Nine While Nine

I remember buying First and Last and Always album a month or so after it released in the US. I bought it at my favorite record store which had just switched from a hole-in-the-wall crap location to a large, spacious store a short 3/4 block away. In fact this might have been the first album I bought at the new location. CDs were a new thing and they had them, but the CD section was walled off from the rest of the store and maybe was the size of a large bathroom with glass doors so they could make sure you didn’t steal the merchandise. This is before CD-keepers and it was a small matter to cut open the over-sized cardboard box meant to make theft difficult (hahahaha) and slip it into a bag, if you wanted. I never did. I missed that store as it went to the place where all vinyl record stores went to die. I could spend hours there, just flipping shrink-wrapped records flap-flap-flap.

It’s where I discovered the Cure, Strawberry Switchblade, Waterboys (This is the Sea era), Mission, All About Eve, Death in June, This Mortal Coil, Dead Can Dance… The checkout folks were always more than happy to spin almost any album they had in stock (try before you buy), with the exception of some rare imports and “unauthorized concert footage”. Greg always perked up when he saw me — he knew what kind of music I liked and could usually make an easy sale by playing something for me.

Greg didn’t recommend First and Last and Always, it was some fellow computer geek hanging out at a computer user group that his and my father made us attend together. We would go swap pirated games with the other users and a few adults all too happy to corrupt youth by giving them illicit copies of Konkey Dong, which was an adult-themed rip-off of Donkey Kong.

Our fathers would continue to geek out and we’d huddle up in a corner, sharing cutting edge music. Erik (I think) introduced me to the likes of REM before they were anyone, and the same with Big Black (Racer X FTW), Suicide Commandos, Black Flag and others. Sisters of Mercy was another. I heard Black Planet and knew it was an instant purchase. I think I bought it the next afternoon.

Frost upon these cigarettes
Lipstick on the window pane
And I’ve lost all sense of the world outside
But I can’t forget so I call your name

And I’m looking for a life for me
And I’m looking for a life for you
And I’m talking to myself again
And it’s so damn cold it’s just not true

And I’m walking through the rain
Trying to hold on waiting for the train
And I’m only looking for what you want
But it’s lonely here and I think you knew

Sure, Andrew is an asshat and F&L&A might be the only album I listen to on a regular basis (Floodlands is okay, but kind of self-absorbed, and pretentious, if you ask me. Vision Thing— you can lump it or leave it, as far as I’m concerned). But he wrote some lyrics back in the early years that will stick with me until I pass on. Two lines from Nine While Nine are firmly stuck in my head and I can’t say why.

Frost upon these cigarettes
Lipstick on the window pane

I have to fight the urge to not use those two lines at times. I think I may have used some variation or another over time, but I can’t help it. They aren’t the only two lines, but they stick out more than most. So many questions unanswered, but a deep need to know what they mean.

Those two lines, they haunt me.

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