10 Things You Didn’t Know About Counting Crows
Fans of the Counting Crows know the band doesn’t begin and end with ‘Mr. Jones.’ Sure, that was their breakout hit in the alt-rock '90s, but they’ve put out an encyclopedia’s worth of other great songs that might not be on your radar but are well worth your time. Before delving into their catalog, though, start with this helpful primer: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Counting Crows.
Oh, brother, what is the connection? Both the Counting Crows' debut album, ‘August and Everything After,’ and the soundtrack to the Coen Brothers’ movie ‘O, Brother, Where Art Thou?’ were produced by bizarro-country knob twirler T-Bone Burnett, who's struck gold time and time again.
Sure, a bachelor’s in English might help you understand any song better, but it's true of this one particular. In its title and some of its lyrical content, ‘Rain King' refers to a Saul Bellow novel, ‘Henderson the Rain King. (Bellow is the one on the left.) In fact, in the breakdown near the end, Duritz can be heard singing, "Henderson is waiting for the sun."
And by almost, we mean, he was this close -- i.e. two credits shy of a bachelor of arts in English from U.C. Berkeley. If it hasn’t already been done, someone should start a petition to make Berkeley give Duritz his diploma. Have him give a commencement address or something. He’d be great. Plus, ‘August and Everything After’ (and everything after that, save that song from the ‘Shrek’ soundtrack) is worth two college credits, easy.
In a USAToday.com interview, Duritz recounts meeting the re-formed Big Star and playing a show with them. “They were maybe the biggest influence of anything on me,” he says of the Memphis power-pop pioneers. It makes sense that on 2012 Counting Crows covers album, ‘Underwater Sunshine,’ the last tune the band takes a swing at is Big Star’s ‘The Ballad of El Goodo.’
Adam Duritz is well known for being a reclusive guy -- and has publicly admitted to having issues with his mental health over the years. Which is why it’s pretty amazing that he’s so active on Twitter. He's liable to engage you in a back-and-forth, and while he's generally gracious, he might not always respond. After all, he has more than a million followers at his beck and call!
‘This Desert Life’ may be the Counting Crows’ most underrated album -- and it was produced by ’90s alt-rock genius David Lowery, better known as the lead singer of Cracker (they of ‘Low’ and ‘Get Off This’ fame). Before forming Cracker, Lowery led Camper Van Beethoven, best known for its tongue-in-cheek semi-hit ‘Take the Skinheads Bowling.’
Although it’s never been confirmed, that person is likely actress Monica Potter, who most recently starred in NBC drama ‘Parenthood.’ As the story goes, Adam Duritz saw a movie (probably 1998’s ‘Patch Adams’) and dreamed up the song as a love letter to the blonde actress. We should all be so good at wooing.
Rarely do we hear songwriters tip their caps to contemporaries in their songs. Maybe the most notable example is Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Sweet Home Alabama,’ in which Neil Young gets a shout-out for his less-than-friendly ‘Alabama.’ But in the piano-laced ‘Monkey,’ it only seems fitting that Duritz should give props to fellow piano man Ben Folds. The lyric: “Got nowhere but home to go / I’ve got Ben Folds on my radio right now.”
The first entry on UrbanDictionary.com for ‘Counting Crows’ says simply, “The best band ever with the best albums ever.” Continue reading, however, and you get a mix of wit, hilarity and plain contempt. Hey, you gotta take the good with the bad.
One of the best tracks on 2002's ‘Hard Candy,’ ‘Butterfly in Reverse,' was co-written by Ryan Adams and features his aching-hearted vocals, which mix surprisingly well with Duritz’s howling leads. A year earlier, Duritz appeared on Adams’ critically acclaimed ‘Gold’ album, providing backing vox on ‘Answering Bell.’ In 2009, Adams wed actress/singer Mandy Moore, whose 1999 hit 'Candy' doesn't quite measure up to 'Hard Candy.'