Category Archives: 1993

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…

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!

 

Today’s Top 5: March 1993 (via Rolling Stone)

IMG_5362March 18th, 1993, is the date of this Rolling Stone. Theoretically, then, it arrived in my mailbox a few days after the Storm of the Century walloped the East Coast and just a few days before the start of spring. At the time, Diane and I lived in a quadplex at the end of a dead-end street that ran up against a thicket of trees – a perfect place for drifting snow to settle.

That snowstorm aside, life was good. We owned a computer – a 286 that ran DOS – and accessed the pre-Internet via Prodigy, which featured bulletin boards, chat rooms, email to fellow users, and the news.

10K_EdenWhen I think back on that winter, though, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t the weather or Prodigy, but an album: Our Time in Eden by 10,000 Maniacs. We saw them in September 1992, 12 days before its release, and…it just became one of “those” albums for me. I’d play it, and then I’d play it again. And again. And again, after that.

Anyway, the cover story by Kim France, a staff writer at Sassy magazine, turns out not to be as in-depth as it could have been – two pages and part of a third isn’t enough space for that – but it’s a worthwhile read, explaining the band’s rising popularity following the “critical and financial disappointment” of Blind Man’s Zoo (1989). Natalie Merchant’s face graces the cover; and the shot inside features the entire band.

IMG_5363One sentence: “An atypically optimistic hit single, ‘These Are Days,’ as performed by an exhilarated Merchant at the MTV Inaugural Ball, was a highlight of the evening – a ‘Don’t Stop’ of the MTV generation.”

A paragraph: “Our Time in Eden is indeed a departure for the Maniacs, and many fans insist it’s the band at its best. Teetering on the edge of soft rock without quite going over the precipice, Eden is brightened by some flashy touches – like James Brown’s horns section sitting in on a couple of eminently radio-friendly songs, ‘Candy Everybody Wants’ and ‘Few and Far Between.’ The issue-oriented songs, long a Maniacs mainstay, are there, too, but much of the album concerns the intricacies of personal relationships. Merchant, who could have been called remote and even moralistic in earlier forays, displays an ability to get into other people’s minds with a dexterity and empathy that was only hinted at in previous albums.”

And a quote from Natalie: “I look at my early records as term papers that maybe would’ve been better buried in a box in the attic, and taken out ten years later and chuckled about.”

Today’s Top 5:

1) 10,000 Maniacs – “Noah’s Dove.” A lush, piano-driven song with lyrics about a fallen angel from the perspective of someone still behind the gates: not a typical opening track. Yet, it sets the mood (and theme) for Our Time in Eden as a whole, and does so in a narcotic-like manner.

IMG_53642) Rosanne Cash – “If There’s a God on My Side.” The Wheel, Rosanne’s follow-up to the sparse Interiors, follows the same basic blueprint as its predecessor – love, relationships, breakups – yet isn’t a “lather, rinse, repeat” release. I.e., it may explore the same terrain, but mines new veins of angst and pain along the way, such as “Roses in the Fire” and “You Won’t Let Me In.” As former Philadelphia Inquirer music critic Tom Moon writes in this review: “The Wheel is hardly carefree, but no longer is Cash obsessed with conveying the minute details that made Interiors so daunting.” He also says that “If There’s a God on My Side” closes the album “with an elaboration on the lonesome desperation Cash has hinted at elsewhere. It’s a plea for a moment of clarity amid turmoil, and it uses the pathos of old-school country to maximum effect. The pain is palpable, and so is the doubt, and in these things lie the raw matter of Cash’s art.”

IMG_53673) Juliana Hatfield – “Everybody Loves Me but You.” In an incongruous pairing, Juliana Hatfield opened for the B-52s at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on January 15, 1993, and reviewer Elysa Gardner is both cruel and kind in her critique: “Hatfield has an impressive voice – deceptively girlish but supple and clear, with a fine raspy bottom – and she’s a surprisingly emotive guitarist. But she would do well to focus less on writing songs about how tough it is to be a girl and more on projecting the strength and directness that are a woman’s best defense against sexism, in rock & roll or in life.”

This is Juliana’s setlist from that night: Supermodel/My Sister/Lost and Saved/I See You/Tamara/Here Comes the Pain/Rider/President Garfield/Ugly/Everybody Loves Me but You/Nirvana/I Got No idols.

jhatfield_heybabeAfter seeing that, Gardner’s take comes off as questionable. Here’s what Ann Powers, in a review that appeared in the New York Times, said of the same performance: “Her trio turned its amps up loud and sped through Ms. Hatfield’s bluntly personal accounts of frustration, self-doubt and hope. She’s still discovering her own talent, but Ms. Hatfield is an artist whose hesitant steps will lead alternative rock into its next mutation.”

“Everybody Loves Me but You” hails from Juliana’s first solo album, the wonderful Hey Babe. (Incidentally, that’s not Juliana’s hair on the cover of Hey Babe – it’s a wig.)

IMG_53694) Belly – “Feed the Tree.” A great song from the short-lived, Boston-based band. Tanya Donelly, formerly of the Breeders and Throwing Muses (who I saw open for R.E.M. in 1989), founded the group with some childhood pals, wrote most of the songs, played guitar and sang lead. Star, their debut album, was more than just solid – it was a delight. In addition to this super-catchy tune, it features the rocking “Dusted,” sweet “Gepetto” and dazzling title track; and plays well from start to finish. It was a hit with the modern-rock crowd; and was one of my favorites of the year.

5) Willie Nelson – “American Tune.” In the Random Notes section, there’s this: “Legendary singer-songwriter/IRS punching bag Willie Nelson has recruited a calvacade of music-industry heavyweights – including Sinead O’Connor, Bonnie Raitt, Don Was, Paul Simon and Bob Dylan, with whom he collaborated via fax – for his upcoming album, Across the Borderline.

Willie always sounds great, of course, but he’s not always consistent, album-wise. This one, however, is top-notch. (Diane actually heard it first, knew it would be something I’d love and surprised me with it.)