When I started at the college radio station, the 90FM music library was divided into three sections, each designated by one of the first three letters of the alphabet. The A Stacks were filled with the artists that were best-known to broader audiences. This was where U2 records resided, for example (and this was before the library was purged of its classic rock, so everyone from Aerosmith to ZZ Top helped fill out this area). The B Stacks was where the titans of college radio had their records filed, with the likes of Love and Rockets and The Replacements. Everything else went into the C Stacks. This was the home of the obscure, the strange, the humble and a bevy of great records that were never fully embraced by music writers or radio programmers, sometimes seemingly for no other reason than a turn of bad luck. The C Stacks were the ones that I most wanted to learn, and any time I pulled a truly terrific record out of there, it felt like a discovery of pure gold in a bubbling stream.
The Connells were from Raleigh, North Carolina, a place that seemed as far away to me in central Wisconsin at the time as the British city of Manchester that cranked out inspired pop bands like widgets from a factory. They had a couple of albums in the C Stacks when I arrived in the fall of 1988 that I played and liked. Within a year, they released their third full-length, Fun & Games, so I had the pleasure of add new music from a band I discovered to my nightly playlists. It was like a form of growing up, transitioning from the hard, happy toil of learning to actually demonstrating knowledge, flipping through the new releases only to say “Hey, I know these guys.”
It helped that they were exactly the sort of band that I loved at that time: clean, sharp and straightforward with an ability to build terrific hooks into their songs. They had some of that jangly guitar sound that was almost a prerequisite for new bands from the American south. They were relatable to me, and agreeable to my still developing musical palette. They sounded like a band that could have set up in the corner of any of the bars in town and kicked out a stellar set before sitting down to share a couple Point Specials with the locals. They sounded like the belonged in the community I was just becoming a part of myself, making every note ring out like a welcome.
(Disclaimer: As best as I can tell, the album Fun & Games is out of print, though it also appears to be available for digital purchase. Since it looks like that availability is through an independent company, maybe just maybe it avoids the corporate corruption that informs the commonly invoked Quirk Rule so I’ll kindly recommend acquiring a song or an album via your online retailer of choice. Consider the song posted above a taste. Still, if anyone with due authority to request the song’s removal from my corner of the Interweb makes such a demand, I will gladly and promptly comply.)