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After awhile, you forget how much time has actually passed since those days. But then you hear a particular song that you haven’t heard in years, or you’re cleaning out the garage and digging through your old CD and cassette collections and then frantically looking for your old CD and cassette players because you want to hear what your life sounded like back then. You know what I mean: Remember those days when you got your paycheck from your terrible after-school job and couldn’t wait to blow it at the record store?
The music, once you find that old tape deck, sounds as fresh and airy as it did when you bought that cassette 25 years ago. And then you pause for a second to wrap your head around the number: 25 years. How’d that happen?
If you think back to the late ’80s and early ’90s, you may fondly remember that period as the college-radio renaissance. Pioneers like R.E.M. and The Pretenders put the genre on the radar years earlier, and when hair bands gave way to grunge bands on the mainstream stations, it was the underground garage mystique of college radio that represented those of us who liked the grunge sound — but whose musical taste was more on the margins of pop culture. It was college radio that promulgated the sounds of bands like Radiohead and The Cranberries before KROQ ever did. The best band of them all, to me, was a quartet from outside of London who called themselves The Sundays. Theirs was an effervescent sound with consistently sonorous bass lines and dependably bold guitar riffs. And the voice of the band was what an angel must sound like as she gusts a foggy blithe spirit about Bristol.
The Sundays spoke to me — they spoke to all of us high school and college-age kids who felt a little awkward at that particular place in time. Our experiences on this side of the Atlantic were akin to what lead singer Harriet Wheeler sang about on the other side: “I can see how people look down/I’m on the outside.”
Perhaps that’s why 25 years after I bought my copy of their first album, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, I can cue up their breakthrough single, “Here’s Where the Story Ends,” and transport myself back to my parents’ den and our 19-inch Sony, broadcasting the video on MTV, faster and with more clarity than any stargate ever could. Over the years, I’ve had The Sundays’ CDs in my various cars. When those cars were broken into and the CDs stolen, I’d buy them again. The music never got old, the melodies never stale, and I never got tired of the headspace Harriet’s voice put me in, combined with the sounds of guitarist David Gavurin, bassist Paul Brindley and drummer Patrick Hannan. I was just a kid when I saw these kids perform at the Cleveland Agora in 1993 in support of their second album, Blind. Now I have kids of my own, and they can sing most of Blind by heart.
I’ve been nostalgic for those days lately, and rarely have I seen a concert since 1993 that was performed with as much raw emotion as The Sundays’ was. But here’s the rub: They haven’t been heard from since 1997. Harriet and David went on hiatus to raise their two children. And they never came back.
Still, my memory of that band and those days refuses to age, so I tracked down Paul Brindley, the bass player, whose grooves inspired me to learn to play bass. These days, he’s the CEO and co-founder of Music Ally, a London-based company that explores and implements ways in which music and technology can co-evolve. Brindley is innovative with this business model, just as he was on the bass 25 years ago. When we spoke over an international line, my questions of yesteryear were unexpected to be sure, yet a welcome stroll down memory lane. “We were fortunate to be around at a time when the industry was at its height of sales,” Brindley says. “The opportunities to go over to America, and coming through the college route as we did, was a comfortable way of reaching an audience. In the early days of the band, I wasn’t as interested in the overall industry, but as I got older and saw what was happening with technology and the impact of the Internet, that became something I got very interested in, and it’s what I’m doing now. But it started because I had contacts through The Sundays.”
Paul was a nice bloke and volunteered to nudge Harriet and Dave to do an interview. Understand, won’t you, what a tall order that was, since Harriet and Dave have essentially shied away from the media for the past 17 years. But I’m a pest and Paul’s a good guy, and Harriet and Dave provided American Way with a world exclusive.
Moreover, we’re pleased to introduce a whole new generation to The Sundays’ music and take some of you down a memory lane of your own with our selection of The Sundays’ songs for your in-flight listening pleasure (for more information, turn to page 68).
After you recognize and then come to grips with how much time has actually passed since those days, there’s a eureka moment that makes you grin. You can’t go home again, though the really good music of your past will bring you back to that particular place in time. The music may not plot your future course, but sometimes being happy is good enough. For me, it’s that little souvenir of some colorful years, which makes me smile inside.