1. Marques Bovre and the Evil Twins, Flyover Land
Though I wasn’t at the station at the time, I can provide all sorts of reasons as to why Flyover Land predictably landed at the top spot of 90FM’s year-end chart. The simplest explanation involves the radio station’s biggest event of the year. A weekend-long affair modestly billed as The World’s Largest Trivia Contact takes place every April. Throughout much of the nineteen-nineties the weekend prior was marked by a couple of “Kickoff” programs: a midnight movie and a concert. In 1995, the movie was an indie crowdpleaser that likely challenges the sensibilities of at least a few of the staid Midwestern viewers who felt obligated to attend (the movie had a built-in audience as there was sure to be a question or two pulled from it), and the band that played the concert was a group making a return engagement to the task: Marques Bovre and the Evil Twins. With a concert to promote, the 90FM deejays would have spun the band’s most recent album, Flyover Land, with tireless regularity. That alone would have guaranteed the Madison group high placement in the tally that closed the year.
While I’m certain the connection to Trivia boosted the band’s stature, this is an album I can easily imagine dominating at the station regardless. Even as the larger alternative music fanbase was still struggling to climb out of the tarpit of grunge (or faux grunge, as was increasingly the case), the good programmers at 90FM maintained a certain devotion to the earnest, blues-tinged sound practiced by a procession of bar bands stretching out towards infinity. Much as I love my alma mater, I’m forced to concede that — during my tenure, anyway — the station was never out of ahead of the curve of any major, convention-challenging band that formulated that percolated up through college radio first. On the other hand, they played the hell out of Hootie and the Blowfish well before Cracked Rear View was even released, much less before its stealth, slow-growth development made it into a ludicrously successful album, selling over sixteen-million copies. Though I’ll admit there’s a little disappointment to that statement (I’m snobby enough in my music fandom that I pine for the ability to gloat about landing on intense appreciation of one of the bands that approach legendary status ahead of my peers without their own FCC operator’s licenses), there’s something to be said for being able to sniff out the bands that have a mastery of a particular beer-soaked sound. If they were able to cut through the din of smoky Wisconsin barrooms, they probably had something at least somewhat interesting to offer to the great musical conversation.
Though success away from his Dairyland home base was limited, Bovre definitely had something to say. Among his disciples, and there were many, Bovre elicited comparison to no less than Bob Dylan for the accomplishment of his songwriting. While the bard of Hibbing, Minnesota is the clear and obvious standard bearer when it comes to pinnacle of rock ‘n’ roll creation, at least when it comes to a largely unadorned combination of words and music, it always struck me as a somewhat ill-fitting imagined bond, if only because Bovre was more direct, delivering his material with a humble plainspokenness that seemed, well, highly Midwestern. As he sings on Flyover Land‘s title cut, “Flyover land is a land that I love/ Smells like a barn and it fits like a glove/ And we’re here/ In the middle.” Those aren’t the words of someone toying with the listener through abstracted poetry. That’s someone who, blessedly, wants to be clear, connecting with his audience with a heartfelt openness.
And Bovre left a legacy. As I tap these words out, we’re closing in on the three year anniversary of Bovre’s untimely demise, which came after an extended struggle with a brain tumor. Around Madison and the surrounding music scene reminiscences of the man and his music still pop up with some regularity, and the Evil Twins have been known to occasionally go out and play. 90FM didn’t forget him either. Fittingly, given the band’s stature in the station history, a full radio show was devoted to remembering him shortly after he died. As I turned out, I was listening that morning. Then living a long, long distance from my native state, that was how I found out about Bovre’s passing. I had a melancholic appreciation that I received the news that way. It was through my time at 90FM that I was introduced to the music of Bovre — I bought a CD copy of Big Strong House at that first Trivia Kickoff appearance — so I’m glad that station officially provided me with the sad news that there would be no more of the man’s music to hear.
— An Introduction
— 90-88: The Falling Wallendas, Parasite, and A.M.
— 87-85: North Avenue Wake Up Call, Live!, and Life Begins at 40 Million
— 84 and 83: Wholesale Meats and Fishes and Orange
— 82-80: (What’s the Story) Morning Glory, Fossil, and Electric Rock Music
— 79-77: Coast to Coast Motel, My Wild Life, and Life Model
— 76-74: Gag Me with a Spoon, Where I Wanna Be, and Ruby Vroom
— 73 and 72: Horsebreaker Star and Wild-Eyed and Ignorant
— 71 and 70: 500 Pounds and Jagged Little Pill
— 69-67: Whirligig, The Basketball Diaries, and On
— 66 and 65: Alice in Chains and Frogstomp
— 64 and 63: Happy Days and Exit the Dragon
— 62-60: Lucky Dumpling, Fight for Your Mind, and Short Bus
— 59-57: Good News from the Next World, Joe Dirt Car, and Tomorrow the Green Grass
— 56 and 55: …And Out Come the Wolves and Clueless
— 54-52: We Get There When We Do, Trace, and Twisted
— 51-49: Thrak, Stoney’s Extra Stout (Pig), and You Will Be You
— 48 and 47: Shamefaced and Here’s Where the Strings Come In
— 46 and 45: 13 Unlucky Numbers and Resident Alien
— 44-42: Elastica, Private Stock, and Death to Traitors
— 41-39: Optimistic Fool, Ben Folds Five, and Above
— 38-36: Collide, Cowboys and Aliens, and Batman Forever
— 35-33: Taking the World by Donkey, One Hot Minute, and Dog Eared Dream
— 32 and 31: Straight Freak Ticket and Besides
— 30-28: Sixteen Stone, Big Dumb Face Shoe Guy, and Cascade
— 27-25: Born to Quit, King, and Hate!
— 24 and 23: Sparkle and Fade and Brown Bag LP
— 22 and 21: University and Pummel
— 20 and 19: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and Thread
— 18 and 17: Ball-Hog or Tugboat? and Rainbow Radio
— 16 and 15: Let Your Dim Light Shine and Day For Night
— 14 and 13: Tales from the Punchbowl and Sleepy Eyed
— 12 and 11: Post and Deluxe
— 10: Yes
— 9: To Bring You My Love
— 8: Garbage
— 7: 100% Fun
— 6: Only Everything
— 5: Brainbloodvolume
— 4: The Bends
— 3: Foo Fighters
— 2: A Boy Named Goo