Verve, “One Way to Go” (live, fall 1992)
During what I’ve come to realize must have been CMJ in fall 1992, Chris and I met up in the city for two nights of musical mayhem. Friday was the Fontana Records showcase at…was there once a place called the Academy? The bill included Ocean Colour Scene, Catherine Wheel, and House of Love, whose latest album at the time, Babe Rainbow, remains to my mind one of the lost classics of nineties rock. Not that I was able to enjoy the show completely, having smoked my first- and last-ever Winston red down to the bone, attempting to mask the waft of my doobage, and awakened moments later on my back in the men’s room with three bouncers leaning in on me. Chris swept in just in time, taking me out for some air (as he hoisted me up, I saw myself literally green in the bathroom mirror), and then finding us a nice spot in the balcony where I could ride out the rest of the show like a feeb.
Saturday night we caught Eugenius at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, but back when they were still called Captain America. It was a great show, and in most historic retellings would rate as a typical man-they-were-so-awesome-we-were-THERE experience. Except the problem was that afterward, as fast as we tried to get back to Manhattan, all we caught of the next item on our list, Verve at CBGB, was the last song: We got there and Richard Ashcroft was on his damn knees on the stage as Nick McCabe’s laser guitar shot the whole, mostly empty place up. “Gravity Grave.” They hadn’t even put out an album yet, nobody in the U.S. had heard of them, but all summer Chris and I had been obsessed with their single “Man Called Sun,” pumping it in whichever mom car we were able to cop, cruising around Princeton, back and forth from the video store and the bowling alley and the shore.
One song. One song was all we saw, all so we could catch Captain America/Eugenius first. Not to dis “Buttermilk,” which would make it onto a few mixtapes, but Verve—they hadn’t been forced to add the definite article in front of their name yet—was the point of the whole weekend and ended up being one of my guiding-star bands throughout college, and I’d always wonder what the rest of that short set had been like. Until this week, when I came across a bootleg at the Princeton Record Exchange that claims to feature tunes “Live in New York & London 1992.” No other information is provided. And if I am to believe it is true, none further, really, is needed. I was right about Nick McCabe’s laser beams. I can close my eyes and I’m there.