Song of the Day: Blind Melon, "St. Andrew's Fall"
In the summer of 1996, I was 14 years old and had just completed my run in middle school, with high school on the horizon. I couldn't get a job in a record store like I wanted because I was too young, but I was allowed to do farm work to pick up some extra scratch (mostly so I could buy CDs and passively save for a car). So I went to work for a guy my dad knew who ran a vegetable farm and greenhouse in town. In the early part of the season, I was in charge of knocking out weeds, and as the crops came in my job became handling the picking of various squashes, cucumbers, and tomatoes.
I got paid a ridiculous sum of money to do this (I can't remember my hourly rate, but it was unnecessarily ample) but there was a catch: Because of the nature of the plants and the savagery of the Connecticut summer, I had to do the bulk of my work exceptionally early in the morning. If I remember correctly, I would get up at 4:30 to be in the field by 5 and theoretically wrapped by 7 or 8. It only ended up being a few hours, but those hours ran fast and furious, and I was filthy and exhausted at the end of every day (and this was a job I went to seven days a week).
That sounds like a terrible way to spend one of the last truly free summer vacations in one's life, but it was simultaneously the best and worst job I ever had. It was physically draining and the hours were nuts, sure, but I also was making a bunch of cash and still had the bulk of my days free to do whatever I liked. Also, because I worked on my own in the outdoors, I spent the entirety of every shift listening to music on an old beat-up walkman that I'm pretty sure my dad pulled out of a school lost-and-found. I tended to listen to the radio, always tuned into the morning show on my local modern rock radio station, where I was treated to heavy rotation tracks like Primitive Radio Gods' "Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth With Money in My Hand," Nada Surf's "Popular," the Refreshments' "Banditos," Dishwalla's "Counting Blue Cars," Sponge's "Wax Ecstatic," Goldfinger's "Here In Your Bedroom" and Superdrag's "Sucked Out." (As you can see from that playlist, it was a great time in rock radio because nobody knew what to do with anything.)
But I also had raided a local record store that was closing and picked up a handful of albums on cassette for a buck or so a piece. One of those albums was Blind Melon's Soup, the second record from the band who brought us "No Rain." I always hated "No Rain" (and the cloying video with the Bee Girl that made it an MTV hit), and never actually got around to listening to Blind Melon's self-titled debut until a few years ago. (It is garbage.) But I remembered enjoying the video for "Galaxie," the first single from Soup that I must have caught during one of the few times it actually aired on MTV. I remembered liking the song, but in that era there was no real way to access music like that without actually purchasing the record, particularly in the case of an album that was dismissed when it first arrived (which precluded its presence on listening stations).
But for a dollar, I figured I could at least find out if I still liked "Galaxie." (I did.) I also found that Soup, released only a few months before frontman Shannon Hoon died, was a classic sophomore slump album that found a band trying to reconfigure its identity after it had a taste of fame. While Blind Melon's debut is a parade of hippy-dippy faux-jam nonsense, Soup is super weird. "Galaxie" is a chugging bit of space rock, "Toes Across the Floor" is something of a blues prog tune, "Car Seat (God's Presents)" is freak folk, and "Skinned" is a book number from a parallel universe musical about Ed Gein. There's no real central thread, which is probably why people disposed of it, but I think that's it's greatest asset. No matter how many times I listened to it front-to-back on my dusty walkman, I still found something new.
My favorite song from Soup is "St. Andrew's Fall," a song that begins as a Stonesy strut but soon spirals into a breakdown and gives way to a psychedelic bit of melancholy. I'm devastated to find that I cannot for the life of me remember why it meant so much to me, but I was particularly obsessed with one of Hoon's slightly trippy lyrics that shows up after the breakdown. I still remember the whole thing by heart: "And I can't tell you how many ways that I sat and viewed my life today/ And I can tell you I don't think that I'll find an easy way/ So if I see you walking hand in hand in hand with a three-armed man/ You know I'll understand/ But you should've been in my shoes yesterday." I don't know what the hell that means, but it retains some mystery for me.