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It took almost 6 weeks to narrow down the music I listened to in high school to the music that came out between 1989 and 1990, and then to find a coherent path through the wide range of musical stylings I’ve been drawn to. Many great tunes were killed along the way: Mama Said Knock You Out, The Humpty Dance, Freedom ’90, Miss You Much, Hang In Long Enough, Kickstart My Heart, Billy Joel’s Stormfront album, Extreme’s entire Pornograffitti album (and “Play With Me” from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure)… I even took out Del Amitri.
This wasn’t easy, but the path of an Iron DJ is never easy. It is merely righteous.
This mix will present connections from the kid I was in my senior year of high school to the manchild I am today.
Tracy Chapman – Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution
I was in American Government class in my senior year. My teacher was in his early 40s and talked a lot about civics as well as the responsibility of citizens to dissent. I liked him because of the message about “sticking it to the man” but only in the last few years have those lessons really struck a chord within me. When Jim first pitched this idea for Iron DJ, this was the first song that popped in my head, because my American Government teacher played it in class.
Tom Petty – I Won’t Back Down
I played this cassette tape a ton in my senior year. I was a big fan of the Traveling Wilburys and that sound was still evident on this track. Over the years, this became an anthem for me that added more steel to my resolve.
The BoDeans – You Don’t Get Much
There’s no high school in Wisconsin in 1990 without the BoDeans. It’s like a law.
Rush – Presto
First off, you don’t grow up a fan of rock music without liking Rush, and no album by Rush spoke to me before or since the way Presto! did. Read yourself some Maslow. Heck, read some Tony Robbins or Stephen Covey if that’s what you’re into. You want magic? Listen to this album. Show me. Don’t Tell me. There are so many intersections between psychology, humanity and magic… Rush is a band of geniuses.
Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe – Brother of Mine
This song came out and it was awesome. It was epic like Yes of old with synth and riffs of Yes of new (thanks to Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman). They couldn’t record as “Yes” because of the lawsuits at the time that were thankfully resolved for Yes’ greatest album, Union, to come in the 90s. Damn, I love this song. It’s beautiful.
Faith No More – From Out of Nowhere
Before nuMetal was a thing, there was Faith No More. They were (ahem) The Real Thing. Respect it, or it will crush you.
Tesla – Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out)
Even now, when I think about a theme song for kicking ass, this is the song that pops in my head. I saw Tesla at the Vic in Chicago in 2001, long after their expiration date and they still were on a slip trip and ready to kick ass. You should hope when you’re older than you think you are that you kick as much ass.
Pantera – Cowboys From Hell
Never got into Pantera in high school. My friends did. This was a terrible mistake that I’ve since worked to amend.
Queensrÿche – Last Time in Paris
No one knows this song off of Empire. Everyone knows Silent Lucidity or Jet City Woman or even the song “Empire.” Heck, I forgot this song was on Empire — I remember it from the soundtrack to “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane.” Go ahead, tell me how much Andrew “Dice” Clay sucks. I will retort with Vince Neil, Wayne Newton, Morris Day AND Sheila E. all in the same movie. “Dice” was so awesome when I was 17, and I’d be lying if there isn’t a devious undercurrent within me that was in part inspired by him. All that is an aside though to the song: it just kicks ass.
Tears for Fears – Sowing The Seeds of Love
I became a much bigger fan of Tears for Fears as an adult (as I became of the Smiths, Crowded House and other more introspective bands of the New Wave and post-modern era). I largely skipped this album as a kid, but I definitely reap what came of the seeds planted years ago.
The Stone Roses – She Bangs the Drums
I didn’t even know of The Stone Roses until right after college. Totally missed my radar. Friends of mine as a first-year teacher were into The Stone Roses, and I thought it was okay — the dreaminess of that Manchester sound only made sense to me as I became a bit more of an independent spirit. I love this song so much because it’s the music I imagine was in my head when I met my wife. It wasn’t — I didn’t even know the song then… but loving the song now, I figure it captures it as well as any song could.
INXS – The Stairs
I saw INXS on tour with Soup Dragons for “X” and damn were they awesome. This song always stuck out on that album as my favorite.
Sundays -Here’s Where the Story Ends
The weird thing about how I first got into the Sundays was that this song would play at dance clubs, which were open to 16+ year-olds in Milwaukee usually on Sunday nights. Normally, I hit Club Marilyn or Bermuda’s (both no longer around) and they played mostly alternative, post-modern and industrial… and then, maybe to signal a break for the DJ or to encourage the teenagers to go buy some sodas at the bar, they’d throw on The Sundays. Usually after some Front-242 and Nitzer-Ebb.
Jude Cole – House Full of Reasons
Jude Cole was this piano/guitar blues/rock guy. I think I ended up with his cassette in one of my Columbia House music mail order deals where I got a bunch of albums free and then if I didn’t turn anything in, I got whatever cassette was featured that month. He scored some minor hits with “Baby, It’s Tonight” and “Time for Letting Go” but I ended up really liking the whole album, and this song in particular I thought was a good combination of happy sounding music, upbeat with a decent tempo, but heartbreaking lyrics. This was the kind of song I would write in high school and in college. My favorite Del Amitri and Crowded House songs reflect this kind of thing.
Fine Young Cannibals – I’m Not the Man I Used to Be
In high school, everyone was listening to “Good Thing” or “She Drives Me Crazy.” Later in life, I actually started listening to the rest of the album and wow is it good stuff.
Midnight Oil – Blue Sky Mine
Listen to this song. Tell me you’re not putting your fists to the sky a little bit, and/or bobbing your head. This is exactly where it’s at in terms of popular, but activist, music.
New Order – Vanishing Point
Two movies have been made about Factory records: “24 Hour Party People” and “Closer” and there should be a lot more movies to come, because they were so influential and none of the bands have had the talent and the survival skills that New Order had, post-Joy Division. Nothing on “Technique” was as good as “True Faith,” but this song is pretty damn righteous, “I’ve seen what a man can do; I’ve seen the hate of a woman, too.”
Happy Mondays – Step On
I’ve never tried Ecstasy, but I bet it sounds like this.
Prince – Electric Chair
I had the Batman soundtrack the day it came out. I wore through that tape in the first six months I had it. I bought it again. I wore through that, too. A year later, I had a CD Player for the first time, and the Batman soundtrack was the 10th CD I ever purchased. I love Prince. We all know that, but he was never so commercially viable as he was with this album. Everyone forgave him for Graffiti Bridge because the Batman soundtrack was so awesome.
Nine Inch Nails – Head Like a Hole
This song changed everything for me. I was into pop music before I heard this song. Once I heard “Head Like a Hole” at a party towards the end of my senior year, I stopped playing “No Jacket Required” and turned onto alternative music, which opened me up to alternative ideas.
Public Enemy – Welcome to the Terrordome
Public Enemy was dangerous music in 1990. Almost as dangerous as (and mistakenly lumped in with) NWA. Chuck D. hits you with so many lyrical lefts, you have no choice but to admit he’s right.
Kool Moe Dee – Knowledge is King
“I Go To Work” is such a favorite song, but my second-favorite might well be credited with where I went in terms of pursuing education as my life’s work.