Rhode Island

May 2, 2009

If there is one state about which I know practically nothing about, it is Rhode Island.

I can’t even really picture Rhode Island in my head. I think it might be kind of square-shaped.

(and would it have killed us to have made one of the fifty states a rhombus or a trapezoid?)

I’ve never really even thought about Rhode Island. There’s only one person I think I’ve ever even known from the state. In college, my friend Chris dated a girl from Rhode Island.

All I really remember about her is that she had a friend with hair like a fringed lampshade.

But as Rhode Island is the setting for The Family Guy and the show airs for thirty-six hours a day, I’ve learned a lot about the state…

…the actor James Woods is from Rhode Island.

…it is populated by animated ne’er-do-wells.

…the forward-thinking citizens have elected Adam West to office.

The latter two items are things I can enthusiastically embrace.

(James Woods seems a bit intense – although he’s apparently easily distracted by candy)

And, as for music, here are a few acts with Rhode Island connections….

Velvet Crush – Why Not Your Baby
from Teenage Symphonies To God

Originally from the Midwest, the aptly named Velvet Crush stated their musical intent with an album whose title is a nod to Beach Boy Brian Wilson as most of the songs focus on girls and summer.

Why Not Your Baby is actually a cover of a Gene Clark song and it has an appropriately melancholic twang to it.

Belly – Feed The Tree
from Star

Throwing Muses were one of the darlings of the burgeoning modern rock scene of the late ’80s. Personally, I didn’t pay much attention to them.

By the time MTV was making alternative rock mainstream in the early ’90s, Tonya Donnelly, who had been a member of Throwing Muses with half-sister Kristin Hersh, formed Belly. Like Throwing Muses, I mostly ignored Belly, but Feed The Tree was inescapable in 1993 and with good reason.

John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown – On The Dark Side
from Eddie And The Cruisers

The flick Eddie And The Cruisers, about a fictitious band, flopped when it was released to theaters in 1983 (I don’t recall it playing in our small, Indiana town). Then, it became a hit a year later via repeated showings on cable (which hadn’t made it to our world, yet).

However, On The Dark Side was on the radio given momentum by the movie’s cable revival and the fact that, with Born In The USA a commercial juggernaut, the song (and the band’s image) bore more than a passing resemblance to Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band.

Talking Heads – I Zimbra
from Fear Of Music

Talking Heads, who had formed while the members were in school in Rhode Island, had come to the attention of more conservative music fans in 1983 with the album Speaking In Tongues and the smash Burning Down The House. And their follow-up, the surprisingly playful Little Creatures, was ridiculously popular with my high school classmates.

The Heads (pictured above) were not a new discovery for me, though, as my friend Chris was a huge fan of the band. It was through him that I gained an appreciation for them and, especially, the album Fear Of Music and its tribal, rhythmic textures.