Saturday, October 2, 2021

"What's the Matter Here?" by 10,000 Maniacs

Song#:  3631
Date:  09/03/1988
Debut:  94
Peak:  80
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  This band fronted by Natalie Merchant got on the Pop chart with "Like the Weather," a track from their third album In My Tribe. While it would only reach #68, exposure on MTV boosted the band and they slowly gained a following. This follow-up single was released and although its time on the chart was the same as their previous single, it peaked lower. However, it did become the band's first song to reach the Alternative Rock chart peaking at #9. By this point in time the LP had already peaked at #37 and reached platinum status. Later in 1998, it would go double-platinum.

ReduxReview:  Natalie Merchant and the band certainly had a strange way of taking heavy, sad topics and turning them into fluffy, happy sounding tracks that could make you sway and dance. "Like the Weather" was a perky tune about depression and then they followed it up with this groovy tune about child abuse. While it certainly wasn't the first time child abuse was the topic of a charting song (see "Luka" by Suzanne Vega, #3 Pop), it really wasn't the most uplifting subject for a pop single. Yet the Maniacs, like Vega, wrote lyrics from an observational point and then paired them with melodies and chords that made the subject matter easy to digest. It certainly worked well for Vega and probably should have with this single from the Maniacs, but unfortunately it just didn't catch on in a more mainstream way. Still, they were critical, college, and MTV darlings and they were far more popular than what the peaks of their first to charting singles would indicate.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The band's In My Tribe album was produced by Peter Asher. British-born Asher got started in entertainment as a child actor appearing in several films and TV show. He discovered music while attending school and before graduating began collaborating with fellow student Gordon Waller. By 1962, the pair began performing as Peter & Gordon. They would end up getting signed by Columbia Records in the UK (Capitol in the US). The duo had a bit of a lucky break in that Peter's sister Jane started dating Paul McCartney in 1963 (they would break up in '68). That connection led to Peter & Gordon recording some songs written by McCartney that the Beatles had not used or recorded including the duo's first single, 1964's "A World Without Love." The song would hit #1 in both the UK and the US making Peter & Gordon overnight stars. Over the next three years the duo would score three more Top 10s in both the UK and the US. With their career waning in '67, the duo then went on to do other things. Asher became the A&R head at Apple Records where he signed a new artist by the name of James Taylor. Asher produced his 1968 self-titled debut album, which didn't perform well. With high believe in Taylor, Asher quit Apple, moved to the States, and became Taylor's manager/producer. They would hit it big with Taylor's second album Sweet Baby James. Asher was then introduced to Linda Ronstadt and became her manager/producer. Over the years, Asher would produce works by many artists and would win three Grammys along the way.


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