Friday, June 12, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 43)

43. "Gee Angel"
Artist: Sugar
Year: 1994 (released as single in 1995)

Time and place have much to do with why I hold Sugar's album 'File Under Easy Listening' in such high esteem. I got this one when I was living in Japan. Most of my music collection was being stored at an uncle's house back in Illinois. All I brought with me was a Case Logic CD holder that housed 96 discs. That black binder was meant to sate my musical hunger for two years... an impossible task. I toiled many weeks whittling it down to that number, let me tell you. Finding the right mix of classics, new releases and the stuff I was into at that moment, all the while avoiding too many albums from one artist, was maddening.

I was living in a rural area, and the closest town that could be described as civilization was an hour away by train. This was before the Internet explosion, and all I had to keep up with the west was a shortwave radio that was always tuned in to either the BBC or the Armed Forces Radio Network. At that time, the yen-to-dollar exchange rate was very much in my favor, and I was all about saving money for travel and to send home. This was easy to do because I lived in the constant fear of knowing at some point I would return home to the prospect of unemployment. The added benefit of living in the middle of nowhere was there wasn't much to tempt me spend... unless you count beer. Occasionally, when I would feel the need to catch up on the world, I would hop the train to this small city. There was a cultural exchange foundation with a reading room where the handful of westerners in the prefecture would gather to peruse the latest issues of everything from the Economist to People. I swear I would hear angels singing every time I walked through the door.

One Saturday while at the reading room I read about the new release of 'File Under Easy Listening' in Rolling Stone. At the time, my 96 discs were feeling as stale as week-old bread, and the prospect of listening to something, anything, new, especially from Bob Mould, was exciting. I hopped a bus to Import Yamachiku, a record shop in the city center that was jammed with the latest CDs from America and the UK. Living far from this store was beneficial to my savings plan. My 21-year-old copy still has the price tag of 2,190 yen on it.


Easy listening it was not, and "Gee Angel" was about as hard as it got. I don't think many would put this album ahead of 'Copper Blue,' but I do. I'll freely admit it's because I bought it at a time when I was desperate for new music, and I played the hell out of it. Today, as I play it, I can't help but think about the effort it took to get 'File Under Easy Listening.' What now takes one or two clicks took me an entire day of reading, buying and transporting... and I wouldn't trade the experience for the world.

6 comments:

george said...

if THAT's number 43, Brian, the next 42 must be absolutely briliantly poptastic! Cracking song.

The Swede said...

You're quite right, like it as I do, I still wouldn't put this LP above 'Copper Blue' (or 'Beaster' come to that), but after reading the post I can quite understand why 'Gee Angel' made the cut. And it is a storming tune too.

Scott said...

Pre-internet , there was almost a sense of achievement when you found a new band or album. You felt as though you had to do a bit of leg work to find something. Much too easy nowadays. I would have found it almost impossible to narrow it down to 96, thank god for the MP3 player. Much as I enjoy File Under I would go for Copper Blue, but both great albums.

TheRobster said...

Copper Blue is a perfect album - every track is incredible. FUEL is still a good album, but never quite reaches the dizzy heights of the debut... except for Gee Angel, that is. Brilliant tune.

Anonymous said...

Agree with all of the above- Copper Blue is the one but some of FUEL is great- I love Favourite Thing.
Swiss Adam

Brian said...

Hi fellas. A lotta love for Copper Blue, and I can't argue with any of you about its brilliance. Thanks for the kind words about this song too.