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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Jukebox - Better Now by Collective Soul (Plus A BONUS Song!)

Some of my favourite songs ever are ones that I seem to hear in the most unusual places.

I'm sure that quite a few of you will agree with this statement as it pertains to your own lives and musical tastes. If a person has a favourite song, they can usually remember where they were when they heard it, and how old they were, and what they were doing at the time.

I've heard songs that I really liked for the first time during school talent shows. I've heard songs that I really liked playing over the music player at Walmart. I've even heard songs that I really liked blaring out of radios at church fundraisers! I'm sure some of you have favourite songs that you have heard first under the most peculiar circumstances yourselves. And if you're interested, I'd love to hear some of these stories either in the comments section here or the Facebook page for this blog.

Today's story about one of my favourite songs goes back about, oh, six, maybe seven years ago. It all started off mundanely. I think if I remember correctly, I was watching television and a commercial break that aired in between shows came on. Nothing too spectacular. Food commercials, advertisements for feminine hygeine products, the annoying car salesmen who keep pushing expensive cars on us because the savings are HUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE!

(And, anyone who resides in Upstate New York or Southeastern Ontario who has seen a commercial for cars on WWNY-TV will get that last reference.)

And then this commercial came on.

A straightforward commercial for Kellogg's Special K cereals and snacks.

Now, granted, if this were any ordinary ad for Special K cereal, I probably wouldn't have taken much notice otherwise. Heck, I'll be perfectly honest. I don't even like Special K cereal. To me, it tastes like a shredded cardboard box.

But listen closely to the background music in the commercial. This commercial happens to be my own personal experience in regards to hearing a song that I really liked in a very unusual place.

For about two years after that commercial aired, I kept wondering what the name of that song was, and who sang it. I liked the 30 second clip that I heard in that Special K commercial, and wanted to hear the full song, but any effort that I sought out in trying to find out who the mystery artist was came up nil. I guess part of that could be that at the time the commercial aired, which was late 2004, early 2005, I was without the Internet (I didn't get hooked up to the net until Christmas 2005).

And, since YouTube didn't come around until a short time after that, it took me about two years to learn what I wanted to know about that awesome song.

And, here's the stats about the song, as well as the video.

ARTIST: Collective Soul
SONG: Better Now
ALBUM: Youth
DATE RELEASED: November 16, 2004

All right. My first reaction is...#117? REALLY?!? It deserved to go much higher on the charts than that! Though, I should also note that on the Adult Charts, it made the Top 10, peaking at #9 on that chart.

The reason why I ended up choosing this song is because this song happens to be one of my favourites. I actually could have kicked myself back then for not knowing that it was Collective Soul that sang it. Especially since I was a huge fan of that band during high school. Maybe it just sounded different. I don't know.

There's a deeper reason behind my choice for today's Sunday Jukebox entry. But, I'll get to that a little bit later.

For now, let's talk a bit about the band that made this song possible.

Collective Soul was formed in 1992 in the city of Stockbridge, Georgia. Its current members as of 2011 include;

Ed Roland (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards)
Dean Roland (rhythm guitar)
Will Turpin (bass guitar, backing vocals)
Joel Kosche (lead guitar, replacing Ross Childress in 2001)
Cheney Brannon (drums/percussion, replacing Ryan Hoyle in 2008, who replaced Shane Evans in 2003)

The way the band Collective Soul came to be started years before the band was officially founded and named. Back in the 1980s, Ed Roland had studied guitar playing and music composition at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Ed really wanted a career in the music industry and had high hopes in becoming a success. During the mid to late 1980s, he mostly recorded underground demos and singles, and in 1991, put out an independently produced solo album, 'Ed-E Roland'. To finance his ventures, he took on a job at a recording studio called Real 2 Reel Studios, which was owned by the father of who would become Collective Soul's bass guitarist, Will Turpin.

Ed had also formed a band as a side project to his job. The band was named Marching Two-Step, and the band had stayed together for several years. Unfortunately for them, the band didn't have much success outside of appearances at local night clubs, and the band parted ways in late 1991, early 1992.

That same year, after being turned down for a recording contract, Ed Roland decided to gather a group of local musicians together to record a demo in Roland's own basement. Roland had never intended to form another band out of the process. Instead, he had hoped to only sell the songs to a publishing company. Somehow, the tape of the demo found its way to a college radio station based out of Atlanta, and began to play the song that was recorded on the tape.

The song was one that was called “Shine”.

It quickly became the most requested song on the radio station throughout all of 1993, and the song became a surprise hit. This success prompted Roland to perform the song (as well as others that were written and recorded) live. So with Roland's brother, Dean, Turpin, Shane Evans, and Ross Childress, the band Collective Soul was founded. Shortly thereafter, the band would be signed to a recording contract with Atlantic Records, and in 1994, the band's first album was re-released, the first single “Shine” peaking at #11 on the Billboard Charts in the spring of 1994.

Over the next seven years, Collective Soul would enjoy much success with the label, and the band made several high profile appearances, including the successful Woodstock '94, and the train-wreck known as Woodstock '99. And the singles that the band released received much airplay, especially in mainstream radio. “December”, “The World I Know”, “Gel”, “Precious Declaration”. All songs by Collective Soul that made the mid-1990s a little bit more enjoyable.

By the time Collective Soul and Atlantic Records parted ways after the release of their Greatest Hits compilation in 2001, the band had enjoyed years of success and recognition. After a two year hiatus, the band found a new record label by the name of EI Music Group, and in late 2004, the band released the album 'Youth', which is the album that 'Better Now' appeared on.

'Better Now' was the second track released from the album. As I stated, I feel it should have ranked higher in the charts, because it was one of those feel-good songs that was badly needed in a decade filled with songs about violence, sex, and drugs.

And it really struck a chord with me because that song could very well be my theme song for the last couple of years.

As you may have gathered by reading past blog entries, self-esteem has really been a struggle for me. For several years, I have spent countless hours wondering what I would have to do in order to get people to like me or respect me. It's true that a lot of people have had those sorts of feelings at some given time in their lives, but in my case, I was a wee bit obsessive-compulsive about it. I remember trying so hard to fit into the various cliques that developed in school, and I tried to go out of my way to feel like I belonged. It wasn't really until a couple of years ago that I came to the conclusion that maybe I tried TOO hard to get people's attention, and that maybe I was pushing people away rather than drawing them in.

It's taken quite a long time for me to realize that the best way I can improve my self-esteem issues is to not let what others say dictate me in what I do or what I say. I think part of the problem in my youth was that I was too eager to compromise when it came to dealing with other people. In fact, I would probably say that I ended up letting people treat me as if I were a welcome mat, and letting them walk all over me in my vulnerability. I was already in a situation where my self-worth was slim to nil, so it was easy for them to get away with it.

And yes, I felt so bad about myself that I let people into my life who used me, abused me, and belittled me, just so I could get some sort of feeling like I was noticed. Believe me when I tell you that one of the worst things that a person can be at the receiving end of is the idea of being ostracized for reasons that you don't understand. Even worse is when you're ostracized for reasons that those doing the ostracizing don't understand, or don't want to understand.

And it didn't just happen with me. It's happening to people all over the world every day. People all over the world are having their self-worth sucked dry because the company they are keeping have used and abused them. And eventually if enough people do that to a person, the road back for those who are on the receiving end could be filled with so many speed bumps and potholes that it seems nearly impossible to come out the other side without dents and scratches.

The song “Better Now” really seemed to awaken something in me. It really showed the message that no matter what your past may have been like, or how traumatic it was, there are ways that one can re-invent themselves to become a better person.

Note that I said BETTER person, and not BRAND NEW person.

That was where I got into trouble when I was younger. I tried to become a whole new person complete with a new personality, new look, and new attitude all at once, and looking back on it, it may have turned a few people off. It was lesson learned the hard way, but I got it in the end.

And by being a better person, it could be anything that ultimately gives you a personal high, and helps you see the potential that you have to make the lives of yourself and those around you infinitely better now. Certainly, it could be something physical, such as eating healthier to become a healthier, happier person. It could also be something emotionally charged as well, such as donating time to a charity, or making something for a friend, or just simply thanking a person who goes out of their way to help.

Instead of being bitter and frustrated by what you feel are shortcomings, be proud of other things that make you uniquely you. Because in order to newly calibrate yourself and make yourself as happy as Christmas, it's up to you to make that happen. More importantly, you owe it to yourself to surround yourself with people who will build you up and help you make those good decisions that WILL make you better now.

And those that don't do that for you? You're better off without them.

There. Don't you feel better now? I know I do.  Because as far as I'm concerned, everyone should have a time to celebrate themselves.

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