Sunday, October 16, 2011

Alanis Morissette -- "You Oughta Know" (1995)

And every time you speak her name
Does she know how you told me 
You'd hold me until you died
But you're still alive 
Yes, he's still alive -- but probably not for long if Alanis Morissette has anything to say about it. 

The lines above are followed by the song's chorus:

And I'm here to remind you 
Of the mess you left when you went away 

Actually, I think Alanis is here (big-ass knife in hand) to remind you of what Lorena Bobbitt did to her husband, John.  And she may not stop there.

Crazy Alanis Morissette
We recently discussed Tracy Bonham's song, "Mother Mother."  Tracy's character has been doing a pretty good job of hiding how crazy she is until she suddenly screams EVERYTHING'S FINE in a way that proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that everything is most certainly not fine.

Everyone who encounters Tracy's character is at risk because she is liable to go off at any minute, and heaven help you if you are anywhere close when she does.

Alanis's character is crazy in a much more focused way.  She intends no harm to anyone other than her ex-boyfriend, a certain Mr. Duplicity.  (What nationality do you think that name is?  Italian?)

Actually, the new Mrs. Duplicity might want to watch her back as well, but I don't think Alanis's character is really targeting her.  What she has to fear is becoming collateral damage if the ex-girlfriend doesn't come after the guy with a knife, but shows up instead with a rocket-propelled grenade or one of those guitar-case machine guns that Antonio Banderas's buddy used in Desperado:

(I have to take a short detour here.  Did you notice how the ex-girlfriend refers to Mr. Duplicity's new squeeze as "an older version of me"?  Me-ow!)

It surprised me to learn that this song was a favorite of Madame Linda, the indispensable factotum of 2 or 3 lines, but it shouldn't have.  Her taste in music is varied and generally excellent (at least to the extent that it agrees with mine), and she has this to say about "You Oughta Know":

I’m not sure why so many of my most vivid music memories are from the 1990s, when I was living in Kansas City.

[Editor's note:  Some of you may remember Linda from her stint on the short-lived reality show, "Real Housewives of Kansas City."]

It may have had at least a little to do with the fact that I wasn’t real happy living there.  My apologies to all you former and current Kansas Citians who love your town. It’s a nice enough place – I just hated being cold six months of the year and I missed Texas terribly.

Big-ass snow in Kansas City
I suppose I found some solace in listening to music, when I wasn’t otherwise occupied with volunteering at my kids’ elementary school or lunching and shopping with friends.  When the grunge era began, I completely embraced it.  Maybe because so much of its music had a dark, sludgy sound and lyrics about isolation and unhappiness.
OK, enough with the psycho-babble and introspection. On to the task at hand.
I subscribed to Rolling Stone and Spin and pored over them religiously every month.  

[Editor's note:  I have to admit that I am impressed by this.  This woman was serious about her music.]

R.E.M. (circa 1995)
If I read about a new band that sounded interesting, I’d go out and buy the CD.  Likewise, if I heard something on the radio I liked, the CD was bought.  That’s how I got hooked on the Toadies, Alice In Chains, Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails and many others during that time. My CD collection is pretty much an homage to the 1990s.
I also had MTV on quite a bit when I was at home. The video for "You Oughta Know" immediately caught my eye and ear. I saw that it was directed by Jake Scott, who had directed the video for R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts." (You oughta know, by now, that I usually manage to work the late, great R.E.M. into as many posts as possible!)  

[Editor's note:  We know, we know!]

The video wasn't particularly impressive, but the singer and the song sure were. She was obviously royally pissed off at some guy who'd done her wrong and was letting him know about in no uncertain terms.
I was one of the gazillion people who ran out and bought the album (actually, the sales figure is 33 million worldwide as of 2009). I was mildly obsessed with the album for a couple of months. There are a lot of really good songs on it. Six out of the twelve songs were released as singles.
Alanis Morissette has a rather odd way of arranging words in her lyrics sometimes, but the imagery can be compelling.  The songs on this album all sounded like they came straight from the heart.  Most of them were recorded in only one or two takes, and most were written and recorded on the same day.

[Editor's note: Alanis Morissette's first name is Nadine.]

The speculation over who “You Oughta Know” was written about started almost immediately after the song went into heavy rotation on radio and MTV.  The name of any man who had ever been known to have any association with her was offered as a possibility.

And guess who was the likeliest suspect?  
Dave Coulier, of all people.  That seemed completely incongruous to me at the time, and still does.  This hot young rock star had been dumped by that doofus Uncle Joey from the sitcom "Full House"?  It didn't seem plausible, but they definitely were romantically involved for awhile. 
[Editor's note:  I checked this story out and Linda is absolutely correct.  This really boggles the mind.  It's like finding out Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" was about . . . who?  Wally Cox?  Mr. Green Jeans?  I  give up -- I can't top Alanis Morissette and Dave Coulier.  He used to do a Bullwinkle impression on that show, for cryin' out loud.] 

Dave to Alanis
Several other names were on the list, including Bob Saget.  What?  No John Stamos for a “Full House” trifecta?
[Editor's note:  I have identical twin daughters (happy 25th birthday, Sarah and Caroline!) who were born the same year at Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, and "Full House" was required viewing in our house.  When the Olsens and my girls were abut seven, I happened to be on a flight from Los Angeles to Philadelphia with Bob Saget and his family.  (Yes, I was in first class.)  When the flight landed and we were walking to get our bags, I caught with Saget and showed him a picture of my girls.  "You tell the producer that if those Olsen twins start behaving badly on the set or demand a zillion dollars an episode, they can be replaced!"]

Alanis has never named the subject of the song and, to her credit, has said she never will.  Some things are best left to the listener's imagination.

Dave Coulier and Bob Saget with the Olsen twins
My interest in and almost daily playing of at least a few songs on the album eventually waned, owing, no doubt, to the release of R.E.M.’s New Adventures In Hi-Fi later that same year.  (That's R.E.M TWICE in one post -- I'll see if that gets past the Grand Poobah Editor-In-Chief of 2 or 3 lines.)  
[Editor's note:  Linda would kill to be the Grand Poobah-ess.]

Be sure to watch for Taylor Hawkins playing drums in the video.  He didn’t play on the album, but was the drummer for the 18-month world tour in support of it.  He, of course, went on to fame and fortune as the Foo Fighters’ drummer.
Excuse me, Linda?  What was that?  I'm sorry, my mind wandered there for a minute.  I can't stop thinking about a hot, crazy chick like Alanis Morissette being turned upside down and inside out by Dave Coulier.  

Here's "You Oughta Know":

And here's Scala & Kolacny Brothers doing the song.  I saw them perform "You Oughta Know" live a few months ago, and it was very strange to hear a choir consisting of sweet young Belgian girls sing these lyrics:

Here's a link you can use to buy "You Oughta Know":

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