I was capable of being a mopey sonofabitch at college -- well, many nights anyway. It was like the Sorrows of Young Werther in Pierpont dorm after some of my few romantic misadventures. There you might find me on the top bunk, the big Anton Corbijn "Love Will Tear Us Apart" Joy Division poster, Meister Brau in hand, watching the sun set over the parking lot as I listened to This Mortal Coil do their versions of "Kangaroo" and "Holocaust" loudly on the stereo, bumming the highs of all the shroom heads who would come to our floor for the famous Grateful-Dead inspired mural outside my door.
Sooner or later, enough beers in me, my buddies would come and round me up and would snap me out of it. We would get ready to go out, priming ourselves with more $3.99 12-packs of gut-burning swill, while listening to whatever I played as D.J. on the stereo, alternating between records and tapes. The glom and doom of the evening would soon make way for an eclectic mix of something like Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Clash, the Stones, Stevie Wonder, the Smiths, T. Rex., Hall and Outs, the Jam into the Style Council, the Gun Club, Marvin Gaye, Husker Du, UB40, XTC, REM, the Dbs, Gang of Four, the Who, the Replacements, Neil Young ("hey Bill, can you give me a hand lifting Decade?), and so on.
Of course, "getting ready to go out" implies we had somewhere to go. Even if there was some party somewhere, we generally ended up cemented in our chairs near the mini fridge as more people from the floor stopped by and ended up hanging out as well.
And I had that live EP from Aztek Camera. I must have heard Jim Neil play the famous version of Van Halen's "Jump" on WMUA. Wow, I though, they really reinvented one of the worst and stupidest songs of all time into a nice, wistful folk-rock song.
It didn't take long to find out the the band was really just Roddy Frame with some other guys. And Roddy wrote, played, and sang these genius pop songs and ballads. Songs like "The Bugle Sounds Again," "Mattress of Wire," and "Birth of the True" were stylistic crossings of Dylan and Gerswhin, with perfect classic arrangements and brilliant lyrics over big. juicy, piano-like chords that ebbed and flowed from an acoustic 12-string Roddy played. The modulation at the end of "The Bugle Sounds Again" is pop transcendence. It was just the tonic for a weary lovestruck loser like I was.
Man, now it is clear that I got it all going on. But back then, Jesus. Pass a beer and put on "Isolation," wontcha?
This past week there was an insightful discussion of "Jump" on my Facebook page that serpentined into the Aztek Camera version. That reminded me that I should cover one of those old songs for CoTW. You really have to check out Surf and some other Roddy Frame records. Surf is one of the least discovered records most deserving of your attention. Roddy is just one of those guys who can do it all: beautiful voice, genius songwriter, and exceedingly talented guitarist. There is not dud on Surf. It is just him and an acoustic.
I am not worthy of this cover. I bring nothing but my voice to this one. Roddy's versions kick almighty ass. We listened this one to death, after "Let's Get it On" back then in 1985.
The Bugle Sounds Again mp3