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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA



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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
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17

#17. When I was seventeen, I DJ’ed for the local college radio station.

You know, I’ve written about this in several posts already, so I won’t go into full detail again. I think all the old music I’ve been buying lately has bubbled the memories of this back to the front of my brain. (Yes, that’s how thoughts and memories get around my head. They bubble. It’s all champagne and beer and Windex up there. Does that really surprise you?)

So, for anyone who hasn’t seen the posts in question, um, go look for them. Really. I don’t remember what the hell I said, and it was probably more coherent than what I can summarize here. Go — don’t be lazy. Go already. What, you’re still here? Oh, all right, fine. I’ll catch you up. (Lazy no-good frickin’…)

What? Nothing. Nothing, I wasn’t saying anything. Just writing your summary. Here you go. (Prick.)

What? I didn’t say anything. Just read your summary. Man, you’re so touchy. Jeez.

So, here’s the story. I started listening to the local college station early on in high school. By my senior year, I had a friend in my class who was planning to go there in the journalism department. And he got an internship or something working at the station. He said they could still use some people, so I hit him up for a two-hour slot playing cool alterna-rock and being silly on the radio. And bringing in dozens of blank tapes to record shit that I couldn’t afford to buy, and that I couldn’t find, even if I had the money. I worked there for a year or so, and came out of it with oodles of good shit that no one had heard of then, and certainly nobody knows of now. And that’s the story. Happy now?

But you know what? I always say that no one knows this shit, but you guys out there are pretty cool. So here’s what I’m gonna do — I’ll list as many cool bands and / or albums that come to mind, and you guys can tell me whether you’ve heard of them. I’ve managed to re-collect these on CD or vinyl (i.e., finally pay for them), but some are still on my ‘wish list’. So if you know anything about these groups or albums, drop me a line. I’d love to at least know I’m not the only fool who bought some of these CDs.

So, here’s the list of The Best 80’s Bands I Bet You’ve Never Heard Of. I’m only gonna go for the really obscure shit here. So even though I was listening to the Replacements, and the Cure, and the Call, and the Alarm, and U2, and REM, and They Might Be Giants, and a million others, I’m not going to mention them. Um, well, again, of course. I can’t unmention them now that I’ve told you that, now can I? Anyway, here’s the list. It’s all from memory, so forgive me if I get any details wrong.

  • The Accelerators: I think the album I had was self-titled. I don’t remember many songs, but I can still sing the chorus to Why You Hang Up On Me. In my head, anyway. It sounds like screeching castrated coyotes when I try it out loud. (Not screeching coyotes being castrated, mind you; I’m not that bad. That’s David Hasselhoff territory there.) I think I still have the bootleg cassette I made; I’ll have to check.

  • Boris Grebenshikov: Okay, even for me, this was a one-hit wonder. I bought this at some point on CD, but haven’t dragged it out in a long time. The only song I ever really listened to was The Postcard, and while it was really, really cool, I could never get into the rest of the disc. Probably because half of it is in Russian; this guy was supposed to be the first in a wave of Russian pop stars who’d invade the States after the Cold War. Wave. Invade. Okay, you can stop laughing now.

  • Broken Homes: It took me a while, but I finally found the eight-song debut EP we had back at the station. Their song Steeltown just drips with memories for me. I wore the bootleg cassette of this album down to nothing back in high school. Now if I could only find a cheap turntable that’ll hook into my stereo, I could actually hear it again. Details, details…

  • Db’s: I’ve got a bootleg with two of their albums, Like This and Sound of Music. I found one on vinyl, and haven’t tracked down the other yet (though I forget which is which). But I play the tape just about every day on the little clock radio / cassette player in our bathroom. You know, while I’m puttin’ my face on. And fifteen years later, Amplifier, Bonneville, Say It Again, Molly Says, and a dozen others still kick ass.

  • Del-Lords: Fuck Skynyrd, and the Black Crowes, and all the rest. This is what Southern rock should be — rockin’ guitars, pounding drums, and mile-a-minute joyrides, with the occasional ballad thrown in for the fillies. These guys kicked ass, on at least two albums: Johnny Comes Marching Home and Based on a True Story. I’ve got one on vinyl and the other on CD. Oh, plus a live concert cassette they put out, and a compilation CD that came out years after they were gone. If you want to rock, get a load of Crawl In Bed, I Play the Drums, and especially No Waitress No More. Fuckin’ a, man.

  • Escape Club: I hesitated to put this band on here, because a few of you will remember their Wild Wild West song, off the album of the same name. And it’s crap. Pure, unadulterated self-indulgent drivel. So why are they here? Well, just before that train wreck, they put out the White Fields album, and it’s all that is right and good about jangly pop. The title song is especially memorable. How the fuck did they go so wrong so quickly?

  • Frontier Theory: I (finally) scored their EP on the original vinyl a couple of years ago. I thought I’d never track it down. It’s called No Waltz in the Meadow, which is a lyric from their song Don’t Walk Away. Great stuff, though it’s honestly the only song I can remember of theirs now. Pity, that.

  • Long Ryders: Another Southern band that actually didn’t suck. (Thank you, alterna-rockabilly roots rock.) I’ve got two of their CDs and two more LPs. They could do it fast (Prairie Fire, Spectacular Fall, Long Story Short), or they could do it slow (End of My Days, Harriet Tubman’s Gonna Carry Me Home). They could do it all. And they kept me sane at my parents’ house the summer after my freshman year in college. Thank you, Ryders!

  • Not Shakespeare: Actually, I know very little about this group. I taped an EP of their back at the station, and the first song was just gorgeous. Frankly, I can’t remember the name of the song, or the EP, but I can still replay the first words of that song in my mind: ‘Seventeen seconds for a sunset; one of those moments (that) seem to last forever…‘ Yeah, I’m all romantic and shit. What can I say?

  • Royal Court of China: I ended up with two of their albums — the self-titled debut and Geared and Primed. The former was much, much better. I bought both of them on cassette, and still have them. I play the self-titled one in the shower sometimes; Trapped in Waikiki, It’s All Changed, and Tell Me Lies all kick ass. Apparently, they got lukewarm reviews because they sounded too much like REM, but I don’t see it. Too rockabilly, if you ask me. But still good.

  • Waxing Poetics: The best band on this list, and perhaps my favorite of all time. I have yet to meet the person who didn’t like their Hermitage album. Living Chairs and If You Knew Sushi were the ‘heavy rotation’ tracks back at the station, if I recall. I’ve got it and one other (I forget the name; the best song on it is Iodine) on CD, and I think I have Bed Time Story on cassette. Or maybe that’s the other CD one; I forget. Actually, come to think of it, maybe I shouldn’t say this is the best band on the list. But Hermitage is one of the top ten albums of all time in my book. The others are okay at best — too manic and jumpy, when that really wasn’t their strength.

  • Wire Train: Apparently, these guys had a long, though not so illustrious, career. I came in at the end, or near it, with their California Republic disc. I think it may have been their last, after ten or twelve years of pounding the pavement. But it’s a doozie — I finally (after about three years of searching) found it on CD, and it’s a gem. Should She Cry, She, Moonlight Dream, Simply Racing… my wife and I used to listen to this over and over and over. Absolutely fantastic.

Okay, twelve is probably enough. I’ve got plenty more worthy-but-obscure bands in mind, but this is getting awfully long. Still, just in case you happen to know any of these, here’s a list of the bands that didn’t make the list, because I liked them just a little less, or thought they were more popular, or just couldn’t remember them off the top of my head. I’m consulting my collection for these, just to be comprehensive:

Beat Farmers, Bolshoi, Communards, Connells, Guadalcanal Diary, Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians, It Bites, Paul Kelly and the Messengers, Lucy Show, The Mission UK, Rave-Ups, Screaming Blue Messiahs (who aren’t on the main list only because I already discussed them here), Spoons, Swans, and Velvet Elvis.

Damn, I’m sure there’s more. Maybe it’s time to make another used-bin CD run! Hooray!

Aha! (…he said the next day.) I knew there was more! And here they are:

Adrian Belew and the Bears, Camper van Beethoven (and Cracker, for that matter), New Model Army, Michael Penn, Wire, Yello, and X (though they were actually pretty popular, I think). Okay, that’s probably enough. For now.

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