It’s been too hot to really think of anything but nothing the past week. When I have had a thought, I’ve been trying to reconstruct my discovery of Rolling Stone magazine.
(this all prompted by the recent death of Bill Johnson, who designed the magazine’s logo)
The magazine was not readily available to me as a kid. I don’t recall seeing it in the limited selection in the racks at either of the small, family-owned drug stores in town.
I was familiar with Rolling Stone mostly through a buddy who would mention stuff that he’d read in the issues swiped from his older brother.
By the summer of ’82, the Kroger supermarket downtown (such as downtown was for us) relocated to a considerably larger location much closer to our house. It was there that I began reading Rolling Stone.
When boredom and the sweltering summer heat left us with little to do, my neighbor Will and I would hop on our bikes, head over to Kroger, and enjoy the refrigerated air of the store.
We’d loiter at the magazine rack, leafing through the offerings as we munched on Pop-Tarts purchased with whatever change we’d scrounged up.
The music magazines were limited to Circus and Rolling Stone and the album reviews in the latter were of particular interest to me despite the critical shellacking most of the bands I loved at the time received.
These slights indicting my young musical tastes where quickly forgiven the day we found The Go-Gos staring back at us from the cover wearing nothing but their underwear and some smiles.
Sadly, it was likely the most memorable moment involving girls in any state of undress for us that summer, but it did amuse Jane Weidlin years later as I discussed that cover with her during an interview.
I was also greatly intrigued by the album chart in the back of each issue and seeing the names of bands with whom I was wholly unfamiliar.
Oh, I had come to expect seeing names I didn’t know in the rest of the magazine, but how could I not have heard of an act that apparently had a popular album?
But, during that summer, it was a most excellent way to waste away some sweltering afternoon munching on Pop-Tarts in the air-conditioned cool, wondering who the hell The Jam were, what they sounded like, and why I had never heard them on the radio.
Here are four songs from albums that would have made me go “hmmm” as I scanned those album charts in the back of Rolling Stone twenty-nine years ago…
Roxy Music – More Than This
I remember seeing the movie Times Square late one night on a local station when I was about twelve or thirteen. Roxy Music’s Same Old Scene played over the opening credits
(not that I knew who it was)
It wouldn’t be ’til college that I’d really listen to Roxy Music. A French professor I had would play their albums before class.
And, on nights when I had a shift at the record store where I worked, I found Avalon to be a suitable choice as I went through the closing tasks
Squeeze – Black Coffee In Bed
from Sweets From A Stranger
My introduction to Squeeze came sometime in high school through one of my friends who had a copy of the UK band’s compilation Singles – 45’s And Under. I enjoy their music, but I’ve never been bothered to own anything other than a handful of songs I’ve accumulated along the way.
Black Coffee In Bed is pretty nifty and a bit of a sequel – musically and thematically – to their better-known Tempted (a song I long ago burned out on) from the year before.
XTC – Senses Working Overtime
from English Settlement
I thought XTC to be an odd name when I came across it in one of my Columbia Record & Tape Club catalogs. Then, I noticed English Settlement on the Rolling Stone charts.
A year or so later, I would become familiar with XTC thanks to 97X and songs like Making Plans For Nigel and Love On A Farmboy’s Wages.
But I mostly knew XTC’s music through my buddy Streuss who became enthralled with their quirky style of alternative rock far earlier than most of the kids I knew in college who loved the band.
The Blasters – American Music
from Testament: The Complete Slash Recordings
I want to like The Blasters. I’ve read wonderful things, they seem like the genuine article, and I have liked the handful of songs I know. Yet, when shuffle pulls up a song by the band, I have to check the screen for the title of a song I don’t recognize, see that it’s The Blasters, and hit next.
It simply seems as if each and every time I’m presented with the chance to check them out, I’m not in the mood for their sound.
I guess it’s not them, it’s me as American Music is pretty groovy little rave-up.