A Bandwagonesque: 1991 with Reggie Railroad Reynolds and The Teenage Fanclub

A look back at Teenage Fanclub’s 1991 power-pop, indie classic, Bandwagonesque.
Plus a guest appearance by the best bowler I’ve ever known.

by Andy Whorehall & Dave DeCastris



The Teenage Fanclub
(New Album, Shadows, on Merge Records 6.08.10) in a car cassette player, my green 2-Door Buick LeSabre, 1991.  I spent that cold December day riding around with my friend, Reggie Railroad Reynolds— the best bowler I’ve ever known listening to Bandwagonesque. We’re almost 20 years removed now from the Scottish band’s second release.  The fall/winter of 1991 has become an influential indie rock landmark for music lovers, critics, and artists alike.  Nirvana’s Nevermind was released in September, the Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque in November, and Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted was technically finished in the spring of 1991 but released to critics in the fall prepping music geeks for an early 1992 release.  1991 is a monster of an influential year for music lovers.

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Bandwagonesque

The war on grunge music and gang rap hadn’t begun yet in 1991. Grunge ended with Cobain’s suicide in 1994 and gang rap got it cold and hard with Tupac Shakur’s fake assassination in 1996 followed by a bigger whammy, B-I-G.  Jay-Z picked up the torch fine but he’s more of a poet and a refined storyteller than a gangster rapper.  Perfecting the delivery and documenting further the real stories of American streets, the people, a life that is no different than the inner city streets our government promotes invasions for in other countries.

Marketing American street life can be very blurry. When it’s done right it represents an artistic, educative feat— larger than anything the grunge movement had to say.  Jay-Z, Biggie, Tupac for many are the Bob Dylans of theirs and my generation.  I didn’t have the streets though to call it my teenage manifesto. I can’t claim anything other than a pure joy to listen and wonder how all those words came together to tell a story about the America I was unaware of in songs.  No one counted on slackers and poets to sneak in with a sweet tooth for documenting domestic mediocrity so well either.  The class of 1991 pulled this off.  I’d argue the class of 1991 trumps the entire 2000s as well.

2000-2009 wasn’t so memorable for many cultural reasons that infiltrated  the music industry.  The decade is easily defined by down-loadable singles and lunch box beats.  Corporate Media entities emerged to buy out or merge many of the last remaining independently owned radio stations;  WXRT, 93.1FM, Chicago, is a great example.  Major record labels blamed down-loaders for their demise when they lost touch with rock n’ roll’s ability to promote change, energy and positive rebellion.  They cut major career artists, remastered their recorded archives and bought into the American Idol value meal package- what you see is what you might not hear.  These are only a few reasons why the idea of budgeting and marketing more albums by career worthy artists became lost.  The idea of putting out a timeless record like the Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque on a major label would be considered a monetary mistake now.  Being known as an X generation’s ‘Big Star’ with 3 songwriters sounds like bankruptcy today to many major labels I’ll assume.

I remember the day I bought Bandwagonesque” on cassette at the ol’ Apple Tree records in Rocford, IL.  The fact they had it wasn’t quite a miracle then like it can be now, they closed in the late 90s.  Hunting in wonder mixed with disgust for some of my favorite artists releases is the norm around my zip codes now.  I often save up a list to go to Madison, WI, to visit one of the country’s great indie music stores, B-Sides– they never let me down the way these zip codes do.  Rockford, IL, is an American Idol kinda town.  Every now and then you’ll catch a hillbilly or two talking about the one time they caught Cheap Trick’s first band, Fuse, in a bowling alley or in Beloit, WI.  It’s a depressing town with great people who dream of leaving but can’t afford to.

Bandwagonesque was released on Geffen Records in the States and Creation in Europe. I remember deciding between that or another recent fall release on Geffen that made depression plaid colored and fashionable, Nirvana’s Nevermind.”
NevermindPink cover with a yellow money bag- maybe nothing in it, still trumps the image of a swimming baby chasing money visually and artistically. Musically, Bandwagonesque is just as important as Nevermind is in regards to essential listening; production wise it is timeless unlike Nevermind.

The intro line to The Concept” confirmed a penny-pinched decision:
She wears denim where ever she goes. She says she’s ‘gonna get some records by the Status Quo,’ oh yeah, oh yeah.”
The oh yeahs, hook, line, sunk.

Satan blasts a 1:14 of feedback, indie skronk, chaos, no vocals, the title says it all. A new theme song to roam the high schooled halls to then.  School days were mainly spent surrounded by contradicting humans in catholic schooled-clown suits, shirts sorta tucked in and polo horses marking your family’s wealth or individual coolness. My family couldn’t afford the polo horsey shirts and socks and everyone knew it then as some of those kids now know walking through those same sinful halls.  Right or wrong kiss my ass now.  Track 2, Satan, is evil, metallic and a perfect setup for one of the most romantic indie pop songs written during the 90s, December.

I take this chance to tell my friend what I’m thinking of…I’ve had this plan for many years but now I can’t remember, December.

Crafted in strings, sweet lip-locking chords and feedback cues from American college rock.  A slowdance to Britpop sensibilities.

The production on Bandwagonesque owes as much to Phil Spector’s softer wall of sound (Guiding Star) as it does to Kevin Shields’ glimmering, organized mess (Is This Music).  The most obvious comparison the Fannies have been tagged with their entire career is the ‘Big Star’ reference which shows up on Pet Rock. Imagine the Stones ’72 hooking up with the Big Star boys in Memphis at Ardent Studios to throw down a few.

Bandwagonesque has become a heavenly soundtrack for surviving out of fashion, out of mind moments. The band, the album, the songs, clearly marks a period in pop culture that’s slightly out of step with a grunge scene ready to explode- to only kill itself quickly.  I felt one with this record- it, we, exists on our own terms. The Fannies sound as timeless now and out of step as they sounded  then.  When Alchoholiday” hits in the tracklist, I was sold for life with Teenage Fanclub.  There would be no more air guitar singalongs to Extreme’s Pornagraffitti II or Def Leppard’s mighty, Hysteria.   The core writing trio of band members and songwriters, Blake / McGinley / Love, laid it all down that afternoon for me driving around Rockford, IL, in an old Green Buick.  December, cold and happy, 1991.

There are things I want to do but I don’t know if they will be with you,
if they will be with you, there are things I want to say but I don’t know if they will be to you, if they will be to you.

Listen, ever get a feeling when you’re taken by the hand and led a course you can’t command?

Went to bed but I’m not ready— baby, I’ve been f*cked already.
Falling into line but I’m doing nothing, we’ve got nothing worth discussing.
Went to go but it’s all hazy, people say I’m going crazy.

All I know is all I know.
What I’ve done I leave behind.

Bandwagonesque sounds a bit more poignant now almost 20 years later.  The last line to the Fannies Alcoholiday is one of many reasons I keep coming back to this record.

What makes the Teenage Fanclub so great, then and now? Three songwriters, Blake / McGinley / Love, who have somehow managed to make music for a lifetime in one band without killing each other or fighting for royalties.  Unheard of.

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The

What makes Bandwagonesque a timeless recording?  A simple cop-out answer would be to say ‘the songs,’ but i’ve had close to 20 years now to think about it.  I wasn’t smart enough to know yet then the references to the alphabet letter B, the influences;  Big Star, Beach Boys, The Byrds, (NOT the Beatles).  Toss in the next letter in the alphabet after B and you get C for Crazy Horse.  I realize years later how much of Bandwagonesque rips off Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s magic garage formula. Take Like a Hurricane or Cortez the Killer and turn it up to 11, toss in 3 songwriters forming an alternate Uncle Neil and wahlah, triple harmonies— The Teenage Fanclub.

Go get some 1991 kids. It’s even better now having almost 2 decades of dazed, sensitive, suicidal rock mixed with walmart agreements to fight against.   Don’t forget the downloads and copyright infringement attacks on college kids as excuses for corporate music failures.   Don’t forget  that everyone is making babies and still waiting for the next nirvana too.  Babies are still chasing dollar bills but they’re adults now. They’re my friends, they’re me.  Bandwagonesque is a record for those that still care a tiny bit to ask friends or strangers what it is they find so attractive about the Kings of Leon and Nickelodeonback’s music, not just their haircuts.  I feel like I’ve been here before, said that before, but here’s my argument;  Nothing produced between 2000-2010 comes close to the indie pop glory that is 1991’s Bandwagonesque.

{For Kevin Schwitters of The Braves / Table & Chairs.}

dD  | andywhorehall.com

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EPILOGUE  | 2000-2010:  A bandwagonesque.
I asked my childhood friend, Eric, what his favorite records were in the 2000s and he answered me with a social observation instead.  We never answer each other’s questions with an answer.  He had been bothered by interacting with people at work- an American Dream kinda place, a bank.  Their interest in communicating about sports vs. music had finally gotten to him.  He pointed out a decade-end social flaw he had encountered more than once in the workplace when discussing night activities or weekend chores;  Man, we just didn’t have it you know?” Reality check Eric points out,  Uh, We?  Whoa, did I miss something, who’s we and what did we lose?”

Demographically speaking, Cubs & Bears fans are prone to communicating like this.  Eric went on to single out the Chicago Cubs as a reference for pointless communication & subject matter.  He says to me, Let’s say you’ve just wasted more money on the same girl at the same dinner joint to watch some other guy pick up the baton 2 hours later, repeatedly- really?!  Then yes, you are a ‘lovable loser.’ I expressed I needed more to understand.  The self torture that Cub fans put themselves through- to then talk about it like they’ve earned that brand of frustration proudly as if you contributed to the loss?  No, that’s just crazy, delusional even.

In a turnabout of topics he stated why he always comes back to Bandwagonesque over anything released in the 2000s.  He chooses it over most anything else due to one entertaining reason, It’s just great, no one has the balls to make pop music like that, no one can afford to… sadly. Regarding the sports side analogy of his.  Let’s try to indirectly connect it to the Fannies: 

The Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque is everything  a person needs to defeat team spirit.  A soundtrack to defeat Cub fans and Bears fans and domestic people, co-workers, who proclaim in passing, Man, we just didn’t have it.

A bandwagonesque.

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My frand, Reggie Railroad Reynolds, and my Ol’ Green Buick.

{© 2010 Illustration by Andrew Whorehall for SockMonkeySound.com}
NOTE to Strangers:   We are not from Hollywood, we are from Rockford, IL and we will sue your ass if this is caught being used anywhere for profit or marketable gain- especially in the southern states or Texas.  We’re not really concerned with Louisiana, we love you but Mother Nature has been pretty cruel, our sympathies.   Watch it America, we WILL sue your ass. Ok, bye bye.

A Bandwagonesque: 1991 with Reggie Railroad Reynolds and The Teenage FanclubAndy Whorehall
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9 comments on "A Bandwagonesque: 1991 with Reggie Railroad Reynolds and The Teenage ..."

  1. So what's your second favorite Teenage Fanclub album? I usually say Grand Prix, but sometimes I think Songs from Northern Britain. I think Howdy! is the most underrated TF album. Just listen to "Near You" and "Dumb Dumb Dumb."

  2. I broke up with my first girlfriend when I was 16 after I heard Alcoholiday- well before I knew what it felt like to get drunk. I totally agree with the record sounding timeless where Nevermind is really dated to my ears. Don Flemming's (Gumball) production is what makes this happen.

    Grand Prix is a favorite as well.

  3. gsmellyfarts on

    I think I prefer reviews/monlouge critiques/essays moreso than standard album reviews done by someone on a deadline and afraid of pissing anyone off. Whether for an album 20 years old or an album released a few months ago, these are by far more entertaining and informative. Thanks Dave.

    • I agree. When you can link an a song, album, or video to a personal experience you've had then I think it makes a huge difference. Danger does a great job of doing the same thing. Kudos to both these guys.

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  5. Can anyone tell me where Teenage Fanclub played in New York when they toured to support Bandwagonesque? And if you can remember who were the other bands they played with? Thanks for any help.

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