10 Stories Behind 10 Big Singles From The ’90s and ’00s
By Radio.com Staff
Single Again is a column at Radio.com where Dan Weiss investigates chart hits of the past and present, their stories, what they meant and how good they really are.
We get to hear the story behind the song from the artist who wrote it, and the artist gets a chance to contemplate fame and the fickle music industry that made their song the biggest hit, at least for a little while. We’ve been given never-before-heard anecdotes, surprisingly sad stories of songs you’ve sung over and over again, and many a bemused band reflecting on how these singles came to be.
The column has been going on for a almost six months now, and we wanted to highlight some of the best stories so far. So without further ado, here are our excerpts and links to our 10 favorite interviews, from the heart-rending story behind Tonic’s “If You Could Only See,” to Seether covering “Seether,” to the proto-MILF story of “Stacy’s Mom.”
1. Tonic – “If You Could Only See”
“When I was 21 or 22, I was in love with somebody who my mom did not feel was a good fit. So my family disowned me for about three years,” singer Emerson Hart explained. “And the last conversation I had with my mother when I was home I’d said, ‘if you could only see the way she loves me, maybe you would understand.’ I just wrote that song, after that phone call, literally in a matter of minutes.”
2. Harvey Danger – “Flagpole Sitta”
“What was really interesting was that you look around and write a song about how everything is trash, in a trash culture, and then you become embraced as trash,” lead singer Sean Nelson said. “The song became exactly the sort of disposable fodder that it was railing against.”
3. 98 Degrees – “The Hardest Thing”
“Guys a lot of times would come up to us — of course they’d be embarrassed to say that they were fans — so they’d come up to us incognito and be like, ‘Yeah, that song ‘Hardest Thing’ reminds me of my girl and my mistress, or this girl I was cheating on…’ And I’d just be like, ‘Oh well, good…,'” Jeff Timmons said.
4. Veruca Salt – “Seether”
“We were asked so many times, ‘What’s a seether? What’s a seether?’ and the best was being on Howard Stern, and Howard Stern asking us if it was about anal sex,” singer/guitarist Nina Gordon said. “And then the best part was, in the interview I replied, ‘No, Howard. It is not about anal sex.’ And my mother was so horrified — not only did she listen to the interview and watched it — but she was so horrified she said, ‘Why did you have to repeat the words “anal sex”? It was bad enough that he said it, but why did you have to repeat it back to him!”
5. Big Pun feat. Joe – “Still Not A Player”
“[Big Pun] kind of reminded me of Biggie. Obviously with his size, but his flow was just so unique on that record,” singer Joe said. “His timing on the song, the way he flowed was just very different, and he was really clear.”
6. Counting Crows – “Mr. Jones”
“In the corner of the bar we saw Kenney Dale Johnson, Chris Isaak’s drummer at the time. Like, pre-Chris Isaak being really famous. His first album was out, and Kenney Dale was in the corner with like, ten girls. So that’s what the song’s about,” frontman Adam Duritz explained. “But it’s also about the dreams in your life and how they’re not gonna turn out to be what you think they are. I mean, it keeps saying ‘When everybody loves me/ I’ll never be lonely.’ Which is, you know, stupid. [laughs] But it’s still good to dream about stuff.”
7. Better Than Ezra – “Desperately Wanting”
“That song was really about a specific friend I grew up with, just how when you’re young, specifically about camping out when you’re a kid and terrorizing the neighborhood all night, running around backyards, people taking different paths, some good and some bad,”singer Kevin Griffin explained. “I sing the song now to people who’ve been Ezra fans for a long time, whose kids are in the audience while I’m singing ‘pumped out your guts/ Filled you full of those pills’…I kind of mumble those lyrics a bit.”
8. Fountains of Wayne – “Stacy’s Mom”
“I did have a friend who used to think that my grandmother was hot when we were growing up, so I guess I kind of toned that down a little bit,” bassist Adam Schlesinger said laughing. “And my grandmother was pretty hot actually.”
9. 3 Doors Down – “Kryptonite”
“I used to be a drummer and the drum lick to that song came first. I was just kind of beating on my desk in class and came up with that drum lick and the words just kind of came,” lead singer Brad Arnold said. “It’s funny how some songs come like that. Some songs you have to sit down and think about them and try to write them, and some songs just fall out of the sky. That was one of the ones that fell out of the sky.
10. Wheatus – “Teenage Dirtbag”
“It was kind of like a Prince thing, honestly!” frontman Brendan B. Brown said of the song’s high-pitched hook. “I’d listened to a lot of Prince’s pre-Purple Rain stuff, singing along with that. I’d also sing along with a lot of Indigo Girls at the time. [laughs] It wasn’t a eureka moment, it was just what the story, the narrative, required.”