When I made the decision in 1989 to start replacing my favorite vinyl with CDs, obviously both Cat Heads albums – Hubba! and its successor, Submarine, were on my list, but they proved elusive. Neither album sold all that much, and Restless Records – whose primary audience was mostly indie-rock kids still suspicious of CDs – probably didn’t make all that many CDs of Hubba! to begin with.
In fact, according to Discogs, they didn’t make any CDs of Submarine at all. I feel like there is some weird record-company reason for that that I used to know behind that, but I can tell you that in the 27 years since Submarine came out, I’ve never found a CD of it at all. I still have my original vinyl, of course, but no turntable.
Anyways, for awhile in 1994 – 1995, I was working for a boutique ad agency in Lafayette, California, which was just on the other side of the Caldecott Tunnel from Oakland, which was where I was living after I escaped Fresno. Lafayette was a small bedroom community that had a pretty cool grocery store – with meat they sold from a counter and everything! – a pretty cool movie theatre and tiny tiny indie record store.
Naturally, since Amoeba Music in Berkeley was now only a 15-minute drive from my apartment, that was where I did the vast majority of my record shopping. (At least until Rox moved to Hollywood and I started visiting her and scouring LA record stores.) Because Amoeba. I’m sure I tried that tiny store once or twice; never found anything, and didn’t bother again until they posted a “Going Out of Business” sign.
I figured I’d go once last time, because you never know, and – sure enough – somehow I stumbled across a CD copy of Hubba! which by that time I was pretty sure didn’t even exist. So score!
Absolutely none of this has to do with “Need to Know,” the ragged acoustic jam that is probably my favorite song on Hubba! Using a melody line that you’ve heard before and will love to hear again, all four members of the Cat Heads sing in unison:
How come you don’t wanna see me when I wanna see you?
How come you’re always busy when I got nothing to do?
You said that you’d be coming round
You said you were on your way
You told me I shouldn’t make any plans
You said that I should wait.
Lyrically, this is pretty standard stuff, I know, but the charm isn’t in what they’re singing, but how they’re singing it. You can imagine all of them huddled around a mic in the studio holding acoustic guitars (with Melanie Clarin banging on a floor tom) while singing this, grinning at each other throughout the take.
To me, that kind of fellowship is as important to my conception of great rock ‘n’ roll as screaming guitars and pounding drums. Music should be fun to play and fun to listen to. Not always, of course, but I’m always going to gravitate to songs that sound like everybody was enjoying the fuck out of themselves in the studio.
Fan-made video for “Need to Know”