#6 Nothing To Believe In- Joan Osborne and Cracker

Expensive Videos

Whoa. That’s an expensive video! And why not? The previous record (Kerosene Hat) had gone platinum. Virgin Records was throwing money at us. They were bringin’ it, Leon. They spent close to 300k on the two videos for I Hate My Generation and this one, Nothing To Believe In. But wait a minute-we’re not even in this video! well maybe for a second here and there. And guess who’s royalties paid for those videos? Eh? C’est la vie.

Who are these actors in this video? Let’s have a little audience participation here. Also who directed it?

Joan Osborne

We got some airplay on both this song and I hate my generation. It’s just these were the wrong two song for singles from The Golden Age. Why do i say that? Cause hindsight is 20/20. They were the wrong singles cause they never really caught on with listeners. (It turned out that Sweet Thistle Pie was the song that should have been the single but that’s another chapter)  They got airplay largely off the legacy of the last Album. But go back to 1996. It really seemed like this one (Nothing) was gonna work. I mean we had our friend Joan Osborne singing backing vocals. When we recorded this track with her she was known as a cool -just-bubbling-under- chick rocker. But by the time the album was out  her track One of Us had gone to #2 on the top 40 charts. Cracker with Joan Osborne? how could we lose at radio?

Lose we did. Because- and this is very difficult to say about a friend- by that point as far as rock radio was concerned Joan had jumped the shark. Joan was seen as soft rock or pop artist. Too bad. Cause she wasn’t and still isn’t. She didn’t even write  the song that “defined” her. Check out this song of hers we recorded at my studio in richmond. That’s Bob Rupe playing bass and additional lead guitar.

Hammerhead-Joan Osborne at Sound of Music Studios

Music “Journalism”

I always put quotation marks around journalism in the phrase music journalism. It deserves it. It’s not as darkly funny as American soldiers in Iraq defacing the Camp Victory signs with quotation marks (Camp “Victory”).  It’s no secret most musicians hate music “journalists”. In our view it’s so easy to sit on the sidelines and be a music “journalist”. Try getting on stage and putting your ideas into practice. That’s hard. Plus every music “journalist”  wants to be Lester Bangs. And Lester Bangs didn’t write about music. He wrote about himself. But i digress. Probably the epicenter of sucky music journalism in the universe is All Music Guide. It’s not their fault. It’s just a bad idea. A source that is gonna be a consumer guide for ALL MUSIC? Aside from the delusion of grandeur, it ends up being a sisyphean process surely belonging to one of the lower circles of Hell. There isn’t time to review anything properly if you review everything. Case in point the review of The Golden Age is pretty off base.


Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Kerosene Hat, Cracker’s second album, was an unexpected hit because of its off-kilter charm. Though Cracker rocked hard throughout the record, they also threw in fractured pop and country tunes that gave the album a broader appeal. The band’s follow-up album, The Golden Age, tries to expand on that appeal by burying the weirdness inherent in David Lowery‘s songwriting with loud, grungy guitars and a more streamlined production. The change is evident from the record’s leadoff track, “I Hate My Generation.” With its pounding rhythms and grunge-drenched guitars, it may have been intended as a parody of ’90s Generation-X angst, but the riffs and melodies are so slight that it fails embarrassingly. In fact, most of the louder numbers on The Golden Age are forced and underdeveloped. What saves the record is when Cracker turn the volume down, whether it’s the country rock of the title track, the goofy pop of “How Can I Live Without You,” or the dusty psychedelia of “Bicycle Spaniard.” Once you dig past the surface of the loud guitars, it becomes apparent that there’s an abundance of quiet gems scattered throughout The Golden Age, and that is what makes the album worthwhile listening.

It’s not a bad reveiw when I first read it. At least until I think about it. Let’s see… there are only two songs that could be considered to have grungy guitars on the entire record.   I Hate My Generation and Nothing To Believe In. Oh wait… interesting.. these are the two songs that have the videos. Oh i get it. Somewhere along the way someone started this review by watching those two videos. The other 10 songs on the record are pretty weird, soft or somehow not grunge. (That is why this record wasn’t gold or platinum). But then the review starts to contradict itself “if you dig” — you mean by “dig” listen to the other 83 1/3 % of the record?–’you get to the non grunge stuff’. Maddening. If i did my job that shitty i wouldn’t have a job. But unfortunately this is what people get if they google “the golden age cracker” or visit some site that uses ALL MUSIC for content. They get crap. Who cares if the guitars sound grungy?  They sound good.

But you know what? There is a grain of truth in this review. And that is why i even mention ALL MUSIC in this blog. They are right in two small ways. First because Virgin chose I Hate My Generation and Nothing To Believe In as the songs to promote. They did in a sense bury all the soft songs with grunge guitars. Cause those are the songs people first heard from the album. But the review is right in another very perceptive way. There is one song on this album that did literally get ‘buried’ in grungy guitars. I readily admit it. One song that didn’t start out with grungy guitars ended up with them. Because of commercial pressures? Because some evil producer made us do it that way. No, silly tinfoil hatters. It was was changed because the grungy guitar sound was the spirit of the age. That’s the way rock sounded in 1995. Occam’s razor. Check out my demo of Nothing To Believe In.

Nothing To Believe In Demo 1995

Clearly there are a lot of problems with my demo. It get’s uncomfortably close to being a cross between Miss You and Gimme Shelter. But this song clearly came to life trying to be an entirely different kind of song.

Oddly Shaped Promo Single.

Last but not least Virgin Records made this fantastic promo single that was shaped like a stamp. Die cut or something. but it actually would play in drawer type CD players. They we’re bringing it, Leon.  Or maybe not.  I mean if you stuck it in a car CD player that sucked the cd in…  I bet this would not be a good thing.  In fact I wonder if a few radio station music directors got these things stuck in their cars CD players. Maybe that’s why this record didn’t get more spins.

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Where ya going to?
If you want me let me take you
Where ya going to?
If you want me let me take you

‘Cause in my life
I got nothing to believe in
except for you
I got nothing to believe in

Whatcha looking for?
If you want it I will find it.
Yeah, whatcha looking for?
If you want me let me find it.

‘Cause in my life
I got nothing to believe in
except for you
I got nothing to believe in

And I feel fine
I feel fine
Yeah I feel fine
I feel fine

‘Cause in my life
I got nothing to believe in
except for you
I got nothing to believe in
except for you
I got nothing to believe in

I feel fine
Yeah I feel infe
I feel fine
I feel fine
Yeah I feel fine
Yeah I feel fine
I feel fine
Yeah I feel fine

50 Responses to “#6 Nothing To Believe In- Joan Osborne and Cracker”

  1. well, i recognize harry dean stanton, of course and i think that is talia shire as the mom. who was the dude and the girl?? great song from a great record!

  2. The video was directed by the dude that did all the Green Day American Idiot videos, just like IHMG was. I never understood these videos. I do like those singles, though, but I agree that they are a couple of the less striking songs from what is (in my opinion) one of the greatest rock records of all time.

  3. Michael Dill Says:

    Just listened to both the demo version of “Nothing To Believe In” and the “final” album version. Amazing how much it changed, and I gotta say, I kinda like the snakey feel of the demo, though it does have quite a bit of “Miss You” echoing through it. Still an interesting cut.
    I so much appreciate your taking the time to share with us. For me, this is an invaluable resource, not only about your own songs, but the recording industry, criticism (you’re dead on about that), and even the indie music scene and it’s tendency to dismiss artists as soon as they actually record a successful album. Personally, I do like music “journalism” or criticism, but feel it should increase my appreciation of the music, not simply place value judgements on it. My personal favorite right now would be Sean Moeller of Daytrotter, who seldom reverts to “pedigree” criticism or placing “good, better, best” values on the music he critiques, but instead trys to capture something of the spirit of the music as he hears it. Again. I so appreciate these blogs. Thank you, Mr. Lowery

  4. wiederholt8 Says:

    I can’t even express how interesting it is to hear David’s perspective on these songs. 300 songs is fantastic, a sincere thank you to you David for doing this. I feel many times a song is too personal to ask a songwriter about…that is why this is so great.

    Keep ‘em coming David.

  5. Joe Rossi Says:

    According to mvdbase.com, the director was Samuel Bayer. I think the first video I remember him directing was for Bullet with Butterfly Wings video for Smashing Pumpkins, too. In addition to the Smashing Pumpkins and Green Day videos he did, he worked with a lot of other “A-List” bands and he’s, apparently, still quite in demand. Weird, mvdbase doen’t have an entry for “I Hate My Generation,” but I think that was directed by him, too.

    • yes i hate my generation is directed by sam bayer also. i keep wanting to call him eddie bayers but that’s the nashville session drummer. he was nice to work with. thought big. used a lot of production people. i forgot the reason we aren’t in nothing to believe in much. we were working under pretty tough time constraints and we wanted to concentrate on i hate my generation first. i think we left the next day on tour or some shit like that. so there are just a few shots of us.

      • Joe Rossi Says:

        Interesting. Thanks for the extra info, David. Just curious, though, were there no videos made for the Gentleman’s Blues and Greenland albums? Also, who directed the videos from Forever and Sunshine in the Land of Milk and Honey? I’m guessing that were done by the band? While not quite as high-production as the Sam Bayer and Carlos Grasso videos, I still enjoy watching them. I’d love to see a HQ version of “Brides of Neptune” on YouTube. Anyway, thanks for all the soul-baring, David. I look forward to reading this blog each day.

  6. Great song — this is my new favorite stop on the net. Love all of the insights . . .

  7. This blog is absolutely terrific. I absolutely loved the demo for ‘Shameless’, but I definitely prefer the album version of ‘Nothing to Believe In.’ I wonder if that is because I adore ‘The Golden Age’ and never really connected with ‘Forever’ as an ALBUM, despite loving many songs on it. Thanks for doing this, David. What a treat it is to read your reflections on songs I have listened to 100′s of times.

  8. Thank you, Mr Lowrey for these insights into your creative process, and what happens along the way from your mind to our ears. Could not agree more with the observations about All Music. I handle PR for a small label, and find their total indifference to the facts one of the most vexing things we deal with. You’ll never get them to correct factual errors, so ANYthing on that site should be regarded with relentless skepticism.

  9. Geez, Dave, I love the song the way it turned out – hope that’s OK!

    What a bizarre video though … wtf?

    And yeah, Sweet Thistle Pie is awesome too.

  10. I look forward to these entries every day and can’t wait for more from “The Golden Age.” That’s the album that cemented me as a die-hard fan. My ex-girlfriend bought that CD for me — probably the best thing she ever did! Played the heck out of “Nothing to Believe In” when I was a DJ at my college radio station.

    Hearing some of the changes and stories behind the “Forever” songs will be a treat as well. I remember hunting and finding the hidden demos at the Cracker Soul site through the making of it.

    Thanks, David!

  11. Jess B. Says:

    Love the demo’s you are throwing in here, and how they let us see how the song evolved.

  12. (update) – Demo is cool, too!

  13. Thanks for the link to Hammerhead. That is a fantastic song.

  14. Spike and Mona Says:

    Big Love David, Thank you very much. See you at the Camp Out.
    Im really digging what David has to say. And all the posters for their (“Crumbness”).

  15. i love the original.

    but listening to the demo…along with your thoughts on the original v. demo…makes for some interesting thoughts on re-recording the song.

    can I be guest-producer?

  16. jeff wright Says:

    Glad to hear someone stick up for Joan Osborne! She has a great bluesy rock voice that is way underrated. I’m diggin this insight into the backstories of these awesome tunes. I’ll be waiting for “Eyes of Mary”, the whole “New Roman Times” album, and of course you gotta close this whole thing with a complete breakdown of “It Ain’t Gonna Suck Itself”.

  17. I think it was at the “Extreme Games” concert in Hood River, Oregon, just before Forever came out. “Sweet Thistle Pie” and “How Can I Live Without You” were the songs that got the most noise from the crowd.

  18. John Rigney Says:

    Frank Zappa once said ” Rock journalism is people who can’t write, interviewing people who can’t think, for people who can’t read”. Not suggesting you can’t think, David, but this clown’s review of Gentlemans Blues is lazy journalism at it’s worst. Think I’ll go crank up “I Hate My Generation” to clear my head.

  19. Frank Zappa nailed it when he said “Rock journalists are people who can’t write writing for people who can’t read.” Thank you, David for letting us tap directly into the truth about these songs, the band and the music biz swirling around it all. Write on!

  20. VelvetElvis Says:

    Somewhere around the time I grabbed my guitar and started playing along with the demo a few times I realized just how epic this blog is going to be.

  21. I can’t thank you enough for sharing this stuff.

  22. Jimicito Says:

    I saw Cracker for the first time on Later with Jules Holland doing “Low”. I went out and bought Kerosene Hat the next day and have every album I can get my hands on. Thanks so much for this Blog – Its now the first thing I check each day.

  23. Sam Bayer. I remember him screaming, “Ramon, coffee. NOW” on set a couple of times. I couldn’t believe that was real.
    Those beautiful old faces of the “circus” performers from the video…and the wonderful old woman who we used to see at the Farmer’s Market (pre-Grove).

    Didn’t someone at Virgin say, “MTV won’t play the video because old people are scary”?

    • jenny: you may be right about the old people. the whole thing was kind of a clusterjam™ from what i remember. we had a different video director, what was his name? and then he and i really really didn’t get along (remember we were supposed to dress in period costume). and we switched to samuel bayer at the last minute. should have just stuck with carlos grasso.

      • Oh right…I totally forgot about the first guy. Was Sam Bayer the one that tried to block me from the fittings until you reminded him that I was the one that could clear his invoice quicker?
        You can’t go wrong with Carlos. The video for Low was fun…along the banks of the LA River in the middle of the night. There are huge trees now where the boxing ring was built. It’s close to the house.

  24. Hey David! I’m lovin’ the info on this blog, thank you for taking the time to fill us all up on crumbs! Here’s a bit of info for ya…. Cracker is my favorite band of all time. I was 19 and broke like no joke,and attending Job Corps when this album hit the shelves. I loved the sound of the album so much, I sold my plasma so I could put a copy on my shelf. Believe it or not, some of us revel in your talent. I have never even considered selling myself for anything else! Keep the music roling!

  25. Guess they picked IHMG and NTBI because they wanted another “Low”. They should’ve been adventurous and pitched How Can I Live Without You or Big Dipper to the right stations, or gone all-out with 100 Flower Power (which could’ve worked, it’s not a million miles from Song 2). Still, whatever it ended up selling, it’s an album of which to be immensely proud.

  26. I’d say that The Golden Age is still my favourite Cracker album, and I remember it annoyed the hell out of me at the time that those two tracks were picked as the singles. It was obvious even then (to this music industry cynic) that it was a record company decision. Almost every other track would have made a better single – if only because it could have showcased the diversity in the Cracker sound. How many casual listeners must have switched off on Cracker because those two singles were “not as good as Low maaaan”

  27. Ozzy Osborne's Sister Joan Says:

    I love reading blogs like this – there’s a series on the Arts Channel called ‘Behind the Music’ and the magazine UNCUT do a similar thing, However, your articles are more frank because you have the freedom to say what you think. TV and magazines have to be edited to please investors etc.
    Not all rock journalism is done by lazy writers who want to be Lester Bangs, there’s plenty of quality work to be read. Like one of the subscribers above, I find they bring me closer to the music. After reading the review above, I’d by a copy of Golden Age because of its grungy guitars.
    I remember finding plenty of CRACKER records at one radio station I worked. Heavy rock was the format and CRACKER considered ‘too soft’ to be playlisted. I was aloud to take the CDs home and that’s how I started to love this band. However, I never understood the lyrics (too esoteric for me) until I went to LA in 2008. Now listening to these songs are invaluable.
    Many many thanks for these blogs.

  28. All Music indeed…. hah! Cracker fans don’t read many reviews. Golden Age might be my fave Cracker record…and Big Dipper is truly sublime (how’s that for a three-dollar journalism word…worthy of the Village Voice?) Saw youse guys do that one live on a drunken cruise around NY harbor about 5 yrs ago…epic.

  29. (and that’s one of the things I liked about Almost Famous…it never pretended to be about music…)

  30. I’ve long considered this your best “album,” albeit reluctantly because it’s a bit like picking a favorite child.

    I was in college at Penn State when this album came out and I just couldn’t figure out why it didn’t get more radio play. I was a DJ on the campus station that literally no one listened to. (It was only available wired in East Halls. I know about 5 friends listened and I think that was it.) Anywho, I remember playing this album in it’s entirety during my shift on tuesday and thursday for a month straight, trying to promote it.

    I also remember driving around in my 88 4runner, roof off, stereo cranked, with “I Hate My Generation” and “How Can I Live Without You” blasting. Not only did I think this was a cool thing to do, but I though someone would here it and go buy the album. Also I hated my generation. Actually I probably hated every generation. In hind sight, I probably just annoyed a lot of people.

    Whenever I listen to this album it immediate, I smile and feel like I’m 21 again. All of your albums have oddly tied into what was going on in my life, a sound track to my life if you will, that each album takes me back to a specific period of my life. It’s a really nice thing.

  31. erniebreakfast Says:

    Thanks for this blog! Since a friend of mine gave me a cassette of your first album many moons ago i have tried to find the meanings of some of the songs. i look forward to each new entry to see how close i came to the ‘right answer’. your music is one of the VERY few things i loved to listen to when i was 16 that I still love to listen to at 40. (do you feel old yet?)

  32. thanks again David, one of my all time favorite Cracker songs, captures the duality of anger and hope that is so Cracker. Love Joan Osborne and really enjoyed Hammerhead.

  33. David, thank you so much for doing this project. Every day I can’t wait to see what the next song will be. I’ve made my own list of which ones I’d like to come up. Here’s hoping the gods of random fate will oblige me — and actually, they already have with both Guarded by Monkeys and Nostalgia.

  34. Ernie, ohmygod, I hear you on that. I came across CVB when I was in high school (in ’88? ’89?) and they quickly became my favorite band. Now I’m 39 and I still listen mainly to Cracker and CVB. I imagine I’ll be the pissy old lady in the nursing home mad because no one will put Forever on repeat for me.

    • This reminds me of a bumper sticker I’ve seen: “It’s not that I’m old, it’s that your music raelly IS shitty!”

    • P.S. I hear ya – my two ‘desert island bands”, if I had to choose, are Cracker and the Pixies. Though really it’s my two d.i. songwriters, David Lowery and Charles Thompson.

      • Michael Dill Says:

        Perfect choice. And keep it at the composer’s level, not the band. Between all their endeavours and covers of their songs you’d have a huge catalogue to listen to and they both will give you lots to think about and appreciate lyrically too.

  35. This is great song live,
    A.) because it rocks and Johnny does some cool stuff, and..
    B.) if you’re with a group of hardcores, the crowd harmonizing effort on the I Feel Fines (with correct phrasing) makes you grin.

  36. If I had to pick one Cracker album…and its a really hard choice…this would be it. I liked Nothing to Believe In and I Hate My Generation…but I was a 90′s grunge guy after all. But the album is so varied, diverse and brilliant once you get past those tracks. Thanks for posting the video — I’ve never seen it. But I have to admit, it is a bit creepy…scary old people, a washed up Talia Shire, animals being gutted, Bob Rupe…

  37. B1g D1pper Says:

    My attempt at humor must have failed miserably. My apologies.
    Best Cracker album of all time. I loved the way this song and I Hate My Generation rocked, and I was even more blown away by the diverse brilliance on the rest of the album. This is my Cracker bible.

  38. Was it Elvis Costello who said “writing about music is like dancing about architecture?”

    I myself had a brief almost-career in music journalism. It was self-aborted, though, because immediately after, I started playing in bands. It was awful tough and very contradictory to be opinionated about other peoples’ work when putting my own stuff out there. Especially since 90% of the criticism we got was “you guys SUCK!”

    Well, we were playing ’60s blues & surf at UCSB in the midst of the ’90s punk-ska-jam-band ethos. So we did kind of ask for it.

  39. Three days after my wife and I got married we drove out from chicago to seattle, and halfway there we got sick of the music we had, and pulled over to a Wal-mart somewhere in Montana, and we were ecstatic because they had The Golden Age.

    Later that night we were driving I-90 and it was pitch black and the road was empty and Dixie Babylon came on, and it was pretty much a religious experience. After it was over we just looked at each other with that “Did you just experience that” look you get when you are tripping with someone (to be clear, we weren’t tripping). I remember popping the tape out b/c I didn’t want that moment to end.

  40. Is I Hate My Generation the most anti-social song to ever be played on the radio. I like the song, but wish a different song would have been released.

  41. Dave – first off, thank you for creating this blog. It’s refreshing to see this type of story-telling from an artist. In fact, I do not think there is anything like this out there. Joan Osborne has always been a favorite of mine to this day. Just saw her live in NJ w/ just one person backing her on guitar and piano and she was fantastic. Is there any chance you guys will cross paths again musically – There were a couple of times I could have come to a show, only to pass it up and find out she sat in and I was kicking myself!

    • bernicephd Says:

      eachoing what cwjzx says: great blog, and love Joan Osborne on the album. Can’t wait for the story of Sweet Thistle Pie: my wife’s favorite Cracker song.

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