Single Again: Counting Crows – ‘Mr. Jones’

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(Danny Clinch for Geffen Records)

(Danny Clinch for Geffen Records)

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By Dan Weiss

Single Again is a new column on Radio.com where Dan Weiss investigates chart hits of the past and present, their stories and what they meant and how good they really are.

For this edition of Single Again, Radio.com spoke to Adam Duritz of Counting Crows about “Mr. Jones,” the biggest of several hits that helped make Counting Crows’ debut album August and Everything After the fastest-selling album since Nirvana’s Nevermind at the time.

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“Mr. Jones”: blessing or curse?
Umm…what do you mean?

Well, did the band get sick of it after a while or was there trouble getting out from under its shadow as a hit?
Oh, I thought we did. But I’d get sick of any song.

Haha.
When you make a record, there’s no sense of what’s the single. It’s just one of ten songs. It wasn’t even the one the label wanted, nobody wanted it as a single.

Really?
I just thought it was a good introductory track. Everybody thought the big hit was probably “Rain King,” or that the first single should be “A Murder of One.” I mean, it had that Jesus Jones drumbeat, and what they think is going to be successful is what was just successful right before that. So “A Murder of One” had that little boom-chi-ba-di-ba-doom drumbeat, so they wanted it to go after what the kids wanted. But we didn’t really blow up over “Mr. Jones,” that’s the thing. It wasn’t even until we played Saturday Night Live and played “Round Here” that the record took off. I always thought “Round Here” was more responsible for it.

Was the song inspired by a real Mr. Jones?
Yeah, Marty [Jones]. The bass player of all the bands I was in before Counting Crows. That song is pretty much the story of me being out one night drunk and trying to meet girls. There’s more to the song than just a story.

The stuff happening in the song?
Just this fun night out we all had. You had the guitar player, he was one of the few Americans ever to become a really top-level flamenco guitar player in Spain. He was home from Madrid for a little while, he was playing with his dad, in a mission with his old flamenco troupe. He saw him play and then we went to get drunk afterwards. In the corner of the bar we saw Kenney Dale Johnson, Chris Isaak’s drummer at the time. Like, pre-Chris Isaak being really famous. His first album was out, and Kenney Dale was in the corner with like, ten girls. So that’s what the song’s about. But it’s also about the dreams in your life and how they’re not gonna turn out to be what you think they are. I mean, it keeps saying “When everybody loves me/ I’ll never be lonely.” Which is, you know, stupid. [laughs] But it’s still good to dream about stuff.

Read more Q&A on Radio.com

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