I can say without hesitation that today’s Hooks ‘N’ You was written more quickly and with less forethought in the history of the column, but whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is a judgment call that only you can make. I guess we’ll find out soon enough, eh?
Earlier this morning, I posted some photos on Facebook from my college days at the school which is now known as Averett University. (It used to simply be Averett College, but it’s clearly much cooler now than it was when I attended.) The majority of the shots are of the various folks who haunted the halls of Bottom Bishop, where I made my home from 1990 – 1992, but the series begins with four photos of my dorm room. When I arrived in Danville, VA, I had just spent a year working music retail for Record Bar, so I had more posters to put on my walls than I had available wall space…but believe you me, I took advantage of the opportunity to plaster every last inch with something cool. If the space wasn’t big enough for a poster, then I put up an album flat. If it wasn’t big enough for an album flat, I put up a magazine cover.
In short, it was a desperate attempt to look cool.
It would be a lie to claim that this attempt succeeded, because there have been very few occasions in my life when I have been able to pass for “cool,” but at the very least, the combination of my decor and the music that was regularly blaring out of my room managed to help me in creating a circle of friends who have remained my friends to this day. Indeed, several of them have already commented on some of these photos on Facebook (I’m sure they will continue to give me shit about a couple of them for quite some time yet), and since I’m in a reminiscing mood, I thought I’d just offer up a few comments about some of the posters that can be seen in the photos and how the music has aged over the years.
Although it’s probably one of the last things that would catch the eye of most people, the first thing that I spot in this shot is in the upper left-hand corner: the very bottom of a poster for New Order’s Low-Life. It was a simple poster, but it was a great one, featuring a shot of each member of the foursome…and that’s why, when I completed a successful phone interview with Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert, I asked the publicist if there’s any way she could get all four members of New Order to sign the poster if I sent it to the firm’s New York office. She said that such a request was very do-able, and she provided me with the address so that I might mail off the poster post-haste. I giddily did so…but after a few weeks had passed with no sign of my poster, which should have been autographed within a few days of its arrival (the band was scheduled to play a gig in NYC and were to be stopping by the offices), I got nervous and called the firm. The number was disconnected. I called Warner Brothers, and I received the horrifying news that the publicity firm had gone out of business…and, suddenly, in my mind’s eye, I imagined their offices sitting empty of everything save my Low-Life poster. I actually had a chance to speak to Peter Hook earlier this year, and when I told him of this incident, he replied, “You know, I think I saw it on eBayâ€¦and it was selling for a thousand dollars!” Thanks for confirming my worst fears, Hooky…
New Order, “Elegia” (Low-Life)
As it happens, I also am no longer in possession of that Faith No More poster, although its loss was in no way as significant…which is a little ironic, given that it actually was autographed. When the band played a date at the Boathouse, in Norfolk, VA, they also made time to do an in-store appearance at Tracks at Wards Corner. Given that Tracks and Record Bar were part of the same family of stores, my employment at the latter ensured me an opportunity to meet the band and get them to sign my promo poster for The Real Thing. All things being equal, I probably shouldn’t have sold it a few years later when I was in desperate need of cash for some reason or other (I can’t remember why, but since I’ve never been addicted to drugs, I presume I was financing a vacation or something), but we all have our regrets in life, and that’s a pretty small one on my overall list. As for The Real Thing as an album, a Faith No More greatest-hits disc is all I really need in my collection, but arguably the record’s greatest achievement – at least for me – was that it introduced me to the music of Black Sabbath for the first time. Yes, seriously…and as ridiculous as it may sound, I suspect I might not be the only one who had this happen. (Even the All Music Guide admits that, “at the time, Sabbath’s hipness level was nonexistent.”) I’m not saying it’s a great cover; I’m just saying that, for what it’s worth, it’s as much because of Faith No More as anything or anyone else that a copy of We Sold Our Soul for Rock ‘N’ Roll ended up in my collection when it did.
Faith No More, “War Pigs” (The Real Thing)
See that poster for Duran Duran’s Liberty? At the time, it seemed so cool to have that on my wall. Why? Because in 1990, nobody was listening to Duran Duran. This was post-Big Thing and pre-Wedding Album, so their career was in a downward popularity spiral that no one with a lick of sense would’ve ever expected them to recover from. I really loved Liberty‘s first single, “Violence of Summer (Love’s Taking Over),” though, and I was always ready to play that track for anyone who said that the band wasn’t still commercially viable. (As you might imagine, I played it a lot.) Nowadays, though, I’d be lying if I said I brought Liberty out on a regular basis, and I wouldn’t even cite that song as having been the album’s best shot at a hit…my pick for that honor is below…but I still think the poster’s pretty cool, even if it does surreptitiously try to convince those who gaze upon it that Warren Cuccurillo and Sterling Campbell were just as important to the band as Nick Rhodes and John Taylor.
Duran Duran, Serious (Liberty)
Precious few people have ever seen me and said, “Now there’s a Sex Pistols fan.” But I’ve been one ever since I saw “Sid and Nancy” at the Naro Cinema, in Norfolk, an evening which, as it turns out, was attended by my now-wife, Jenn. Mind you, this was some thirteen years before our first date, but even so, the knowledge that we were both there for opening night of the local run of the film is enough reason for us to have a framed “Sid and Nancy” poster in our living room. The Never Mind the Bollocks poster is simple, but having it on your wall was, I felt, a way of saying, “There might be more to this guy than meets the eye.” (I felt a lot stupid things in college, you understand.) I remember cranking the Pistols plenty of times, and, of course, in the pre-Nirvana days that these were, most people thought it was completely obnoxious. But given that I was having to compete with Damian McBride alternating between spins of “Ice Ice Baby” and “A Country Boy Can Survive,” I hope you understand that I really had no choice in the matter.
Sex Pistols, Bodies (Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols)
Of all the posters in this picture, there’s only one that’s currently on the wall of my office. See the one in the upper right-hand corner, with the dude raising his hand out of a sea of blue paint? That’s one of the great iconic shots of Britpop right there, and it appeared on a poster promoting the US release of the Stone Roses’ self-titled debut. My copy of the poster is probably the most raggedy thing thing on my walls, and by all rights I should’ve retired it in favor of something else, since I still have hundreds of posters rolled up in my office closet, but I just couldn’t do it. It’s too great a shot, and it’s too great an album.
The Stone Roses, I Wanna Be Adored (The Stone Roses)
Mostly the same shot, yes, but there are a couple of differences. The first, of course, is the gigantic Cure poster (for “Boys Don’t Cry”) that can be seen jutting into the shot on the left. I can’t remember if that’s the one that my sister got for me or if it’s the one that was gifted to me by my roommate for three days, Steve Wasilewski. Steve and I were assigned to be roommates, but although he quickly decided to move into one of the suites in order to be amongst his fraternity brothers, the story has always been that he walked into the room after I’d arrived, saw that I’d moved his stuff around, and realized that he could never be my roommate. I don’t know if this is true or not, but whatever the case, he had formally moved into the suites within three days’ time, never having actually spent a night in the room with me. Still, the three-days story is one of those tales from college you like to perpetuate just because it sounds like it ought to be true. I got an E-mail from Waz a few weeks ago…the first one I’d ever received from him. No, seriously, ever. He works for the Books-A-Million chain, and he’d found himself in a discussion with another employee about whether or not Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs were married…and when he Googled their names to prove that they were not, he happened upon my recent interview with Mr. Sweet. Small world.
The Cure, “Boys Don’t Cry” (CHESTNUT STUDIO DEMO) (Three Imaginary Boys: Remastered Edition)
Another item that’s visible here is my autographed flat for the Mighty Lemon Drops’ Laughter, an album which deserved a much better commercial fate than it received…which, arguably, is something that could be said for every item in the band’s discography. I actually tried to contact David Newton to see if he’d be willing to answer some questions for a future “Hooks ‘N’ You” column, but he never responded. Shame, that. I can honestly say that there isn’t an album that the band recorded that I don’t love. Laughter, however, really showed the band trying to expand their sound into something that was their own, so that critics wouldn’t be able to keep saying things like, “Yes, but if you want to listen to a band that sounds like Echo and the Bunnymen, why not listen to the real thing?” I felt like this was a real step forward for the Mighty Lemon Drops, but they just never managed to make any real mainstream headway. That said, however, I still treasure this flat…even if I’m not 100% sure where it is at the moment.
The Mighty Lemon Drops, “Where Do We Go From Heaven.mp3” (Laughter)
Lastly, I’ll just draw mention the “Twin Peaks” stuff which you may have noticed on the wall. Man, was I a “Twin Peaks” geek. I was in total lust with Sherilyn Fenn, I owned a copy of Laura Palmer’s diary and an audio cassette of Agent Cooper’s recordings to Diane, and, of course, I owned Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting soundtrack to the series. It is a testament to how unconcerned I was with being popular in college that I actually watched every episode of “Twin Peaks” when originally aired, even though ABC had banished the series to Saturday nights during its second season. Saturday nights…? True story. Networks don’t even bother putting new scripted material on Saturday nights anymore; it’s a wasteland for reality shows, news programs, and re-runs…and even in the early ’90s, it’s not like it was a haven for huge ratings. But, still, there I was, watching without fail in the basement of Bishop, on a big-screen TV with a crappy picture and sketchy reception…and I wouldn’t change a minute of it.
Angelo Badalamenti – “Audrey’s Dance” (Soundtrack from ‘Twin Peaks’)
Y’know, I really hadn’t intended to go on this long about these two pictures, but this turned out to be a lot of fun. I’ve still got a couple more pictures. Maybe I’ll do it again one of these days…