College Countdown: Winter 1991, 5-1

And now…on with the countdown…

5. Pixies, “Head On”
My true confession for today is that, despite the cultural imperative associated with involvement in college radio during a span of time when the eighties gave way to the nineties, I was never all that excited by The Pixies. They were the cool band of the era, the one you could cite to prove that you had genuine taste and proper passion for the music played on college radio. I played them plenty, and I like several songs, but they didn’t really click for me. I like them far more now that nostalgia has entered into the mix. So it makes sense that my favorite Pixies song back then was actually a cover. As Black Francis announces with a growl at the start of the ferocious fresh recording made specifically for the music video, this is a Jesus and Mary Chain song. It was no obscurity or distant memory at the time the Pixies included it on the Trompe Le Monde album either. It was a very successful single off of the album Automatic, released just two years earlier. While college radio bands have long been amenable to covers (it was one of the best ways to penetrate the sheer amount of material out there to capture the attention of Music Directors and DJs), it was strange to see such a prominent band, that really needed no extra boost, covering something that recent from one of the peer groups. It was like something out the Motown music factory where songs were passed around a hash pipe in a idle studio.

This song was moving up. It was at number 8 on the previous chart.

4. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Give It Away”
When I first arrived at the college radio station in 1988, CDs were a rarity on our shelves. By the point in late 1991 when this chart was (likely) published, that’s all we were getting. Occasionally we were serviced with vinyl copies as well, but every new release that came through the door was pressed onto shiny little silver discs. One of the side effects of this new technology was bands stretching out to take advantage of the extra room. A single vinyl record had room for roughly 45 minutes worth of music on the two sides, so that was the generally established length of an album. A single compact disc was more like 70 or 75 minutes. This led to quite a few albums that had good material, but clearly would have benefited from the obligatory pruning process that took place when vinyl was the defining format. As I recall, the breakthrough album from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blood Sugar Sex Magic was one of the first, clearest examples of this odd new dilemma. Play the right few songs, and you could be easily convinced that they’d crafted a masterpiece. Drop the laser on the wrong space, and the opposite impression would emerge. Listening to the whole thing in one shot could eliminate any incentive to ever revisit it. It’s been years since I’ve given much thought to anything off of that album beyond the few songs that became ubiquitous, but that’s my recollection of the release. Maybe that’s not accurate and a fresh listening would lead to a completely different assessment. Regardless, this song, the lead single off of the album, was one of those that could convince you the band had made something great.

This song was also at number 4 on the previous chart.

3. Ministry, “Jesus Built My Hotrod”
This Chicago industrial band was so huge on college radio at this time, and main creative force Al Jourgensen was routinely celebrated as one of the musical geniuses of the day, often in the same breath that Perry Farrell was similarly praised to further illustrate how well those pronouncements have aged. This stuff routinely shot up to the top of the CMJ charts, but we never quite knew what to do with it at our humble little station located in the heart of central Wisconsin. It has a natural aggression to it that didn’t fit especially well on our playlists, which were far more likely to be ahead of the curve on The Cranberries than Nine Inch Nails. This was also out strictly as a single at the time, not showing up on an album until the following summer, which also would have blunted its impact at our station. Of the songs in the top five, this one has the weakest associations for me. It’s also, I suspect, the one with the least significant afterlife. Does this song ever crop up anywhere these days?

This song was also at number 3 on the previous chart.

2. U2, “Mysterious Ways”
If the lead single of off Achtung Baby seemed a little odd for the earnest Irishmen (see number 7 on the chart) it was a bit of ingenious, cool calculation to select “Mysterious Ways” for the follow up. There might still be a different sort of clang and clamor to the guitars, but this was still more recognizably a product of U2 with soaring, anguished vocals and a certain epic quality to it. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like a U2 song unless you can easily imagine Bono emotional spent after singing it on stage. According to Wikipedia, this song reached number on on the Billboard Modern Rock charts. I wonder if it ever got to the top spot on this CMJ chart. The song above it surely must have spent weeks and weeks there.

This song was also at number 2 on the previous chart.

1. Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
To the ever-lasting credit of Kurt Cobain and his collaborators, the song still sounds brilliantly dark and dangerous, the exact sort of unsatisfied howl that is supposed to be the racing heart of rock ‘n’ roll. Sure, almost twenty years later it’s just as likely (if not more likely) to be played over the corporate-approved, outdoor music speakers while you’re pumping gas than it is in a sullen teenager’s ill-lit basement bedroom, but that shouldn’t delude anyone into thinking the impact of this song in 1991 was anything less than seismic. Making the simple line “Here we are now, entertain us” so threatening is an incredible act of musical alchemy. Even the Weird Al spoof is cool. I actually think Nevermind is somewhat overrated, and In Utero is the real classic, but even I need to concede that this song is truly great, fully deserving of its anointed place in the canon.

This song was also at number 1 on the previous chart.

Previously…

Numbers 40-36
Numbers 35-31
Numbers 30-26
Numbers 25-21
Numbers 20-16
Numbers 15-11
Numbers 10-6

College Countdown: Winter 1991, 10-6

And now…on with the countdown…

10. Matthew Sweet, “Girlfriend”
A sensational single can change everything, lifting an artist from complete obscurity (even within the obscurity-embracing culture of college radio) to critical acclaim, healthy airplay, and even the less prestigious showcases in late night television. The whole Girlfriend album is terrific, but that title cut is the sort of grabber that artists spend their entire careers fruitlessly longing for. In Sweet’s original pass at this song, it was entitled “Good Friend,” but everyone he played it for thought he was saying “girlfriend” so he went ahead and made the minor but oh-so-significant modification. We had that original demo version on a single at the radio station, and I probably played it almost as much as I spun the finished product. It also eventually showed up on the “Legacy Edition” of the album that came out as part of the record industries concerted, ongoing effort to make people pay for the same albums over and over again.

This song was making a strong move upwards. It was at number 27 on the previous chart.

9. Nirvana, “Lithium”
The fourth of five Nirvana songs on the chart. This leads to a quick remembrance of the radio show that inspired this feature. As noted back in the first installment, my beloved broadcasting alma mater was the home to a Sunday night endeavor called the College Count-Up, which featured a DJ of exemplary skill tracking through the CMJ “Top Cuts” chart from one down to number forty in cheeky defiance of the directional norm for such shows. He could have just played the records, but instead insisted on it being a properly scripted show with detailed information about the bands and songs provided throughout his hours on the air, no small feat in a Webless era marked by a dearth of readily available information about many of the performers that graced the chart. Further complicating matters was the tendency of college radio programmers to approach a new album’s tracklist with a more egalitarian sensibility than that employed by their hit-single-focused, commercial radio counterparts. This led to artists having multiple tracks on the chart simultaneously, adding to the challenge of finding something original to say at each landing on the hopscotch across the Top 40. Sometimes our heroic DJ was left with little more to do than describe the album cover, a tactic best employed if said cover was particularly fetching. All of this nostalgia is, of course, just a wordy, elaborate way of acknowledging that I’ve damn near run out of things to say about Nirvana’s Nevermind.

This song inched up from number 10 on the previous chart.

8. Lush, “Nothing Natural”
That “Winter 1991” designation above is an informed guess, the result of some simple detective work. The chart I found somewhere in the wilds of the Interweb isn’t dated, but all of the songs on it are from releases that came out in the second half of ’91. Except for this one. Well, sort of. “Nothing Natural” is a song on Lush’s album Spooky, which was released in late January of 1992. However, the song was also issued as a single in late October of 1991, so I’m assuming that’s the culprit in this case. That may also explain why this song, while obviously a significant success, doesn’t sound all that familiar to me. Lush received plenty of airplay at my radio station, but our DJs didn’t often gravitate to singles, preferring to wait until a full-length release showed up in rotation. For that reason, the the follow-up single, which would have been the beneficiary of record company urging at the time of the album’s release, is far more evocative of that time frame for me.

This song was another big mover. It was at number 28 on the previous chart.

7. U2, “The Fly”
It’s hard to overstate how different this sounded when it arrived at the station. There was a lot riding on Achtung Baby, after all. It was the band’s true follow-up to their blockbuster The Joshua Tree, since Rattle and Hum is best viewed as a weird amalgamation of live album, band noodling, and movie souvenir. At this point, the Irish quartet was known for a sound so distinctive that it could also be characterized as somewhat redundant. Even their most devoted fans were likely to concede that. So the band defied expectations like never before, and released this song as the lead single from their new album, challenging those at the ready to dismiss them with the doses of distorted vocals and a buzzy guitar sound would have fit just fine on a Jesus and Mary Chain record. Listening to it now, it doesn’t actually sound all that odd, and there’s plenty in it that clearly fits the U2 sound. But back then it was just jarring enough to get our collective attention. I remember sitting in the station’s production studio and listening to it for the first time, wondering just what our DJs were going to make of it.

This song was moving down. It was at number 5 on the previous chart.

6. Teenage Fanclub, “Star Sign”
In an earlier post, I noted Rolling Stone magazine’s misstep when they reviewed Nirvana’s Nervermind, giving it a middling three stars. In that magazine, especially at that time, a three-star review could be earned by just about any record with decent production values and the absence of any truly embarrassing songs. Hell, Neil Young could sneeze into a microphone for 45 minutes and get a four stars review from Rolling Stone. So a two-star review was even more notable. It was the sort of thing they typically reserved for a classic rock relic they wanted to bury once and for all or, more likely, a current pop star who needed to be knocked down a peg or two, thereby reestablishing some cool cred for the magazine. So it was especially strange to see that dismissive ranking assigned to Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque. That didn’t stop it from being embraced by college radio, but it may have made a few college radio DJs and Music Directors rethink their subscriptions to the magazine.

This song was holding steady. It was also at number 6 on the previous chart.

Previously…

Numbers 40-36
Numbers 35-31
Numbers 30-26
Numbers 25-21
Numbers 20-16
Numbers 15-11

College Countdown: Winter 1991, 15-11

And now…on with the countdown…

15. They Might Be Giants, “Hey Mr. DJ, I Thought We Had a Deal”
This is the band that we would sometimes refer to as “the Two Johns,” since it was entirely populated by John Flansburgh and John Linnell. They were perhaps the oddest band that I had a working knowledge of before arriving at the radio station, built largely because MTV couldn’t resist the intoxicatingly goofy video for their first single. They were then a major part of my college radio experience. Their second album, the outstanding Lincoln, was plopped into Heavy Rotation at around the time I started there, and their third effort, Flood, was an enormous hit on our airwaves around a year-and-a-half later. They were a perfect band for radio, employing an abundance of music styles across dozens of quick, punchy songs. At our station, their records were often grabbed when someone needed something short because they hadn’t timed up to the AP Network News feed at the top of the hour as artfully as they may have liked. This song originally appeared as a B-Side on the band’s single for “Purple Toupee,” a song from Lincoln. It appears here in conjunction with its revival for the odds and ends collection Miscellaneous T.

This song was up one spot from 16 on the previous chart.

14. Nirvana, “On a Plain”
Another Nirvana song, the third thus far, and there’s still two more nestled higher up the chart. All this immediate success for the band was a little weird for me at the time. I was so used to the music receiving saturation play on our airwaves being generally ignored by my fellow college students, at least those who hadn’t similarly taken up residence at the station. Even the stuff that crossed over usually took a long time, or was the product of artists like U2, The Cure or R.E.M., who already had many years and lots of albums under their belts. Nirvana was something else. We were still in the midst of trying to figure them out ourselves before their album started to get appropriated by the frat house up the street.

This song was racing up the chart. It was at 36 the previous week.

13. My Bloody Valentine, “Only Shallow”
This is the point at which I need to sheepishly acknowledge that, much as I bought into that unique college programmer pride about being ahead of the musical curve, I didn’t really get My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless when it first came out. We had it at the station, and I know I played it plenty, fully realizing that it already had ardent disciples. I think the superficial resemblance between their fuzzed out guitars and the burgeoning Seattle sound’s grunged out guitars caused them to blend in with this sonic trend I was far less enthusiastic about. Years later, I figured out how wrong I was, and had the pleasure of discovering the stirring greatness of the album.

This song was on a slow, upward journey. It was at 17 on the previous chart.

12. Pixies, “Letter to Memphis”
As opposed to the experience noted above in relation to Nirvana’s success, the Pixies were one of those bands that never seemed to catch on much apart from the rarefied airwaves on the left end of the dial. At least not at the time. My jarring moments centered on the band’s unexpected success came years and years later when they embarked on a reunion tour, and the breadth of their popularity stunned me. They were playing sizable venues that I couldn’t really imagine when they were active during the early nineties. Similarly, the people who were actively excited about the shows didn’t seem to match at all the sort of fans who would have lined up to see them a decade earlier. It’s like they slipped into a magician’s cabinet as a cult success and somehow emerged as some sort of wide appeal classic rock band. This is the first of two songs from their album Trompe Le Monde. I don’t recall if they announced at the time that it was going to be their last album, but it seems like we all knew it somehow.

This song was moving down the chart from 9 the previous week.

11. Shamen, “Move Any Mountain (Progen 91)”
Anytime I try to track down information on a song that has multiple remixes, I start to get a little dizzy. There are so many parentheses on the Wikipedia page about the song that it’s like someone’s campaign to get that particular piece of punctuation redesignated as a vowel. But I also understand that if you manage to come up with a hook as impossibly infectious as the one in this song, you need to squeeze out every last bit of its juice and then scrape the zest off its hide.

This song was slipping downwards. It was at 7 on the previous chart.

 

Previously…

Numbers 40-36
Numbers 35-31
Numbers 30-26
Numbers 25-21
Numbers 20-16

College Countdown: Winter 1991, 20-16

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And now…on with the countdown…

20. Erasure, “Love to Hate You”
Erasure was one of those acts that I had an instinctual aversion to, beginning from a place that favored grinding guitars over drum machine beats. It was so pronounced that when a DJ at 90FM used a snippet of one of the band’s Top 40 hits in a promo to make the case that listening to the station provided access to great music before it crossed over to the pop charts, I didn’t recognize the song at all. I was stubborn enough that I was very reluctant to ever slip one of their releases onto the turntable or into the CD player, even though I completely subscribed to the notion that one of the vital responsibilities of a on-air DJ is to play music that doesn’t necessarily match personal taste because someone out there wants to hear it. Every song is someone’s favorite song. All that noted, I absolutely love this song.

This song was moving down the chart, dropping nine places from number 11 the previous week.

19. Levitation, “Firefly”
Another song I have no recollection of whatsoever. The album cover doesn’t even look familiar. It was on Capitol, so we probably got it at the station, and the song has a sweet, psychedelic drone that should have gone over fairly well at our station. Still, I got nothing. A cursory perusal of the Web tells me that it was a band formed by guitarist Terry Bickers after an unpleasant split from House of Love. This song comes from their first album, Coterie, which was essentially a compilation of music from singles and EPs that had been released already in the U.K. Levitation didn’t last long. Less than two year after the date of this chart, Bickers announced he was leaving the band. They hobbled along with a replacement for a short while before calling it quits in 1994. This is the highest charting song on the list that stirs no memories for me.

This song moved up two spots from 21 the previous week.

18. Nirvana, “Breed”
The second of five tracks from Nevermind on the chart. As I noted before, this album was huge on the college charts and dominant from the moment of its release. This happened occasionally with other bands around this time–both R.E.M. and Sonic Youth were guaranteed immediate, uniformly strong airplay with each new release–but usually artists with a more established track record. Nirvana’s prior release, 1989’s Bleach, had done decently on the college charts, but nothing that would indicate a blockbuster was coming next. The crossover, highly influential success of Nevermind amusingly represented one of those points when rock’n’roll’s twice monthly bible Rolling Stone was out-of-step. They buried their three-star assessment deep in the reviews section, indicative of an album that the editors clearly figured wouldn’t garner much attention or affection from the mass record-buying public.

This song was moving up the chart. It was at number 20 on the previous chart.

17. Blur, “There’s No Other Way”
Only the second single from the band Blur. At the time, it seemed like just another British pop song of crystalline perfection. Granted, that’s an accomplishment that shouldn’t be easily dismissed, but this was in an era–and at the tail end of an era, in fact–when bands from Manchester, England were producing genius singles as prolifically as Oliver Stone cranking out conspiracy theories. It’s a great song, but also somewhat interchangeable with those released by any number of bands at the time. Little did we know of the feuds and ever-morphing brilliance to come.

This song was moving up fast. It was at number 39 on the previous chart.

16. R.E.M., “First We Take Manhattan”
The little ol’ bands from Athens, Georgia has squandered away much of its stature in recent years. By the time I made my return to college radio in a professional capacity in 2001, the students viewed the prospect of putting a new R.E.M. record into rotation about as favorably as they would a Debbie Gibson comeback effort. And that was before the band touched bottom artistically. Back in 1991, though, R.E.M. still resided comfortably atop the college radio mountain. Absolutely anything they released given ample airtime by college programmers. So if you were pulling together a tribute album designed to snag the attention of those who picked the songs and albums for college stations, getting R.E.M. to contribute a track was a very wise move. This was also during a span in which tribute albums were starting to come out with almost reckless frequency. It seemed everyone was getting their turn to have a motley assemblage of artists perform hastily considered covers of their work.

Despite being all the way up at number 16, this song wasn’t on the chart the previous week. Nor was it a huge debut. This song was a reentry. College radio could be crazily fickle like that.

Previously…

Numbers 40-36
Numbers 35-31
Numbers 30-26
Numbers 25-21

College Countdown: Winter 1991, 25-21

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And now…on with the countdown…

25. Dramarama, “Haven’t Got a Clue”
The title of the song is a fairly accurate representation of my reaction upon seeing this song on the list. Dramarama is definitely a band that got some decent airplay at the station during my time there, but it was mostly for their prior record, Stuck in Wonderamaland, bolstered by the great lead single “Last Cigarette,” which itself was bolstered by the many members of the staff who enjoyed smoking and, by extension, enjoyed songs about smoking. “Haven’t Got a Clue” is off of the album Vinyl, which I’m certain we had and played, but it clearly didn’t leave much of an impression on me. I do have to note, as I listed to it now, the song is pretty good.

This song is on its way down the chart, dropping from number 18 the previous week.

24. The Cramps, “Eyeball in My Martini”
There’s no other band quite like The Cramps. Certainly there are plenty of other bands that blend up garage, punk and rockabilly, and plenty of those bands employ comic gruesomeness in their lyrics. But beyond being the band that basically invented that distinct style, The Cramps just did it better than anyone else. By 1991, it already seemed as though they’d been around forever, one of those bands like The Ramones that kept enduring, putting out new records that basically sounded exactly like their old records. College radio dutifully lined up to make sure they got a little bit of attention each time, and the airwaves were all the better for it. I still find it so bizarre to think that frontman Lux Interior is deceased. Maybe it was the morbid sensibility of the band, maybe it was his seemingly endless wells of energy, but he always seemed to me like one of those people who might just manage to live forever.

This was debuting on the chart, the highest debut of the week.

 

23. Pearl Jam, “Alive”
Being a Music Director at a college radio station is like Christmas every day. You go to the mail room and pick up the station’s daily delivery, which amounts to a boxful of presents provided by the labels and other servicing agents standing in for Santa Claus. Even tearing apart the envelopes is reminiscent of opening wrapped gifts. This was even more pronounced in the early nineties, before the advent of the Interweb and the explosion of coverage surrounding all sorts of music, even the obscure bands that only find a home on college radio. Back then, it was commonplace to be surprised by the aural treasures in each package. Since that’s my view, nothing frustrated me more during my various tenures at such stations than Music Directors who weren’t enthusiastic about the process, especially if that translated, as it often did, to a sluggishness is getting new music from their desk to the main studio for the DJs to play and the listeners to hear. That’s a lot of information to get to my strongest memory of Pearl Jam’s debut album. While it was eventually a smash success, it didn’t make much of an impact upon its initial release in late August of 1991. It wasn’t until the following summer that it crossed over in a major way to MTV and commercial radio. By now, the damn thing has sold over 13 million copies. As it turns out, it hit late for us too. When the album was skyrocketing, our Music Director at the time would proudly tell people that he’d had the CD on his desk for a couple months before he bothered putting it in rotation. I think he meant it as some sort of tale confirming the magical slow build quality of the album, but I was always embarrassed by that story, feeling it indicated an unforgivable laxness on his part.

This song was charging hard up the charts, up from 40 the previous week.

22. Soundgarden, “Outshined”
Look at how the Seattle grunge is starting to fill up the chart. And this was just the beginning of it. This chart is effectively the beginning of the shock success of the sound that sent all the labels on a wild hunt to secure the next Nirvana or Soundgarden or Pearl Jam. For that matter, Soundgarden’s huge success was still one album away. At this point, the clustering of this style was more coincidence than marketing plan.

This was the second of two Soundgarden songs on the chart. Like the other one, this was slipping on the chart, down from 15 the previous week.

 

21. Millions, “Sometimes”
We start this week’s chunk of the countdown with “Haven’t Got a Clue,” and, for me, end with it as well. I have no recollection of this band or their song. The album cover looks a little familiar, but that could be because it reminds me a bit of the cover to Indio’s Big Harvest. This isn’t a band that’s lost to time or anything. A little online typing yields plenty of information about them and heartfelt testimonials from true believers. Even after listening to it, I have no recollection.

The song was making a healthy move upwards. It was at number 30 on the previous chart.

 

Previously…

Numbers 40-36
Numbers 35-31
Numbers 30-26

College Countdown: Winter 1991, 30-26

And now…on with the countdown…

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30. Enya, “Caribbean Blue”
How odd to think that the doyenne of lush, languid music seemingly best used to slow a racing pulse in an dentist’s chair had a place on college radio playlists. A segue from “Territorial Pissings” to this would be jarring enough to make listeners burst into thunderstruck tears. It’s not like Enya was some neglected artist who needed support at this point. Her previous release, 1988’s Watermark went quadruple platinum, and the album containing this song, Sheperd Moon, would sell over five million copies in the U.S. alone before it was done. We weren’t especially daring at 90FM, and I’m not even sure we were playing this.

This song was making its debut on the chart.

 

29. Teenage Fanclub, “The Concept”
Bandwagonesque was officially the third album by the Scottish band, but it was treated like a sensational debut by college radio, maybe in part because it was the first album released after the band was signed by Geffen. Some claim that their second album, released just months earlier, was just a tossed off mess intended to fulfill a previous contractual obligation so they could start hauling in those major label dollars. Speaking of dollars…the album cover is a bag with a dollar symbol on it, which reportedly led the band afoul of Gene Simmons of KISS who owns the trademark on that particular image. Geffen Records apparently had to send Simmons a check, money he perhaps used to eventually launch a terrible clothing line.

This song was a reentry on the chart.

28. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Suck My Kiss”
This song was off of Blood Sugar Sex Magic, the fifth studio album by Red Hot Chili Peppers and the one that brought them enormous fame. That wasn’t the case yet at this point. It wasn’t until the second single, “Under the Bridge,” was released in the spring of 1992 that the album took off. “Suck My Kiss” was actually the third single to be released off of the album, but in its chart appearance here it was just a deep cut that college stations were playing to provide a little variety instead of inundating listeners with nothing but the first single, which is well up the chart.

This song was a debut on the chart, the second-highest debut of the week.

27. Soundgarden, “Jesus Christ Pose”
This was the first official single released off of Soundgarden’s third album, Badmotorfinger. I’m not sure how the previous albums, both well-reviewed, did on the college charts, but my recollection was that they didn’t get much attention at our station until this release. I know the previous album was in the station rotation, but it seemed like it only got played by the host of Metal Thunder when he took the occasional general programming shift. (90FM allowed a lot of leeway for the DJs in general programming shifts, but they still had to follow a clock which directed them when during the hour to play a song from different sections of the station library. Our intrepid Metal Thunder jock had an uncanny ability to follow the clock perfectly and still make the shift sound like an extension of his show.) This was one of two Soungarden songs on the chart this week.

This song was slipping just a bit, down from 24 the previous week.

26. Billy Bragg, “You Woke Up My Neighborhood”
I have incredibly strong associations between my time at 90FM and “The Bard of Barking.” His magnificent fourth album, Workers Playtime, was in rotation when I arrived there in the fall of 1988, and this follow-up (with the EP The Internationale in between) was well-loved and played accordingly by the DJs at the station. Bragg is one of a five or six artists that practically define my years at the radio station. After this it was five years before Bragg released another album. By then, his lefty troubadour stylings were completely blocked out by the post-grunge sturm and drang.

This song was a reentry on the chart, the second highest reentry of the week.

Previously…

Numbers 40-36
35-31

College Countdown: Winter 1991, 35-31

Earlier this week I dug out an old CMJ chart and started the process of recreating the Sunday nights of my first year at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point when I and my more enlightened dorm-mates would gather around the radio to listen to our station, 90FM-WWSP, to find out the most played tracks on college radio nationwide.

And now, as they say, on with the countdown…

35. Marc Almond, “Jacky”
Marc Almond started his career as one half of the influential New Wave duo Soft Cell. This song came from Tenement Symphony, still his highest-charting album back home in the U.K. It’s a cover of a Jacques Brel song first released in 1965, and famously recorded a couple of years later in an English language version by Scott Walker that got banned by the ever-reticent BBC. It was no surprise that Almond would pull from the Brel songbook. Just two years prior, he recorded an entire album that served as a tribute to the man. Befitting his idol, Almond’s version was big, lush, wildly dramatic. Once when I played it on the radio, Jim Oliva, co-coordinator of the station’s annual trivia contest, called me up and asked “When’s the bullfight start?”

This song was making its debut on the chart, one of nine debuts total that week.

34. U2, “Until the End of the World”
This song was on two separate releases coexisting in the 90FM music rotation at the time of this chart. It was on U2’s sixth or seventh (depending on how you classify the amalgam of Rattle and Hum full-length album, Achtung Baby, one of three songs from that record on the chart. It was also on the soundtrack to the Wim Wenders film Until the End of the World, which had a list of contributing artists that read like a college radio dream team. This was one of several instances of the Irish quartet collaborating with Wenders, a relationship that began a year earlier when the German director presided over the music video for the band’s contribution to Red, Hot + Blue, the benefit album that also served as a tribute to Cole Porter. Later the band provided the title song for the sequel to Wender’s most revered film, Wings of Desire. It even led to the seemingly highly unlikely occurrence of Bono providing the story for a Mel Gibson movie. I’ll bet that won’t happen again.

This song was a debut on the chart.

33. Primus, “Tommy the Cat”
This was the second single from Primus’s second album and major label debut, Sailing the Seas of Cheese. It was also notable as an early release on Interscope, the label co-founded by Jimmy Iovine when he was flush from his success as a producer of blockbusters in the years prior. It was also a landmark because just about everything released by Interscope up to that point was dreck. The first single from Seas was “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver,” which had a significant presence on the college charts in the summer of 1991, but I believe this song was the more successful at 90FM. That may be, however, because my friend and DJ extraordinaire Lil’ Jen regularly used the song’s “Say Baby!” yell as a sort of battle cry. My perspective may be skewed.

This was a reentry, one of four on this week’s chart.

32. Dinosaur Jr., “Whatever’s Cool With Me”
1991 was sort of a breakthrough year for the J. Mascis outfit. Green Mind was a very successful release on college radio throughout the spring. The fall brought the EP Whatever’s Cool With Me with the title cut making its own dent on the charts.

This song was on it’s way down the chart. The previous week it was at number 23.

You can listen to it online.

31. Nitzer Ebb, “I Give To You”
Nitzer Ebb is the only band on this chart that also has a song on the Saw VI soundtrack, so that’s something. This was the sort of industrial dance music that rarely gained much of a foothold on the 90FM charts. When you’re at a radio station in the heart of central Wisconsin, few charts seem as foreign than the Dance/Club charts. Indeed foreign charts often seemed less foreign than the Dance/Club charts. A few years later I was working at a commercial “new rock alternative” station down in Madison. I was at the helm for our weekly Saturday night “all request” show (which was only somewhat open to requests, truth be told) and I got a call from a listener who recognized my voice from my years at 90FM, the one time that happened. Weirdly enough, he requested Nitzer Ebb, a band I rarely played as a student DJ. “I Give To You” was the first single from the band’s Ebbhead.

This song was on it’s way down the chart, dropping from number 14 the previous week.

Previously…

Numbers 40-36