College Countdown: 90FM’s Top 90 of 1989, Interlude

For months now, this space on Sundays has been devoted to counting down the top 90 albums of 1989 on the college radio station where I made my home. I decided fairly early on that I wanted to write the synopses of the respective albums in much the same manner used for the radio scripts when this countdown first aired on New Year’s Eve all those years ago. Part of that conceit involved limiting myself to only information that I might have reasonably had at my disposal when I sat in the 90FM offices that long broadcast day, surrounded by magazines and other resources, tapping out copy for the DJs on our big clunky computer. Certainly I pulled from many, many online sources this time around, but details that only could have emerged in the intervening years was off limits. Follow up albums, spin off bands and pending solo careers. This admittedly led to some awkward writing at times. It was odd to not acknowledge that members of the band The Cost of Living eventually had far greater success as Nada Surf, or that Warren Zevon and Michael Been from The Call were now deceased. I was even chastised by someone with a weirdly intense grudge against Transvision Vamp lead singer Wendy James for noting her “model looks,” a description that worked better then than it does now.

It was a fun way to approach it, even if I never did quite figure out how to handle the tense. Now that we’ve reached the top twenty, though, I want to approach the project a little differently. For one thing, many of the albums in the upper reaches of the chart are among the most personally important of my collegiate years. Selfishly, I’d like to say something more about them that what I can find in the digitized pages of Spin. There’s also some insight that might be worth sharing about how some of the unlikelier candidates in the top twenty got the necessary airplay land so high. That information will be far easier to share in a different format. There’s also a couple albums in this batch that I could use some extra time to find usable images of their covers. A little more time would be helpful.

So I’m going to shift to tracking through the rest of the list one album at a time, beginning with number twenty next week. Until then, here’s a reminder of the seventy albums that got us to this point:

90. Big Audio Dynamite, Megatop Phoenix
89. Dramarama, Stuck in Wonderamaland
88. The Wonder Stuff, Hup
87. The Pixies, Doolittle
86. Love and Rockets, Love and Rockets
85. Michelle Shocked, Captain Swing
84. Tom Petty, Full Moon Fever
83. The Cure, Disintegration
82. The Black Sorrows, Hold on to Me
81. Concrete Blonde, Free
80. Flesh For Lulu, Plastic Fantastic
79. Hothouse Flowers, Just a Note
78. Ella Mental, Ella Mental
77. The Questionnaires, Window to the World
76. Warren Zevon, Transverse City
75. Transvision Vamp, Velveteen
74. Todd Rundgren, Nearly Human
73. The Hooters, Zig Zag
72. Uncle Green, You
71. The Traveling Wilburys, Volume 1
70. Jesus and Mary Chain, Automatic
69. Mental As Anything, Cyclone Raymonde
68. Adult Net, The Honey Tangle
67. Joe Jackson, Blaze of Glory
66. Syd Straw, Surprise
65. Kate Bush, The Sensual World
64. Public Image Ltd., 9
63. Webb Wilder, Hybrid Vigor
62. Mary’s Danish, There Goes the Wondertruck…
61. Will and the Bushmen, Will and the Bushmen
60. Too Much Joy, Son of Sam I Am
59. Fetchin Bones, Monster
58. Fire Town, The Good Life
57. Diesel Park West, Shakespeare Alabama
56. Neil Young, Freedom
55. Tin Machine, Tin Machine
54. Dash Rip Rock, Ace of Clubs
53. The Cult, Sonic Temple
52. The Tragically Hip, Up to Here
51. The Woodies, Train Wreck
50. Liquid Pink, Liquid Pink
49. Eurythmics, We Too Are One
48. F Machine, Here Comes the 21st Century
47. Ed Haynes, Sings Ed Haynes
46. Slammin’ Watusis, Kings of Noise
45. The Call, Let the Day Begin
44. R.E.M., Green
43. Jackson Browne, World in Motion
42. Government Cheese, Three Chords, No Waiting
41. Bruce Cockburn, Big Circumstance
40. Marshall Crenshaw, Good Evening
39. The Dickies, Second Coming
38. Toad the Wet Sprocket, Bread and Circus
37. The Screaming Blue Messiahs, Totally Religious
36. Adrian Belew, Mr. Music Head
35. Soul Asylum, Clam Dip & Other Delights
34. Dead Milkmen, Beelzebubba
33. Melissa Etheridge, Brave and Crazy
32. Elvis Costello, Spike
31. Animal Logic, Animal Logic
30. Close Lobsters, Headache Rhetoric
29. The Proclaimers, Sunshine on Leith
28. The Smithereens, 11
27. The Cost of Living, Comic Book Page
26. Drivin’ ‘N’ Cryin’, Mystery Road
25. The Frogs, The Frogs
24. Texas, Southside
23. Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper, Root Hog or Die
22. Ramones, Brain Drain
21. The Alarm, Change

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