No, I was not born in 1989, nor is this a post about Portugal.The Man again (though, I’d love to discuss that album further, it’s so good). No, this is a post about looking back to a different time, to literally 1989…
Well, first off, why the fuck not? Why you all up in my grill and whatnot?!? HA! No, no, the real answer is, because it seems to be following me around lately. First in the aforementioned album (is that the correct use of that word?), I walked around for a week singing that song, but then, less obscurely (now, I know I used that incorrectly), two albums from my past came back to haunt me this month, and both are from…. wait for it….. yep, 1989. Much like an earworm, the best way to exorcise the demon is to go through the motions, let the haunting happen, to the end, and hope you can move on.
And the two ghost from my past that are making the chairs seem to move on their own volition? Michael Penn’s March and Mary’s Danish There Goes The Wondertruck. Yep… 1989, I remember it (thanks to google & wikipedia) like it was yesterday. Mel Gibson was reprising his mullet, much to the delight of women everywhere, in Lethal Weapon 2, while in China, they had more pressing concerns as the Tiananmen protests were going on… hmm.. and apparently, it was a big year for the Eastern Bloc as the Revolutions of 1989 began!
Wow. I had no idea that all that was going on… You see, I was 16, meaning unless it was happening to me PERSONALLY, I was completely unaware of it’s existence. So, while people around the world were fighting & standing up for freedom, independence, and the right to discuss whether or not Michael Keaton was the right choice to play Batman, I was busy fighting for human rights via wearing t-shirts I got at the thrift store (along with my burnt orange corduroy cut-off shorts), growing my hair to it’s largest size (pretty large, photos all destroyed, except one…. I will destroy it, this I swear), starting a vegetarian club called The Dead Chicken Society (I was full vegan for a while! And… 160 lbs) after staring at a chicken carcass I just consumed during school lunch (we buried those bones in the school yard, held a memorial, and swore off chicken forever (meaning, about a year, which IS forever to a 16 year old))… Yeah, I was a weird kid.
Well, “am”, but I’m trying to draw mental pictures here…
I had a car, a 1980 Pontiac Sunbird but a creamy yellow and VERY used (cost $500, just like the last car I bought about 3 years ago, which, by the way, I sold on ebay for $400 after 2 years of driving… ha! I reeeally don’t like payments). Now, this wasn’t your ordinary used piece o’ shit Pontiac, no, no, my friends, it was a green spray painted in the front, black spray-painted in the back (still cream in the middle) with a mural by yours truly on the hood, a spoke hubcap attached to the grill, the driver’s side door nailed shut (yeah, it was broke, and I was broke) two medium sized cabinet speakers strapped into the back of the hatchback, a Spark-O-Matic stereo with tape player and amplifier from Western Auto jimmy-rigged into the dash (wires just out and about), and a CD Walkman precariously resting on the dash when one of the passengers thought to bring it. Here’s my artist rendering from the earlier photo link:
The white marks on the back are bumper stickers, TONS of bumper stickers. Pretty swank, eh? Yeah, I gots all da ladies….
Given that this, uh, “car” was in charge of transporting about five people to school everyday, and nearly each having different taste in music, we had a very forward approach to that day’s soundtrack. Each day, one person got to bring WHATEVER they wanted to listen to, and there was no argument or discussion, that was what we listened to to & fro school. We had a “early goth”, a “metalhead”, a “hippie” (and I use that term VERY loosely), and me & my good friend Doug (who had similar taste in music, i.e. lots of prog). It was great, no egos, no snobbery (afterall, they were showing up to school in my car (see rendition again) how big an ego can you have getting out of that in the parking lot?) just all kinds of music.
First up, March (which I just picked up on vinyl, by the way)… Doug (who also had a sweet spot for Americana, ala Mellencamp and what not) brought this cassette in one day, and from the moment Penn started strumming that shimmering 12 string and that hard punching programmed drum kept bouncing around and that simple yet infectious melody & chorus made it’s way throughout the car, not too mention that “Ooo-kay” bridge/guitar solo or goose-bump enticing outro…. I was hooked. But, that’s just the beginning, over the course of the album, he dips from roots rock to folk to straight pop. Listening again after all these years, it hasn’t aged a bit or it’s aged perfectly, I can’t tell, reminding me just how timeless an album he created. Each song built off a kind of steam of consciousness, just taking you along for the ride. He’d never find the same success, but he continued to knock out wonderful pop album after pop album (kinda like Sexsmith, but with out that voice or that Canadian mystique).
And then there was Mary’s Danish and their gem, There Goes The Wondertruck. I think my girlfriend or one of her friends or whatever brought this one into the car at some point that year. Can’t really remember, but what I do remember is how ridiculously country-fried, punk, funk, rock, dual-female vocal FUN this album is (and the twang, man o’ man, I think they turn the word “well” into four syllables!)… At least once a week for a good number of weeks, I subjected EVERYONE to this album (until they were ready to fling it out the window) in they car. Listening again, after a request for it came up in the Society, and it’s hard not to smile and bounce around like the weird little teenager I once was… I mean, who doesn’t like songs about crashing cars or distorted vaginal bibs??? Mary’s Danish put out a few more albums, which were fun and good, but never quite had that spontaneity that they somehow captured on Wondertruck.
These were two albums that represent a solid chunk of my 16th year (well, that is when I wasn’t devouring prog, Violent Femmes, REM, Beatles, and near anything else for that matter). Wow. Weird to think back. Look, are these albums actually good quality albums? I’d like to think so, but I may be clouded by sentimental musical memory. Either way, it’s all good times, worth the listens, and I feel better for sharing. I’ve rambled on enough, but then again, this is one of those posts you’ll probably stumble on verses search for, so it’s all good.
So, hop on in and let’s load these bad boys up! We’ll push this bucket of bolts to a good 65 mph (and hope it doesn’t break down on the way), just be mindful of the wires, I’m all out of electrical tape and the last thing we need is to cut out the left speaker…
Michael Penn – March (1989)
01 Don’t Crash The Car Tonight
02 Can I Have a Smoke, Dude
04 What To Do
05 Blue Stockings
06 Well Well (Home Is Where The Heartbreak Is)
08 Shanty Pig
09 Hey There Man
10 It’ll Probably Make Me Cry
11 Mary had a Bar
12 Dodge City