Included on the John Wesley Harding’s debut album, Here Comes the Groom, “The Devil in Me” was the track that introduced most college radio programmers to the British singer-songwriter who would eventually find greater fame penning novels under his given name, Wesley Stace. According to the man himself, the stage name was a bulwark against embarrassment, erected on the assumption that his music career would fizzle quickly, sending him shuffling back to the comparative anonymity of academia, where he was just shy of completing a PhD in Social and Political Science. Instead, his songs made a modest but noticeable splash on alternative radio, in part due to a familiarity in his tone, which drew ready comparisons to the likes of Elvis Costello and — unavoidably, thanks to the album from which he drew his troubadour pseudonym — Bob Dylan. “The Devil in Me” is completely characteristic of Stace’s writing: catchy, wry, and marked by a sociological astuteness.
This cut was making its debut on the chart.
After a few years — and tremendous success — operating the band The The as essentially a solo project, Matt Johnson recruited a band again for the 1989 album Mind Bomb, recruiting no less than Johnny Marr, recently released from responsibility with the Smiths, as a guitarist. A year later, the group was still on tour and needed a little promotional boost. That led to the ep Jealous of Youth, which featured a couple covers, a live cut, and a new single. “Jealous of Youth” is vividly theatrical, opening with Johnson huffing out a spoken word portion that has a touch of Nick Cave’s menacing carnival barker persona to it. The track doesn’t stand up to the college rock classics churned out by The The over years, but it’s pretty fun, certainly a cut above most quickie discography filler.
This cut was down from 16 the previous week.
By most accounts, the Rave-Ups were close to being dropped by their label, Epic Records, when they went into the studio to record their fourth album, Chance. The band had already experienced a strange ascendancy in the nineteen-eighties, going from an obscure L.A. based (and Pittsburgh-bred) band to a source of curiosity after their name appeared prominently on the binder Molly Ringwald wielded in Sixteen Candles, a character detail evidently selected by the Hollywood teen queen herself, because her sister was dating lead singer and guitarist Jimmer Podrasky. They then appeared in Pretty in Pink, so Epic understandably figured they might have a big hit in them in the manner of other college rock acts who moved through the John Hughes ecosystem. Their debut for the label, The Book of Your Regrets, underperformed, though, and the Rave-Ups were on the chopping block. Chance came out and fared better. Lead single “Respectfully King of Rain” made it into the Top 15 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart, but that wasn’t enough to satisfying Epic. The label parted ways with the Rave-Ups, The band lasted a little longer, but a break-up was in the offing. One of their last gigs brought them back to their teen pop culture roots: they were the live band at a spring dance on an episode of Beverly Hills, 90210.
This cut was down from 20 the previous week.
As I remember it, the turn of the nineties was the era of “Madchester” bands on college radio. A flood of bands hailing from the hardscrabble Manchester area enraptured the British music press, and student programmers in the U.S. were keen to follow. The Stone Roses were arguably the first major beneficiaries of the stateside college kids’ eager attention. The single “I Wanna Be Adored,” drawn from the band’s self-titled debut, was issued to great acclaim, in 1989, and the various songs pinged around the charts for the next several months. Before long, the band was mired in nasty dust-up with their label, Silvertone, a legal battle that would prevent the release of their sophomore — and, to date, final — album by several years.
This cut was up from 39 the previous week.
As we go along, I’ll build a YouTube playlist of all the songs in the countdown. The hyperlinks associated with each numeric entry lead directly to the individual song on the playlist.