During my first semester of college, I had a happy Sunday night ritual. After listening to The College Count-Up on 90FM–both before and after I became a member of the on-air staff there–I would head downstairs with a select group of discerning music fans from neighboring dorm rooms. We’d take over the TV room, usually with a ridiculous assortment of snacks and beverages–I recall mixing up jugs of Kool-Aid and consuming unseemly cheese spread on crackers–and watch MTV until after midnight. Our viewing typically started with an episode of The Young Ones, but we were really there for 120 Minutes, the cable network’s weekly showcase for the latest in alternative music. This was when Kevin Seal hosted the show and Dave Kendall used to provide blurry record reviews. We’d study and eat and trade snarky jokes and watch music videos until the show was over, the programmers at MTV signalling to their regularly audience that it was safe to watch again by playing the most benignly mainstream offering they could find.
Consequently, there are songs from my first foray into college radio that I may very have played on 90FM, but my strong associations come from time spent in the Thomson Hall basement. Maybe the strongest of those is “Hey, Matthew” by Karel Fialka, which had only the tiniest impact on college radio, but was all over 120 Minutes for some reason. Actually, the reason is probably easy enough to discern: it had a distinctive video that featured Fialka’s actual son, Matthew, who was naturally the inspiration for the song, meaning there was loads of backstory for Seal to share, always a boon to a veejay needing to fill airtime. The soft profundity of the song’s anti-television message also probably appealed to the execs at MTV, still smarting from the ding to their rebellious credibility from that spring, when they’d refused to play Neil Young’s “This Note’s for You,” a song and video that took far more direct aim at the corporatization of music in which the channel eagerly participated.
As with a lot of songs from that period of time, I can’t really disentangle my appreciation of it from my nostalgia (nor do I especially want to). I don’t just hear this song when it shuffles up; I feel the dankness of a tiny, grubby room that I last sat in around twenty-five years ago. And that makes me happy enough.
Listen or download –> Karel Fialka, “Hey Matthew”
(Disclaimer: It certainly looks to me like Karel Fialka’s Human Animal, home to this song, is out of print, at least as a physical object that can readily be purchased at your favorite local, independently-owned record store. It may be a slight different matter in the U.K., where this track was a Top 10 hit, but I’m not prepared to start digging too deeply into that. Regardless, I’m sharing this hear because I believe it does no harm to the artist or any of the individuals of entities–including Matthew, I suppose–who deserve compensation when it’s purchased. If I’m asked to remove it from the internet by some person or entity with due authority to make such a request, I will gladly and promptly comply.)