If for no other reason than to break free from my usual patterns of death obsession that tend to drive the content of this space all too often, I pledge to mention only briefly the tragedy associated with this week's selection. Instead, I'll linger on the joyful elements of a great late-'80s college rock song that somehow managed to slip under the radar of all but the most discerning music lovers. Dancing Hoods spent much of the '80s recording and performing in and around its New York City base, all with the hopes of breaking through to the growing American audience for early alternative and indie music. Unfortunately, these years of toil failed to secure anything more than satisfying but low-compensating cult status. Even so, 1988 seemed to bring a positive confluence of talent and timing with the release of the band's Hallelujah Anyway. The record's shimmering single "Baby's Got Rockets" put an interesting, cerebral spin on power pop and gained the group some substantial attention, but ultimately the near-requisite move to Los Angeles to pursue more mainstream success ended in a sputtering disaster.
The tragic part didn't come until many years later, after Dancing Hoods member Mark Linkous had gone on to mastermind the well-regarded '90s alternative act Sparklehorse. In 2010, Linkous fatally shot himself outside a friend's house - where he had been staying - in Knoxville, Tennessee. But again, I made a pledge to linger on the brighter aspects of the Dancing Hoods story, so allow me to return, without further elaboration, to the music. Along with Bob Bortnick, his creative partner in Dancing Hoods, Linkous helped craft a truly memorable, quirky guitar rock song in "Baby's Got Rockets" that holds up very well in comparison to most contemporary examples. Excellent acoustic guitar riffing sets up the subdued, lovely verse melody and leads to the best payoff of all in the transcendent bridge: "Well, I'm gonna count to ten, and when I open my eyes I don't wanna see anything." I'm choosing to focus on the elements of beauty and freedom in that line rather than the gloomy associations that would be all too easy to glean from it regarding Linkous. Staying on the positive side - I suppose I should at least TRY it from time to time.
- Listen to "Baby's Got Rockets" and watch the music video here.
- Power Pop Genre Profile
- The Replacements Artist Profile
- Top '80s Songs of The Replacements