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Sporadic» Blog Archive » Yes and also No

Yes and also No

I just finished reading Mike Doughty’s Memoir “A book of Drugs: A Memoir”. It was a good read.

Mike Doughty for those who don’t know was once the lead singer of Soul Coughing, and now has a solo career as a guitar playing singer/ songwriter.

I have followed him since back in the Soul Coughing days.

Until reading his memoir, I would have said that he and I (born just months and several hundred miles apart) were on a similar trajectory. No, I’m not comparing myself to a famous rock star. I’m saying that as his career progressed, I found myself interested in it as he changed.  I continued to be a fan as he changed who he was and what he was doing.

Also interestingly, while our ultimate ends differed, reading the memoir he and I both tapered off our drug usage approximately the same time. Admittedly, I never got into heroin, and I never had to 12 step it, and I still enjoy a drink or two, but I sort of felt like that was the story arc. My interest in drugs has waned and as I’ve aged, the whole party down thing has largely gone away.

Okay, so let’s go back and talk about what I found out in the memoir. The dudes in Soul Coughing were apparently kinda douchey and it was a rough time for Mr. Doughty. There’s was a lot of up hill slogs, it was hard to get what he wanted creatively from the other band members and it was generally unpleasant.

As rock star memoirs go, it was a good read. He’s a good writer and it’s engaging and very funny at spots. I would recommend you pick it up, especially if you have been or are a fan of his work.

However, there are a couple things that bugged me and I figured why not get them off my chest via the world wide web.

Let’s go back to me for a second.

I have very little musical nostalgia. Once I have had my fill of a song, I kinda don’t want to hear it anymore. This is true of about 95% of music. There are a few exceptions that have stood the test of time and there is also the possibility that a song, after enjoying some time  on the bench, might sound interesting again thanks to some time apart.

For example: The Cure (whom I loved) remains unlistenable but Echo and the Bunnymen have a somewhat timeless quality on certain songs.  The great majority of music from the 90’s is awful but there are a few Soul Coughing songs that I still enjoy.

Back to the book.

The Book of Drugs has no chapters (which is kind of a cool way to make the whole thing seem like a half remembered tale told by a friend who’s relating some forgotten lore from their past) but it does have ‘sections’; you can feel the voice change and you can tell that this section appears to have been penned at one sitting. Maybe it’s a cohesiveness of narrative.

For the most part, it remains a memoir. A relation of stuff that happened in the order that it happened. Although there is a disclaimer at the front that basically states that memory is a fickle beast and if the dates are wrong or something is missing, man is a faulty instrument.

There is a section where Mr Doughty addresses the fan base. And he states that he doesn’t like songs yelled out at shows (not even solo songs- which explains why he ignored my request for “F-Train” the last time I saw him). He feels that what he’s doing now is the stuff that he likes most and is proudest of, and who doesn’t think that they are wiser & better than they were in the past? I should hope we all are learning throughout our lives and continuing to grow. Nothing strange there.

He also states that he doesn’t like to play Soul Coughing songs because it brings back all of the awful memories. Also based on his drug use at the time, he doesn’t feel like the work is all that good. My opinions aside, I get that,  I don’t like music from my past because it brings back…well… my past. I can’t speak to the whole “music I wrote” in the past (My college band while fun- never sold a record) but I understand not wanting to live there.

I respect the fact that he may not want to continue playing songs from that era. I also respect that he may not like fans that only remember him from then and come to a solo show expecting some kind of soul coughing unplugged experience. Who wants to live in the past?

Here’s where I got a little peeved, well maybe not peeved, possibly saddened: There’s a statement he makes that he prefers fans that have only ever heard “Circles” (which is probably my least favorite Soul Coughing song).  I think that statement says that while he’s grown, that his fan base has not. I cannot speak for others, but perhaps, I have grown and changed. I really like his solo work.

I find that his work has changed inline with my tastes, his songwriting seems to be gaining depth and complexity in time with my interests following suit. I like his latest record “yes and also yes”.  I really enjoyed the actual concert that he recorded “The question jar show” (while I haven’t purchased the record yet). I had a great time at the latest show with his band fantastic and emerged with a new band to love – opening act Moon Hooch. The statement that he’d not like me as a fan is hurtful, but until he tells me to leave I’m not gonna.

I’ve never yelled a Soul Coughing song at a solo show. I now know not to yell even solo songs (which makes me sad because I really love ‘F-Train’). I already have my tickets to the San Francisco show in April. If he wants to sign stuff, I might even have him sign my Kindle (that’s where his book lives).

However, I hope that he can recognize that while he’s getting new fans all time, that some of us have been here from the beginning and, whether he wants me or not, would like to stay.


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