An Afternoon With an Old Friend Nets Forgotten 90s Tracks

My friend Caleb was always more persistent in our friendship. He fought for the friendship harder than I did. In many ways, his de-conversion from Christianity could have been prevented if I had been more persistent in working through the issues with him, challenging him when he started to drift.

One day, Caleb called me up and invited me over to his house. Mostly as an excuse not to go, I told him that I had planned to stay home and listen to Rick Dees and the Weekly Top 40 to record some music. (I had a habit of recording music off the radio; Caleb, a self-described audiophile, wouldn’t deign to such a pedestrian way to obtain music since the playback would be atrocious.) He suggested that I come over and do that at his place, since he had the better stereo system. How could I say no to that?

So we spent the afternoon listening to Dees spin the hits for that particular week. We talked as the hits played. I don’t remember about what. I think he showed me his Star Wars collection at one point. It was extensive back then. As I recall, I ended up having a lot of fun. I can’t remember if we talked about making that a weekly appointment, but I have no other radio recordings made at Caleb’s house.

Recently, I found that tape and gave it a listen in the car as I ran various errands today. I’m glad Caleb and I made the tape, because it contains many songs from the 90s that are quite good, and I would have completely forgotten if it weren’t for this tape!

Here’s a sampling of the songs:

The most underrated song from the Swedish dance quartet Ace of Base was “Lucky Love.” It seemed this track was released almost as an afterthought on the heels of their bigger (and less original) tracks, “All That She Wants” and “The Sign.” Most Ace of Base stuff sounds the same, but this was slightly different.

Color Me Badd is one boy band among many, an unbroken line from New Kids on the Block forward in time to now. “The Earth, the Sun, the Rain” is one of their better ballads. Of course, these “epic” love songs with four-part vocals are par for the course for these bands. For some reason, this song stands out in my mind as better than the rest. Maybe I’m just a sucker for the creative use of celestial objects.

After Kurt Cobain’s suicide, the remaining members of Nirvana reformed as Foo Fighters. As far as I know, “Big Me” was their first single. Some readers may be too young to understand why that was the funniest video ever made. “Footos” was a parody of a real product called “Mentos,” which was tagged “The Fresh Maker” in a series of commercials that played exactly like the series of shots in the video.

One-hit wonder Jann Arden wrote the song “Insensitive” about a girl she used to know. I like the melody; it’s very catchy. And the lyrics are poetic and powerful: “I really should have known / By the time I drove you home / By the vagueness in your eyes / The casual good-byes / By the chill in your embrace / The expression on your face / Told me you might have some advice to give / On how to be insensitive.”

What do I like about Shawn Colvin’s “Sunny Came Home” is that it is very misleading. It’s folksy, smooth, and has a slow melody. However, a cursory listen to the lyrics show that it is full of anger and violence. Colvin and partner in crime John Leventhal wrote the song about a woman who burns down her house to escape a tortured past: “Sunny came home with a list of names / She didn’t believe in transcendence / ‘It’s time for a few small repairs,’ she said / Sunny came home with a vengeance.” Anger, anger, anger.

The haunting bridge: “Get the kids and bring a sweater / Dry is good and wind is better / Count the years you always knew it / Strike a match go on do it!”

Peer pressure is an amazing thing. I tried to think that Fiona Apple was sexy, as all of my male friends did. But, I’m sorry, I just don’t find ultra-skinny, ribs showing, heroin chicks attractive. And Fiona Apple, though a powerful vocalist, exemplifies the ultra-skinny, ribs showing, heroin chick look.

This video always amused me. It looks like the end results of a sex party. She seems to have been the one with the idea for it, remarking in Spin Magazine “I decided if I was going to be exploited, then I would do the exploiting myself.”

My favorite way to end a song is to alter the words of the last chorus just slightly. It still fits the music, but it’s different than the previous times it was sung. Which means I ought to love Blessid Union of Souls, since their trademark is to alter each chorus slightly:

First: “There’s a light in your eyes I used to see / There’s a place in your heart where I used to be / Was I wrong to assume you were waiting there for me / There’s a light in your eyes / Did you leave that light burning for me?”

Second: “There’s a light in your eyes I used to see / And a song in the words that you spoke to me / Was I wrong to believe in your melody / There’s a light in your eyes / Did you leave that light burning for me?”

Final: “There’s a light in my eyes it’s too bright to see / And a pain in my heart where you used to be / Guess I was wrong you were waiting here for me / There’s a light in your eyes / Did you leave that light burning for me?”

This is literally their best song. I love it. And the altering of each chorus is pretty cool.

Sung by half of the group Jodeci (brothers K-Ci and JoJo), it was written for JoJo’s daughter. I’m assuming they modified the original for radio, otherwise it would be quite gross.

What do I say about this song? Well, there’s plenty of history with it. It was popular around the time my ex-fiance and I began dating, and she mentally dedicated it to me. Before she told me that, when it came on the radio one day while we were driving together (I hadn’t really noticed it yet; R&B isn’t my thing), she asked me what I thought of it. After listening for a little, I told her I didn’t really like it.

Crushing for her? Probably. But no more devastating than forgetting my wallet on our first date, thus forcing her to pay. (She got her revenge, though, as seven years after we broke up I’m still paying off debts she created.) I did grow to like it, however, and it remains a personal favorite. I just try to remember the happy times with my ex when I hear this s0ng, or else just focus on the song and blank my mind.

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