Even with a myriad of song choices out there for my “song of the day,” every once in awhile, it’s still hard for me to make a decision as to which song I want to highlight as my “song of the day.” Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s based on a birthday or death or some sort of historical event, sometimes I rummage through my BILLBOARD Hot 100 charts searching for that perfect “song of the day,” and other times, like today, there’s an unintended process.
It’s been a month today since my last STUCK IN THE 80s show on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine. Sure, it’s been on my mind. Why wouldn’t be? For the better part of 21 years, I’d normally be there than here. But, today’s “song of the day” didn’t come from there, nor did it come from a BILLBOARD singles chart, or a birthday, but from the month itself – March. In September 1989, native New Yorker (and the oldest brother to actors Sean Penn and the late Chris Penn), Michael Penn, released his debut album, MARCH. So, long story longer, that’s the odd way how I came up with today’s “song of the day.”
From that debut album, MARCH, was the first single, “No Myth.” Released in November 1989, a couple of months after the album’s release, and with the 80s coming to an end, “No Myth” was truly an Alt-Rock breath of fresh air (radio-speaking and literally speaking).
Michael Penn was 31 at the time of the album’s release, and according to an interview with Michael on MadeMan.com, “No Myth” “had to do with a serious relationship in my life that broke up, and I was just trying to figure out, ‘What the fuck was that?’ So this song was the beginning of me trying to actually figure that shit out in song.”
“No Myth” had been out for at least a month when it debuted on BILLBOARD’s Hot 100 singles chart on January 6, 1990. Sandwiched in between Jive Bunny & The Mastermixers and Alannah Myles, Michael Penn debuted in the Hot 100’s Top 40 a month later. It would go on to spend a week at its peak position of No. 13 in the latter part of the parent album’s namesake, March. “No Myth” also had chart success on BILLBOARD’s Modern Rock chart (No. 4), Mainstream Rock chart (No. 5), and Adult Contemporary chart (No. 22). It reached No. 8 in Canada and No. 24 in Australia as well. Michael Penn would also go on to win an MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist.
Though Michael Penn would never again reach the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (follow-up single “This & That” stopped at No. 53), he has – to date – released four more acclaimed studio albums, two compilations, and since 1993, composed the score for 14 films, including 1997’s BOOGIE NIGHTS and BOUNDARIES, coming out later this year. He’s also composed music for HBO’s GIRLS and Showtime’s MASTERS OF SEX television shows.
During the recording of Aimee Mann’s second studio album, 1995’s I’M WITH STUPID, Michael and Aimee became friends (though they had met in the 80s). They worked together on the song “Christmastime” for the JUST SAY NOEL holiday compilation in 1996, and on December 29, 1997, the two were married.
Michael and Aimee are not only still together today (nearly 20 years later), they are also involved (including their manager, Michael Hausman) with a company they all formed called United Musicians. It’s an independent music collective founded on “the principle that every artist should be able to retain copyright ownership of the work he or she has created and that this ownership is the basis for artistic strength and true independence.” All of Aimee’s albums since 2000 have a connection with United Musicians. Other folks who have released albums while in the collective include Bob Mould and comedian Patton Oswalt.
I know we’re about three months removed from Xmas 2016, but I have to say “Christmastime” is one of my all-time favorite songs to have close to me during the holiday season every year. And it makes me long for another collaboration between Michael Penn and Aimee Mann. They work so very well together, and I hope one day they can parlay their incredible marriage into a kick-ass album from two of my favorite recording artists.
For now, though, I’ll revisit this late 80s / early 90s Alt-Rock gem, until the day when I hear that an Aimee Mann and Michael Penn album itself is, well, no myth. And then it’ll sure feel like Christmastime…