Taking a slight detour today. I’m smack dab in the middle of writing up my last “80’s Weekend” post, which has been up against the usual challenges of time, energy, and motivation. And today, I woke up thinking I just needed a brief change of pace. Not a big one. Just something that’s not definitely ’80s. So I’m going to nudge it forward by a decade to the ’90s for an old L.A. band that I nearly forgot about it.
To be fair, alternative rock outfit Concrete Blonde started around 1987, which technically makes them part of the era I’ve looking to avoid for the day. But my original induction into their slippery, sultry, slinky blues-style vamp rock really happened at the turn of that decade, so that makes it okay.
“Bloodletting” was the name of that album, released in ’90, which would’ve been year four or five of my former music journalism career. Although my listening was never all that consistent, I do remember my introduction to Concrete Blonde, because I had a good relationship with their record label I.R.S. Records at the time. And they’d hook me up with all their latest and greatest, LPs, shows, interviews, etc. Not surprisingly, their roster focused on a lot of fringy ’80s bands – Wall of Voodoo, The Fall, Caterwaul, The Alarm, Timbuk 3, Oingo Boingo, early R.E.M … and of course, Concrete Blonde.
Well, three decades later, I’m lounging around on my couch watching this fun little limited Netflix series titled “Brand New Cherry Flavor,” which is like “Mulholland Drive” via Brett Easton Ellis, full of ’90s Hollywood bad behavior, a fair helping of hallucinatory witchcraft, zombies, more bad behavior, and the girl who starred in Robert Rodriguez’s “Alita: Battle Angel.” Anyway, although the title is a headscratcher, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
But the reason I bring it up is because at the end of episode six (there’s eight total), Concrete Blonde’s concluding track to “Bloodletting,” titled “Tomorrow, Wendy,” soundtracked the (spoiler alert) tragic closing scene.
Besides being era appropriate, in regards to the show’s setting, “Tomorrow, Wendy” is the perfect sort of slow, melancholic ballad that feels both hopeful and hopeless, defiant and at peace, inevitable and uncertain. It possesses a definitive dichotomy of mood, and it slips you right into its beautifully balanced middle. And after hearing it all these years later (and I do mean that, as I probably haven’t heard it in at least 20), it sends a slight chill down my spine – not the cold-shivery kind, but that warm tickle that feels intangibly euphoric.
And damn, I forgot how good of vocalist Johnette Napolitano was back during the “Bloodletting” era. She holds a sheer raw power and edge, even at her most tender, soft-spoken moments. And “Tomorrow, Wendy” is all about those moments.
Give it a listen.
“Tomorrow, Wendy” from the 1990 album “Bloodletting.”
Sadly, Concrete Blonde is no longer active. They officially broke up in ’93, with a couple of reunions interspersed until ’12. But at their height, they were the trio of Napolitano, guitarist James Mankey, and drummer Harry Rushakoff. Although, for “Bloodletting,” Roxy Music’s Paul Thompson assumed drummer duties, while Rushakoff had personal matters to attend to.
I honestly haven’t kept up with Concrete Blonde after “Bloodletting.” I have a vague recollection of their follow-up ’92 LP “Walking in London.” But by that point, I was transitioning out of music journalism and into graphic design, and what was then referred to as multimedia. And I also embraced this rigid all-or-nothing type of personality. So I fully stepped away from the old to embrace the new.
Fortunately, I’m not totally like that anymore. You tend to miss out on a lot, if you stick with the mindset. But even then, I still never really returned to the music of Concrete Blonde.
That’s why I’m going to throw a few more memorable tunes (that I’ve recently revisited) from “Bloodletting,” starting with the title track, a swing and sway scorcher of southern gothic blues rock, which also goes by the name “The Vampire Song.” Think more Anne Rice than “Twilight.”
“Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)” from the 1990 album “Bloodletting.”
And then there’s “Lullabye” and “Caroline,” both of which I used to throw on all my cassette mix tapes back then – which for the uninitiated, was the ’80s-’90s analog answer to contemporary streaming playlists. They scored many adventurous candyflips, which I’ll leave to your own imaginings.
“Lullabye” from the 1990 album “Bloodletting.”
“Caroline” from the 1990 album “Bloodletting.”
That should do it for this Concrete Blonde detour. If all goes well, I should have the final chapter of “80’s Weekend” ready to roll in the next day or so. Until then …