All that jive about first impressions being the most important moment in a relationship and you’re kicking things off with the Spin Doctors? Really?
For a brief period of time the Spin Doctors were, as the kids say (actually, I can’t vouch for the kids, but I say this quite frequently; kids around the world would be wise to follow suit), trill as fuck; they covered Rolling Stone when doing so still mattered and had more than one platinum album in the States despite being largely known for a single pair of songs. If you want a history lesson on the band, check out their Wikipedia page (now with 100% more John Popper references!), or this post on Consequence of Sound which pretty much covers the exact same stuff. That’s not what I’m interested in though. What I know, love, and (surprisingly still) remember about the band is their five times fucking platinum album, Pocket Full of Kryptonite. OK, but why introduce the series with it? Well, here’s the context:
I was in grade school when the album was first released in 1991, but likely didn’t own it until around 1993 when the band struck commercial gold with “Two Princes” (which for years I thought was called “Two Princesses”) and “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.” Though I hadn’t quite reached the point in my life where my Walkman (and later, my Discman) traveled with me everywhere I went, this was the period of my young adolescence when I was first introduced to Columbia House Records. I remember scanning the massive mail-outs they would send, each page more colorful than the last, tearing off the little stamp-sized album identifiers, licking them, and slapping them on the order form. For those who aren’t familiar, Columbia House was kinda like a drug dealer that people hated but still buttered up to when they needed a cheap fix. The old adage “the first one’s free, but the next one will cost ya” was never as true as it was with those shady bastards: get a dozen tapes (later CDs) for just one cent! (small print: “you better enjoy ’em, because for the next seven we’re going to financially rape the shit out of you™”). Anyways, I don’t remember which other tapes I received on that particular go-around with the company, but I do remember sometime later walking through a field with a friend who was on my hockey team, discussing who our favorite bands were. His name was Matt and he loved him some Aerosmith. Come to think of it, we both owned Big Ones at the time of said discussion, so it might have been 1994 when I first owned the tape. Regardless, my response to him was, of course, the Spin Doctors.
Looking back on it, I never fully understood how much of a jam-band they were. Even when I bought their second album (which I purchased from a pawn shop, re-sold, then re-purchased on at least two occasions), it didn’t sink in. Now knowing more of the genre (know thy enemy) it’s not hard to realize that Kryptonite meets the most basic of qualifications to be certified a jam-band record: the album has a fucking 13 minute song on it. Despite my contempt for the Phishs of the world (moreover, their fundamentalist fans), to this day I still think that monster “Shinbone Alley/Hard To Exist” is a solid listen (though perhaps only for nostalgia’s sake). The nine tracks that come before it, though, are where the bulk of my fondness remains.
Like my aforementioned back-and-forth with the group’s second album, the rather shitty (though I can’t actually remember actually listening to the whole thing from start to finish) Turn It Upside Down (which still went double-platinum), I had an ongoing problem with buying music, selling it when I needed money, and buying it again. The majority of the time this was done through some used CD stores, so I didn’t end up losing too much on the deal, but it was still a bonehead habit. I can recall having no fewer than five copies of Kryptonite in my life; the most recent being during my college years; none of which I still own. But what I do keep with me is my affection for the saucy riff and bouncing bass line that peels open the album on “Jimmy Olsen’s Blues,” the gentle simplicity of “Forty or Fifty,” the relative loudness which followed with “Refrigerator Car,” the cool harmonica-rock (I wasn’t kidding about the John Popper reference; the band came from the same scene in NY as Blues Traveler) of “Off My Line” and, of course, “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” and my personal favorite “Two Princes(ses).”
Pocket Full of Kryptonite wasn’t the first tape or record I ever owned, but it remains one of the earliest which still sounds good to my years. The hope is that a lot of other music is shared in this ongoing feature, but there are few pieces which I will hold as near to me as this by the Spin Doctors. If you’ve made it this far, first: thank you. Second: why not share one of your first musical purchases that still bears relevance to you.
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