Flashback Friday #1 – Greetings To The New Feature

No one asked for it, but here it is, anyway: a new feature on ESDMusic which, hopefully, will become a regular reason for you to visit the site…provided, of course, that we can come up with enough material to maintain it. But, frankly, when you hear the premise, I think you’ll agree that with all of the music geeks we’ve got around here, that shouldn’t be an issue…

Borrowing on the same general concept as Bullz-Eye’s Mix Disc Monday, Flashback Friday will allow our writers to venture into the depths of their possibly-embarrassing personal histories by pulling out old mix tapes and writing about them. In theory, this should reveal a lot about where we were musically at the time we made the tapes; in reality, however, it may just indicate how limited our budget was at the time…or, at least, that’s what this tape of mine shows.

That’s right, as the person who came up with this idea, it’s only fair that I get the ball rolling, and lemme tell ya: I was attending Averett College in Danville, VA (go, Cougars!), and it was a real rarity for me to buy anything that wasn’t on its second or third markdown in the cut-out bin…and, believe me, you can tell.

Title: Greetings from Averett, Vol. 2
Date of creation: late March 1991 (approximate)

Side 1:

“Main Title / Rebel Blockade Runner,” John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra (Star Wars: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

I’ve always been of the mind that every mix needs to start off with something witty, clever, funny, or just, y’know, something memorable. Given that this was 1991 and we were on what would turn out to be a 16-year drought between new “Star Wars” films, beginning the tape with the familiar main titles from the original flick – now known as “Star Wars: A New Hope” – certainly qualified. Unfortunately, the title theme segues directly into another track, ”Rebel Blockade Runner,” and as a result, the whole thing ends up going on longer than most normal people would ever maintain interest. I mean, I love that soundtrack, and even *I* started to get bored. By the way, while I’ve attributed this to the actual “Star Wars” soundtrack, given my budget, I have to believe that this was much more likely taken from an el-cheapo recording done by, say, the Generic Philharmonic Orchestra…which means it’s almost certainly not John Williams conducting but, probably, his non-union Mexican equivalent. (Juan Williams?)

“Losing My Religion,” R.E.M. (Out of Time)

This is the track on Side 1 which most definitively dates the tape for me. As noted, I was a man with limited funds, and most of my purchases were CDs and cassettes that I’d rescued from the cut-out bin at the record chain in the local mall, but I sucked it up and bought Out of Time on its first day of release. I still remember writing a review for the Averett College newspaper, The Chanticleer, and declaring that this song’s lyrics sounded like a parody of the band’s style. (“I think I thought I saw you try” is the one that leaps immediately to mind.) I must’ve made this tape within a day or two of the album’s release and only known this song; otherwise, I almost certainly would’ve put “Texarkana,” “Near Wild Heaven,” or “Shiny Happy People” on here instead.

“This Is the World Calling,” Bob Geldof (Deep in the Heart of Nowhere)

Wow, did this album get reamed when it was first released. I’m sure Bob didn’t expect much else, though; after you’ve been held up as the pop star who fed the world, you ought to know that the press is going to tear your next LP a new center hole. Yeah, that’s right, Geldof’s fallible. So what? And, anyway, Deep in the Heart of Nowhere wasn’t nearly as bad as everyone said; it just wasn’t as good as, say, your average Boomtown Rats album. I still say the first half of the album is pretty damned good, and this song, which leads off the record, is definitely a highlight.

“You Should’ve Been There,” Marshall Crenshaw (Good Evening)

Would you believe this is the first Marshall Crenshaw album I ever owned on CD? And I think it was only the second one I ever owned, period, the first being a well-worn cassette copy of Downtown. It has to be said that Good Evening isn’t the best of his records; it’s over-produced and feels like it’s desperate to score a hit, a sensation aided by the fact that only half of the songs were written by Crenshaw himself…though, to be fair, the others were written by people like John Hiatt, Richard Thompson, and Bobby Fuller. This was one of the originals, though, and it’s a co-write with Leroy Preston that’s catchy as all hell, no matter what the production.

“(Don’t Fear) the Reaper,” Blue Oyster Cult (On Flame with Rock and Roll)

This is one of those budget-priced best-of collections that was released by CBS Special Products in the 1990s, and given that it contains this song, “Burnin’ For You,” and the band’s cover of the MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams,” I have never seen any reason to upgrade. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure I was inspired to buy this because I was reading The Stand at the time.

“Cry Wolf,” a-ha (Scoundrel Days)

Although it didn’t suffer the same fate in other countries, Stateside, you can use a-ha’s second album as the textbook definition of a sophomore slump. It pretty much killed their career stone dead on these shores. Personally, I didn’t get around to buying it ’til after I’d picked up their third release, Stay On These Roads…and I was one of maybe fifteen Americans to buy that record, I think. But I digress. In retrospect, you have to give a-ha credit for being true to themselves with Scoundrel Days rather than trying to put together an unabashedly commercial follow-up to Hunting High & Low.

“You Don’t Get Much,” BoDeans (Home)

It’s impossible to listen to this song without wanting to go up to the BoDeans and smack ‘em around a little, saying, “Just because you toured with U2 doesn’t mean you have to sound like U2.” And, yet, it still has its charms even now.

“God Is A Bullet,” Concrete Blonde (Free)

I’ve mentioned before that Concrete Blonde’s self-titled debut was one of the first promos I ever received, but, funnily enough, I have no recollection of buying their second one…and, yet, here’s a song from it. Well, fair enough, then.

“Shattered Dreams,” Johnny Hates Jazz (Turn Back the Clock)

I make no excuses for my appreciation of slick radio pop, but I remember being very, very confused about Johnny Hates Jazz. I mean, I loved this song from the first time I ever heard it…and, yet, Rolling Stone just completely shredded the album in their review. It may have been one of the first times that I actually paid attention to a review enough to actually not buy an album. Of course, I still ended up buying it when it showed up in the cut-out bin…and, of course, Rolling Stone was mostly on the money. But I stand by my love of “Shattered Dreams.”

“Old Man,” Human Drama (Hopes Prayers Dreams Heart Soul Mind Love Life Death EP)

I don’t know what to say about this, except that it’s basically a goth-rock version of the Neil Young song. It works better than you’d think, but in the long run, that still doesn’t make it very good.

“I Want That Man,” Debbie Harry (Def, Dumb and Blonde)

When this album came out, I couldn’t understand why people were so dismissive of Debbie Harry making an album with members of the Thompson Twins. Now I understand it as a generational thing. Basically, they were saying, “How dare those synth-pop upstarts attempt to work with a goddess of punk?” But it’s still a catchy song. Now that I think of it, I had a poster for this album on my dorm room wall. Ah, Debbie: even in 1991, you were still pretty damned cute.

Side 2:

“The Candy Man,” Sammy Davis, Jr. (Super Hits of the ’70s: Have a Nice Day, Vol. 8)

Presumably, I’d decided to start Side 2 with a laugh, but, really, how hard can you laugh when years of watching “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” means that you know all the words to the song? Actually, when Sammy sings the line, “Soak it in the sun and make a groovy lemon pie,” the answer is, “Pretty damned hard.”

“You’re My World,” Nick Heyward (I Love You Avenue)

As a whole, the album is, to use a phrase of my own devising (as far as I know), produced within an inch of its life, but the song has such a soaring chorus that you can forgive it just about anything.

“Sunshine Superman,” Donovan (Lady of the Stars)

This is going to sound crazy, but do you know finally what led me to investigate Donovan’s music after almost two decades of hearing his songs on the radio? The Happy Mondays. They had a song called “Donovan” on Pills, Thrills, & Bellyaches, and it resulted in Donovan himself playing with them, and reading about that in an issue of New Musical Express made me go, “Huh. Maybe I should get me a Donovan album.” Kids, lemme tell ya, if you ever have a similar revelation, stay away from Lady of the Stars; it’s a crap-ass album from 1984 where Donovan re-recorded a couple of his classic songs, including “Sunshine Superman.” For God’s sake, people, trust me on this: stick to the originals!

“Bermuda,” Roky Erickson (Don’t Slander Me)

Although the all-star tribute to Roky Erickson – Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye – would’ve been out by this point, I don’t think I actually owned it yet. But since I had a well-worn copy of The Trouser Press Record Guide, I certainly knew a bit about him, which means my eyebrows would’ve shot skyward when I saw this disc in the cut-out bin. Roky’s a weird-ass dude, but this song is catchy as hell. As to why this cover’s bigger than any of the others, I had to search the ‘net high and low to even find this original artwork, which is how my CD looked at the time I bought it. (The more recent reissue looks completely different.)

“Journalists Who Lie,” Morrissey (Our Frank)

This is not a very good song, but I can tell you exactly why I put it on here: because I was an obsessive Morrissey fan, and I’d convinced myself that it would be far cooler to include an otherwise-unavailable B-side rather than the other two songs from the then-new CD single. This was an era where Morrissey could’ve shit into a cup and I would have declared it to be ambrosia. Yeah, basically, I reeeeeeeeally needed a woman.

“At Midnight,” The Mighty Lemon Drops (Laughter)

I loved the Mighty Lemon Drops, but I never really understood why they weren’t ever bigger than they were. They started off kinda-sorta aping Echo & The Bunnymen for a few albums, then came into their own with this brilliant album, but it sold for shit. Confused, they put out two more records, and they were both pretty good, but instead of building on Laughter, they felt like a step backwards, which might be why they also didn’t sell very well.

“Achin’ To Be,” The Replacements (Don’t Tell A Soul)

It took me awhile to get around to buying this disc. I think it was because, subconsciously, I was rebelling over the fact that the first single, “I’ll Be You,” got so much mainstream airplay. It pissed me off, dammit. I’d just started to enjoy Pleased To Meet Me as an awesome album that only the cool kids were listening to, and, suddenly, everyone knew who The Replacements were. In a move that was typical for me, however, I was the first in line to praise 1990’s poorly-promoted All Shook Down, no doubt because I felt like the band had gone underground again. Yeah, they went underground, all right: they crawled into their grave and died. Next stop: Paul Westerberg’s solo career.

“Nobody’s In Love This Year,” Warren Zevon (Transverse City)

Funny, I was just talking about this track with Jefito, saying how it becomes a much more telling song after you read Zevon’s biography and discover that, beyond his ex-wife Crystal, he pretty much never held maintained a relationship for more than two years, and was relatively unfaithful in the ones he was in, anyway.

“Bad Karma,” Warren Zevon (Sentimental Hygiene)

I almost never put two songs by the same artist on the same tape, let alone back to back, so I must’ve bought these two albums simultaneously, then rationalized that, hey, it’s Warren fucking Zevon, let’s go for broke. I’m surprised I didn’t put “Reconsider Me” on here, instead, but I guess it was a little too similar in tempo to “Nobody’s In Love This Year.”

“Change the Weather,” Underworld (Change the Weather)

This band completely changed their sound and became a major UK sensation in the mid-‘90s, but in the late ‘80s, they were still very much a synth-driven pop-rock band, and that’s what they’ll always be for me. (I never bought into the new version of the band.) Some people swear by Underworld’s debut, Underneath the Radar, but I always preferred this disc, mostly because of this very song, which I can still sing at the drop of a hat. “Look at these eyes / Admit that you’re killing me…” Yep. It’s still a great track.

“18 and Life,” Skid Row (Skid Row)

I got nothing. I don’t know why on earth I bought this album, let alone put this song on here. My best guess is that it made me laugh. I’m pretty notorious for buying stuff at an inexpensive price if it makes me laugh.

“Right on Track,” Breakfast Club (Breakfast Club)

This is one of my all-time favorite songs from the ‘80s, and it’s from an album that has several other really solid tracks as well. Unfortunately, the band really only got their contract because of their connection to Madonna, and that wasn’t enough to maintain their career. Apparently, Breakfast Club recorded a second album that was rejected by MCA and never released. Damn, I’d like to hear that…