Thursday, April 02, 2015

Good Songs XXV

Stop! – Jane’s Addiction
Closer – Nine Inch Nails
Ziggy Stardust – David Bowie
Down With Disease – Phish
South of the Border – The Simpsons
The Summer Wind – Frank Sinatra
The Choice is Yours – Black Sheep
Louder Than A Bomb – Public Enemy
I Stay Away – Alice In Chains
Drive In, Drive Out – Dave Matthews Band
Egg Man – The Beastie Boys
Rocket – Smashing Pumpkin
Never Tear Us Apart – INXS
Deeper Shade of Soul – Urban Dance Squad
The Reflex – Duran Duran
Let’s Stay Together – Al Green
Heart Shaped Box – Nirvana
Crush With Eyeliner – REM
Love Fool – The Cardigans
Crazy – Seal

NOTE: When I typed the words "Dave Matthews Band and Phish" into the Google machine, the second picture came up before the first picture. The first picture, if you don't know, is Dave Matthews and Phish lead singer Tre Anastasio. Infer what you will from that.  

This is part two of a two-cassette tape set that I created in the spring of 1997. You read about the first half in Tuesday’s mammoth entry. I don’t think that this Blog post is going to come anywhere near 3,000 words, so let’s dive right in.

This tape has two bands that I don’t like very much anymore: the Dave Matthews Band and Phish. Add the Grateful Dead from last entry’s mix and you have an unholy trinity of jam bands that love nothing more than to waste their audience’s time. That’s my biggest issue with jam bands as a whole, I don’t like being at a concert and waiting 20 minutes to hear the next song.

And this goes double for bands that I do like, I have a Led Zeppelin live CD and there is a 33-minute version of “Dazed and Confused”. You know how many times I’ve listened to that track? Never. Not once. You know why? Because I have better things to do with my time than listen to Jimmy Page act as if he’s never seen a guitar before. Moby Dick is on that album too. Who wants to listen to a 20-minute drum solo? TWENTY MINUTES of John Bonham banging on the drums. You’re right Slater, you do need strong acid to handle that shit.

Actually my problems aren’t entirely with the bands—I likea bunch of the Dead’s studio stuff*, there are a handful of Phish songs I can tolerate and DMB, ugh—but it’s the fans of these bands who, for the most part, drive me crazy. Dead fans are the most benign of this lot, as they get high, trade tapes and stay smiling in the corner. Though there are some exceptions. When I was in college, nothing was worse than the newly minted Dead fan, the guy (and it usually was a guy) who “just found the Dead”. Ugh. There’s not a more annoying person alive than the person who was recently baptized in lake Jerry. And they’re all so eager to convert you. No, I do not want to hear the Dead live in Munich from 1973, Larry—especially if the band is going to jam on a “Box of Rain” for 37 minutes. 

* Do I think it takes talent to jam on a song for more than 10 minutes? Sure. But lots of things take talent and there are a lot of things that I don’t have the patience to watch. Much less spend $100 for a ticket. The Dead have some good music, some nice harmonies and wrap songs up in less than five minutes on most studio albums. I enjoy that. Music isn’t like baseball, I don’t want it to go on forever. Like David Spade once said, “Play the song like it is on the record. NO TRICKS!” Ugh. I can’t believe I quoted David Spade. See what you’ve done to me, Grateful Dead fans?

On a personal note, I had to live through that very sad day in August of 1995 when Jerry Garcia died. That was a truly troubling day. Not because Garcia died, but because I had to listen to every two-bit Dead fan cry about how “Jerry” and how his death was “really going to affect them”. No. You got over it, just like people got over the death of Kurt Cobain, John Bonham and Shannon Hoon. You just got extra high that night, because “that’s what Jerry would have wanted”. The same Jerry Garcia who died of a drug overdose, yup that’s exactly what he would have wanted.

I was working in the Merrimack College library that summer and my friend came in all dejected. I lived with this guy for a year and he knew about my musical taste and he solemnly said, “Dude. Dude, did you hear? Dude, did you hear about Jerry? What a bad day. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I can’t sit in class.” Ugh. You just started liking this band six months ago, which was a year after your Saigon Kick phase. You’re going to be fine.

The one interesting aspect of the day Jerry Garcia died was that Dead member Bob Weir was at the Hampton (NH) Beach Casino that night performing with his band. Since I lived six miles from the venue at the time, I took a drive to see what the scene was like.

I wasn’t a big fan (obviously) but the scene was sad as hundreds of people from around the area came to sit outside the small theater to pay their respects to the man that they loved so much. That was amazing because Hampton Beach is about as far away from the Dead’s stomping grounds as you could get. But people were sad and didn’t know what else to do with their grief but they collectively thought to go to a place where they knew that there would be a collective of their people. And that was nice. There were tons of television crews outside, interviewing Deadheads and talking to them about Garcia and his impact on their lives. That was therapeutic too, I imagine.

I did try hard to be a jam-band guy when I was in college. I did. I tried my best to grow my hair out*, not care about my appearance, and really get into the music, man. But I couldn’t. I just don’t have the patience. And no band tested my patience more than Phish.

* This was a disaster. When my hair gets long, it gets incredibly bushy. I already have a long head, I don’t also need a house plant sitting on the top of it.

The first few dozen times I heard Phish, they were okay. They had some interesting melodies, clever-ish lyrics and a nice mythology. “Dude. They’re from Vermont and they love their fans because they let them tape their shows for free and someone I know knows someone who knows them and he says they are really good people.” But my college roommate was really into Phish and he got my other roommates really into Phish and he got some of my hallmates really into Phish. After a while, it was wall-to-wall Phish, around the clock. And when they weren’t playing Phish, they were talking about Phish. “Do you know that Phish drummer John Fishman plays the vacuum cleaner on stage?” That makes sense, because they both suck.

After a few months of listening to Phish and the endless supply of bootlegs* that my roommates procured, I couldn’t take it any more. The interesting melodies had become ponderous, plodding guitar solos that had become boring and masturbatory. The clever-ish lyrics had devolved into a bunch of random words thrown on a page and sung quickly to masquerade the fact that they held zero meaning. By 1995, the sight of the Phish logo made me want to gut some neo-hippies.

* I will say this, Phish fans were one of the first to understand the power of the internet. One of my roommates used to logon to Usenet (a prehistoric Reddit) and scour for people trading tapes. He’d contact them, they send a tape (often for free) and my buddy would have two hours of new music to listen to. That was Jetsons-like in 1995.

This leads me to the question: if I hated a band so much in 1995, why did I constantly add them to a mix tape over and over and over again? I can’t answer that question. Maybe I just liked these particular songs. Maybe on some level I enjoyed being the only anti-Phish outsider* and listening to the songs reminded me of my college friends. I don’t know why I did it then, but listening to Phish now, maybe I took my hate for the band a little too far.

* To be truthful, I did enjoy being the Big Bastard on this one. I remember one night where my frustration got the most of me and ripping into Phish in front of my roommates, deriding the bands’ entire catalog as a “four assholes mindlessly noodling on their instruments”. I had to leave the room because I thought that they were going to hit me. And looking back, they had every right to. I was being the asshole that night, not Tre Anastasio.

I’ve seem to have made my peace with Phish and the Dead in the last few years, but I can’t do it with Dave Matthews. I don’t know whether I just outgrew them or what, but listening to a DMB song now is like fingernails on a chalkboard. Like the Phish phungus, DMB was brought into my life by the same college roommate – he also was fond of Blues Traveller (before they went commercial), Rusted Root (I still can’t believe they nabbed a national commercial), God Street Wine, New Riders of the Purple Sage and another band whom I can see the cover of their CD but can’t remember the name. Each band was terrible, aside from Dave Matthews.

We played “Under the Table and Dreaming” a lot in my room during the spring of 1995 and I liked it. In fact, I liked Dave Matthews quite a bit; eagerly anticipating their follow-up to UtTaD, “Crash”, watching their videos on MTV and seeing them in concert in the fall of 1996 (which was really good—though the next day I saw Pearl Jam in concert and that was wayyyyyy better). Yeah, DMB were a jam band, but they were an interesting jam band – they had a saxophone AND a violin! That made for some totally different music.

I don’t consider myself a hipster—and if you look back at these Good Songs entries, I’m sure you don’t either—but as DMB got more and more popular, I liked them less and less. Which is dumb, I know, but I couldn’t stand to be lumped in with the same people who I saw at the second Dave Matthews Band show I went to. I stood behind one girl who screamed for “Satellite” for the entire show. By the end, she was losing her damn mind pleading and yelling for “Satellite” over and over and over and over again. Side note, the group did not play “Satellite” that night and the wailing banshee went home very sad.

It was at the very moment that I decided, “I don’t want to become part of this” and started to distance myself from the band. I bought the group’s third album and half-heartedly gave it a listen, but I was done. My friend was a super Dave fan at the time and he got a bunch of tickets to a show in Foxboro* which I went to. But I only stayed for the opening acts (Ben Fold Five and Beck) and then I went back to the party bus that he rented to transport us to the gig. I’m a notorious cheapskate, if I paid money to see a movie that turns out to suck, I’ll stick with it, but I didn’t feel bad about leaving that show early on that night.

* The Dave Matthews Band is the first band I’ve ever seen in concert where the shows moved to progressively larger arenas. First one was at the TD Garden, second was at GreatWoods and the last one was at the old Foxboro Stadium.

I am all done with Dave.

The rest of this tape is still really good. Some quick hits:

The Simpsons – they actually didn’t sing “South of the Border”, Gene Merlino did, but I first heard it on the “Kamp Krusty” episode and it blew me away. Maybe it was because that episode was one of my favorite episode endings of all time, “Get ready for two weeks in the happiest place on Earth! TIAJUANA!” and then the drum hits. What a song.

Beastie Boys – this song reminds me of a lip sync my friends did in high school, but aside from the high school nostalgia the song itself is pretty awesome. This whole album (Paul’s Boutique) was the beginning of a long stay at the top for those guys—even though no one knew it at the time.

Duran Duran – “The Reflex” is the best pop song of the 1980s. I believed it when I was in fifth grade and I continue to believe it now. DD may have bottomed out in the 90s (find their album of covers) but they knew what they were doing when they were famous.

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