Iwas down at the New Amsterdam staring at this yellow-haired girl, Mr. Jones strikes up a conversation with the black haired flamenco …”
For many students, the opening line of Counting Crows’ song “Mr. Jones” reminds them of 4 Non-Blondes, Soul Asylum, Gin Blossoms and other staples of the early ’90s radio rock scene. For some, they are as familiar as any jukebox selection at Naples, a ‘drunken anthem’ classic. Despite the quick-recognition quality of strains of “Mr. Jones and me” in the pantheon of ’90s sing-along lyrics, Yale’s decision to bring what one student described as a “one-hit wonder band” to campus pits nostalgia against guilty cravings for the flavor of the month.
By commercial standards, the Crows are certainly not a disappearing act like Milli Vanilli. After three successful albums, world tours with Live, the Wallflowers and several as solo headliners, Adam Duritz and company have earned their stripes in eight years under the spotlight. Counting Crows, who took their name from an old English rhyme, formed in 1989 in San Francisco when vocalist Adam Duritz and guitarist David Bryson met and began performing in coffee houses.
By 1991, the group expanded to include bassist Matt Malley, keyboardist Charles Gullingham, and drummer Steve Bowman and began building a substantial Bay Area fan base. In 1992, they scored a record contract with Geffen and moved to Hollywood to create their national debut with “August and Everything After.” Many critics declared “August” one of the best rock albums of the decade.
Rumors soon emerged that lyricist Adam Duritz came down with a case of writers block. But the 1996 single “A Long December” propelled the Crows back to prominence and the album “Recovering the Satellites” to the top of the charts.
“This Desert Life” was released in 1999, scoring another popular radio hit with “Hangin’ Around.” In between, they released a live album, “Across a Wire: Live in New York,” and the soundtrack to teen sexcapade “Cruel Intentions” featuring the ballad “Colorblind.”
This year they will release their fourth studio album, and Sunday’s stop at Yale is the second show of their new album promotion tour.
Thanks to the mega-hit “Mr. Jones” and a consumer market that is friendly to emotional, grunge rock, “August” spent 93 weeks on the Billboard Top 200 chart, peaking in the top five. For most Yalies, this was all happening in our early teens when they were just discovering adolescent angst and loud music. Many on campus have been looking forward to this since Spring Fling, especially after the controversial pick of Ben Harper for that event.
“I’m impressed Yale got the Counting Crows; they’re huge,” said Stacy Sher ’04. “This makes up for Ben Harper.”
“They bring back memories — instant classics, instant nostalgia. Counting Crows fills that niche for a lot of us, who were just beginning to spend money on CD’s, when ‘August’ hit. It was one of the first albums I bought. For my money, Counting Crows is perhaps the best pure rock ‘n’ roll group in America, and this show is easily a big enough treat to make amends for Ben Harper,” said an exuberant Greg Yolen ’04.
With lines like “But all the things I keep inside myself/ they vanish in the air/ If you tell me you’ll wait for me/ I’ll say I won’t be here/ I want to say goodbye to you/ Goodbye to everyone I know/ Goodbye to all my friends” from “Daylight Fading,” the Crows are both acclaimed and lambasted for their introspective, sensitive lyrics. Whether hailed as a poet or accused of whiny plaintiveness, Duritz’s vocal stylings have earned him a unique notoriety.
Katie Marie Zouhary ’03 is a huge Crows fan, which she attributes in the first place to seeing them perform live. She has seen them four times and compares a Crows concert experience to that of Dave Matthews, the top student choice for Spring Fling according to a Yale College Council poll done last year. She said that she enjoys the stage presence of the flamboyant frontman — his wild dancing around the stage, jumping off the speakers, and enthusiastic interaction with the crowd.
“The Counting Crows could do the soundtrack to my life. They do happy, they do sad, and they feel the emotion all the way through,” Zouhary said.
She anticipates student interest in the band will rise after the free concert.
“People will be surprised how much they know [of the band’s repertoire], and how good they are. They play so many instruments and they change how they do the songs. The lyrics to “Mr. Jones” have changed since they first started doing it,” Zouhary said.
However, as of Thursday, some students are less than thrilled with Yale’s seeming commitment to bringing alternative rock acts to campus.
“Ben Harper and Counting Crows are the same kind of music. Yale is only catering to a certain population of undergraduates, and it’s not me,” said Alex Israel ’04. “I’m definitely more excited for Snoop Dogg, that will be the musical highlight to my weekend.”
“I am willing to stage a one-man boycott to the Counting Crows, based solely on their badness. Adam Duritz sounds not good but bad,” said Ian Cheney ’02.
Voices of disapproval may soon be drowned out by applause for Paul Simon, whose style is in direct contradiction with the Crows. The festive attitude surrounding Tercentennial Weekend, may help, too, since, unlike Spring Fling, it is nowhere near finals period and is being hyped by the well-oiled Yale administration’s publicity department.
Amid a setting of Autumn colors instead of Spring’s climatic moodiness, The Counting Crows will share their blend of alt rock, poetry, and personality at 5 p.m. on Old Campus.
[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”1241″ ]