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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.