The Wild Swans Come Back In From the Cold

Creation Records’ Alan McGee is quoted as saying, “Liverpool in the ’80s was like Hollywood to me. The Wild Swans were part of the greatness of that city.”  The Wild Swans released one single in 1982 with the help of Echo & the Bunnymen’s drummer Pete de Freitas who not only played drums on The Revolutionary Spirit, but also put up the money for the recording studio. The Wild Swans were the brainchild of former Teardrop Explodes keyboard player Paul Simpson. That first legendary single was nearly the end of the Wild Swans even though it was universally acclaimed. The band fell apart around the time their label Zoo ceased.

Simpson reformed the Wild Swans in the late 80’s with a new line-up, signed to Sire Records in the US and had a few minor college hits with Young Manhood and Melting Blue Delicious. After two albums, once again Simpson saw his band disintegrate around him. Both times Simpson was  not ready for it to be over. He still had some kind of burning desire. He felt as though he had not yet done what he had set out to accomplish, but it seemed as if the Wild Swans tale had come to and end, until four years ago when Simpson declared on the Wild Swans mySpace:

“This unhappy band has been unfinished business for me for over 20 years, haunting my days and nights, obsessing my thoughts at the expense of my health and sanity. I never got over the sudden implosion of the first incarnation and was devastated by the crash and burn of the second. In returning from the ambient wilderness I am not trying to recreate the unique sound of any of the former members, how could I? It is the original spirit of the group I am after, the original blueprint for an English electric brotherhood. I formed and named the band shortly after leaving The Teardrop Explodes back in 1980, individually recruiting the members and establishing both the look and the compass direction. I lived and breathed The Wild Swans Mk. I and was traumatised to see it seized and taken from me, so this shouldn’t be viewed as a reformation or even an exorcism, it is a continuum; different but the same”

Over the last four years a new Wild Swans has taken form. Unbeknownst to most of us, Simpson hand picked his band, tapping  former Echo and the Bunnymen bassist Les Pattinson, Ricky Maymi of Brian Jonestown Massacre, Mike Mooney of Spiritualized and Steve Beswick formerly of the Heart Throbs. Simpson has taken his time with Wild Swans mark III, but his methodical, deliberate approach has paid off with the best record of his career.

The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years is an album that plays like a nostalgic love letter to his home town of Liverpool. The record begins with Falling to Bits begins which acts as both a roll call and a wake up call, “This town is falling to bits and I don’t like it” Simpson sings. His blood is boiling, but he’s older and wiser. Wise enough to know that if he’s got the pop hooks, you will pay attention. The next song Liquid Mercury swoops in and feels like your at the pub recalling old times with Pattinson’s throbbing bass in background.  Chloroform goes further back in time with Simpson recalling stories of his grandfather in WW I, his father in WW II, and himself buying old army boots from the vintage shop. Simpson has an axe to grind with the present, alluding to the fact that we’ve never known hardship and how everything is cheapened and taken for granted because we’ve never suffered or sacrificed. He pines for an English Electric Brotherhood, but his land is infected as he sings in English Electric Lightening.

When Time Stood Still sees Simpsons speeding back to his boyhood home, hoping he can make it back home with bald tires and burnt out break light. He’s aging and wonders if he can ever get back to the time of his childhood feeling as though he’s missed his chance to spark this Electric Brootherhood himself. You get the feeling he’s doomed to nothing but futile sadness in his endeavor and the music’s ringing guitars evoke a happy sadness that comes with all this nostalgia and missed opportunity.

But wait, it’s not all depressing and hopeless. The song Underwater comes along midway with its beautiful and silvery guitars to buoy our spirits even though Simpson feels like he’s drowning underwater. It’s a weird respite to the album, because although he sings about drowning, he’s telling us about amazing stingrays, coral, octopi, and a girl that saved him from the depths. Does he still have hope for the future, or just hope for himself?  Intravenous continues the respite from the concept album. Love has temporarily distracted him from his dourness.

Like all loves though, you eventually settle into day to day life and the romance that temporarily took you over subsides into day to day life, and your concerns and worries trickle back into your conscious.  Glow In the Dark is that song, and it’s sinewy guitars evoke those feelings exactly. After the transition, we return to present day reality with My Town. Simpson sings, “My town use to fill my head with wonder, now it fills me with disgust…like Sleeping Gas and Do It Clean.  It’s dead, it’s over now.” referring to the halcyon days of Teardrop Explodes and Echo and the Bunnymen.

Can it ever come back, or are we on a slow decline to a vapid society? Will the forests and flowers that once flourished where shopping centers and airports currently exist ever return? Simpson holds out hope as quintilian of atoms cluster and collide on The Bluebell Wood. The album closes with a second glimmer of hope. A short classical epilogue that conjures an image of a butterfly coming out of it’s cocoon.

Bands reform these days on regular basis, but few reform with something to say. The Wild Swans most definitely have something to say, and they say it such an elegant engaging manner. They never had the fan-base to make reforming a money making endeavor, they did it because they had some some unfinished business, something to say. A hungry band in the autumn of their years, making the best album of their career.

mp3: The Wild Swans – Underwater (from The Coldest Winter In a Hundred Years)


Mark Burgess (aka Chameleons Vox) at the Crocodile, Seattle | 21 September 2010

I don’t know if Chameleons stock has recently risen or if Seattle just knows what’s up. Back in 2002 when I saw the Chameleons in San Diego on the tour they did after getting back together (and releasing their fourth album Why Call It Anything) the attendance was anemic.  There were no such problems Tuesday night at the Crocodile.  The place was packed and the anticipation to hear (cult) classic songs was palpable.  In their day, the Chameleons created a stadium sized sound and intensity with their music, but were able to balance their big sound with an innate spirituality that was lacking in  contemporaries like U2 and Simple Minds.  Unfortunately internal frictions caused the band to implode as they were just beginning to record their 4th album. Creatively they seemed to be peaking, and the heights they were about to scale can be heard in the 4 song Tony Fletcher Walked on Water EP.  It took 16 years for the Mark Burgess, Dave Fielding, Reg Smithies and John Lever to bury the hatchet and finally record a fourth album.  They got back together in the early 00’s and Why Call It Anything was born. It was a short-lived reunion, as the internal frictions reared their ugly heads again and the Chameleons self-destructed for a final time after that record and a tour of the United States.

Burgess has never shied away from rehashing his Chameleons days.  He toured with his band the Sons of God in the mid 90’s and even though he had solo material to play, the sets were mostly Chameleons songs. This time he’s making no bones about it, touring as Chamleons Vox, this is a full on nostalgia tour.  Eschewing the 4th album entirely Burgess and his band roared through the Chameleons 80’s catalog pulling from Script of the Bridge, What Does Anything Mean? Basically and Strange Times..  The night did not leaving anyone disappointed, though the crowd seemed intent on getting him to come back out for a third encore.

Burgess, is no young lad anymore like you see on the back of Strange Times.  He still has a big mop of hair and eyebrows that make me think he’s related to Joe Pesci’s in Goodfellas.  As the distinctive guitar intro to Swamp Thing warbled through the Crocodile and the bass began to thunder, Burgess appeared with big smile, dressed in all black with his pants tucked into his combat boots.  Everyone in the room was feeling the hairs stand on the back of their necks, and Burgess himself seemed to chuffed to playing these songs he’s been singing for 25 years one more time.  His gregariousness is infectious and you can tell he’s totally into playing these songs even though they are 25 years old. Certainly his booming baritone has not lost an ounce of power.  His band replicated the Chameleons’ sound with seeming ease and affection.  Burgess was freed from his bass guitar to concentrate on being the front man.  He seemed to have a vortex of energy surrounding him, during the first encore he leaped off the stage into the audience during Splitting In Two and a suddenly the audience became a sea of pogoing bodies and as he returned to the stage he left a mosh pit in his wake.

The band ended up doing two encores, due to the zealous cheers from the audience.  As they returned to the stage for the first encore Burgess  mentioned that he only did encores if they were really wanted.  He then spied a Wedding Present Poster on the wall and started talking about David Gedge and how they’re buddies and how the Wedding Present never do encores.  He gave a pause and then said, he’s a miserable bastard isn’t he. Lucky for us that Burgess is no Gedge, because the encores were maybe the best part of the show, pulling out aces like Don’t Fall and The Fan and the Bellows.  It was that kind of night where long time Chameleons fans showed up to hear their favorite songs and were not disappointing.  Well, not quite.  After the first encore a woman place a note on stage for Burgess  saying that she couldn’t believe that Tears had not been played.  Burgess, kind of surprised,  turned to his band, showed them the note and began singing Tears a capella.  Everyone in the room joined in for rousing rendition of it which ended with Burgess giving the woman a kiss.

Set List: Swamp Thing | A Person Isn’t Safe Anywhere These Days | Monkeyland | Pleasure & Pain | Up the Down Escalator | Perfume Garden | In Answer | I’ll Remember | Soul In Isolation | Singing Rule of Britannia | In Shreds | Second Skin |
Encore 1: The Fan and the Bellows | Don’t Fall | Splitting In Two (Alternative TV cover)
Encore 2: Tears (a capella) | View From a Hill

I shot video for The Fan and the Bellows. I wish I would have gotten Perfumed Garden, because that was my favorite of the night.

mp3: The Chameleons – Perfume Garden (from What Does Anything Mean? Basically)

Dolly Mixture, Liechtenstein and the Importance of Being Sensible

For a band that released a few singles, a posthumous EP and only 1000 copies of their only album, a three disc box set might seem like overkill for an obscure all girl band from the UK. Dolly Mixture may have been better known at the time of their existence as Captain Sensible‘s back up singers. Captain Sensible of the Damned had two hit singles in the early 80’s away from the Damned. Both (Happy Talk & Wot) were campy, nudging in on Ian Dury territory and of course over the top, but more importantly employed the backing vocals of the Dolly Mixture.

mp3: Captain Sensible – Wot (from Captain Sensible The Collection)

mp3: Captain Sensible – Happy Talk (from Captain Sensible The Collection)

Dolly Mixture were a force to be rekoned with in their own right, mixing the pure pop of 60’s girls groups with a bit of glam, mod and punk. They were a precursor to indiepop and can claim a direct influence on the Riot Grrrl movement. They were an all girl band who stuck to their guns, not caving to major label males’ demands that they let men play the music on their records leaving them to just be pretty faces. It’s sad to think that this is one of the reasons they were forced to self-release their debut album the double record Demonstration Tapes which actually only contained demos. Listening to it today, it sounds perfect as ‘just’ demos though maybe a little warbled because of less then pristine storing of the masters. Their voices still shine through and are pure as the driven snow, the guitars, strings and percussion evoke a Tamala/Motown sound that probably would have been lost if they had been produced. One of the three discs in the box set contains the Demonstration Tapes double LP (the album was also reissued on vinyl as an extremely limited edition of 300 copies as well). The second disc compiles their singles and the third disc contains a few covers, some demos and tracks that fell between the cracks.

mp3: Dolly Mixture -Everything and More (from the box set Everything and More)

mp3: Dolly Mixture – How Come Your Such A Hit With the Boys, Jane? (from the box set Everything and More)

The liner notes were written by Bob Stanley of St. Etienne. Stanley is a long-time fan and even counted Debsey Wykes at one time as a member of the St. Etienne’s touring band. There Wykes met Paul Kelly who compiled the songs for this box set restored them from crusty old tapes and did the layout for the release. You may remember Wykes and Kelly were in Birdie together in the late 90’s and early 00’s. Birdie put out two rather nice records that kind of continued along the Dolly Mixture path but added in a little Free Design and not surprisingly some of the mellow dance vibe of St. Etienne.

mp3: Birdie – One Two Five (from Some Dusty)

So you may ask, what kind of influence does a band that existed for a few fleeting moments 30 years ago have on today’s bands. You need look no further than Sweden’s Liechtenstein. Yeah, there are quite a few bands out there today that you could tag with a Dolly Mixture influence, but Liechtenstein, besides being a trio of women who play their own instruments, harmonize and make pop songs that can sound sweet and innocent on one side and then on the next cop a punk attitude. Their debut CD Survival Strategies in a Modern World came out last year on Slumberland, but not ones to rest, have just released a new 7″ single on Swedish label Fraction Discs.

mp3: Liechtenstein – Passion For Water (from the new Fraction Discs 7″)


The Wedding Present At the Crocodile, Seattle | 21 April 2010

A few years ago The Wedding Present played a set of shows celebrating the 20th anniversary of their debut album George Best where they played the entire record at each gig. Those were exclusively UK gigs, since George Best was only available as an import in the US when it came out and consequently never gained much notoriety over here.  It is now the 20th anniversary of the band’s second (excluding their Ukrainian dalliance) album Bizarro, and David Gedge and his current incarnation of the Wedding Present are doing the same celebration of their better known (at least in the US), record. Bizarro was the first I’d ever heard of the Wedding Present back in 1990.  It was the post-Smiths era and lonely kids everywhere were in search of a band to take their place.  The Wedding Present were sensitive, but with a rough side.  Gedge’s gruff voice singing about betrayal, unrequited love and apple pie juxtaposed with the band’s aggressive, jangling guitars seemed to fit perfectly into my life.

Wednesday night The Wedding Present brought their nostalgia show to the Crocodile, and considering that the record is 20 years old, the crowd at the Croc didn’t appear too aged.  We didn’t get Bizarro right at first, Gedge and company warmed up with a smattering of old and new songs which acted as kind of a warm up to playing the album.  Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft, Corduroy and Queen From Outer Space were early set highlights with Gedge using these songs to loosen up his strumming hand.  They also did two new songs, I Wake Up Screaming and Deer Caught In Headlights.  I Wake Up Screaming suffered from it’s lyrics referencing, of all things, an iPhone (perhaps he’s getting product placement money, a possible new revenue stream for musicians), while Deer Caught In Headlights was more to my liking building into big roar at the end.

After six songs, it was finally time for what everyone was there for, Bizarro.  The PA bellowed with various presenters announcing “The Wedding Present” and finally culminating with John Peel’s voice uttering the band’s name and we were off into the jangly throws of Brassneck.  Side one rushed by with fast paced Crushed and Thanks, the jangle of No, and the crushing pop of Kennedy (Gedge jokingly said he thought it was most definitely a b-side when he wrote it).

Side two of Bizarro is a bit more dense with no song under four minutes except for Be Honest.  Songs like Granadaland, Bewitched and Take Me! are all lengthy jams that probably try the band’s endurance but were a lot of fun to hear live. The more straightforward crowd pleasers like Kennedy and Brassneck have made regular appearances in Wedding Present set lists over the years but I had never these longer side two songs played live.  Gedge’s hand went into blur mode on his guitar, strumming faster and faster on each song.  Drummer Charlie Layton was a machine at the back, playing these fast songs precisely and tirelessly.  Take Me! was glorious in it’s nine plus minutes.  It was the highlight of the set for me, and took on a slightly different feel than the album version.  Maybe I had just never noticed before this night, but the song sounded like it could have been on the first Feelies album.  The Wedding Present have always been able to distill their influence down to a point where they’re unrecognizable, but hearing Take Me! kind of shed a little light on what made and still makes the Wedding Present tick.  Next year marks the 20th anniversary of Seamonsters, I hope Gedge and company see fit to celebrate that album as they have the previous two, because as good as Bizarro is, Seamonsters is arguably their pinnacle.

mp3: The Wedding Present – Take Me! (from Bizarro)

Velez Manifesto

Discovering new bands in this day and age is much different from how you went about it 25 years ago. Turn on a computer, open a web browser, click a link to an mp3 or a MySpace page and voila, instant discovery.  One could argue that there are actually too many bands out there to discover these days.  You name it, every style of music you can think of is being made and quite well and finding it as as easy as clicking mouse.

Rewind 25 years and finding out about music took a bit more effort.  You actually had to tune into radio stations, read black and white photo copied ‘zines, and rely on your friends who were cooler than you.  Even that was no guarantee you’d hear anything that really caught your ear.  It was kind of left up to chance back then, you might see and an album cover looked super cool in a record store causing you to buy something sound unheard, or you might go to a gig and the opening band you never heard before would blow you away.  It was that kind of random discovery that often times made the music that much more special.

What new music might an 18 year old kid find, arriving in a small college town in West Virginia? If it was the early 80’s there was a wealth of music to discover, especially when the drinking age was still only 18.  Morgantown is the home to West Virginia University, so not your typical small town, but a small town nonetheless.  The University had a college radio station that played the cool college rock of the day and Morgantown, thanks to it’s relative proximity to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Washington, DC offered a perfect tour stop for a lot of bands touring the east coast.   The student population at the university was made up mostly of West Virginia residents had a fair number of kids coming from New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and other places on the more urban east coast.  These factors combined for a perfect storm of influences at the time to create quite an impressive music scene in this small town of about 25,000 people.

The kids of university professors mixed with blue collar kids in the small confines of a little bit of flat space next to the Monongahela river providing the fertile turf for growing a music scene that  transcended upbringing and any stereotypes you may have of a small town in West Virginia.  One such band that exemplified all of that transcendence was Velez Manifesto.  It was in the heart of the 80’s when bands like Joy Division, Depeche Mode, New Order, the Cure and the Smiths were the big names on the college charts.  If you were a rabid music fan into those kinds of bands at that time, chances are you dug a little deeper to discover the less fawned upon and darker side of post-punk music like the Chameleons, the Sound, Comsat Angels, Suicide, Cabaret Voltaire and the Birthday Party.

That is exactly what the four guys in Velez Manifest did.  Taking their cues it seemed from the dark, goth-tinged bands of the time Velez Manifest were born.  Tom Moore, singer and guitarist of the band having grown up in Morgantown was heavily immersed in the music scene having cut his teeth in previous bands:  Eddie Haskelll,  the Excuses and Human Remains.  In Eddie Haskelll, Moore played with Bob Cotter who later sang for th’Inbred and guitarist Robert Bowers.  Moore tells the hilarious story of how even at a very young and tender age they had something going on: “One day Bob brings over some really stupid looking but scantily clad vixens. My mom pulls up to the driveway, and these silly chicks say, ‘We’re with the band'”

After Eddie Haskelll disbanded Moore formed the Excuses,with Owen Davis, Dan O’donnel, and  Alan Blosser. The Excuses were a punk rock cover band that often played gigs at Mateo’s which at the time was a biker bar, but would later be rechristened the Underground Railroad and become legendary in Morgantown punk and post-punk folklore.   When the Excuses decided that they wanted to start writing their own thrash-pop songs instead of covers they renamed themselves the Human Remains.  Human Remains eventually broke up with Owen Davis going on to start another band Gene Pool and Tom taking a break from biker bars.   West Virginia punk rock was not for the faint of heart, Moore mentions fights and fleeing  into the night with instruments in hand to escape brawls, so a break was likely needed.

Velez Manifesto were born some time in 1983 when Moore hooked up with his long-time friend Sei Peterson.  The two initially were more interested in just making music for themselves, but quickly they realized that what they were doing shouldn’t be kept in the basement and added Jimmy X (Matterer) on keyboards and Greg Carte on drums.  Carte was also in Gene Pool and  later Scott Fetty would take over the drums in the permanent Velez line-up.

By this time the biker bar Mateo’s was now the Underground Railroad and had gained a reputation as a good place for a gig if you were a touring punk or hardcore band.  Kim Monday, owner and operator of Frozen Sound studios remembers bands like Chili Peppers, Black Flag, Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, Glass Eye, Husker Du, and New Potato Caboose playing the Underground.  He also recalls the local sene being full of bands like Gene Pool, Swiss Army Tractor, Small Axe, The Larries (soon to become 63 Eyes), The Duty Brothers, th’Inbred and Velez Manifesto opening for these more known national bands.  Moore says that there was really no competition or animosity in the Morgantown music scene except for when it came to opening for the likes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Flaming Lips or Husker Du.

Local rivalries aside, Velez set to making a name for themselves. The band began to build a significant following in town, doing packed shows at the Underground Railroad and garnering play at U-92, the University radio station.  Back then a band didn’t send out mp3’s or a CD.  You either had the cash to make a record or you resorted to cassettes.  Velez Manifest relied on the lo-fi latter, but that didn’t stop U-92 from playing them.  The station transferred their songs to tape cartridges in order to play the band’s songs on the air.

By this time the band were hitting on all cylinders, getting together with Kim Monday at his Frozen Sound studios out on Van Voorhis Road to record.  Monday recalls:

The thing that really sticks out to me though was the recordings. You could tell there was something going on with those guys.  I recorded the band live with a “scratch” vocal to capture as much energy of the band as possible. The reason I didn’t keep the vocal was that I didn’t have a good isolation room for Tom to sing in so the drums and guitar amp sound would be in the vocal mic as well. Almost every time it came to doing the “real” lead vocal…. I’m not sure I can express this properly. I would get as close to a final mix as possible and sit in the control room with the rest of the band, Tom would start to sing and magic seemed to happen. I remember “Heart of Steel”. “The Boys Are Coming Home”… it gave me goose bumps. I know the business of music is wacky but those guys should have been huge.

The songs were so good that without the band’s knowledge, the music director at U-92, Pat Ferrise sent one of their songs, Dark Clouds to Columbia/Epic Records for consideration to be on a compilation the label was putting together of the nation’s best unsigned bands.  Dark Clouds ended up making it onto the compilation called Epic Presents the Unsigned Vol. 2 and for a time everyone held their breath that the band would make the leap from best kept secret in the Mountain State to major label band.  Alas, nothing came of the opportunity with the label never pursuing the band any further.    Moore reminisces, “We made no money, nobody cared, I got drunk for a year.”

He may be right about two of those three, but people definitely cared.  At least people in Morgantown.  They cared because the band were that good.  I recently asked a friend of mine who lives here in Seattle who lived in Morgantown when Velez was around about the band.  He immediately started singing one of their songs.  That isn’t just an anecdotal occurrence, everyone I contacted for this story had fond memories of the band, 20 plus years later recalling what an amazing live band they were and how they seemed to be on the cusp of really making it.  From their sessions with Monday, the songs just sound big, and you can tell the band were in a zone when they were playing together.  The tight drums and driving bass reminds me of early Hunters & Collectors with that band’s juggernaut of a rhythm section.  Combine that with Velez’s, judicious and effective use of  keyboards, and the chiming guitar and you had a band that was able to create huge atmospheres of sound. Moore had a killer voice and a knack for dramatic melody which didn’t hurt and made the songs all the more memorable.

When nothing seemed to come of their major label dalliance, the band seemed to run out of steam and the inherent transience of living in a college town pulled the band apart with Moore and Peterson moving to Baltimore.  Peterson and Moore would be in a few more bands together as well make music on their own.  In the mid 1990’s they formed Plow and put out two shoegaze, dream-pop records on Hat Factory, one self-titled and the second called Ice Cream Flares and Rocket Sounds. Peterson currently plays in Hearts by Darts who have an album out on Peapod Recordings.

Unfortunately, by the time I arrived in Morgantown for my freshman year of college Velez had left town.  I remember playing their carts on U92 and thinking that they sounded way too good to be a local band.  Looking back I think I can probably say this was the first of many eye opening experience I had at the University. Up to that point I thought great music was made in far away places like New York, Los Angeles or London.  Velez Manifest and other Morgantown bands like Tooling For Bovines and Lack-a-Daisy were the pin pricks that burst  my naive and  insular world view bubble.

mp3: Dark Clouds

mp3: Pop Song

mp3: Heart of Steel

mp3: The Boys Are Coming Home

mp3: Crack In My Face

mp3: Blue Air

A big thanks to Tom Moore, Scott Fetty, Kim Monday, Pat Ferrise, and Scott Weimer for answering my questions.  Additional thanks to Scott for the Velez photos and Perry Newhouse for the Underground RR flyer.

Underground Railroad Flyer listing Velez Manifesto playing twice in the same week.

Hey Mike Cox, I’ve Got Your CD’s

Aurora Bridge photo from Sean2112’s flickr

On Sunday I was in Silver Platters down in Lower Queen Anne perusing the used cds. I ended up with a handful cds including Ian Hunter‘s You’re Never Alone with a Schizophrenic, Toots and Maytals‘ Reggae Greats, and the Young Fresh Fellows‘ The Men who Loved Music. When I got home and took a look at them, I noticed they all had been signed by Mike Cox, who must have been their previous owner. Apparently Mike and I have quite similar random taste in music, or quite the opposite since these were all in the used bin. I can only hope that they weren’t stolen from him and sold. If that’s the case Mike and you’re reading this, leave a comment and I’ll give them back to you.

I suppose an explanation is in order as to why I would buy such a random assortment of music.  This blog tends to lean toward obscure indie universe, but I do listen to other stuff.   I’ll start in comfortable territory with Seattle’s Young Fresh Fellows.  I first became aware of the Young Fresh Fellows when I got to university, where their song Amy Grant got a lot of play at my college radio station. I should also mention that I’ve seen Amy Grant in concert. Why on earth you ask? It was one of my many jobs in college to work as an usher for events at the WVU coliseum and one of those events was Amy Grant. So yeah , I got paid to see Amy Grant. I was happy to find this disk on Sunday.  These songs are still funny after all these years, and not the song Aurora Bridge has much more context for me living in Seattle.

mp3: Young Fresh Fellows – Amy Grant

mp3: Young Fresh Fellows – Aurora Bridge

Veteran’s Memorial Bridge photo from rtompstyle’s flickr

As a kid growing up in a small town outside of Cleveland, Oh I did a lot of hanging out. A lot of my time was spent next door with my older cousin Jeff. He was seven years older than me, but didn’t seem to mind me and my friend Jack being around. Jeff was a skater who also had a pretty voracious appetite for music. If I can look back and identify a beginning to my music obsession it would probably start with my cousin.
When you skate, you have to have music and the music was never the same. He listened to everything from Van Halen to Prince to the Germs, to Agent Orange to Wasted Youth to Ian Hunter. I was nine when this came out but remember Cleveland Rocks quite well, hell it was constantly played on Cleveland radio station, WMMS. It was later covered by Seattle band the Presidents of the USA and used as the theme for the Drew Carry show. Yeah it’s probably played out, but the rest of Ian Hunter’s Schizophrenic album is just as good. He’s joined on it by Mick Ronson and John Cale as well as a bunch of E Street band. Second song Big East sounds like it could have been a Springsteen song, but a lot of the record has a Bowie feel to it. Although Barry Manilow did not appear on the the record, he did later cover the song Ships from it, taking it into the singles charts.

mp3: Ian Hunter – Cleveland Rocks

mp3: Ian Hunter – Just Another Night

Jamaican bridge photo from tell me about your mother’s flickr

I don’t have a story about Toots and the Maytals, like a lot of post punk fans, I was introduced to Toots and the Maytals by the Specials covering Monkey Man. I picked this up because it was playing at the store. It was that random, but maybe not so random since one Mr. Cox had previously owned this cd as well.  Reggae Greats is a good collection of the some of Toots and Maytals better known songs.  It must have been some extraneous force guided my mind and body over to the reggae section to pluck this cd from the bin. So no need to worry Mr. Cox, your cd’s have found a good home.

mp3: Toots and the Maytals – Monkey Man

mp3: Toots and the Maytals – 54-46 (That’s My Number)

You Can Go Back

Me on the air.  Happy 25th!
My College radio station u92 turns 25 this year, and this past weekend was the birthday party. So I made the trip back to Morgantown, WV for the birthday/reunion weekend. U92 is an excellent college radio station that not only plays cool music, but it’s sports, news, promotions, production and specialty shows are great as well.  I think probably most of us that worked there didn’t go on to radio/entertainment jobs, but those that did have been successful because what they learned at U92.  The rest of us are music obsessed geeks and misfits or just regular people with a thing for radio. And those of us that fall into that category, even learned a few things doing college radio. 

So it was a blast to see old friends, party it up, bowl a few games, see some bands, and get back on the air.  It was like I never left, and it went by way too fast.  Air-shifts were short, to get as many of us on a possible. So I had an hour to reminisce on the air, by playing old favorites.  Here’s the playlist from my shift:

Nick Lowe – So It Goes
Railway Children – A Gentle Sound
Sebadoh – The Freed Pig
Ian Dury and the Blockheads – Reasons to be Cheerful, pt. 3
Kirsty MaColl – The End of a Perfect Day
Stereolab – The Seeming and the Meaning
The Saints – I’m Stranded
The Fall – I’m Into CB
Cud – Sometimes Rightly, Sometimes Wrongly
John Cooper Clark – I Don’t Wanna be Nice
Camper Van Beethoven – Take the Skinheads Bowling
Wedding Present – Suck
Brian Eno – Burning Airlines Give You So Much More
Prefab Sprout – Lions In My Own Garden (Exit Someone)
The Swirlies – Chris R

You don’t have to take my word for it about how great u92 is.  The folks at CMJ have nominated if for CMJ Station of the Year this year.  It’s up against some heavy hitters including Seattle’s KEXP.  Since it is an award for College Radion Station of the year, it would be great if a real college radion station won the award.  If you’re attending CMJ this year you can vote for WWVU!

mp3The Chameleons – Nostalgia 

Thanks to Bill for the photo.  Bill also did a shift, which you can check out the details of over at his blob Sound Bites.