A musical catchup

I am woefully overdue on an update to the Re-Listening Project. I am working through all of my old CDs in the car, repeating a project I did a few years ago. I didn’t write about it then, but using it as a bit of content now. And you’re along for the ride. What you’ll read today aren’t reviews, but maybe a few highlights or memories.

And the Re-Listening Project is strictly chronological, which is to say the order in which I bought all of these things. My discs crosses genres and periods in a haphazard way and there’s no large theme. It is, a whimsy as so much of music should be.

If you watched any MTV in the fall of 1995 or the spring of 1996, you saw Seven Mary Three. That is, most assuredly, how I discovered the guys from Florida. Their label debut, “American Standard” was rapidly surging toward platinum status and Jason Ross was screaming in everyone’s ear. And if that strikes a familiar cord, then you remember “Cumbersome” and “Waters Edge” and some of those last dying blooms of Gen X angst. (Or were these the first roars from the millenials? Hard to know.)

Anyway, this was the place where grunge and the pure rock of that era intersected. It was right-place, right-talent, right-A&R-staff, right time. And we’re going to hear more from 7M3 in due time. So as not to overburden you, dear friend, here are just three songs. All of these diverge from the over-the-top intensity of their singles, but also hinted at where they were going.

They evolved in interesting ways, releasing seven studio albums and one live record. I have at least four of them.

The math doesn’t make a lot of sense in this song. So I’ve decided it is hyperbole, which lets me just get back to enjoying the song. Which is good, because it’s a great little rock tune.

I’m pretty sure I bought this CD because of my roommate. He loved this song. I can still see us riding around in his pickup pumping this through the old worn speakers in the dashboard.

I don’t know if it is a false memory, but I can just seem him banging out the drums on his steering wheel, with that big perfect smile on his face. He was a good guy, and I always think about him a lot when I hear this record.

And to really shake things up, the next disc in my first CD book was “A Kind of Magic.” This was Queen’s 12th studio record, a quasi-soundtrack to the first Highlander movie. If you think there are a lot of things going on in that sentence, you are correct. Any number of them might be quirky on their own, but in this combination, they make for something totally weird.

It was an immediate and huge hit in the UK. Stayed on the charts there for more than a year, spawned four hit singles. This record peaked at 46 in the United States, but was a top 10 in Argentinia, Austria, Finland, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and West Germany. And, yes, we’re going with quasi-soundtrack. No official soundtrack was produced for Highlander. Six out of nine songs on the album appeared in the film, although all of them in different forms.

If you remember that movie, though, (and how could you not!?!?!?) this song also became the love theme.

That was a hit single, and one of the better ones. This was not released as a single, but is integral to the movie. And also, shows off Queen’s serious musicianship, punctuated by weird movie interjections.

I am pretty sure I picked up this CD at one of the radio stations I worked at. And I’m pretty sure two songs are the reasons why. “Princes of the Universe” became the movie theme and later, a modified version was the theme of the TV spinoff. Also, Brian May is really bending some strings here.

And while this was a quasi-soundtrack for Highlander, I learned about this song from the Iron Eagle movie, which was released the year before. And, somehow, it got tacked on to both movies. This is an open-road, windows down song, and it still evokes that feeling all these many (many) years later.

It has big allusions to Martin Luther King, Jr., and I did not know until just now that it was a Roger Taylor song.

{{{Fried chicken!}}}

(That part always ruined it for me, though.)

And so we move from the UK to Arizona, for another band I discovered because of moderate rotation on MTV.

People that didn’t take the time to get into The Refreshments probably thought this was a novelty act, or a splash in the pan. But let me tell you, Roger Clyne has chops. And some soul. The Refreshments put out one more record together, got disgusted with the big labels, split up and did some other things. Clyne and P.H. Naffah have another Arizona-based band these days, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, and they have 13 albums out and a huge party-band following. But, for now, a little bit more about “Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big and Buzzy.”

I must have picked this up late in the spring of 1996. I stayed at college. Everyone I knew at the time went off to work or home or wherever they went. But to my freshman way of thinking, if you’re paying rent, you may as well be there. If you’re there you may as well be taking classes. So I took classes. (Made the dean’s list that summer.)

And I listened to this record A LOT.

I don’t know what made the narrative structure work so well on me, but it surely did. Straightforward themes, you could see yourself in some of these dusty roles. And you can belt out the choruses with abandon if no one is around all summer.

What’s great about this record, to me, is that I feel exactly the same today about each of these songs as I did 26 years ago. They all still sit just as they should in my ears.

Maybe it was because I really took the time with this record in one hot, slow summer, and they were writing about the hot, slow world in Arizona and Mexico and added just enough wanderlust.

Also, there’s weird doses of humor mixed in everywhere. And if I had to describe the first half of college in one phrase, I could do far worse than saying “It was weird doses of humor.”

Anyway, The Refreshments were great. Another one of those bands I never had the chance to see live, but one day The Peacemakers will be nearby, and I’ll be there. It will be a glass-raising party.

I had one more musical addition. Some label sent me a maxi single of a band they were pushing. It was a hit in southern California, I guess. But they never caught on elsewhere. And the tracks just weren’t good. I made the mistake of googling the band. They managed to put out two records. And at least one of the former members is still in music. His website told me he composes stuff for games and a few movies and slot machines these days. He looked happy. He referred to his band in a nice way. Took the wind out of my sails about being critical of his old work. (I mean, how would I feel? And you certainly could.) So we’ll end the musical exploration here for now.

I’m about to wrap up Cahill’s book, How the Irish Saved Civilization. I will, that is, if I stop nodding off. (This is a function of going to bed too late, not being interested in what I’m reading. I need to start turning pages earlier in the evening once again, especially for good stuff. And this is a nice book. We’re getting close to it, and while these last sections have defied excerpting, this part is telling. After the fall of Rome, when surviving was the most important thing a person could do in Europe, not “reading” or “writing.”

I suppose the most impressive thing we’ve learned here is how quickly that could happen, over the span of time. Just a few generations of collapsing societies and economies and oncoming hordes and it was almost all gone. Makes you wonder a bit about what it will be the next time.

And, even worse, I must now start to wonder, even as I finish this book, what I’ll read next. (So many good options. Only so many I can read all at once.)

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