Home > Red Spiral Notebook > [January, 1995] Sponge

[January, 1995] Sponge

I still think of this album cover when I see candy corn.

1/21/95

Anita and I went to Tower Records in Paramus. The Q104 people were there and I got a hat, after identifying 3 DJ’s (including my favorite one, Trent Tyler). First they quizzed the crowd on what bands they play.

“Do we play Metallica?” they shouted.

“Yeah!”

When they asked, “Do we play U2?” I shouted “You should.” And some people replied “Yeah!”

So the guy asked “Should we play U2?” and at least half the people yelled “Yes!”

Then Sponge came out (the drummer wasn’t there though). Vinny (lead singer) played percussion for the first two songs (“Rotting Piñata” and “Molly” or “Drownin’.” I’m not sure about the order. “Plowed” was last, though). For the other two, he got a boy from the crowd to do drums (the first was good, the second a little off, but he wore a Pretty Hate Machine t-shirt).

I was afraid they wouldn’t sign stuff after they performed but they did, and we were near the front of the line. They signed our cardboard flats of the album and Vinnie signed my Converse (the toe of it). I asked them what bands they liked and the blond guy answered “Live.” They were so nice, Anita and I hope they tour soon (and I know their music’s good because I got Rotting Piñata today—I heard it before at Anita’s though).

I got Afghan Whigs’ Up In It today. Very screamy, I can get used to it. Can’t wait to get Congregation

Over the years, I’ve seen a fair number of musicians do record store appearances. Since many were cataloged in my diaries, I’ll leave out the full list, but I did get to meet Cyndi Lauper at a Tower Records about ten years ago, which was a special moment for my not-so-inner ’80s fangirl, and a future journal entry (spoiler alert!) almost certainly describes having a famous ’90s singer/songwriter sign my yearbook. There’s something a little odd about the experience, even though it makes sense for a band or soloist to meet (and often perform for) their fans in the establishments where their music is purchased. But on the other hand, squeezing people in among racks of CDs is awkward at best, crowd control can get tricky, and sightlines can be a nightmare depending on where you end up. Nevertheless, there was something terribly exciting about meeting musical talent that you’d seen on MTV in the flesh, even if it was a band that wouldn’t go on to super-stardom and few would remember years later. Even if it was a band like Sponge.

[Edited to add: Anita saw this post and reminded me of another detail about this outing. “Remember that my mom drove us to the mall, where we thought the Tower was, but it wasn’t there? We’d sat in traffic for an hour and she was in such a bad mood that she wouldn’t get back in the car. So we had to walk a mile, along the shoulder of the highway, to get there?” I do remember walking along the highway now (which we had to do there and back). But I’m sure I just saw that as another part of the adventure.]

For those who don’t remember (and/or are under 30), Sponge was an alternative rock band who had moderate hits with “Plowed” and “Molly.” I still feel a twinge of guilt for asking lead singer Vinnie to autograph one of my stinky Converses. He signed his name “Vin-e” so it looked more like the word “vine,” adding curlicues to the first letter. I wore those sneakers for years after.

And gee, I wonder if my favorite Q104 DJ had anything to do with the fact that he was named Trent, much like the object of my obsession, Mr. Reznor.  No matter how many other bands I listened to, Nine Inch Nails and U2 were still my top fixations and any reference to them (even something as small as seeing a boy in a Pretty Hate Machine t-shirt, which could outshine a flaw like poor rhythm) brightened my day.

There are many reasons to lament the closing of bricks and mortars record shops, and these in-store appearances are one of them. I know nowadays social media makes it even easier for bands to connect with their fans, and some large acts still do occasional gigs in smaller venues or secret shows, but there was something special and endearingly dorky about all of us being crammed into a record store like that. There were no fog machines, no fancy lights or costumes, and an adequate-at-best sound system. It was just the performers and us, and music everywhere.

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  1. October 19, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    First off I want to say great blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your head before writing. I have had trouble clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out. I do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally wasted simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or tips? Cheers!

    • November 25, 2012 at 10:38 pm

      Hi Sondra,

      First of all, let me apologize for such a delayed reply. As you can see, I’m not exactly an expert at centering myself to write, either. And I am easily distracted, but when I sit down to write, I try to immerse myself completely and do it for at least an hour at a stretch, if not longer. Music helps me focus, and minimizing other distractions (i.e. trying not to check emails while writing). I find there’s no magic formula that works for me except being truly interested/passionate about what I’m writing. If it’s fiction, that means creating an alternate world that you actually want to spend time in and populating it with characters that make you want to return to it.

      And yes, it can take 10-15 minutes just to get started, and sometimes even longer than that. I think it does get a little easier once you turn it into more of a habit and/or become completely absorbed with a writing project.

  1. January 26, 2014 at 6:07 pm

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