Rock ‘n’ Roll High School 28: New Wave Nerds Love Yo! MTV Raps

I took great joy in reading todays RNRHS entry, from my pal and former Mammoth co-worker, Stuart Nichols.  Like me, Stuart is a music nerd, and I think some of the best of these strolls down the musical memory lane come not from musicians (although you guys are great too, sheesh, don’t everybody turn on me), but from the fans–the people who live music from the other side.  If you’ve ever met Stuart, you will understand why the mental image of super tall, super skinny, super white teenage Stuart at a Public Enemy show is priceless.

Stuart Nichols

East Mecklenburg High School, Charlotte, NC, Class of ’90, Currently: Money wrangler at Universal Pictures (go see Bridesmaids!)

Band and/or song that reminds you the most of high school: New Order. Specifically, the release of the double cassette (!) version of Substance seemed to perfectly synch up with my time in high school. I spent a lot of time on Boy Scout trips, family vacations, and school road trips with the headphones on during my glum teenager phase. My favorite song was probably “Procession”- How could any morose 16-year-old resist these lyrics:

“At night it gets cold and

You’d dearly like to turn away

An escape that fails

Makes the wounds that time won’t heal alone

Alone, alone, alone”

Combine this with the fun Ian Curtis backstory and you’ve got yourself a recipe for good times!

Favorite piece of music memorabilia (poster, t-shirt, etc.) in high school: My Smiths- Queen Is Dead t-shirt. In the back of Spin Magazine you could mail away a dollar to get the Burning Airlines catalog of euro/goth/new wave stuff. As I recall this was a painfully long process- the catalog took 4-6 weeks to get there, then you order some t-shirts and allow for another 6-8 weeks for delivery. Hurry up already! I must immediately show everyone at school how deep and gloomy I am!

I think this created an unnatural anticipation about getting the mail that has lasted to this day- I’m not talking about a delusional Roky Erickson-level mail obsession, but I do love to get the red Netflix envelope. Especially when it contains a documentary about Roky Erickson’s mail obsession.

Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love: Ugh, Pink Floyd. Not the trippy early Syd Floyd, but the bloated, lazy garbage that was post-Syd Floyd. The Wall. Dark Side. And then the godawful inescapable Momentary Lapse of Reason came out. At that point, daytime MTV had devolved into either doofus hair metal or fat David Gilmour mumbling his way through an 8 minute long song in front of a laser beam circle. I think this is part of the reason a new wave nerd like me fell completely in love with Yo! MTV Raps when it started in the afternoons in 1988.

Best show or concert you saw in high school: The Fear of a Black Planet tour- summer 1990, Charlotte Coliseum. Public Enemy, Digital Underground, Kid N Play, Queen Latifah and the Afros. Heavy D & the Boyz was originally supposed to be on the line up, but pulled out after one of the Boyz, Trouble T Roy, died a few weeks before. I think he fell off a lighting rig at an earlier concert. Pete Rock & CL Smooth wrote one of the best hip hop songs ever- “T.R.O.Y.” about him.

Anyway, Digital Underground was great at their Parliamentisms- I’m pretty sure Tupac was one of the 30+ people on stage wearing wigs and costumes. I was (still am) a huge fan of Fear of a Black Planet and was ready for Chuck D yell at me and feel guilty about being white and from the suburbs. Chuck definitely delivered while the somewhat scary S1Ws marched around waving their plastic Uzis at us. Being my first hip-hop show, I wasn’t prepared for all the waving of my hands in the air like I didn’t care and saying hooooooo. It was exhausting work, but with your whiteness already working against you, you didn’t want Public Enemy to get even more angry with you than they already were…

Optional bonus question: Best high school make-out song: As you may have guessed from the above, not really applicable to my high school years. However, I did discover Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks my freshman year of college.

5 Comments on “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School 28: New Wave Nerds Love Yo! MTV Raps

  1. Having worked for several years with Stuart, I can vouch for his love of the mailman’s arrival. Every day, he would come out of his office, rubbing his hands together, saying, “Is the mail here yet?” excited to dig through the mail bin for treats. I miss that.

    • Kerry, you know, it’s funny but I totally forgot about that. As soon as Stuart mentioned it in his post, I was like, “Right! Stuart loved getting the mail!” Too funny.

      • There was a very good chance that there would be free promo CDs in that mail! Why do you think I hosted the New Music Show at XYC? So I could open that mail too.

  2. I was at that PE show in Charlotte, Stuart. Wow. I hightailed it from the Coliseum to the Milestone to see Vanilla Trainwreck,then rode in their van back to the Hill. Wowza…

  3. Am I trippin’, or did Chuck D bring Louis Farrakhan on stage at this show?

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