Saturday, June 25, 2005

follow you down

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Gin Blossoms - Follow You Down

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Did you see the sky
I think it means that we've been lost
Maybe one less time is all we need
I can't really help it if my tongue's all tied in knots
Jumping off a bridge, it's just the farthest that I've ever been

Anywhere you go, I'll follow you down
Anyplace but those I know by heart
Anywhere you go, I'll follow you down
I'll follow you down, but not that far

I know we're headed somewhere, I can see how far we've come
But still I can't remember anything
Let's not do the wrong thing and I'll swear it might be fun
It's a long way down when all the knots we've tied have come undone

Anywhere you go, I'll follow you down
Anyplace but those I know by heart
Anywhere you go, I'll follow you down
I'll follow you down, but not that far

How you gonna ever find your place
Running in an artificial pace
Are they gonna find us lying face down in the sand
So what the hell now, we've already been forever damned

Anywhere you go I'll follow you down...

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I think I figured it out. The Gin Blossoms were Weezer, but with Gram Parsons instead of the Cars, and with alcoholism instead of geeky alienation.

And, as much as it pains me to say it, Rivers Cuomo has nothing on Doug Hopkins, Scott Johnson, Bill Leen, Phillip Rhodes, Jesse Valenzuela, and Robin Wilson. You want pathos? The Gin Blossoms had pathos in spades.

The GB's formed in Tempe in 1987, with a backbone of lifelong friends Bill Leen (bass) and Doug Hopkins (guitar). Initially, they went through the growing pains of any young band, losing and replacing several members before being signed by A&M Records in 1989 with a lineup of Leen and Hopkins, Phillip Rhodes on drums, Jesse Valenzuela on guitar, and the vocal talents of Robin Wilson.

Having self-released an album before their record deal (the full album "Dusted"), they were prepared to come out with a bang on their major label debut, the 1991 EP "Up and Crumbling". The record received a modicum of praise, and more importantly, college radio airplay, establishing them as a creative force.

The band followed the semi-success of their EP with a full length debut, "New Miserable Experience", in 1992. Utilizing songs from "Dusted" and "Up and Crumbling", the album represented the full strength of Doug Hopkins' songwriting talent, in addition to the rest of the bands considerable output.

However, the recording sessions did not go well from a personal standpoint, and by the time of the album's release, Hopkins had been forced out of the band due to his rampant alcoholism and crippling depression. He was replaced at guitar by Scott Johnson.

The single "Hey Jealousy" was perhaps the pinnacle of Hopkins' craftsmanship. It tells of a man who refuses to accept his fate as a dumped ex-boyfriend, and who wishes for nothing more than a reconciliation. However, the protagonist won't change, saying instead "And you can trust me not to think/ And not to sleep around/ If you don't expect too much from me/ You might not be let down". The lyrics and music reflect the brilliance that can occur through the heartbreak of depression, and how chemical imbalances can be channeled into art, a la Van Gogh or Mozart.

The album's sales were moderately successful, until the summer of 1993, when the singles "Hey Jealousy" and "Found Out About You" began receiving major airplay from mainstream radio and even MTV. The album eventually topped one million sales, and thereby earned platinum status.

Just as the sales of the album reached their peak, Doug Hopkins took his own life on December 5, 1993.

This obviously shocked the band and led them to a contemplative break from recording for two years.

They returned in fine form, with the major radio hit "Till I Hear It From You", off of the "Empire Records" soundtrack. The song became their most played hit, but was not released on their next album, "Congratulations, I'm Sorry" in 1996. This album produced the song you see above you, "Follow You Down", the first major non-Hopkins song that received both critical success and massive airplay.

"Follow You Down" is a collaborative effort, as it was written by all of the members of the band at the time. The song sums up the entire thrust of the Gin Blossoms, the melancholy of alcoholism intermingled with the melancholy of lost love. It is impossible to see which topic is addressed at which time, so well have the two threads of thought been intertwined.

It reflects the hopelessness of lost love, as the protagonist wishes only to return to what he truly knows, the loving embrace of his mate. Alternately, the song reflects the hopelessness of alcoholism, as the protagonist is drawn into the ever-tightening spiral of his addiction by his need to return to "the places (he) knows by heart".

In both cases, the protagonist resists his urge, saying he will follow his addiction down, "but not that far", meaning his absolute depths as either an alcoholic or an abusive partner. He recognizes he can't return, and he shouldn't return, because he's better off not succumbing and hurting himself.

"Congratulations, I'm Sorry" did well in sales initially, but dropped off of the charts fairly quickly. The band disbanded in 1997, having released a string of brilliant singles to only a fraction of the acclaim they should have achieved.

The band reformed at the end of 2001, without Phillip Rhodes, for a one-off New Years' Eve gig. The band then proceeded to tour throughout the next year, releasing a live DVD and preparing for a new album.

Now, having written all of that, I realize that the Weezer comparison is shoddy at best. If anything, the Gin Blossoms were a country-influenced version of the Replacements, but with a staggering, tragic blow preventing them from lasting success.

1 Comments:

Blogger cHiCkA said...

yeah yeah yeah....pink converse are cool though, right...and i love your orange converse...hehe

12:14 PM

 

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