Thinking back on it now, I suspect that Spooner was the first hometown band I ever heard on the radio. Growing up in and around Madison, Wisconsin meant I wasn’t exactly in the midst of a thriving music scene, but I still felt that our broadcasters could have done a little better job throwing some support towards the guitar-slinging local heroes. You never know when the next Oh-Needers might be out there. There were the occasional token local showcase programs–typically relegated to the Sunday night timeframe when the stations were fairly certain that practically no one was listening–but as far as a Madison artist given entry to the regular rotation, it just didn’t happen. There were occasional exceptions to that rule, perhaps more than I recall, but there was only one commercial station that made the room for guys who might be their neighbors. That was the old WMAD-FM.
The specific song I remember hearing a lot on the station was “Mean Old World,” which Spooner released as a 7-inch in 1986. I undoubtedly though they were some young upstart band, but Spooner had been together since the mid-nineteen-seventies and already had two full-length albums to their credit. It was the band’s future more than their past that made them notable, however. This was the band where Steve Vig first collaborated with Duke Erickson, the duo eventually forming the multi-platinum band Garbage with Vig’s Smart Studios partner Steve Marker and Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie lead singer Shirley Manson. Erickson and Vig also had a stop-off with Fire Town along the way, and that’s the brand of heartland rock that has the stronger connection to the material churned out by Spooner.
Eventually, I got to play “Mean Old World” myself. I was into my tenure at central Wisconsin college radio station 90FM when Spooner released what would prove to be their final album, 1990’s The Fugitive Dance, the track I remembered settled snugly in the middle of the CD. I didn’t exactly feel like I was making up for the slights the band received from the majority of the Madison stations, but it did feel right to play their music, proper support for a group of guys who shared the same zip code.
Listen or download –> Spooner, “Mean Old World”
(Disclaimer: While the success of Garbage caused the preservation of a decent number of early efforts of Vig and Erickson, it appears to me that Spooner’s catalog, including The Fugitive Dance, is out of print and therefore unavailable for purchase in a manner that compensates both the artist and the proprietor of your favorite local, independently-owned record store. It is being shared with that understanding, although the routine dispatches about the crooked nature of the recording industry makes me wonder why I even care about typing out this disclaimer. Even if you could buy this song, the suits would do use every potions and trick door at their disposal to make sure the bulk of the money never made its way to the original performers. You know, the people who really deserve the money. Despite my disgruntlement and unwavering belief that sharing this song in this space in this manner constitutes fair use, I will gladly remove it if asked to do so by any person or entity with due authority to make such a request.)