One for Friday — The Weeds, “Dicked”

weeds concenrt

According to the official tally within the digital machinery of this humble corner of the online megaplex, the post that went up one week ago today, boasting a downloadable MP3 of a Was (Not Was) track, was the five-hundredth globule of my words adorned with the informational tag “One for Friday.” Now, human error could render that count inaccurate, so let’s look to a different measure of longevity that is more certain. It was almost exactly ten years ago that I first hyperlinked to a song file and wrote up my memories of it for this gleaming outpost of cultural consideration. In early January of 2009, I shared “Nancy Sinatra,” recorded by bygone Madison, Wisconsin band the Weeds, and One for Friday was underway as a recurring feature.

To a degree, I was simply trying to set a placeholder Friday feature as I migrated from my former online home, convinced the way I was closing out the working week over there wouldn’t work as well here. I was also paying informal tribute to the various music bloggers I admired, especially the proprietor of a site called Little Hits, which has long since shuffled off this immortal plain. I had a big batch of songs, many of them first discovered during my beloved time as a wide-eyed college radio staffer. Streaming music options weren’t as widespread as they are now and YouTube lacked its current infinity jukebox side, meaning a significant number on the cuts in my collection weren’t widely available. I also steered clear of material that could be bought from your favorite local, independently owned record store in a manner that compensated both the proprietor of said store and the original artists. Under those circumstances, sharing seemed a reasonable option.

A decade later, I feel like I’ve come to the end of One For Friday. In addition to the previously mentioned expansion of availability for much of this music, another ten years of distance from the era of most songs that wind up here builds a little mustiness in the whole endeavor. I’ve greatly enjoyed essentially tracking through my first semester in college radio these past few months, opening each post with the legend “Thirty years ago….” I’ve also been mindful of just how far back I’m reaching, the equivalent of the Kingston Trio’s “Tom Dooley” or the Coasters’ “Yakety Yak” at the time I first slid those college rock treasures out of their respective sleeves in the on air studio I once gratefully called home. It’s time to move on.

As part of the above reflection implies, I am somewhat compelled to find a replacement undertaking that prompts me to be a little more current in my weekly music writing. College rock nostalgia is already served quite effectively on Sundays around these here parts. There’s a pledge I still abide by, calling on myself to operate with an approach to listening as committed to the here and now as past favorites. I want that to be reflected more here. Something along those lines will take up residence in this spot next week.

For now, though, One for Friday merits a proper farewell. There’s one one band suited for the task. And so….

A little more than thirty years ago, in the autumn of 1988, the Weeds released their debut album, Windchill. Hailing from the city in which I was born — and which wasn’t exactly a launching pad for acts with a national presence — the Weeds arguably represented the pinnacle of a certain type of gift provided by my college radio. In the station’s Heavy Rotation stack, repository of new records that had arrived in the station’s mailbox over the course of the prior two weeks or so, an egalitarian ethos ruled. Sure, the latest R.E.M. disc was bound to receive more loving attention from the deejays who took turns in the chair behind the main board, but the charge was to explore, to take chances on music we didn’t know and weren’t likely to know about through any other means. No commercial stations played anything from Windchill, it wasn’t going to receive the barest mention in Spin or Rolling Stone, MTV would be no champion for the band’s art. The Weeds had us, and we, in turn, had them.

And the music on Windchill hit me so squarely in my heart it may as well have been implanted there by a skilled surgeon. It’s full of sterling garage rock, further informed and bolstered by the unapologetic ramrodding authority of punk and the stealth songcraft of nineteen-eighties college radio titans. And it possessed a winning brashness that served as a useful proxy for an eighteen-year-old kid just beginning to reckon with his place in adult society, unequipped to articulate the uncertainty he felt when staring down systems rigged against those who weren’t taught the secret handshake by their dynastic families. I wasn’t prepared to thump away at a guitar and howl, “We got dicked!” over and over, but now I had someone to do it for me.

There were bigger, more notable records than Windchill during my first year at the college radio station, but not many. The album got a further boost in the spring semester when the radio station booked the band to play a gig on campus. The record returned to Heavy Rotation and stayed there for weeks, racking up enough spins to wind up among the station’s ten most played albums in 1989, rubbing shoulders with the Pogues and Hoodoo Gurus. I’m confident we were the only radio station in the nation that played Windchill that much. Of course, I also believe that means we were the only radio station in the nation using our airwaves wisely.

Listen or download —> The Weeds, “Dicked”

(Disclaimer: In this instance, I’m sharing a song the band has already offered for free download, so I’m assuming it’s also acceptable for me to post it here. All are encouraged to grab the other songs they’ve generously released into the wilds of the internet. Every last one is a winner. Although I am sharing the music here in good faith, I do know the rules. I will gladly and promptly remove this file from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)

One for Friday — Was (Not Was), “Somewhere in America There’s a Street Named After My Dad”

was not was

Thirty years ago, in the autumn of 1988, Was (Not Was) released the album What Up, Dog? Officially the third full-length from the group, the album showed up just as one of the two individuals who adopted the last name Was was experiencing an elevated presence in the music industry. Within the next year, Don Was took the producer or co-producer credit on Bonnie Raitt’s Nick of Time and Cosmic Thing from the B-52’s, both massive, career-redefining records. Here, he was simply one part of a team that cooked up a decidedly strange and careening album.

What Up, Dog? largely eschewed the gimmickry of its predecessor, Born to Laugh at Tornadoes, which recruited an oddball assortment of guest lead vocalists. Instead, those duties were largely given to Sweet Pea Atkinson and Sir Harry Bowens, terrifically talented soul singers who’d never gotten much of a break previously. And then the Was boys went to work crafting songs that were maybe tongue in cheek, maybe sweetly earnest, maybe some loopy amalgamation of both.

At my college radio station, the songs that tipped toward novelty got the most airplay, especially “I’m in Jail,” which layered screeching vocals atop music that sounded like a malfunctioning video game with an acid jazz combo inside. But when it felt like prying eyes weren’t around — so round about 1:30 a.m. of my weekly late night shift — I found myself gravitating to the track that shimmered with classic pop polish, as if the band harbored a secret desire to revive Burt Bacharach lush lullabies with a modernized nervous system. It was the sillier material that eventually paid off big for Was (Not Was), but remain most enamored with the cuts that are the ideal playlist additions for the elegant version of Top 40 radio that’s never existed. If it had, “Somewhere in America There’s a Street Named After My Dad” would surely have been a chart-topper.

Listen or download —> Was (Not Was), “Somewhere in America There’s a Street Named After My Dad”

(Disclaimer: Is What Up, Dog? available in a physical format that can be procured from your favorite local, independently owned record store in a manner that compensate both the original artist and the proprietor of said shop? Beats me! It doesn’t look like it, but that seems a little implausible, since it contains the group’s one significant hit. Regardless, the track is shared here not as an alternative to commerce, but rather as encouragement for such an exchange of currency to receive musical art. If not this record, then think about getting something else that one of the Was fellows put his fingerprints on. I believe I’m operating under the legal principle of fair use, but I do know the rules. I will gladly and promptly remove this song from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)

One for Friday — The Saints, “Grain of Sand”

chris bailey saints

Thirty years ago, in the later half of 1988, the Saints released Prodigal Son in the U.S. In the official count, Prodigal Son was the eighth full-length studio album by the Australian band, but it was already fully understood that the whole endeavor was really just a creative outlet for lead singer and guitarist Chris Bailey. A little than a decade earlier, the Saints released “(I’m) Stranded,” one of the best loved relative obscurities of the punk rock explosion. Only Bailey remained from the lineup that recorded the seminal single. He was joined by a constantly shifting crew of sidemen as he kept churning out music that essentially demonstrated how fevered punk agitation could agreeably mellow into expertly crafted rock ‘n’ roll.

Woefully unschooled in most of pop music history that feel outside the myopic, stodgy taste of Jann Wenner’s Rolling Stone, I didn’t know any of that when I sat in my college radio station’s air chair and flipped through the updated inventory of new releases. I simply saw an oddly arty cover and a set of song titles that certainly felt right. And when I dropped the needle on the album’s first track, “Gain of Sand,” I was hooked. Much as I was enlivened by the avalanche of new, distinctive music at the radio station, it helped when I found material that sounded just close enough to the album rock that had been more prevalent in my high school years.

A song like “Grain of Sand” was a perfect gateway. I could imagine it slotted in between Robert Plant and Van Halen on the commercial stations, but I could also feel superior because I knew those sellout deejays weren’t playing it. But I was. And I played it over and over again.

Listen or download —> The Saints, “Grain of Sand”

(Disclaimer: I believe Prodigal Son to be out of print and therefore unavailable in a physical format that can procured from your favorite local, independently owned record store in a manner that compensates both the proprietor of said shop and the original artist. The track is shared in this space at this time with that understanding. It is also shared as an encouragement to go out and buy some new music. Those record stores are counting on holiday business, and music is a fabulous gift — and an even better reward to give yourself for all your holiday spirit. I believe I’ve placed this song here in accordance with the legal principle of fair use, but I will gladly and promptly remove it from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)

One for Friday — The Go-Betweens, “Was There Anything I Could Do?”

go betweens

Thirty years ago, in the autumn of 1988, the Go-Betweens released the album 16 Lovers Lane. It’s probably overstating it to proclaim the record the Go-Betweens’ version of Rumours, but there are some distinct similarities. There was a lot of tumult within the band, including shifting relationship drama. Some of the discombobulation was self-created, including a return to the band’s Australian homeland after operating with London as their home base for most of their recording career. The album was more sharply produced that its predecessors, and principal songwriters Grant McLennan and Robert Forster felt they’d carried the various new efforts from conception to completion with greater effectiveness than ever before. It was also probably the band’s best-selling album to that point.

Of course, 16 Lovers Lane has sold about 40 million fewer copies than Rumours, so the comparison can only go so far. At college radio, though, 16 Lovers Lane was a major hit. It is exactly the sort of album that is ideal when working through a playlist, mostly because every track is a gleaming wonder. Most of them are between three and four minutes and strike with pure pop perfection from the opening notes. I played everything off this records, but the chugging strum of “Was There Anything I Could Do?” hit a particular sweet spot for me. I knew college rock could be noisy or deliberately unpolished. The Go-Betweens taught me it could also be slick, smart, and highly accomplished.

Listen or download —> The Go-Betweens, “Was There Anything I Could Do?”

(Disclaimer: It appears to me that 16 Lovers Lane is currently out of print, at least as a physical item that can be procured from your favorite local, independently owned record store in a manner that compensates both the proprietor of said store and the original artist. I’m sharing this track with that understanding, but also as an encouragement to go out and buy some music. Anything from the Go-Betweens is a grand addition to a record collection. Although I feel I am operating under the legal principle of fair use, I will gladly and promptly remove this file from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)

One for Friday — A House, “Call Me Blue”

a house

Thirty years ago, in the autumn of 1988, Irish band A House released their debut album, On Our Big Fat Merry-Go-Round. Formed in Dublin, largely by old school chums, A House had enough success in their local environs — including some self-released singles — to be invited to record a session with legendary radio host John Peel. Around that time, the band was signed to Blanco y Negro, making them labelmates with Everything But the Girl and the Jesus and Mary Chain. A House seemed poised for enormous success, and nothing promised it more than the blistering, brilliant single “Call Me Blue.”

“Call Me Blue” explodes from its first moment, racing on a treadmill at its highest setting with the control panel smashed to oblivion. Dave Couse’s vocals do the requisite Irish soaring and keening on the chorus, but a lot of the cut’s appeal comes from his comparatively relaxed delivery of the lyrics, irony slathered on like sugary icing (“What a great world we all live in/ Even better, what a time to be here”). And the whole thing is wrapped up just over the two minute mark. It’s bliss.

College radio made “Call Me Blue” a healthy hit in its rarefied territory in the fall and winter of 1988, but nothing further from the band really clicked. They were fairly prolific in the years that immediately followed. A House released a total of five studio albums, finishing with No More Apologies, in 1996.

Listen or download —> A House, “Call Me Blue”

(Disclaimer: It appears to me that On Our Big Fat Merry-Go-Round is out of print, at least as a physical object that can be procured from your favorite local, independently owned record store in a manner that compensate both the proprietor of said shop and the original artist. If I can be bought, go do so. It is the sort of purchase that will not inspired regret. Definitely buy something from the record store as soon as possible. They’re counting on your holiday dollars. Although I believe sharing this song in this space constitutes fair use, I do know the rules. I will gladly and promptly remove it from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)

One for Friday — The Waterboys, “And a Bang on the Ear”

waterboys

Thirty years ago, in the autumn of 1988, the Waterboys released the album Fisherman’s Blues. It was officially the fourth full-length studio release from the motley and ever-shifting crew of musicians Scotsman Mike Scott assembled around him, and it was a particularly transformational outing for the band. Anthemic pop songs were previously the order of business, not altogether unlike the material from any number of bands hailing from the same general region, from Big Country to Simple Minds to — suddenly the most commercially successful of them all — U2.

Whether or not Scott was actively angling for a change to differentiate his outfit from that lot (and he is a cantankerous enough fellow that such agitation was quite possible), he found his way to it after moving to Dublin. Surrounded by traditional Irish music, Scott begin tilting his songwriting in that direction. He started recruited musicians to help him realize the earthy, expansive songs. The Waterboys were officially a trio when they recorded their previous record, the sterling This is the Sea, but now their rehearsal space started to resemble the stateroom in A Night at the Opera. Scott came to refer to this iteration of the Waterboys as the “Raggle Taggle band.”

A large band deserves songs that stretch out to accommodate them, and Scott wrote some dandies for Fisherman’s Blues. Other songs are arguably better, but none stir as much nostalgia for me as “And a Bang on the Ear.” Over nine minutes long, the lyrics largely catalog past loves, moved on but still occupying wistful territory within the heart. I was young, so much younger than today, when used to spin the song during my late night shift at the college radio station, but I already understood the emotions that animated the song. Before long, I had my own Lindsay, Nora, Deborah, Bella, and Krista. “And a Bang on the Ear” reminded me to value everything my time with them provided, even when — especially when — heartache was involved.

Listen or download —> The Waterboys, “And a Bang on the Ear”

(Disclaimer: I believe Fisherman’s Blues to be available as a physical item that can be procured from your favorite local, independently owned record store in a manner than compensate both the proprietor of said shop and the original artist. I am sharing this song as encouragement to engage in that commerce rather than as an alternative to it. Every last track on the album is a gem. If you’ve only got the on I’ve posted here, you don’t have enough. I believe I am sharing this under the legal principle of fair use, but I do know the rules. I will gladly and promptly remove it from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)

One for Friday — Cowboy Junkies, “Misguided Angel”

junkies

Thirty years ago, in the autumn of 1988, Cowboy Junkies released the album The Trinity Session. It wasn’t the Canadian band’s debut album (that was the provocatively titled Whites Off Earth Now!, issued two years earlier), but most of us at the radio station believed it was. That’s not solely because the band’s debut release was fairly obscure. The Trinity Session felt like the sort of shockingly new record that could only come from a band on its first time out. If music this wise, lovely, and evocative were being created before, wouldn’t we have heard of it?

The title of the The Trinity Session referred to the recording space chosen by the band and producer Peter Moore: Toronto’s Church of the Holy Trinity. Although hardly raucous punk rockers, the group needed to engage in a little subterfuge to get the church to agree to open up the space, claiming they were a Christian music performers working on a Christmas radio special. Then they settled in a recorded songs by heathens such as Lou Reed.

The Cowboy Junkies’ debut was largely comprised of cover songs. The Trinity Session is best known for another borrowed song, but most of the tracks are originals. Lead singer Margo Timmins and her guitarist brother, Michael, were inspired by classic country music, giving many of the new songs a tinge of timelessness. “Misguided Angel” could have been pulled straight from a book of storied songs that define a certain slice of Americana. And in the tender rendering on the album, the loveliness is almost overwhelming.

Listen or download —> Cowboy Junkies, “Misguided Angel”

(Disclaimer: I prefer excavating songs from out of print releases for this weekly feature. I didn’t check, but surely The Trinity Session doesn’t actually qualify under my primary guideline. Assuming it can be purchased from your favorite local, independently owned record store in a manner that compensates both the proprietor of said shop and the original artist, the sharing of the track is encouragement to do so, not an alternative to such commerce. I believe the sharing of the file here constitutes fair use, but I do know the rules. I will gladly and promptly remove this song from my little corner or the digital world if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)