College Countdown: 90FM’s Top 90 of 1989, 28 and 27

28. The Smithereens, 11

The Smithereens picked up a lot of fervent followers on the strength of the smart, chunky guitar pop on their first two full-length albums, 1986’s Especially for You and 1988’s Green Thoughts. But even those who followed the band intently had some trouble puzzling out the meaning behind the title of their third outing, simply called 11. For many music fans, the first association that integer draws up involves the modified amplifiers proudly displayed by Nigel Tufnel in the movie This Is Spinal Tap. Closer study indicates, however, that it might be an older movie that serves as the titles inspiration. The image of the band members walking casually but purposefully on the album’s cover evokes the striding ne’er-do-wells played by member of Frank Sinatra’s rat pack on the poster for the 1960 heist flick Ocean’s Eleven. Maybe theories hold water. Certainly, the band members could have had movies on the mind, given that their pop gem “A Girl Like You” was reportedly turned down as the theme song for the Cameron Crowe relationship comedy Say Anything… Not everyone rejected the song, though. It became the lead single from 11 and wound up as the band’s first Top 40 hit.

27. The Cost of Living, Comic Book Page

Anyone attending the acclaimed high school Lycée Français de New York in Manhattan undoubtedly expects are fairly fancy education, perhaps even one built around unique opportunities. What’s probably not anticipated, however, is the chance to join a genuine rock ‘n’ roll band and start making records. That’s exactly what happened, however, when a teacher named Patrick Thouron recruited some of his student to start a group called The Cost of Living. It’s not clear if this stemmed from some sort of classroom assignment. If it did, the quality of the songs of the band’s debut, Comic Book Page, indicates that A’s all around were deserved. Then again, assigning letter grades may not be within the ethos of the band, judging from the name of their record label. Don’t Get All Heavy and Uncool Records implies that they may not be hung up on such things. All the better to just concentrate on the remarkable craftsmanship of the songs. How do you say extra credit in French?

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