Wed May 1, 2002
What Happened? : The Story of Every Band I've Ever Liked
Records that once shined so brightly in your collection are now blemishes to your coolness...
By Chris McQuoid, WCBE
It never seems to fail. I often go to see shows, and follow my favorite bands. As of late I've noticed a pattern evolving. Almost depressing in a way, it's a satirical view that I hold as being true. You ever notice how all those VH1 Behind the Music's all are the same, (band begins, becomes popular, gets addicted to drugs, breaks up, attempts comeback, currently sings about God or now works in lame musical)-- well this is similar, but significantly less interesting.
Phase 1 : Let's time travel back a few years, let’s say five. You go to a show by mistake, and are amazed at what you find. Perhaps your soon to be favorite band is opening for a larger more established band (See Phases 2-3), and you have no idea who they are. Or perhaps you know somebody who knows somebody who is going, so you decide to go along most likely out of boredom.
At the show you are blown away. This band that you've happened upon strikes you as being new, exciting, and somehow makes "three dudes with guitars;" seem interesting again. It's also important that while in Phase 1 to note the lack of people in the crowd so that in Phases 2-3 you can say, "Three years ago I saw them and only six people were in the crowd, now this place is sold out." Of course there may have been six or sixty people in the crowd, however it's very important for you to tell this little white lie now. (Not only to seem cooler in Phases 2-3, but also for my lame theory to at least appear true.
Later that night you purchase their CD (or 7-inch if you want to seem extremely cool in Phases 2-3) and start bragging to your friends about the show they missed.
Phase 2 : Phase 2 is kind of like the last few seasons of a bad sitcom. Have you ever noticed how when a sitcom is dropping in the ratings, or when the children are now too old to be living at home, the producers decide to move a younger kid into the picture to regenerate interest. The episode this happens in the established characters say, "Golly-Gee, I'm so excited that our nephew Sammy is coming to live with us indefinitely." Well if you loved your nephew so much, then why the H-E-double hockey sticks has no one ever mentioned this little brat in the first six seasons. Vince and Coy replaced Bo and Luke, Oliver became a Brady, etc.
So now the "Sammy Swartz Trio" is coming to town soon. Every one is talking about how great it will be to see them. Of course just like in the sitcom, the reason no one has ever mentioned this band before is because no one has honestly ever heard of them until last week. However it is very important that in Phase 2 to claim you've been a "Sammy Swartz Trio" fan for years now. After all, one can't be seen as not cool enough to have known about SST. The show goes over fine, and now every one knows about your favorite band.
Phase 3 : Phase 3 is usually smooth sailing. SST is riding high on success, their shows are relatively packed, they've put out 2-3 good records, and have gained status as respected musicians. It should be noted that all of this is done usually without the help of a major label. During this era they rarely deviate from the formula that originally gave them success. The bite they had when you first saw them (Phase 1) is not quite as strong as it once was, but at this point no one seems to care.
Phase 4 : The band gets signed to a major label. This in itself is not the bad thing, however it always coincides with several other factors which lead to the inevitable downfall. Normally getting signed to a major label would be a good thing -- the band now gets to eat. By this time however, SST has put out three really good records and a few 7-inches, and are now getting tired of what they are doing. This usually stems from playing the same songs over and over again on the road.
They now begin to experiment with a new sound. This experimental album inevitably angers one or more of the original members, who leave to concentrate more on their side projects. The album itself flops because fans find it difficult to get into the "new sound" and are confused at the session musicians who now tour with the remains of what once was SST. Poor sales cause SST to be dropped from their major label, and the indie they came from hesitates to take them back because they didn't "keep it real."
For the typical fan, this is a troubled time. How could a band you once were so into, now sound so uncool? Is it that each musician has approximately five years of creativity in them before they become a "back in the day" story, or is it that your tastes have changed. Slowly you take their poster off your wall, and their records that once shined so brightly in your collection now are blemishes to your coolness.
You now have two choices when someone comes over and sees a Sammy Swartz Trio record in your collection: (1) argue "it was cool back in the day, I swear... I mean I still like 'old' Sammy Swartz Trio stuff... It used to be cool before they sold out," or (2) sell them back to a used record store one day when you're short of money so you can eat.
Naturally, beware: disgruntled aging rockers may laugh at you while doing so, after all, who is uncool enough to listen to SST?
Chris McQuoid is a musician and a weekend announcer for WCBE.