A GUEST SERIES
29 : Cannonball – The Breeders (1993 4AD Records)
Released as a single in August 1993 (Reached Number 40)
Another record I can’t play on guitar and for the second post in a row I get to say that something rocks like a bastard, which is exactly what ‘Cannonball’ does. It is also bloody brilliant, but I’m kind of figuring that you all know that by now. You mustn’t whatever you do confuse this track with the David Gray track which has the same name. They are very different. Gray’s ‘Cannonball’ doesn’t rock like a bastard, it more sways like an abandoned windbreak at a lonely Welsh beach. It’s shit as well.
In my second year as a student I was asked by the Students Union to be a judge at a ‘Battle of the Bands’ kind of contest (I suppose that my editing of the music pages gave me some form of experience). Something which I reluctantly agreed to do. I mean, secretly I was honoured and amazed that they even asked, but I nonchalantly said that I would check my schedule and get back to them. Which I did twenty minutes later, saying yes.
The event itself was pretty awful. There were ten or so entrants, mostly pub rocking student bands who could neither play, sing nor write their own material. I’ll bypass most of them if you don’t mind, but I will touch briefly on ‘Anita’. Anita was a dance student, who played an acoustic guitar, well, she knew two chords, and thought she could sing. Worse than that she thought she could sing Joni Mitchell songs. She couldn’t. She was embarrassing the entire human race by just being there. The fact that she lived next door to the future Mrs SWC, was something I ignored when I was asked to comment on her performance by the compare (a fat oaf who genuinely changed his middle name to ‘Disco’ when standing for the Entertainments Chair Position). I told her that she should stick to dancing. She didn’t speak to me or Mrs SWC again from that afternoon.
Anyway, the two best student bands around were (and I’ve changed their names because one of them got signed and did quite well) my mates band ‘Tea Towel’ – who didn’t get signed – and ‘Knobheads’, who did. I think you can work out which band I thought I was better. Knobheads sounded like Pearl Jam and in comparison Tea Towel sounded like Radiohead. I couldn’t understand the appeal of Knobheads, also they all had the looks of models, and were way more talented than I would ever be, but you know, Pearl Jam.
The problem was that Knobheads were playing their own material and Tea Towel were not, they were doing cover versions of songs like ’Breakfast at Tiffanys’ which didn’t help them. Still, apart from that they were better musicians, had a better singer and had bought me at least two bottles of Becks that day.
Anyway, it came to the final, a shoot off between these two bands. They had thirty minutes to wow the audience and the judges. I mean I’d already nailed my colours to the mast by telling Knobheads that I would ‘actually rather read The Sun on a bus to Woking’ than listen to them again. I mean, it’s hardly Simon Cowell is it?
Anyway Tea Towel come on and do very well, they ended with a new song, a cover of this as it happens,
But without the gospel choir. A song which itself very nearly made this list. It was remarkable, but not remarkable enough.
Knobheads strode out full of confidence, wearing shades, and looking it has to be said, like an actual band. They were a five piece, only one of whom was actually a student, something, I tried in vain to point ou. They had a singer, a lead guitarist, a rhythm guitarist, a bassist and a drummer. They played twenty five minutes of their Pearl Jam inspired angst rock and I tried to not yawn too obviously. Then they said for the last song they were going to end with a cover. Which is when they blew the roof off the place.
The singer grabbed another guitar and the rhythm swapped his guitar for a Gibson Flying V, and they launched into a full on enslaught of ‘Cannonball’ and I have to say it sounded bloody amazing. Three lead guitars, a crashing bass, stage divers, and trashed speaker at the end. If they did that all the time instead of having seven songs that sound exactly like ‘Even Flow’, then I might have upgraded The Sun to the Guardian.
It was, and believe me, if you knew the back story about me and that band (another time), you would understand how much it pains me to even type it, the best thing I’d seen live for some time. The bastards.
The B Side of ‘Cannonball’ contains an Aerosmith cover version – an ode to Chris Hoy, so I’m told.