Thursday, August 02, 2007

Being Bob

Nobody but Bob Dylan can be Bob Dylan, but you can’t blame a songwriting guy for trying. In order for this to work, you have to simultaneously sound profound and utterly inscrutable. The response that you’re aiming for here is a sage nod of the head, even as each audience member secretly thinks, “umm, just what the hell was that about, anyway?” So here’s Adam Duritz of The Counting Crows, pulling it off better than most.

I woke in mid-afternoon cause that's when it all hurts the most
I dream I never know anyone at the party and I'm always the host
If dreams are like movies, then memories are films about ghosts
You can never escape, you can only move south down the coast

I am an idiot walking a tightrope of fortune and fame
I am an acrobat swinging trapezes through circles of flame
If you've never stared off in the distance, then your life is a shame
and though I'll never forget your face, sometimes i can't remember my name

Hey Mrs. Potter don't cry
Hey Mrs. Potter I know why but
Hey Mrs. Potter won't you talk to me

Well, there's a piece of Maria in every song that I sing
And the price of a memory is the memory of the sorrow it brings
And there is always one last light to turn out and one last bell to ring
And the last one out of the circus has to lock up everything

Or the elephants will get out and forget to remember what you said
And the ghosts of the tilt-a-whirl will linger inside your head
And the ferris wheel junkies will spin there forever instead
When I see you a blanket of stars covers me in my bed

Hey Mrs. Potter don't go
Hey Mrs. Potter I don't know but
Hey Mrs. Potter won't you talk to me

All the blue light reflections that color my mind when I sleep
And the lovesick rejections that accompany the company I keep
All the razor perceptions that cut just a little too deep
Hey I can bleed as well as anyone, but I need someone to help me sleep

So I throw my hand into the air and it swims in the beams
It's just a brief interruption of the swirling dust sparkle jet stream
Well, I know I don't know you and you're probably not what you seem
But I'd sure like to find out So why don't you climb down off that movie screen

Hey Mrs. Potter don't turn
Hey Mrs. Potter I burn for you
Hey Mrs. Potter won't you talk to me

When the last king of Hollywood shatters his glass on the floor
and orders another, well, I wonder what he did that for
That's when I know that I have to get out cause I have been there before
So I gave up my seat at the bar and I head for the door

We drove out to the desert just to lie down beneath this bowl of stars
We stand up in the palace like it's the last of the great pioneer town bars
We shout out these songs against the clang of electric guitars
You can see a million miles tonight But you can't get very far
Oh, you can see a million miles tonight But you can't get very far

Hey Mrs. Potter I won't touch
Hey Mrs. Potter it's not much but
Hey Mrs. Potter won't you talk to me
-- Counting Crows, “Mrs. Potter”


nikkip said...

duritz song writing is one of my favorites. thanks. :)

Michael Krahn said...


Thanks for this. It's great to hear something positive about Adam / the Crows from a legitimate critic.

Earlier this year I re-embraced my Crows collection. I do this every couple of years.

I wrote about it here:

Andy Whitman said...

You know, I have sort of a love/hate relationship with Duritz. On the positive side, he really is a terrific songwriter. I love his lyrics. I love his whiny-ass voice, too, for thst matter. I'm fond of whiny asses, being one myself.

On the negative side, the one time I saw him live, he and the band totally reinvented his biggest hits, and not in a good way. I don't mind some innovation, and I'm sure it gets tiresome playing the same songs the same way night after night. However, when the melody being played bears absolutely no resemblance to the melody you remember from the album, and the only way to recognize, say, "Round Here," is by the words to the song, then innovation has gone too far.

That said, I buy every new Counting Crows album like clockwork. They're definitely one of the best bands to emerge during the early '90s.

Michael Krahn said...

I saw Dylan about 6 months ago and his re-inventing skills were deplorable. I don't think I'll ever go see him again.

Generally, I have enjoy the re-inventing they recorded on the Live Across the Wire / VH-1 double disc the put out after Satellites.

I have a love/hate thing with Duritz too. I love his writing and voice and emotion, but if you ever read his blog posts. OMG, the man is a whiner extraordinare.

In your experience, is it 'uncool' to admit to being a Crows fan when you're around indie loving hipsters?

Andy Whitman said...

Michael, I'm fifty-two years old, balding, and overweight, so the idea of trying to live up to any kind of indie hipster image is fraught with peril, and possibly great humor.

So I don't worry about it. I like what I like, and I don't like what I don't like, and those categories usually don't fall along hip/unhip lines for me. I honestly don't even think in those terms, and generally disdain sites/publications (no, I don't have you solely in mind, Pitchfork) that operate that way.

Adventures with Us said...

How wonderful. I just loaded this disc up on the Ipod this morning. I tend to forget about the crows then every once in a while I need a fix....

And yes, it is a great song...One of my favorites of all time along with "Anna Begins"


Michael Krahn said...

BTW Andy,

Thanks for raving about Neutral Milk Hotel. A true gem!

nikkip said...

i really enjoy how they reinvent their hits in live shows. he took my breath away with a reinvention of 'round here at mershon back in 2000, again a year or so later at polaris. actually, they are probably one of the few bands that i will never tire seeing live because of the unexpected. there are a number of bands that i've just stopped paying money to see live because i could tell you every beat and every lyric they will play after seeing them 2 or 3 times live--counting crows is definitely not that.

Andy Whitman said...

No, they're definitely not a play-it-just-like-the-record band, Nikki.

There's a balance here, and different people will define where that balance occurs in different places. I don't want to hear a note-for-note reiteration of an album, either. I already have the album, and I can stay home and play it again if it comes to that. But neither do I want so much innovation/re-invention that the original song is almost unrecognizable.

I don't think CC go to the latter extreme. But sometimes it's a little too close to that for me. I just wish songs like "'Round Here," which I love, was a little more clearly recognizable as "'Round Here" when I heard it live.