’90s Song of the Week: Collective Soul’s “Shine”

*guitar riff: da-dada-da-da-da-da-dada-da* YeahEd Roland

The internet tells me that the title of this album is a Paul Simon reference. Perhaps, but it has always sounded to me like the worst kind of relationship trouble.

The internet tells me that the title of this album is a Paul Simon reference.

The story of Hints, Allegations, and Things Left Unsaid is the stuff of long shot rock band lore. Singer Ed Roland put together a few musicians to record a demo in hopes of selling the songs and promoting his songwriting. College radio got its hands on it and “Shine” received heavy airplay, eventually gaining national attention. The album originally released in 1993, but was re-released in 1994 after the band signed to a major label. Remember major labels? “Shine” was the first single off the album and Collective Soul’s first and biggest hit. If you are human and reading this entry, you’ve probably heard this song at least once in your life. If you are a human and reading this entry and were born between 1970 and 1980, you’ve heard this song at least a billion times in your life.

Pipeline Cafe, 2005.

Pipeline Cafe, 2005.

Collective Soul was my brother Matty’s favorite band through most of the ’90s. I’ve seen Collective Soul twice in concert. The first time I saw them was at BayFest in 2002. I caught a shirt signed by the band. But by then, the Collective Soul had already released a greatest hits compilation and had already been as popular as they’d ever be. The second time I caught them live was at Pipeline Cafe in 2005; they were touring in support of Youth, released in 2004.

If Collective Soul had just played their hits, it would have been a great show. When they opened with “Why Pt. 2,” I screamed like I had won some kind of amazing prize. Because of Matty’s interest in the band, I had listened to most of their albums end to end. I enjoyed some of the deep cuts, too. We scored a drumstick and also a set list at the end of the show. We spoke with the roadie in hopes of sticking around to meet the band, but the Pipeline Cafe security chased us out. The part of the show that has stuck with me is the saddest, at least to me, back then. Since Collective Soul were touring in support of Youth, they mixed in the new stuff with a lot of the old stuff. They’d play “Gel” and “Heavy,” then move into “Counting the Days.” The intro to “December” was met with cheers while the immediate response to “Better Now” was noticeably milder. Halfway through the show, some random guy shouted “Shine!” At the end of the next song, he shouted the same thing. In time he would become aggressive, screaming “Play ‘Shine’!” between songs. They’re saving it for the encore, jackass! I was irked by this. Apparently so was Ed Roland. “Oh, we’re gonna play ‘Shine’,” Roland said. The crowd applauded. “That’s the only reason we came here,” he continued, less loudly but more sarcastically. I felt kind of bad for him; no one else seemed to mind. And as promised, they did play “Shine.” And though I felt bad, damn if I didn’t gleefully scream along:

“Shine” is far and away Collective Soul’s most popular and well-known song. Even people -like my daughter – who don’t know who Collective Soul are know that you’re supposed to utter or groan or shout or meow a single syllable after that super-catchy guitar riff preceding the chorus. The song is their legacy. They will be obligated to play “Shine” so long as they tour. They can get away with not playing “Listen” at a show,but they can’t get away with not playing “Shine.” This is the epiphany I had that night as I stood before the band. It really did affect me. The song had become one of those self-created prisons Scott Stapp screamed about relentlessly.  But when I did the research for this entry, I learned the extent to which the band owed their fame to “Shine.” Then I discovered something that absolutely floored me. Ed Roland is 51 years old. He’s three years younger than my dad. I always knew he was older than me, but I never imagined it was by that much. By the time “Shine” began spamming MTV and the radio, he was nearly 30, pretty old – in pop musician years – to come up with one’s first big hit out of nowhere.

Obviously, a lot of time has passed since 2005. In that time, I got married, bought a house, had a child, and gained roughly twenty pounds – give or take 15. As a result, my sympathetic view toward “Shine” has changed as well. Let’s say I wrote a short novel (I’ll call it The Coolest Customer) today at the age of 34, and it somehow catapulted me to wealth and fame. Let’s say this single creation afforded me the opportunity to continue writing without having to worry about a “real” job. Let’s say it allowed me to travel the world and meet people who truly loved my work, but mostly really, really loved The Coolest Customer. Let’s then say that the trade off is that I’d have to read  the first page of The Coolest Customer aloud to an audience 200 times a year for the rest of my life, or however long I decide to produce literature. I’m married. I have a mortgage. I have a child. I need to eat more delicious food. Knowing nothing else, I take that deal every time.

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