David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 319: The Black Crowes (Remedy)

January 20, 2024

I'll start with a line that seems inappropriate for this song series: There is no reason I should like The Black Crowes.

Yes, when the Crowes were big, they were bringing back retro bluesy rock-and-roll grooves at a time Wilson Phillips, New Kids On The Block and Bel Biv Devoe were dominating the airwaves, but given the altars they worshipped, I wouldn't have been enticed in any way. Their Rolling Stones and/or Aerosmith influences were most obvious in the strutting Chris Robinson, Black Crowes' lead singer. The 60s/early 70s fashion both Robinson brothers wore seemed too preordained, especially given how in every other way Chris Robinson looked like he had just dragged himself out of his bed. Even this whole brother thing, emerging almost simultaneously with Oasis and the Gallagher brothers, seemed staged in a way to convey The Kinks (including the inevitable, eventual disbandment because of brotherly non-love).

Yet, for the first two Black Crowes' albums, I really dug the hits: "Jealous Again," "Hard To Handle," "She Talks To Angels," and "Remedy." The latter, my favorite Black Crowes' song, was stuck on the pretentiously titled The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, which as with everything else they did, seemed to be trying too hard to stand out as a testament to a time when rock and roll wasn't on life support. Nevertheless, all I needed to hear was that melody of a remedy, and I wanted to rock out. "Can I have some remedy?" Robinson would ask (mid-strut) at the beginning of each chorus, a seemingly perfect plea to some beautiful woman to be his medicine.

Too bad, the rest of the verses confounded me. First Verse: dead bird on the windowsill in the opening, baby laughing at that. O K ? Second verse: bad hair dye, blame the girl's mother.  Huh? Lyrics don't have to always make sense, but a little effort, please, guys.

On a continuum of irritation, obfuscation holds up better than objectification, which slides in during the pre-chorus, barnyard strutter Robinson all the more obnoxious: "if I come on like a dream?/Will you let me show you what I mean?/Will you let me come inside?/Will you let it glide?"  Really? That's the best you got for sexual innuendo?

It doesn't help (I really am begrudging any appreciation for these guys) that Chris Robinson claims the song is about freedom, some kind of response to the "silly" war on drugs.Uh, a little help here, Rooster Robinson. I get that your chorus is about "taking enough [remedy/drugs] to please me," and I also might see freedom in the bit about dying one's hair to keep "with your mother's dare" (we all do some pretty atrocious things in the name of rhyme), but you got me with the dead bird, especially your baby's cackling about it. And given that pre-chorus, I think freedom's just another word for trying to get in a girl's pants.

I go back and forth on how much credit I want to give these Crowes for the fantastic background singers on "Remedy," the appropriately named "choir" of Barbara Mitchell and Taj Harmon. Was this their nod to "Gimme Shelter," or even less subtly to Lou Reed's acknowledgement in "Walk On The Wild Side" to have "the colored girls say 'doo do doo do doo do do doo"? I feel like I can't give these guys credit for anything, but maybe I should be giving them credit for doing everything to save rock and roll in 1991 and 1992.

Too bad, they didn't curb their enthusiasm (or pretensions) though. Amorica, from its portmanteau title to its Hustler-influenced cover, to its lack of hits ("Remedy" would be the last time they would break the Top 100, let alone the Top 50), singled the end for me. In fact, it's the lack of much else beyond the four hits I mentioned at the beginning that have stopped me from purchasing a Best of, even off E-bay. I need another couple of hits before I might have seen the Crowes as a more significant part of rock and roll, dead as it may be.

In the meantime, I got that great chorus tripping through my mind.

The Black Crowes. "Remedy." The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. Def American, 1992. Link here.

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See complete list here.