What's an Interpolation?
By Jake Vigliotti
January 21, 2006
I’m pretty sure it was in Orlando, 2000, when I saw them. Now I’ve seen some, lets see… how do I put this as to not offend the masses… nutballs at DMB shows, but these two were just a wee bit super-giddy. He wore a t-shirt that read: “King Of The Castle”. Her (wait for it…) “Little Rascal”. I’ve never so badly wanted a song not to be played , merely for the humor. It’s kinda like the grown-up who wears a baseball glove to a MLB game, and he’s there without his son. You so don’t want any foul balls headed his way. But alas, only a few songs in, The King and the Rascal got their tune.
Naturally, as soon as the first chords were struck, the two of em acted like they just hit the Showcase Showdown within $100, but that was merely a harbinger to their emotional ecstasy. As the song reached the end, the ‘King’ began to quiver. He was only a few seats away from me, and believe it or not, the crowd anticipated he might ‘act the fool’ when Crash came on, so they all took two giant steps away from him. He started repeating, ‘They’re gonna do it, they’re gonna do it!’ Then, DMB did it.
As usual, Dave dropped a little bit of Dixie Chicken by Little Feat in at the end of Crash, and the King – well – Did you ever see Forrest Gump? Remember that part when he went to Jenny’s college, and was sitting on the bed next to her? Remember that gulp he does and then he kinda bowed over? That’s basically what ‘The King’ did.
All that for an Interpolation?
Yes, there’s a word for it. In music-speak, it basically means to play a song, sung or performed by the band (as opposed to playing a recording of the original song – that’s sampling) within another song. Here at Ants, we list them in the setlist archive like this: Crash Into Me (Dixie Chicken). DMB has used well over 50 different songs within their songs. How did this all start? What are the best? Where does it end?
We have a convenient list of all the interpolations (or intro/outros as we dumb em down to), but that just begins to tell the story. The first known interpolation was during the 2.13.92 show. Boyd dropped a little Norwegian Wood (Beatles) into the beginning of Recently. Later on that show, Dave sang Louie Louie (The Kingsman) during Warehouse. There were some random interpolations during the ’92 shows, but ’93 is where the insertion of songs became a fine art.
Why does all of this happen? Lets look at one of the most vivisected songs; Recently. Around nine different songs have made their way into Recently. Clearly, Recently is about a relationship, so when you hear Norwegian Wood in Recently, you can see how that fits. Recently was also used as the big jam get-on-your-feet song in the early college town tours, so Dancing In The Streets (Martha Reeves and the Vandellas - co-written by Marvin Gaye, btw) seems like a logical choice. Even Al Green’s Take Me To The River, with it's spiritual feel to it, fits. And of course lyrically it fits with Recently.
So the short answer is that for a song to be interpolated into a DMB song, it must fit the theme of the DMB tune. Theme, not just title. So don’t expect Lisa Loeb’s Stay to make it into Stay, and sadly, no Hello Again Neil Diamond Style in Hello Again.
Of course, that rule doesn’t always apply. How the Almond Joy theme made it into Two Step or Da Do Ron Ron made it into Typical Situation is beyond me. DMB has broken the rules for musical interpolations by interpolating their own songs into, well, their own songs (Everyday, #36, Pay For What You Get, Any Noise/Anti-Noise, and People People). They even teased a song they cover in one of their own (Angel From Montgomery in Pay For What You Get). I guess that’s either auto-erotic Interpolation or Inerpolation bi-proxy?
Of all the interpolations, I think “This Land Is Your land” is one of the most unique. It survived three incarnations of the same DMB song (Weight of the World, Leave Me Praying, Don’t Drink The Water). Clearly, you can see what influenced Dave’s writing just by what he kept playing during the songs metamorphosis.
Dave also uses other songs to convey his feelings at the time. Buffalo Springfield’s For What it’s Worth didn’t just pop up by happenstance around March, 2003. That was around the same time (and only time) that The Bell, Steven Smith’s re-working of a children’s classic into an anti-war anthem popped up in Don’t Drink The Water. Really gives a twist to DDTW, hun? Deed Is Done is powerful enough, but when Dave dropped Pinball Wizard (The Who) into it, with a twist, the song became omnipotent.
If you asked me for my favorite interpolations (just saving you the trouble of emailing), it’s the unique ones that stand out to me. How Dave ever pulled off You’ve Made Me So Very Happy (Bobby Gentry but better known by Blood, Sweat, and Tears) in Recently is a mystery. Dave almost half-giggles after he sings it. The ones that worked really well (albeit only once) were Be Thankful For What You've Got (William DeVaughn) – you gansta rap fans will recognize the refrain “Diamonds in the back, sunroof top, diggin the scene With the gangster lean” from NWA’s Gansta Gansta – save that one for 6 degrees of DMB – which appeared in Jimi Thing; Kradoutja done by Roi in Minatets (read the link for Kradoutja info), and the old MASH theme Suicide Is Painless in Rhyme and Reason. When Roi started playing Give Up The Funk (Parliament Funkadelic) in Jimi Thing, the crowd just took over the interpolation. Of course, who could forget when the crowd famously interpolated Can't Help Falling In Love for the band at Roseland in Stone?
The interpolations are here to stay. I think we’re all happy for that. Some of us (like “The King”) are more excited than others. We’ll continue to hear them, and we’ll probably hear some new ones this tour. It seems that whatever is striking the band’s fancy at the time (70’s funk, the Beatles, etc), is what we get. I wouldn’t hold my breath for too many 80’s and 90’s songs popping up (this ain’t Matt Nathanson), but it’ll be nice to hear Jimi Thing to begin to break apart, and Dave step to the mic and sing a new interpolation.
By The Way… in our continuing effort to bring you high quality entertainment (or stuff to read while you’re at work), we’re branching out in our columns. Honestly, I’ve been saying for years that I’ll write a column every week, and some won’t be what we call "DMBc" in the biz. But, with three kids, writing a column weekly is about 97th on my to-do list. So what we’re going to do instead is a semi-regular column just touching on things going on around our little sphere. Nothing too earth-shattering, but we’ll be looking for your feedback (as usual). And don't worry, I'm not writing them all. Funniest Man in America (and regular contributer to Ants) Bob Heaning will add some wit and wisdom to the site as well. It’ll mainly be like current events, like for example: while up at 3 am with one of the illustrious aforementioned three, I saw this commercial for 70’s songs (the one with Greg Brady on it). After the 300th or so time I saw it, I noticed something: there are no more ugly rock stars. Back in the day, there were some fugly mo fo’s. But in today’s video times, The Foghat’s have been replaced by a bunch of prissies. Don’t get me wrong, there are some uglies around now (I’m looking in your direction, Nickelback), but where are the ‘wholly crap that guy looks strange’ people? John Denver? Hello? First time I saw John Denver, I thought he was a muppet. That's been bugging me for a while.
So be on the lookout for more brilliant commentary like that in the coming weeks. Or months. Depends if I get any sleep by then. We'll announce the new columns appearance in the message board section at Ants.
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