Song of the Day #378: ‘Up All Night (Frankie Miller Goes to Hollywood)’ – Counting Crows

hardcandyAs much as I love August and Everything After and This Desert Life, if I had to choose I would name Hard Candy Counting Crows’ best album. One reason is that, like those albums, it does so many things right but, unlike them, it manages to do absolutely nothing wrong. I don’t hear a false note on Hard Candy.

The biggest hit off this album is oddly enough a hidden track, and one the band didn’t even write. A cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ tucked away after a few minutes of silence at the end of the album wound up on a movie soundtrack and the Billboard charts. I heard Mitchell’s original the other day and was reminded of how much I like what the Crows did with it. Hers, not so much.

As I mentioned, every song on this album is a winner, from the opening title song (a glossy pop confection that lives up to its name) through closer ‘Holiday in Spain,’ a dizzy piano ballad containing this great stanza: “Everybody’s gone… they left the television screaming that the radio’s on. Someone stole my shoes, but there’s a couple of bananas and a bottle of booze.”

Hard Candy also contains the best song ever named after my hometown, ‘Miami,’ a poignant, regretful song about a miscarriage (‘Carriage’) and the somehow moving tribute to booty calls, ‘Why Should You Come When I Call?’

I’m hard-pressed to pick a favorite among all those gems but if I did it may well be ‘Up All Night (Frankie Miller Goes to Hollywood).’ I don’t really get the Frankie Miller reference (it’s a twist on Frankie Goes to Hollywood that name drops a semi-popular 60s British singer… guess you had to be there).

This is a terrific slow builder, not unlike ‘Round Here’ but much better I think. It’s melancholy, sexy and hopeful all at once. It’s about, among other things, letting go when you don’t really want to let go, but being sort of okay with things working out that way.

The central verse of ‘Up All Night’ is one of the finest things Duritz has ever written. It starts off unabashedly romantic and sensual:

Fix your hair just right
Put your jeans on tight
Wear a dress so I can get it off real easy
‘Cause I’ve been thinking
I’d like to see your eyes
Open up real wide the minute that you see me

Then it takes a turn toward resignation:

If you don’t come through
I wouldn’t wait for you
I understand that everyone goes disappearing
Into the greatest grey
That covers over everyday
And hovers in the distance and the distance and the distance…

How sad that this guy sort of expects to be alone in a world where people disappear on the horizon, always just out of reach. But he’s trying… he’s getting his “dreams just right” even if it’s only to “let them slip away.” I’d like to see a movie about this guy, even if it would ultimately be a sad one.

Is everybody happy now?
Is everybody clear?
We could drive out to the dunes tonight
’cause summer’s almost here

And I’ve been up all night
I might sleep all day
Get your dreams just right
Let them slip away
I might sleep all day

When the roads are clear
We’ll head on out of here
If you’re coming back
I’ll see you in the morning
I’m just staring at the ceiling staring back at me
Just waiting for the daylight to come crawling in on me…

And I’ve been up all night
I might sleep all day
Get your dreams just right
And let them slip away
I might sleep all day
Ohhh…It’s too late to get high now
Ohhh…It’s too late to get high now

Fix your hair just right
Put your jeans on tight
Wear a dress so I can get it off real easy
‘Cause I’ve been thinking
I’d like to see your eyes
Open up real wide the minute that you see me
If you don’t come through
I wouldn’t wait for you
I understand that everyone goes disappearing
Into the greatest grey
That covers over everyday
And hovers in the distance and the distance and the distance…

I’ve been up all night,
I might sleep all day.
Get your dreams just right
Let them slip away,
I might sleep all day.
Ohhh…It’s too late to get high now.
Ohhh…It’s too late to get high now.

I said I’m feeling not enough
I said feeling not enough
Its too late ohh..

15 thoughts on “Song of the Day #378: ‘Up All Night (Frankie Miller Goes to Hollywood)’ – Counting Crows

  1. Dana says:

    This indeed a fine song on a great album. Yet, you manage to say 2 blasphemous things in your comments. First, this song is NOT better than Round Here–it’s not even in the same ballpark. That’s not just my opinion, that’s fact:) Indeed, it’s not even the best song on the album, an honor I would probably bestow upon Holiday in Spain.

    Second, while I love the Crows’ take on Yellow Taxi–the original by Mitchell is iconic and fabulous. Again, not opinion, fact! 🙂

  2. Amy says:

    I’m always so intrigued by which songs you choose to highlight on these albums (during each theme week). Today I would have hoped you would feature the title song, which was never released as a single. I would have been equally happy had you featured “Holiday in Spain,” another masterpiece from the album that probably has not had the sort of radio play some of the others may have had. Or “Miami,” since we do live here 🙂 Instead, you feature “Up All Night,” which I’ve always liked well enough, but you say it’s better than “Round Here” while touting it. Really? Wow. Did you listen to the bunny suited Adam singing RH on Stern? If not, go back to the other day’s entry and listen right now. Thank you. 🙂

    Anyway, I do very much enjoy reading about how much you appreciate a song such as this one, that I honestly never gave much attention beyond listening to it on the album. It’s not one that I would ever seek out on my iPod, the way I do “A Long December,” “Anna Begins,” “Holiday in Spain,” “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby,” “Round Here,” or “Hard Candy.” Yet you consider it one of their best songs. Fascinating. I’m going to listen to it a couple more times this morning to see if it starts to set in.

    Meanwhile… speaking of fine things the Counting Crows have written… This song speaks volumes of how effective specific details can be to convey images and emotion. I can so clearly see this girl and imagine this situation and how this one photograph stuffed in a drawer can bring back such vivid memories. I agree that this song is “a glossy pop confection,” but I also think Duritz (and his co-writers) are playing on that expectation to explore some far more poignant and deeper meanings as well.

    “And in the evenings on Long Island
    When the colors start to fade
    She wears a silly yellow hat
    That someone gave her when she stayed
    I didn’t think that she returned it
    We left New York in a whirl
    Time expands and then contracts
    When you are spinning In the grips of someone
    Who is not an ordinary girl”

    Or…

    “You put your girl up on a pedestal
    Then you wait for her to fall I put my summer’s back in a letter
    And I hide it from the world
    All the regrets you can’t forget
    Are somehow pressed upon a picture In the face of such an ordinary girl
    When you sleep You find your mother in the night
    But she fades just out of sight
    So there isn’t any sweetness in the dreaming
    And when you wake the morning showers you with light
    And it makes you feel alright But it’s just the same hard candy
    You’re remembering again ”

  3. Clay says:

    I love every single song on this album, so I don’t disagree with any of your choices. I’m actually shocked you two don’t hold this one in very high esteem (at least as compared to the rest of the album). It hit me on first listen as one of the best things they’ve ever done and I continue to believe that countless listens later.

    I like ‘Round Here’ well enough, but it’s not something I find myself in the mood to listen to very often. It’s a journey I don’t always want to take. A beautifully crafted and performed journey, for sure, but not something I’d ever listen to on repeat.

    As for Mitchell’s ‘Big Yellow Taxi,’ kudos to her for writing that great song but keep her away from the mic!!

  4. Amy says:

    Oh, and, of course, I should have said to BACK OFF Joni 😉 I’m going to have to call Andie over here for reinforcement!

  5. Clay says:

    I made it about 28 seconds through that clip. 😉

  6. Dana says:

    Wow–you really are insane on your dislike of Joni:)

  7. Clay says:

    I just dislike her voice. I’m in the same boat as the countless people over the years who’ve told me they really like the songs of Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Rufus Wainwright, etc. but can’t stand to hear those people sing them.

  8. Amy says:

    But I do make it through the whole song when you go out of your way to post a Rufus clip 😛

  9. Clay says:

    More than once? 🙂

  10. pegclifton says:

    Just two comments, I like Joni’s voice, reminds me a little of Joan Baez’s voice. Second, Frankie Miller is my brother’s name.

  11. Andrea Katz says:

    I am a bit surprised in your dislike of Joni Mitchell, Clay, as she is one of my all time favorites along with Bob Dylan, Laura Nyro, Joan Baez and Elvis Costello and others that I believe we share in enjoying. I found this version of the song not as enjoyable as the original, so that could be an issue. I do challenge you to put on “Blue” or “Chelsea Morning” and not like or love them. She encompasses such depths of emotion, lovely and distinctive voice and guitar and is such an original. If you don’t like her after that then I would wonder if female vocalists somehow elude your personal taste buttons. Of course all I can say from there is se la vie. 🙂

  12. Andrea Katz says:

    My comment must have vanished yesterday. Let me try this again. Basically I don’t suppose we can really control what we like and I don’t know how to convince anyone to like what they don’t like. We gravitate towards things or we don’t. Personally, i don’t really like this rendition of the song and the song is so popularized that it’s kind of like Springsteen’s “Blinded by the Light” in that the overplayed top 40 version kind of ruined the original for me.
    Clay, Joni Mitchell is simply one of the most original heart wrentchingly beautiful voices and writers of our time. I wonder if you simply gravitate more towards a male voice? Dana says that is not the case but do your female singer/songwriters have deeper, more alto ranges?
    I challenge you to give an open -minded listed to “Blue” and “Chelsea Morning” the CD’s. Tell me how you feel after that. It would be puzzling to me that someone like you who has such great taste in music and appreciates Bob Dylan, Laura Nyro and so many others that I also love, would not love her. But if you don’t then trying to convince you would probably be as futile as trying to convince my gay friends to change teams.

  13. Clay says:

    Sorry your comments didn’t post right away… for some reason they wound up in the spam filter.

    I love a lot of female artists, including some with non-traditional voices others find annoying (Lucinda Williams comes to mind). Aimee Mann and Fiona Apple are two more of my all-time favorites artists, male or female. I believe Mann is a soprano, though I admit to not knowing enough about vocal ranges to say for sure.

    For me, Joni Mitchell is in the same group as Neil Young… legendary songwriters who I simply don’t like to hear perform. I do own Court and Spark and Blue as well as a CD of Mitchell songs Amy made for me and I appreciate the songcraft in all of them very much. I also have Night Ride Home, a later album of hers on which her voice is a little deeper.

    Here’s where Dana chimes in flabbergasted that I own three albums by an artist I don’t really like. 🙂

  14. Dana says:

    Weill, right on cue–I chime in!:)

    It’s hard for me to really take issue with Clay’s dislike of Mitchell’s voice since I routinely express my dislike of Rufus Wainwright’s voice (not in every song, but often) and Morrisey (pretty much every song). I would not suggest that Morrisey was not a talented songwriter, and I know that Rufus is.

    I suspect with Joni, it may well be her soprano range. Most of the other female singers Clay likes definitely sing with more gravitas and in a lower register. I also am not generally a big fan of soprano vocalists, and I’m not a big fan of Joni’s voice for that reason either. However, as with Rufus, sometimes (and maybe even often times), the music and artistry is so damn good, that you either overcome, get used to or enjoy the total package.

  15. dennis stevens says:

    Frankie Miller – ’60’s?! You’re a decade early there! Frankie’s heyday was definitely the ’70’s. What a voice!

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