Now it seems that any indie-inclined band or performer that concocts a bright song around a clever hook can get massive exposure on a commercial for a hip automobile or a sleek Apple product. That wasn’t the case when I was in college. This was in part because the bands the filled the programming hours at our student-run radio station were still operating under the notion that during their songs into jingles was the pinnacle of selling out, but it was largely attributable to disinterest in connecting to youth culture through the cult hits that received little exposure apart from static-ridden broadcasters on the left side of the dial. So it was always a little kick when the artists we liked–our bands–crossed over in unexpected ways.
This could come in a fairly ridiculous package, or even when an especially obscure song popped up on the soundtrack of a major Hollywood movie, such as Paul Kelly and the Messengers’ great “Dumb Things” accompanying a scene in Look Who’s Talking. This broader acceptance mostly happened on late night television. I never saw the unreal sight of Husker Du performing on Joan Rivers’ The Late Show until the treasure trove of YouTube brought it to me, but I and my cohorts did watch closely as other favored bands received national network exposure, primarily on David Letterman’s old Late Night. I remember watching Concrete Blonde perform. I remember more clearly that, for months afterward, Letterman would occasionally mention being married. Paul Shaffer would play along and feign surprise, bleating “I didn’t know you were married!” leading Letterman to reply some variation on “Sure, I’m married to that girl from Concrete Blonde.” It wasn’t a gag milked with the same dedication as his earlier insistence that he spent weekends at home “waiting for that Stevie Nicks video to come on,” but I enjoyed it. I’m not sure the studio audiences did. They always seemed a little confused by the gag.
I didn’t want to marry Johnette Napolitano at the time, but I sure did love her band. It was the big, crunchy rock numbers that drew me to them in the first place, but it was the more somber songs that I kept coming back to, finding some solace in Napolitano’s evocative vocals as I sat listening in a dark house (of, for that matter, radio studio) late at night. This is one of the tracks I returned to repeatedly. I have clear associations of listening to it in the house I shared on Jefferson street, well after graduation, feeling a little adrift. Like many of the performers I cherished most at that time, Johnette was singing my language.
(Disclaimer: This song is off of an album that, in the parlance of Amazon.com, has been discontinued by the manufacturer. While Concrete Blonde has a “best of” compilation available digitally and another that can be purchased on good ol’ compact disc, I didn’t see this song among the track listing on either one of those releases. This song is posted here under the belief that is unavailable through any immediate means that would put money in the pocket of Johnette Napolitano or the other band members. If anyone with due authority to do so asks me to remove it, I will gladly and promptly comply.)