Living Colour: Getting 'Behind The Sun'


Living Colour's performance on Soundcheck produced several memorable moments. But I'll always remember it for something that didn't happen.

Living Colour i i

Living Colour. Bill Bernstein hide caption

itoggle caption Bill Bernstein
Living Colour

Living Colour.

Bill Bernstein

Best known for the 1988 MTV hit "Cult of Personality" — and for making African-Americans more visible in mainstream rock music — Living Colour visited WNYC a few days before releasing The Chair in the Doorway, its first album in six years. Its members were gearing up for a string of U.S. club dates, followed by a European tour.

They kicked off the session with the new song "Behind the Sun," about the state of New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina. As singer Corey Glover bellowed, "We're still here, you're still there," it was clear that his rich rock voice hasn't mellowed over two decades.

The band turned in an emotional performance at the end of the show, which aired live on the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Living Colour — long based in New York — played "Flying," based on the events of that day in 2001.

"It's really a love story that takes place in the last minutes of two people's lives," says Living Colour's founder and guitarist, Vernon Reid. The group dedicated the performance to the victims and survivors of the attacks.

By any radio producer's standards, it was a momentous day. But, as I mentioned before, it's what didn't happen that mattered to me: Vernon Reid didn't recognize me.

On Feb. 11, 1992, I handed Reid what has come to be known in some circles as The Worst Demo Tape Ever. I was a 15-year-old fanboy who, along with the three other members of a well-meaning hard-rock outfit called Three Part Brain, attended a lecture he gave at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

At the conclusion of that lecture, I bum-rushed the stage and pressed into his hand a cassette. It contained a handful of choppy original songs and covers, all recorded on a broken boom box. Trust me: This tape is painful to endure. At one point, I attempt to play a harmonica, having owned said harmonica for about six hours.

Seventeen years later, I'll admit it: I was scared to death that Reid would somehow identify me in the WNYC lobby and scream, "It's him!" Then I would be hauled away by some kind of Bad Musician Police, after nearly two decades on a Most Wanted list.

That didn't happen. Instead, Living Colour gave one of my favorite performances on Soundcheck, and I remain a musical fugitive at large.

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