The Pax Plena Song of the Week hearkens back to a bygone era of summer’s past. The year was 1997. Titanic would open that winter and go on to become the top-grossing film of all time. The Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl over the New England Patriots (lovely how history repeats itself). And The Notorious B.I.G. was gunned down on the mean streets of Los Angeles. RIP.
In all, 1997 was a wholly unremarkable year musically except for the entry of neo-60s group Smashmouth on to the America billboard scene. Smashmouth would eventually become the group most associated with late-1990s movie soundtracks (viz., the movie Shrek which featured the popular Monkees’ cover I’m a Believer). But their inaugural hit and this week’s song of the week, Walkin On the Sun, would become the ace that earned them both critical acclaim and cult status.
The song itself is overtly inspired by the 1960s. The bass line is driving. Its feel is a bit too funky to be dissimilar from the Beach Boys. The music video does much to cultivate this idea and to great effect. Suffice it to say, the surf influence is pronounced. The lyrics of the song are said to offer “an ironic and implied Generation X view of the hippie movement.” Simply put, the lyrics more or less mock such hippie values as peace and love by exploring how those ideals become little more than commercial fads in the culture of Generation X- an assessment with which I’m not inclined to disagree.
But what makes the song interesting is how the nexus between the surf/hippie culture intersects with 90s era cynicism. Rarely do songs interact to create a cross-generational dynamic anymore- particularly songs by newer groups. But somehow Smashmouth managed to pull this off in their earliest days as professionals. The group would eventually go down the path of Shrek but for just this release, their music seemed more than the commercialism they would both bemoan and embrace.
More recently, I’ve found the song to be a great listen while driving about Tucson. Here, the faux-contemporary architecture of the 1950s adorns much of the landscape across the desert west. Beset on either side by palm trees, ranch style homes and pastels, one could nearly envision Smashmouth shooting their video with an 8mm camera while driving around town. Sun-drenched skies only add to the reality of walking on the sun.
In all, the song is a welcomed trip down memory lane. The funky video make it fun to remember a more innocent time and the naivety of youth railing against the culture.
Walkin’ On The Sun
It ain’t no joke I’d like to buy the world a toke
And teach the world to sing in perfect harmony
And teach the world to snuff the fires and the liars
Hey I know it’s just a song but it’s spice for the recipe
This is a love attack I know it went out but it’s back.
It’s just like any fad it retracts before impact
And just like fashion it’s a passion for the with it and hip
If you got the goods they’ll come and buy it just to stay in the clique
So don’t delay act now supplies are running out
Allow if you’re still alive six to eight years to arrive
And if you follow there may be a tomorrow
But if the offer is shun you might as well be walkin’ on the sun
Twenty-five years ago they spoke out and they broke out
Of recession and oppression and together they toked
And they folked out with guitars around a bonfire
Just singin’ and clappin’ man what the hell happened
Then some were spellbound some were hellbound
Some they fell down and some got back up and
Fought back ‘gainst the melt down
And their kids were hippie chicks all hypocrites
Because fashion is smashin’ the true meaning of it
It ain’t no joke when a mama’s handkerchief is soaked
With her tears because her baby’s life has been revoked
The bond is broke up so choke up and focus on the close up
Mr. Wizard can’t perform no godlike hocus-pocus
So don’t sit back kick back and watch the world get bushwhacked
News at 10:00 your neighborhood is under attack
Put away the crack before the crack puts you away
You need to be there when your baby’s old enough to relate