NOTE: That photo is not Cracker circa 1994, but I mean, come on, it’s hilarious.
So, it’s 1994. I fall in love with “August and Everything After” by the Counting Crows. Obsessed. I’m trying to make my name as a music journalist and was looking for places to write. I have no idea how I thought Penthouse would be a good place to get published, but I did. I pitched the Counting Crows and Cracker. It was one of the hottest tours. Made perfect sense.
My editor at Penthouse was great. Super nice woman. She was up for the story and so I went off to get it done. This was one of my first brushes with record company publicists. I want to be clear — there are some great ones, very nice and helpful. But my experience — and an ongoing resentment list at that time — was that 90 percent of them were straight up assholes. It’s unfortunate that some of the nicest musicians have the worst publicists. I don’t get it.
Anyway, the folks at Virgin were great at getting David Lowery on the phone. Odds are it was Wendy Brynford-Jones (not her name then) who made the hook up with David Lowery (was his name then and now). The Geffen, the Counting Crows’ label? Not so helpful. To be fair, Adam Duritz was being overrun with requests and, I can understand now, was approaching burn out. I didn’t understand that then. I do now.
So, David picks up the phone from some production office in the middle of nowhere. We chat. He’s smart, funny, mildly acerbic and while he was also on the verge of interview burnout, was great. At the end, and I regret this to this day, I ask him if he can find Adam. I so wanted that interview. I don’t know if David actually looked or if he put the phone down and waited, but he came back a couple of minutes later and said Adam was out doing his laundry.
Anyway, here’s the fax cover letter (a FAX!) and the unedited story … I’ll find a PDF of the thing one of these days and post it.
FR: David John Farinella
RE: Cracker Article
DATE: February 14, 1994
PAGES: 4 (including this one)
The article turned into a story just about Cracker because the Counting Crows folks called at two this afternoon to let me know they didn’t have time to be interviewed. I think, though, that Cracker is a great band for the Fast Forward section anyway. They are the headliners on this tour and they are selling out all over the country, not to mention the fact that the video for Low is on the MTV Top Twenty Countdown and the album has received a bunch of notice.
I’m putting in two day mail tomorrow another hard copy of the story along with a disk with the story.
I’ll look forward to hearing what you think.
Fast Forward: Sounds
By David John Farinella
There are some things you need to know before you listen to Kerosene Hat by Cracker:
First and foremost, Cracker is not a retro band.
Second, Sandra Bernhard is David Lowery’s feminine counterpart.
Side note: David and partner Johnny Hickman bought Sandra 20 red roses and a box of chocolates when she showed up on the set to film the video for Low.
Third, David Lowery does not believe in good or bad; he believes in the mundane versus the strange.
Fourth, while Kerosene Hat is being billed the most important album of the year, David Lowery is just writing songs he wants to hear, filling up parts of his musical diet that aren’t being filled anywhere else. Nothing more. “A lot of my records have become reactionary, because they contain things that I’m not getting elsewhere,” he explains.
Fifth, David Lowery is obsessed with Soviet cosmonauts. Especially the cosmonaut that was stuck in space for a year while the Soviet Union was disintegrating. This was the cosmonaut who, when he got back to earth, fainted because his brain was so heavy to him, and who had to live under water for 48 hours so he could readjust to gravity. “I know in some weird way that I totally understand that guy,” Lowery says. “There’s some tiny universal truth there that nobody else has said.” The story impressed (or obsessed) him so much that he mentioned the cosmonaut in two songs, Nostalgia and the first single Low.
Side note: Although rockets are mentioned in two songs on this album, Lowery thinks that strict Freudians should not be alarmed, although he admits his obsession is a bit “bizarre.”
Sixth, Lowery does not believe in making political statements. “We’re just in it for ourselves,” he explains. “Anyone that tells you anything different is full of shit.” He avoids making statements because he can never figure out what is cool and because he believes the ultimate statement has already been made by Bob Marley’s song, War. “I would feel so stupid doing (a message song) knowing that song is out there.”
Seventh, what Lowery tries to accomplish as a songwriter, and does in Kerosene Hat, is to talk to listeners the same way people talk in real life. “If you’re just sitting around with your friends shooting the shit, you use a little irony, a little sarcasm, then you get serious for a while, then you’ll say something funny and then you might say something that’s just such obvious bullshit.” Which is a lot like this album, from the smartass second track Movie Star (“Well, the movie star, well, she crashed her car, but everyone said she was beautiful, even without her head…”) to the darker Low, I Want Everything, Take Me Down To The Infirmary.
Eighth, there are really only 14 songs on the album, the other 85 are camouflage for the gems Euro-trash Girl and I Ride My Bike, which were previously available only on a limited edition EP. It’s up to you to find ‘em. One hint: listen to all 99 songs, it’s worth it.
Ninth, the next time they pretend to put 99 songs on an album, they really will. They’ll all be ten seconds long, but there will be 99 of ‘em.
Tenth, David Lowery believes that there are people like him everywhere.
Eleventh, he believes that it’s easier to invent another person and have them talk than it is to say your own stuff.
Twelfth, Johnny Hickman sings the tenth track on both albums, and nobody knows why.
Okay, now listen to the album. It’ll leave you quakin’ in your Keds, torn between laughing and crying, which is the point.