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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

“ink and paper / the broken heart in black and white”

Allow me to get something off my chest first, if I may: Modern English’s “I Melt With You” was not a hit back in the day. No matter how many former cheerleaders at your high school reunion squeal when it comes on, I am here to tell you those people not only did not like that song when it was released, they never even heard of it. The popular kids were not digging Modern English in 1983 – they were more about Loverboy, Def Leppard and Michael Jackson. It wasn’t until years and years later that revisionist history kicked in and suddenly everyone loved that song, even the jocks whom regularly beat up the “fags” in Duran Duran t-shirts back when the single was struggling to its peak of #78 on the Hot 100.

Not that I’m bitter or anything.

I bring this up because of conversations I have with people I went to high school with when I go back to small town Elyria, Ohio. Oh, I’ll be at the local mall with my nieces and nephews and someone will invariably stop me at the food court, “Hey John, is that you??” (and I’m always amazed they recognize me, since I’m nearly 70 lbs. larger and have zero hair). I’ll give a weak smile and that I-totally-don’t-know-you “Heyyyy!” and my sister will jump in and work the stranger’s name into the convo. Invariably, the conversation will veer to music and this person, who I barely remember save only for being on student council or some other A-list high school activity will say something to the effect of “Do you still listen to all that ‘punk rock?’”

Now, I did like some true punk rock, but I rarely listened to it around people in my high school – I knew better. But back in 1983, Modern English were easy to lump into “punk rock” if you were Sally McTreasurer who dated Trent Von Linebacker. It was “fag music”, but you were trying to be nice. So it became “punk!” Tee hee! So yeah, I still harbor some residual anger that “my” music has been co-opted by the cool kids and say, Burger King, over the decades. Oh, well. They’re all still fatter and older looking (possibly due to said Burger King).


“Ink and Paper” was even more obscure than Modern English’s first two American “hits” (“Melt” and 1984’s exquisite “Hands Across the Sea”, which we’ll get to another day). It didn’t even chart, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The band seemed so desperate for another hit, they even ripped off the “ohh, ohh, ohh” refrain from Springsteen’s “Born to Run”, for God’s sake. A grab for green doesn’t get much more red, white and blue than that. Yet, “Ink and Paper” is still a fondly remembered song for me – 1986 was a pretty big year for me (graduation and all), and the “Stop Start” LP this came from what was a fairly solid effort I wore out quite a bit that year.

Modern English limped along to re-record “I Melt With You” in 1990 (that version didn’t chart much higher, either) on an otherwise new album called “Pillow Lips”, then one final gasp in 1996 with “Everything Is Mad”. But massive airplay of the hit that wasn’t has probably led to a quite comfortable life for the lads.

Just don’t stop me in the mall and tell me how much you loved it back then, liar.

”Ink and Paper” did not chart.
posted by John, 2:59 PM