Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The End of the Eighties, Track 17

“Jump in the River”
Sinéad O’Connor
I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got

It was difficult not to pick the obvious Sinéad O’Connor song here (like I did with the Cowboy Junkies’ selection earlier on the playlist). “Nothing Compares 2 U” is epic in every way and deserving of its recognition. The strings and verge-of-tears vocals over Prince’s heart wrenching lyrics are a perfect storm of emotion. I remember the video coming on MTV while home from college and calling my mom into the room to watch it, and gushing about how beautiful O’Connor was and those amazing green eyes and trying to put into words the way the song touched me. (The significance of this occasion may be lost over the years, but this was actually an olive branch of sorts – an attempt at connecting with my mom and letting her into my world – given the tempestuous state of my relationship with my parents during my punk phase.) The album that followed shortly after that first proper single was wrapped in stark passion and right in the crosshairs of my musical awareness.

But “Jump in the River” is the one that holds specific Bowling Green memories. Located right on Main Street in downtown BG, Uptown/Downtown was already a ten-year-old fixture in the small college town by the time we arrived on campus. I had no interest in Downtown’s sports bar, but Uptown’s dance club was a perfectly acceptable option.

The ritual of getting ready to go out now seems almost as important as the night out itself was – eyeliner and black lipstick, black tights under ripped jeans, these crazy black boots I had bought the year before, and the black leather motorcycle jacket I bought on consignment in BG (and plastered with NIN and Ministry stickers) all played a role. Throw in a pack of cigarettes and the Zippo lighter John’s dad gave me years before, and the costume was accessorized.

I remember very little about the inside of Uptown other than ubiquitous crowds and sweat and thumping music. I’m pretty sure “college alternative” nights were on Wednesdays back in the day, but I say that without any sense of certainty. I do know we danced at Uptown to “Jump in the River”. The gunshot ricochet opening and driving percussion make it one of the hardest tracks on I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got. Co-written by O’Connor and Marco Pirroni, he of the seminal punk pedigree, I still love the song’s imagery… 

Real world kisses (“I thought I tasted of too many cigarettes, but you tasted like wine.”) give way to the fascination of a relationship never meant to last (“It’s all been a gorgeous mistake / A sick one, a clean one, the best one God ever made”). Over Pirroni’s screeching feedback guitar, O’Connor describes all the turmoil of young love and lust in a single couplet: “There’s been days like this before, you know, and I liked it all / Like the times we did it so hard there was blood on the wall.” This was music that spoke to me in the same way The The’s Mind Bomb expanded my world.

Originally found alongside the likes of New Order, Debbie Harry, Ziggy Marley, Tom Tom Club, and Brian Eno, the song was the lead off of Jonathan Demme’s stellar (and underrated) Married to the Mob soundtrack, meaning “Jump in the River” was actually released a year before O’Connor’s album.

Among the selections on I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, there are certainly songs I prefer to “Jump in the River” – the slow build from a cappella to the stirring drum and acoustic guitar finale of “The Last Day of Our Acquaintance” springs immediately to mind – but this song makes the most sense based on its ties to nights out at Bowling Green and flow within the playlist.