I have this really deep love for the movie Empire Records. Ever since I saw it as a kid, I’ve loved that movie and the soundtrack. There are plenty of songs to focus on from it but one in particular has always intrigued me mainly due to the story of how the song came to be. In between the Gin Blossom’s debut and second albums, there was a song written, “Til I Hear It From You” that would be the lead single for the Empire Records soundtrack. The song was written in a hotel back in 1995 during the annual South By Southwest Festival. The writing of the song according to the story took about two hours with Gin Blossom’s guitarist Jesse Valenzuela and songwriter Marshall Crenshaw having committed a rough version of the tune to tape, and about two weeks later Crenshaw received a copy of the completed track from the band, lyrics having been written by the group’s frontman Robin Wilson. Interestingly too, the Gin Blossom’s were being sought after to be on the soundtrack but due to label issues it was proving to be a struggle. Then as things worked out and the soundtrack to the movie was then switched to the label home of the Gin Blossom’s, A&M Records. The song was a hit for sure and spent soooo many weeks as a staple on rock radio in the mid 90’s. And even to this day, when this song comes on, it takes me back to that time, the movie and eventually wind up singing along!
I’ll never forget the first time I heard the song “Plowed” by Sponge. I was a kid maybe 10 or 11 and I was watching Empire Records and towards the end of the movie, when they are getting ready for “the get together” to save the store, this song was played. I loved it instantly. What a great use of the song in that scene. Interestingly, the song isn’t included on the soundtrack. That’s something that’s always bugged me. Plowed is also such a quintessential 90’s song that, it has to be included in this topic. The album that “Plowed” is on, Rotting Pinata is a terrific album from start to finish. If you’ve never heard it, you should!
Empire Records is one of my all time favorite movies. It’s one of those movies that really does capture the time period and the connection of life to music. Over the years, the cult status of the film has grown by leaps and bounds. Besides launching many careers for a lot of the actors in it, the soundtrack was amazing. There is one scene in particular that I’ve always been fond of and have wanted to recreate if I had a job and boss like that. I’m talking about the scene when Lucas and AJ are rocking out to “If You Want Blood” by AC/DC while their boss Joe, locks himself in his office and plays along on the drums to blow off some steam. “If You Want Blood” is my all time favorite AC/DC song so, it’s only fitting that I share this with you!
There is something that a lot of bands and musicians “feel” that a lot of people just don’t get. It’s a sensation or a feeling that compels you to keep at it and the creative drive that pushes you to still perform and release new music. This topic is here to highlight the bands that still have that feeling pumping through their veins, and Sponge is a great example of just that.
Sponge was formed in 1991, in Detroit, Michigan by singer Vinnie Dombroski, Mike Cross, Tim Cross, and Joey Mazzola. They released their debut album Rotting Pinata in 1994, which was a big success selling over 500,000 copies. You probably remember hearing the song “Plowed” all over radio and in the cult classic Empire Records. As well as the song “Molly (Sixteen Candles).” Their follow up album Wax Ecstatic, was a bit of a departure from their debut but, it really showed the songwriting abilities of the band. The song ” Have You Seen Mary” was included in the film Chasing Amy. Their next album New Pop Sunday was released in 1999, on an independent label but didn’t get a lot of attention. This would also be the last album to feature the original lineup. Vinnie Dombroski would continue to steer the ship after that album. Sponge would go on to release 5 more albums with different lineups. Their most recent album The Beer Sessions, was released in 2016.
Sponge though, is still out there on the road and rocking audiences. Sure there are people that are there to just hear the “classics” from Rotting Pinata and Wax Ecstatic but, the other songs they have in the setlist are quite rocking. You can tell from watching video of their live shows over the years, that the drive and passion is still in there. It’s quite refreshing to see bands and their members (even if it’s not the original members) still out there doing it for the love of the music and for the fans. Sure the venues might not be quite as big as they once were but, the love and desire is still huge and that’s what creates longevity. Cheers to Sponge for not giving up and still fighting the good fight!
As many of you have read, I’m a big proponent for 90’s rock. I love that I grew up in the era when music transcended a generation just as it did in the 60’s ad early 70’s. One band that I remember hearing way back was Sponge. When I first heard the song “Plowed” in Empire Records, I was hooked. Their debut album Rotting Piñata was a pure slab of alternative rock. Some critics wrote them off as a Stone Temple Pilots ripoff band, but the Sponge had a different vibe. Sure they had the quiet to loud moments, and the deep vocals, but they added a little bit of a punk element and blues to their music. Rotting Piñata was certified gold and was the bands best selling album. Their follow up Wax Ecstatic was a great follow up. Their song “Have You Seen Mary” was featured in Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy. in 1996 Sponge was asked to replace Stone Temple Pilots for Kiss’s reunion tour. Over the years Sponge has continued on with different lineups but have been constantly on the road and releasing albums. They have shared stages the world over with Guns N’ Roses, Nickelback, Iggy Pop, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Kiss, to name just a few. Their most recent came out in 2013.
Sponge is definitely one of the bands front he mid 90’s that got a lot of flack but were really great and still deliver the goods. If you haven’t listened to them ever or it’s been a long time, reach for Rotting Piñata and Wax Ecstatic, you’ll really enjoy yourself.
As you all can tell I’m relishing the fact that the 90’s are starting to come back in a big way. From album and film anniversaries, bands that are finally getting their due, and the all around general vibe that it brought out of people. There was no sense of entitlement like kids now. We all fought for what we wanted and believed in. To quote the movie in which I’m writing about “Damn The Man! Save The Empire”
Empire Records came out in 1995 to very little fanfare. In fact it was slammed by critics and it bombed while in theaters. Though over the years this movie has become a genuine cult classic. The soundtrack that accompanied the movie was fantastic. The soundtrack album featured tracks by Better Than Ezra, Cracker, The Cranberries, Evan Dando (of The Lemonheads), Toad the Wet Sprocket, Gin Blossoms and The Martinis (featuring former Pixies members Joey Santiago and Dave Lovering). One of the more intriguing notes about the film and soundtrack was the inclusion of Coyote Shivers, who played aspiring musician turned store clerk Berko in the film. Coyote became involved in the Empire Records by virtue of being the stepfather of Liv Tyler, Shivers being then married to Tyler’s mother Bebe Buell. The soundtrack album peaked at #63 on the album chart.There were also plenty of other songs featured in the movie that didn’t get included on the soundtrack release. Bands like Quicksand, Gwar, ACDC, Sponge, Suicidal Tendencies, Dishwalla, and many many more.
Do yourself a favor, and go home and watch this movie and revel in the songs that accompany your youth!