

SO! Be it known that as of 7:10pm PT on 4/29/2014, I’ve started officially working full-time on the book Walk in Silence. I will of course keep you all updated and post any interesting snippets or bits and bobs that may not get into the book but are definitely worth sharing.

Wish me luck! 🙂

Fly-by: Coming Soon

Hey there!  Sorry for the delay in posts…it’s been quite the busy month here in JoncWorld.  What with tax season, preparations and travel for a week’s vacation back to New England, some serious revision work going on, as well as other personal events, I’m afraid I’ve been lax here at Walk in Silence as of late.  I aim to change that (again).  So!  A short list of possible upcoming posts….

–Radio Radio: College radio versus Progressive radio in the 80s

–The Audience-less Live Album:  A (brief) subgenre, or shameless re-recording?

–Wanting My MTV: Free-form, New Wave and other subgenres on pre-1984 MTV

–Teenage Thunder: An overview of Sigue Sigue Sputnik (no, really!)

–Collecting in the Digital Age: Building an mp3 collection of classic albums and tracks


I hope to start writing these within the next week or so, after the Easter holiday.  Stay tuned! 🙂

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

Forty-five Minutes a Side

[Note: the last two Blogging the Beatles entries will arrive soon, promise!]

My friend Mark posted a picture of a 1991 Radio Shack ad earlier today, and it got me thinking about the amount of money that I spent as a kid at that place. Back in the early to mid 80s, it was on Main Street in downtown Athol, next door to Cinnamon’s Restaurant and just a few doors from my dad’s office. A few years later it moved just over the border into Orange, just across the road from the Shop & Save strip mall, but that never stopped me from asking my parents or my sisters to drive me over there so I could pick up my “toys”.

I wouldn’t exactly call myself a budding tech nerd back then, really. I wasn’t really that into most of the electronics that they had over there; no, this was more about the audio accessories they sold. Some time around 1983 or 1984 I came to the realization that I could connect our well-worn tape recorder to my stereo via a 3.5mm-to-1/4″ audio cable and dub things from vinyl, or even better, from tape to tape. This eliminated having to lay the tape recorder next to a speaker for a tinny, crappy, live sound, as well as having to worry about someone walking into the room and making noise. Pretty soon I had a small but very useful selection of audio components at my fingertips.

Credit: tapeheads.net

Credit: tapeheads.net

Radio Shack was also my go-to for the blank tapes as well. I’d bought them elsewhere, but this store had the best quality tapes, not those smalltime knockoffs with questionable quality. The store brand worked pretty well, but it was the slightly more expensive Memorex tapes that worked well for me. Their 80s version of the popular DBS 90 (see pic) was quite colorful, and decently priced as well. This was the go-to tape for your general music fan–basically, the “it doesn’t need to sound pristine, just decent…I’m listening to it on my boombox from Sears and I just want the music” music fans like myself. It was also the perfect size, for multiple reasons: if you were taping stuff off the radio or making your own mixtape, you could easily fit about ten average-length songs on each side. If you were dubbing your friends’ albums and tapes, you could fit one album on each side with a bit of room to spare for b-sides or filler. I filled a lot of holes in my early collecting years this way. And yes, I did eventually end up buying or downloading the real thing.

This of course was the age of Home Taping Is Killing Music, which was the 80s version of this generation’s file sharing controversy, which most people found quite ridiculous. For the most part, at least in my view, it didn’t kill music at all–if anything, it spread it out at a time when buying music could be quite the chore. Those like myself who were headlong into college radio then had a bitch of a time trying to find half the stuff we wanted; you would most likely not find many punk records at your local department store or small-time record shop, and record clubs rarely if ever carried what you were looking for (unless it was on Sire, then you could probably find it via Columbia House–Seymour Stein was cool that way!). Our main source for albums was our friends’ collections. And if anything, we were the type of fan who would eventually buy the album anyway, once we finally found it.

I haven’t used a blank tape at least since 2004, I think. That was probably the last time I made one of my compilations to fit a ninety-minute tape. [And for the record, those were most likely bought at Newbury Comics alongside the new cds I was buying then.] For many and varying reasons, I stopped using tapes and went mostly all digital from there on in. It’s only this past New Year’s season that I started following the “forty-five minutes a side” rule on making compilations–that is, pretending that I was in fact making this playlist via home taping, complete with attempting the perfect segue from one song to another–and to tell the truth, it was a hell of a lot of fun.

It was like making the old mixtapes again. It may even have inspired me to make more this way!

Jonc’s Best of 2013 Lists

Here we go, kids–time again for my personal top favorites of the past year! I’m going a bit retro with the format this time out, as that seems to have been the theme for me this year: revisiting older processes, tweaking them, learning from them, and updating them when and where necessary. Case in point was my end of year compilation, something I’ve been creating, or attempting to create, and sometimes failing for one reason or another, since 1988. There’s another retro thing right there: most if not all of you have heard me go on about that year in music, how influential and exciting it was for me. So I’d decided to go old-school and build it up aesthetically (Rob Fleming from High Fidelity would be proud of me), and in the process, I’ve decided that this year’s Lists will also be the same. Okay, I didn’t start with the countdown lists until the late 90s during my stint at HMV, but still…it’s the return to the countdown that matters!

So without further ado…


Well, THAT Came Out of Nowhere…: Best Unexpected Releases from Classic Bands and Singers
My Bloody Valentine, mbv
The London Suede, Bloodsports
Boards of Canada, Tomorrow’s Harvest
Paul McCartney, New

‘Don’t You Already Have This?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘But You’re Buying It Anyway?’ ‘Uh…Yes?’: Best Box Sets and Reissues
We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use It!!, Bostin’ Steve Austin [Splendiferous Edition]
We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use It!!, Big Bang [Orgasmatron Edition]
So happy these two 80s albums finally got a remaster/reissue! Two of my favorites from 1986 and 1989. They couldn’t sound more different from each other (the former is loud and punky, the latter is sleek and poppy), but Fuzzbox were a hell of a lot of fun.
Love and Rockets, 5 Albums
This set is highly recommended; the first four LnR albums plus a disc of rarities, it’s some of the best college rock out there, and a HUGE influence on my own music.
The Clash, Sound System
The seminal punkers finally get a remaster, and OH MAN does this collection sound freakin’ AWESOME. It’s a vast improvement over the original CD masters.

Listening to Their Older Siblings’ Records: Best Retro-Sounding Releases
The History of Apple Pie, Out of View
Panda Riot, Northern Automatic Music
Nightmare Air, High in the Lasers
A number of bands nailed the noisy, dreamy shoegaze sound pioneered by My Bloody Valentine and Lush. Excellent stuff.
Smallpools, Smallpools EP
A four-tracker with sounds lifted straight from Prince’s Revolution days. Synthpoppy goodness.
Savages, Silence Yourself
A band that picks up where the original postpunk left off so many years ago, channeling LiLiPUT and early Siouxsie & the Banshees.
Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
This time out the duo borrowed Nile Rodgers for a while to channel some sweet 70s soul and disco beats. Great mix.
Capital Cities, In a Tidal Wave of Mystery
A band firmly stuck in early MTV 1982 new wave, complete with Alphaville keyboards set on “French horn” setting.

I Want My MTV YouTube: Best Videos
Capital Cities, “Safe and Sound”
With a song like this, it’s only fair that it has dancing. And it has a lot of it.
Rogue Wave, “College”
Okay, I admit I only knew there was a video for this about a few days ago. It’s on this list because this was filmed in the Presidio, about a mile or so away from my apartment. I know exactly where that spire is, and have taken many pictures of it! Also: I can’t be sure, but I think they’re riding the 1 California at the beginning and end of this video. 🙂
Cayucas, “High School Lover”
Goofy video, but it fits the goofiness of the song.
Pearl Jam, “Sirens”
The guys look GREAT for a band that’s been around since 1991!
World Order, “Last Dance”
Or, you know, pretty much any World Order video. They’re all awesome. 🙂

Best Songs
20. Johnny Marr, “Generate! Generate!”
19. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Sacrilege”
18. How to Destroy Angels, “Ice Age”
17. The London Suede, “Barriers”
16. Small Black, “Free at Dawn”
15. MS MR, “Hurricane”
14. Low, “Plastic Cup”
13. Boards of Canada, “Reach for the Dead”
12. The Polyphonic Spree, “Popular By Design”
11. My Bloody Valentine, “New You”
10. Rogue Wave, “College”
9. Placebo, “Too Many People”
8. Django Django, “Default”
7. Editors, “A Ton of Love”
6. Wire, “As We Go”
5. Trails and Ways, “Como Te Vas”
4. Pearl Jam, “Sirens”
3. Cayucas, “High School Lover”
2. Bastille, “Pompeii”
1. Dutch Uncles, “Fester”

Best Albums
20. Cut Copy, Free Your Mind
19. Depeche Mode, Delta Machine
18. Small Black, Limits of Desire
17. Little Green Cars, Absolute Zero
16. How to Destroy Angels, Welcome Oblivion
15. MS MR, Secondhand Rapture
14. Beady Eye, BE
13. Bastille, Bad Blood
12. Arctic Monkeys, AM
11. The National, Trouble Will Find Me
10. Dutch Uncles, Out of Touch in the Wild
9. My Bloody Valentine, mbv
8. The Polyphonic Spree, Yes, It’s True.
7. Sleigh Bells, Bitter Rivals
6. Editors, The Weight of Your Love
5. Tired Pony, The Ghost of the Mountain
4. Pearl Jam, Lightning Bolt
3. Wire, Change Becomes Us
2. Johnny Marr, The Messenger
1. Boards of Canada, Tomorrow’s Harvest

Walk in Silence: Love and Rockets, 5 Albums

[Hi all! And welcome to a new feature here at WiS–using the title of the blog (and my book project) as the main theme, I’ll be featuring albums from the college rock years of the 80s that have been personal favorites of mine. The entries will be similar to the Blogging the Beatles series–featuring overviews of some (if not all) songs from that release, personal reactions, and maybe a brief history as well. Hope you enjoy!]

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Credit: Discogs.com

Credit: Discogs.com

Love and Rockets: 5 Albums box set
Released: 13 May 2013 (UK)

Love and Rockets was a very influential band in my younger years. Back in autumn 1986, MTV had been pushing their second album, Express, by playing commercials for it, as well as playing the videos for “Ball of Confusion” and “All In My Mind” on their late night rotation (as well as on 120 Minutes when it went on the air that November). That was right about the same time I’d returned to listening to college radio after discovering it earlier that year, so that band became one of the foundation points when I jumped straight into the alternative rock sound. I’d picked up Express at the Rietta Ranch flea market in Hubbardston, of all places–and it became one of my favorite albums of that year. Over the course of four albums in the late 80s, I fell in love with their distinct sound of dreamy acoustic guitars, neo-psychedelia, and post-punk. They ended up influencing my own songwriting style as well.

The band itself has quite the pre-band history–it’s comprised of the three musicians from Bauhaus: guitarist/singer/songwriter Daniel Ash, bassist/singer/songwriter David J, and David’s brother, drummer Kevin Haskins. After the break-up of Bauhaus and singer Peter Murphy going solo, they kept themselves quite busy…Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins turned their part-time project Tones on Tail into a short-lived but full-time project, releasing one album and a handful of great singles. David J kept busy with both an impressive solo career (including work with comic writer Alan Moore, creating music for his V for Vendetta series) as well as studio assistance with The Jazz Butcher. By 1985 they’d reconvened and started up a new band. Taking their name from the highly acclaimed comic book of the same name by Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, they created a unique body of music that borrowed not just from their previous bands’ sounds but also of the guitar-centric soundscapes gaining ground at the time, such as those of XTC and Cocteau Twins.

5 Albums is part of a new box set series from the UK Beggars Banquet label; this one comprises Love and Rockets’ four 80s albums–1985’s Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven, 1986’s Express, 1987’s Earth Sun Moon and 1989’s Love and Rockets–plus an additional collection called Assorted! which contains a number of b-sides and rarities, including their one-off Bubblemen “side project” EP. The four main albums are for the most part the same as the 2000-2003 reissues with little change (the version of the self-titled album here omits the bonus cd, most of which was moved to Assorted, minus the radio interview and performance), and for those who have these already, only Assorted is of interest, as it contains many b-sides not available elsewhere, as well as the unreleased track “Sorted”. This box is mainly for those who are completists (like me), but it’s an absolutely wonderful–and cheap!–way to introduce yourself to a phenomenal band. Let’s take a look at a few of the albums and tracks therein:

The debut Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven, originally released in October 1985, is steeped in acoustic post-punk and drenched in atmospheric reverb–all the tracks save one are over five minutes long and contain deliberately calculated instrumental passages that make the songs soar. Lyrically the band showed a complete 180 from the gothic references in Bauhaus, or even the trippiness of Tones on Tail, instead focusing on personal introspection. This one was only released in the UK at first, only making an appearance in the US in November of 1988 with a reshuffled track listing and two single b-sides added, after their second and third albums had been released.

There’s some lovely work here, especially the pastoral “A Private Future” and the absolutely stunning instrumental “Saudade”, both showcasing Daniel Ash’s phenomenal guitar work. There’s also a few curiosities like the deliberately plodding “The Game”, but there’s also bluesy rockers “Dog-End of a Day Gone By” and “Haunted When the Minutes Drag”. The latter track would get a boost in early 1988 when John Hughes featured it on the soundtrack to his movie She’s Having a Baby. This current version also contains their debut single, a cover of The Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion”, which would also show up on the original US version of Express. All told, Seventh Dream is a stunning debut for the band–it’s not an album full of hit singles, but it’s certainly full of great musicianship and tight songwriting.

Express was released in mid-September of 1986, a banner year for quite a few bands that would define college rock–The Smiths, the Cure, Depeche Mode, The Mighty Lemon Drops, The Chameleons, and more. Their second album is much more upbeat and a lot trippier, infusing their love for sixties’ psychedelic rock into all sorts of places. The one-two punch on the first tracks “It Could Be Sunshine” and “Kundalini Express” hint at garage psych with mystical lyrics and spacey guitars, setting the tone for a much more electric and eclectic album than the previous one. They’re followed up with the American single “All In My Mind”, which eerily predates and predicts the dreamy sound of shoegaze, which would surface nearly three years later. The album also has its share of acoustic tracks similar to those on Seventh Dream, including a much slower version of “All In My Mind”, as well as the closer “An American Dream”. But the ultimate psychedelic track on this album is the speedy “Yin and Yang (The Flowerpot Man)”, a six-minute psychedelic freak-out of weird sounds, disjointed lyrics, and Bo Diddley strumming amped up to eleven. As mentioned earlier, many US fans were introduced to the band with this album, and it’s a great place to start.

Earth Sun Moon was released almost exactly one year later in September 1987–the same month that featured highly-lauded (and often game-changing) albums by The Smiths, Depeche Mode, Public Image Ltd, REM, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers–but instead the band had decided to go an altogether different route than the previous two albums. While Seventh Dream felt almost prog-rock in its scope and Express focused on psych-pop, this new track delved into the sound of late sixties San Francisco folk. It was no ‘peace-and-love’ album to be sure, but it had the philosophical ‘who are we and where are we headed’ vibe. The first track “Mirror People” sets the scene for the entire album, a self-aware metaphorical fence-sitter watching everyone act like everyone else, but deep down he knows he’s just as bad (“quite content to sit on this fence, quite content now a little bit older…”). This is a band that wants to have peace and love…but knows quite well that in reality, true peace and love, even inner peace, is hard to come by. The rest of the album focuses on this theme–the single “No New Tale to Tell” (Just how unique are we, compared to everyone else?), “Here On Earth” (Life goes on, with or without our participation), and “Waiting for the Flood” (We face what we’re afraid of in order to live) are just a few examples of how layered this album can be, despite its lack of strong sound. It’s one of my favorites of theirs, even though it’s considered one of their weakest.

Love and Rockets was released in September of 1989, and after a two year absence, their sound had moved in another direction…this time with loud, dissonant guitars, sparse, demo-like workouts, and even alternative pop. In some ways it sounds like they’d taken a page from the Jesus and Mary Chain, and in retrospect it was a perfect choice–by late 1989, the sound of “college rock” had morphed into the harder-edged “alternative rock” (and soon to splinter into all kinds of subgenres from Britpop to Grunge). For many who loved the more acoustic ballads of the previous albums, this was certainly a jolt. Preceded nine months earlier by the single “Motorcycle” / “I Feel Speed” (two completely different iterations of the same song, the former a ballsy rocker and the latter a dreamy blues played mostly on a bass guitar), this album also produced the band’s first Billboard Top 10 hit (it reached #3, and hit #1 on the Modern Rock chart) with the slinky, sexy “So Alive”. That hit track is the exception, though–while that one is perfect pop production, the rest of the album deliberately alternates between loud and clunky (“**** (Jungle Law)”, a middle-finger to one of their worst critics, and an industrial take on the 12-bar blues, “No Big Deal”) and quiet and dreamy (the lovely, jazzy “The Teardrop Collector” and the Bowie-esque “Rock and Roll Babylon”). It’s as if this album is self-titled on purpose; half blissful Love and half aggressive Rockets.

[This would be the last we see of the band for a good few years; they would finally reconvene in late 1994 with the electronica-heavy Hot Trip to Heaven, follow it up with the more organic Sweet FA in 1996, and finish their recording career with 1998’s disjointed Lift. These albums are interesting on their own, but aren’t quite as strong as the original first four.]

The new Assorted! compilation (only found as part of this box at this time) collects many b-sides and curiosities that aren’t already found on the repackaged previous albums. As mentioned earlier, most of the second disc of the reissue of the 1989 album is found here, including the unreleased Swing! EP, the lone Bubblemen EP, as well as the live b-sides found on “No New Tale to Tell” and “Mirror People ’88” singles which were not previously available. The only surprise here is an otherwise unreleased “Sorted”, an upbeat acoustic track that sounds like a demo stuck between Earth Sun Moon and Love and Rockets.

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I’ve been known to listen to all four of these albums in chronological order in one go, as they fit so well together, going from meandering acoustic noodling to heavily distorted noise. Love and Rockets are no more, but they’ve become one of the many important alternative bands of the 80s, not just through their heritage but through their excellent songwriting and musicianship. Many might know of them only through the “So Alive” single, but there’s quite a lot more to the band than just the hit. Sure, I picked it up because I’m a completist and needed the missing b-sides, but I also picked it up because they’re some of my favorite albums of the late 80s, and well worth coming back to time and again.

Walk In Silence: An Introduction [Excerpt]

[The following is a rough draft excerpt from the introduction to Walk in Silence.  This passage explains how I got into listening to music, and how I became obsessed with ‘college music’ of the mid-to-late 80s.]

My first memory of listening to music—specifically, the act of recognizing, liking, and remembering a song—is of the car radio playing Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown” while on a family vacation.  As I was the youngest of four kids and all the members of my family were avid music listeners if not novice players, I learned music appreciation at an early age.  As I got older I’d latch onto whatever my older sisters were listening to, either through their seven-inch single and album collection, or the local rock stations, or records we took out of the library.  One of Boston’s independent television stations would play The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine every year, to everyone’s enjoyment.  In 1978 my parents took me to see Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Bee Gees/Peter Frampton movie sort-of-based on the Beatles album of the same name.  Both movies sparked a long-lasting interest in the Beatles for me, and I remember taking out their 1962-1966 compilation album, also known as the ‘Red’ album, out of the library quite often.  By that Christmas my mom bought me the companion album (1967-1970, the ‘Blue’ album).  Exactly fifteen years later in 1993 when she bought me the same album on CD for Christmas, I’d joked that my now-gigantic record collection was entirely her fault.  By 1980, the seeds of my music collection had started, beginning with the Beatles.  One by one, I’d find an album or compilation or single at the local department store or at a yard sale or flea market that I didn’t have, and beg my parents to let me buy it.  New or used, I didn’t mind, as long as I got more of their stuff.  My first completist-level music obsession!

Also by this time, I’d become aware of the end-of-year countdowns on the radio.  I was fascinated by these, excited about guessing what the top spot would be, and picking up on songs that I’d somehow missed.  One of my older sisters had taped some previous countdowns in the past, but had only chosen specific songs. I had to go one better and tape the whole thing.  I would actually bother my Dad into buying me a handful of blank cassette tapes at the local Radio Shack so I could tape the countdown.  The downside to this was that we did not have a tape recorder directly connected to the stereo, so any ambient noise such as phone rings or someone coughing would be caught on tape forever.  I tested my sisters’ patience dearly by shushing them whenever they came into the room.

A year or so later, we were all enthralled by the wonder that was a new channel called Music Television when cable TV was finally available in town.  MTV had come up with the brilliant idea of showing nothing but music videos.  Even their buffer “filler” videos of random black-and-white stock footage were set to music.  The fledgling channel played all kinds of things, whatever videos they could lay their hands on.  They played the Top Forty pop I knew from the radio, the simple performance videos of rockers, and otherwise obscure music that I’d never heard before.  I picked up on all sorts of music at that point, and began to suss out the different subgenres of rock.  I’d started to consciously develop a taste for different styles of music, gravitating to some and avoiding others.

Around the same time, I’d also discovered a show on the USA Network called “Night Flight”, which played four hours of all kinds of weird things on Friday and Saturday nights, and if I was able to stay up late, I’d watch some of them.  Sometimes they played cult movies like Reefer Madness or 2001: A Space Odyssey; sometimes they played video art installments; sometimes they had themed music video shows.  Along with the then-unprogrammed MTV, these two would occasionally foray into showing videos of bands I’d never heard of, such as Hunters and Collectors, Split Enz, The Cure, Ministry, and Depeche Mode…music that rarely got played on commercial radio.  Interesting stuff to be sure, but nothing that really grabbed me at the time.  I was aware of it, but I didn’t “get” it the first time.  Besides, by the early 80s, I and everyone I knew had fallen prey to Top 40 radio and MTV’s pop style.  Videos were eye-catching and had a plotline, and were shot in or emulated exotic locations.  Meanwhile, my continuing love for countdowns drew me towards the American Top 40 radio show on the weekends, which pulled me further into the pop mainstream.

Somewhere along the line, probably around 1984, I also got a personal stereo—not exactly a Sony Walkman and it didn’t have a cassette player, but it was close enough, it was my own and I was thrilled to have it.  I’d gotten it as a Christmas present from my Dad’s company, and it was the first present I’d gotten from them that wasn’t a toy or a game.  It became one of my prized possessions, because I could now listen to the radio at night in private, without having to worry about waking anyone up.  Not too many stations came in, due to our house being in a valley, but I didn’t care, because all the stronger ones did.  And let me tell you—listening to music through stereo headphones was a revelation to me!  I was floored by the added depth to the music I already knew, suddenly being made aware of intricate noises and flourishes going in different directions, things I’d never noticed before!  This was heaven!

[That is to say, I had noticed stereo before, much earlier, but never really paid much attention to it.  Back in the 70s when your primary source of music was either an ancient radio or your sister’s alarm clock radio, the idea of stereophonic sound didn’t really enter the mind.  I think I’d first noticed it sometime in the late 70s when I listened to Electric Light Orchestra’s Out of the Blue while lying on the floor with the two stereo speakers on the family turntable pointed directly at my ears.  Not the smartest thing to do, but a neat trick when you’re eight or nine years old and it doesn’t take much to amuse you.]

During all that pop music, I also developed a taste for jazz. I’d always enjoyed it through my mother’s small but interesting collection—I knew Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” from a very early age—but never really got too into it, at least not until I got that little radio.  It all started innocently when I was merely scanning the airwaves for something to listen to at night when I really should have been sleeping.  Like I said—music in stereo was a revelation to me, and I devoured as much of it as I could by that time.  Perhaps it was that I felt this innate need to branch out again…I’d liked the Top 40 stuff, there was only so much of it I could take, especially with the same songs in heavy rotation.  At that point, I thought that getting into a new genre of music would be something neat to do, and perhaps assert my individuality in a way.  I was certainly moving away from my old circle of friends I’d known since grade school, and needed to find out who I really was.

I soon found myself down at the other end of the dial, landing on WFCR, a station operating out of University of Massachusetts in Amherst and part of the ‘Five College Radio’ public radio consortium.  They would play extended blocks of jazz musicians, live and studio recordings, and I got a very quick crash course on the cool jazz genre—Herb Ellis, Dave Brubeck, Oscar Peterson, Zoot Sims, and so on.  I gravitated towards that traditional laid back trio sound of piano, bass and drums, and their long, seemingly improvised arrangements and mood pieces.  The music painted a mental picture in my head of being in a smoky and dimly lit cocktail lounge, drinking martinis.  That was the thing for me back then, as a writer-in-training; I would try to create scenes based on images that would come to me while listening to music, and put them to paper…I would later call it my ‘music video treatment’ method of writing.  I finally got to enjoy live jazz once as a kid, when at a cousin’s wedding reception I snuck over to the lounge side of the building and watched a local jazz band perform.  I didn’t enjoy the smokiness back then, but I certainly loved the music and the atmosphere.

Then something strange happened.  I don’t remember the exact day, but I’m pretty sure it was early spring 1986, because that’s a few months after Bruce Springsteen’s saxophonist Clarence Clemons had a minor hit with “You’re a Friend of Mine.”

Why do I remember that song, of all things?  Because on that one night, while once again scanning the radio for good jazz on a school night, I unexpectedly stumbled upon this song.  Now, before I ever started paying serious attention to the ins and outs of radio, I always regarded that end of the dial as the “boring” end and rarely paid any attention to it in my youth. Any station lower than 91.9 was deemed non-commercial by the FCC, so most NPR and college stations broadcast at those lower frequencies.  Any commercial stations had always been anchored on the upper end back then, so all the rock and Top Forty stations were usually at 99.1 and above.  Right in the middle between 91.9 and 99.1 were the adult stations, programmed with easy listening, ‘Beautiful Music’ (or as we know it in more derogatory terms, ‘elevator music’), classical, country, news, or jazz—stuff the older generations might have listened to and the kids avoided.

So when I heard this Clarence Clemons/Jackson Browne duet somewhere around 88-point-something, I stopped in confusion—why were they playing this song all the way down here?  Well, since I actually kind of liked the song and hadn’t heard it for some time, I decided I’d listen to it and see what came next.  Perhaps this was a new rock station I could listen to?  Perhaps someone local had jerry-rigged a radio antenna and was illegally broadcasting?  I didn’t know the FCC rules at the time, so I had no idea what was going to happen next.  To my surprise however, instead of hearing a segue into another song or a commercial—or even a deejay for that matter—I heard nothing but silence.  Not the hissing static of a station off the air, but complete quietness.  I was intrigued and amused at the same time—someone fell asleep at the controls!  I’d of course heard commercial stations making that mistake, followed by the flustered words of an embarrassed deejay who’d forgotten to flip a switch.  I’d also listened to stations going off the air for the evening, but they usually played a music bed and read some legalese before shutting down.  What was going on?  About a half-minute later, I heard music playing again.  Not a commercial or a flustered deejay apologizing…but another song, as if nothing had happened.

This new song, however, was not the popular rock music I was expecting, especially after a Clarence Clemons track.  It was something close to rock, but it sounded nothing like what I was used to.  It had all the components of rock, but it didn’t sound the least bit commercial.  In fact, it sounded a bit anti-commercial, like they were purposely going out of their way not to have a popular hit.  In a strange way, I kind of liked it—it appealed to the same part of my brain that had latched onto jazz music in that it was different and challenging.  Intrigued, I listened a little further, just to see what they would play next.  I figured I’d wait for the deejay to come in and offer the playlist.  Once I knew what they played and what station this was, perhaps I’d do a bit of digging the next time I was at a record store and pick some of these things up.

Ten minutes and three long songs later…

This was definitely strange, and not something I was used to in the rock genre.  Sure, on those NPR stations you’d hear a full symphony or album side or something before they came in to let the listener know what they just played, but on rock radio?  You’d be lucky if you hear two songs in a row without a quick buffer in between—you know, that testosterone-fueled, gravelly-voiced “You’re listening to Springfield’s HOME OF THE RAWK!” type of teaser.  Plus, these weren’t exactly poppy or ballsy rock-out songs…they were quiet and meandering, and maybe even a bit underproduced…or they were lush arrangements with a lot of atmosphere and echo, done with surprisingly little instrumentation.

I don’t remember any of the songs I’d heard that night except two—Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun” and The Cure’s “A Forest”.  Two songs that couldn’t be more different from each other…one song short, loud and boisterous, and the other expansive and dreamy.  I’d heard of both bands before in passing (and would realize later on that I already knew The Cure’s “Let’s Go to Bed” from the early days of MTV), but had never actively sought them out since I was still into the popular stuff.  I was fascinated by the sounds I heard, though…this was stuff that had so many more layers, evoked so many different moods.  With the Femmes I pictured a couple of snotty guys with so-so ability playing in their dad’s garage, playing their uncles’ acoustic instruments and jamming away with abandon…something I’d be doing myself a few years later.  With the Cure…suddenly I found myself somewhere in the middle of a cold and dark forest well past midnight with a cool breeze pushing against my face, listening to the sounds of night around me.  Certain classic rock bands had evoked this kind of imagery in my head in the past (Led Zeppelin, late Beatles, Cream, and so on), but very little mainstream rock had done so for the last few years.  On that one night, however, I was hearing a cornucopia of different styles, each kicking my brain into overdrive.  Something about this noncommercial rock clicked with me on a mental and spiritual level—somehow I knew right then that this was the kind of music I needed to be listening to now.

Eventually I found that the station was WMUA, broadcasting out of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, about thirty or so miles southwest of Athol.  College radio!  I’d heard my older sisters talking about it in the past, but I never checked it out until then, and since they weren’t fans of the genre, I never paid much attention to it.  I’d always assumed that these stations were a school version of a commercial station, playing the same stuff I’d hear on rock stations only without commercials or the hype, or if they were more adventurous, they’d be playing progressive rock (in the genre sense) like Rush, early Genesis, King Crimson and so on.  But now that I’d experienced it on my own, I finally understood what it was about.  College radio wasn’t merely just a springboard or a testing ground for future disc jockeys, but an institution for free form experimentation, and a platform for bands with a lot of talent but sometimes little commerciality in the United States.  It was an outsider’s haven, and as a dorky teenager in a small town, I knew it would be my haven as well.  I knew this was a genre in which to immerse myself.  It was something different and exciting, something different than the pop music I thought excited me.  This was so much more.