Get The Show On, Get Paid

Yesterday I heard a Smash Mouth song on the radio, which does not happen often these days, and it reminded me of a college story of mine. Smash Mouth was extremely successful in the early 2000’s when their second album, “Astro Lounge,” came out. Included on that album was a single previously released, “Can’t Get Enough Of You Baby,” as well as the hits “All Star” (which is the song I heard on the radio) and “Then The Morning Comes.” A few of the songs on the album talk about the band getting paid for being entertaining. To be sure, the band got paid quite a bit between their tour and going multi-platnium and having a massive airplay hit and another hit that barely missed the top ten. Yet there is more to the story of their career art, which rapidly went south, that is worthy of investigation.

When I was a college student at USC, there was once a free concert advertised for Smash Mouth. I’m not sure how much that the university paid for the concert, although it must have been considerable, but the concert was of no charge to those of us who were students. Considering I was a fan of Smash Mouth, and had the album they were touring to support, I had blocked out the whole entire evening for enjoying music and did not have to worry about any classwork. This provided to be a wise idea, in retrospect. Some of my classmates appear not to have planned as wisely and this caused some discontent when it came time for the concert.

First, though, it would be good to mention some context. One of my favorite tracks from “Astro Lounge” was a song called “Roadman,” which details the story of a mythical roadman for the band who was a fast and reckless driver whose mission in life, aside from collecting an alarming number of driving citations, is to get the band on time to their shows [1]. This song was never released as a single, but being a person who has generally lived life in at least a little bit of a hurry, and also being the kind of person who knows drivers much like that imaginary (?) roadman, it was a song I appreciated for its slice of life and its picture of an early band with loyal, if misguided, help.

As it would happen, the night of the concert, the band itself was between two and three hours late for the free concert. While, as a general rule, beggars should not be particularly choosy, and those who are watching a free concert should not really complain, the mood was pretty hostile from the students who (like me) waited for the band to arrive. As might be expected, the band performed the songs from their current release as a way to encourage students who did not already buy their music to purchase their album, and it included their previous hits from their current and previous album as well as a few album tracks. As it would happen, one of the songs that they performed was the song “Roadman.”

What struck me as particularly intriguing was that the band apparently showed no sense of irony in performing a song about hurrying to a show when that is precisely what they did not do to an audience of ironic college students (myself included) who could be expected to be very highly attuned to song lyrics if they were paying any attention at all. The band sang the song straight, without any kind of commentary about the relationship between the song and their own being spectacularly late to this concert. A band that cannot realize that being late to a concert with thousands of potential customers is not a good way to build goodwill. Needless to say, the band quickly declined in popularity and got dropped from their major label. You don’t get paid unless you put the show on.

[1] See the lyrics here, which helps this context make more sense:

Road man driving in the road van
He’s got to beat the clock to the next town
Road man driving in the road van
I set up the sound system for the band.

Road man slow it down
And you will get there safe and sound
He says no no no the show must go on.

Road man driving like a mad man
Breaking land speed records in the van.
Road man he don’t mind police man
Leaving a trail of ripped up citations.

Road man slow it down
And you will get there safe and sound
He says no no no the show must go on.

Road man heavy load
He’s got to stop and smell the rose.
Road man he says no go
I’ve got to be the king of the road.
Road man didn’t see the train man
Until it was too late to slow the van.
Meanwhile the band is waiting for the Road man
Who was crushed by his beloved sound system.

Road man slow it down
And you will get there safe and sound
He says no no no the show must go on.

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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