It’s been over 2 weeks since Amy Winehouse’s death and I am still thinking about her and her music. It really really bothers me that one’s art sometimes only becomes more revered after they die. I do this all the time, and while I know that I loved Amy’s music in life, I am definitely more enamoured in her in death. What does that say about me?
I used to obsess more about music when I was younger. It was all encompassing, perhaps filling up a void in me that needed to be filled. I still adore and worship music, but age kinda numbs you a little that the all engulfing surrendering doesn’t really happen in the same way anymore. That’s ok – I like it like that.
There has been a lot of music that has shaken me, and moved me for many different reasons. But, if I were to think of that one specific album that truly spoke to me and was the “voice” for my generation of silent, polite and not so confident youth – it was Jagged Little Pill. Yep, Alanis Morissette’s “debut” was that for me. Let me tell you why.
As a 14 year old, I actually owned Alanis’s first two dance tapes. And I liked them. I didn’t tell anybody of course, but I did. I managed to hold onto to those tapes through these years still. But after the dismal returns off her second dance album, she disappeared.
Cue June 1995, the year I turned 19- Madonna had a record label and I was quietly fascinated by the weird and odd artists that were signed to it – Candlebox, Bad Brains, Proper Grounds, Me’Shell N’DegeOcello…different sounds emanating. And then there was this Alanis Morissette girl. That Alanis. She made a rock album. Well she made a pop rock lite album. Her first single had the word fuck in it, amongst other not so friendly fare for the masses. She was yodelling a little like Dolores O’Riordan from The Cranberries. What was this girl trying to pull? She’s got the wool over America’s eyes with this act, but not us Canadians. We know the truth – and this sound WAS NOT it.
You Oughta Know was inescapable that summer. The more I kept hearing it, the more I was going from annoyed to intrigued. Where was all of this angst and anger coming from? So I caved and I bought the CD. 12 songs, one secret one. All I Really Want was the first track. She was all over the place vocally – her voice was raw and clearly unpolished. Didn’t Glen Ballard (her producer) work with Wilson Phillips (yep, I had their tape too!) back in the day? This was clearly a mastermind of these two people wanting a new change in sound and basically trying to do something to make people forget the roots from which they each came from. Yeah, this girl was annoying the shit out of me – but I couldn’t stop listening to the record. What was wrong with me? I kept listening and listening and before I knew it I wasn’t hearing a staged voice but something that woke up the voice inside me. Suddenly, all of these songs were speaking to me, connecting to me in a way that I had not expected. This album not only was talking about love gone wrong, but about the holes in religion, life lessons, not being in a co-dependent relationships, being in love – and each song had a sing a long chorus to die for. I didn’t love this album – I devoured it. This, in all true cliched terms, was my coming of age record. It was all I listened to that year. I got my then 2 year old nephew listening to key tracks, and my family basically saw that this person was truly taking over my life!
From that came the obsession. I wanted to learn more about this Alanis. I watched her be interviewed, I jumped up and down when she won Album of the Year (everyone is listening!), I saw how not just me was getting into her but EVERYONE in the world was! She was my Beatlemania – I had never seen anything like it.
I saw her once at Metropolis, and then again at the Molson Centre(now Bell Centre) – nine months apart. She went from playing clubs to playing arenas. Crazy. She took over everything creative for me. In a weird subconscious way, I think her writing allowed me to start writing poetry – letting out feelings and thoughts that I had deemed were inappropriate. If she could do it in her own way, then maybe I could in mine as well.
There was an energy to her live shows as well – you couldn’t bottle it because it would break the bottle into smithereens. She was like this whirling dervish that charmed you if you wanted to be charmed. She charmed me from head to toe – my loyalty to her was in stone. I knew that I would be following her music for life.
She did revisit the album with an acoustic version of every song. It was an interesting idea, and the album definitely sounds lush and pretty. What makes Jagged Little Pill so special though, is its sound, its moment in time explosiveness – it can’t be revisited or recreated.
Like all obsessions, they fly away. People grow up and move on. And I did. I went from thinking that there was nothing else that I would ever listen to again – to being impressed with other artists that came along the way. The hysteria may have dulled, but the love was unbreakable. I can still look at that album cover and remember everything that I felt about those songs. I know that some people didn’t get it, didn’t fall under that spell. But, I did. And in some subtle, strange way what she did with her music fueled my own way to express myself creatively. And that’s what music should do.
A track blow by blow (and I’m doing this from memory!):
All I Really Want: The opening track. Good sound, and a great way to open a record. She quotes Great Expectations and does a really bad yodel at the end. Endearing still.
You Oughta Know: The venom in her voice when she sings “Are you thinking of me when you fuck her?” still makes me laugh and cringe a little.
Perfect: The one song that I didn’t get to me right away. Still doesn’t entirely. Too whiny (I know, I know – she can be interpreted as whiny to begin with)
Hand In My Pocket: That harmonica solo always makes me smile. This song is one of two that encapsulates my mindset at that time.
Right Through You: Short and sweet. “Wine, dine, 69 me” – another line for the ages.
Forgiven: Ahh, the church experience gone wrong. 🙂
You Learn: “You grieve, you learn.” Still gives me goosebumps.
Head Over Feet: The only unabashedly romantic song – great catchy chorus. I think this was the first song that got to me.
Mary Jane: This and Perfect are the only songs I don’t listen to really. But, I like this one more. There’s a bit of storytelling going on here that I like.
Ironic: Part two of encapsulation. Love this song. Yes, I know she’s not being ironic in the least. You want a sing a long chorus? Here you are!
Not The Doctor: Back in the day for a long time, I didn’t understand what this song was about. Then, it happened. Then, I understood it all too well.
Wake Up: Kinda a throwaway song for an album ender. It’s a good one, not mind blowing though.
…..but then she surprises you with a more bass heavy You Oughta Know and then an uncredited acapella haunter called Your House that basically leaves every hair on your arm standing.
Alanis tweeted Delta Rae Band’s version of this song a while back, and it’s stellar. Here it is. Laters!