photo & text by nacrowe
while SOUNDGARDEN's SUPERUNKNOWN (A&M, 1994) and PEARL JAM's VITALOGY (EPIC, 1994) were the first records i ever got as a child, LIVING COLOUR's VIVID (EPIC, 1988) along with the TIME'S UP (EPIC, 1990) and the BISCUITS EP (EPIC, 1991) were the first records i ever bought. this all had to be around 1995 when i was in 4th grade. i even had their VHS tapes TIME TUNNEL (SONY MUSIC, 1990) and PRIMER (SONY MUSIC, 1990) around that time as well.
i think what caught my ear initially were the guitar pyrotechnics of VERNON REID and the emotive, almost operatic vocal range of COREY GLOVER. obviously at the time i had no idea about the politics or supposed novelty of being a black ROCK & ROLL band (didn't AFRICAN AMERICANS invent rock to begin with?) or how their sound fit in with the beginnings of ALTERNATIVE ROCK with other spearheading, like-minded bands in JANE'S ADDICTION (who they famously toured with on the first LOLLAPALOOZA), FAITH NO MORE and THELONIOUS MONSTER. at the time i knew nothing except that i liked their music and the overall aesthetic of their album covers, music videos and yes, even their ridiculous stage getups.
growing up until 6th grade in ORANGE COUNTY, my family didnt have MTV so my initial introduction to LIVING COLOUR was their song "CULT OF PERSONALITY" which years later was still on rotation at 106.7FM KROQ out of nearby LOS ANGELES. i find it funny now that until i saw the VHS tapes as well as a ROLLING STONE cover at the time, that i had no idea what they looked like. my first taste of their music was the actual music.
listening back to VIVID recently, i feel it still holds up. standout tracks like "MIDDLE MAN" and "OPEN LETTER TO A LANDLORD" showcase a real, almost PUNK ROCK attention detail about day-to-day struggles urban, inner city life. obviously REID is renowned for his intergalactic sonic experimentalism and guitar histrionics, especially in a live context, but within actual songs his playing seems organic and never excessive in a manner not to dissimilar to his peer TOM MORELLO.
i first saw LIVING COLOUR live on my 18th birthday back in 2002 at a small club in SACRAMENTO. i had some trepidation about the crowd, as months before i saw TRICKY open for TOOL and heard the local rednecks spurt out racist invectives his way. im relieved to say that didnt happen when i saw LIVING COLOUR play and the band just raged. again, GLOVER and REID are just quite the one-two sonic punch and they didnt settle in what i assume must have been a small, insignificant date on their itinerary.
i find it funny that through my chance involvement with the non-profit community internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC, out of STATEN ISLAND that i have come to be on the same station as VERNON REID. it is so full circle as his band was one of my earliest introductions to modern rock music as a child.
so anyway, if you get the opportunity, definitely investigate LIVING COLOUR's VIVID album. it is definitely worth checking out again.