And now…on with the countdown…
25. Dramarama, “Haven’t Got a Clue”
The title of the song is a fairly accurate representation of my reaction upon seeing this song on the list. Dramarama is definitely a band that got some decent airplay at the station during my time there, but it was mostly for their prior record, Stuck in Wonderamaland, bolstered by the great lead single “Last Cigarette,” which itself was bolstered by the many members of the staff who enjoyed smoking and, by extension, enjoyed songs about smoking. “Haven’t Got a Clue” is off of the album Vinyl, which I’m certain we had and played, but it clearly didn’t leave much of an impression on me. I do have to note, as I listed to it now, the song is pretty good.
This song is on its way down the chart, dropping from number 18 the previous week.
24. The Cramps, “Eyeball in My Martini”
There’s no other band quite like The Cramps. Certainly there are plenty of other bands that blend up garage, punk and rockabilly, and plenty of those bands employ comic gruesomeness in their lyrics. But beyond being the band that basically invented that distinct style, The Cramps just did it better than anyone else. By 1991, it already seemed as though they’d been around forever, one of those bands like The Ramones that kept enduring, putting out new records that basically sounded exactly like their old records. College radio dutifully lined up to make sure they got a little bit of attention each time, and the airwaves were all the better for it. I still find it so bizarre to think that frontman Lux Interior is deceased. Maybe it was the morbid sensibility of the band, maybe it was his seemingly endless wells of energy, but he always seemed to me like one of those people who might just manage to live forever.
This was debuting on the chart, the highest debut of the week.
23. Pearl Jam, “Alive”
Being a Music Director at a college radio station is like Christmas every day. You go to the mail room and pick up the station’s daily delivery, which amounts to a boxful of presents provided by the labels and other servicing agents standing in for Santa Claus. Even tearing apart the envelopes is reminiscent of opening wrapped gifts. This was even more pronounced in the early nineties, before the advent of the Interweb and the explosion of coverage surrounding all sorts of music, even the obscure bands that only find a home on college radio. Back then, it was commonplace to be surprised by the aural treasures in each package. Since that’s my view, nothing frustrated me more during my various tenures at such stations than Music Directors who weren’t enthusiastic about the process, especially if that translated, as it often did, to a sluggishness is getting new music from their desk to the main studio for the DJs to play and the listeners to hear. That’s a lot of information to get to my strongest memory of Pearl Jam’s debut album. While it was eventually a smash success, it didn’t make much of an impact upon its initial release in late August of 1991. It wasn’t until the following summer that it crossed over in a major way to MTV and commercial radio. By now, the damn thing has sold over 13 million copies. As it turns out, it hit late for us too. When the album was skyrocketing, our Music Director at the time would proudly tell people that he’d had the CD on his desk for a couple months before he bothered putting it in rotation. I think he meant it as some sort of tale confirming the magical slow build quality of the album, but I was always embarrassed by that story, feeling it indicated an unforgivable laxness on his part.
This song was charging hard up the charts, up from 40 the previous week.
22. Soundgarden, “Outshined”
Look at how the Seattle grunge is starting to fill up the chart. And this was just the beginning of it. This chart is effectively the beginning of the shock success of the sound that sent all the labels on a wild hunt to secure the next Nirvana or Soundgarden or Pearl Jam. For that matter, Soundgarden’s huge success was still one album away. At this point, the clustering of this style was more coincidence than marketing plan.
This was the second of two Soundgarden songs on the chart. Like the other one, this was slipping on the chart, down from 15 the previous week.
21. Millions, “Sometimes”
We start this week’s chunk of the countdown with “Haven’t Got a Clue,” and, for me, end with it as well. I have no recollection of this band or their song. The album cover looks a little familiar, but that could be because it reminds me a bit of the cover to Indio’s Big Harvest. This isn’t a band that’s lost to time or anything. A little online typing yields plenty of information about them and heartfelt testimonials from true believers. Even after listening to it, I have no recollection.
The song was making a healthy move upwards. It was at number 30 on the previous chart.
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