I mentioned this in my post on “Violet,” but in December 1994, Hole played Live 105’s “Green Christmas” being broadcast live from Berkeley, which I stayed home on a Friday just to tape off of the radio.
I was rewarded with a pretty ferocious and barely-together performance that twice featured a new song that seemed to be written in the wake of Kurt Cobain’s suicide & Hole bassist Kristen Pflaff’s OD, especially since it had the following lyric:
He said I’d never ever ever never go away
He said he’d always always he would always stay
They said they’d never ever never go away
They said they’d always always they would always stay
I found it incredibly aching, and wrote it down on the cassette label as “Never Go,” and was a little bit surprised when it turned up on their MTV Unplugged performance as “Sugar Coma,” and hoped that if they recorded it for the follow-up to Live Through This, it would have oomph than that particular performance.
What I didn’t count on was a complete revamp that ended up being my favorite Hole song, the ridiculously catchy “Boys on The Radio,” which takes the ache that powered “Never Go / Sugar Coma” and turns it inside out in with a multi-tracked chorus of Courtney Loves and Melissa Auf der Mars singing like the goddesses’ own angels:
All the boys on the radio
They crash and burn
They fold and fade so slow
In your endless summer night
I’ll be on the other side
When you’re beautiful and dying
All the world that you’ve denied
When the water is too deep
You can close your eyes
And really sleep tonight
With Courtney’s crunchy rhythm guitar providing a platform for Eric Erlandson’s to toss siren-like hooks every which way, the chorus of “Boys on the Radio” is about how music can help us through shitty times, not exactly a new concept, but who cares when it’s this well done?
And I haven’t even gotten to the stop-time part. About halfway through the song, they repurpose the “never go” lyrics from 1994 and turn them into a multi-tracked overdubbed vocal juxtaposition worthy of “Fall on Me” or “Pilgrimage.”
Building and building and building.
He said he’d never, ever, ever go
And heavens, heavens, heavens know
And never, ever, ever go away
And just for a second, all of the music stops and sighs, before it continues.
I’ve gone away
And before they can finish the line, the chorus of angels swoops back in singing about “endless summer nights” and it’s gorgeous and transcendent and a million miles away from the fear and anger and aching that had to be at the root of the original song, and suddenly “Boys on the Radio” isn’t just about music as redemption as concept, it’s about music as redemption as fact.
It also just might be Rox’s favorite musical moment ever, as it’s not come up in the mix even once in the past decades without her singing along to it.
“Boys on the Radio”
“Boys on the Radio” performed live in 1999
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