The Cool New Music Chronicles: Bad Karma

BAD KARMA (January, 1987)


And then it all came crashing down. In the space since the last tape it had all fallen apart. I had always suffered somewhat from depression, but once I started college I fell into a crushing depression. UNO turned out to be not at all what I thought college was going to be like. The dorms were dreary and lifeless. It is largely a commuter school, so people there aren’t really looking to make any friends, since they go home each evening to the friends they already have. None of my classes were particularly inspiring, either. It didn’t feel that much different from high school, except nobody yelled at you if you didn’t go. As a result, within a few weeks I had stopped going to classes altogether. Mark and I did not get along as roommates and eventually I moved out and into a different dorm room. So I was still living in the UNO dorms but not attending any classes. I think I was simply not prepared for the amount of responsibility college took, and I ended up failing the semester, of course.

In the meantime, I also broke up with Katie, lost many of my friends, and even — cliche as this may be — had my pet dog die. Merlin turned out to be a sociopathic liar who had deceived a lot of us and caused a lot of pain. He separated me from my friends, lied to me about having a job opportunity for me (though I cannot honestly fault him for me putting so much faith into such a dumb lie) and then abandoned me and moved on to my friend Rob, who he treated even worse. Katie, unable to deal with my depression, broke up with me and dated a guy called “Logan” (a name he chose for himself based on his favorite comic book character, Wolverine. That sound you heard in November of 1986 was my self-esteem plummeting.) who she met at her job at Photon, the laser-tag place. He was a regular there.

I eventually got some counseling and got my academic record erased, but it would be a long time until I was back to normal, and the scars stayed around for even longer. However, by the time I made this tape, things were starting to look up a bit. I was actually dating Charlyn (Katie’s best friend and Merlin’s ex…no, it didn’t last).

  1. Shriekback – Working on the Ground
  2. The Police – Synchronicity II
  3. Depeche Mode – A Question Of Time
  4. Alphaville – Fallen Angel
  5. Suzanne Vega – Straight Lines
  6. Art of Noise (f. Max Headroom) – Paranoimia
  7. Peter Gabriel – Big Time
  8. Love and Rockets – Ball of Confusion
  9. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Bloc Bloc Bloc
  10. New Order – Shell-Shock
  1. Touchtones – Don’t Close Your Eyes
  2. The Boomtown Rats – Rain
  3. Sigue Sigue Sputnik – Love Missile F1-11 (alt)
  4. R.E.M. – Begin the Begin
  5. Depeche Mode – Dressed in Black
  6. Violent Femmes – Add It Up
  7. Shriekback – Running on the Rocks
  8. Timbuk 3 – The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades
  9. Pet Shop Boys – Suburbia
  10. The Bangles – Walk Like an Egyptian
  11. The Jesus and Mary Chain – Just Like Honey

No doubt, this is some darker stuff. It’s also oddly put together, with some really awkward segues and a very strange choice for opening side one. I like it still, it’s just a very weirdly done mix.

  • Shriekback – Working on the Ground
  • Shriekback – Running on the Rocks

As you can see, I’m still double-dipping. One of the bright spots of this time was getting to see Shriekback in concert for the Big Night Music tour.

You can read about that concert at my main blog. It still remains one of the best shows I ever went to.

  • The Police – Synchronicity II

Synchronicity came out in 1983, so why was this song suddenly showing up on my mix CD? Answer: I have no idea. Nothing wrong with it, I just have no clue why it’s here. It might have been a Charlyn thing.

  • Depeche Mode – A Question Of Time
  • Depeche Mode – Dressed in Black

And then there were two. Depeche Mode gets knocked down to only two tracks on this one. Both of these are from Black Celebration.

  • Alphaville – Fallen Angel
  • Suzanne Vega – Straight Lines
  • Peter Gabriel – Big Time
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Bloc Bloc Bloc

Nothing particularly special about these. More album-mining going on here.

  • Art of Noise (f. Max Headroom) – Paranoimia

Definitely the most 80s song on this tape.

  • Love and Rockets – Ball of Confusion

A weaker track off a good album, but I had just bought it and hadn’t really listened to it yet. In fact, I remember calling up Christine, who already owned it, and asking her which track I should put on the tape. Her advice was “Ball of Confusion”, as it was the single.

  • New Order – Shell-Shock

I’m still just circling around New Order here, without actually landing. This is from the Pretty in Pink soundtrack, and I love the song, but for some reason I just wasn’t connecting with the band. I have no idea how this could be, since I should have been so primed for them.

  • Touchtones – Don’t Close Your Eyes

Never heard of them? No reason you should. I knew Michael (he went by “Misha” at the time) from BBS, where his alias was “The Untouchable”. He was in the local music scene and gave me a tape of a band he was working with (I believe at the time he said they were thinking of going with “Glam” for their name.) This is a song from the tape, and I found it really catchy. I made up the band name for them. They never went anywhere as far as I know, so naturally this song wasn’t to be found on mp3. It’s a dub from the tape, and it sounds it.

  • The Boomtown Rats – Rain

On the original (UK) version of In the Long Grass, this song is called “Dave” and has slightly different lyrics. It seems that “Dave” is slang for heroin (really?), which is what the song is about, so the US label had them change it. I had no idea. In 2001, when I was looking for an mp3 version, all I could find was the original, “Dave”. It took some time but eventually I was able to find it.

  • Sigue Sigue Sputnik – Love Missile F1-11 (alt)

The only way I could possibly love this song (and in fact, the entire Flaunt It album) more is if it didn’t remind me so much of UNO. In my mind’s eye, I can still see the album cover clearly in my hands in my original dorm room there. In fact, speaking of UNO, what SHOULD be on this tape is “High Wire Days” or “The Ghost in You” by the Psychedelic Furs, as Mark listened to a lot of them during our brief stint as roommates.

  • R.E.M. – Begin the Begin

Again, R.E.M. shoehorns itself awkwardly into the proceedings, but for good reason; they weren’t originally in this spot. Originally it was “No More Words” by Berlin, but at some point I decided to swap it out. Lifes Rich Pageant was another one I purchased during my time at UNO but it would not reveal its greatness to me for a while yet.

  • Violent Femmes – Add It Up

Funny story! Charlyn was working at Holmes, a department store, and had this tape going in her department. She was helping a customer and suddenly realized this song had come on, and had to make a dash to turn it off before it got naughty.

  • Timbuk 3 – The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades

In order to listen to this song in the proper context, turn up the bass and the sarcasm.

  • Pet Shop Boys – Suburbia

Those guys in Pet Shop Boys must really hate the original vinyl version of this song, which is what was on the tape, because it was next to impossible to find it among the many versions and mixes out there. I’m still not sure this is the exact same version.

  • The Bangles – Walk Like an Egyptian
  • The Jesus and Mary Chain – Just Like Honey

For the former, I don’t know. Hey, it’s a fun song and you know you’re singing along to it when it comes on. And originally it ended the tape, which is fine. But then I bought Psychocandy and it blew my little mind and I added the latter, which is, in my opinion, one of the greatest songs ever written. The theme of it is “I will keep coming back to you even though it kills me.” and that pretty much said it all.

As stated before, this was simply The Cool New Music Tape IV until I went back and renamed the early ones, so the title isn’t prescient, just apt. As for the cover, it’s a fun and instructional collage. Some of the items are obvious, some less so, but all have meanings. The pills are Percodan. The back cover is styled after a computer BBS.

Click on the player below to listen to this mix!

(xspf player courtesy Lacy Morrow and Fabricio Zuardi.)

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