When: April 2001
Where: My mom’s car, rounding the corner from northbound on Lake Avenue to eastbound on Washington Boulevard
Who: My mother
We were on our way to the Lebanese Kitchen (go there if you can) on Washington and Hill when this song came on. It seemed simplistic in a good way that was rare at the time, but Coldplay has a bad tendency to blow it, which is why Nathan Rabin hates it so much.
Next: Aerosmith fails to appeal to a new generation.
When: November 1997
Where: Pacific Theaters Hastings Ranch (closed)
Who: My mother
In an unusual manifestation of brand loyalty, Disney had a monopoly on me. With the company’s recent purchase of ABC, it would pierce further by bringing me new episodes of Home Improvement. I was seeing one of their newer features when a trailer came on. I forget which movie it was for. I thought it was 101 Dalmatians, but that came out a year earlier. A little bit of research leads me to believe the film I was seeing was Flubber, and the trailer was for either Inspector Gadget, My Favorite Martian, or The Parent Trap. One remake, two adaptations of TV shows. Sound familiar?
Disney’s early-’90s work was so promising, and it shouldn’t have been a good sign that 8-year-old Sam Huddy, a 2nd grader with seemingly no taste or quality filter, looked down on what was to come, from the redundant California Adventure to endless direct-to-video sequels. That last part might as well be a dump on the American flag. And that, my friends, is why everybody hates Michael Eisner.
Next: El Niño hits, and things get retro.
When: September 1997
Where: Southbound on Pacific Avenue in my mom’s car
Who: My mother
When I was in the second grade, the older girls liked to play witches and imprison me. That later became a thing of mine, but that’s for another website.
During this trouble, my mother took me on a friday night, without warning, to a synagogue. I had no idea what was going on, but despite the 2-hour runtime of a typical Erev Shabbat service, I was pleased enough. I was not so pleased when she began sending me to Sunday school at said synagogue, as once again I had no idea what was going on. My entire knowledge of judaism up to this point was derived from the 1989 season of IETV’s רחוב סומסום, an Israeli adaptation of Sesame Street.
Temple Sinai was not accessible to me as a religious institution. The Sunday school teachers assumed we already knew everything, but as my family seems to be the least religious Jews in all of America, I did not. Also, I was quiet around strangers, and everyone here was a stranger. It was enjoyable enough, but it never felt personal until I was a full-grown adult, and not because of anyone there. And if you’re reading this, it wasn’t you, it was me. Now where was I?
Following a perfectly normal experience in 1st grade, I became an unbearably smug 2nd grader. This may have had to do something with my awful teacher who hated boys, oblivious to this as I may have been. I only listened to classical music, and after some forgotten misbehaviour my mother refused to play the classical station, instead listening to KROQ, halfway through this song. I didn’t like it. I do now.
Next: Blondie searches for Fermat’s last theorem
When: June 1997
Where: My parents’ bedroom TV
Weather: Warm, clear, the air conditioner was a little too cold.
Next time: Paul Simon in the desert.
When: January 1991
Where: My father’s 1988 Corolla, with the radio tuned to KROQ-FM
Who: My mother
Living in the future often puts you at a disadvantage. People living in, say, 1978, have no idea that the terrible clothes and music they have to live with will soon be completely swept away. On the other side, people living in good times never seem to think that bad things are coming. Most people who thought about it would put 1991 in the latter position, but when I first heard this song that January, nobody knew what would happen next.
In January 1991, The Soviet Union was our nominal enemy, The Cosby Show was on the air and Whitesnake was on tour. After all the changes of 1989-90, one could reasonably step back and realize that things had changed very little.
While The Stone Roses had swept through Europe, there was no indication that Britpop would ever reach America (it did, but not for years). Even this ubiquitous single, lost right in the middle ground between The Byrds and Best Coast, only peaked at #13 in the United States. Only when it was covered by Sixpence None The Richer (about which more later) did it appear seemingly on every TV show and advertisement for the next ten years.
Sixpence’s version is a simplified and feminized version of this otherwise dynamic song. One-album-wonder The La’s had infused it with a complex harmony and ambiguous subject matter; the band members had teased the idea that it was about heroin, already becoming the defining drug of the Nineties. So while Sixpence’s softer version may have been a hit in the boardroom, the original stands alone.
Next: What do you do when a song gets stuck in your head for 18 years, and you don’t know the name of the song, the artist, or the lyrics?