Certain Songs #1173: The Miss Alans – “Winona”

Album: Blusher
Year: 1994

One of the incredibly small cohort of Certain Songs that might or might not be about Winona Ryder, but were definitely called “Winona” and definitely came out on Zoo Records — the other, of course, being Matthew Sweet’s — it turns out that the Miss Alans were relatively early on what has been an ongoing trend.

They maybe have been behind Matthew Sweet, but they were definitely ahead of Beck, Soul Asylum, the Old 97’s and Ryan Adams, which may have been why Ron was initially against recording it. He clearly saw the future, which is now cluttered by songs about Winona Ryder, as I discovered by googling “songs about Winona Ryder.”

But, of course, the vast majority of songs are either about wanting to (let’s say) date her, actually (let’s say) dating her, or dealing with the feelings about of (let’s say) not dating her any more. Not so much The Miss Alans, and so “Winona” comes lazily drifting out of the aftermath of the rave-up of “Victoria” on a cloud of Manny feedback, not even bothering to take shape or form until Scott sings over a lone acoustic guitar:

Winona
I can smell the green grass
They’re sellin’ out your merchandise
In bubble wrapped packages
The color green is an ugly color
When it prints ink for a smear
Campaign
About you

At that point Jay and Ronnie come in, slowly rolling around the beat, building and building as Manny throws out starts shooting stars from his guitar was Scott gets to his main point: that maybe the stardom that contributed to her and Johnny Depp’s seemingly storybook romance is also what pulled them apart.

Winona
Johnny said he’d feed you your whole life long
But stardom bites deep
And your love falls like an avalanche
And all the flashcube bulbs
They flood a bright orange light
In your dark eyes turning
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Said they’re turnin’
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

And in fact, is the “true love” that we’re all searching for — the true love that magazine covers continually show us that celebrities are experiencing (until they aren’t, which also rates the covers) — a thing that’s even possible? After all, even — especially, really — if we’re not celebrities, real life is crazy and messy and circumstances change, completely pulling people apart.

Speaking of being pulled apart, it’s at this point where “Winona” comes to what feels like a dead stop, instruments nearly inaudible, except for a couple of scrapes on the guitar that almost feels like we’ve exited The Miss Alans entirely and landed onto the quiet parts of a Phil Spector or Brian Wilson production over which Scott moans:

How could you leave your weary place
Livin in a jar is not too hard for you
Well, I guess that you’re too young and slippery bright
For this whole country to molest you
To molest you

And of course, but the time it’s over, the full band has kicked back in, and at the end, Manny uncorks the guitar solo that he’s been threatening the whole time, a shimmering wave of notes that brings “Winona” to its conclusion.

“Winona”

“Winona” live acoustic 1993

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