College Countdown: 90FM’s Top 90 of 1989, 34 and 33

34. Dead Milkmen, Beelzebubba

Given the remarkable and highly unlikely success of the video “Punk Rock Girl” on MTV, it’s worth noting that Dead Milkmen actually had a very difficult time with the cable network when they released the album Beelzebubba. MTV was among those who took umbrage with some of the lyrics on the album, and they also refused to play a video for the song “Smokin’ Banana Peels.” The Philadelphia group eventually won them over, although rumors abounded that there may have been a band-orchestrated equivalent of ballot-stuffing with MTV’s all-request program that helped elevate the video into heavy rotation. Even if there was some chicanery, that doesn’t diminish the rewarding feeling of seeing an excellent song get its due. And one other point in defense of the band: they got a lot of grief for supposedly misidentifying the artist behind the song “California Dreamin'” as the Beach Boys instead of the Mamas and the Papas in the lyrics to the song, but the Wilson boys and their musical colleagues actually released a cover of the song that certainly could have been on the jukebox of The Philly Pizza Company. Dead Milkmen may have enjoyed some success, but it didn’t lead to enormous riches and corresponding rock ‘n’ roll mayhem. They needed to stick with their sneakier methods of trashing hotel rooms. As Rodney Anonymous put it, “For instance, in a lot of hotel rooms you can unscrew those abstract paintings from the wall and hang them upside down; nobody knows the difference.”

33. Melissa Etheridge, Brave and Crazy

It’s nice to have the label boss on your side. Melissa Etheridge was signed personally by Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records, after he saw her play a Los Angeles club in the mid-eighties. When she worked up an album that was too glossy, Blackwell told her to scrap the results and start over. The resulting self-titled debut album was recorded live in studio over the course of just a few days and was released to wide acclaim in 1988. For her follow-up, 1989’s Brave and Crazy, Etheridge wanted to express the saw raw, unguarded emotions, but it was equally important to stay true to who she was as she wrote the songs. She evaluated the same crumbled relationships that inspired the toughest songs on her debuts, but saw them through different eyes. As she put it, “I’ve definitely changed about love and romance. I’ve lost a lot of the initial, ‘God, I’m in love and this is forever’ kind of thing. ‘Cause you know that it’s not forever.” The passion remains, but growing up clearly happened too, which is about as ideal of a progression as an artist could hope for.

90 and 89
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