Only Pieces Of The Night

I liked power pop, at least one segment of it, long before I knew what power pop was. Among my favorite bands of the post-grunge era, the time I came of age as a fan of music, were Toad & The Wet Sprocket, Gin Blossoms, and Fastball. Though I am not, and have never been, someone who drank a lot (I have always tended to avoid drugs and alcohol), many of the songs of these bands (or, in the case of Gin Blossoms, their name) dealt with problems of drug and alcohol abuse (Fastball: Charlie The Methadone Man, Toad The Wet Sprocket: P.S., Gin Blossoms: Pieces of the Night), or mused on such themes as memory and darkness (Fastball: Vampires, Funny How It Fades Away, Gin Blossoms: Pieces of the Night (again), Toad the Wet Sprocket: All I Want, Walk On The Ocean).

Even songs I did not realize originally were power pop often had a powerful resonance with me on first hearing, like Badfinger’s “Day After Day.” It is almost as if one could her the tragic sensitivity in the mournful, longing words and music. Power pop music, as I found out later, has two wings—a fast-paced and energetic side and a darker and gloomier side. (This makes it sound almost bipolar in nature), and it is unsurprising that it is the more melancholy side of power pop, with its guitar riffs and tight harmonies sprinkled through ballads or mid-tempo numbers about dark subjects that has most interested me. I strongly suspect that all of us have certain tempos and musical structures that resonate with us, and that our minds have a resonant frequency, as it where, where what we enjoy to listen to relates to the state of our brain (and mind) by matching its existing state and then heightening it.

And so, in researching the history of these bands whose music resonated so strongly with me, I was troubled by how tragic their tales often were [1]. Even modern power pop bands seemed touched with tragedy, like Gin Blossoms with the death of its talented songwriter and guitarist Doug Hopkins to an alcoholism-induced suicide (the same thing that happened to one of my uncles). Often power pop bands seem particularly plagued by breakups due to insecurities, like Gin Blossoms’ elusive search for peace of mind, Big Star’s elusive search for popularity, or Toad The Wet Sprocket’s insecurities about making a record up to their standards. It would appear as if power pop bands seem to be rather sensitive and immensely talented individuals, who possess somewhat tragic lives and often self-medicate their mental turmoil when not channeling it into creating hauntingly beautiful music.

Doug Hopkins was in a melancholy mood when he penned the chorus to the epic (and obscure) “Pieces Of The Night [2],” writing, “And then I saw gin mill rainfall. What do you remember if all? Only pieces of the night.” But his music remains, and remains relevant and memorable almost two decades after his death. The same is true of the music of Big Star and Badfinger. Their tragic lives and deaths color their music, but they do not make that music without value. For life is often dark under the sun, and we long for the light of the word to shine even into the darkest canyons of the human heart. For there are many in the dark who deserve to see light. May we someday write and sing pieces of the light instead of pieces of the night.


[2] This song may be covered in greater depth in a future song analysis article.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Music History, Musings and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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