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  • A MONTH OF HUNDREDS: August 1977 – Somethin’ I Can’t See No More

    Earlier this summer I made what will most likely be my last “frivolous” purchase for the unforeseen future: Joel Whitburn Presents the Billboard Hot 100 Charts: The Seventies, sale-priced at the time by Record Research. I now have full-page replications of every Hot 100 published in the first three decades of my existence (with the pop surveys of the Fifties and Sixties joining the library when the income gets disposable again). Henceforth, A MONTH OF HUNDREDS adds the Seventies to its rotation, exploring the anchor records of the Me Decade in addition to our ongoing Eighties and Nineties reviews.

    There was no other year I could pick for our first Seventies entry: for most pop music fans, August 1977 is forever summarized by the death of Elvis Presley, already the cornerstone of my budding 45 collection thanks to hand-me-downs and garage sale scores. That wasn’t the only major event of the week for BigSuit, age seven: I remember visiting our late, beloved Astroworld for the first time, but my memory might be fuzzy on the exact day. I’ve always recalled the trip happening two days after a teenage girl fell from the park’s signature roller coaster, the Texas Cyclone, and I’ve always remembered that Monday, August 15, as the date of the accident. The Houston Chronicle, however, reports in retrospect that the not-fatal fall occurred on Wednesday the 17th, the day after Elvis’ passing (I can’t locate any original articles about the incident). I suppose it’s possible that we went to Astroworld that Friday, but I also have a memory of stopping en route at the neighborhood convenience store in hopes of picking up a newspaper for the Elvis coverage; both the Chronicle and Post were unsurprisingly sold out. (I do remember seeing the Texas Cyclone on the list of closed attractions at the ticket window, not that I was disappointed. The Bamboo Shoot was more my speed.)

    Regardless of the Astroworld/Elvis timeline, that August provided some great tunes to usher your author into second grade: two weeks apiece for Andy Gibb’s “I Just Want to Be Your Everything” and the Emotions’ “Best of My Love” at pole position on the Billboard pop chart. Down at #100, these records took their final bows before leaving the building.

    August 6:
    (down from its peak of #89, 11th and final week on chart)
    The introductory statement from one of soul music’s most beloved and enduring acts. Originally known as Raw Soul, the band formed in Philadelphia in 1970, eventually relocating to San Francisco and opening for Marvin Gaye, who suggested the name change. “While I’m Alone” would be the first of seven pop hits and twenty-nine R&B charters for Beverly and company, reaching #21 on the latter survey. They scored two #1 soul hits in the Eighties, 1985’s “Back in Stride” (also their only dance chart appearance, reaching #34) and 1989’s “Can’t Get Over You”; the best they could manage on the Hot 100 was a #67 peak for “Feel That You’re Feelin’” in 1979. The arguably most-ubiquitous Maze jam was never released as an A-side: the title cut from 1980’s Joy and Pain supplied the hook for Rob Base & D.J. E-Z Rock’s hip-hop classic.

    August 13:
    EAGLES “Life in the Fast Lane”
    (down from #60, peaked at #11, 14th and final week on chart)
    The second consecutive appearance by Don Henley in this series, though Joe Walsh is the hero (as is usually the case) for inventing that riff. (Henley, Walsh and Glenn Frey, who conceived the title, are credited with authorship.) For a future classic-rock cornerstone, its initial chart run was underwhelming: it was the only single from Hotel California (after “New Kid in Town” and the title monolith) not to top the Hot 100 and it broke a six-record streak of Top Ten singles for the band. I’m guessing Henley cried all the way to the brothel. (Walsh made rock headlines this week with the announcement of a one-time James Gang reunion for November’s VetsAid benefit show.)

    August 20:
    WAYLON JENNINGS “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)”
    (down from #78, peaked at #25, 16th and final week on chart)
    It won’t surprise you that this homage to the Lone Star State’s fabled “outlaw” scene was inescapable on Houston radio in the summer of ’77. KILT 610 AM, a Top 40 outlet at the time, ranked it #1 on their playlist for at least two weeks. (Behold the awesome survey image at that ARSA link. Those hot-yellow leaflets were mandatory pickups on mall trips whether or not I bought anything listed.) KILT would switch both its AM and FM signals to country in 1981 at the height of the Urban Cowboy boom, returning “Luckenbach, Texas” to its airwaves. Regional icons Mickey Newbury (a fellow Houstonian) and Jerry Jeff Walker (a New York transplant) are mentioned in the lyrics; Walker cut his legendary ¡Viva Terlingua! album at the Luckenbach Dancehall in 1973.

    This was Jennings’ strongest hit on Billboard‘s country chart, spending six weeks at #1. He amassed sixteen country chart-toppers in all, another of which, 1980’s “Theme from The Dukes of Hazzard (Good Ol’ Boys)”, would give him his biggest record (at #21) on the Hot 100. I’ve linked to a live version of “Luckenbach, Texas”, performed by Waylon and his fellow Highwaymen—Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and Willie Nelson, heard but uncredited on the original—at the Nassau Coliseum in 1990.

    August 27:
    CHARLIE “Turning to You”
    (down from its peak of #96, 2nd and final week on chart)
    For decades, I’ve known the London band Charlie for two things: their 1983 hit “It’s Inevitable” (#38 pop) and the continued presence of their third album, 1978’s Lines, in cutout bins (given the cover model, I initially thought it might be a Charlie Dore record pre-“Pilot of the Airwaves”). This is my first time to hear “Turning to You” (from their ironically-titled sophomore offering No Second Chance) and it’s a welcome helping of the slick late-70s FM pop I’ll never outgrow. Honest question: did Real Life pinch the phrase “don’t know what to do” (at 0:30) wholesale for “Send Me an Angel”? It doesn’t appear to have charted in Australia, so it could be an amusing coincidence. (Be advised that Charlie drummer Steve Gadd is a different individual from the American session drummer of “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” and “Aja” fame.)

    I’ve already worked out the years from both the Seventies and Eighties I want to cover in this series for the remainder of 2022; I welcome suggestions for October 199x (barring the previously-reviewed 1990, 1994 and 1997) in the comments. We’ll revisit my favorite musical year of the Eighties come September.

  • FOOLS GOLD vol 17: Burn This Whole Madhouse Down

    I’m jumping back in while time and mental clarity are synced to bring you another passel of Mainstream and Modern Rock hits from the Nineties that never dented any of Billboard’s pop surveys. If you’re new to the spiel, it starts here.

    “Shock the Monkey” #26 Rock 1999

    Peter Gabriel’s American solo breakthrough (#1 AOR, #29 pop, #26 dance) is “updated” for the nu-metal set a la Orgy’s “Blue Monday”. Melodic liberties are taken. Ozzy can’t save it. Not recommended.

    “No Regrets” #7 Rock 1992

    Generic FM fodder from Mad Mad World, Cochrane’s third solo album (and first after the 1990 breakup of Red Rider). Its first single, the more memorable “Life Is a Highway”, placed one notch higher on both Mainstream Rock and the Hot 100.

    “A Dream Like Mine” #22 Alt 1991

    Like Cochrane, Cockburn (COH-burn for the unfamiliar) has been honored by his homeland with membership in the Order of Canada. “A Dream Like Mine”, from the T. Bone Burnett production Nothing but a Burning Light, was a welcome staple of KPFT’s AAA-playlist years alongside such Cockburn essentials as “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”, “Wondering Where the Lions Are” and “Pacing the Cage” (in both original and Jimmy Buffett cover varieties).

    “Love Is Alive” #7 Rock 1992

    The concept alone could have made it a highlight of this series: the Gary Wright classic as delivered by one of the greatest, most distinctive singers of the rock era. Unfortunately, the sub-metal production (by master session cat Danny Kortchmar) tanks expectations within seconds of pressing play.

    “Iceblink Luck” #4 Alt 1990
    “Heaven or Las Vegas” #9 Alt 1991

    My first few months as a record store employee were also my earliest days as a Cocteau Twins fan, a romance spurred by the purchase of The Pink Opaque and the exquisite Love’s Easy Tears EP. At the time, most of the Cocteaus’ output was only available through expensive imports, the 4AD label not yet fully established with American distribution. Heaven or Las Vegas was the band’s second album for Capitol in the States and one of several landmark records I was able to add to my library before street date thanks to the day job. It was released mid-September, as fall was approaching but still surrendering to a warm undercurrent at twilight. Three decades and change and I still experience that warmth from a random cut or the album entire. Naturally, both tracks featured here rank among my favorites of this project overall, though the title song loses points for its single/video edit, fading on a repeated chorus and omitting Robin Guthrie’s second burst of glorious fretwork.

    I had the fortune of seeing the Cocteaus twice: on the Heaven or Las Vegas tour in 1991 (I got to hear opening act Galaxie 500 from the outside queue) and three years later in support of the savory Four-Calendar Cafe (whose “Bluebeard” was a fluke hit on KRBE). After the 1994 gig, my friend Chris “Hoss” Colca and I wound up meeting the band on their tour bus; I have a signed Treasure CD and a snapshot of the two of us with Elizabeth Fraser somewhere in my archives. In the early years of Sound Awake I’d reconnect with Simon Raymonde by phone after a South by Southwest showcase for his newly-established Bella Union label.

    tl;dr: BigSuit loves his Cocteau Twins.

    “It Comes Around” #19 Rock 1993

    The Illinois native is responsible for some of the catchiest radio pop of the early 90s: “Baby, It’s Tonight”, “House Full of Reason”, “Time for Letting Go”. “It Comes Around”, from third album Start the Car, is a flipside at heart.

    “Downtown” #5 Alt 1990
    “She’s a Girl and I’m a Man” #7 Alt 1991
    “Tell Your Sister” #6 Alt 1992

    Lloyd Cole is another inexplicable blind spot for your author: despite the accolades he’s earned for his work in and out of the Commotions, I’ve never gotten around to exploring the catalog beyond the songs I (sorta) know. “Downtown”, featured in the Rob Lowe/James Spader flick Bad Influence, might be my favorite of his three Nineties hits. Any recommended starting points or should I go chronological?

    “Breathe” #12 Rock 1994
    “Smashing Young Man” #8 Rock 1995
    “Where the River Flows” #1 Rock (2 weeks) 1996
    “Blame” #11 Rock 1997
    “She Said” #16 Rock #39 Alt 1998
    “Tremble for My Beloved” #35 Rock 1999

    Brothers Ed and Dean Roland and company gave us some fine singles in the second half of the decade….none of which are listed above. I’ll stick with “Shine”, “Run”, or “The World I Know”, Hot 100 hitters all.

    When FOOLS GOLD returns, we’ll discuss the also-rans of two true one-hit wonders and a band with a somewhat seasonally-appropriate name (provided I don’t slack until September).

  • A MONTH OF HUNDREDS: July 1990 – Will He Pull It? Do You Figure?

    I shake myself (temporarily) of the current national malaise to present this month’s spotlight on #100 singles from our country’s storied past. My pick for July is personally (and purposely) idyllic: I spent July 4, 1990 on one of the best first dates of my life, and I’d see Depeche Mode for the first time—on the World Violation Tour, supported by Nitzer Ebb—just two days later.

    That month also saw the 16th G7 summit hosted in Houston, the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the release of Ghost in theaters, the premiere of Northern Exposure in living rooms and two weeks apiece for “Step by Step” and “She Ain’t Worth It” atop the Hot 100. Let’s investigate the occupants of the bottom step as 1990 entered its second half.

    July 7:
    DON HENLEY “The Heart of the Matter”
    (down from #85, peaked at #21, 21st and final week on chart)

    The first artist to appear on this blog since the senseless decimation of Roe v. Wade broke up with the mother of his child when he learned she was pregnant; she chose abortion in the wake of his actions. I refer you to these articles; the latter also draws a potential connection between the breakup (and its consequences) and the contrite nature of “The Heart of the Matter”, one of five Hot 100 singles from the too-AC-friendly The End of the Innocence. (Both “Heart” and its predecessor, “The Last Worthless Evening”, peaked at #21; the next two, “How Bad Do You Want It?” and “New York Minute”, would each top out at #48.) Two additional tracks made the Mainstream Rock chart, one of which peaked in 1990 and qualifies for a future volume of FOOLS GOLD. (Link not provided as Henley is notorious from keeping licensed, full-fidelity recordings from cluttering YouTube. It’s on Spotify if you need the refresher.)

    July 14:
    CALLOWAY “I Wanna Be Rich”
    (down from #80, peaked at #2 [1 week], 23rd and final week on chart)

    As the foundation of Midnight Star, Reggie Calloway and brother Vincent were responsible for some of the best electronic funk of the Eighties. They broke away from the band as the decade drew to a close, scoring one of the new era’s earliest smash hits (only “Nothing Compares 2 U” kept it from pole position on the Hot 100). The following week, the title track from All the Way would debut at #87, peaking at #63 in August. (All the Way placed four singles in total on the R&B chart, followed by the title cut from Let’s Get Smooth in 1992.)

    July 21:
    A’ME LORAIN “Follow My Heartbeat”
    (down from #74, peaked at #72, 6th and final week on chart)

    Lorain (aka Amy Trujillo) and her band, the Family Affair (including brother Freddy and then-husband Vic Indrizzo) hit #9 at the end of April with “Whole Wide World”, featured in the comedy True Love. The followup was a similar slice of Club MTV dance-pop with no promotional video or movie tie-in to boost its numbers.

    July 28:
    JANE CHILD “Welcome to the Real World”
    (down from #78, peaked at #49, 9th and final week on chart)

    The first-run 12″ single of “Welcome to the Real World” was one of my very first promo “freebies” as a record-store employee; I might have caught the video on MTV after midnight. When it failed to impact, Warner Bros. rolled out the second single from Child’s debut, and “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love” did the trick: the multi-talented Toronto native (and her singular fashion sense) soon took the nation by synth-funk force (held off at #2 behind “I’ll Be Your Everything” and the perserverant “Nothing Compares 2 U”). The topical “Welcome to the Real World” was reissued and better embraced, finally cracking the pop chart but getting no further than #49 (the same peak position for Jane Child on Top Pop Albums). Child would have one more charting single in the States when “All I Do” hit #11 Dance in 1994.

    There might be a new angle to this series starting next month, depending on the current energy of the postal service. At the moment I can guarantee you we’ll examine a pre-1990 August (and at least one new FOOLS GOLD entry before then). Enjoy the summer while you’re still allowed.

  • FOOLS GOLD vol 16: Every Pleasure Every Sin

    photo credit: Adam Ryan Morris, Milwaukee Magazine

    This edition of FOOLS GOLD is dedicated to the memory of the man at its foundation: music lover, chart historian and and trivia enthusiast Joel Whitburn, who died June 14 aged eighty-two. The various chart guides (for Billboard and other trade magazines of yore) published by Mr. Whitburn and his equally-passionate Record Research team have commanded my attention and informed my extracurricular endeavors for decades: the series you’re reading depends on the 2002 edition of Joel Whitburn’s Rock Tracks (last updated in 2020) for topic fuel and there’s rarely a week where my copies of, say, Top Pop Singles or Hot Dance/Disco don’t get cross-referenced. (The annual “time capsule” features on Sound Awake, such as our class-of specials and Thanksgiving-break Classic Club Hours, were also built on Record Research data.) It is in that “heart for the charts” spirit that I present the newest entry in our ongoing look at Billboard Mainstream and Modern Rock tracks from the Nineties that never made the Hot 100 or its auxiliary surveys.

    “The More Things Change” #41 Rock 1991
    “Hot and Bothered” #45 Rock 1992
    “Bad Attitude Shuffle” #37 Rock 1994

    Midnight struck for Cinderella in 1991: the title track from third album Heartbreak Station (also home to “The More Things Change”) became the Philly glam rockers’ eighth and final Hot 100 hit, then singer Tom Keifer suffered a paresis of the vocal cords, requiring multiple surgeries. Despite its anemic two-week run at Mainstream, “Hot and Bothered” ended up in households coast to coast as part of the chart-topping soundtrack to Wayne’s World (it’s the second song on the disc after “Bohemian Rhapsody”). Still Climbing, featuring “Bad Attitude Shuffle” and a encore of “Hot and Bothered”, spent one week at #178 on the Billboard 200; the band never issued another studio album.

    “Can’t Wait One Minute More” #21 Alt 1995

    After the 1992 demise of the New York hardcore band Gorilla Biscuits, three ex-members (including frontman Anthony Civarelli) forged a new identity and found themselves with a left-field MTV hit. The video for “Can’t Wait One Minute More”, a send-up of the mid-Nineties talk show boom, could be seen throughout the summer on 120 Minutes and the following January on the “Gang of Two” episode of Beavis and Butt-Head. (Guest vocalist Lou Koller, on loan from Sick Of It All, appears in the clip “via satellite”.)

    “Human Nature” #10 Alt 1991

    Gary Clail released his first single through Adrian Sherwood’s On-U Sound label in 1985 and would later collaborate with Sherwood in the industrial/hip-hop collective Tackhead. After years of underground On-U support in American clubs, RCA licensed Emotional Hooligan for Stateside distribution, giving Clail a Top Ten record on both the Dance and Modern Rock charts (and steady Saturday night spins at Numbers). The bulk of its “verses” are lifted from a sermon by Billy Graham; Clail was granted permission to quote the evangelist’s works but could not include any elements of the original recording on the final product. (The promo-only “Graham cut” can be heard here.) The “On The Mix”, as the album version/video source is tagged, was an early Perfecto project for future club titans Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osborne; cabaret artist Lanah P provides the vocal hook.

    “No Alibis” #4 Rock 1990
    “Before You Accuse Me” #9 Rock 1990
    “Run So Far” #40 Rock 1990
    “Watch Yourself” #21 Rock 1991
    “Help Me Up” #6 Rock 1992
    “Running on Faith” #15 Rock 1993
    “Stone Free” #4 Rock 1993
    “I’m Tore Down” #5 Rock 1994
    “She’s Gone” #19 Rock 1998

    When Billboard published its first Mainstream Rock chart (initially known as Top Tracks) for the week ending March 21, 1981, the song in the Number One spot was “I Can’t Stand It” by Clapton (“Change the World”, Retail Therapy).

    “Cure Me…or Kill Me…” #15 Rock 1994
    “Tijuana Jail” #28 Rock 1995

    Clarke first made waves alongside acclaimed singer/songwriter Kyle Vincent in the pop-metal band Candy, best remembered for 1985’s “Whatever Happened to Fun…” (a video I wish I could locate for the BigSuit library). He replaced Izzy Stradlin in Guns N’ Roses at the end of 1991 during the band’s eventful, exhausting Use Your Illusion Tour. Clarke’s 1994 solo debut, Pawnshop Guitars, features each of his GNR bandmates in supporting roles; Slash is heard on both charting tracks while Matt Sorum drums on “Tijuana Jail”. (Both Clarke and Sorum would figure in Slash’s Snakepit, to be discussed later in the series.)

    CLASS OF ’99
    “Another Brick in the Wall [Part 2]” #18 Rock #34 Alt 1999

    A one-off “supergrouping” of Layne Staley (in his final recording session), Tom Morello and Porno For Pyros rhythm section Martyn LeNoble and Stephen Perkins, covering the Pink Floyd warhorse for Robert Rodriguez’s sci-fi/horror blockbuster The Faculty. Despite the talent involved and the significance to Staley’s legacy, I’d never reach for this version in favor of the original. (The soundtrack also contains an instrumental version, billed as Part 1.)

    “Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World” #27 Alt 1990

    I was introduced to the English-born, South African-raised Johnny Clegg via “Fever”, a 1984 single by Juluka, his project with Zulu musician Sipho Mchunu. After Mchunu’s retirement in 1985, Clegg formed Savuka (loose translation: “awakening”) with longtime colleagues. Their third album was released in December 1989; its title track spent three weeks at Modern Rock the following May. Savuka disbanded following the 1992 shooting death of percussionist Dudu Zulu and the release of 1993’s Grammy-nominated Heat, Dust & Dreams (featuring the Don Was production “These Days”). Following a reunion album and tour from Juluka in 1997, Clegg launched a proper solo career that would span the next two decades. He succumbed to pancreatic cancer on July 16, 2019 and was equally eulogized across the globe for his music and his tireless crusade for human rights.

    “Through an Open Window” #10 Alt 1992

    Champions of Boston’s early-90s alternative scene, Cliffs of Dooneen (named for a popular Irish ballad and formed by an expatriate of the Emerald Isle) made their only mark beyond their home turf with the lead single from their debut album The Dog Went East, and God Went West. The Cliffs caught flack for their sonic parallels to U2—singer Eric Sean Murphy inspired the regional sobriquet “Cliffs of Bono”—but “Through an Open Window” defies the shadow of Achtung Baby and thrives in an atmosphere of its own. (Well, mostly its own…the opening line recalls the currently-omnipresent “Running Up That Hill” in message and melody.) After their second album, 1993’s Undertow, flatlined on arrival, the band reinvented itself as Superfly and released an EP (complete with title track) called Royale With Cheese. (And we thought “Discotheque” was a radical departure.)

    Join me soon-ish for our next installment, starring legendary Englishmen covering fellow legendary Englishmen, a pair of decorated Canadians, and one of my absolute favorite acts of the “classic alternative” era.

  • A MONTH OF HUNDREDS: June 1984 – Another Dreamy Day

    This month’s review of #100 singles past is a request of sorts from fellow blogger and community radio vet Wm. “Will” Harris, proprietor of The Music of My Life and Thursday afternoon jock at Georgetown (Kentucky) College’s WRVG-FM. Will put in a suggestion for April 1984 just as I’d finished the draft for April 1987 but I promised I’d (gladly) keep the year in mind when returning to the decade for June.

    Thus we examine the month your host graduated junior high and used gift money from the occasion to buy a cassette adaptor for his 8-track player (it might have been this Kraco model) and a tape to demonstrate its function and (limited) fidelity: Seven and the Ragged Tiger. The classic Nile Rodgers remix of that album’s opening track, “The Reflex”, was the final number one single for June 1984 after “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” and “Time After Time”; it would yield to “When Doves Cry” at the turn of the month. Here’s what was happening at the opposite end of the chart as one of my favorite musical summers took wave.

    June 2:
    VAN HALEN “Jump”
    (down from #89, peaked at #1 [five weeks], 21st and final week on chart)

    The favorite musical summer in question was preceded by one of my favorite musical springs, ushered in by this automatic anthem topping the Hot 100 for most of March (flushed out at month’s end by “Footloose”). I bought the picture-sleeve 45 in its prime and can still envision the monochrome variation on Margo Nahas’ smoking cherub from the cover of 1984…blighted center-right by a fluorescent-green Wal-Mart price tag asking a dollar fifty-six.

    I haven’t done a chronological deep dive of the Van Halen catalog in over a decade but I believe I’d still rank 1984 above everything that came before and certainly anything that followed. Personal tastes aside, its status as the rock record of its namesake year cannot be questioned. As it turns out, the album’s second single, “I’ll Wait”, moved into its peak position of #13 (where it would remain for another week) as “Jump” took its final bow.

    Two questions: why was Dave’s extra yelp before the final chorus in the video wiped off the official audio release? And how could the “Jump” Wikipedia page ignore my second-favorite version?

    June 9:
    YES “Leave It”
    (down from #94, peaked at #24 (2 weeks), 15th and final week on chart)

    This entry will also serve as a memorial to Alan White, drummer extraordinaire and keeper of the Yes kit for as good as fifty years, who passed away last month. (My introduction to his work was also the introduction of any Beatle to my collection: a hand-me-down 45 of “Instant Karma” circa kindergarten.)

    The 90125 album, purchased with 14th-birthday money that May, was my most-spun album of the summer, and its second single spawned the very first music video I ever taped from TV: it made its Friday Night Videos debut the week we acquired our first VCR (a gifted used Betamax). That clip was one of eighteen variations devised by directors Godley & Creme; an MTV making-of special (and a right-side-up repositioning of the “hit” edit) can be seen here.

    It was around the time that “Leave It” took its own advice chart-wise that I bought my second (and ultimately favorite) Yes album: an 8-track of Close to the Edge, found at a swap meet at the SPJST lodge in my grandparents’ neighborhood. Also obtained that afternoon, in the same format: Hemispheres. A most progressive era for yours truly.

    June 16:
    CULTURE CLUB “Miss Me Blind”
    (down from #83, peaked at #5 (2 weeks), 16th and final week on chart)

    “Owner of a Lonely Heart” was replaced at #1 by “Karma Chameleon”; their respective followups were back-to-back Number 100s as they each slipped off the survey. And like 90125, Colour by Numbers was an eighth-grade staple, the overriding soundtrack to that year’s Christmas holiday. “Miss Me Blind” (with future R&B star Jermaine Stewart on backing vocals and featuring bassist Mikey Craig on its sleeve) was released as a single on Valentine’s Day, making its Hot 100 debut in early March and eventually becoming Culture Club’s sixth consecutive Top Ten record (achieved with their first American single releases to boot). “It’s a Miracle”, alas, would not be the seventh; the June 16 chart notes the first of two weeks at its #13 pinnacle. (A nine-minute medley of “Blind” and “Miracle” was a #10 Dance/Disco hit.)

    While we’re here, I’d be remiss not to signal-boost the Colour by Numbers cut that could have been so much more: “Black Money”, a fan favorite with awesome vocal interplay between Boy George and practical fifth member Helen Terry. It was intended to be the “new” single from the 1987 hits collection This Time—The First Four Years but was never issued in stand-alone form. (The CD/download editions of This Time add the “Miss Me Blind”/”It’s a Miracle” megamix.)

    June 23:
    DUKE JUPITER: “Little Lady”
    (down from #81, peaked at #68 (2 weeks), 7th and final week on chart)

    Formed in Rochester, New York in 1973, Duke Jupiter had three albums for Mercury under their collective belt by the time “I’ll Drink to You” (from the CBS-distributed, misleadingly-titled Duke Jupiter I) became their first Hot 100 hit, propelled to #58 by healthy rotation on MTV in the spring of 1982. (The song would be retroactively dedicated to original bassist George Barajas, who died from a brain tumor that August.) The band later signed with the short-lived Motown rock imprint Morocco for their sixth album, White Knuckle Ride, the title supplied by the lyrics of its premier single.

    “Little Lady”, a #12 Rock hit, saw boob-tube action beyond MTV thanks to Friday Night Videos and an opening slot on Solid Gold. It’s still catchy, but also as dated as the pickup lines that shape its chorus. The more sensitive followup, “Rescue Me”, topped the Bubbling Under survey (read: hit #101) later that summer. Duke Jupiter split up in 1986 with sporadic live reunions; singer/guitarist Greg Walker released a solo album, Blue Serenade, early last fall.

    June 30:
    STYX “Music Time”
    (down from #75, peaked at #40 (2 weeks), 9th and final week on chart)

    The longtime Styx fans who considered “Mr. Roboto” a hokey, electronic mess must have hemorrhaged at the sound (to say nothing of the sight) of their final first-run single. The lone studio supplement to the classic lineup’s only live release, Caught in the Act (recorded at the onset of the ill-fated Kilroy Was Here tour in New Orleans), “Music Time” is an ostensible dig at American consumerism that ends up as vapid (if not more so) as the culture it lampoons, undercut by sole composer Dennis DeYoung’s incessant mugging for camera and microphone alike. Tommy Shaw, already at odds with DeYoung over Kilroy‘s muddled theatrics, left the band before the single’s release, shooting his only scene (see 3:38) for the video while working on his solo debut, Girls With Guns (whose title track doesn’t sound that remarkably distant from “Music Time”).

    In my head, the “Music Time” video (directed by Jay Dubin, whose repeat clients included Billy Joel and Hall & Oates) fights Ronnie Milsap’s MTV bid “She Loves My Car” (another summer-1984 artifact; David Hogan, director) for the title of Most-80s Music Video: both clips contain random, cartoonish visual elements that carbon-date the finished products to the era in which they were produced; the songs they accompany each depart (to varying degrees) from the artists’ sure-selling styles. (“She Loves My Car” ups the ante with cameos from the likes of Hervé Villechaize, Exene Cervenka and John Doe; it’s also Mariska Hargitay’s first screen credit.) I know there are many other viable candidates, but Styx De Young and Milsap whoever acted as Milsap’s eyes represent the “apex” of the phenomenon for my money. Your Most-80s Music Video nominees are welcome in the comments. (I’m always building the library.)

    Also welcome in said comments: your vote for the July edition of this series. We’re jumping back to the Nineties next time; any year beyond the previously-covered 1994 and 1997 is eligible.

  • FOOLS GOLD vol 15: If Anyone Wants It

    We’re now fifteen entries deep in our review of the Billboard Mainstream and Modern Rock hits of the Nineties that never made the esteemed publication’s pop surveys, including the Hot 100, its Sales or Airplay components or, in the case of Cheech & Chong, the annual Christmas charts (“Santa Claus and His Old Lady” spent a week at Mainstream for the 1997 holiday season). Some of my favorite recordings of the decade—most audio, one visual—get their due this go-round, so make use of the links.

    “Lie on Lie” #13 Rock #36 Alt 1996
    “Live Tomorrow” #35 Rock 1997

    Chalk FarM (as they were curiously stylized) hailed from Los Angeles and drew critical comparisons to Counting Crows and the Gin Blossoms, not always favorably. I don’t recall hearing either song on the radio (or MTV in the case of “Lie on Lie”) but the band likely received some KPFT exposure thanks to their October 1996 appearance on the syndicated World Cafe.

    “Pearl” #7 Alt 1991
    “Mesmerise” #21 Alt 1992
    “We Are the Beautiful” #29 Alt 1994

    Formed in Reading in 1986, Chapterhouse started out in a similar psychedelic vein as future Dedicated labelmates Spacemen 3 before emerging as a leading light in the British shoegaze movement. “Pearl” features backing vocals by Rachel Goswell of Slowdive and classic drum breaks from Schoolly D and John Bonham. It appears on the debut album Whirlpool, re-released in the States to include the infectious, idyllic “Mesmerise”, a stand-alone single overseas. Blood Music, the second and final Chapterhouse album, yielded a one-week wonder in “We Are the Beautiful”. Beyond a few brief reunion tours in the late naughts, the band remains inactive.

    “The Only One I Know” #5 Alt 1990 #37 Rock 1991
    “Then” #4 Alt 1990
    “White Shirt” #18 Alt 1991
    “Sproston Green” #25 Alt 1991
    “Weirdo” #1 Alt (1 week) 1992
    “I Don’t Want to See the Sights” #13 Alt 1992
    “Can’t Get Out of Bed” #6 Alt 1994

    Last week I told the story of Catherine Wheel’s 1992 gig at Numbers, a night they carried single-handedly after their headlining tourmates missed the show for reasons forgotten…thus depriving me of the chance to see the Charlatans at the club where I’d first heard them (thanks to frequent video spins of “The Only One I Know” and the sublime “Then”). At a glance, the seven tracks here put the former Charlatans UK in the current FOOLS GOLD lead for scoring the most Modern Rock entries without ever appearing on the Hot 100. (Catherine Wheel themselves are not far behind with six charting cuts; Brother Cane hold the Mainsteam [and overall] record so far with eight.) The deserved chart-topper “Weirdo” would also give them a #10 Dance hit that summer.

    Since 2020, Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess has been a hero to music lovers in lockdown, his Twitter listening parties bringing artists and fans together to celebrate cherished albums and new releases alike. Those parties will become a little less frequent as the band takes to the road again, honoring three decades in action and supporting the recent anthology A Head Full of Ideas. No American dates have been announced, but it shouldn’t be too late for Numbers to eventually cash that rain check.

    “Back ‘N Blue” #32 Rock 1990
    “Woke Up With a Monster” #16 Rock 1994

    The more thinkpieces I read about Cheap Trick—even those from self-proclaimed diehards—the more I’m convinced their legacy rests on their first five albums (the monolithic At Budokan above all) while the past forty years have been powered by occasionally catchy fumes. (In my head, “Tonight It’s You” and “I Can’t Take It” battle “Surrender” for ultimate CT supremacy.) Praise for the albums represented here, 1990’s Busted and 1994’s instant cutout Woke Up With a Monster, is difficult to glean and begrudging when discovered. I’d be more charitable towards “Back ‘N Blue” if it didn’t recall “Cuts Like a Knife” right out of the gate. (We’ll also discuss Robin Zander’s solo career in this series, obviously not for awhile.)

    “Let Forever Be” #29 Alt 1999

    And talking of surrender…

    Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons’ second album, 1997’s Dig Your Own Hole, holds sentimental value as a midnight-party purchase and an embarrassment of electronic riches for Sound Awake‘s first year of broadcast. By the release of Surrender in the summer of 1999, I’d acquired a contact at Caroline/Astralwerks and advance Chemical Brothers product (to say nothing of Fatboy Slim, Air etc) was mine for the asking.

    If Surrender was a mild comedown, “Let Forever Be” was direct mimicry of its predecessor’s biggest hit, “Setting Sun”, complete with Revolver-inspired beats and guest vocals from co-writer Noel Gallagher. What redeems the track is its innovative, fever-dreamlike video, directed by the gifted Michel Gondry (responsible for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and too many promotional clips to narrow down) and starring actor/dancer Stephanie Landwehr (most recently seen in La La Land).

    (Potential further redemption: does anyone else hear the intro to the Monkees’ “Porpoise Song” in the opening loop? I can’t find any verification online, even from the reliable WhoSampled.)

    “Trout” #2 Alt (1 week) 1993

    I can confirm a 60s “sample” in the mix for “Trout”, as co-producer Jonny Dollar replicates the guitar riff from Steppenwolf’s “The Pusher”. (A legitimate sample of “When the Levee Breaks” is heard for the second time in this post; see also Chapterhouse, “Pearl”.) The sex-positive collaboration between the Rip Rig + Panic and R.E.M. singers caught on at KRBE in Houston, leading to brisk sales for Cherry’s sophomore solo album, Homebrew (also home to the #43 pop hit “Buddy X”).

    “Heavenly Pop Hit” #17 Alt 1990

    Submarine Bells, the second full-length release from singer-songwriter Martin Phillipps and his rotating support cast, topped the charts at home in New Zealand and was their first to be issued worldwide by Warner Bros. (via the storied Slash label). The seven-week Modern Rock run of the aptly-named “Heavenly Pop Hit” marks the band’s only chart dalliance with Billboard. “The Male Monster From the Id”, from the Chills’ second and final Slash album Soft Bomb, made the rounds on 120 Minutes in the summer of 1992.

    “Metropolis” #1 Alt (1 week) #11 Rock 1990
    “You’re Still Beautiful” #27 Alt 1990
    “Ripple” #3 Alt 1992

    After the orchestrated success of “Under the Milky Way” on the pop charts and Starfish at retail, the bean-counters at Arista demanded momentum, summoning the Church back to L.A. with Starfish co-producer/antagonist Waddy Wachtel for Gold Afternoon Fix (its title derived from investors’ lingo rather than drug slang). Drummer Richard Ploog, undermined by drum machines at Wachtel’s insistence, quit in frustration before its release. “Metropolis” proved a winner at alternative radio but the album got no higher than #66 and failed to match its predecessor’s gold status. Arista wisely loosened its grip, allowing the Church to write and record the ethereal priest=aura in Sydney with producer Gavin MacKillop (fresh off the sessions for Toad The Wet Sprocket’s Fear). Although it only spent two weeks on the Billboard 200 (and led to the temporary exile of guitarist Peter Koppes), priest=aura remains a favorite among band alumni and disciples. (“Ripple” is not a cover.)

    More of my favorite cuts in the series are scheduled for Volume 16, along with a soundtrack supergroup and a band of headbangers at the end of their ball.

  • FOOLS GOLD vol 14: My Days Are Unoriginal

    Another round of welcomes and thanks to each of you who have made this blog and its star series a part of your blog-surfing regimen. If you’re new to the site, FOOLS GOLD is your host’s alpha-by-artist chronicle of the tracks that made noise on Billboard‘s Mainstream and Modern Rock charts without a peep on its pop surveys. Today’s post is our second foray into the letter C and the final entry to examine acts filed under “Ca-“.

    “Lucy” #35 Rock 1998

    Andy Curran first made Billboard‘s Top (Rock) Tracks in 1982 as bassist/vocalist for Toronto heavies Coney Hatch. A myriad of solo and group projects in the Nineties led to the birth of Caramel and a North American deal with Geffen Records (that would naturally fizzle with the Universal/Polygram maelstrom of 1999). The present day finds Curran touring with a revitalized Coney Hatch and making equally vital new music with Maiah Wynne, Alfio Annibalini and fellow Canadian rock vet Alex Lifeson as Envy of None.

    “My Favourite Game” #16 Alt 1999

    One could easily conjure the radio atmosphere of early 1997 by creating a playlist of the era’s biggest hits and repeating “Lovefool” at twenty-minute intervals. Not content to attempt an obvious sequel, the Cardigans announced their followup album, Gran Turismo, with a high-speed, minor-key rocker whose freewheeling video required five different edits to placate international censors. The top link leads to the most-popular “Stone Version”, where singer Nina Persson gets blindsided by the rock that propelled the ’74 Eldorado she drove (more or less) for the shoot; the band’s official VEVO channel also offers the “Walkaway” cut (in which Persson emerges relatively unscathed) and the “Dead Version” (self-explanatory).

    “Sullivan” #23 Rock 1998
    “Attention Please” #30 Rock 1999

    A vanity vehicle for singer/songwriter Jimmy Newquist, Caroline’s Spine released four independent albums before Hollywood Records gave their generic radio rock a brief signal boost at decade’s end.

    “Hey You” #37 Rock 1990

    In addition to his well-documented time in Ace, Squeeze and Mike + The Mechanics, Carrack served as Roger Waters’ keyboardist (and default opener) for 1986’s Radio K.A.O.S. album and tour. They worked again four years later on Waters’ commemorative staging of The Wall in Berlin.

    Sheriff Fatman” #29 Alt 1991
    “The Only Living Boy in New Cross” #26 Alt 1992

    A component of the UK’s flash-in-the-pan “grebo” scene exemplified by Pop Will Eat Itself and The Wonder Stuff, Carter USM’s mishmash of synths, guitars and colloquial wordplay proved too inscrutable for most American listeners. These tracks spent a collective three weeks on the Modern Rock survey.

    “Dream About You” #16 Alt 1992

    Peter Case appeared on the KPFT program preceding Sound Awake in June 2011. I got this photo and his signature on my CD copy of Everywhere at Once. Photo: Melissa Noble

    Having achieved pop cult status with the Nerves and the Plimsouls, Peter Case launched his adventurous solo career with a self-titled album in 1986. His third record, Six-Pack of Love, was a favorite with management at my retail gig of the day and missed the Billboard 200 despite spawning a top twenty Modern Rock hit and being a damn good disc besides. Suggested further research: the John Prine co-write “Wonderful 99”.

    “Black Metallic” #9 Alt 1992
    “I Want to Touch You” #20 Alt 1992
    “Crank” #5 Alt 1993
    “Waydown” #15 Alt #24 Rock 1995
    “Judy Staring at the Sun” #22 Alt 1995

    L-R: Brian Futter, Dave Hawes, Neil Sims, Rob Dickinson

    I caught what I assume to be Catherine Wheel’s first Houston performance in August 1992, at the venerable Numbers. Originally scheduled to open, they became the sole live act of the evening when the headliners pulled out for reasons that elude me today. “Black Metallic” (produced by Talk Talk confidante Tim Friese-Greene) remains their most gorgeous charting cut; the crossover “Waydown” their most calculated. Tanya Donelly splits the verses with singer Rob Dickinson for the single version of “Judy Staring at the Sun” while the original mix on Happy Days limits her to the chorus. (Dickinson’s cousin, a vocalist of high note, makes an appearance in this series in the near future.)

    “Leave Me Alone” #17 Alt 1990

    A power pop trio from Boston, the Cavedogs parlayed local radio action into a deal with Enigma Records (and later its parent distributor, Capitol). The Ed Stasium-overseen Joy Rides for Shut-Ins resulted in their only national hit and touring stints with Enigma labelmates Mojo Nixon and The Dead Milkmen. Per Wikipedia, the band’s live cover arsenal contained “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “A Quick One While He’s Away”; alas, YouTube offers no evidence of either.

    We’re poised to cover some cool topics in our fifteenth installment, including the band who bailed out of that Catherine Wheel gig and one of the decade’s most mind-blowing music videos. I can’t wait to read it.

  • FOOLS GOLD vol 13: The Notion That Someone’s Home

    Welcome to the twenty-first published post on Seen and Not Seen and the thirteenth entry in our premier series. FOOLS GOLD examines the tracks that made Billboard’s Mainstream (aka Album) and Modern (Alternative) Rock charts in the Nineties without advancing(?) to its pop surveys (Hot 100, Airplay, Bubbling Under). This venture, presented alphabetically by artist, now dips into the letter C.

    “The Sweater” #23 Alt 1992

    Although “The Sweater” only spent three weeks in the bottom third at Modern Rock, it managed to top the playlist at Sacramento’s KWOD and move a few cassingles in Houston thanks to the alt-leaning evening rotation at KRBE. The Angel Food for Thought album was an after-work fave for me and a few colleagues; its emphasis on spoken-word (and the f-bombs of “Being in Love”) kept it out of the overhead play stash. Cadell transitioned to male in 2003 and is sporadically active on Twitter. (A caveat: both Wikipedia and WhoSampled claim that the backing track for “The Sweater” was lifted from “library” composer Syd Dale’s “Walk and Talk”, and while it evokes the easy-for-TV sound Dale excelled in, I don’t hear any direct similarities myself.)

    “Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle” #31 Alt 1995
    “I Will Survive” #28 Alt 1997
    “Sheep Go to Heaven” #16 Alt 1999
    “Let Me Go” #28 Alt 1999

    Frontman John McCrea questions your spending choices and demands a peeled grape.

    I made reference to discovering Cake via 120 Minutes while discussing Babes In Toyland in Volume 4. Such a sardonic earworm was “Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle” that when Best Buy offered the Motorcade of Generosity CD for $5.99 I took immediate advantage. It stands to reason that “The Distance” and “Never There” would find support at pop radio but I am surprised that their seemingly-ubiquitous Gloria Gaynor cover stalled just inside the alternative top 30 with no Hot 100 action. “Sheep Go to Heaven” and “Let Me Go” purport to be two separate compositions.

    “What’s Happened to You” #25 Alt #39 Rock 1990

    If Michael Been’s instincts were correct, MCA Records chose the sole single from Red Moon on the strength of Bono’s backing-vocal credit and not on the song’s own (limited) commercial merits. The label offered no further promotion on the album, further justifying the “Musical Cemetery of America” epithet they acquired at the turn of the decade. Red Moon missed the Billboard 200 and would be the Call’s final record on a major label. (My pal Charlie Bingbang, a recurring character in this series, saw them in San Diego circa the MCA years and likened the performance to an electrified church revival with Been at the pulpit. I remain envious.)

    “Heaven (I Want You)” #18 Alt 1991

    L-R: Heiko Maile, Marcus Meyn

    After enticing alternative fans and clubbers alike with three Modern Rock/Dance crossover hits, most prominently 1988’s “The Great Commandment”, Germany’s Camouflage (reduced to its core of singer Marcus Meyn and keyboardist Heiko Maile) tried a more organic approach for their first album of the Nineties. Meyn and Maile co-produced Meanwhile with the esteemed Colin Thurston, responsible for the early works of Duran Duran and the Human League among other credits. “Heaven” might not make the setlist at your favorite club revival night but should get your head bobbing on the drive home.

    “Change” #18 Rock 1993
    “Cover Me” #8 Rock #23 Alt 1994
    “Understanding” #19 Rock 1995
    “It’s Alright” #2 Rock (6 weeks) #32 Alt 1998
    “10,000 Horses” #13 Rock 1998
    “Happy Pills” #17 Rock 1999

    Nothing excited me about Candlebox in the day and based on my scant research for this post, I don’t believe I cheated myself.

    “Submarine Song” #9 Alt 1991
    “Wembley” #12 Alt 1993

    When I landed my second record-store gig in June 1991, the Candyskins (as the band was later stylized) had just issued their debut album, Space I’m In, and promotional posters and CD samplers were in ample supply. “Submarine Song” scratches my eternal itch for the jangly Britpop of the era but I recall their baggy take on “For What It’s Worth” being the bigger hit among the staff. The Oxford lads went a little heavier for 1993’s Fun?, resulting in a second radio/120 hit in “Wembley” but dismal returns at retail and an acrimonious split with Geffen (as if there was any other kind of split with Geffen). After two more albums, the Candyskins broke up in 1998, with sporadic reunions over the next decade. Their website remains online but doesn’t appear to have been updated since 2014 (or redesigned since Y2K).

    “Strawberry Fields Forever” #11 Alt 1990
    “Redhills Road” #19 Alt 1991

    Danny Spencer and Ric Peet formed Candyflip at the dawn of the Nineties, the name a slang term for a simultaneous dose of ecstasy and acid. Fittingly, their first and biggest American hit was a cover of the most acclaimed psychedelic single of all time (and another Hot 100 miss that befuddles your author). Five cuts on the lone Candy Flip album, known in full as Madstock…The Continuing Adventures of Bubblecar Fish, were released as singles in the UK; only “Strawberry Fields Forever” and the wistful “Redhills Road” saw Stateside promotion (both were also top ten Dance hits).

    “Leave Me Alone” #14 Rock 1996
    “Cut You In” #5 Rock #15 Alt 1998
    “My Song” #6 Rock 1998
    “Dickeye” #36 Rock 1998

    When I covered Alice in Chains back in the second entry for this project, I discussed how their reputation as a leading “alternative” act was undercut by their greater success on album-rock stations. The solo endeavors of AIC guitarist Jerry Cantrell—fueled in part by the band’s uncertain future as frontman Layne Staley fought his demons—met with similar results. “Leave Me Alone” can be heard over the closing credits of Jim Carrey’s The Cable Guy; the remaining tracks appear on Cantrell’s stand-alone debut, Boggy Depot, named for an Oklahoma ghost town not far from where his father was raised. (Jerry “Rooster” Cantrell, Sr. portrays the sheriff in the video for “Cut You In”. AIC drummer Sean Kinney, who plays on the album, also makes an appearance.)

    On deck for our next edition: one of rock’s leading journeyman singers, a “headlining opener” I saw thirty summers ago, and more sweaters.

    (EDITOR’S NOTE: Although John Cale’s two Modern Rock charters from 1990 qualify for FOOLS GOLD, they are both collaborations on which Cale received second billing. We’ll cover them when alphabetically appropriate. Here’s a bonus performance of the KPFT favorite “Dancing Undercover” from The Tonight Show to tide us over.)

  • A MONTH OF HUNDREDS: May 1997 – A Dime on a Roll

    Twenty-five years ago this month I turned twenty-seven and toasted six months on the air at KPFT. It was a good era for the music I wanted to feature on Sound Awake (Dig Your Own Hole and Ultra were both mere weeks old) and an agreeable time for the pop charts (your #1 singles in May: “Hypnotize” for three weeks, “MMMbop” for two). Meanwhile, the lowliest position on the Hot 100 was occupied throughout the month as follows:

    May 3:
    IMMATURE featuring SMOOTH and ED FROM GOOD BURGER “Watch Me Do My Thing”
    (down from #92, peaked at #32, 14th and final week on chart)

    From All That: The Album, a companion to Nickelodeon’s hit comedy series. “Ed from Good Burger” is All That regular Kel Mitchell in character as the fictional fast food joint’s bumbling cashier. (Good Burger would gain a movie spinoff that summer, starring Mitchell and AT sidekick Kenan Thompson; Immature vocalist Marques Houston appears as Thompson’s classmate.) Look for a cameo by the recently-departed Johnny Brown, who worked with Mitchell and Thompson on the Nick sitcom Kenan & Kel. With its members approaching legal adulthood, Immature rebranded as IMx in 1999.

    May 10:
    FUNKY GREEN DOGS “Fired Up!”
    (down from #95, peaked at #80, 14th and final week on chart)
    The only Hot 100 showing for the Miami-based production duo of Ralph Falcon and Oscar Gaetan, who have also worked under such guises as Murk, Interceptor and Liberty City (the latter alias responsible for the Houston radio hit “Some Lovin’”). Falcon and Gaetan earned eleven #1 singles on the dance chart, four credited to Funky Green Dogs; “Fired Up!” (featuring vocals by Pamela Williams) spent two weeks at #2.

    May 17:
    PHIL COLLINS “It’s in Your Eyes”
    (down from #85, peaked at #77, 14th and final week on chart)
    This tepid slab of guitar pop was the second single from Dance Into the Light, Collins’ first release after officially leaving Genesis in March 1996. The chord structure recalls “She Loves You” and “Any Time at All” while the guitar Collins strums in the video was a loaner from Paul McCartney; Noel Gallagher (who could run a Masterclass on “borrowing” Beatle properties) criticized the clip to Collins’ face. “It’s in Your Eyes” made it to #8 on the Adult Contemporary chart, his eighth solo AC top tenner for the decade. (Tellingly, Dance Into the Light was the first Collins album not to score any Mainstream Rock hits.)

    May 24:
    TOO $HORT & LIL’ KIM “Call Me”
    (down from its peak of #90, 3rd and final week on chart)
    One of three hits from the soundtrack of the romantic(?) comedy Booty Call (which I still need to see in full as Tommy Davidson never wastes my time). The only commercial single pressing was a twelve-inch; two separate promo CDs were issued to radio and have recently commanded near $100 apiece on Discogs. “Call Me” was the sixth Hot 100 appearance for Too $hort (born Todd Shaw) and the third (in just six months) for Li’l Kim (Kimberly Jones). It’s also the ninth disparate song entitled “Call Me” to crack the Hot 100 (and one of two on this week’s chart; Le Click’s top ten Dance hit sat at #54 en route to a #35 peak).

    May 31:
    (down from #80, peaked at #12, 19th and final week on chart)

    And here’s the sixth Hot 100 record whose title is pronounced “on and on” but the first to incorporate an ampersand (and do away with spacing). The debut single from the artist also known as fatbellybella topped the R&B/Hip-Hop chart for two weeks and netted Badu a Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. One of my roommates at the time (and a limited time as I’d move midsummer) owned the CD single and made it part of his morning routine that spring.

    Our June entry for A MONTH OF HUNDREDS will honor a belated request, one I’m happy to fulfill as we’ll cover one of my favorite musical seasons of the Eighties. Your suggestions for July 199x are encouraged below.

  • FOOLS GOLD vol 12: Stepping Out of the Page

    Legends loom large in our final FOOLS GOLD entry for the letter B. It’s our twelfth trip to the well of Mainstream and Modern Rock hits that never spilled into Hot 100 territory.

    “Wrong” #23 Rock 1992
    “Countdown” #38 Rock 1992

    “Wrong” (and the attendant announcement of Out of the Cradle) took me by complete surprise in a late-night MTV binge: the first new music from Lindsey Buckingham since his (initial) exit from Fleetwood Mac and no advance buzz to retail? The album became a natural in-store fixture upon release and a promo CD wound up in the mitts of yours truly. It’s one of Buckingham’s best solo records (his reinterpretation of the folk standard “All My Sorrows”, modeled after the Kingston Trio’s arrangement, is essential) but the videos for “Countdown” and the Mick Fleetwood kiss-off “Wrong” are too quirky for their own good. (Out of the Cradle produced a third single, the #38 AC “Soul Drifter”. Its video does not embarrass.)

    “Last Goodbye” #19 Alt 1995

    My initial exposure to Jeff Buckley (most likely via 120 Minutes) left me unimpressed; while CD shopping in late ’94, I flipped past Grace to grab a copy of Lorca, still my favorite album by his father Tim. When the news of his drowning death hit the internet twenty-five years ago this month, chat rooms and email lists were abuzz with praise for his lone proper album, particularly his cover of James Shelton’s “Lilac Wine” (which I would use as an on-air tribute thanks to the station library). After further revisitation, I finally added Grace to the collection in 2001, securing an ideal tonic for my headspace that summer (to say nothing of September). My favorite original cut: the title track.

    “My Town” #32 Alt 1997

    I’m selective when it comes to third-wave ska. Quite selective.

    “Sodajerk” #7 Alt 1993

    For all their 120 ubiquity in the early 90s, the Boston trio only grabbed my attention once: with the non-charting “I’m Allowed”, another cut from their fourth album, Big Red Letter Day. And even that one veers too close to self-pity for my current tastes.

    “Hang On St. Christopher” #22 Rock 1991

    The glam-metal outfit that brought us “Smooth Up in Ya” have always had a flair for unorthodox covers. “Hang on St. Christopher”, introduced by Tom Waits on 1987’s Franks Wild Years, follows their hit remake of the O’Jays’ “For the Love of Money” and precedes a 1995 attempt at “American Pie (Part 1)”.

    “Cold Contagious” #18 Rock #23 Alt 1997

    Of the ten tracks that Bush placed on both the Mainstream and Modern charts in the Nineties, only “Cold Contagious” failed to crack the Hot 100 or its Airplay companion (it was also their first to miss the alternative top ten). It’s no more or less derivative than any of their crossover hits.

    “The Sensual World” #6 Alt 1990
    “Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time)” #11 Alt 1991
    “Eat the Music” #10 Alt 1993

    When I first started listening to KPFT in the summer of ’85, its late-night jocks turned me on to many artists I only recognized through record bins and newsprint. It was here that I officially met Kate Bush via “Wuthering Heights” and “Running Up That Hill”, the latter bound for the national Top 40 and my 45 collection. A used CD of The Sensual World (whose “Love and Anger” topped Modern Rock throughout November 1989) was an early purchase at my first record-store gig, the album so tied to the era that hearing it today makes me sentimental to the point of morose. The title cut was followed up the alternative charts by a disappointing Celtic-reggae arrangement of “Rocket Man” for the tribute album Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin and “Eat the Music”, the lead single from The Red Shoes that I doubt I’ve ever sat through en toto. The Seventies and Eighties were the most fruitful decades for Bush’s muse; I submit the 1986 compilation The Whole Story (with its superior vocal take on “Wuthering Heights”) as Exhibit A.

    “Who Was in My Room Last Night?” #24 Alt 1993

    After busting a gut over the name in a J&R Music World catalog the year before, I finally got a whiff of the Butthole Surfers thanks to KPFT in that storied summer of ’85. I don’t remember the song that took my virginity, but I was intrigued enough to tape Psychic…Powerless…Another Man’s Sac from my friend and graphic guru Charlie BingBang’s library once we got acquainted. We never suspected that in the decade to come, the derelicts behind “Lady Sniff” would recalculate their approach, sign a deal with Capitol and net John Paul Jones to produce their first new album for the Tower, Independent Worm Saloon. “Who Was in My Room Last Night?” (that’s Flea tending bar in the video) ain’t awful but given the shock value of their back catalogue, it’s damn near neutering…though preferable to the faux Beck of 1996’s “Pepper” (three weeks at #1 on the alternative chart, #26 airplay).

    An official Butthole Surfers documentary is in production, aided by a Kickstarter campaign to raise further funds. Here’s a taste of the hole truth. (We’ll meet up again with Gibby Haynes–and a few of his noisy chums–later in our series.)

    “Love That Never Dies” #14 Rock 1990

    When Columbia Records announced plans for a comprehensive Byrds box set in 1990, founding members Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman and David Crosby convened in Nashville for four new recordings to round out the final disc. “Love That Never Dies”, co-written by McGuinn and original Heartbreakers drummer Stan Lynch, sounds unsurprisingly like Tom Petty, an homage to an honor student from the master.

    “She’s Mad” #3 Alt 1992
    “Angels” #24 Alt 1994

    What you are about to read may not sync up with my “brand”, but David Byrne’s works beyond Talking Heads were more substantial when the parent band was still an ongoing concern. I’m thinking My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, the scores for The Catherine Wheel and The Knee Plays, even Rei Momo, released a year after Naked but two before the official breakup announcement. Uh-Oh and David Byrne, the albums represented here, were in-one-ear-out-the-other affairs for your author whose life was transformed by Stop Making Sense at 14; subsequent releases (even the 2008 reunion with Brian Eno, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today) haven’t rekindled the spark. My favorite post-Heads Byrne moment is “Lazy”, a collaboration with the UK production team X-Press 2 that spent a week atop the Dance chart in the summer of 2002 (and months in Sound Awake rotation).

    Thus endeth the B’s, but not the BS. We’ll celebrate the third letter of our project with cake, candy, German synthpop and performance art for the teeners.