Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Luscious Jackson - "Naked Eye" Maxi-Single

If it weren't for Throwing Muses, I might never have gotten to like this song. Let me explain (and don't worry, this isn't a post about the Muses - this will eventually get around to Luscious Jackson; just bear with me):

I've been a fan of Throwing Muses (fronted by Kristen Hersh and Tanya Donnelly, two half-sisters from Newport, RI) ever since 1990, when I first heard their album Hunkpapa. A lot of critics considered that album to be one of their weakest; many songs off of it, like "Dizzy" and "Fall Down", seem like they were crafted to order for alt-rock radio. But I thought the album was great, and from Hunkpapa, I went back and acquired the band's entire back catalogue.

As much as I loved Throwing Muses, I never had the opportunity to see them live. Every time I had the chance, something unavoidable would occur to prevent me from going to the show. For example, they came to town five days after I moved overseas - then when I moved back to the States, they played in the place I lived overseas a couple of weeks later. Or the show I was set on seeing would be cancelled. Stuff like this with this band happened four or five times to me - I used to jokingly refer to it as "The Curse of The Muses".

When I was up in Cambridge, MA in 1996, for my grad school summer internship, it appeared that I would finally get my chance to see a Throwing Muses show. A couple of days before I had to leave for Virginia, at the end of that summer, the Muses were scheduled to play at TT The Bear's Place in Central Square, mere walking distance from where I was living (they were touring on Limbo, their latest album). I had a dinner engagement that same evening up in Manchester, NH, but I knew that I could easily attend that and still have ample time to get back to Cambridge to see the show. I was really looking forward to finally seeing this band.

The dinner up in New Hampshire took a little longer that I anticipated, and I left the function at just about the time I figured I would need to get back to see the show. I zipped my Porsche 928 the highway and got back into the Boston area in a hurry, but not quickly enough to be able to park my car at my temporary home and walk/run the several blocks to TT The Bear's in time for the start of the show. So I drove straight to Central Square and began looking for parking near the club. Parking right on Mass. Avenue was all but impossible, so I started down the side streets near TT's, looking for a space - up Sidney Street; down Brookline Street; up Pearl Street toward Green . . .

I saw the car coming at me out of the corner of my left eye an instant before I was hit, just the flash and glare of headlights barrelling down on me at tremendous speed. There wasn't time enough to think or comprehend what was happening, or what was going to happen, before I heard the loud and violent bang of metal on metal, and felt my left shoulder being thrown up against the driver's side door. There were CDs and other junk in the passenger seat beside me - I distinctly recall my copy of Cocteau Twins' Love's Easy Tears EP sort of floating in the air beside me for a moment, before flying past my head and into the back seat.

In an instant, it was over, and I found myself pointing not up Pearl Street, my original destination, but turned just over 90 degrees to the right, now pointing up Green and looking down the street at the back of the car that just creamed me.

What had happened was these two teenage shitheads (I think they were both no older than 18 or 19) from the North Shore had taken the station wagon (yeah, for real - an actual station wagon) belonging to one of their mothers out for a spin in Boston. Feeling giddy with their newfound sense of freedom (and, perhaps, from the booze bottles they had somehow gotten hold of during their journey to the city), they decided to play Starsky & Hutch through Cambridge, blasting through quiet back streets and crossroads . . . and right through a double-STOP sign at the intersection of Pearl and Green, where I (who had the right-of-way) unfortunately came into their path.

If they had T-boned me, I probably wouldn't have been in too great a shape. But fortunately for me (if there is something fortunate to come out of this event), the dumbasses struck the Porsche in the left front fender, behind the headlight and in front of the tire. The angle of impact spun me around, and left the entire front of my car with a queer, slewed-to-one-side look about it. I gotta say though, that those Porsche 928s are built pretty solid. Those boys were doing 45-55 MPH through those streets when they whacked me, but my car is low to the ground and weighs over a ton and a half. That limited the spinning, and the damage - the wreck didn't break a single piece of glass on the car, not even the headlight. And thankfully, I wasn't hurt at all, just a little shaken up.

Their station wagon, however, was damn near totaled; the front end was completely smushed in, with steam rising up from under the crumpled hood and fluid oozing out all over the road. These boys KNEW they were in the shit - not just with the police (who arrived instantly, and the station was only a block or two away), but also with the car's owner, since they were going to have to explain how they destroyed it and why the owner was now liable for damage to a Porsche as well.

Resolving the accident - getting insurance info, talking to the police, watching my car get towed away - took the rest of the night. Needless to say, I didn't get to the Throwing Muses show. The Curse had struck again! In fact, I never had another opportunity to see them live again - the band went on indefinite hiatus immediately after the Limbo tour ended, never to reform.

Anyway, a couple of days later I left for Virginia, in the rental car provided by the speeder's insurance company, while my car remained in Massachusetts getting worked on, on their dime (I insisted on the fix, rather than compensation - I loved that car, and wanted it back). It took them several weeks to repair my car; when I finally got the word in late October that it was ready, I took the bus from Charlottesville to DC, then the overnight train from DC to Boston to go pick it up.

The repair shop did a beautiful job with the Porsche; it looked good as new. Before I left town, I drove around for a bit, enjoying the feeling of being behind the wheel of my old friend once again, visiting some of my old haunts in the area and listening to WFNX, my favorite Boston alternative music station. And that was when and where I first heard Luscious Jackson's "Naked Eye" - WFNX had it on semi-heavy rotation at the time.

Luscious Jackson was formed in New York City in 1993 by four women, including Kate Schellenbach, the original drummer (and only female member) of The Beastie Boys (she appears on their first two EP releases, Pollywog Stew and Cooky Puss). In its lifetime, the band issued several albums, singles and EPs, all released on Grand Royal Records (the Beastie Boys' private label), and had some success in alt-rock circles. 1996-1997 was their most successful period, with their second album, Fever In/Fever Out (helmed by U2 producer Daniel Lanois), spawning several hits, including "Naked Eye", the band's only Top 40 hit.

During my drive back down the East Coast to Virginia, it seems I heard "Naked Eye" everywhere - not just on alternative stations. Mainstream radio was picking up on it as well. By the time I got back to Charlottesville, the song was ingrained in my brain. Soon after I returned, I went downtown to Plan 9 Records and picked up the CD single. According to, there were no less than ten(!) versions of the "Naked Eye" single issued, all with different mixes of the song on it. My version includes the following:

1 Naked Eye (Radio Edit) 4:10
2 Naked Eye (Totally Nude Mix) 5:12
3 Naked Eye (Suntan Knee-Hi Mix - Instrumental) 4:38

Luscious Jackson put out one more album, the poorly-received Electric Honey in 1999, before calling it quits in 2000. But this song was probably their peak; there was no place else to go but down after this. So here you are - enjoy:

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  1. good story! nice writing. i feel like this is a good trend, i can pirate music and read obscure personal memoir materials. north shore kids can be such jerks. then again im from CT.

  2. Ha ha - thank you for the delightfully backhanded compliment - I laughed out loud when I read it the first time!

  3. good story, thanks for the download, excited to hear the instrumental. i first heard of this band through the t.v. show "pete and pete" that aired on nickalodeon in the 90s. they are the band at the dance in the episode where iggy pop plays nona's father. double whammy!

  4. Very happy that you are happy, Gold Leaf! I hope you find more here that you enjoy!

  5. Check out a podcast review of Fever In Fever Out and an interview with singer/bassist Jill Cunniff of Luscious Jackson the Dig Me Out Podcast at, a weekly podcast dedicated to revisiting lost and forgotten albums of the 1990s.

  6. I have this cassette. I love it!

  7. I am listening to this song right now!