“You say, I only hear what I want to.”
#4 holds a quasi-mythological status within the Some of the Best canon, being the only tape that was lost in the mists of time. The story of its cruel removal from the catalogue was -for many years- a point of tension between me and my sister Jennie. As a teen I was an historically strict custodian of the SOTB library and exercised a general policy of refusing all loan requests. Much like I refuse to loan out my ‘real’ children now. However, one day in the late 90s Jennie exercised her compelling powers of persuasion to secure a quick borrow of #4. The loan was authorised on the utilitarian ground of a greater good being served; the tape was to be conveyed to her school music teacher Mrs Scorer so that she could listen to Michael Bolton’s Lean on Me and facilitate a choral arrangement. Like I said, a greater good.
Tragically (yes tragically) for all concerned, the chain of custody broke down somewhere in the school music department, and that juicy cassette, packed with pure gold musical nuggins, was forever consigned to audio purgatory. The bereavement period was intense and unforgiving. So heavily did I lay a blanket of crushing and entirely unfair shame on Jennie that she even asked after the cassette as recently as 2019 during a chance encounter with Mrs Scorer at a literary function. More shame me. Mind you, it’s probably karma that the thing got destroyed given that it deigned to designate Michael Bolton’s cover of the truly great Bill Withers’ standard as the ‘best’.
However, thanks to my haphazardly freakish powers of recollection, I have been able to preserve at least a partial track listing for SOTB 4 in my creaking memory palace. There were a few big one-hit-wonders in there, including the honourable mention What’s Up by 4 Non Blondes. Meatloaf’s I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) also sticks in the mind, mostly from my recollecting an interrogation of my older brother as to the meaning of the titular lyric. “I don’t get it,” I would plead, “what won’t he do?” Tim was far too chaste to explain the notion of Robert Paulson ‘screwing around’ lest it corrupt my naïve 13-year-old mind. They were more innocent times.
But it’s Lisa Loeb who wins the battle to be preserved in this illustrious diary of mine with her forever-classic Stay. It’s notionally an unassuming soft pop-rock-folksy-break-up-ballad, but Loeb’s poetic lyrics and almost stream-of consciousness style delivery have a compelling honesty and plaintive vulnerability that elevate the track and then some. It’s sort of a sweeter forerunner of Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill (of which more later), a high-water mark of the kind of deceptively simple song-writing that is so very difficult to nail. A perfect 3-minute slice of pop.
And as a bonus, I note that Ms Loeb has just released a lockdown acoustic rendition of Stay for #stayhometogether, 26 years on from the original release. Of course, she sounds as good as ever. This one is a real keeper.
What’s Up 4 Non Blondes
Eternal Flame The Bangles
Everything I Own Bread