Wednesday, May 26, 2021

"Like the Weather" by 10,000 Maniacs

Song#:  3505
Date:  05/07/1988
Debut:  94
Peak:  68
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  This Jamestown, New York, band began in 1981 as Still Life. As the group took shape, they brought aboard a 17-year-old singer named Natalie Merchant to do some vocals. She soon became the lead vocalist as the band changed names to Burn Victim and then to 10,000 Maniacs. Early in '82, they released an indie EP titled Human Conflict Number Five. After some lineup changes, they recorded a full album in 1983 called Secrets of the I Ching. It gained some attention, especially in the UK where the band got to tour. It wasn't long before connections and their increased popularity got them signed to Elektra Records. They would release their major label debut, The Wishing Chair, in 1984. It didn't chart, but it received better critical notices and helped to expand their audience. For their next Elektra album, the band got to work with producer Peter Asher (James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt). Released in the summer of '87, the LP didn't get off to a good start. Its first single, a remake of the 1971 #7 Cat Stevens hit "Peace Train," failed to chart, yet it seemed Elektra wasn't ready to give up on the album and decided to push this next single. It took a while, but the tune finally began to click and it ended up making the Pop chart where it stayed for a couple of months. It also got to #37 at Rock. While it wasn't a major hit, exposure at MTV boosted the band and the album ended up peaking at #37. A year after it was first released, it would go gold. A year later, platinum.

ReduxReview:  I remember someone saying back in the day that this was the happiest song about depression ever made. That did pretty much sum up the track. It's peppy little beat, hand claps, and major chords made for irresistible ear candy over lyrics about grey skies, nearly crying, and not wanting to get out of bed. It was unusual pop fare for sure, but it was a bit magical when matched with Natalie Merchant's distinct, melancholic voice. The band quickly became more popular than what the peak of this single would indicate. MTV helped in that. I believe that was the first place I heard the song and I ended up buying the album. Although probably more soft rock now that alt rock, the LP still holds up and this ode to having a bad day will oddly still make me smile.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Early on, the band wanted a name that would truly stick out, especially from all the other college bands that were popping up all over. Their second name, Burn Victim, was a tad gruesome and didn't quite bring the right attention their way. Their third choice, 10,000 Maniacs, seemed to fit the bill better. They got the name from the 1964 horror flick Two Thousand Maniacs!, however it seems that someone remember the title wrong and they ended up as 10,000 Maniacs instead of 2,000. The low-budget splatter movie would later be considered the second in director Herschell Gordon Lewis' "Blood Trilogy," which began with 1963's Blood Feast and ended with 1965's Color Me Blood Red. The drive-in b-movie would grow into a cult film and would even influence other horror classics like "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Lewis oddly based his film on the 1947 Broadway show and 1954 movie musical Brigadoon, which was about a Scottish village that would reappear for one day every hundred years. In Lewis' take, the town of Pleasant Valley and the ghosts of Southerners who died in the Civil War return every 100 years to kill Northerners that they lure into their town. The movie was remade in 2005 as 2001 Maniacs.


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