Category Archives: 1990s

Juliana Hatfield’s 1993

When Juliana Hatfield and the Three reunited in 2015 to record the album that became Whatever, My Love, they funded themselves via PledgeMusic. There was a cornucopia of cool premiums, from autographed CDs and photos to musical instruments, but what I’d hoped to snare—the soundcheck/concert tickets—sold out before I got there.

In years past, for other JH projects, I’d walked away with some autographed posters (including the one above, which shares a corner in my den with an autographed Susanna Hoffs poster) and other neat things, including the download-albums God’s Foot Demos, Live Nuggets and Live at Maxwell’s. I also did a 20 Questions. To me, it was and is less about what I bought and more about the music – as in, her new music. (Which is why, if you’re reading this, be sure to buy her 2017 release, Pussycat.)

Anyway, for the 2015 PledgeMusic outing, she offered up her “diary” of a momentous year in her life: 1993. That was when she recorded and released her major-label debut, Become What You Are, and toured in support of it; and pledging for it was a no-brainer for me. The “diary” is actually four-and-a-half pages on a legal-sized notepad – and an interesting read, especially when she gets to pressing the flesh in July and August:

“…I always thought the work was writing great songs and playing them with feelings. No, it’s more than that – I’m expected to give a little piece of myself to everyone until I feel drained of all vigor and individuality. I’m expected to be pleasant and witty while answering the same dumb questions twenty times in one day. I feel like a piece of meat, prodded from one pen to the next. But I’m confused because all the while, I’m grateful there are people who play my records and support what I do. I’m amazed and so lucky that I can make music for a living. I just have to remember that.”

Unfortunately, legal-sized paper is a few inches too large for my scanner. So I’ve chopped the pages in half. Here’s Juliana’s 1993…

Albums of the Year, 1978-2016

(An updated/edited version of my original post that adds my 2016 pick.)

“Album of the Year” is an honorific I’ve bestowed on one album (sometimes two) every year since beginning my journey into music fandom. I started the practice one late-December evening in 1978 on a piece of looseleaf paper, selecting my favorite LP from the dozen or so LPs I owned. In time, I transferred the list to typing paper, entered it into our first computer, saved it to a floppy disc and, in the late 2000s, moved it to an external hard drive. I now have it stored in the Cloud along with all my Pages documents.

And, for the longest time, that’s all it was – a list that I returned to every year to add another line. Even when we had our Old Grey Cat website in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, I never wrote year-end summations of my favorites – I was too busy critiquing Neil Young bootlegs. It wasn’t until 2008 on Facebook that I posted my top picks for the year; and, on and off over the next few years, I followed with missives until launching this blog on the Hatboro-Horsham Patch in 2012. (I’ve since moved to wordpress.com, obviously.)

I think I best explained the way I go about it in this 2010 post: “The candidates are drawn from what I’ve purchased, so the pool is decidedly limited in comparison to, say, what the writers at Rolling Stone or Allmusic.com are exposed to. Some years I buy a lot and some years not, primarily due to my listening habits – I play albums I love over and over and over until they become one with my subconscious (obsession, not variety, is my spice of life). So the more I like certain albums, the less overall I hear.”

That’s not to say that I still feel the same about each of my past selections as I did when I picked them. I was (and am) a major McCartney fan, but London Town and Back to the Egg weren’t his best, let alone the best of their respective years. I know that now, but at the time…I was a kid on a limited budget. More recently, I’d flip my top two picks in both 2010 and 2012 – in 2010, as I wrote at the time, I relegated Rumer’s Seasons of My Soul (one of my all-time favorites) to the second slot because it hadn’t been officially released in the U.S.; and, in 2012, I was simply smitten with Susanna Hoff’s perfect solo effort, Someday – I still am, but Neil’s Psychedelic Pill has received more play in the years since, as I explained in 2014 rumination I titled On Albums of the Year & the Pono Player.

But, in a way, that’s beside the point. The list, as I see it, is less a critical exercise and more a reflection of the evolution (or lack thereof) of my musical tastes. At Diane’s urging, I’m sharing it… (and, where possible, I’ve linked to past blog posts about each of the albums or artists).

2016 – Rumer – This Girl’s in Love: A Bacharach & David Songbook
2015 – The Staves – If I Was
2014 – First Aid Kit – Stay Gold
2013 – Susanna Hoffs & Matthew Sweet – Under the Covers Vol. III
2012 – Susanna Hoffs – Someday (1); Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill (2)
2011 – Juliana Hatfield – There’s Always Another Girl
2010 – Tift Merritt – See You on the Moon (1); Rumer – Seasons of My Soul (2)
2009 – Diane Birch – Bible Belt
2008 – Juliana Hatfield – How to Walk Away
2007 – Maria McKee – Late December
2006 – The Dixie Chicks – Taking the Long Way
2005 – Juliana Hatfield – Made in China
2004 – Juliana Hatfield – in exile deo
2003 – Maria McKee – High Dive
2002 – Neil Young – Are You Passionate?
2001 – Natalie Merchant – Motherland
2000 – Juliana Hatfield – Beautiful Creature
1999 – Natalie Merchant – Live in Concert
1998 – Lucinda Williams – Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
1997 – Steve Earle – El Corazon
1996 – Neil Young – Broken Arrow; Maria McKee – Life Is Sweet (tie)
1995 – Natalie Merchant – Tigerlily
1994 – Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Sleeps with Angels
1993 – Maria McKee – You Gotta Sin to Get Saved
1992 – 10,000 Maniacs – Our Time in Eden
1991 – Mary Black – Babes in the Wood
1990 – Rosanne Cash – Interiors
1989 – Neil Young – Freedom
1988 – Steve Earle – Copperhead Road
1987 – 10,000 Maniacs – In My Tribe
1986 – Paul Simon – Graceland; Bangles – Different Light (2)
1985 – Lone Justice – self-titled debut; Long Ryders – State of Our Union (2)
1984 – The Go-Go’s – Talk Show; Prince – Purple Rain (2)
1983 – Neil Young – Trans
1982 – Paul McCartney – Tug of War
1981 – Neil Young & Crazy Horse – re*ac*tor (1) / Go-Go’s – Beauty & the Beat (2)
1980 – Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – Against the Wind
1979 – Wings – Back to the Egg
1978 – Wings – London Town

Of Concerts Past: Maria McKee @ the TLA in Philly, 9/18/93

Ah, Maria. Sweet, sweet, sweet Maria. Last night she tweeted a link to a YouTube video of a 1993 TV appearance with the Jayhawks…

…and I was thrust through a time portal to that very year, which is when I first saw her in concert.

Now, regular readers of this blog already know that I became a fan of her old band, Lone Justice, on April 17, 1985, which is when I first heard the “shotgun blast of sonic newness” that was, is and will always be (to me, at least) their self-titled debut LP. Time and circumstance, and a little thing called cash (and lack thereof), kept me from ever catching them in concert, however.

Flash-forward to 1993 and life was different. I was married, had a decent job and, best of all, had a wife who was (and is) as much of a music freak as me. By then, of course, Lone Justice was done and Maria was on her own, having released a stellar self-titled solo debut in 1989 and an even more stellar sophomore set, You Gotta Sin to Get Saved, in June 1993. In the weeks (months?) following that second album’s release, she made a series of in-store appearances promoting it and, on an unknown afternoon that month or the next, she stopped at Tower Records on Philadelphia’s famed South Street (aka “the hippest street in town”) to perform a few songs and meet-and-greet with fans such as myself. It’s when she autographed my Lone Justice CD cover. (it’s times like this when I wish I’d never stopped notating such stuff in a desk calendar.)

What I remember: She plugged in her guitar and ripped through three songs, including a kickass rendition of “Sister Anne.” As in, the MC5 song. And she literally kicked out the jams, ripped it to shreds, made it her own. What were the other two songs? Was she by herself or accompanied by others? Both fair questions, and questions I can’t answer. Only “Sister Anne” has remained lodged in my memory. (Diane says they were “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” and “The Way Young Lovers Do.”) Perhaps the mini-set ended similar to this clip from the Forum in London that same year, where she played “Sister Anne” back-to-back with the album’s title track (though, if Diane’s correct, there was no title track).

Anyway, she returned to South Street (the TLA, to be specific) in September to headline a proper concert—and again proved her mettle. Or is that metal? Granted, it was a too-short set of 75-80 minutes, but while she was on that stage, she commanded the audience’s attention. I seem to recall that “East of Eden” opened the show, but that the bulk of the night was devoted to her solo work.

That last clip mistakes the year – it’s from Maria’s 1993 appearance on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. (Side note: I’ve always wondered if “Why Wasn’t I More Grateful” inspired “Life Is Sweet.”) The night also featured a sublime performance of “Breathe,” one of my all-time favorite songs. Here she is from a few years earlier performing it on the Night Music TV show:

In short, it was a raucous, rockin’ set intermingled with moments of high drama via her operatic ballads; and at the end, in a dramatic flourish, she slammed the microphone stand down before stomping off stage.

The set was similar to this, though I believe I’m missing a few songs.

  1. East of Eden
  2. I Can’t Make It Alone
  3. My Lonely Sad Eyes
  4. Goodbye
  5. I Forgive You
  6. My Girlhood Among the Outlaws
  7. This Property Is Condemned
  8. Breathe
  9. Nobody’s Child
  10. The Way Young Lovers Do
  11. Why Wasn’t I More Grateful
  12. You Gotta Sin to Get Saved

Other memories: It was general admission; we were at the foot of the stage; and, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s review, it was sold out. (I’d link to the review, but unfortunately the Inky now charges for its archives.) What else? A fan beside us had traveled from New York City, where he’d seen her the night before, and used his knowledge of opening act David Gray’s short set to sarcastically call out for his closing number several times, as he wanted him off the stage. (In a serendipitous moment, we ran into that same guy a few months later in NYC while we were there to see…I think it was Laura Nyro’s Christmas Eve show at the Bottom Line, but I may be mistaken. We bumped into him in a diner.) Back on point: the reviewer for the Philadelphia Inquirer mistook those jibes for enthusiasm.

Update 4/10/2017: I found this set list for the concert online, though I have doubts about its accuracy – 

  1. East of Eden
  2. I Can’t Make It Alone
  3. My Lonely Sad Eyes
  4. I’m Gonna Soothe You
  5. The Way Young Lovers Do
  6. Panic Beach
  7. This Property Is Condemned
  8. Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye
  9. Nothing Takes the Place of You
  10. Breathe
  11. Why Wasn’t I More Grateful
  12. Sister Anne
  13. Soap, Soup & Salvation
  14. You Gotta Sin to Get Saved
  15. Ways to Be Wicked

My doubts: I remember being surprised that Maria didn’t perform “I’m Gonna Soothe You,” which Christopher confirms in the comments below, and I recall “Nobody’s Child” (though that could be a memory from one of the other times I saw her). And I also recall “You Gotta Sin…” as the last song of the night. Oh, and “Sister Anne” again?! I hope I’d remember that… 

What I do remember: It was a great show!