Part Three: The Show
I wish I had a really cool story to tell about going to see Kiss in concert for the first time. A salty saga of impropriety involving sneaking out of the house, hot-wiring a car, snagging fake IDs and getting loaded on PBR in the arena parking lot. There’s a low-budget movie that came out several years ago called “Detroit Rock City”—not an Oscar-worthy piece of cinema, let’s just say. In it, four teenage Kiss fanatics set out on a quest to catch their idols’ tour stop in the Motor City. En route, they battle belligerent disco enthusiasts and pearl-clutching protesters, thwart an armed robbery using a Stretch Armstrong doll (!), rescue a kidnapped floozy, lose their virginity and learn a little something about life, until ultimately they gain entry into the show by way of a con that involves punching each other in the face.
So a story like that. But no, the terrible truth is my mother chaperoned us. Continue reading
“All Good Things” Edition
When I started this ‘90s list 19 days ago—feels like a lifetime now!—little did I know then that I would be bidding farewell to my dear Canadian friends in just a few short weeks. As I prepare to make the big move overseas, I want to pause to salute them for being so lovely and good and kind and fun and friendly and…did I mention lovely? One of these days, to borrow a lyric from Mr. Young, I’m going to sit down and write them all a long letter. But for now, this song is dedicated to my Canadian pals. I’ll miss you! (Getting a little teary now.)
Neil Young — “One of These Days”
Indecision Isn’t Pretty
I had definite picks in mind for the prettiest song of the ‘60s and the ‘70s, and even for the ‘80s I narrowed it down to one band, the Cocteau Twins. (Check me out on Facebook for those picks!) But for the ‘90s I’m having trouble choosing between many and varied acts for prettiest song of the decade. Either more groups started making pretty music in the ‘90s or I started listening to prettier music or both. I give the clip I’m posting below a slight edge for the moment, but ask me tomorrow and the answer could be “Mockingbirds” by Grant Lee Buffalo. Or “Crowded in the Wings” by the Jayhawks. Or “Driving” by Everything But the Girl. Or Jeff Buckley’s cover of “Hallelujah.” Or something else.
Mazzy Star — “Fade Into You”
“Props to the New Hood” Edition
I’m reading up on my soon-to-be home of Portsmouth, England, and I’m discovering that several very famous people hail from there. There’s one guy named Charles Dickens who sounds vaguely familiar—I’ll have to Google him to remind myself of what he’s done. But most importantly, OMG, Roland Orzabal of Tears for Fears is from Portsmouth! TFF peaked in the ‘80s, but for the purposes of this list, in 1993 Orzabal released what was essentially a solo album under the band moniker. Despite the absence of Curt Smith, “Elemental” is a solid effort with a few tracks to rival the duo’s best, including the title track and this one, “Break It Down Again.” Orzabal reconciled with Smith in the aughts and they put out one more album and have been working on a follow-up for a while. If I see Orzabal in the Portsmouth Asda, I’m going to tell him to get a move on already and finish it!
Tears for Fears — “Break It Down Again”
Part Two: The Army
Among the small core group of friends that I’d made after moving to Nashville as a young teen, James was the most adventurous. He always did things first. He had the first girlfriend. (Though I tacitly sat out that race for reasons which would become clear to me a few years later.) He smoked the first cigarette, drank the first beer, heard “Stairway to Heaven” before any of us, thanks to his older brother’s record collection. But he wasn’t a juvenile delinquent or a bad influence in any alarming way. With blonde wavy hair, a crooked grin and a gregarious demeanor, he was basically a good Southern boy. Just a touch more fearless than the cadre of quaking 8th-graders he hung around with. Continue reading
“The Rachel” Edition
Love this song, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen its accompanying video before. Boy, is it goofy! Hey, Sheryl, Rachel Greene called and she wants her hairstyle back. Also: Andy Dick! Molly Shannon! Ellen! Toby… Huss? (Don’t know him.) It doesn’t get much more ‘90s than this.
Sheryl Crow — “A Change Would Do You Good”
“Something in My Eye” Edition
My spouse and I met 17 years ago next month (whoa!) and we dated long-distance for more than four years before I moved to Canada so we could be together permanently. This 1999 hit by Macy Gray was a favourite of ours during that long-distance time, as it kind of summed up our feelings when each of our visits came to its painful end. “I try to say goodbye and I choke/Try to walk away and I stumble/Though I try to hide it, it’s clear/My world crumbles when you are not near.” Damn you, Macy, making me all verklempt with your incisive lyrics and heartfelt emotion! Damn you to heck!
Macy Gray — “I Try”
The Aluminum Group’s 1998 album “Plano” is a quiet charmer that I never tire of hearing. While other releases by this Chicago outfit, fronted by brothers John and Frank Navin, are fine, this one is near perfect. The music is feather-soft, bordering on Holiday Inn lounge fare, but the clever, substantive lyrics grab you and hold you. Favourite track: Any of them, but this one will do for today.
The Aluminum Group — “A Boy in Love”
Aussie Make-Up Day
I considered doing an Australia/New Zealand installment last week for my immensely popular and critically acclaimed “International Favourites” series, but I could only think of three ’90s albums from the region that I really liked and those were all Neil Finn-related. Had I opted to list singles instead, there would have been more variety and “Beautiful Girl” by INXS would have placed high. One of the last North American hits with Michael Hutchence, it’s just a lovely tune, and atypically understated for this group, from its delicate piano intro to the slow-fade organ note at the end. (P.S. Remember the reality show Rock Star: INXS? I watched every single episode. Why, I don’t know, but I still say Jordis was robbed!)
INXS — “Beautiful Girl”
Part One: The Cover
I saw it. It scared me. It changed me.
Such a bizarre and chaotic picture, way more in-your-face than the other less intimidating album covers on that record store wall on that fateful day. Four alien figures, faces painted like characters from a fantastical comic book, posing imposingly amidst a maelstrom of smoke and lights. Heretofore an innocent youth, I laid eyes for the first time on “Alive!” by the pop-metal band Kiss and something stirred inside me. Something… well, wicked I guess is as good a word as any. Even before I heard the songs on the album, (which, being an adolescent boy, I would love of course, but more on that later) that cover gave me a keyhole peek into a new, thrilling, and altogether terrifying world. Not a world of Top 40 pop like I had known previously—the most raucous record in my collection up to that moment was “Jive Talkin’” by the Bee Gees—but a world of loud, vulgar, dangerous rock and roll. Continue reading