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”.)
GARY CLAIL/ON-U SOUND SYSTEM
“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.)
JOHNNY CLEGG & SAVUKA
“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.
CLIFFS OF DOONEEN
“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.
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.
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?
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.
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.)
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.
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
StyxDe Young and Milsapwhoever 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.
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.)
THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS
“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.)
NENEH CHERRY featuring MICHAEL STIPE
“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.
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.
CARTER THE UNSTOPPABLE SEX MACHINE
“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
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
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.
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.)
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
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.
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).
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.)
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:
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.
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.
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.)
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).
ERYKAH BADU “On&On”
(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.
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.
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.
Your host submits another biased examination of the Billboard Mainstream and/or Modern Rock hits of the 90s that pop radio never embraced at large. As is custom, your opinions and memories are encouraged.
THE BOTTLE ROCKETS
“Radar Gun” #27 Rock 1995
Brian Henneman, a roadie and auxiliary musician for alt-country titans Uncle Tupelo, formed the Bottle Rockets in 1992 when his demos landed him a record deal with the flourishing East Side Digital imprint. Their 1994 debut, The Brooklyn Side, was reissued a year later by their new label, Atlantic, giving the band a minor Mainstream hit at Christmastime. I’d be surprised if “Radar Gun” was never followed or preceded by Junior Brown’s “Highway Patrol” on a KPFT playlist from the day.
After nearly forty years as a professional musician, Henneman announced his retirement (and the dissolution of the Bottle Rockets) last March: “I want to experience a ‘normal life’ just as badly now as I did NOT want to in my youth.”
The godfather of “modern rock” had already scored alternative hits in the 90s with Adrian Belew (see Volume 6) and Tin Machine (forthcoming) before making the decade’s surveys on his own. “Real Cool World”, written for Ralph Bakshi’s disappointing live-action/animation hybrid, marked Bowie’s first work in nearly a decade with Let’s Dance producer Nile Rodgers; the pair would collaborate in full on Black Tie White Noise, Bowie’s first album post-Tin Machine and eighteenth solo studio effort overall. “Jump They Say” was inspired by the 1985 suicide of Bowie’s half-brother, Terry Burns, who suffered from schizophrenia. Its #9 placing on the UK singles chart gave the artist his only homeland Top 10 hit in the Nineties. (My favorite Black Tie cut: the Sanford and Son-evocative “Miracle Goodnight”.)
I lucked into a free lawn ticket for what would become Bowie’s final Houston appearance: A Reality Tour, April 29, 2004. I’ll never forget his opening remarks: “HOUSTON! You crazy motherfuckers, how are ya?”
“Temptation” #49 Rock 1991
Here’s a band deserving of a BigSuit deep dive: formed in Montreal in 1981 and considered “new wave” by Wikipedia. Their fourth album, 1990’s The Pleasure and the Pain, appears to be their only American release; “Temptation” spent one week just above anchor position on the Mainstream survey (and peaked at #39 on the Canadian Top 40). The band split up in 1992 but leader Jean-Marc Pisapia would assemble a new version of The Box in the mid-2000s.
While 1988’s Workers Playtime remains Bragg’s only solo album to dent the Billboard 200, the English folk activist made bigger strides on American radio with the singles from Don’t Try This at Home. “Sexuality”, originally a call for gay rights but recently retooled to recognize the trans community, features Kirsty MacColl on backing vocals and was an immediate 120 Minutes favorite, while Michael Stipe and Peter Buck (Bragg’s bandmates in Bingo Hand Job) lend talents to “You Woke Up My Neighborhood”. (All guests make respective video appearances alongside comedian Phil Jupitus, who directed the clip for “Sexuality”.)
In the late Nineties, Nora Guthrie approached Bragg with the idea of setting music to her father Woody’s unpublished lyrics. The project would come to fruition as Mermaid Avenue, an album series in collaboration with Wilco (a splinter group of the aforementioned Uncle Tupelo). “California Stars” was one of the most-demanded songs for KPFT’s so-called All-Request Fridays (basically our drive-time shows with a slight bump in listener input).
EDIE BRICKELL & NEW BOHEMIANS
“A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall” #21 Alt #28 Rock 1990
“Mama Help Me” #17 Alt #26 Rock 1990
Speaking of Woody Guthrie, his most obvious acolyte gets covered here for Oliver Stone’s adaptation of Born on the Fourth of July. “Mama Help Me” was the sole charter from Brickell and company’s second album, Ghost of a Dog, which cracked the Top 40 but failed to sustain the momentum of their double-platinum debut.
“Dream On” #34 Rock 1990
The Philly rockers’ second and final Mainstream charter comes from the 1989 sophomore effort Boys in Heat. Singer “Dizzy” Dean Davidson would leave the group after its release, reemerging in 1991 with Blackeyed Susan (covered in Volume 8).
“Got No Shame” #2 (1 week) Rock 1993
“That Don’t Satisfy Me” #6 Rock 1993
“Hard Act to Follow” #12 Rock 1994
“And Fools Shine On” #1 Rock (6 weeks) 1995
“Breadmaker” #25 Rock 1995
“Voice of Eujena” #30 Rock 1996
“I Lie in the Bed I Make” #1 Rock (4 weeks) 1998
“Machete” #12 Rock 1998
Brother Cane’s success at rock radio didn’t translate to point of purchase: of the Birmingham, Alabama quartet’s three studio albums for Virgin, only 1995’s Seeds graduated from Heatseeker status to the Billboard 200 (peaking at #184). That record supplied four songs to the soundtrack of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, including the Mainstream smash “And Fools Shine On”; it’s also a sonic pivot between the predictable Southern rock of their eponymous debut and the post-grunge aspirations of Wishpool, whose poor sales led to the band’s dismissal and demise. By coincidence, the first Brother Cane revival show (with founding members Damon Johnson and Glenn Maxey) took place last week in Milwaukee, with a full 30th-anniversary tour in the works for 2023.
THE BUCK PETS
“Libertine” #25 Alt (2 weeks) 1991
The second act of this post (after New Bohemians) to hail from up the freeway in Dallas. Their second album, Mercurotones, was released in the wake of Island Records’ acquisition by Polygram, resulting in downsized promotion for the Buck Pets or any other Island act whose name took up more than two characters.
“Lit Up” #1 Rock (3 weeks) #33 Alt 1999
“For the Movies” #24 Alt #25 Rock 1999
“Dead Again” #38 Rock 1999
Here are the first rumblings of a band whose most recent Mainstream entry made the chart in 2019, though lead singer Josh Todd is the only holdover from the original lineup. “Lit Up”, ubiquitous on MTV that summer, is the evolutionary point between the Black Crowes and Dr. Rockso.
Our next installment—the final post for the letter B—covers a rock giant I’ve admired since my single digits, a woman whose work I first heard via KPFT in my teens, and someone I might not admire as unconditionally as one might think.
These are banner days for Seen and Not Seen: I’ve discovered I can add images with my free blog template and we’re up to the tenth entry in our major escapade. While your host hangs fresh artwork on his previous pages, enjoy another trip through the Mainstream and Modern Rock charts of Billboard magazine of the 90s, excluding those cuts that saw additional Hot 100 motion.
“Chemical World” #27 Alt 1993
The lone American “hit” from their second album exists in two versions: the Stephen Street production (and video soundtrack) from the British pressing of Modern Life Is Rubbish, and a doctoring of the original demo by Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley (aka “Chemical World [Reworked]”) for the US edition. Fun with Wikipedia: “On Beavis and Butt-head, when the video was reviewed, Beavis said that he wanted to urinate all over the band and the wildlife, including a snail and Damon Albarn.” Poor snail.
“Black, White and Blood Red” #34 Rock 1991
“Feed the Fire” #34 Rock 1994
“Guilty” #29 Rock 1990
“Bringing Me Down” #47 (1 week) Rock 1990
“Change of a Season” #32 Rock 1992
“Drown in Me” #33 Rock 1997
Jason Bonham’s debut as bandleader, 1989’s The Disregard of Timekeeping, kept no secrets about its lineage: but for the presence of Bonzo’s son at the kit, the group would have been dismissed as yet another Zeppelin clone. (Exhibit A: “Bringing Me Down”, which features Yes’ Trevor Rabin on bass and fell off the Mainstream chart after a week.) Bonham and company shifted gears for Mad Hatter, resulting in “Change of a Season”, the greatest power ballad the Scorpions never gave us. “Drown in Me” is credited to The Jason Bonham Band; When You See the Sun was produced by Marti Frederiksen for Michael Jackson’s label.
“The One” #23 Alt 1996
The followup to the inescapable “Mother Mother” may not have been as seismic but deserves frequent amplification all the same. Both appear on her first album, The Burdens of Being Upright; sophomore effort Down Here (2000) made the drive-time rounds at KPFT.
Despite the ownership of a 2-CD collection I bagged on the cheap, the Boos remain a peripheral presence. I’m linking to the version of “Lazarus” as it appears on the band’s third LP, Giant Steps, since I can’t find a proper upload for any single mix (and the lone official Vevo offering is a 75-second excerpt). Both tracks anchored the Modern Rock chart; “Lazarus” for two weeks, “Barney” for one.
BOOK OF LOVE
“Alice Everyday” #21 Alt 1991
On Valentine’s Day, 2017 I had the pleasure of a live phone interview with Book Of Love singer Susan Ottaviano just days before the Houston stop on the synth-pop icons’ 30th-anniversary tour. You can hear our chat about an hour into that afternoon’s properly-romantic Classic Club Special, followed by a block of vintage BOL remixes, the Sam the Butcher Mix of “Alice Everyday” among them. (The official video upload uses the Everyday-Glo Mix from the period; I have a remaster for the original LP edit through my VJ pool but it doesn’t appear to be properly synced.) The only charting single from third album Candy Carol, it also peaked at #21 on the Club Play chart that spring.
BOOM CRASH OPERA
“Onion Skin” #8 Alt 1990
I don’t recall hearing “Onion Skin” in its heyday but I well remember promos of the single and its parent CD, These Here Are Crazy Times, clogging our store’s clearance bins for months. It was one of four Top 20 singles the Melbourne rockers charted at home.
“Walk On Medley” #14 Rock 1994
It is indeed a medley from the Walk On album; it entails the instrumental “Walkin’ at Night”, the title track, “Get Organ-ized” (another instrumental) and “Walk On (Some More)”; it runs for over twelve minutes and I refuse to believe any DJ tracked the whole thing for reasons beyond restroom or smokin’ breaks.
Speaking of wearying length, two slightly extended posts should finish our ‘B’ files, with the practical inventor of modern rock joining us for a second time in our next installment.
Another attack of B’s as we spotlight more Billboard Album and Modern Rock hits from the 90s that never advanced to any pop chart.
“Tones of Home” #20 Alt 1992, #10 Rock #20 Alt 1994
Friday, October 20, 1995: a group of friends carpool to Numbers anticipating their weekly ritual of drinking and dancing to vintage synth-pop and EBM. Their plans are thwarted by a rare Friday concert booking, the headliners supporting the fledgling sequel to their multi-platinum debut. A woman among the dejected clubbers, not a fan of the band or particularly fond of its lead singer, expresses her frustration: “Why doesn’t he just fck off and die already?”
Saturday, October 21, 1995…
For the record, that story was told to me in retrospect by the woman who made the unfortunate utterance. I first heard the news returning from a weekend in Austin (I’d spent that Friday with Spiritualized) when a DJ back-credited “Galaxie” to “Blind Melon, featuring the late Shannon Hoon.” CNN would spill the details when I got home.
On the subject of home, “Tones” was the band’s first toe in the waters of alternative radio and 120 Minutes; the inexplicable buzz of “No Rain” (#1 in both rock formats, #20 pop) sent it back unto the airwaves with slightly broader results.
“Fire Water Burn” #18 Alt #28 Rock 1997
I believe it was the first Sunday morning of 1997…the week after it made its Mainstream Rock debut…that this team of retro-savvy miscreants and their slacker reinterpretation of “The Roof Is on Fire” entered my wheelhouse en route to breakfast. They’re not always appropriate, and their lack of filter might have hindered further success—2000’s indispensable “The Bad Touch” was their only other charting track—but damn, Bloodhound Gang are fun. I refer you further to another video from One Fierce Beer Coaster, the non-single “Your Only Friends Are Make Believe”, featuring cameos from Todd Bridges and John Taylor (whose parent band gets name- and song-checked). Don’t stop there.
“Stone Cold Hearted” #32 Rock 1994
How fitting is the name? On vocals: Berry Oakley Jr., son of the Allmans’ legendary bassist. Rhythm guitar: Waylon Krieger, whose father Robby handled six-string duty with the Doors. Drums: Erin Davis, heir to the Miles mojo. (Involved in an early stage: second-gen red rocker Aaron Hagar at the mic.) Rounding out the lineup: keyboardist Lou Segreti and the band’s showcase, future guitar god “Smokin’ Joe” Bonamassa. Had I still been in the new-music retail biz when this record dropped, with the same SRV disciples on staff, it would have been burnt into my brain on the daily.
THE BLUE AEROPLANES
“Yr Own World” #13 Alt 1991
Beloved amongst the classic UK-indie crowd, this Bristol aggregate still centers around brothers Gerard and John Langley and dancer Wojtek Dmochowski (you’ll pick him out). Their major-label debut, 1990’s Swagger, spawned the 120 favorites “And Stones” and “Jacket Hangs”. The subsequent Beatsongs, recorded in Wales and Hollywood, became their highest-charting UK album to date and home to their only makings of a Billboard hit. Their most recent album is Welcome Stranger!, self-produced in 2016.
“We All Fall Down” #35 Rock 1994
If “We All Fall Down” was going to do any business in 1994, it was going to be Album Rock and briefly so. The original heavyweight lineup’s eponymous debut did fair numbers in 1989, bolstered by the #15 rock hit “Jelly Roll”. As the decade turned, bassist Tony Franklin and drummer Carmine Appice grew disillusioned with the group’s progress and bowed out, leaving guitarist/default singer John Sykes (ex-Whitesnake) to build a backup band from scratch. Nothin’ but Trouble was released in August 1993, over half a year before “We All Fall Down” made any static.
(Ironies from the Golden Age itself: Sykes’ disappointment with the first album’s sales figures was compounded by the sudden success of labelmates Nirvana and the attendant lack of attention at Geffen. “We All Fall Down”, an indictment of heroin and other drugs, made its Mainstream debut on March 26, 1994…ten days before the death of Kurt Cobain. It spent the last of its four weeks in the survey as rock radio went into nationwide mourning. Nothin’ but Trouble never charted.)
THE BLUE NILE
“The Downtown Lights” #10 Alt 1990
“Scotland’s masters of mood music”, as their website succinctly proclaims, first got my attention in 1985 via the American press push for their first LP, A Walk Across the Rooftops (its lead single “Stay” was omnipresent on TV5). Eventually infamous for their meticulous work ethic, the Glaswegian trio recorded and rejected an album’s worth of material before reemerging in the fall of 1989. Hats was a constant spin at my first record-store job and I was delighted to see “The Downtown Lights” in rotation on VH1. Studio work with the likes of Michael McDonald, Robbie Robertson and Annie Lennox (who would cover “The Downtown Lights” for Medusa) would occupy the group for the next few years; album number three, Peace at Last, made its awaited debut in June 1996 (and informed early Sound Awake setlists at year’s end). Founding keyboardist PJ Moore quit upon completion of 2004’s High, the most recent Blue Nile album to date. Singer/guitarist Paul Buchanan and bassist Robert Bell have never confirmed or denied the band’s demise and communication from any official social media account, group or solo, is sporadic. Here’s hoping for at least one more glorious TBN record before the decade peters out.
“Til I Am Myself Again” #19 Alt #37 Rock 1991
Another blind spot in my musical universe despite recommendations from trusted sources. The Toronto folk-rockers’ only American hit, a Canadian country #1, would reenter my life through those sinister late-90s playlists at KPFT (I considered it a highlight).
“Conquer Me” #34 Rock 1993
“Carolina Blues” #4 Rock #30 Alt 1997
Like their former nemeses, the previously-discussed Black Crowes, I best appreciate Blues Traveler in a certain headspace, one involving alcohol and/or plant life. I’ve never been bored with a John Popper interview, however; check out the band’s episode of Behind the Music should it become available again.
Join us next time for the band with the most notoriously slow release rate in the history of recorded sound, plus another classic-rock offspring and the tale of how I spent Valentine’s Day five years ago.