My high school girlfriend received a 16th-birthday mix tape in 1992 from a friend of ours named Tai. There were no artists or song titles listed on the cassette label, making the tape something of a mystery gift. My girlfriend and I listened to it while driving (because when you’re 16 you just drive, regardless of whether or not there’s a Point B), and later I borrowed the tape so I could dub the songs I liked onto a cassette of my own.

Since I didn’t know the titles of the songs I was adding to my collection, I made up my own: the Stone Roses’ “Elephant Stone” was listed as “In My Dreams”; the Hummingbirds’ “Everything You Said” became “Your Picture”; the Blue Hearts’ “Train-Train” turned into a single “Train”; Blake Babies’ “Out There” was rechristened “I Know It’s Stupid”; and Morrissey’s “Mute Witness” morphed into “That She Saw” (yes, I know I was reaching with that one). One track I did manage to name correctly was “Valerie Loves Me,” by Chicago power-pop trio Material Issue. I could’ve sworn they were British all those years ago, probably because of lead singer Jim Ellison’s English-accent affectations, as all power pop seems to lead back to the words and music of Lennon and McCartney, even though you couldn’t hear their accents when they sang.

This week’s bootleg is a radio broadcast of Material Issue playing at the Empire Concert Club in Cleveland, Ohio, on May 9, 1991. Back then they were promoting their debut album, International Pop Overthrow, whose title has since been borrowed for an annual traveling power-pop festival: the 2009 edition arrived in Chicago on April 16 and leaves town on Sunday, then starts back up in Milwaukee next Thursday. The bootleg is brought to you by Addicted to Vinyl‘s Matt Wardlaw, a friend of Popdose and a heck of a nice guy. Here’s what he has to say about the venue and the concerts it hosted that aired on local radio:

“The Empire Concert Club was a great though short-lived club here in Cleveland that was only open for a couple of years at the beginning of the ’90s. In that time they did close to 100 live concert broadcasts with legendary rock station WMMS. Some of the more memorable broadcasts included shows from Cracker, King’s X, Sarah McLachlan (her first show in Cleveland), Rik Emmett, Matthew Sweet, and this show from Material Issue. Personally, I enjoyed the broadcasts because they featured a lot of artists like Material Issue who had new and fresh sounds for music fans to latch onto at a time when you could still hear that kind of thing on the radio; these live broadcasts captured many of the artists as they were about to explode on a national level. Great club, great bands — so how did it end? The Empire got nailed for filling the venue beyond capacity during a Buddy Guy concert — not their first offense — and they were penalized by having their capacity reduced by half, which led to an eventual shuttering of the club. Empire co-owner Tony Ciulla resurfaced a short time later as part of the management team for Trent Reznor’s Nothing Records.”

This Far Before
The Loneliest Heart
Out Right Now
Very First Lie
The Kids Are Alright
Renee Remains the Same
Chance of a Lifetime
International Pop Overthrow
Li’l Christine
This Letter
So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n Roll Star
Valerie Loves Me
Ballroom Blitz

About the Author

Robert Cass

Robert Cass lives in Chicago. For Popdose he's written under the Sugar Water, Bootleg City, and Box Office Flashback banners and collaborated on the series 'Face Time with Jeff Giles and Mike Heyliger.

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