Shadows grow so long before my eyes and they’re moving across the page. Suddenly the day turns into night…” –Peter Frampton
The pop-reggae band Big Mountain hails from San Diego, but sounds like they could have just as easily been formed in a garage on any one of Hawaii’s beautiful islands. The “la-bi-zibu-zabu-da-bi-yay” (or however you spell it) is textbook ad-libbed filler that is the forerunner of growling, mumbling, and often nonsensical mid-song rap verse found in many, many local songs. The band’s cover of Peter Frampton’s “Baby, I Love Your Way” can be found on Unity, a 1994 release, as well as the soundtrack for Reality Bites. To be honest, it isn’t even my favorite cover of the song. That distinction goes to Lisa Bonet’s snippet as featured in the movie High Fidelity. And really, if I was going to select a song from the Reality Bites soundtrack, Lisa Loeb’s “Stay (I Miss You)” was the overwhelming favorite. There is, however, a certain inaccessibility in regards to my relationship with Loeb’s greatest hit. The lyrics are so stream of consciousness and her delivery so passionate that I found it difficult to attach any personal claim to it. It’s a great pop song, but it’s not one of mine, if that makes sense.
I heard Big Mountain’s rendition of “Baby, I Love Your Way” long before I heard the original, so I mistakenly thought that the song was fresh and new. A combination of my father and MTV alerted me to my error and this situation added to an obsession that would last for over a decade. Though I cannot sing and could never play an instrument, I eventually became obsessed with learning music trivia.
To be fair, this love of useless in formation wasn’t confined to music. I also absorbed information on comic books, sports, and movies. When the first season of VH1’s The World Series of Pop Culture aired in 2006, I watched every episode. I knew that I had a wealth of pop culture knowledge, but as I played along from my couch, I was actually stunned by how many of the answers I knew. For a few seconds I let myself dream about leading a team comprised of myself, my brother Paul, and my college roommate Derek into WSoPC glory. I remember being in Long’s looking for a greeting card. There were two other people in the aisle. Air Supply’s “All Out of Love” came on over the speakers. “Eh,” one of the women said to the other. “Somebody wen copy Jagged Edge.” I smirked. Having this kind of knowledge made me a snob. It didn’t mean anything, but it kind of did. I hated cover songs, especially shitty cover songs like this.
By then, I was 26 and just as Frampton’s lyrics above beautifully describe the passing of time, I also underwent a transition into what is frequently called “adulthood.” I would have less and less contact with popular culture, eventually aging out. Musically, I have no idea what new music sounds like unless I hear it played relentlessly on local radio or see some up and coming band in SNL. Because all of my favorite music is my old music, cover versions of songs are just about the only way I can enjoy “new” music. The shoe is on the other foot of a table that has turned.
I have spilled a lot of words in this blog mocking my brother’s versions of pop songs, but the truth is, he and Marc and Geno are my favorite band. I have seen them live more than any other band, once at a sold out Big City Diner, and many times in my parents’ garage. The name of their band is In the Meantime, a reference to both the Space Hog album and the fact that performing was something they outside of their regular lives. I have made two contributions to this band: the lyrics to a song called “When I Grow Up,” and the suggesting the name “Walter Do Drugs.” Only one of them took.
I could listen to In the Meantime play the same set of songs over and over and over and over for all eternity and not get bored because the truth about music is something I didn’t grasp until I was already an adult. Lyrics are awesome. Guitar riffs are awesome. Soaring vocals are amazing. Guitar solos get me excited. But the most important feature of any song is its personal meaning to the one bobbing their head along with the bass line.