1. Sunshine Smile - Adorable
2. Face of Wood - Modern English
3. Here's Where the Story Ends - The Sundays
4. Touched by the Hand of God - New Order
5. See You - Depeche Mode
6. Anitina (The First Time I See She Dance) - M|A|R|R|S
7. There is a Light That Never Goes Out - The Smiths
8. Everybody Wants to Rule the World - Tears For Fears
9. Lemon - U2
10. Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You) - A Flock Of Seagulls
11. Fascination Street - The Cure
12. Nr 9 - Hooverphonic
13. Machine Gun - Slowdive
14. Dawning - Tamaryn
15. View From a Hill - The Chameleons
Notes and other random things: Once again, summer is upon us, so once again I decided it was time for another edition of the CRC Mixtape Series. These episodes are different from the regular ones in that the format is more akin to the mixtapes I used to make for friends "back in the day". The point of them, really, is that they give me an opportunity to shine the spotlight on excellent 80s and 90s tunes that aren't considered dance tracks per se. I'm not suggesting you can't dance to these songs if you so choose because, like raindrops from a downspout, pneumatic nail guns or utility trucks driving in reverse, anything that provides rhythm is technically dance-worthy. It's just that these tunes are not ones you would typically hear in a dance club. (note: Dancing to the tune of a pneumatic nail gun is dangerous!)
Because it is now officially summer, I decided to create another mix that has the feel of the solstice. For last year's summer episode, I used only tracks that had the word "summer" in the title, mentioned "summer" in the song or talked about things related to summer (such as Vacation by the Go-Go's). This time, I approached it a little bit differently. All the songs in this podast are ones to which I have vivid summer memories attached. Am I saying this episode is all about me? You bet! In fact, this episode of CRC will probably go down as the most self-indulgent, self-centered one of all-time. Granted, the music is still about the amazing artists, but the write-up here will have so many "I's" that it could be mistaken for a scallop ... because scallops have lots of "eyes". Get it? I's ... eyes ... um, yeah. So, anyway, it's going to be a lot like the show VH-1 Storytellers only I'm telling you stories about songs I never wrote in the first place! Doesn't that sound like fun, kids? Of course it does!
Now, before I begin, I'd like to point out that I'm not going to tell 15 stories. That would take way too long. Instead, I'm going to pick a few of my favorites and focus on those. I'd also like to point out that, for me, like for most of us, music has the power to create strong memory associations. Quite frankly, I had a boombox or walkman accompanying me just about anywhere I went during my formative years, so pretty much any song you can name has some association with it no matter how insignificant. Of course, growing up as a kid from the midwest in the 80s, radio DJs played an inordinate number of Phil Collins and Kenny Loggins songs, which means about 95% of my memories are associated with Sussudio or Danger Zone. For example:
Riding my bike to school - Danger Zone
Mowing the lawn - Sussudio
Eating Cap'n Crunch at the breakfast table while trying to block out my sister's face using the cereal box - Sussudio
Oreo-ing my buddy's new car - Danger Zone
Watching the movie Top Gun - Sussudio
The other 5% of my memories are much stronger because they are much more interesting. And thankfully they have much better soundtracks. Over the coming days, I’m going to post a few of these.
I’ll start with Lemon by U2. The year was 1993. Some friends and I took a road trip from Topeka, Kansas to Chicago. Destination: A New Order Concert. We had the car, the tunes, the Nintendo Game Boy and plenty of beer to tide us over for the 10-hour drive. U2’s Zooropa, having been released that year, was one of the albums we had with us and it received tons of airplay (or carplay as it were).
That weekend, we stayed in a rented house with some friends of other friends. We drank a ton of beer. We did tons of shots. I learned I don’t like cement mixers. On the way to the show, I complained that my meatball sub cost about $12, only to leave half of it uneaten because the meatballs were the size of bowling balls. It was Chicago and I should have known better. At the show, 808 State and The The opened. 808 State were fantastic, but there was still too much sunshine and not enough people in the seats when they took the stage. The The were solid, but I was disappointed when they did a slow, plodding version of Infected. New Order were good, but rather unremarkable as they tended to be live. After the show, I, being the most sober one there drove us back to our temporary home. “Most sober” should not be construed as “well enough to operate a motor vehicle.” I don’t recall much of that drive, only snapshots of lane lines as I tried my damndest to keep the car between them.
When we arrived home, everyone passed out from exhaustion, but mostly from acute alcohol poisoning. As for me, I stumbled to the couch in the living room where I too fell asleep. At some point in the wee hours, I was awakened somehow by a commotion at the front door. Half asleep and still in an alcohol haze, I could make out two silhouettes creeping into the house, carrying some bizarrely-shaped object between them. Rather noisily, they set it down by the front window and skulked off into the darkness. I did not move to investigate, nor did I care to find out what the object was. Shortly thereafter, I passed out once more as if nothing happened. Had the situation been reversed and had the two shadowy figures been carrying an object out of the house as in a robbery, I can honestly say that, in that state, I still would not have cared.
I cannot recall what time I awoke the following morning, but when I finally forced my eyes open, what greeted me was a glint of sunshine coming through the curtain, only it wasn’t a direct hit. Instead, it was a glancing blow from a USA Today paper box. Two of the guys had gone out in the middle of the night and had lugged the thing several city blocks to its current resting spot. Some people get angry when they drink. Some get melancholic. These two knuckleheads became information thieves.
Eventually the fun came to an end and we departed Chicago for Kansas. Only two of us stayed awake the entire trip and we split time in the driver’s seat. While the trip home was mostly uneventful compared to the weekend that was, at one point we nearly ran out of gas because we decided we didn’t want to fill up in a town that had the same name as one of our high school math teachers. Though it was funny at the time, little did we know the next exit was some 20 miles away. We almost didn’t make it, but our derring-do did help us find a hot dog stand that sold 50-cent cylinders of sustenance. Being at the point where hangovers turn to hunger pangs, I think I ate six of them.
The Zooropa album and, in particular, the song Lemon will forever remind me of this great summer adventure.
Rewind 10 years. It was 1983. Nearing teenager status, my world was starting to expand. I had more freedom to hang out with friends. Girls suddenly mattered. I was only six months or so away from arguably the greatest year for album releases in the decade that was the 80s. I was also six months away from seeing if my actual reality was going to be anything close to the one George Orwell had predicted decades earlier. I wouldn’t have that kind of opportunity again until 1999 when Prince’s then future-looking song about parties would undoubtedly have significance. But that day was still 16 years off. It would surely never arrive.
Of greater importance was the fact that I would be entering Grade 7 in the fall … junior high school. I had to act older and look cooler, but I couldn’t drive or get a job so that possibility was moot. I spent the dog days of summer with buddies and all the other degenerates at the public pool, trying to impress 16-year-old girls, who were usually nearby listening to Asia, by cannonballing off the high dive. The other option was to get as far away from home as our bikes would take us, wherever that may be. Some days we explored a quarter-mile long drainage tunnel that ran under the highway next to the cul-de-sac at the end of our street. We had the boots, the flashlights, the backpacks and everything. And we had to scale a chain link fence to get to it, adding to the sense of danger. It was Tomb Raider meets The Goonies before either ever existed. There was no gold or treasure to be found at the end of the trek, but there was a Dairy Queen.
My buddy John and I were the first two to conquer the tunnel. He liked Dungeons & Dragons and Dr. Demento, and often suffered from spontaneous nosebleeds. He also had cable television. I often stayed over at his place on weekends because of it. We stayed up late into the night. We watched music shows like Night Flight. We watched movies with Pia Zadora and other things we probably shouldn’t have on HBO. It was at his place that we decided it would be a great idea to go out on the balcony at 8 am one Sunday morning with his boombox and blare U2’s War album. Why I’ll never know. I Will Follow was gearing up for the second chorus when John’s mom stormed outside in her bathrobe and slippers, hands on hips, and exclaimed in a hushed maniacal tone, “What the hell do you think you’re doing!?”
Sometimes John came over to my place, but we didn’t have cable. Instead, we listened to music and played Nerf basketball in the hallway upstairs. It was wider than the typical hallway and more like a foyer which gave us ample room to do some creative playmaking. Because the door had to be closed for the goal to say in place, it wasn’t uncommon to smash face first into it when going in for a windmill slam. Those poor doors! Musically, we liked the Go-Go’s. We liked Adam Ant. But we also liked Van Halen and Black Sabbath. Our music supply came from those mail order cassette tape businesses that were popular back then. Buy one cassette at regular price and get 852 free … or something like that. All we had to do was order one more at regular price in the next six months. Of course, the regular price was about $63.45. Every month, they sent you a card. Every month you had to send that card back saying you didn’t want anything, otherwise they would mail you the selection of the month or something else you didn’t want and bill you for it. I wonder if my parents ever sent in those payments.
One afternoon, after listening to the Surf Punks and playing some Nerf hoop to Black Sabbath’s Live Evil, my buddy was about to head back home when he pulled a cassette from his bag. It was reddish orange and had some strange imagery on the cover. John said the music service had sent it to him, but he didn’t want it, so he offered it to me. The cassette was Listen by A Flock of Seagulls. Their song I Ran had been my favorite song since its release the previous year and, as most of my friends know, it completely changed my musical direction. It was so strange-sounding, but I loved it. I also had two copies of the song on 45 because I thought I had lost the first one at a school dance. I was so upset, I bought a second one with my allowance only to have the first one turn up weeks later.
Needless to say, I accepted the kind gift. The song Wishing was the first song on Listen, which was great because it made rewinding a cinch. I played it over and over again as I didn’t really know any of the other songs. At that time I was all about the hits. Over the years, I learned to appreciate the other tracks. I would also learn to appreciate that the cover image was drummer Ali Score’s silhouetted face overlaid on a circuit board and that Bill Nelson produced (It’s Not Me) Talking. By then, I had also learned that Prince’s song was way off the mark after all.
Wishing will always remind me of that wonderful summer in 1983.
Well, I think I've bitten off more than I can chew with this write-up. I have enough time constraints lately trying to post new episodes of music let alone trying to find a block of time to hack up personal stories from my youth. Don't get me wrong: it's a great exercise and perhaps the stories were even mildly enjoyable for many of you, but I think this write-up was a bit ambitious even for someone who can't get his keyboard to shut up. Therefore, I'm going to stop here on the stories, but you'll be glad to know I've assembled the tracks for my next podcast and it's just a matter of finding the time to record it. I'll cross my fingers that I get the chance tomorrow or perhaps Saturday morning.
Before I move onto the next episode, there is one thing you should know: I have once again reached my allotted storage space for this podcast. Those of you who have been here since the beginning know that I upgraded to a PRO account last summer because I didn't want to worry about bandwidth or storage issues. While it was worth the expenditure, I simply don't have the funds to upgrade once more. So, moving forward, I will be removing older episodes as I go to make room for newer ones. I will keep them in my personal archive, but they will no longer be available on my podcast page. So, if you haven't yet downloaded episode 3 or some of the earlier 'casts and you want to do so, now is the time. They may resurface at a later date as a "Best of CRC" episode or something, but for now they will be going away as I have no other choice. The good news is there will always be about 25-30 episodes available at any given time, so you'll have lots of good retro stuff to listen to at your leisure.
Thanks again to all my listeners for tuning in and check back soon for a brand new episode!