Before It's Too Late
I’ve received word from my publicist that you’re wondering what my rock and roll experience was like way back in the 1990s. I’d rather not talk about it.
OK, but just this once. The decade was progressing more or less like most decades, in fits and starts without a strong sense of how to distinguish itself from other decades in the history books, when my acerbic high school principal friend Bob reemerged into the US from Colombia, where he’d been teaching. Bedraggled and looking for work, he nevertheless came armed with word of the band Soul Coughing. I was made to pay heed – probably via a cd he had illegally smuggled through customs undeclared, that sneaky bastard! Which he then ripped so we could listen to it endlessly on our smartphones (which we had purchased on Amazon).
Anyway, I listened to the first album, Ruby Vroom, on my smartphone on and on and on in the early-mid 1990s, while driving and texting, and right around when the second album was coming out, the band played a fundraiser gig at the Middle East Club in Cambridge (that be in MA). The lineup, by order of appearance, was Dan Zanes (of Del Fuegos), the incredible Groovasaurus, now lost to history (but with videos on youtube!), Morphine Jr. (Morphine sans their injured drummer, whom the show was benefitting, but with the legendary Mark Sandman at the helm), and headlined by Soul Coughing, doing a short and spot-on set (with Doughty getting pissed at one or two choice mosh-pit bullies).
I saw Soul Coughing probably 4 or 5 times after that first show, and then they too were gone forever, living on only as a band-that-was, as front man Mike Doughty wanted nothing to do with the music or the bandmates.
Until this winter, when Doughty launched a tour in which he reprised Ruby Vroom, playing it beginning to end with the band Wheatus backing him up. To my great pleasure, he played the music with faithfulness to the original hip groove, even if his band (with little pepper on the drums!) didn’t quite manage to recreate the energy of those early years.
But don’t take my word for it. Check it, from some early iteration of the band, doing Moon Sammy. (As always, I don’t own these videos and can’t count on them sticking around forever, so watch them now).