Tied to the 90s: 10 1990s rock songs that were killed by being overplayed Wednesday, March 14, 2007Posted by Yostal in 90s rock, Gen X&Y, music, Reasons why I am single, Tied to the 90s, Yostal.
Welcome back to “Tied to the 90s“, a not-very complete guide to a decade that was. I’m your host, Yostal, and once more, I’ll be taking you through the pop culture landscape of the 1990s. If you have any suggestions for future columns, please email me at GoinYostal@gmail.com or leave me a comment.
Today, I’ll be looking at 10 songs that were killed by being overplayed. This list probably will not be as “cool” as some of my previous music lists, but these are basically songs which were good enough to be really popular , so popular in fact that they probably got way too overplayed, which then “killed” them. With that in mind, here we go…
I don’t want to too badly hammer DBS for writing a really hooky track, but that’s exactly what got them killed. You could not go anywhere during summer of 1995 without hearing this on your pop music or alt. rock radio stations. It was ubiquitous, and what exactly is it about? Building a relationship that’s clearly falling apart based on a shared love of a film. Granted, a classic piece of American cinema, but still, it’s an utterly Gen-X moment, trying to make things work based on the notion that you both like a movie. It’s “the one thing we got.” Not even “one thing”, “THE one thing”. I realize that opposites attract, but this is grasping at straws in the worst way. And yet, as silly as it is, it’s so damn hooky, it was like the Pigpen cloud of dust, following radio listeners everywhere during that summer, you know, when stations weren’t playing Hootie.
Actually, this one never got killed for me, per se, but the frequency of its play in my life leads to a great story which I wanted to share. Picture it, Ann Arbor, 1997. Every Football Saturday, my roommate Dave and I are walking down from the CC Little Bus Stop to Michigan Stadium. It’s an amazing walk, you take in the whole feeling of the campus. So, we’ve come across the Diag and are headed towards the Michigan Union. Next door to the Michigan Union is Sigma Chi, which always hosts a major pre-game bash. So, as we walk by, every game day, without fail, “Block Rockin’ Beats” is blasting out of the speakers at like 90 dB. I mean, the odds of this are not too staggering, Dave and I were creatures of habit, so we likely walked by in roughly the same window every game day, but to hear “Block Rockin’ Beats” every time is just a shocker, a major shocker. But it had to be good luck, I mean, every game that season, a Michigan win. I even remember the two of us having a discussion as to whether he was going to take a portable CD player with him to Pasadena to make sure he heard the song before the 1998 Rose Bowl. Anyway, this song, which won a Grammy for Best Instrumental, holds a special place in my overplayed heart.
It’s a strange collaboration, you have Gwen Stefani’s vocals in the chorus with Moby on the verses. If you weren’t sure, Moby claims that the song is about a car ride in post-apocalyptic New York City. (On the plus side, parking should be plentiful.) Being a Midwestern boy, I’m just trying to figure out where the “South Side” of New York City is, I mean, I thought that the Southern part would be The Battery, no? I mean, it’s no worse than Journey’s claim of being a city boy, born in raised in South Detroit, which, if you look at a map, is Windsor, Ontario. The belief that it’s about driving around Chicago is more easily bought, with its legendary South Side. Anyway, this one shows up a lot on my playlogs from 2000, so I’m going to trust the list and say, yep, probably way overplayed.
This one is another sports related one for me. The Red Wings, once upon a time, used this song after every goal was scored at a home game. My first Wings game live and in person was February 15, 1992, when the Wings played the then-expansion San Jose Sharks. They won by a score of 11-1. So 11 times that game, “Unbelievable!” So every time the Wings go crazy lighting the lamp, I fully expect this one to start playing, even if they don’t do it anymore. (I did program one of the EA NHL games a couple of years ago to play this every time the Wings scored in a game, so that was kind of fun.) It’s not just left to hockey though, all sports have leaned on this one over the years, in part because of the way “You’re UNBELIEVABLE” is hit in the chorus. And then Tom Jones got involved, and then later Kraft got involved, and then Colbert got involved, and the rest is history.
(You’ll forgive me for choosing a fan video using the song featuring clips from Arrested Development. I mean, it was THAT good a show.) This is a strange strange song to have been a huge hit, but it showed up in American Pie and in Disturbing Behavior (you know, the Katie Holmes movie), and it was just all over the radio during the summer of 1998. I think it’s the “been around the world and found that only stupid people are breeding” line that people seem to remember, but there’s a lot of lyrical wackiness here, like “they cut off my legs, now I’m an amputee, god damn you!!!” or about “I wanna publish ‘zines, and rage against machines” that just make this one of the strangest songs to be a Top 5 modern rock track. I’m not sick, but I’m not well, indeed.
6). “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in my Hand” by Primitive Radio Gods (from the 1996 album Rocket)
I’m going to get a letter for this, but I will claim this is the only good thing to come out of the movie The Cable Guy. Sampling B.B. King’s 1964 song “How Blue Can You Get?” and slipping in some hip-hop subtext, this song was everywhere the summer after I graduated from high school. Hitting #1 on the Billboard Modern Rock tracks, it contains one of my favorite completely looney lyrical turns of phrase in a 1990s rock song ” Sunday comes and all the papers say ‘Ma Teresa’s joined the mob / and happy with her full time job'”. I been downhearted baby, ever since the day we met, rolling between Chris O’Connor’s “doot doo’s” make for a song you immediately remember when you hear it, even if you don’t remember all of the words of the title at that time.
This may be my favorite STP song ever, so it hurts to put this on the list, but it’s true. I blame Brandon Lee. OK, it may not be fair, but it’s true. Think about it, would people have flocked to see The Crow in the numbers they did without the tragic connection? Perhaps, but the connections pushed it, and subsequently its soundtrack, way up the notice ladder. Thus, this song showed all over the radio during the summer of 1994 because it was on the film’s soundtrack. That said, it’s a strange song, moving back and forth in tempo, having a really low key bridge that swells into a hard driving crescendo. I never noticed the elements of a bluegrass sound before I did the research on it, but I guess in relistening with that in mind, you can hear it, a little.
My nod to CanCon. Growing up in the Detroit suburbs, one of our finest alt. rock stations was (and still is) 89X, CIMX Windsor/Detroit. Well, sometimes you have to bend the rules to meet your Canadian Content requirements, and when you’re sick of playing Bryan Adams, there’s this song. Cochrane’s biggest American hit, I will argue that this is the hookiest song on this list. It’s a great driving song (as one might expect), it has a locational name check (though I never would have put Mozambique, Memphis, the Khyber Pass, and Vancouver in ANY grouping of four), and it’s got lyrical speed variance, all of which draw you in. Covered by Rascal Flatts for the Cars soundtrack last year, it ended up being the #1 country single of the year, but I will always take the original when given a choice.
I think of any song on this list, this is the one that really just got destroyed by being overplayed. Which is a shame, because Semisonic is such a vastly underrated band when you look beyond this track. (My pal Jerkwheat sort of beat me to this point last week, but if you still don’t believe me: “F.N.T.”, “If I Run”, “For the Love of the Game”, and “Singing in My Sleep”. Go listen, I’ll be here when you’re done…See, told you.) It’s such a perfect song, it speaks to a theoretically universal moment, and to those to young to experience it, it speaks to the aspirational moment of being old enough to be in a bar at last call. The simple little piano riff at the open is just enough to bring you in, and by that point, you’re rolling with it. You get to the classic “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” line and then boom, into the chorus. Probably a great karaoke track, at some point, all of us do indeed know who we want to take us home. I do like that Dan Wilson, a major baseball fan, has said he would love if just one MLB closer would pick “Closing Time” as their entry music, but he doesn’t see it happening.
(Fast fact: The Refreshments contributed the theme song to King of the Hill) The other Arizona modern rock band, this is an awesome story song that is as goofy as all hell. From “and you can look deep into my eyes, like I was a supermodel, uh-huh” to the alias on your id card claiming that you’re Capt. Jean-Luc Picard on the United Federation of Planets, I’ve always loved this song. (Seriously, has anyone else dropped some love for an Enterprise captain in the lyrics of their song, I mean, besides the shout-out in “99 Luftballoons” to Capt. Kirk.) Add to that that the singer calls out his own double cross with the line “Everybody knows that the world is full of stupid people” before using the pistol to keep the pesos. Oh, and because the next track on the album is appropriately entitled “Mexico”. But, for all of it’s silliness, there’s a lot of good guitar work on this one which keeps you coming back for another go. All in all, another exceptional track that you could not escape from that summer.
I’m sure I forgot some classics here, so please, have at the obvious misses in the comments.
That’s all I have for this week. I genuinely hoped you enjoyed it, and please come back next week for another edition of “Tied to the 90s”. Until then, this has been Subcommandante Yostal, logging off.