The Dead Of Winter

January 5, 2013

winterI have no idea when I became aware that new albums and cassettes didn’t simply sprout randomly in the bins and racks of record stores but, rather, arrived on a (theoretically) predetermined date – the street date.

As I became a music consumer in the early ’80s, this information wasn’t at your fingertips and was as much rumor and speculation as actionable intel.

At the time, I was frequenting record stores like mall staples like Camelot and Record Bar, cooler chains like Peaches, and a few smaller independent stores like Globe. All of them made some attempt to provide release dates.

Most of the time there was something posted on the counter top by the registers. It might be a list clipped from Billboard. If it was, it would be, maybe, a scant dozen titles and usually limited to major releases.

Other stores would have a handwritten list taped to the counter, often riddled with corrections and dates crossed out or changed. And, still others made use of chalk or dry erase boards.

Often I simply got release dates from DJs on the radio.

Regardless of how the information was disseminated, it was hardly gospel.

And, by the time I reached college, I had definitely learned to expect little in the way of new music in January. It was a barren stretch of a month when the labels often dumped titles for which they had little commitment.

A January release was often the precursor to the act being dropped.

A college roommate called me after we’d parted ways with news of a band whose failed debut we had loved. We had graduated as we were expecting the follow-up and, belatedly, it was finally slated for release.

“It comes out in January,” he told me and we both knew what it meant.

(six months later, Epic dropped them)

1982 was the year that I truly began to devote the few dollars I had to purchasing music. Here are four songs from albums that arrived in January that year…

The Waitresses – I Know What Boys Like
from Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful? (1982)

The Waitresses brief career – two albums and one EP – was launched when their debut, Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful?, arrived with the new year in 1982. The New Wave band from Akron would have a minor hit that summer with the sassy, saxophone-driven I Know What Boys Like which I was introduced to when the band performed the song on Solid Gold.

Though I Know What Boys Like failed to make the Top 40, the song has appeared on every New Wave compilation issued over the past three decades. Their career might have been slight, but The Waitresses managed two classics with I Know What Boys Like and the seasonal perennial Christmas Wrapping.

XTC – Senses Working Overtime
from English Settlement (1982)

I was certainly unfamiliar with XTC at the beginning of 1982, though I would at least know the name of the English trio by that spring when I took note of the listing for English Settlement and the unusual band name in a catalog for the Columbia Record & Tape Club.

I wouldn’t actually hear XTC until the autumn of the following year when 97X went on the air. The band would be a staple on the station as they would be a favorite amongst the college rock crowd into the next decade.

Hanoi Rocks – Don’t Never Leave Me
from Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks (1982)

Hanoi Rocks was a band that I knew from leafing through the pages of Circus – one of the few music magazines on the rack at the drug store in my hometown. That the Finnish band was in Circus, whose emphasis was on hard rock and metal bands, did little to pique my interest.

(I did dig the band’s name and I still think that Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks is one of the coolest album titles of all time)

After Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite For Destruction broke, I recall the opinion that it might have been Hanoi Rocks having such success had the band’s career not been derailed by the death of their drummer.

Years later, I finally checked out Hanoi Rocks after snagging several CDs in a cut-out bin and it was indeed like hearing some proto-Guns N’ Roses.

Huey Lewis & The News – Do You Believe In Love
from Picture This (1982)

Huey Lewis & The News’ Picture This was actually released at the tail end of January, so, even though the band’s debut had gotten little attention, maybe the label hadn’t totally given up on the band. Maybe they weren’t surprised at the success of Picture This and Do You Believe In Love.

Of course, no one would have predicted how inescapable Huey Lewis & The News would be during the rest of the decade. Reviled by many, the band had stuff I still dig – Workin’ For A Livin’, Heart And Soul, If This Is It, The Power Of Love – and stuff I never did – I Want A New Drug, The Heart Of Rock And Roll, Hip To Be Square

The bouyant earworm Do You Believe In Love ends up among the former group.

Tuesday Used To Be Christmas But Now It’s Just Tuesday Again (part II)

November 8, 2008

Continued from yesterday… (actually, this post got screwed up, so I am reposting it this morning).

Here are a couple more new release dates that were memorable to me as a kid…

Fee Waybill – You’re Still Laughing
Read My Lips, October/November, 1984

This one sticks in my memory more for the circumstances than the music. My friends and I liked The Tubes, but our friend Bosco was fully committed to their cause. And so, on a Friday following the Tuesday release of Tube’s frontman Fee Waybill’s solo debut, Bosco, our pyro friend Kurt, and I skipped out and headed to Cincinnati.

It was in a Record Bar in a mall in Tri-County, Bosco acquired Read My Lips from a clerk who looked like David Lee Roth and initially informed Bosco that the album hadn’t been released. This disinformation flustered Bosco to such a degree, he mentioned it when he signed by yearbook the following year.

Bosco was a more coherent Spicoli, so, obviously, our next stop after he bought Read My Lips was the stereo store on the third floor where Bosco headed for the nearest turntable and cued up his purchase.

U2 – The Unforgettable Fire
U2 – Pride (In The Name Of Love)
The Unforgettable Fire, October 1, 1984

During my lifetime (or at least during the years in which I followed music), U2 is arguably the band who – like The Beatles – has had an impact beyond music (albeit not to the same degree). So, each of their release dates since 1984 has been a personal, observed holiday. It will be the same for their new, upcoming album (rumored to be November 18, now, apparently, early ’09).

The periods of my life that correspond to each release seem to be engrained in my mind with greater detail than many other periods. Achtung Baby provided hope during a time of major transition, the disappointing Pop couldn’t puncture a stretch of great calm. But good or bad, those times are easy for me to conjure in my head at will.

The first was October 1, 1984 – The Unforgettable Fire. Maybe more than any of their other albums, I think I hold it in higher regard now than I did then.

The rock stations I was listening to had been playing Pride (In The Name Of Love) for weeks and I expected the rest of the album to be equally as unbridled. A couple of friends – again, Bosco and Kurt, as I recall – and I had skipped school and found ourselves to be in the same Record Bar in which we had encountered “David Lee Roth.”

This time, we were helped by “Cyndi Lauper.” She complimented my purchase and I asked her to marry me. It was all rather whirlwind and, fortunately, it ended with Cyndi’s answering my proposal with an indifferent shrug.

I didn’t listen to the cassette until I got home which is strange considering Bosco had turned me on to War. It was late and I sprawled out on my bedroom floor with my Walkman.

I was confused that the jagged edges which had drawn me to War were now soft like watercolors. There were elements of the past, but I didn’t know what to make of the hints of U2’s future. I remember reading the credits, seeing Eno and Lanois, and wondering who these two names were that had muddied my band’s sound (I, of course, know now and, if you’re looking for an unusual read, Eno’s diairies, A Year with Swollen Appendices: Brian Eno’s Diary, is quite engrossing).

The direction in which U2 was moving would find its destination with The Joshua Tree two-and-a-half years later (which was the first compact disc I ever bought on day of release). But I slowly embraced the more subtle nuances of The Unforgettable Fire.

The title tracks was one of my favorites at the time. Since then, it’s only become more dear to me. Nearly twenty-five years later, I’d consider the song to be four of the finest minutes of their career.

And, given the historic events of the past twenty-four hours, it’s more than fitting to also include, Pride (In The Name Of Love), U2’s anthemic tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.