memories, old (2007)

musical recollections

[Repost from an Oct. 2006 MOG…]

It was 1990. I was 16, and it was my freshman year of college. I’d grown up in a small town in Texas and my musical knowlege was limited to what came through on radio stations from San Antonio and talking with my cousin, who lived in Austin and was, therefore, presumably cooler. I’d had a subscription to Rolling Stone since 1984, for God only knows what reason, since when I first signed up, I was in 4H, wore Wrangler jeans and workboots, raised chickens, and listened to George Strait and Randy Travis.

In 1986, I heard my first REM song, but only because the captain of the soccer team liked them and I wanted to date him (I did). I also happened upon the Sex Pistols, the Replacements, Public Image Ltd., the Clash, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, and other bands boys generally liked, since that was my incentive to listen to anything new. Hey, what can I say? I was a hormonally influenced teen-ager with lots of time on her hands. Flirting with the boys and memorizing their favorite songs led me to grow musically, but only slightly, and so when I left for college I couldn’t have even told you what a college music station was or what kind of music was played on one.

Enter my roommate: a transfer student from Knox College, who chain-smoked unfiltered Camels and spent the wee hours of the morning listening to the Pixies, Hüsker Dü, The Cure, and Throwing Muses. No big surprise there, but she did also have a softer side to her, and so I remember her mostly as the person who not only didn’t laugh the first time I smoked pot but also the one who introduced me to Shelleyan Orphan, a British folk-pop duo (Caroline Crawley and Jemaur Tayle) best known for Century Flower (1989). We’d listened to the album whenever we studied, which was a lot considering how much time we spent off trying to (a) get fake IDs then (b) use them.

Later, after we’d both dropped out of college (me, to get married; her, for rehab), I picked up Helleborne (1987) – featuring Kate Bush’s brother and her drummer – and Humroot (1992). The band broke up after Humroot, though, and I largely forgot about them until last year, when I found my old CDs going through a box and learned Crawley had formed her own band – Babacar – featuring former Cure members Boris Williams (Crawley’s husband), Roberto Soave, and Porl Thompson. I recently put in an order for their CD, and am anxiously awaiting its arrival.

If you’d like to take a listen, three “audio samples” of Shelleyan Orphan songs are available online:

  1. Southern Bess (Helleborne, 1987)
  2. Burst (Century Flower, 1989)
  3. Dead Cat (Humroot, 1992)

And there are two videos (of questionable quality) at YouTube:

  1. Shatter (Century Flower, 1989)
  2. Southern Bess (ibid)

They really are a great band. I wish there was were more music these days that is both simple and brilliant in its complexity. Arguably, there are those bands, but I’m not sure I possess the same sort of innocent wonder as I had in 1990, and I think that had something to do with how much I liked Shelleyan Orphan.