The Misremembered ’90s: Gregory Gray, “The Pope Does Not Smoke Dope”

New thing we’re doing here – “The Misremembered ’90s” – all our favorite “alternative” acts that got snapped up by the major labels during the post-Nirvana explody-thing.

Oh, the record labels… In the long tradition of hilariously ignorant decisions made by people who should totally know better (see: Gates, Bill, re: comment on 640k; Records, Decca, re: rejecting the Beatles because guitar music was on the way out; Union, Western, re: “the telephone is of no practical use”) they really really really really really should have gotten their collective act together sooner.  I know, I know, I’ve been saying this so long I’m beginning to sound like a broken record industry, but come on.  Someone should have called a meeting the second Real Player was invented, and the bullet points at that meeting should have looked like this:

  • This is a free computer program that plays music over the internet.
  • Explain concept of “internet”
  • Explain concept of “computer”
  • Explain that yes, while it’s even plain to complete technological illiterates like yourself that Real Player blows, you should still hear me out.
  • Presentation of computer from like 5 years ago that could barely display a grainy image file.
  • Presentation of brand new computer that can play a fricking video.  That I just downloaded.  For free.  Sure, it took me about 3 days, and it’s only 30 seconds long, but hear me out.
  • Explanation that this is because technology increases incrementally, and not because of magical elves.
  • Conclusion: one day, someone will invent a program that allows your customers to steal everything you make, and everyone will do it because it’s really easy and no one feels guilty about it because you’ve been overcharging for years. Perhaps you’d like to take certain steps to rectify that before some kid from bloody Northeastern of all places invents that program and destroys your business like a horde of termites ransacking a once grandiose and vainglorious slave plantation until it crumbles under the weight of its own obsolescence?  Maybe?

That meeting did not happen.

What does this have to do with anything?  Well, that’s where the record industry is now, but before then, it almost sank itself by snapping up every single band of 3 or more kids with flannel shirts and guitars they could find, thus leading to a glut of no-hit wonders that had one single that barely made it past the 2am on WFNX phase. And a lot of those bands released exactly one record, which didn’t get promoted because there were already a million other acts the label had to throw their weight behind, and then sank into obscurity, having tasted the big time for about twelve seconds.  Then the labels started folding.

Then nu-metal happened.  A lot of smart, creative, slightly geeky kids *loved* “alternative rock* when it first broke.  Not just loved – made it their lifestyle – because here was an entire genre of music created by, and for, ordinary, bright, socially awkward folks.  Maybe not book smart, but definitely not ignorant and certainly creative in their own ways.   After a while this fell out of fashion and you got bands like Limp Bizkit and Papa Roach, and smart alterna-kids stopped listening to the radio because all the new bands seemed to be fronted by the assholes who used to beat them up in middle school.

Then Napster.  Then the end.  And a lot of these baby bands got crushed between the wheels of inevitability.

The thing is – a lot of those baby bands had at least one or two really great songs… and that is why we’re here today.

So… song one:  “The Pope Does Not Smoke Dope” is a real obscure one and a real oddity.  I saw it on the legendary Rage TV on Boston’s TV 38 in about 1995 – it’s very similar to that Primitive Radio Gods tune, or maybe the mellower moments of Blur or London Beat.  Either way, it’s great stuff, and someone should find this dude and tell him.  He’s somewhere in Ireland right now, probably managing a hip club or a hip pub or a hip peat bog or some such thing.  It’s an enjoyable, chill tune and in the video, he’s either a ghost or a hologram, so I totally approve.

<— That’s the only picture of Gregory Gray out there.  On the whole internet.  Seriously.   He’s that evasive.

So cut the crap – get real sweetheart

The pope does not smoke dope – even if he should.

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Posted by on May 18, 2011 in music, nostalgia, songs you don't know


Elisabeth Sladen (1948-2011)

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Posted by on April 21, 2011 in doctor who, nostalgia, tv


oh great… it’s a T-shirt blog now

Yeah, so, I found another one…

Yep – it’s the Doctor band.

There’s actually a collection of  a whole bunch of Doctor Who related shirts courtesy of our friends at io9 – any of which would be acceptable.

I wear a size M, folks.


Posted by on April 15, 2011 in doctor who


POST #500!! Wheeper-diddly-doo!

Yep, folks, looks like we’ve made it to post 500 on ol’ Geek USA.  We’d throw a party, but seriously, no one’s reading this crap anymore.

However, today something happened that, frankly, has never happened, ever.  I made it to work *early*.   You know all those modern conveniences we humans have invented?  All those wonderful machines we own and patronize in order to drag our sorry, sagging asses around this great big blue world?  The cars and trains and buses we drive or ride every day in order to get places on time, and sure, maybe we’re burning up the Earth’s resources and polluting the air to do it, but that’s the price we pay for a civilized society where everything moves at the speed of light?

Yeah – f**k that noise.  I biked to work and got here *early*.

I’d love to drop some snark and say “Boston’s the only place where it takes an hour to drive 5 miles,” but apparently, Atlanta and Dallas have it worse.  I know DC does.  If you ever plan on getting on the 495 in DC during rush hour, I recommend packing your car as if you were planning for a space mission.  The words “recycled urine” may be in your vocabulary sooner than you think.   It won’t be pleasant.

But anyway… of course I love Boston, especially all of the adorable little quirks that make our town so darn special.  Like our adorably hideous city hall, which High Fallutin’ Architecture Monthly actually named “The Ugliest Building In America.”  Awww.

First of all, my Mother was a tour guide there back in the 60s when it first opened, and she has some theory about how it was designed to represent the water and the earth and democracy.  I don’t know.  Every time I go in there, I feel like an extra in MC Escher’s production of 1984: The Musical!  Still, I have a certain fondness for the place, which means that I want someone to buy me this shirt.

That’s brutal, y’all.


OK… let’s catch up on this 30 Day Song Challenge Thing…

day 07 – a song that reminds you of a certain event

Song: “I Want An Alien For Xmas”

Band: Fountains of Wayne

Event: Solstice party, my parents’ house, annual event/Christmas Eve, same

I first heard this song in college.  I don’t remember where – it was either something Matt and Jeremy played on U Maine campus radio station WMEB, 91.9 (“Redefining ALTERNATIVE!”) or it was on Napster.  Ah, Napster.  Anyway, it was around Christmas, end of Fall term, I was probably wearing a big long coat and driving to Dysarts.  I know that I definitely *did* come home for Christmas that year with a tape (yes, a tape) of alt-rock and folk Christmas songs that I taped off my computer, which we played while we trimmed the tree. And “I Want An Alien For Xmas” was one of them.

My parents do Christmas really well – they perform music at church and have a big caroling party every year, on Dec. 21 (the winter solstice.)  Everyone hangs out and plays music and drinks hot cider.  If the dream of the ’90s is alive in Portland, the dream of the ’60s is alive, for one night a year, in Westford.  One year – I don’t remember which – I played “I Want An Alien For Xmas.”  The kids loved it.  The grownups loved it.  Somehow, it became The Song I played every single year.   Well, that and “The Christians and the Pagans”, which has become another wonderful tradition.

But I hear “Alien For Xmas” by Fountains of Wayne and I think of my godfather’s kids, Rebecca and Maria and Sandra, jumping up and down and asking me to play it each year with joy and wide-eyed wonder in their eyes and hearts.  It should be noted that Rebecca now works for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Sandra has a MFA from the Yale School of Drama, and Maria is a college sophomore.  I kind of accidentally started a tradition.

I also think of my grandmother – I definitely played it for her for the first time in December of 2001.  She adored it, and every year, on her birthday, which happened to be December 24, she insisted I play it.

day 08 – a song that you know all the words to

song: “We Didn’t Start The Fire”

artist: Billy Joel

really?:  yep.

No real story here – I’m just bragging.

By the way – this song might sound like just a list of stuff, but it’s way better written than you think it is.  You know why Billy ends the first verse with “Satayana, goodbye!”?


OK, so,  Billy’s doing the typical baby boomer thing of thinking it’s all about him and his generation, so he’s listing all the historical and cultural events he can think of since the year of his birth, 1948.  By the end of the first verse, it’s 1952, Billy’s four years old, England’s got a new queen, Rocky Marciano’s the champ, Liberace’s a star, and Satayana’s dead.

Who the hell is Satayana?

George Satayana.  Spanish-American writer and philosopher.  Came up with that immortal phrase “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”

Which is the whole point of “We Didn’t Start The Fire.”   Billy’s intentionally dropping an obscure reference he hopes you’ll look up, and when you do, you’ll figure it out, man.  And he gets there at the end of the first verse! Pretty cool.

day 09 – a song that you can dance to

song: “Borneo”

artist: Firewater

can you dance to it?: Totally. And so can you.

day 10 – a song that makes you fall asleep

song: “Neon Sky Rain”

artist: Vector Lovers

sleep in a good way?: Oh yes.  This is wonderfully calm, blippy, ambient electro.  Enjoy.

day 11 – a song from your favorite band

song: “Sing”

artist: The Dresden Dolls

First saw them in 2003,  the year they won the Rock and Roll Rumble.  Thought that, with Amanda’s songwriting and Brian’s drumming and the whole aesthetic, they had the potential to be cult heroes.  Saw them with an audience of about 50 people at the late, lamented SkyBar.  Saw them with an audience of about 30 people playing a radio show.  Saw them in the basement of the Middle East back when you could smoke in bars in Cambridge.  Saw their CD release party at the Paradise.   Saw them play bigger and bigger venues, like Avalon and The Roxy.  Two years later, saw them open for Nine Inch Nails at the Orpheum.  The year after that they were touring the world.  Amanda Palmer released one of the most critically acclaimed albums of 2008 on her own, became a social media icon/genius, and married Neil Gaiman.

There’s something really gratifying about being right.
day 12 – a song from a band you hate

song: “She Loves Me Not”

artist: Papa Roach

For some reason, I can’t access any of my original comments from Facebook past Day 20, but I think I said something like “the perfect song to listen to you while you lurk in a trailer park with a sock full of pennies because that b***h owes you money and tonight, she’s gonna pay, man.”  Which was icky and violent, but totally sums up how I feel about this band: they always seemed to me like they were about to go beat their wives.

day 13 – a song that is a guilty pleasure

song: “Part Of Your World”

artist: Skye Sweetnam

Oh, come on: this cover totally rocks.  Sure, it’s from Disney Mania 3 or some such evil thing, but holy crumbs it’s good.

(to be continued)

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Posted by on March 12, 2011 in music, self-aggrandization, youtube


I really gave up blogging about political matters…

I did.  I gave up last year because I was sick of adding nothing to the discourse but yet another screaming partisan voice.

But…. wow.

Wow, Gov. Walker.  Wow.  Do you give a SHIT about how evil you look?  Do you Republicans care about how you come across to – let’s be honest here – the MAJORITY of Americans who were opposed to what you were doing?


This was never about money.  This was about screwing the unions so your corporate boyfriends could get their way.

You look evil.  You look like the world’s biggest assholes to 66% of the country.  The rest are too busy whacking off to Fox News.

YOU DON’T CARE HOW EVIL YOU LOOK.    A State House full of protesters.  Teachers.  Cops.  Fucking firefighters.  The people you call “the heroes” every 9/11.  Now, bless your souls, you’ll be able to cut their salaries, cut their benefits, make ’em work 16 hour shifts and teach 50 kids at a time, and they won’t be able to complain.  It’s ok – it’s not like they have REAL jobs, like (for instance, just grabbing something out of the air here) one of the very part time Directors of Blue Cross/Blue Shield who pulls in about $1 million a year.  But that’s ok – that guy works for a living.

They teach your kids.  They patrol your streets.  They save you when your house is burning.  They gave up a raise, they gave up not having to pay into their pensions, they gave up everything, but they wouldn’t give up their ability to bargain.  And you fucking stripped it from them anyway.  Har har.  That’ll sure balance the budget, won’t it?  Hmm… we could raise the tax rate on the richest 1% by about 3 points, maybe…. orrrrrrr we could fuck over some teachers.  Well, now.  Ain’t you a Real American Patriot?  Ain’t that just what Thomas Fucking Jefferson would have wanted?

YOU DON’T CARE HOW EVIL YOU LOOK.  It just blows my tiny little mind.


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Posted by on March 9, 2011 in Uncategorized


30 Day Song Challenge: Day 6 – A Song That Reminds You Of Somewhere

Day 6

Theme: A Song That Reminds You Of Somewhere

Artist: Guster

Song: “Parachute”

Where: Exploration Summer Program, 1995 and 1996 (or Explo ’95/’96)

Already wrote about this song here.