Back in the balmy, comparatively carefree days of 2006, I compiled a somewhat sprawling list of albums that I sheepishly referred to as “guilty pleasures,” despite the fact that, as the 39-year-old I was at the time, I had pretty much stopped caring about such things. Eleven years later, the 49-year-old (oy!) me cares even less if certain bits of music I listen to aren’t perceived as cool or hip or credible, especially in an era when laughable bullshit like Drake is widely considered the height of musical achievement.
In any case, amidst the 40 entries I cited was this one… lovingly re-purposed for your reading pleasure.
#17. Amplified Heart by Everything But the Girl: Andrew Eldritch of the Sisters of Mercy once posted on his band's website that he not only loathed and despised Everything But the Girl, but that they were also the ugliest people imaginable (yeah, like you're such a jar of eye-candy, Andrew). Regardless, Amplified Heart sank its talons into me in late `92 when I was busy wasting vast amounts of time and energy wallowing in a viscous puddle of self-pity after being dumped by someone I really shouldn't have been dating in the first place (never fish off the company dock), and Everything But the Girl's pleasantly despondent pop tunes fit the situation to a tee. After this album, the band achieved hep cache by their affiliation with Massive Attack (EBTG vocalist, Tracey Thorn sang on a few cuts on the Trip Hop trio's gorgeous second album, Protection, not least the smoldering title track). Last I heard, Everything But the Girl were back to being decidedly not-hip. Amplified Heart remains a great, emotional tonic for newly-dumpeds and potential stalkers. BEST BIT: Tracy's mournful moan at exactly 02:06 into "Missing."
There’s a bit of an error here. While I suggest that this EBTG album “sank its talons” into me in late 1992, that would have been impossible, being that it didn’t actually come out until 1994, a banner year for music that saw the release of amazing records by Portishead, Massive Attack, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and even my beloved faves in Cop Shoot Cop and Killing Joke. 1992, however, was when the doomed office romance I alluded to went down, and I was regrettably still carrying a torch about it two years later, when Amplified Heart arrived (which is why its standout track, “Missing,” meant so much to me, at the time). If anything, EBTG’s wistful melancholy was the last thing I should have been listening to at the time. I should have been blazing new trails into greener pastures, but … y’know … shoulda woulda coulda, etc.
Anyway, to this day, tracks from Amplified Heart continue to remind me of being needlessly miserable in the early-to-mid 90’s, when I should have otherwise been living it up. This isn’t to say, however, that the music isn’t really great. Case in point, “Rollercoaster,” the album’s opening salvo.
While entirely mellifluous, “Rollercoaster” mines the same deep well of stifling self-deprecation evident in “Missing.” In fact, with fleeting exception, Amplified Heart (to say nothing of the rest of the band’s catalog) seems largely preoccupied with the fallout of romantic mismanagement. While I’d always assumed “Missing” was the album’s flagship single, it turns out “Rollercoaster” prefigured it in that capacity. As such, they shot a video for it that I’d never seen until a couple of weeks ago (when I first starting penning this post). Beyond the song’s afore-cited resonance with my star-crossed entanglements in the early 90’s, viewing the video immediately inspired this post, as it turns out the clip was filmed in New York City.
The first thing that jumped out at me, while watching the clip was that big window. Here’s Tracy strumming mournfully as she takes in a spectacular view.
Now, given that EBTG hail from Hull (the same Northern English town that spawned the markedly peppier pop outfit, The Housemartins), the notion of vocalist Tracy Thorn sojourning in an expansive (and, doubtlessly expensive) Manhattan apartment with vast picture windows might seem slightly incongruous, but there she is. And, if you spend any time around Greenwich Village, you might recognize those very same windows as being those belonging to the top floor of 80 Fifth Avenue, which looms over its westerly stretch of that byway just steps to the south of 14th Street. From the outside, It looks like this…
And in 1942, it looked not too different.
I’ve actually been in this building – and on that top floor, no less – for a couple of functions. My kids’ school formerly held annual auctions there, wherein parents were plied with an open bar and goaded into indiscriminately bidding on items invariably worth far less than the sums they’d fetch. The views from that top perch are indeed remarkable, although its eastern-facing vista is now compromised by New School’s comparatively recent, space-station-esque facility, the University Center.
That said, in 1994 (when this video was shot), the New School’s old building still stood across the street, and being a comparatively squat and artless structure a fraction of the new building’s height, I suspect it wouldn’t have impeded glum Tracy’s eastern-facing views in the slightest – presuming that her fictitious apartment had both north- and east-facing exposure.
Pricey-albeit-fictitious real-estate projection aside, the clip for “Rollercoaster” also features images of West 3rd Street and shots of Lafayette Street. I cannot be certain at this late stage in the proceedings, but I want to say that the nightclub depicted in the clip is from the former interior of the live music venue, Fez, which used to operate under a restaurant called the Time Café at 380 Lafayette. I cannot remember when it closed, but both Fez and the Time Café are long gone, briefly replaced by shoddy venture called the Chinatown Brasserie (despite being nowhere near Chinatown) and is now a somewhat high-falutin’ bakery called solely Lafayette, although I have no idea what goes on in the space underneath that used to be Fez.
Anyway, without further ado, here is “Rollercoaster” by Everything But the Girl. Ready your handkerchiefs!