January 9 — “Winona” by Drop Nineteens

Drop Nineteens

If you listen to just one song today, make it “Winona” by Drop Nineteens (1992, from the album Delaware)

Back in 1992, the college radio airwaves were jammed with bands that were heavily influenced by My Bloody Valentine, who had just released their epic, mindblowing second album —Loveless— in late 1991. Everyone wanted to copy that sound. That heavily distorted wall of sound. That eardrum crushingly loud, but simultaneously gentle sound. Shoegaze was king, and it was a really good time to be a part of college radio.

Whereas My Bloody Valentine spent a massive sum of money — rumoured to have been the equivalent of $400,000 — to make their album, there were loads of bands making their Loveless-esque records on shoestring budgets. The Drop Nineteens were one of those bands.

They were a bunch of kids from Boston. Nobody knew them. They didn’t have any special connections to anyone in the industry. Somehow, though, their self-released album got some attention in the UK, and eventually they got a deal with Caroline Records. At the time, Caroline was a pretty big hitter. At least in college radio.

The release of Delaware was met very warmly and they became one of the next big things. And they were one of the first to be doing it from this side of the Atlantic.

Delaware is really a remarkable album. Although it was warmly met by critics and fans, it remains largely forgotten. Loveless is 20 years old and still sells loads of copies. People will still be talking about it in another 20 years. I don’t think that Delaware is as good, but it’s pretty special.

While they weren’t doing anything that hadn’t been done, they were sort of trialblazers for bands of that ilk in the United States. Sure, bands like the Swirlies and Lilys and Velocity Girl existed. But none of them had record deals. It may have been coincidence, but it wasn’t long after Delaware that American bands with the shoegaze sound started to get record deals on American labels, marketed towards American kids. That had, until then, been done by British bands on British labels.

Most of Delaware features heavily distorted, thickly layered guitars with the vocals buried in the mix, there are a couple of (mostly) acoustic songs that capitalized on another trend of the times which was the co-ed vocals. There’s a pretty amazing cover of Madonna’s “Angel”, which doesn’t sound much at all like the original.

“Winona” was selected by the label as the promotional single. It got loads of airplay on college radio and some video play on 120 Minutes. Unlike the bulk of the album, this song has vocals that are clean and out front instead of buried in the wall of sound. That had to be a deliberate move by the label rather than the band. Even the running time (3:32) screams “manufactured for radio airplay”. I don’t mind, though. It’s a great song. I loved it the first time I heard it way back then, and I still love it now, 19 years later.

It may be named for Winona Ryder, but I don’t think it’s about her. There was always talk about how this song was “about” the way some bands enjoy fame for just a fleeting moment. Which is exactly what happened to them.

After they toured in support of Delaware the band pretty much dissolved. Frontman Greg Ackell had to recruit new members after the other three left the band to pursue other interests. Drop Nineteens 2.0 put out one album that never really got off the ground.

Delaware is out of print. Right now, used copies are readily available at reasonable prices, but there have been times where I’ve seen people pay $40 or more for a “like new” copy.

Use the Amazon.com mp3 store to buy a digital copy of the album (recommended), or just the single.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

4 responses to “January 9 — “Winona” by Drop Nineteens

  • Dmitri

    Believe it or not, the story is such that the Winona mix is the only one that had *no* company involvement.

    The company wanted the single mixed with louder vocals, and insisted on dropping the rhythm and lead guitars during the verse, leaving only the bass and vocal.

    Knowing that the company-desired mix would royally suck, Greg, in a game of keep-away from the Company-assigned producer (literally, a hold-it-like-a-football-and-run-past-the-producer scene), pirated the Winona masters from the studio in which Delaware was being mixed, and proceeded to mix the song as heard today, in a closed session, back at the studio where the live takes were recorded at “Downtown Recorders” (same studio where Doolittle was recorded).

  • dlee

    Thanks, D. I would never have guessed that in a thousand years. Now I’m sort of curious to hear the version that Caroline wanted.

  • June 18 — “You Never” by The Curtain Society « this is that song

    […] sorry, but I can’t help but think of The Drop Nineteens, and their brilliant 1992 album […]

  • June 28 — “We Are” by Snøskred « this is that song

    […] Tanya left). The chorus reminds me a bit of another Boston-area band of that very specific time. Drop Nineteens. I’m especially reminded of that awe-inspiring cover that Drop Nineteens did of the Madonna […]

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