The Connells


The Connells – Try

Oh, you are glad you were not with me in the car today for Tape Deck Tuesday. As is probably obvious, most of my tapes are from the 80s and early 90s. These are my high school, college, and early adult years. Highly angst-ridden times.

Today I pulled out a Maxell XLII 90-minute tape, created on 1/18/89 (after several days of deciding, rearranging, and adding up minutes, no doubt), which puts it at the very beginning of my final semester of college. The title is “Anguish, Fear, Lamenting”* so you already know you’re in trouble. I spent a great deal of time drifting from one of those emotions to the next. I had one semester left and I was hoping to get somewhere by the end of it. The guy I’d had my sights set on was the main source of frustration but life in general left a lot to be desired and none of it was matching up with my vision of where I was supposed to be, at 21 and nearly done with school.

Choosing this tape this morning, I knew it was full of songs about anguish, fear, and lamenting, but actually listening to the songs, in order, put me right back in that dorm room. As each song came on, I could immediately remember what it was about that song that earned it a place, and its particular place, in the mix. I was always very particular about the flow from one song to the next. From my much more objective position, 25 years later, there are a couple songs I would probably encourage my younger self to replace but that’s mostly because Sting doesn’t age well and In Your Eyes took on mythical proportions later that year when Say Anything hit movie theaters. I was first! I want credit for having it on my tape months before the movie came out and Lloyd Dobler set all of our hopes too high. But back then, the spot each song had was purposeful and as I listened in the car, I remembered exactly why for each one.

Side A – Anguish, Fear
Troy – Sinéad O’Connor
Scorpio Rising – 10,000 Maniacs
The One I Love – R.E.M
9–9 – R.E.M.
Altitude – Pylon
Be Still My Beating Heart – Sting
Red Rain – Peter Gabriel
Temptation – New Order
O My God – The Police
Crazy – Pylon

When you start a tape with Sinéad O’Connor’s Troy, that’s some seriously pissed off shit right there. It should be mentioned that this was a tape I meant to torture myself with and never give to someone else. I’m sure I never listened to it unless I was alone. Scorpio Rising picks up that angry mantle and gets in little digs at that guy. The version of The One I Love is a live version from an old bootleg, before it was released on a studio album, because it’s still really raw. If you heard this version first, there would have been no chance you would have mistaken this for a love song.

So we have our anguish off to a good start, then we start bringing in the fear with 9–9. Conversation fear. Check. Altitude. “I’ve been watching so long I’m afraid to move.” Yup, that would have been accurate. And on it goes, wrapping up the first side with the album version of Crazy, with the overdub of Vanessa singing “I’m not crazy” at the end. Had I not been driving, I’d likely have hurt myself trying to dance like 25 years hadn’t passed. What was I afraid of? That I would say the wrong thing. That I wasn’t cool enough. That things wouldn’t work out the way I wanted them to, or that they would. Honestly, I was pretty ill-equipped to deal with either one.

Side B – Lamenting
Does Everyone Stare – The Police
Androgynous – The Replacements
Scotty’s Lament – The Connells
That Voice Again – Peter Gabriel
Cotton Alley – 10,000 Maniacs
Maps and Legends (live at McCabe’s guitar shop) – R.E.M.
In Your Eyes – Peter Gabriel
Try – The Connells
I Will Dare – The Replacements
Age of Consent – New Order
Kiss Me on the Bus – The Replacements

Side B keeps the good times rolling with songs that seem practically tailor-made for me and this untouchable guy. Does Everyone Stare, Androgynous, Scotty’s Lament. Ha! Subtle as a brick. It’s really remarkable the power that music has to bring moments from the past into clear view. I’m certain I haven’t heard that Police song in decades but there I was, singing along, picturing events on my college campus like it was just last semester.

Some of these songs are so deeply entwined with my life in college that they don’t just bring back the memories, they bring the emotions back up too. Especially when they are stitched together in this way. Of course, that was the intention at the time. What’s that? You’re not a reeling mess yet? Ok, let’s see if this one will push you over the edge. I needed a cathartic release and sometimes the only way out was the hard way. “Nothing can hurt you, unless you want it to.” Part of me definitely wanted it to. 25 years later I’m not dialing those emotions up to 11 like I would have in college but singing along, alone in the car, I still felt a little red in the face here, faint butterflies in my stomach there.

I’d backed it off toward the end there, going for songs that had a hint of hope to them. I hadn’t totally given up, I was just, cautious. Wary. Life sucked, and it was maddening to always get thiiiiis close to my dreams. Maybe, just maybe that last semester would hold some surprises. A girl has to try, right?

*”Anguish, fear, lamenting” is a line from a 10,000 Maniacs song that’s really about nuclear war but at the time it seemed too good to pass up.

Scotty’s Lament

The Connells – Scotty’s Lament

Tonight I am taking my twelve-year-old daughter to her first concert (we have decided not to count the time we took her to see The Wiggles when she was almost three nor the time when she was six and staying with my sister who took her along to see Steel Pulse at an outdoor show, since she doesn’t remember either one). Another one of my sisters took her son to The Who for his first concert and friends have taken their kids with them to all manner of shows.

Before having kids, if I thought about it in the abstract, I imagined that I would influence my children’s tastes in music and they would be the coolest kids in school. For a while when they were very young, this was not far off the mark. I drove the car and controlled the stereo. I picked out the DVDs they watched and picked ones with soundtracks I liked (did you know there’s a surprising number of Ramones songs in Scooby-Doo movies?). But once they started taking the bus to school and hanging around with their peers, my music became something your parents listened to and not what they wanted to hear. I tried to bridge the gap for a while, making them CDs with songs I liked that got radio airplay, but currently there’s not a lot of crossover.

So tonight’s concert is my daughter’s favorite and I’m just accompanying her because she’s too young to go unsupervised. I am going to try hard not to embarrass her because I remember the one and only time I had a parent with me at a show.

I was in college in the Philadelphia suburbs and while I went to concerts in the city as often as I could, the last train left 30th St. Station right around midnight. If you missed it, you had to take an infrequent subway out through a rough neighborhood to the high speed line, which ran until 2am but only about once an hour. Most of the shows I went to were in theaters or sports stadiums because shows at clubs were always going to end after the last train. Every once in a while I could convince a friend with a car to come along but it was tough and the whole needing an ID or being 21 thing didn’t help.

This one time though, it just so happened that my dad was in Philadelphia for business and was staying at a hotel just two blocks from the Chestnut Cabaret. I had planned to meet up with a friend and her boyfriend to see The Connells there and now my dad was going to want to visit with me. I hemmed and hawed but finally decided to turn the situation to my advantage. His hotel room had two double beds so I figured we could hang out in the evening, have dinner, then I’d go to the show with my friends, stay overnight at the hotel with my dad, then we could do breakfast in the morning before his conference started. I didn’t expect him to say that he would want to come along. I tried to talk him out of it but it was just a club show, no seats, I don’t think I had bothered to get tickets in advance, so I couldn’t see how I could refuse to let him join us.

So dad and I went to see The Connells. He stayed at a table on the side with my friend’s boyfriend while the two of us hit the floor. He didn’t last all that long before the combination of age and business travel convinced him that he ought to head back to the hotel. I made my way to the hotel after the show and we spent the next morning hanging out before I headed back to campus.

What’s so embarrassing about that? It wasn’t at the show, it was the years afterward that I had to endure my dad bringing it up. The same exact sentences. “Remember that time we went to see, what was that band, oh yeah, The Con-nells (he always pronounced it as if it were two separate words)? And you two were down on the floor, I could only make out your heads bopping around from time to time so I left. Do you still go to see The Connells?” I am not kidding, for years, like ten, this same conversation took place every single time I spoke to him. Every.Time. If he was visiting and another person was around he would never miss the opportunity to regale them with the story about the time we went to a concert together. If I happened to tell him I was going to a concert he would immediately ask if I was going to see The Connells. (For the record, I saw them three times over the years, not the hundred and ten you would think if you listened to my dad.)

I spoke to my dad last weekend and mentioned that I was taking my daughter to a concert tonight. It’s been 25 years since that show so he doesn’t still remember the name of the band we saw but he started in, “Oh, I remember you used to go to concerts all the time.” I quickly changed the subject. Lesson learned. I will let my daughter be the one to remind me, if she wants to, about the time we went to a concert together.