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Monday, May 19, 2008

Hey, Remember “Selling Out”?

posted by on May 19 at 17:10 PM

Remember how, in the ’90s, post-Nevermind and pre-Napster/music industrial collapse, people in music, especially in indie and punk, worried a whole lot about “selling out”? It was kind of a big fucking deal. Jawbreaker, for one, famously signed to Geffen for a rumored million dollar advance, after having at some point said they wouldn’t sign to a major; it caused a minor punk rock shit storm.

Obviously, a lot’s changed since then in the music business, most notably digital file sharing and major label decline but also a newfound kind of post modern/morally relativistic approach to the idea of “selling out.” Granted, we’ll crack some jokes about Of Montreal’s or the Shins’ or MIA’s TV commercials, but basically it’s no big dealówe all kind of know that’s just how people have to get paid these days. And Jawbreaker didn’t even shill for a fast food company or an automobile, they just signed to a bigger label to put out their record!

Anyway, all of this really came to mind the other day, when the Dear You-era Jawbreaker rarity “Friendly Fire” came up on my digital audio device (note: no brand name dropping in this post; some of us have moral standards, after all). It is maybe the most sincere, heart-wrenching song ever written about “selling out” (“Million” off Dear You being only tangentially about major label contracts). Here are the lyrics:

Walked beyond the fence,
played outside our yard.
You took it hard.
Through a one-way door
hinged high on doubt.
No ins, no outs.

I like my clothes.
Don’t want to grow.
I’ll wait around
‘til you say go.

The lights were off
when I got home.
Black room, blue phone.
Don’t I know your name?
Weren’t we almost friends?
Guess that depends.

Take some benefit
with all your doubt.
If this is principle,
I’m dropping out.

You demonize
so you don’t look so bad.
You wouldn’t take
what you couldn’t have.
My back is warm
with your friendly fire.
I know you’re trying.
Could you please aim it higher?

So alone I wrote,
I wrote this will.
I will decline.
This fish ain’t big.
This pond is small.
So small of mind.

I like my clothes.
Don’t want to grow.
I’ll wait around
‘til you say go.

You demonize
so you don’t look so bad.
You wouldn’t take
what you couldn’t have.
My back is warm
with your friendly fire.
I know you’re trying.
Could you please aim it higher?

And here is a so-so live version:

Update: Fuck. I almost forgot to mention one of my favorite things about this song, which is its central image: “My back is warm / with your friendly fire / I know you’re trying / could you please aim it higher.” The analogy of “friendly fire” is so much more precise than a mere stab in the back, the plea to “aim higher” suggesting Schwarzenbach’s fellow punks ought to focus on fighting the game, not the player. (I also like the clothes/yard analogies, but they’re a relatively pat.)

RSS icon Comments

1

Eric,

You ever read this book?

http://www.amazon.com/Amped-Notes-Go-Nowhere-Punk-Band/dp/0967790808/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1211242791&sr=1-2

My favorite chapter is when he talks about all the funny shit they did to the A&R people who sent the band letters during the band sweep of that era. Like they would ever fucking sign to a major!

Posted by Chris Estey | May 19, 2008 5:24 PM
2

No, I'll have to check that out. Thanks, Estey!

Posted by Eric Grandy | May 19, 2008 5:27 PM
3

I remember seeing good ol Jawbreaker back in the day at the Firehouse.

Major or indie, they always had that "sincere, heart-wrenching" quality to them. That's why after all these years, Dear You is still a favorite in my collection.

Posted by TheNiceAsshole | May 19, 2008 5:43 PM
4

yes yes!! I saw them all three times at the Old Fire House and they never disappointed.
And I still play my swirled blue Dear You too!

Posted by Sarina | May 20, 2008 1:37 AM
5

@4 - i bet you pierced your nose too, way before it was cool...

so when's the jawbreaker reunion gonna be?

Posted by E | May 20, 2008 8:58 AM
6

Well, that's better than Kevin Barnes' justification of "we live in a capitalist society, therefore it's impossible (by definition!) to sell out!"

Posted by David | May 20, 2008 2:28 PM
7

Jawbreaker? Really scraping the barrel these days, Grandy.

Posted by Teenage Fanclub | May 20, 2008 7:54 PM
8

Your barrel-bottom is my ceiling. Jawbreaker rules.

Posted by Eric Grandy | May 20, 2008 8:39 PM

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