20 Years Ago Today, Hootie & The Blowfish Release "Hold My Hand"!

(that first video...)

I've already seen a lot of 20-year tributes paid to musical events that took place in 1994, but the one story that seems to be eluding everybody is the one that sold the most copies.

I could spend another paragraph building up to the payoff we can all see coming, or I could just say that when I woke up today and say that it was July 18, a shiver ran through my soul; the sort you get when you stumble upon a decomposing body.

Fitting that such a shiver should shake my body awake on the 20th anniversary....deep breath....of the debut single...steady now...from Hootie & The Blowfish's Cracked Rear View..."Hold My Hand".
Yes, yes, by all means, you're excused.  Don't worry, I'll clean that up.  The bathroom is the first door on the right.

That's the usual response, of course.

(uh oh, string section, looks like somebody's starting to take themselves too seriously...)

How different it was living in a world free of Hootie music that when we first heard it, many of us were so moved by the soulful croon of one Darius Rucker (who, it turns out, doesn't like being called Hootie, go figure) that the minute the song was over, we ran right out and bought a copy of Cracked Rear View.

The album came out July 5 (for which there was ZERO media coverage this year), but it would take another thirteen days for Atlantic to stop clumsily juggling their musical atom bomb and drop the single, completely oblivious to the havoc it would ultimately cause.

The moment it hit the airwaves, the response was overwhelming.  People whose musical taste had been otherwise non-existent suddenly had a new favorite band and, as more and more radio stations began to add the song to the playlist, more and more of them came out of the woodwork.

I know because I spent quite a bit of time in CD stores back then.  Quite a few of them, in fact, and when Hootiemania struck, it was like nothing I had ever seen.  If you think "Walking Dead" is about zombies, then you weren't there to see it first-hand as one after another would stumble into the CD store, become completely bewildered and overwhelmed by the wall-size White Zombie and Soundgarden posters, the clerk with the pink hair and pierced nostril (times were much simpler back then), and break down in tears until some kind soul (with pink hair and a nose ring) places a copy of Cracked Rear View in their hands.

(consider this shark fully jumped...)

See, most of these folks had never been in a CD store.  Come to think of it, they probably haven't been to one since.  Of course, some managed to find their way back to the ones that buy used CD's, as worn copies of Cracked Rear View are in plentiful supply these days and can generally be had for pennies on the dollar.

In doing my research for this article, I contacted a friend of mine who still runs a record store that carries both new and used music, and asked how many copies of Hootie & The Blowfish Cracked Rear View he has sold in the past year.  He checked his database and replied, "None."

I asked how far back his sales database went.

"Ten years", he said.

Okay, how many copies of Cracked Rear View have you sold in the last ten years?


Do you have it in stock?

"Yes.  2 CD copies new.  6 CD copies used (2 of which are in the dollar bin).  3 cassettes."

How much did you pay folks who brought in used copies to sell?


Did anyone ever object to getting only $1 for their used copy of Cracked Rear View?

"HOOTIE!  I mean, FORE!"
Back in the Velvet Rope days, I would get in endless verbal skirmishes with industry veterans who were constantly singing the band's praises solely on the basis of "hey, whatever moves units is a good thing". These are the same folks who would say much the same thing about the occasional American Idol sensation who managed to sell a few million here and there.

What they failed to see then, or now (as their industry lies in tatters), is that when you BEGIN TO CATER to that audience - people who don't really like or buy music - you begin pissing off the lifetime customers or, a the very least, giving them fewer and fewer options in the marketplace.  Next thing you know, you have Adam Lambert fronting Queen and nobody bats an eyelash.

For an album that sold over ten million copies twenty years ago, I have yet to meet anyone who admits to owning the album, nor have I seen it in any of my girlfriends' collections and, trust me, I look.

Thing is, what would I do if I found that one of them owned the album?  I mean, I've somehow managed to tolerate finding the occasional Blues Traveler or Spin Doctors CD in someone's collection without running from the room spewing chunks, but Hootie just might be my Kryptonite.

See, I was there in 1994.  I had ears.  And those ears remember like it was yesterday not being able to go anywhere without hearing Rucker's soulful croon for the zillionth time.

As a result, July 18, 1994 is a date which will live in infamy.  Meanwhile, all four members of Hootie & The Blowfish walk free, no doubt checking their bank account balances from the back nine and laughing themselves silly.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

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