Blues Traveler was established in Princeton, New Jersey, when harmonica player John Popper, guitarist Chan Kinchla, and bassist Bobby Sheehan joined forces. Their debut album was released for sale in 1990.
Michael Barbiero and Steve Thompson produced their fourth album four. This collection included a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s Something Old, Something New from their sixth album.
The Hook Brings You Back
As any avid music lover knows, songs that initially don’t seem like much can reveal surprising depths when taken closer. Take the 1994 single Hook by Blues Traveler as an example: its tuneful pop melody might look simple at first glance but turns into an Auster-worthy meta-commentary upon further examination.
Music’s definition of a hook grabs listeners’ attention and keeps them returning for more – whether it be rhythmic, melodic phrases, or whole choruses. John Popper states in this song’s lyrics that lyrics don’t need to mean anything specific to be effective; catchy melodies with memorable hooks are enough!
Popper appears to be using this second verse as a metaphor for how the music industry operates – people are given catchy but formulaic pop tunes without much substance; to survive, they need good hooks and charismatic singers.
While it might appear directed against the music industry, Popper struggles with addiction. In this song’s third verse, he acknowledges his humanity and cannot transcend his base instincts, even with “great salvation of bullshit faith.”
This song’s final line is incredibly moving; it refers to how easily one can fall prey to substance abuse, an issue all too many musicians grapple with, as well as offering help and reminding those struggling that there is help available. This intelligent piece boasts a clever rhyme scheme in the third verse and a thought-provoking message. Unfortunately, so many songs with such profound messages go overlooked by most audiences; don’t miss this gem.
The Great Salvation Of Bullshit Faith
Fans of Blues Traveler will know this song is an indictment against formulaic pop songs – an example of their trademark critique of popular music in the 90s.
In this context, “pop music can become so formulaic and meaningless as to become an outlet of nihilism” refers to pop music’s tendency toward predictability and meaninglessness; furthermore, Bowie himself wrote extensively in Hunky Dory about what was called the “Bardo transition after death.
John Popper (singer/harmonica player), Bobby Sheehan (bass player), and Chan Kinchla make up the New York-based jam band Blues Traveler, which formed in 1988 and remains strong today.
The Red Herring
Red herrings are decoys that divert our focus away from what needs to be addressed; in this instance, the band is referring to an over-emphasized musical formula used by pop artists; the lyrics to their song serve as a metaphor, with “hook” taking center stage as an indicator that catchy melodies may obscure a song’s true purpose and message.
Artistic choices that serve as subtle critiques of the music industry and demonstrate its power can become popular despite having little substance, as is done here with this clever take on genre conventions that so many modern pop songs follow.
Jimmy Herring’s distinctive guitar-playing style shines through on this track. Starting his solo at 2:12, Jimmy shows a rich, silken tone before switching into an extended break at 3:30 with delicate microtonal bends. Furthermore, their signature single-coil twang can also be heard throughout.
Blues Traveler are legendary jam bands worldwide for their high-energy shows and frequent visits to iconic concert venues, like Red Rocks in October 2008. This performance at Red Rocks captures their sound perfectly; John Popper even throws in some humor about harmonicas–“sometimes you blow, sometimes you suck”–an appropriate pun for an artist whose leader has seen many highs and lows throughout their career – this experience provides him with insights that have allowed him to write such insightful lyrics about harmonicas that come across onstage in October 2008.
One of the most outstanding achievements of “Hook” is its clever meta-commentary. While at first glance it appears to be just another pop song featuring harmonica instead of electric guitar, its true intention lies elsewhere – it argues that in music, it doesn’t matter whether its lyrics have any deeper meaning – an addictive hook can hook people enough. “Hook” has been featured prominently on TV series such as Rian Johnson’s Peacock series to significant effect; its catchy tune makes you want to listen through its entirety!
The song’s title and lyrics make clear that its hook is the riff from Pachelbel’s Canon in D, which serves as its basic chord progression. By alluding to such a notable classical piece, the band makes the point that melodies are more memorable than lyrics – an indictment against an industry that emphasizes catchy songs over meaningful lyrics while serving as a warning to musicians not to take themselves too seriously.
This song’s satirical undertone can also be seen in other pieces by Blues Traveler, such as their iconic track, “Run-Around.” Additionally, its references have appeared in TV shows as a sign of superiority; on FXX’s Dave, for example, Henry Higgs sings along to the bridge of “Hook” at karaoke after learning it for an elaborate bet – trying to prove his superior taste and more-than-average knowledge when in truth everyone knows he knows nothing whatsoever.