Friday, February 6, 2009

34 Greatest Albums: Del Amitri - 'Waking Hours'

College is cataclysmic. All parental restriction removed. All home town perception washed away. Reinvention reigns.

Unless you go to college in your hometown and live at home. Which I did. University of Rhode Island, Kingston. My parents house is about a mile off campus. My dad worked for 42 years in the library there and walked to and from work every day. So college was much less of a shock to the system for me as it was for my friends who went out into the great wide world.

I don't know how they did it frankly. Because it still blew my mind, as slight as the transition was. My freshman year I stayed in a dorm. Hated it. Sophomore year I moved back home, saving a lot of money and headache. I also didn't have to share a room with anyone anymore. Junior year, the year in which I first heard Del Amitri's 'Waking Hours' I lived in a house 'down the line' which in URI terms meant a rental house 15-20 minutes off campus near the beach.

I shared the house with Todd and Christian, both seniors. Christian I knew from the theater department and Todd was a friend of his. CD players were still quite new but all three of us were music junkies with wildly different taste. This led to many evenings playing what we called 'The DJ Game' where we would rotate song choices and whatever you chose had to somehow connect to the song before it. Beer was involved.

The fun part of this was getting to know someone elses record collection through their eyes. I gained a new appreciation for classic rock that hadn't bloomed yet due to my punk roots. Suddenly .38 Special could somehow be connected to The Dead Kennedys.

I don't know if I can adequately describe the atmosphere in the house. An 8 foot road sign that Christian had dismantled rested against the wall in the living room. We arbitrarily decided that our next door neighbors were our enemies. We saw them studying on a Saturday night once and wrote them off forever. Things came to a head one night because we could see one of them wearing a terry cloth bathrobe. Shortly thereafter a bottle rocket streamed from our elevated porch through their kitchen screen door.

The cops arrived. Our friend who'd actually set the bottle rocket off told us to hide in my bedroom. He then spent a good half hour trying to convince the cops not to take him in. Once he realized that wasn't going to work he took his sweet time getting ready. He decided he wanted to change his clothes. They said no, let's go now. He changed his clothes. He decided he wanted a glass of milk. They said no, let's go now. He drank his milk. He reverted back to his original argument. He's a lawyer now. All the while Todd and I lay in a dark room on the floor half petrified half in hysterics.

Christian's car the Wax Bean Bomber was a danger to the public at large. When taking a right turn flames would stream out of the engine. I am not kidding. He avoided right turns.

He once was kidnapped by a bachelorette party. They came into a bar he was at and picked him out. He then spent 14 hours with a group of amoral hotties who were determined to torture their friend who was getting married with the fact that she couldn't do X anymore, they could still do Y if they wanted, she'd never get to Z now that she was headed to the altar. The red plastic handcuffs used to keep him in line hung on his wall. He had pictures to prove it.

Most of the time Todd and I sat back and watched him go. Occasionally we'd get drawn into his shenanigans and then we were a true force of chaos. We called each other Skippy. 3 Skippys.

Somewhere this year I heard a song on the radio. It was called 'Kiss This Thing Good Bye' and it struck a chord with me. I bought the album. For quite a time it cancelled out the DJ Game as we only listened to this album. All 3 of us were mired in the midst of the usual college dating nightmare. This album spoke to us directly.

We went to The Living Room and saw Del Amitri in front of a crowd of maybe 40 people. They'd been on tour the better part of a year and a half and were clearly going stir crazy. They'd had a 'weird facial hair' competition. One guy had stripes shaved into one side of his beard. The other side was shaved clean. They blew the place apart.

Later over the summer, after the album had become quite a hit, we saw them open for Melissa Etheridge at Great Woods. We may have been the only people who left after they performed.

I'll forever remember standing on the roof with the 2 other Skippys, Del Amitri playing at call-the-cops levels, looking over the tops of all the houses down the line, seeing the sun reflect off the ocean, and having no idea what was going to happen next.

I miss those guys.

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