For a few years, I always knew where I’d be at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Back in 1989, my first full calendar year at college radio station WWSP-90FM, I had a nutty idea. Well, it was an idea that was fairly commonplace in music broadcasting, but it was nutty for us. I’d take the weekly charts we compiled (for the purposes of reporting to CMJ, the trade publication of college radio, which in turn kept the record labels servicing the station with new releases) and use them to determine the station’s Top 90 albums of the year. Then we’d spend all of New Year’s Eve day, right up until midnight, counting down those 90 records. It was a mammoth undertaking, especially that first year, but it was enjoyable enough that it became a tradition for a while, and I regularly claimed the final shift, the one that crossed from one year into the next.
I was just cheesy enough that I always liked it when there was some added significance to the song I played at the moment the last digit on the year’s odometer rolled over, at least in some superficial way. The title lining up with the concept of a new beginning was usually good enough for me. In that first year, my favorite song off of the station’s top album luckily fit the requirement nicely.
The third album from Waukesha, Wisconsin’s BoDeans, Home, seemed rigged to appeal to our station’s DJs. In actuality, it was probably rigged to appeal to the broader record-buying public, given its strong and evident influences from the likes of U2 and Bruce Springsteen. BoDeans opened for the former on the Joshua Tree tour, so some amount of osmosis was perhaps forgivable, and their brand of heartland rock owed a debt to the Boss from the very beginning. But Home was awash in songs that practically begged to be mushed up against the superstar acts on a radio playlist. It didn’t actually yield much of the desired attention, except from especially susceptible stations like ours. The band’s Wisconsin connection was already enough to garner them extra spins. The guitars blatantly evoking the unique sounds generated by the Edge only helped.
Given the timing of the programming day, I wound up having the space to play about two-thirds of the album when we got to the top of the countdown, but I was sure to save my preferred track for the very end, the stroke of midnight. “Brand New” is one of the songs that tilts towards Springsteen, as any song with lyrics about a sad woman named Janey must. Despite my insistence on playing it as a greeting to the wild new era known as “the nineties,” it wasn’t a song about hope for the future. Instead, the “brand new” of the title and lyrics is a relic from past promise that’s slipping away. Janey remembers when things were “brand new” when she looks out at her present and future turning to dust. Still, the title worked well for those who weren’t paying too much attention to song’s actual message. It was New Year’s Eve at midnight, after all. There was probably a little cognitive impairment on the other side of the broadcast signal.
Listen or download –> BoDeans, “Brand New”
(Disclaimer: It appears to me that Home is one of the BoDeans albums that is out of print. A few tracks from it seem be on a “greatest hits” style release that you could order from your favorite local, independently-owned record store if you’re so inclined. But then you’re also stuck with that terrible TV show theme song that made the band about a bajillion dollars. Realistically, you’d be far better served by getting their debut, Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams, which remains far and away their best album. Your genial record-seller should surely be able to help you out with that. Regardless, I’m posting this song under the belief that there’s no good way to purchase it in a manner that will duly compensate both the artists and an honorable record store proprietor. I’m intending to steal from no one in sharing this. Still, the song will be promptly removed should I be contacted by someone with due authority to make such a request making such a request. Fair warning, though: I know enough inside dish on this particular artist that I may have a couple choice words for them in return. Ahem.)