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Ok. I know I’ve told this story before, at least a part of it, but I’m going to tell it again.
After I graduated high school, I took a year off, partly because I couldn’t afford the steep tuition fees for university and partly because I wasn’t ready. My parents knew it and deep down, I knew it too. It all worked out in the end but at the time, I was pretty sore about it.
The idea was that I would find work and save up. But there was a big flaw in the plan: finding a job in my small hometown was near impossible. I had found a job at a Becker’s Milk in October 1992 but that only lasted six weeks or so, through no fault of mine, and I was back pounding the pavement. I found a bit more luck the following spring when my high school drama teacher’s name on my reference list caught the eye of the owner of one of our town’s more reputable bar and grills. The King Street Bar & Grill, to be exact.
My first scheduled shift was a Thursday night, aka, Wing night, and after about an hour and a half of washing dishes, they finally got me doing some food prep. I was shown the correct way to locate the joints on a chicken wing, handed a big knife and cutting board, and was set to the task of separating the drumette from the wingette and disposing of the tip for three cases of wings. It was mindless and mundane work and if I didn’t love them so much, it might’ve put me off of wings for life.
Luckily for me, I had the radio nearby and the head cook for the night (whose name is forever lost to me) didn’t care if I changed the station, as long as I kept the wings coming. I quickly moved the dial from the country station to which it had been set and found Toronto’s alternative station, still called CFNY at that time. Now I may be remembering this part wrong* but I feel like they used to have a half hour new music show, on which they would test out new songs on the listening audience to see if they would fly in the regular music rotation. And I feel like one of the songs featured that evening was the latest, long awaited single by synth pop icons, Depeche Mode.
This was the age before the internet and I had yet to come across articles featuring the band in the music magazines** and David Gahan’s radically different, long-haired and bearded look. So I had no idea what I was in for when “I feel you” first came on and I was confronted with that screaming intro, followed by the bluesy guitar lick and drum line. The vocals were so obviously Gahan, though, and I fell for the tune from the beginning. I went out and bought the CD, “Songs of faith and devotion”, as soon as I was able, and welcomed the group’s new direction.
To this day, “I feel you” is still one of my favourite Mode tunes, and it came in at number three when I counted down my top five favourites of their 90s tracks. It is an explosion of sex and religion. It is an iconoclastic synth pop band paying tribute to rock without giving in to mass culture. It is a band thirteen years into their career, surviving crises and at the same time, finding a new path. It is heaven and hell at the same time. Hallelujah.
*Whether I am remembering this part right or not, what is indisputable, at least to myself, is that on this night, I heard this song for the very first time.
**This would come in the weeks that followed. First pay check in hand, I went out and purchased a copy of the latest Creem that featured them on the cover and voraciously read the article.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 1993 list, click here.