Song of the Day #18: ‘All I Want’ – Toad the Wet Sprocket

Yesterday’s post might give the impression that music hasn’t played an important role in my relationship with my wife. That’s far from the case. So I’m dedicating the next five days to songs that are inexorably tied to our courtship.

Toad the Wet Sprocket’s Fear came out a year before I met Alex, but I’ll forever associate it with the summer of ’92.

Alex and I listened to a lot of music while we were working together at a movie theater in Coconut Grove, driving to South Beach at all hours of the night, hanging out in my parent’s house. You don’t appreciate all that free “us” time until you have a job and a couple of kids. Now we think back and ask each other “What the hell did we used do with our time?”

Well, we listened to Toad the Wet Sprocket, for one thing. And we saw them in concert once, at a great big club in Fort Lauderdale, people wall-to-wall. The opening band was a freakish ensemble called Geggy Tah and when their set went on a bit too long, the audience turned on them and began chanting “Toad! Toad! Toad!” We felt terrible for the band members so we didn’t join in the catcall chorus but we were glad when they finally stopped playing and left the stage.

I’ll do the same. Here’s Toad.

16 thoughts on “Song of the Day #18: ‘All I Want’ – Toad the Wet Sprocket

  1. Kerrie says:

    I’ve always loved this song. It’s just a “feel good” tune. I always think of driving in Gainesville with the windows open when I hear it. 🙂
    (And by the way, right up until we left Miami, whenever we’d go to the movies at CocoWalk, I’d think of you and Alex working there.)

  2. Dana says:

    I like some of Toad’s stuff, and this one is certainly decent enough, although I don’t put it real high on the originality meter.

  3. Clay says:

    It’s interesting that you knock a couple of recent Songs of the Day for lacking in originality.

    It strikes me that when it comes to music, you are in the position I’m often put into (by you) when it comes to movies. In the cinema world, you’re the one giving high marks to movies I downgrade for lacking originality (the Greek Weddings and Cinderella Mans of the world).

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that (as the saying goes). Just an observation.

  4. Dana says:

    Well, I brought up the originality on an earlier pick because you were talking about the group’s originality, but then picked one of their more conventional tunes, which prompted the lack of orginality comment from Amy first.

    Anyway, since you brought up the topic, for me, in music, there are generally 2 types of originality: that of voice and that of sound. So, for example, original voices might include Dylan, Costello, Counting Crows, Van Morrison, etc. Original sound is often far more elusive, but might include the likes of Talking Heads, Paul Simon (particuarly African work), REM (though I know there were Byrds influences), Prince, etc… Then you have the artists who have both such as Costello, Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman, etc. It is the artists who have both, and where both “work” for me (i.e. the voice isn’t too annoying like I find Bono’s often is or Rufus or the sound isn’t too grating (as again I find U2 at times, or Smiths), that I hold in highest regard.

    So, when I hear something like this Toad song, or the Robyn song earlier–tunes that, to me, don’t have a particularly unique voice or sound, they just don’t thrill me enough to require repeat listening. They are often pleasant enough, and, at times, lyrically interesting I suppose, but just without enough “oomph” to make me want more.

    I’m not sure how this does or doesn’t tie into the movie discussions we have had. I disagree that Greek Wedding did not have a unique “voice” Yes, the story has been told (and really what story hasn’t?), but I found the peeking into Greek culture every bit as interesting as peeking into cultures in other films (like Monsoon Wedding, which you liked so much better than Greek Wedding, even though, in large part, it was a similar story) As for Cinderalla Man, I’m not sure how you could argue it wasn’t “original” given that it was based on a true story. Yes, the film dealt in some conventional themes and was not necessarily original in the cinematograph sense of the word, but I don’t see that it should get a knock for being unoriginal.

    Still, I do think that the “voice” and “sound” themes can be carried into movies. So, a film like Superbad or Sarah Marshall might be lacking in original storytelling, but the uniqueness of the voice of the screenwriter comes through. Eternal Sunshine, Raising Arizona, etc. would be great examples of unique “sound.”

  5. Clay says:

    I agree with your concept of originality in music, and my favorite artists tend to support that concept: Rufus Wainwright, Elvis Costello, Belle & Sebastian, Ben Folds, Aimee Mann, Lucinda Williams, Fiona Apple, Lyle Lovett, Stew, The Smiths, R.E.M., etc… all examples of artists who are original in both voice and sound.

    On the other hand, I do like a lot of music that probably doesn’t fall into either category. Tom Petty, Ryan Adams, The Rolling Stones, Michael Penn, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Jude Cole, Josh Joplin. It’s into that category (which includes both legends like The Stones and no-names) that I’d put a group like Toad the Wet Sprocket. They put out a few albums of really great stuff, but I don’t seek out everything they’ve ever recorded as I would with a Ben Folds.

    I agree that there are pretty much no untold stories in cinema, but to me an original film is one that makes you feel like it’s never been told before. Eternal Sunshine is that sort of movie, as are most of the Coen Brothers films. I don’t think Monsoon Wedding is a very original film (though I did greatly prefer it to Greek Wedding for other reasons). Knocked Up isn’t very original, either, but I adore it. To me that’s the equivalent of a really great Tom Petty or Toad the Wet Sprocket song… and I know this is a very tortured analogy!

  6. Amy says:

    Originality Shmoriginality… I like what I like. And Dana, where is your sense of romance? This music holds meaning for Clay as much because he shared it with Alex as because he likes the music itself. Are you going to start questioning the originality of the song they danced to at their wedding (one of the upcoming four?) next? Come on.

    My criteria is that I can in some way identify with the lyrics, the music gets under my skin, and I like the voice of the lead singer. If those three criteria are met, it doesn’t matter whether the song is ORIGINAL.

    Meanwhile, I never knew you saw Toad the Wet Sprocket. Who else have you seen that I don’t know about? 🙂

  7. Clay says:

    Hmm, actually our wedding song isn’t one of the upcoming four. Might have to do another theme week down the road!

  8. Alex says:

    I completely agree with Amy. Who cares if the song sounds like the Rolling Stones or is something totally unheard of? If it’s not annoying, I’ll listen to it. I couldn’t stand that Robyn song – at all.

    To me, the dispute between Clay and Dana stems from their respective expertise in each of these topics. I think Dana listens to and analyzes music with a much more critical ear while Clay does the same for movies. Neither of you will ever convince the other of your point, but I guess that’s the game.

  9. Dana says:

    Now I have to have a sense of romance for Clay’s songs with Alex? Oh lord! Well, anyway, back to the “original” discussion, I think Petty absolutely comes under an original voice and, often, original sound. Ryan Adams has an interesting voice (but somehow keeps reminding me of Billy Pilgrim) The Stones alos clearly have original voince, though not original sound for the most part (and I generally find much of their sound a bit too simple and in your face). Penn struck me as different when I heard March, but I haven’t really followed him after that. Carpenter I agree may not be hugely original (though I can pick her voice out in a crowd more easily than many other female singers)

    As for the “getting under my skin criteria” Amy applies, I have heard many songs (lately on Disney Channel) that get stuck in my mind, but that certainly doesn’t make them great songs. And, for me, it is rare that lyrics will grab me if the music doesn’t first, but perhaps that’s the “musician” in me as compared to the writers (and readers) of Clay, Amy and Alex.

  10. Clay says:

    Ultimately, every singer has an “original” voice. I can pick out Glen Phillips’ voice from a crowd (he’s the Toad the Wet Sprocket singer). Mary Chapin Carpenter not as much, but I’m sure I could if I listened to her more. Some are more original than others.

    I gravitate toward music first and lyrics second, though it takes a special lyric for a song to make the leap to great.

  11. mom says:

    I agree with Amy and Alex. It’s the lyrics, voices and music that make it special as well as memories associated with the music/songs.

  12. Dana says:

    As to Clay’s last post, there is a difference between distinguishable and original. You may be able to tell Toad’s voice, but I would argue that this does not make it original.

  13. Clay says:

    So what makes Petty’s voice original rather than distinguishable?

  14. Dana says:

    Can you name another voice that sounds remotely like Petty’s?

  15. Clay says:

    How about the lead singer of Soul Asylum? LINK

  16. Dana says:

    Yeah, that songs a big time ripoff of Petty’s voice and sound, but Petty came first! Obviously, there are often imitators of originals like Petty. Dylan certainly has his imitators, as does Springsteen, McCartney, Prince, James Brown, etc…

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