The Instant Fan Chronicles, Part 1

Sometimes, one song is all it takes

The Instant Fan Chronicles, Part 1
It was a pretty cool video, after all

Having endured the agony of a hard drive crash in the past, I am what some might consider to be unreasonably fussy regarding my digital storage — although I do most of my business on a laptop, I have a pair of external drives that store untold terabytes of stuff, mostly music, all of it mirrored between the two. One of them recently died, so I purchased a new one, which means I recently went to the trouble of copying a whole bunch of files from one hard drive to another — all of which means I've recently been reacquainted with the stuff I'm storing, and given that I haven't listened to a lot of it in a long time, it's left me in something of a nostalgic mood. That, coupled with the fact that it's getting sort of late and I'm pressed for a post this evening, has inspired me to line up ten tracks that made me an instant (albeit not always lasting) fan of the act in question:

"He's Got a Way with Women," A.J. Croce
I was on the Private Music mailing list in the early '90s, which is how I ended up with a copy of A.J. Croce's first album. I wasn't a huge Jim Croce fan, so it didn't really mean anything to me that his son grew up to be a musician in his own right — but the music itself hit me where it counted, particularly this song, which probably struck me as more clever than it actually is. The album this originally came from appears to be out of print; happily, it's been preserved on a compilation titled Early On.

"Four Leaf Clover," Abra Moore
If you're a hardcore music fan, you've probably got a mental list of artists whose failure to break through commercially dumbfounds and saddens you. Abra Moore has been on my list since the early aughts — her Strangest Places album hit my ears as a hit in waiting, and I still believe it might have gained a lot more traction had it not been released through the soon-to-be-shuttered Arista Austin imprint. (Radney Moore's superb See What You Want to See album, which features Abra on vocals, is another unjust casualty of the Arista Austin situation.) As far as I can tell, Ms. Moore is still kicking around, making music here and there, but it's been ages since she released a full-length album. This is a sad state of affairs.

"Coging's Glory," Adrian Legg
A guitarist's guitarist, Adrian Legg enjoyed an admirably lengthy stretch of under-the-radar popularity in the '90s, releasing a string of records via the guitar-centric Relativity imprint and making a name for himself as a live performer whose charming crowd patter was almost as impressive as his dextrous playing. I was also on the Relativity mailing list in the early '90s, which is how I ended up with a copy of Legg's 1992 release Guitar for Mortals; having no idea whatsoever who he was, I was left gomper-jawed by the leadoff track. I still love it.

"Ready or Not," After 7
R&B can be a pretty brutal genre when it comes to trying to build a long career — although audiences everywhere are pretty fickle, I feel like peeling off one, two, three, or even four big hits from one record means diddly shit when it comes to this particular crowd. Case in point: After 7, who bum-rushed the charts in '89 and '90 with a sterling pedigree (two members were Babyface's brothers) and a slew of radio-ready singles. I was all in as soon as I heard "Ready or Not," which sounds like what would happen if a bottle of Drakkar Noir could have wooed with song in 1990. I still play it sometimes when I'm in the mood to torment my wife.

"That's Just What You Are," Aimee Mann
Let me be clear: Vast chunks of Aimee Mann's discography do nothing at all for me, and try as I might, I come away from many of her records feeling as if I've been subject to a particularly eloquent depressive episode. And look, I know this song was originally brought to us courtesy of Melrose Place, a show I have never watched but am still aware is not exactly fit to touch the hem of Aimee Mann's garment — but still, she makes a fine harmonic fit for Difford and Tilbrook, who lend backing vocals and guitar. Distills the mid-'90s into four minutes and change, and will likely make you nostalgic for that period even if you weren't around for it.

"I Can Wait Forever," Air Supply
I'm sure I was aware of Air Supply's various early '80s hits as a child, but this is the first one I remember really listening to. This is 100 percent because it was featured on the Ghostbusters soundtrack, which held a place of honor in the family van's tape deck in 1984 — which also happened to be the year I spent many months melodramatically pining for a girl in my fourth-grade class who moved to Oregon before I could work up the nerve to confess my undying love. I still can't hang with the majority of this band's oeuvre, but the tiny little balls on this song (not to mention those 10cc-style backing vocals) are all right by me. Dig the gear shift key change toward the end! I must not be alone in my appreciation, as this is perplexingly the second-most streamed track on the album. Swoon with me, fellow melodramatic fourth-graders.

"Nite and Day," Al B. Sure!
Back to what I was saying about longevity a little while ago. Mr. Sure! made a pretty big splash with his 1988 debut LP In Effect Mode, which featured this addictively ethereal number as well as a gender-flipped cover of "Killing Me Softly," but by the time he returned two years later with his sophomore outing, no one really gave a shit. (In retrospect, opening that album with a cover of "Hotel California" might not have been the best idea.) Anyway, there remains a part of me that would be perfectly happy if all I ever heard was this song and the System's deathless classic "Don't Disturb This Groove" on a back-to-back loop until I die. Another song I sometimes play if I want to annoy my wife.

"Moonlighting," Al Jarreau
No surprises here. As with Air Supply, I'm sure I'd absorbed several of Al Jarreau's hits via osmosis as a young person, but it wasn't until I started watching Moonlighting after coming home from Boy Scouts meetings on Tuesday nights that I really started to give a shit. My poor sainted wife also hates the hell out of this song ("It doesn't even have a chorus!"), but she's so wrong. So, so wrong.

"Feel Like," Al Stewart
Like many music fans in the '90s, I spent an inordinate amount of time haunting the aisles of various used CD stores, particularly those equipped to allow their customers to listen to the product before buying it. It's been more than 30 years, so I don't exactly recall anymore, but I'm relatively certain that after picking up Al Stewart's Famous Last Words, I listened to no more than half of "Feel Like" before adding it to the "stuff I'm gonna buy" stack. This turned out to be a bad investment — I don't remember any of the rest of the album — but it provided a denoument of sorts to the many years I spent gazing at my parents' vinyl copy of Year of the Cat and thinking the contents might be kind of cool.

"Don't Answer Me," The Alan Parsons Project
As a kid, Alan Parsons struck me as a sort of white Quincy Jones — his name was on the albums, but he didn't sing or maybe even play on his band's (sorry, project's) songs. I still have next to no understanding of the convoluted ins and outs of this act's various personnel, but I can tell you that "Don't Answer Me" was definitely one of those songs that I became entranced with after I happened to catch a whiff of it during its last minute or two on the radio or MTV. To this day, I haven't listened to a minute from 99 percent of the APP catalog, but I still remember my ten-year-old ears perking up for this song. Replaying it as I write this, I have no regrets. Eric Woolfson and Mel Collins, you were both born to channel the Wall of Sound.