Album: Sweet Oblivion
. . .
Like many of the bands that got signed to a major label during the great grunge gold rush of the early 1990s, Seattle’s Screaming Trees had already put out four full-length albums — mostly on SST — prior to issuing their major label debut, 1991’s Uncle Anesthesia. I do know that at least one or two of those 1980s records made it to KFSR, and despite the fact that they were more psychedelic than grunge, I also recall not being all that impressed, though I’m pretty sure I saw and enjoyed them at the Blue during that time.
In any event, any reservations I had about Screaming Trees was totally wiped out the moment I heard “I Nearly Lost You.” Which, of course, was from the Singles soundtrack. And while I bought that soundtrack for the Paul Westerberg songs, of course, “Nearly Lost You” stole the show. It wasn’t just objectively the greatest song on the Singles soundtrack, it was objectively one of the top five songs that came out of grunge, full stop. (And no, I’m not going to list the other four.)
Opening with Gary Lee’s Conner’s guitar wah-wahing over brother Van’s rumbling bass and drummer Barrett Martin utterly fantastic tom and snare work, “Nearly Lost You” comes into focus the moment Mark Lanegan opens his mouth.
Did you hear the distant cry?
Calling me back to my sins
Like the one you knew before
Calling me back once again
And then with the band coming to a full stop for just a second, “Nearly Lost You” storms into its immortal chorus.
I nearly lost you there
And it’s taken us somewhere
I nearly lost you there
Let’s try to sleep now
After every line until the last, the full band — led by Martin — slams together in unison. “I nearly” wham! wham! wham! wham! I nearly lost you there” wham! wham! wham! wham! “And it’s taken us somewhere” wham! wham! wham! wham! “I nearly lost you there” wham! wham! wham! wham!
Mark Lanegan has said that “Nearly Lost You” was about an acid trip, and the attendant psychic dislocation, meaning that he was basically singing that chorus to himself in the mirror, not the greatest thing to do when you’re on acid, of course.
In any event, “I Nearly Lost You” is crashing, thrashing and smashing, and it doesn’t let up for even a second as it floats and pummels at the same time. And while it wasn’t a big massive hit, it sure felt like one, as it was all over both mainstream and modern rock radio, Conner’s wah-wah and Lanegan’s big deep voice getting them two places at once. Though not enough to make the very fine Sweet Oblivion — which I got at Ragin after it came out — anything even resembling a hit album.
“Nearly Lost You” Official Music Video
“Nearly Lost You” Live on Letterman, 1992
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