SPRING TRAINING REWIND: Meat Puppets, Gin Blossoms and other Arizona exports

Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper enters the batter’s box. Courtesy.

As you read this—assuming of course you’re frantically refreshing the site on the day it’s posted—I am in Mesa, Arizona to watch my beloved Oakland Athletics play baseball. Well… sort of, since they’re mostly players destined for the minor leagues and the games don’t actually count. But I haven’t seen baseball of any type in, like, six months so I’ll take what I can get.

Anyway, my point is I’m at Spring Training in Arizona. Which is not in the Bay Area.

Now, I have somewhat of a reputation of being a regionalist snob. People say I insist all bands from the Bay Area are better than bands from everywhere else, which is true, but that’s not snobbery, that’s just good musical taste. I mean it’s not like I like Train or Starship. The perception persists, however, so I’ve decided to use this trip to Arizona to rectify it.

I did some reading, and did you know there are bands from Arizona? Really, it’s true! So I’m going to take this opportunity to dispel any lingering notion that I look down on the rest of the world by trying to list four of my favorite songs by Arizona bands from the ’90s—and one from the last decade!—assuming I can find five Arizona bands.

Okilly Dokilly — “Reneducation”

This is an easy call since it combines two of my favorite things: Metal and Simpsons quotes.

If you’re not aware of the geniuses of Phoenix-natives Okilly Dokilly, they’re the world’s only Nedal band, which is of course Ned-Flanders-themed metal. They have songs called “White Wine Spritzer,” “Nothing at All,” and “Godspeed Little Doodle,” which are both great songs and deep-cut references.

You may think they’re a joke—and they absolutely are—but they’re also very talented musicians who just released their second album. The video above is its lead single. This is a multi-album thing! The world is a beautiful place sometimes.

Meat Puppets — “Backwater”

As it turns out the Meat Puppets are also from Phoenix! A wildly influential band in their own right, they never really took off commercially until Nirvana gave them a guest spot on their legendary MTV Unplugged special. Their next album, which included “Backwater,” sold like crazy.

It’s not solely due to Nirvana, though. This song is really good! As is their other stuff. Granted, Nirvana’s covers were better, but it’s not fair to compare anyone to them. Nirvana could play the worst song in the world—say, “Summer Girls” by LFO—and it wound be good.

Wait, this got off track. Nirvana is from Seattle, which is like the Bay Area’s moody little brother, so I’m losing the point.

Alice Cooper — “Feed My Frankenstein”

“Wait a second!” I can hear you shout into your monitor. “That’s cheating! Alice Cooper is from Detroit!”

It’s true, Vince Furnier is from Detroit. But he moved to Phoenix for high school where he started a band called the Spiders, who changed their name to Nazz, then to Alice Cooper. When the band broke up, Vince, who had already been going by “Alice Cooper” personally, legally changed his name so he could tour as a solo artist without losing the name recognition.

So, yes, the man behind Alice Cooper is from Detroit. But Alice Cooper is from Phoenix. So it counts.

Gin Blossoms — “Hey Jealousy”

OK, so now I’m reaching a bit.

I ran out of Phoenix bands so I’ve moved on to Tempe, home of the Gin Blossoms. “Hey Jealousy” was great the first few times I heard it back in the early ’90s. By the mid-’90s it was still OK. But it’s 2019 now and I’ve had just about enough.

Really, Arizona? Fourth song in and I’m down to the Gin Blossoms? If I did the top five songs Bay Area bands played at Woodstock it would take effort to pare it down. The top five songs by Arizona bands? That would be tricky, as there were no Arizona bands at the festival.

The Refreshments — “Yahoos and Triangles”

I’m down to The Refreshments, the previous band of Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers.

I was going so far as to consider Jimmy Eat World rather than put “Banditos” on the list because because I’ve heard that song one too many times in the ’90s, but when I found out the theme song to King of the Hill is one of theirs, I caved. Good show, good song. And the band’s other material was also worthy.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to watch my East Bay baseball team, then maybe listen to Digital Underground’s seminal album Sex Packets (pun absolutely intended) while wearing a Creedence Clearwater T-shirt.

Follow editor Daniel J. Willis and tweet column ideas to him at Twitter.com/BayAreaData

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