(Above: LP cover for Welcome Home, 1987)
In the summer of 1985 I got to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for the first time. It was the Southern Accents tour, perhaps now more famous for the concert shirts featuring the Confederate flag on them as “Rebels” was the single the record company was pushing. (While still a great track, the album yielded much better fare, such as “Make It Better (Forget About Me)” and, of course, the Alice in Wonderland video that accompanied “Don’t Come Around Here No More.”)
Normally I don’t pay any mind to opening acts unless they’re already established. (Sometimes this backfires: in 1987, before starting in radio, I saw Aerosmith with an opening act called “Guns and Roses” or something like that.) The opening act at that particular Petty show was a band I decided I liked with a cute singer called ‘Til Tuesday. Since I wasn’t exactly immersed in modern music in ’85 (hey, we had a full time Oldies station in WJMK, and I was listening to that), I didn’t realize that the band had legitimate hit record in “Voices Carry,” which made it to #8 on the Billboard charts. It’s a pretty song about a complicated relationship, which I’m guessing many people missed since it had such a singable chorus. The band’s stage performance was a little wooden. Aimee Mann, the lead singer who caught my attention, simply said “Thank you” at the end of each number. But that didn’t stop me from looking for the album after the show.
Their follow-up LP, 1986’s Welcome Home, was a little darker-sounding. The first single from the album, “What About Love,” seemed peppy at first listen until you realize that it’s about another complicated relationship. But the song that jumped out at me was “Coming Up Close.” It’s a tale of – yet another complicated relationship, this time a sort of missed connection. The jangly guitar and haunting vocal made it the sort of thing I loved to throw into my college radio shows. The song missed the mark, stalling at #59 on the pop chart but getting some attention from rock radio.
In the fall of 1988 the band put out a third album, Everything’s Different Now. We gave the title track a bunch of airplay at WLRA, but there weren’t enough others doing the same to help it become a hit. (Heck, just on the airplay on my show alone this should have charted.) A second single, “(Believed You Were) Lucky,” barely dented the chart – and ‘Til Tuesday was, essentially, no more. Legal trouble with the label kept Mann from recording solo for a few years, but in 1992 she set out on that career. In 1995 she released an album called I’m With Stupid. From that one, I recommend “You’re With Stupid Now.” It’s a song about – you guessed it – a complicated relationship. The vocals, though, are stunning.
“Coming Up Close” is another one of those songs that should have been a bigger hit than it was. It’s also one that should turn up in more of those 80s weekends that local radio likes to do. It evokes a clear picture of that mid-to-late-80s female singer/songwriter vibe that doesn’t get much attention in favor of yet another spin for Bon Jovi or Pat Benatar. Maybe this can get fixed? (Hell, even one of the Tom Petty tracks I mentioned earlier would be an improvement.)
To hear ‘Til Tuesday perform “Coming Up Close,” click here. You might also want to check out Aimee Mann’s solo version of it. Picture the same angst, just from an older woman’s point of view. (It’s the same thing she did with “Voices Carry,” which works much better this way.)