dispatches from the pop scene...minus the corn syrup.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Throwback: These Are Days You'll Remember

A friend was playing 10,000 Maniacs the other week, and it prompted me to dig out In My Tribe and to finally purchase Our Time In Eden. I know, a crime that I didn't own it till now, though I've always known people who've had it, and in turn have heard it many times over the years.

Fifteen years ago today, on May 6, 1993, I actually saw 10,000 Maniacs in concert at Slippery Rock University, which is about a half hour drive from where I grew up in Pennsylvania.

That spring, my small town had just gotten a 10-screen cineplex called The Regal. This was major, since there really wasn't much going on there for a teenager to do other than shoot heroin, tip cows and go to church...pretty much in that order. And, being a pretty vanilla 19-year-old, all my friends and I did was go to the movies. (This was when the roots sprung up of a developing fascination with Los Angeles.)

The Regal, part of the Regal Cinemas chain, was the first theater in town that printed the name and date of the movie on the ticket, and I saved every single one of them; Benny & Joon, Indecent Proposal, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story and probably a hundred more over the next six years. I still dig them out when I'm back visiting my parents.

So, maybe not so suprisingly, 10,000 Maniacs coming to town was a pretty big deal. Usually you had to drive almost an hour to Pittsburgh or two hours to Cleveland to see a concert, but this, by comparison, was practically in my suburban backyard! Natalie Merchant and Co. had always kind of been in the periphery of bands I liked as a teenager, though I'd never bought anything at that point other than the 45 (!) for the Smiths-esque "Trouble Me" four years prior.

Matt, my best pal at the time, really liked "Candy Everybody Wants," and so we snagged tickets to go see the show. I bought In My Tribe that week on cassette, so I'd at least know a few songs when we heard them live. Not sure why I didn't get Our Time In Eden, the band's most recent album at that point, but in retrospect I probably bought In My Tribe because I'd always liked "What's The Matter Here?" and "Like The Weather."

It ended up being a great night, and they even did a cover of Morrissey's "Everyday Is Like Sunday" and Freda Payne's "Band Of Gold." Later that week, a girl who worked at the store next to the one I worked at in the mall told me gossip of one of her friends being on the concert committee at Slipper Rock U. The friend had apparently bitched about the specificities of Natalie Merchant's contract rider: the singer wanted bottled water in her dressing room and recycling bins placed all around the seating at the concert hall. The nerve!

That summer brought Jurassic Park, The Firm and The Fugitive to The Regal, and my friend Matt and I saw them all in our sometimes twice-weekly treks to the movies. Meanwhile, when their tour ended, Natalie Merchant left 10,000 Maniacs to pursue a solo career. As well, that fall Matt got a girlfriend and we pretty much drifted apart.

Fall 1993 was the beginning of my last year living fulltime in my hometown. The music I listened to over those next 12 months had a special urgency and meaning to it -- from Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream and Madonna's "I'll Remember" to stuff as trivial as Ace Of Base and of-the-moment as the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. They're all the records that album artwork slideshow in the sidebar goes back to.

It always seemed like a cruel irony that 10,000 Maniacs' biggest hit with Natalie Merchant, their MTV Unplugged cover of Patti Smith's "Because The Night" (video above), came that autumn, after she'd already departed the band. Of course, equally unfair is practically blinking and realizing you saw that band a decade and a half ago.

Anyway, there's this great line in "How You've Grown," off Our Time In Eden:

Everytime we say goodbye
You're frozen in my mind
As the child that you never will be
Will be again

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  • At 2:23 PM, Anonymous numbfromdrugs said…

    I went to PA two years ago, and a stout, surly Italian boy sure put a smile on my face.

  • At 7:27 PM, Blogger Mike said…

    What a lovely post! I was touched and can really identify - apart from the fact that I would never been seen dead at a 10,000 Maniacs concert.

  • At 8:32 PM, Blogger Dan said…

    This is such a great post. It is, honestly, the kind of post I frequently wish I could write, somehow wrapping a music history up in my own personal history. Because as much fun as it is to write about music, anyone can do a review. Hearing about how music fits into the patterns of someone's life is always amazing to me.

    In My Tribe is probably in my top 5 albums of all time. It is just such a perfect record for me. It's late high school, I picked it up in October of 88 so it's got the whole autumn vibe going on. I still listen to "A Campfire Song" with a surprising amount of regularity.

    I have not enjoyed Natalie's solo career as much, and "These Are Days" is marred a bit for me because of all my buddies in college that were immediately Maniacs "fans" based on that one song. But still, I do have a soft spot for the Maniacs.


  • At 10:27 PM, Anonymous shaun said…

    Yes, very touching post, and thanks for it. You took me right back to a more innocent time (I was just on the verge of high school and just on the verge of discovering that music was capable of a lot more than being catchy)...as appears to have been the case with you, the Maniacs were something of a gateway drug for me, opening the door to bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Belly, the Breeders, and literally hundreds more to follow...has it really been nearly 15 years!!!! On the plus side, I'm happy to report that much of the music from that period has stood the test of time for me--I sometimes throw on "Siamese Dream" or Belly's "Star" and just get lost to this day...

  • At 2:20 PM, Blogger Poster Girl said…

    ...just a general "ditto" on what people have already said--I love these more personal posts from you.

  • At 6:19 PM, Blogger D'luv said…

    Aw, thanks, ladies and gents. Yeah, once in awhile the tearzy side of D'luv comes out... I'm gonna do a list of past 'nostalgic' posts in the "Week That Was" roundup Friday eve.

    thanks again.x

  • At 6:56 PM, Blogger Kenneth Walsh said…

    Love this post! The "Candy Everybody Wants" single had that delightful cover of R.E.M.'s "Don't Go Back to Rockville" on it (her vocals change the feel of the song dramatically). I rarely listen to my 10,000 Maniacs CDs but I'm ready to dust them off now.

    As for "Benny & Joon," wasn't that about a retard? I get confused because Juliette Lewis kind of is retarded (if not legally so) and I know she made some movies with Depp about then.


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