July 4, 2009
Bush | “Glycerine”
HATE TO ADMIT IT, BUT…
1994 | Trauma Records
It was kind of fun to watch big bands of the mid-90s get poised for stadium success on the club level. In the last days of post-Nirvana rock and roll, paying one’s dues was still a necessary step towards coming up into mainstream success. Dave Grohl – former drummer for a band who had played in front of a quarter of a million people MANY times – took his Foo Fighters on the road for the first time in 1995, opening for former Minuteman Mike Watt. Ultimately, Grohl took his own songs back to the stadium (and, God bless him, Mike Watt still jams econo), but on the way, he had to – got to, really – play “This is a Call” and “Big Me” in the same sweaty clubs he’d started out in.
And it was really cool to see the combinations that bands got thrown into on tour. Summer 1995, I got to see Bush and the Toadies – one of whom was about to go supernova and the other to toil in semi-obscurity (albeit with a small, but rabid fanbase), though we didn’t know who yet – on what amounted to a double-headliner bill in Detroit.
The Toadies were good. They looked the part of a legit underground rock band (and probably still had jobs when they weren’t on tour), and they seemed to have fun, even though their songs kind of had that off-kilter rhythm and quirk about them. Bush, though – they had the stadium-level show down to a science, probably had been rehearsing it in practice spaces at home in England. Frontman Gavin Rossdale gestured to the crowd, and the crowd went wild. Floodlamps painted the four men onstage like gods. They could very well have been lip-syncing, that’s how little one could see through all the smoke and lights. The band played probably everything from their debut, Sixteen Stone, and maybe a B-Side or two. And here was another cool thing about mainstream bands touring their first albums – dudes had no choice but to play the B-sides.
And Bush hadn’t been beaten into our heads. Yet. August 1995, and “Everything Zen” was down to light rotation and “Little Things” hadn’t quite spun into perpetual motion yet. “Machine Head,” and “Comedown” were enticing new stimuli to the ears of anyone who hadn’t bothered with the album. And then there was “Glycerine.”
A not-bad tonic for what was going on in 1995 (Korn, Clutch, Tool, etc.), “Glycerine” was just Gavin Rossdale and his guitar, complemented by his junior high school lyrics made more incomprehensible by his hard-to-place English accent: “That moon white again/ And she flows around me.” (Yes, those are the real lyrics.) And who had ever heard of “Gliss-ah-reen” anyway? None of this mattered. The lights and smoke played around Rossdale’s head (it actually resembled the video that would come when “Glycerine” was the big hit of the month), the pit (which had heretofore been gnarly) slowed to a standstill. It felt like something special was being put on for just us.
Then I asked my friend where the band was, and he told me this was the song in normal form. And then, a month later, there was nothing but “Glycerine” everywhere you turned. And it didn’t feel so special. But it was 1995, and even a 16-year-old kid could get girls to sing with him, if he had a guitar and could play “Glycerine.” And I could. So “Glycerine” and, by proxy, Bush, have a soft place in my heart.
by Brook Pridemore