Discover more from Sorry I Haven't Written in a While
Starting in two weeks or maybe three (I’m recovering from COVID) I’m going to start posting here regularly, twice a week. I’m working on a string of book projects and there will be more about that going forward.
For a while, it will all be free. Then I will go to a model where one post a week is free and one post a week will be for paid subscribers. I know which one will be more popular and that’s okay! This is going to be as much an experiment in self-worth and valuing what I do as it will be a cold-hearted cash grab.
In the meantime I wrote this last night and threw it up on my Facebook page first. Sorry.
Reading the news about Smashmouth founder/frontman Steve Harwell in hospice with liver failure really hit me tonight in a way I’d have never expected. After all, the band has been, for this country, a punchline since their career launched that summer that “Walkin’ on the Sun’ was inescapable. It was one of those songs that felt like it written specifically as a piss take on a vapid number one smash hit.
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In my abortive attempt at college when I was 19, I’d hang out at the school paper’s offices and do whatever kind of writing/review work was called for. I claimed the back page as the humor section and anointed myself editor. After a putsch got rid of our editor-in-chief/arts and entertainment editor, I took that section as well. I ended up editing the op/ed section, too. Then I quit school. Another story.
I also reviewed any and all albums that nobody else wanted to because I was so hungry for any kind of new music. I discovered Fountains of Wayne this way; their eponymous debut album having premiered that year. I also reviewed the legendary street performer Wesley Willis, which was very disorienting because he was released on a major label - Rick Rubin’s American Recordings - but they sent us zero artist info to explain what I was listening to or why.
I also received a copy of ‘Fush Yu Mang”, the album ‘Walkin’ on the Sun’ comes from. While the song didn’t hit me the way it hit the rest of the world, I got what the band was going for. It was an era of jokey pop with punk inclinations, and I thought the band was pretty good at it. There are still some songs from that album I’ll listen to. ‘Heave Ho,’ which documents the band’s battles with their neighbors is a great example. Fast, brash, funny.
When I lived in NYC, I had a show on my friends’ internet radio station, Radio Free Brooklyn. I used my status as “press” to wrangle press passes to an all-day concert called ‘90s fest,’ which included an opportunity to go backstage and interview the artists. I talked to Naughty by Nature, Salt n Pepa, and I got an award selfie with Lisa Loeb. The artists would play their hits for 40 minutes. The kids would go berserk. It was a good time.
Smashmouth were the headliners. I interviewed the entire band all at once, except Steve Harwell. He was on one of his bad public behavior streaks at the time, and so I was disappointed he wasn’t available, but not surprised. I was the only person interviewing Smashmouth. I felt like a conducting trying to coax a performance out of a reluctant orchestra.
I asked them the question I’m curious about any famous band - from E Street to The Revolution - with major number one hits - were they tired of playing them night after night? Did the band ever get sick of playing “All Star?” The answer I got surprised me. “Not at all. Because if you stick around and watch the show you’ll see, when we play those first notes the crowd is going to go crazy.”
As soon as the band began their set, and I mean right when they took the stage, the skies opened up. It poured. It was not going to stop. The band played on. I went home.