Nov 1, 2010

Remember November: "What's Up?"

My memory is a funny thing.

On the one hand, it seems more than capable of recalling key dates and details of historical figures and events. Other times, my mind will float away, generally mid-conversation, meaning I immediately forget what my interlocutor was just saying, meaning I wind up looking rude, inconsiderate, or colossally stupid. I find myself particularly poor at remembering incidents of my earlier years. Details become murky, years blend together.

So I'm going to spend the next 30 days remembering things. Mostly things from the 30 years I've been in existence. Hopefully they'll trigger other memories. However, as I'm still wrapping up the #30before30 challenge, I want to avoid its long, prosaic style, and go for a shorter, sharper approach.

I hope you enjoy "Remember November".

I was reminded of "What's Up?" the other night, when it unexpectedly popped up on my car radio. In one of those lovely moments of synchronicity, the line "25 years of my life and still/Trying to get up that great big hill of hope" came just as I was punting the Yaris up a particularly steep incline at Alderley.

This was the poppiest that grunge got at the time; or more accurately, the grungiest pop got. Lead singer/songwriter Linda Perry had a mouth like a European high-altitude mountain rail tunnel, and it produced a similarly big sound. Much of the video clip are close-ups of her tonsils. She also adopted the wispy dress-with-big-boots look that was de rigeur for your average 90s grunge girl. But she added gigantic hats - mostly because she was barely taller than the drum kit and they boosted her overall height.

Despite the 4-Non-Blondes being a 1-Hit-Wonder, Perry went on to some success as a songwriter for pop divas like Pink and Christina Aguilera. She's the one responsible for Aguilera's "Beautiful", no doubt a response to all those hurtful jibs about her big mouth and lack of height (I mean, what kind of insensitive person would crack jokes about that?)

In early 1993, when this song came out in Australia, I was a fresh-faced gawky Year 8 student. At the time I sat with Briony, Clare and Debbi at a group table. We all loved the song, and decided we were going to form a cover band called the 4-Non-Redheads. Then Clare went and dyed her hair with henna so that dream went down the gurgler. Still, this is a great one to belt out. Its chorus, mostly repeated "Hey-Yeah-Yeahs" and the question "What's going on?" continues to be a musical yearning for truth and clarity in our confusing world.


  1. Enjoy it while it lasts, Nat. You'll still be completely confused about the world at 40 - but will no longer find consolation in grungy pop (or poppy grunge, if you will). Instead, you will turn on the radio in your Yaris and find yourself saying rude words at the annoying "doof-doof-doof that passes for music these days, not like the great music from my day, they knew how to write songs back then, let me tell you...."

  2. CC - I'm totally already doing that. I couldn't tell you a Top 40 hit if it slapped me across the face (although having said that, isn't Rihanna in there at the moment?).

    That's why it was so refreshing to hear "What's Up?" and sing along with it!

  3. My flash-of-memory of that song - and a bunch of others from Q3 1993 - was from the common room at the Glebe YHA where about 50 kids from my year 10 class were staying for a school excursion to the various museums and sights of Sydney for a week. They had a big screen in the common room and Rage or Video Hits or something was getting cranked. In hindsight it was an enormous bucket of slop - Ace of Base, Ugly Kid Joe's cover of Cats In The Cradle, various other examples of terribleness - but we were on tour, it was all cool, and it was good times.

  4. Is this going to devolve into you writing notes all over body like Guy Pearce in Momento.

  5. Well written post.

    You're lucky you're still young enough to hate the doof doof music. I'm already listening to talkback and getting worked up about the flag.

  6. I think the Remember November project is brilliant - Not only will it bring back your own great memories, but will help others to remember other memories, also. I think that is fantastic.

  7. wow Nat our music taste finally converges :P I always loved this song