The Posies, Dear 23

In the fall of 1990, I was the sole employee for an independently owned record store located in an unglamorous suburb of Akron, Ohio.  We were located in a long and slender shoebox-shaped space in an unremarkable strip mall located across the street from a televangelist headquarters that had a giant concrete tower and an all-you-can-eat buffet as defining characteristics.

One afternoon, I was opening the mail. We had received the usual miscellany — some invoices, some promotional material, some padded envelopes from labels. I used to open the padded envelopes first. Padded envelopes meant music – usually promos or advanced copies of artists that I could throw on while I opened the rest of the mail.  I opened an envelope from Geffen Records, selected an album by a band called The Posies, stuck it in the player and hit “play.”

Dear 23 was the name of that album, and it was played by me not just once, but repeatedly for hours and then days on end. I worked at the store from 11am til 8 or 9pm daily. By work, I mean “sit around all day, listening to music and turning people on to quality music.”  Dear 23 qualified as quality music (amazing music! genius music!) in my book and everyone needed to hear this. I think I played that album at least six hours a day every day for a month at least. I was in love with this album.

I wrote a review of the album for a local music newspaper:

Is there something in the water in Seattle, Washington?  Many bands from the Seattle area have recently found themselves releasing debut albums on major labels. One of the most promising of these new bands is Geffen recording artists THE POSIES.

Their album, Dear 23, is reminiscent of the music of The Hollies from the sixties. Lush guitars and striking harmonies are found throughout the album, and they sound extraordinarily good.

However, it is not only the music that makes THE POSIES sound so good, they have have a talent for developing dynamic lyrics. The lyrical diversity ranges from the frustrating hopelessness of “Help Yourself” to the gentle admonition in “You Avoid Parties.” Kenneth Stringfellow and Jonathan Auer have been able to unite the intesity of the music with lyrics that are equally intense.

So, if you’re looking for something new, check out this four-man band from Seattle. THE POSIES are a band that has captured the sound of the sixties, while adding a nineties flair.

The Posies came to town in December 1990. My editor called me a couple weeks before the show: “Hey, that band you like is playing at The Empire – do you want to review the show?” Do I?  “Yes, I do!”  I got the name of the label guy and reported to the venue the night of the show.  “Hey, do you want to meet the band?”  Do I want to meet the band? “Yes, I do!” And away we went to the green room, where I encountered four Posies and a deli tray.  And copies of the newspaper with my review in it. I believe the conversation started like this: “You’re the one who wrote that review!?” “You’re the ones who made that awesome album?” and then continued into one of those magical moments that happen when music lovers bond.  The time quickly came for the show to start – “We have to go play – are you going to stick around after the show?” Am I? “Yes, I am” and off we went, the boys headed to the stage while I positioned myself front and center. It was a fine show.

My review  follows:

I must admit, after listening to The Posies Dear 23 I was a bit apprehensive about seeing them live. Visions of Milli Vanilli were haunting me; I could only hope that The Posies were real.  With notebook and pen in hand, I stepped into The Empire Monday night, silently hoping The Posies wouldn’t let me down. As those of you  who saw the show (or heard it on WMMS) know, The Posies are no Milli Vanilli (THANK GOD!). The Posies are, in fact, one of the most powerful, energetic new bands I’ve seen in a long time.

Opening their set with “My Big Mouth,”  the band jumped into some of the more aggressive songs in their repetoire, including “Under Easy” and “Any Other Way.” In case anyone thought that the Posies are a one-dimensional band, Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow reassured the crowd that there is indeed “a kinder, gentler Posies.”  With this said, bassist Rick Roberts and drummer Mike Musburger left the stage, allowing Auer and Stringfellow to show their vocal and instrumental talents on “You Avoid Parties” and “Apology.”  The only disappointment was the lack of the acoustic guitars on these songs, which were used on the album. The electric guitars caused a bit of feedback on “You Avoid Parties,” but it was quickly fixed. The other band members returned for the rest of the set.

It was evident that The Posies really enjoy performing together as they joked and kidded around both with each other and the audience. They seemed as excited to be on stage as the audience was listening to them.

Afterwards, I sat and talked with Ken and Jon for a long time, and promised to keep in touch.

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MTV Afternoons

(originally written Feb 8, 2003)

When I was in jr. high/high school, I would come home from school and watch MTV until Mom and Dad came home from work. I would sit on the wooden floor, three feet from the set, with my vcr remote control (with a cord connecting it to the back of the box) in my left hand, thumb hovering over the ‘record’ button, waiting impatiently for the next cool video to appear so I could add it to my collection.

This was when MTV played videos.

There also were “World Premiere Videos,”  an event that would require me to take over the tv at 8pm *exactly* so I could tape the latest by music video superstars like Madonna or  Duran Duran. The world premieres were great though, especially if it was someone you liked. If it was someone you liked, you were guaranteed to see a cool video at the top of every hour for the next day or so. If it was someone you didn’t like, well…maybe better to skip MTV for a day or so.

The adrenaline rush moments came when I heard the opening strains of a favorite song, thumb springing into action within the first five seconds in order to capture the entire music video in all its glory. Sometimes, there were false alarms, and then I’d have to stop the tape and try to rewind it enough that I would tape over the mistake, but not the tail end of the last video. VCRs weren’t precise at all.

If it was a good afternoon, I’d see an Ultravox video, followed by the latest Madonna video, followed by maybe David Bowie or Duran Duran. If it was a bad afternoon? If it was a bad afternoon, I would be forced to sit through videos from artists like Def Leppard, Quiet Riot or RATT. Not for this new wave girl.

The worst thing that could happen would be that when I got home and flipped everything on, they would be in the middle of one of the rarest of rare videos. Things like the Sisters of Mercy’s “Black Planet” or The Smiths “How Soon Is Now?”. I’d capture 5 or 10 seconds at best. There were several half-videos on my tapes, but half was better than not seeing it at all.

Sometimes after school, my girlfriends would come over and we’d sit and watch the tapes of all the videos. We’d analyze them for fashion ideas, we’d discuss the merits of the story lines, we’d swoon over the faces of the musicians we adored, we’d argue over who was going to marry which member of Duran Duran.

The girls would also bring over their lastest finds from the record store. 12″ import singles from England, overlooked scores from the cut-out bins, and later, cassettes dug out from the monsterous heap of sale cassettes from places like K-Mart. It was like a scavenger hunt for us; trying to wade throug the muck to find diamonds like Siouxsie and the Banshees or Japan.

Now I can watchVH1 classics or search YouTube and see videos that I didn’t even know existed. On VH1 Classics, in rapid-fire succession, the rat-a-tat fire of Xymox, Ministry, Depeche Mode, Romeo Void, Shriekback. I see REM’s “Wolves, Lower”, followed ten minutes later by The Blue Nile’s “Headlights on the Parade”, neither of which ever graced my eyes back then. It’s a magical flashback, almost like the MTV of our alternative dreams in miraculous slices. It’s a beautiful thing.