Kiss & Tell: The Top 20 Albums Owned By Those We Dated In The '80s and '90s!

1. Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians - Shooting Rubberbands At The Stars

Shortly after landing my first record store clerk gig in '86, I found myself standing for eight hours at a time and listening to those albums that our managers chose to play "featured artists" over the in-store stereo system. Labels, of course, had paid our chain for the supreme privilege of having their release promoted by the chain. 

Admittedly, a lot of acts were pushed in this manner that didn't sell jack-shit - Love Tractor, The Lover Speaks, Wild Choir, Debbie Harry's Rockbird album to name but a few.

One album that immediately resonated with folks from the first note, though, was Shooting Rubberbands At The Stars, by a band called Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians.

Looooong before many of us developed a mental block regarding the song "What I Am", we record store geeks would marvel at how many copies we'd sell anytime we played the album in-store. Some days, we'd sell through entire sleeves of cassettes (24 tapes per sleeve) during a single eight-hour shift.

For decades thereafter, just when I think I'd finally blocked those days out of my mind, I'd meet someone at a club in a cute Pretenders t-shirt, tight jeans, and Doc Martens, cruise back to her place and realize that this woman was a total granola cruncher. 

Mind you, none of them owned a copy of the band's second album.

2. Tori Amos - from Little Earthquakes to Scarlet's Walk

I was one of the five people who actually listened to the free promo of Y Kant Tori Read that Atlantic Records sent to record stores in 1989. I could make no sense of what I was hearing based on cryptic cassette liner notes, but there was something about what I was hearing that transcended the bombastic presentation. Of course, we never actually received any retail it joined the box of forgotten promos.

Two years later, Tori Amos, still on Atlantic, was now doing the solo thing and, based on media reports, humping her piano stool. Hey, haven't we all at some point?

What Amos was doing - both musically and lyrically - was initially regarded as quite striking, but, thankfully, she never allowed herself to be watered down and, as a result, women really came to respect what Tori was about and, as a result, while Tori, herself , is a constant presence in the CD collections of the women in my life, you see albums from all walks of her career, not just her glory days. 

3. Peter Gabriel - So

Weird to think that Gabriel had fronted Genesis when they were most repellant to women, only to morph into one of the biggest, most female-friendly concert favorites in modern pop history.

Last we'd heard from Gabriel prior to So, he was pushing "Shock The Monkey", which was decidedly not a song that struck a chord with the fairer sex so the fact that this album even had a song like the emotionally stirring ballad "In Your Eyes" was a bit of a "shock", but it did bring a much-needed human element to an album full of songs that were dripping with social commentary ("Red Red Rain") and/or non-subtle irony ("Sledgehammer, "Big Time"). 

4. The Cure - Greatest Hits

It says more about me than it does about the ladies in my life that most of them had a Cure hits collection instead of, say, a couple key studio albums (even Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me).

Truth be told, anyone who favored The Head On The Door or Pornography would have seen right through my thin charade before yours truly ever saw their music collection (and no doubt did).

5. Natalie Imbruglia - Left Of The Middle

For every person like me who started seeing promo copies of this album gathering dust in the discount bins both before and after "Torn" became an eternal Sunny FM radio staple, it seems I have had the misfortune of dating nearly everyone who actually paid full price for this coffee coaster.


While it may be a clean 50/50 split today, back in the '80s/'90s, we dudes were WAY more likely to be selling our unwanted CD's down at the local record store. As a result, a trip through a woman's music collection was like them letting you read their diary because you could SEE their mistakes laid out right before you:

Take for example, amidst the usual fare, you find a copy of Judas Priest Screaming For Vengeance AND an early OMD album like Organisation.- Since I love both albums, this is always encouraging, BUT also doesn't fit.

The only explanation: Previous boyfriends. The metal head was probably one of those backwards-hat-wearing simpletons. The OMD record means she, at one point, probably dated one of the guys in the IT department where she works. 

6. Sinead O'Connor - I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got 

Seems like we all wound up owning this album after picking it as one of our free albums when joining Columbia House. Even so, this one's always nice to see in a lover's record collection, but what I wouldn't give to have dated more women who owned Sinead's first record, The Lion & The Cobra.

Seriously, some of the best times in my life took place on a Chicago dancefloor in the '80s and, mots times, either "Mandinka" or "Lay Your Hands On Me" was playing.

7. Sarah McLachlan - Fumbling Toward Ecstasy

For a moment, Sarah was a sort of "goth Enya", then she switched gears (producers) and became the shining beacon of female empowerment that straight women, lesbians, and, yes, even dudes could agree on in the car when going to lunch with co-workers.

Then Lilith Fair happened and we dudes were kind of excluded.

Even so, EVERYONE owns this record (or did) so it was always interesting to see how fewer copies there were of Surfacing, and even fewer yet of Mirriorball.

Quite frankly, if I had seen a copy of Afterglow, which I saw plenty of in the used bins, I'd have probably been too full of questions to do "the move" from "Dirty Dancing", har har.

8. Paula Cole - This Fire

For some reason, the only memory that this song conjures up is me sitting in my car at a park in Denver getting ready to go for my nightly run and thinking that the snare sound on "Where have All The Cowboys Gone?" - the song we all thought was gonna be the album's signature tune, for better and worse, until "Dawson's Creek" made the song inescapable.

9. Tracy Chapman - first album.

Yep, the one with "Fast Car". Here's the thing: Not once did anyone actually PLAY their Tracy Chapman record. You'd think over the course of, say, six months of sharing the CD player with them, they'd have played it once. What gives?

10. Kate Bush - The Whole Story

No Kate Bush studio albums, mind you, but this "hits" compilation was as commonplace in the bedrooms of women I loved and lost/left as the same two or three IKEA rugs have been in the 21st century.

11. Tears For Fears - Songs from The Big Chair

An album that both men and women can agree on, if ever there was one. Seeing this one, but no other TFF albums, raises zero flags.

12-14. kd lang / Melissa Etheridge / Phranc

If you were head over heels for a woman in the late '80s, but wondered if she might be playing for the other team, as they used to say, one sure-fire way to see where her heart lied was to take a quick glance at her record collection.

If you saw a kd lang record or two, no worries, Lang was a viable mainstream crooner for much of the decade. Quite frankly, I don't even know how or why she dropped off the radar like she did.

If you saw a Melissa Etheridge album, again, no worries. She was one of XRT's favorite artists from the moment her first record came out.

If you saw a Phranc record, though, tough loss.

15. Tanita Tikaram - Ancient Heart

There was a teeny-tiny window in 1988 when Tikaram's "Twist In My Sobriety" had its moment of splendor and then, POOF, just like that she was gone; suddenly invisible to the same powers-that-be that had hastened her rise to semi-stardom.

One almost wonders who she pissed off at her label to go cold so quickly after having been poised for the long haul, a la Etheridge or Chapman. Romantically speaking, considering Tikaram's brief heyday, why does everybody I've dated since '90 or so own this record? We're all attracted to our own "types", but this is ridiculous.   

16-17. Amy Grant / Michael W. Smith

Man, there is nothing worse than meeting someone AWESOME, they think YOU'RE AWESOME, and the next thing you know, you're back at their place being awesome together. While they're in the kitchen grabbing you another Bartles & Jaymes wine cooler (this was the '80s, after all), you take a gander at their CD's and spot a CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN TITLE.

Aw shit.

Now, before you panic, take a deep breath and focus. If all they own is Amy's Heart In Motion album, no harm, no foul. That's the one with "Baby Baby" and a bunch of other Top 40 hits. Also, if the Michael W. Smith CD they own is Go West Young Man, again, no reason for concern. This, too, was a huge mainstream album at the same time as Heart In Motion.

For women, I can imagine seeing a Jars of Clay CD in your new boyfriend's collection might be a source of concern (on musical merits alone, har har) BUT, in their defense, the band's lone Top 40 hit was produced by Adrian Belew, who is just good people.

Now, if you see ANY Sandy Patti or Carmen albums, run for your fucking life.


18. Amy Winehouse - Back To Black

Sometimes, even before I could sneak a glance at their CD's, my date would decide to set the mood by playing Amy's Back To Black while they slipped into something comfortable. Thankfully, this usually worked because that was literally the only album I'd hear on first dates for about five years, until Amy's passing made her music something you couldn't really set the mood with anymore.

19. Fiona Apple - Tidal

Moved to L.A. at a point when Tidal had been out a couple years, but you'd have thought it had just come out by the number of radio stations still playing cuts from the album, so the fact that EVERONE I was dating had a copy wasn't as concerning as, say, seeing even one copy of When The Pawn.

20. Aimee Mann - I'm With Stupid

While I've never seen a Til Tuesday record in any of their collections, many a femme near-fatale in my life has had a well-worn copy of Mann's I'm With Stupid by the bedside.

This was always a welcome sight during my L.A. days because, though each respective romantic partner may have been a fan of Mann, something told me they weren't the sort to keep up on such things as Mann's constant appearances at Largo (aka "The House That Jon Brion Built") on Fairfax.

Soooo, anytime I fucked up REALLY bad, I just happened to nonchalantly take them to dinner at Largo when Mann was appearing.

Mind you, these weren't the sort of shows that Sunny FM would promote or Ticketbasterd would sell tickets; no these were dates listed only on the Largo website and, as always, subject to change, but, boom, next thing you know, your date is shitting her pants because Aimee Mann just walked past her with a guitar. 

Those shows got me out of so much hot water over the years and sold a butt load of CD's for Aimee, as everyone I ever took made sure to buy every Mann CD they didn't own the next day. Yay, I get to once again experience someone experiencing The Forgotten Arm for the first time.

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