It’s a Sin to Live So Well – “Flagpole Sitta” by Harvey Danger

16 Jul

The plethora of one-hit wonders that exist in the wide world of 20th and 21st century music is indicative of just how hard it is to hit success twice as a band or musician. It is somewhat analogous to striking gold twice. This makes the multi-level houses of gold that could have been constructed by the Beatles or Michael Jackson all the more impressive. That said, this section is about one-hit wonders, and we are going back to the 1990s, an era that spawned long lists of the one-off greats for this song.

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Before we get into “Flagpole Sitta,” let me clarify that a one-hit wonder does not mean that the band broke up directly after the release of the song. On the contrary, as is the case of Harvey Danger, the band played together for 15 years, released three albums, and performed a large amount of shows. A one-hit wonder indicates that a band/singer found wide-ranging chart success with only one track, and that was “Flagpole Sitta,” the alt/punk classic that exposed the mainstream alt/punk/grunge scene, as impacted by Seattle grunge bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden.

“Flagpole Sitta,” and, in larger part, the album it is housed on Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone is a true indie success story. Initially released on an independent label based in Oregon called Arena Rock Recording Company. “Flagpole Sitta” was recognized as the awesome song it is, and it started seeing airplay all over. The band had sent demos of all the songs on the album to music industry professionals, including Slash records, in 1996, and Slash ended up re-releasing the album, cementing the album and its lead track as a 1990s staple and, now, best hits collection item.

What makes the song so good? It’s angry. The song doesn’t let up. It starts with a rising guitar riff that blends into Sean Nelson’s pleading vocals. The chorus is a amalgamation of yelling harmonies and a crashing instrumental. The lyric reflects the potency of the rhythm effectively; it is a catharsis of frustration and candor (“been around the world and found that only stupid people are breeding”). The song also has a timeless quality (even with the reference to ‘zines and Rage Against the Machine). It is a excellent portrayal of societal angst that uses a head-banging, toe-tapping instrumental that pumps the tune on repeat in your head for hours.

Before I end this post, it would be averse if I did not mention the passing of the founding bassist Aaron Huffman who died in March of this year of respiratory failure. Rest in peace.

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