|Day 112: Hootie & The Blowfish (Hold My Hand)
August 16, 2020
This one's going to be a little different.
I heard Hootie & The Blowfish's "Hold My Hand" this weekend, and I was reminded of what a pure, straightforward song it is. Distinctive lead vocals, amazing harmonies (David Crosby helped -- seeing some recurring trends through this series?), sweet and uplifting meaning, solid musicianship. "Hold My Hand" should be taught in Pop Song Writing 101.
They followed this up with three more simple, catchy tunes from their debut album . . . and quickly became the scorn of many. Fame, especially perceived overnight fame, can be ugly, although I don't think it helps when you dress for your first song's video looking like the obnoxious frat guys that you might have been (at least three of them belonged to a frat at University of South Carolina).
25 years later, all this dismissal of the band, and especially this song, doesn't seem fair. As I listened again to "Hold My Hand," I tried to think of an angle for this blog. I wondered if there was a point to be made about how its message resonated at a time of great societal upheaval. I first looked through some almanacs for 1994, since the song was released in summer 1994, and noted a few things that could have been interesting societal counterpoints.
The most obvious was the killing of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman just a month before the song was released. However, at that point, the story was mostly freakshow matinee, including O.J. in the Bronco. The real unrest would be released later.
Less likely, but still humorous to note, was the attack by Tonya Harding on Nancy Kerrigan, but that was way back in January of 1994, so no connections to make, probably for the best. I am willing to be many things for this blog, but tone deaf tacky is not one I'd like to attain.
As I scoured 1994 almanacs/timelines, I realized I had a serious flaw in my methodology. This came when I went to look up just where "Hold Me Hand" ended up on the year-end Top 100 Billboard lists. I found it not even listed. What the hell?
Turns out there are a couple of lessons here. One is that a Billboard "year" runs from December 1 to November 30, so that they can actually publish the year-end list within the calendar year. O.k. that kind of makes sense, but if "Hold My Hand" was released on July 18, 1994, that still meant that the song had been out for 20 weeks, which seems an unbelievable long amount of time, especially for a song that almost everybody eventually hit the "oh, God, not again, please don't play that song again" moment.
So I plowed more into my research and learned my second lesson. Appearances on Billboard Top 100 Weekly lists are not all made equal. For all the "My Heart Will Go On" scenarios where, because there is no God in heaven, they enter the Top 100 at Number 1, most songs percolate (or at least used to) for a long time to even get onto the bottom half of the Top 100. "Hold My Hand" needed 12 weeks to crack the Top 100, meaning that on October 8, 1994, it was on the chart . . . at 96. Hardly making a splash.
In addition, for every "Junior's Farm" that gets on and off the charts like it's a boxcar-jumping hobo (interestingly, McCartney and Wings spent 12 weeks on the Top 100, but only 4 weeks after hitting its peak at 17), other songs continue to percolate up the charts. "Hold My Hand" took over 18 weeks to climb to its highest ranking at 10. And then it stuck around until April 8, when after still being just outside of the Top 40 (48), it plummeted completely out, ending a run of 44 weeks on the Top 100.
That chart history is why I can find the song at #22 for The Top 100 of 1995. Still doesn't seem right for a song that one heard every few minutes for half a year. (For the record, "Gangsta's Paradise," "Waterfalls," "Creep" -- the TLC one, not the Radiohead one --, and "Kiss From A Rose" were the Top 4 hits of 1995. I must have listened to the wrong stations.)
So I go back to my original question, was there something between October 1994 and April 1995 that made the "I've got a hand for you" sentiment resonate with the listening public?
Damn it, I guess there is nothing. Oh wait. November 8, Newt Gingrich helps Republicans secure both the House and Senate. Hmm? Some speculate that Gingrich is the cause for the modern American divide in politics. The Atlantic outright says he is "The Man Who Broke Politics" with its November 2018 story.1 Hmm? Maybe I've been thinking about this all wrong. Darius Rucker and his frat boy brothers were actually travelers from the future, liberal pinkos from that damn University of South Carolina:
"With a little love and tenderness/we'll walk upon the water/we'll rise about this mess." Honestly, Nancy and Mitch, give it a shot.
"With a little peace and some harmony/we'll take the world together." C'mon AOC and Lindsey, hum along with me.
"I've got a hand for you/I wanna run with you." Just think of the ticket: Rand/Dianne, rolls right off the tongue!
Aw, who am I kidding? Frat boys are usually conservatives anyway.
Maybe H & The B (because honestly writing that name out every time kills me) saw the future me, as "I was wasted/and wasting time" as "I thought about your problems/thought about your crimes." Maybe this song is nothing more than a homage to sitting on a bench next to a quiet running river, holding the hand of the person you love, dreaming of "the promised land."
"Hold My Hand." Hootie & The Blowfish. Cracked Rear View. 1994. Atlantic. Link here.
1Coppins, McKay. "The Man Who Broke Politics." The Atlantic. November 2018. Retrieved from: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/11/newt-gingrich-says-youre-welcome/570832/
Day 111: The New Pornographers "We End Up Together."
Day 113: Jefferson Starship "Runaway."->
See full unfinished list here.