Copyright 1990 Globe Newspaper Company
The Boston Globe

December 21, 1990, Friday, City Edition


LENGTH: 748 words

HEADLINE: Manic Mondays for 'Til Tuesday;

BYLINE: By Jim Sullivan, Globe Staff

    Aimee Mann, singer-bassist-songwriter of 'Til Tuesday, has penned a new song called "Put Me On Top."

"Of course, most people think it's sexual," says Mann, with a laugh. "But that doesn't bother me; I think it's sort of funny."

OK, so it's not about sex. Mann relays one of the song's key couplets: "I should be riding on the float in the hit parade/Instead of standing on the curb behind the barricade." All right, so the song is sung from Mann's personal point of view? No, she says, "it's about this guy, he's a great musician, but he whines a lot - he's got a 'the world owes me a living' kind of thing."

Mann does not whine. Nor does she think the world; owes her a living. Mann is candid and matter-of-fact about it. "We're not rock stars anymore," she says, "we're not like a big deal and we don't have a record contract." Mann, speaking during a recording break at a Boston studio, is not asking for sympathy. She implies that, as the Jefferson Airplane once put in an album title, there's freedom at point zero.

Mann and 'Til Tuesday had their brush with the big time five years ago, and they'll likely be taking another shot at it next year. But things have changed since the first go-around in the mid-'80s. With Robert Holmes and Joey Pesce having moved on, Mann and drummer Michael Hausman are the only remaining founding members; the music, she says, has a harder edge and is more experimental; and the image is, well, let her explain it: "The image shift is that nobody cares about image anymore. It's much more music-for-musicians, or music made for ourselves. I wear the same clothes onstage I wear to the show. I wear my glasses now so I can see what I'm doing. It's a huge amount of freedom and I think it's really funny to be the underdog. It really gives me a chuckle to be able to say we're the best unsigned band in Boston."

'Til Tuesday won WBCN's Rock 'n' Roll Rumble in 1983, and the band was soon signed by Epic. It was quite a honeymoon. With "Voices Carry," Mann became one of the faces of 1985, a striking rock, and, especially, rock-video, star. Locally, the assumption was that 'Til Tuesday would follow the platinum path of the Cars - the second big new wave band to come out of Boston. It didn't work out that way. 'Til Tuesday's second and third albums, both strong records, didn't make it on radio or in the record shops.

"Good music is not necessarily rewarded by sales," says Mann. She says that Epic didn't know how to sell them as the band they were, wanting them to shed their moody, artsier side and turn them into a pseudo-Heart. About a year ago, 'Til Tuesday bought their way out of the Epic contract. Mann considered it one of her happier days.

Earlier this year, 'Til Tuesday came close to a signing with Irving Azoff's Giant Records. They still may, in fact, sign, but the deal is on hold. Mann is somewhat bemused by the star-making machinery - "You can only laugh because it's so goofy" - but she'll soldier on regardless. The band - with Buddy Judge on guitar and Jon Brion on guitar and keyboards - has recorded about 10 tracks, half produced by Tom (Edie Brickell, Squeeze) Berg and half self-produced.

"At this point," Mann says, "I do feel I want to have a record out, but part of how I feel is that we were so successful on our first record, we worked so hard, that I got very burnt out on a lot of aspects of the music industry. It's a lot more difficult than people think and it really is not that attractive once you're in it. It's not that much fun. So I was really happy to not to a whole lot for a couple of years. But I like recording, we have a new band, so I've really enjoyed playing live." They'll play the Paradise a week from today.

So, Mann and 'Til Tuesday ready themselves for Round Two. "I feel I'll always be able to make a living with the music I'm making," she says. "I think we'll be really successful and I don't really worry about that part of it."

Mann says that, in concert, they take chances with their songs, injecting country or psychedelic elements into them; that they do an even grander sendup of their own "Voices Carry," a song Gang Green turned into a terrific hardcore rant not long after 'Til Tuesday first recorded it. If stardom comes knocking on Mann's door again, she thinks she'll have a better handle on it. "I'd feel better about it," she says, "because now I know it can go away almost completely. And I know that I could just drop out of sight and it would be fine."

GRAPHIC: PHOTO, Michael Hausman and Aimee Mann of 'Til Tuesday.