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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gin Blossoms - Robin Wilson

Robin Wilson
By Bobby Hurley and Bill Watt
Robin Wilson has been the face of the Gin Blossoms since they formed in 1987. Most Gin Blossom songs are characterized by their great intros that grab your attention immediately. Gin Blossoms were proud to be from Tempe Arizona and didn't jump on the bandwagon of writing songs about California which are over done. Robin and Jesse teamed up to write some good songs that surely are underrated. Robin grew musically through the post Doug Hopkins years. He retains a great integrity both musically and personally and continues to be one of the most talented artists to this day. Gin Blossoms newest album No Chocolate Cake reflects this being another solid album.
 Robin Wilson truly has a great attitude for life.  One has to admire his courage. Imagine the ecstasy of getting paid to do what you want. He definitely takes away the stereotype of the rich rock star that has an easy life devoid of character or morality. Most people only get behind you or hate when you make it big but aren't there to see the daily passion and hard work in the beginning of the career when they were happy just to play their songs and live in poverty. Most of them decide to pursue low paid gigs instead of getting a job with a steadier income which is why musicians are underrated. Go to 2:30 to see the same comic book sold on Gin Blossoms store. Youtube removed the referenced video. Sorry everyone!
Robin Wilson of Gin Blossoms in concert
Gin Blossoms lead singer Robin Wilson
Robin Wilson has a great stage persona because he doesn't do any of the obnoxious show boating, wasting time putting the microphone in fan's faces' talking about his own agenda. Or wear the hat of every baseball team like Bruce Springsteen and tell a thirty minute story about his hometown between each song. He skips all the bullshit and just performs, he is appreciative his fans are there and well aware of them and seems to go somewhere when he performs. He is probably into the world he created that he mentions in the previous video. Gin Blossoms sound as good today as they did when they were younger in the 1990s and remain much underrated. People like Robin Wilson are the real successes in life. They prove you don’t have to be a Yale or Harvard graduate to be successful. Intuition trumps education. Robin went to Mesa community college. Bill Leen the original and current bassist and Hopkins all knew each other in high school and formed a band around 1981 under the name Moral Majority. The blossoms finally formed in 1987 with Jesse as lead singer. Robin joined them in 1988. The original lineup was not very successful with one guy leaving and another left for Tahiti. Robin is a most talented artist because he was originally the rhythm guitarist Jesse the singer they did a switcharoo. As great as Doug was when robin joined them and they really took off. Robin has a very memorable voice. Underrated musicians like Robin Wilson that pursue a life in entertainment are exciting. He is in his world and has his own quirks but he is definitely himself and he’s a nice enough guy.

If it is hard near impossible to get a job in this economy you might as well try to get a job in something you enjoy. This type of person will instinctively and with a little effort be able to make the right career moves they come naturally if you are following your passion. This is because Robin is the real deal and isn’t faking the songs his sings from night to night amazingly he is just as passionate today as when he started out. All he needs to do is have enough money and he is a success as a musician and as a person.  And if the pay is going to be little today in the United States you might as well spend time doing something you are proud and feel like you accomplished something doesn’t have to be in entertainment could be in anything. One of the ways I like to get interested in a band is by listening to the YouTube playlist of that band. If you do that with the gin blossoms you will hear a lot of good songs from their early stuff to present. Greatest hit cds are also a great way to get into a band and with 20th century masters the Gin Blossoms don’t disappoint offering many of their songs in original quality.

Idiot Summer is a Wilson song that the lyrics are a mystery to figure out. There are four lines that make sense, “three, four peaks all I could see, in the morning its a hundred and ten degrees, but I like goddamn heat. This reminds Bill and I of the time we spent in our dorm called Nault where we didn’t do much but the surroundings made it worth something. Idiot Summer is from the album Dusted it was part of their ’91 EP called Up and Crumbling. Idiot Summer is on Wayne's World soundtrack which makes sense since it is about the summer of two idiots.

New Miserable Experience is their first album and Robin is notable on Allison Road and Cheatin. I read somewhere Hopkins told Wilson Allison Road was their best song and Wilson disagreed and said Found Out About You was. Found out about you is their best in my opinion but Allison Roads a great and underrated song.It is cool that they praise each other’s songwriting and their respective styles. Interesting concept in the video, definitely reminds me of The Byrds the way the guitar rings.
 I think it is a great song to drive around aimlessly to or on a road trip. There is a story behind it, the tour bus happened to reach Allison Road and a band member said "hey that’s my sister’s name I am going to take a photo of it.” When robin got home and turned on the TV he all of a sudden got the idea for the song.

 Post Doug’s Death, Congratulations I’m Sorry. 
The title of the Gin Blossoms second album “Congratulations I’m Sorry” came from the response band members received from fans congratulations on the success of New Miserable Experience, sorry to hear about Doug Hopkins. In a recent robin Wilson interview when he’s talking about doing solo acoustic shows and how he idolizes tom petty, watch for when he talks about comic books and they show and illustration. Think it’s supposed to be Hopkins in the front. One product is the Poppin' Wheels CD. The team of underrated musicians Robin and Jesse write decent songs because Jesse Valenzuela is an excellent guitarist.  Wilson and Valenzuela wrote some great songs. Robin Wilson is liked and is great. 

Virginia sounds a bit like “I don’t Wanna lose your love tonight” by the outfield meets crash (95 mix) by the primitives but a little more current. The hook is beautiful. Until I Fall Away is one of the gin blossom songs you could picture waving lighters to. Until I fall Away and pieces of the night have the same beat. Until I Fall Away was written by the underrated songwriting of Robin Wilson/Valenzuela.  I remember first hearing this on the radio riding in the car with my sister. It really puts you in a somber reflective mood where you can live for what matters. 

       Not Only Numb is another solid track off Congratulations I’m Sorry and is interesting because Wilson’s lyrics put you in observation mode. Takes me way back only not your experiences but just remembering the people you hung out with imagining all these cookouts people playing wiffleball late at night. I just remember people having good times, the greatest kind of spectating in my opinion. Not Only Numb is a great song that flows very easily. Follow You Down is arguably the most famous, most played on the radio from this album. And from the Intro it sucks you in; the harmonica just accompanies the music exceptionally well. Here is a link of the Gin Blossoms performing it on Letterman when Chris Farley was a guest. Paul Shaffer from Letterman’s band plays the harmonica.

        Whereas Wilson plays it in the music video, someone else originally played it in the album version but over time the underrated musician Wilson learned to play it and took over. Wilson is a most talented artist because he played the harmonica on Follow you down during his 2011 summer concert tour. Songs like Not Only Numb, Hey Jealousy and Found Out About You give Bill a sense of Nostalgia. It reminds him those hot dog commercials where the hot dogs are cooking on the charcoal grill and you hear people talking.A kid runs through a sprinkler in one of them. The sense of nostalgia means remembering all the people you knew, everything that took place in one summer. This gives you more awareness of surroundings and I picture people playing wiffleball on a Sunday around 6 pm in the summer. It is about observing the people around you and how happy everyone is and how simple the times are, and less about your own personal issues. As Long As It Matters is another song that puts a person in a reflective mood. It’s a song that gives you energy when you are depressed because you can relate to the emotion. Accepting your negative feelings will prevent you from feeling bad about feeling down which depletes your energy. 

The underrated musicians Wilson and Jessie differ in their songwriting. Jessie Valenzuela’s songs are a little more mainstream popish because he tries to write stuff that will be good for the radio. Robin if you read his lyrics doesn’t care. He seems to not underestimate the intelligence of the general public. The fact that they only listen to what’s on the radio because they are forced to. Some good people will appreciate good music when they hear it and it is played on the radio. Part of the reason in England Oasis became the biggest band, selling out 250,000 people in Knebworth, England. For once the best band was the most popular band.  Robin Wilson reflects on personal experiences and says what he wants. He doesn’t care if his lyrics are all jumbled up. There’s an interesting bit from that first Robin Wilson interview posted at the beginning of the article. Robin says, “I won’t even pretend that I’m some poet that needs to give my soul and share my inner feelings.”He starts with a title when he hears a phrase or reads one somewhere he writes it down hears a melody he likes and finds a fitting title from the list he makes. He is a hard work talent. There is realness when he performs his songs he seems to be going back to a time of innocence. He may say odd things and be drunk at times even but he’s never pretending to be somewhere else. 

Bill’s Meeting With Robin Wilson Bill Watt had much excitement over meeting the most talented artist Robin Wilson. Here is how he describes it in his own words: “My sister and I headed down to the Barnstable fair to see the gin blossoms in concert. We picked up my younger cousin who was not around during their heyday but has grown to appreciate their music nonetheless. On the way we listened to 3 gin blossom albums and talked about the songs. We got at the Barnstable fair before the concert and walked around, went on some rides and ate some food. As we were walking by the big slide I see THE Robin Wilson, a very underrated musician, right in front of me, knew it was him. He had the aura of a rock star which I spotted instantaneously.  He was watching his son go down the slide and was mellow and so content.  I had brought the sleeve of my new miserable experience cd hoping to catch the gin blossoms offstage at the end of the concert but it looked I would have a chance much sooner. My sister kept telling me "go over and talk to him and get an autograph" and I nervously said "eh that’s ok its fine" and it was my sister saying "u may never get this chance again" that made me go up and ask him for an autograph. I didn’t say much because I was star-struck. However he was a nice guy and introduced himself to my sister and cousin. My sister took a picture of us as I think, “wow I am standing next to Robin Wilson”.

A bit later, we arrived by the stage for the concert and as soon as they started playing “follow you down” I was amazed to the point of having chills. Robin's voice hadn't changed a bit. This made it even more nostalgic for me. What I noticed about him is how even though he's now in his mid 40s, you can tell by watching him that the industry has not affected him. He's the same guy he was when he was 10 years old. You can tell he loves performing on stage - he's in his own world, like a kid on Christmas morning. The Gin Blossoms played their hits and found out about you just blows my mind every time I hear it; robin put 110% into feeling those lyrics. "Wave bye bye" from no chocolate cake started and I instantly told my sister "that's ‘wave bye bye’. Robin wrote this one." In my opinion it's the best song on the album, the main chorus stands out, "this is the last time I ever say I love you..." such a catchy yet deep song. They played hey jealousy as the second to last encore and that's when we got up and walked to the front. This part of the performance was thrilling. This was one of the greatest feelings of my life. Finally, they played Eddie money's "Think I'm in love" and made it into a gin blossoms classic by singing his ass off.  Overall, - best concert I attended. Robin Wilson had an amazing voice and unbelievable presence. 

Wilson seems to know exactly who he is and doesn't seem to give a damn what people think. Robin Wilson was so intrigued by his kid going down the slide in amazement and completely unaware of everything else. For Bill meeting Robin Wilson was a great experience for Bill he said, "I was star struck and didn't say much, but I shook his hand. It just helped me be more comfortable with who I am. I am more confident I want to choose a path in music.

Major Lodge Victory is their 2006 album. “Learning The Hard Way” is the first track and it is not their nostalgic style but it’s a good driving song with a heavy beat and romantic lyrics. The song also features good guitar solos like from 2:32 to 2:45, a very simple but beautiful guitar style. The End of the World is a really good song because it has a very strong vocal performance from the talented musician Robin, it has a great guitar solo and deep lyrics. Long Time Gone is a real get up and go song, a great song to wake up to because of Robin's singing style . The drums are quick but the rhythm is perfect. I hear it and imagine playing 2nd base on my old t-ball team.
And Come on Hard is another great song that demonstrates the dynamic, yet lasting songwriting partnership of Wilson and Venezuela.

Their latest album, No Chocolate Cake, is a really good album on the whole. the first track "don't change for me" sounds like it came off of a Good Charlotte or All-American Rejects album and "I'm Ready" has a not-so-great intro, although halfway through the song gets really good. The ending could've been used for a movie intro. "Wave Bye Bye" is probably the best track on the album. The song doesn't have the same rebellious tone that some of their older songs had, but they're grown up now, and this is a very solid alternative rock song. How Nickelback are more popular nowadays than the underrated Gin Blossoms baffles me and this track is all the evidence needed. "Go Crybaby", "Somewhere Tonight", and Something Real" are also great ones off of "No Chocolate Cake". With the song "Go Crybaby", the lyric "it's your mistake and it takes forever" in the chorus is just the perfect thing to follow "in falling voices... ... come on out". The lead up to the chorus is perfect. 
"From the pain you know you're not asleep now, you're lost in space it's all that matters anyhow"  
 These are deep lyrics with a great accompanying melody that spark nostalgia.  

They still have this knack for writing songs that make you think of the old days, when a lot of bands have sold out. Their material is definitely more mature nowadays, and I'm sure in 1993 they weren't singing songs that went like "Somewhere tonight, let's light a fire and burn up all the lies," but to me that's what's cool about the band. It shows they're still the same old Gin Blossoms yet they show that they've matured. Despite the more adult contemporary feel, their music is still nostalgic, because the kids that listened to them back in the day are now adults and dealing with the issues in their new songs as well, making more nostalgic moments. "Something Real" -great guitar.

In my opinion, Robin's top vocal performance is in "Until I Fall Away". "Hey Jealousy" and "Found Out About You" may be their two best songs but the vocals on "Until I Fall Away" are stellar and Robin is at his absolute best, singing his heart out. Speaking of Robin, he performed all day at a hospital with a guitar playing hits. He clearly didn't want publicity for this. He talked to all these patients and didn't do the usual celebrity bullshit and do it for his image. This character defines the most talented, yet underrated Gin Blossoms.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Gin Blossoms- Doug Hopkins

Doug Hopkins and Gin Blossoms
by Bobby Hurley, Bill Watt

       If you could hang out with anyone, dead or living, who would you choose? For Bill Watt the answer is undoubtedly alternative rock star, and the Gin Blossoms guitarist Doug Hopkins. Doug Hopkins was a very interesting person and one of the most talented artists of music. His final December was quite sad. He is credited with many interesting quotes. He definitely left an impact on the Gin Blossoms' music. My favorite Gin Blossoms hits penned by Doug Hopkins include Hold Me Down, Found Out About You and Pieces of the Night. Doug Hopkins could very well be the best songwriter of our generation.
       In the 90s, the intro to "Found Out  About You"  by the Gin Blossoms was instantly recognizable. The intro of Found Out About You gets you thinking, and you seem to know where it is headed. The guitar intro of Found out about you pulls you immediately into the singer's sadness. This is the kind of song that makes you look up who penned it. Once you discover it was Doug Hopkins; the fascination begins. As Bill Watt describes it, 
"One thing about Hopkins is I remember as a kid when found out about you came on the radio how the guitar intro pulled me right in and made me know exactly how Hopkins felt."
 Found out about you is a pretty dark alternative rock song by the Gin Blossoms, both musically and lyrically. "Found out about You" is genius and personal. "I get the time too often on am radio" The song is about the narrator stalking a girl who he had loved that turned out to be not what he thought she was in the end and he was devastated by it. Wikipedia says "found out about you was about the rumors leading to a break up, yet the guy is singing as though he broke up with this girl yet all he is saying is I heard about this and this. Wouldn't he know for sure what happened, what it was?
       Much credit should be given to Gin Blossoms front man Robin Wilson, another very talented artist -who takes the song "Found Out About You" and sings it as his own. I can remember one Friday night playing basketball in my college's empty gym - I felt down. And then I hear Gin Blossoms “found out about you” and the emotion and meaning of the song hits me at once. Much like hearing a Nirvana song on the radio or other great alternative rock bands like STP that still affect me, the Gin Blossoms delivered. I can remember thinking that despite being a loner or unsocial, I can still make an impact on the world. Just hearing the Gin Blossom's song briefly you know you are aware of someone who does great things through his music, at great personal cost; he contributes joy to people. And it is not always fun to be giving to the world of your talents, personal feelings and emotions especially when many people around you are full of bullshit and exclusion. There is something about the everyday emotions the singer is going through that are made so much more intense and important. He gives voice to many people out there like him. You get a sense that your very fate is at stake after hearing the song. The album version is my favorite version of the song. Get yourself a copy of the gin blossoms New Miserable Experience to hear it today. 
Robin Wilson Hey Jealousy

      Another great alternative rock song written by the underrated musician Doug Hopkins that often can be heard in the same way starting in the 90s was Hey Jealousy. The Gin Blossoms Hey Jealousy reminds Bill Watt of 1993 childhood romances and going to the swim and tennis club, etc. The exciting part about Hey Jealousy is the guitar which livens you up but gives you a slight feeling of sadness. Especially after "tomorrow we can drive around this town let the cops chase us around past is gone but something might be found to take its place, hey jealousy..." Right after that the Gin Blossoms say Hey Jealousy a few times and it's said sadly the first time and the second time there is slight hope in it then back to sad.What I like about every Gin Blossom song is that they start off with a bang and they're not one of those bands where you wait for 20 seconds for the song to get louder, they hook you at the beginning. I still get shivers whenever the intro to Hey Jealousy starts. Hopkins had it perfectly orchestrated, to be honest. The guitar and the singing both do their part -together they make one great emotion.
       The Lyrics to the gin blossoms Lost Horizons are mysterious and baffling. "Turn insect songs against the night" Typically if I don't get lyrics I dismiss them as bullshit but there is something to those lyrics, there is something meaningful about them. I enjoy having the lyrics in front of me as I follow a song. Only a very talented artist like Doug Hopkins could truly explain the lyrics of Lost Horizons.
       You can tell a Doug Hopkins song from other Gin Blossom songs because it seems like there's more meaning to the song. More poignancy in the underrated lyricist Hopkins songs since there is not much tolerance to people with drug or alcohol problems even though his songs about alcohol made the gin blossoms famous, like the gin blossoms hit song from the album New Miserable Experience, Hold Me DownHe has a "slap grunge" style of playing. 2:15 into Hold Me Down begins a mind blowing solo. The best version to hear it is the gin blossom's new miserable experience album version with headphones, as there is no comparison. It has a very powerful sound.There was much trouble with the record company when Doug failed to be sober to participate in recording process despite the fact the songs that brought the gin blossoms fame were written by Hopkins about his alcoholism.
       Gin Blossoms songwriter Dough Hopkins held one job in his life dressed as a slice of pizza in front of a parlor and he bailed after a day his friends found him at a bar drinking still in the pizza costume? He was funny and could improvise well at concerts because of his great personality. An example is when he started singing Scooby Doo in concert. 

        The other gin blossom members liked him, but the record company and Hopkins had creative differences that led to his firing from the Gin Blossoms. As great as Doug Hopkins was, he was a wasted talent because he could have written so many more good alternative rock songs, even if not as a Gin Blossom. Doug Hopkins could have accomplished far more had he not taken his life, had someone helped him to be creative but not destructive. He was great not because he took his life along with other musicians who died tragically but because of what he accomplished. It’s the precious few that can couple talent with focused drive and discipline but when Doug Hopkins did that he was untouchable with his songs. Hendrix could show off too much and be illegible but you could always follow Hopkins guitar work even when he played all over the place. I think Hendrix could have used some co-guitarists he had great rhythm but shows off too much. Not how it affects the listener emotionally.
       This is my favorite song. I recommend getting the original The Gin Blossoms -New Miserable Experience or the digitally re-mastered version. Anyway here is a live version of Pieces of the Night that I really like. The guitar solo for the last couple of minutes is brilliant. 
           There are many other Hopkins written songs that never made it on the gin blossom albums which are all really good. One such song was “Keli Richards”. Hopkins was kind of killed by his genius, couldn't sing so he needed Wilson to sing his songs. Fakeness is the key to failure, you never win that way and if you do you’re not pleasing yourself at all.
Blossom's Robin Wilson Interview 1989

           Robin Wilson lead singer of the Gin Blossoms ( and subject of my next tribute article) is a talented artist but without Doug Hopkins they probably wouldn't have been successful. I am not painting Doug Hopkins as some sort of angel. In fact it is mentioned that he almost got arrested in this video. The point is Doug Hopkins has been underrated alternative rock star -until this article. Hopkins should have been included on the Gin Blossoms greatest hits album cover. What is amazing about Hopkins is you look him up in Google images and there is barely any pictures of him yet his songs made the gin blossoms get a record deal "Without Doug and his songwriting, we (the gin blossoms) never could have signed a record deal." Robin Wilson (People magazine, 1994) [1]

       In conclusion, we remember Doug Hopkins, a most talented artist and gin blossoms guitarist, not for how he died, but for what he accomplished. He was not a hero or a martyr for dying. In fact it’s sad, the world will miss his lyrics that definitely had a heartwarming effect if you felt down like he did and can identify wrestling with an addiction and searching for the beauty in life. This was expressed in his songs; both in gin blossom songs and in his other songs.