David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 360: Sniff 'n' the Tears (Driver's Seat)

June 17, 2024

When I wrote about Tommy Tutone as a guilty pleasure a few days ago, I am not sure I did the term "guilty pleasure" any favors. Even though the song I chose wasn't "867-5309/Jenny," the one I did, "Cheap Date" was something I suggested I should feel guilty about within the canon that is Tommy Tutone (as small as it is). None of that really fits the definition of something "lowbrow" or "taboo" (if we throw in the word "weird," than "Cheap Date" does start to fit that common definition).

So today, I will write something perhaps truly unadvisable: I really like "Driver's Seat" by Sniff 'n' the Tears. To be honest, a lot of us did at the time; it got to #15 in the United States, #8 in the Netherlands, #13 in Australia and #15 in Canada in 1978. So, why does it feel wrong to admitting to still liking it almost 45 years later? After all, it was featured in Boogie Nights in 1997, although I don't know if a song featuring so predominantly in a depressing film about the 1970s and 1980s porn industry is necessarily a good thing. Nevertheless, Sniff 'n' the boys (more about this silly name later) can be found on the soundtracks (Boogie Nights ended up with 2 different soundtracks, both with different tracks, proving it wasn't just Dirk Diggler that was more substantial than average) along with Night Ranger's "Sister Christian," Elvin Bishop's "Fooled Around And Fell In Love," and Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl." Almost all of the music could be categorized as guilty pleasures. Guilty pleasures for a movie about the worst guilty pleasure? Well-played, Paul Thomas Anderson, well-played!

Lead singer Paul Roberts (the said "Sniff") claims the song isn't about driving, which is pretty obvious, like telling us "Turning Japanese" is not really about acculturation (I'm sorry, but I think the Boogie Nights influence is going to take over this whole blog). It might be better, and less of a guilty pleasure, if it was about driving. Instead we get a song basically about dancing, being repeatedly told to "pick up your feet/got to move to the trick of the beat." I guess there's something here about dancing being a figure of speech for shaking off the blues, as perhaps the most interesting part of the song is the section where we hear "the news is blue/it has its own way to get to you/what can I do?/I'll never remember my time with you," the background singer nailing the "oooh" or later the "yeah." Actually, the most interesting part of the song discerns the vocals, and allows the main guitar riff, which is pretty catchy, and the keyboard to carry the song to the end. That is the money shot, so to speak.

The cover to the album, and the video (linked below) also feature a woman's very well-defined legs, none of which had to hurt the song. Fickle Heart may have been too accurate a title, because according to Wikipedia, half of the band (3 of 6) had left before they had even had much time to enjoy the successes of "Driver's Seat." Some of the other songs on Fickle Heart weren't too bad, but Sniff 'n' the Tears were destined to be one-hit wonders, although amazingly they released nine albums up through 2020 (apparently "Driver's Seat" was re-released in the Netherlands in 1991 and went to #1, apparently precipitating the band, in whatever form, to "getting back together").

All of this is pretty standard rock and roll fodder and not particularly unique. Sniff 'n' the boys could join dozens of other groups with similar Behind The Music back stories. In the end, they are my guiltiest pleasure because it pains me to say I once bought and still like something by a group called Sniff 'n the Tears. In fact, my tendency is to think they were Sniff-n-the-Tears, which suggests more of an action done while crying as opposed to being separate acts of sniffling and crying. If I can trust, again, my Wikipedia, the band's manager encouraged them to change their name from The Tears to Sniff 'n' the Tears because Roberts had bad hay fever and sniffed a lot. Thank goodness, he didn't have Myoclonus, or they would have ended up Jerk 'n' the Tears (albeit better served by Boogie Nights).

I believe I am done here. Cut!

Sniff 'n' the Tears. "Driver's Seat." Fickle Heart. Atlantic, 1978. Link here.

Day 359: Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show "The Cover Of Rolling Stone"

Day 361: Gary Louris "Dead Man's Burden"

See complete list here.