1997: Boy, You Can’t Play Me That Way

In Summer ‘97, I heard a lot of Top 40 radio while working a retail job (actually, it was an “Adult Top 40” station, which translated as Mostly White Without Rocking too Hard). I must have listened to Meredith Brooks’ “Bitch”, OMC’s “How Bizarre” and The Wallflowers “One Headlight” (among many others) at least one hundred times each over a three-month period. I’d like to say it soured me off mainstream radio for good, but even without such overexposure, I’m positive those songs still would not have aged well enough to make my playlist below.

It was around this time I almost entirely stopped putting stock into commercial radio (even mainstream modern rock channels!). Of these 25 songs, the only ones I ever heard on the radio that year were White Town’s brilliant, genderfucked novelty hit and maybe the Cornershop song (the latter probably only on Boston’s then-great indie-rock station WFNX). A few, like “Da Funk”, “Try”, “Stereo” and “She Cries Your Name”, probably came from 120 Minutes. “Smoke” was an exceptional album track from an LP I bought the first week of release, as was Blur’s great “Beetlebum” (number one in the UK but overshadowed in the US by their own surprise novelty hit).

Regardless, I didn’t hear at least one-third of these until post-’97. I’ve already gone on about discovering Ivy four years later; Super Furry Animals, Sleater-Kinney and Teenage Fanclub would also become known to me in that rough period. “Lazy Line Painter Jane” had the most seismic impact in the summer of 2000, when it finally became commercially available in the US, eighteen months after I fell for If You’re Feeling Sinister (the time to discuss it in detail comes later in this project). Remember, ’97 was still mostly pre-internet when it came to hearing new music. I can only imagine how different this list might now be if I had YouTube or Spotify at my disposal back then.

Go here to listen to my favorite tracks of 1997 on Spotify:

  1. Belle and Sebastian, “Lazy Line Painter Jane”
  2. Cornershop, “Brimful of Asha”
  3. Teenage Fanclub, “Ain’t That Enough”
  4. Jen Trynin, “Getaway (February)”
  5. Blur, “Beetlebum”
  6. Daft Punk, “Da Funk”
  7. Bjork, “Joga”
  8. Ivy, “The Best Thing”
  9. White Town, “Your Woman”
  10. Mansun, “Wide Open Space”
  11. Pavement, “Stereo”
  12. Jill Sobule, “Happy Town”
  13. Sleater-Kinney, “Turn It On”
  14. Super Furry Animals, “Hermann Loves Pauline”
  15. Ben Folds Five, “Smoke”
  16. Steve Wynn, “How’s My Little Girl”
  17. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, “Into My Arms”
  18. Depeche Mode, “Home”
  19. Eric Matthews, “No Gnashing Teeth”
  20. Beth Orton, “She Cries Your Name”
  21. Stereolab, “Miss Modular”
  22. Supergrass, “Late in the Day”
  23. Matthew Sweet, “Behind the Smile”
  24. Ween, “Ocean Man”
  25. Michael Penn, “Try”
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