I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and — for me at least — I can’t think of pop culture event in a very long time that has made me sadder than the sudden killing of Grantland.
Sure, some of my favorite TV shows have gone away. Goodbye Deadwood, so long Mad Men! Sure, bands break up and artists die. R.I.P. Lou Reed and R.E.M. And except for eight times in my entire life, my favorite teams aren’t going to be the World Champs.
But there are always other TV shows and other musicians and wait ’til next year!
But Grantland was unique. I realize that Bill Simmons is a polarizing figure, but his great insight — that there is an intersection between the pop culture nerd and the sports nerd — spoke directly to me.
Every single god damned day for the past few years, I could go to Grantland and never know what I was going to find: Andy Greenwald or Molly Lambert writing about a TV show I should be watching, Steven Hyden raving about the latest punk rock band or country artist he’d discovered, Wesley Morris with some insight films, Jonah Keri breaking down the best teams in the MLB.
Or all of the weird mash-ups and brackets and fake hot takes and deep insights. And the podcasts! At their height, I never missed an episode of The Hollywood Prospectus or Girls in Hoodies or Do You Like Prince Movies?
For me, this is like like the ends of Trouser Press and Creem. Or like the cancellations of Police Squad!, Twin Peaks and The Middleman! Or like the deaths of Kurt Cobain and Warren Zevon.
Like Grantland, all of these things were unique and unfinished. There was potential for so much more. And that’s what makes me sad.
The first thing you need to understand is I didn’t mean to get thrown out of The Late Show With David Letterman.
Why would I? For much of the 1980s, his NBC show was my absolute and utter favorite thing in all of the pop culture world. I loved that show more than R.E.M. or The Replacements or Bloom County or This is Spinal Tap. I loved Dave more than Raising Arizona or Lord of The Rings or Bob Dylan.
Originally published by Kade Magazine on September 8, 1994
Posting this here because on last week’s podcast we had a discussion about seeing The Smashing Pumpkins during their post-Siamese Dream phase, as well as Kirk’s assertion that the Pumpkins were better than Nirvana. This article touches on all of that, and is also representative of my take on indie/alternative just as it was beginning to peak out, commercially.
. . . So I was standing on line for Lollapalooza ’94 bumping backpacks with thousands of other cool undergound rockers and there’s this really annoying loud guy right in front of me. He’s pontificating about Malcolm McLaren and the Sex Pistols. Only all of his ideas are completely wrong, which pissed me off. After a few minutes, I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I tapped him on the shoulder and went “excuse me, but I’ve been listening to your little lecture on The Pistols and you’ve completely missed the point about McLaren, punk rock and everything.”
He was offended: “Look ‘ere, Mate,” he went with a fake English Accent, “I’ve been writing about Malc for years, and I think I ‘ave a smashing insight on punk.” “Oh yeah,” I went, “well, I just happen to have Malcolm right here, and let’s just find out what he has to say,” and with that I produced Malcolm McLaren, who went to the guy: “Your theories are absolute shite; how you ever got to write about anything is beyond me.” Needless to say, the guy was flabbergasted . . .
Bob Mould, of course, has had a lifetime pass since the second Sugar album, and to be honest, he’s probably had it since January 1987, when Hüsker Dü released Warehouse: Songs and Stories.
Warehouse was the fifth album they’d released since September 1984, so it was the culmination of 2 1/2 years where they’d gone from being just another name buried in the morass of hardcore bands listed in tattered, second-hand fanzines to being one of my favorite bands in the universe.
That said, in all of the years, I’d only ever seen Bob Mould perform once, at the Warfield in San Francisco on Sugar’s File Under: Easy Listening tour. Unlike R.E.M and The Replacements, the Hüskers never made it Fresno, and there was never quite the right social buzz around them to have the same road trips that spontaneously seem to organize themselves around The Smiths or U2.
Besides, Hüsker Dü was going to last forever. I’d have plenty of time to see them!!
“… and there stands R.E.M.” is the last phrase on Pavement’s heartfelt (not “heartfelt”) tribute “The Unseen Power of the Picket Fence.”
At the time, R.E.M. had “only” been together for a decade — how long did any of your bands last? — but it felt like they were in it for the long haul, and would be making great records for decades to come.
Of all the bands ever, they seemed like they’d figured it out: how to a be band and not lose your mind, how to stay a band and not lose your heart, and most importantly, how to have success and not lose your soul.
So there they stood. Through the loss of their drummer. Through the loss of their popularity. Through the loss of their ability to make great records. Through the regaining of their ability to make great records.
And there stands R.E.M.