This must be the place: It all comes back to you, you’re bound to get what you deserve
Opening up my email inbox last Friday morning, there was a press release from an entertainment publicist making note of the 25th anniversary that very day of Sublime’s multi-platinum self-titled album.
Rolling over in my disheveled bed, I popped up in my downtown Waynesville apartment and held the laptop in my hands, rereading the message. Heading over to my desk, I sat the computer down and proceeded to click on the album in my Spotify account. Open up the front window, crank the volume, and relax into the desk chair.
Suddenly, I started to have innumerable vivid flashbacks from my teenage years. It was exactly 25 years ago (July 30, 1996) that one of the most important rock albums (at least in my opinion) was released — Sublime’s seminal self-titled third record.
As a teenager growing up in the late 1990s, there was no record as more impactful on my young music freak life than that album. Just on the surface, the songs and melodic tone was groundbreaking, this combination of rock, punk, reggae and hip-hop — a culmination of the musical influences on lead singer/guitarist Bradley Nowell.
Nowell was an iconic songwriter, a shining light of truth and a secretly troubled soul, who poured his heart straight onto the blank page. Sadly, he passed away from a heroin overdose in the weeks leading up to the self-titled album being released.
The record sold millions of copies amid several radio hits (“What I Got,” “Santeria,” “Wrong Way,” “Doin’ Time”) and fervent international fandom that permeates mainstream music and culture even to this day.
His words and melodies remain a snapshot of California and the greater United States at that time. It was the mid-to-late 1990s. Our country and the outside world were changing at a rapid pace due to the advent of the internet, the vastly changing political winds (at home and abroad), and how we ultimately interacted with each other heading towards the impending millennium, whether personally or professionally. And each song of Nowell’s still resonates as genuinely as ever.
He wrote deep, sincere lyrics about the Los Angeles Riots (“April 29, 1992”), about drug abuse (and abuse in general), and dealing with the daily trials and tribulations of simply being a human being in the vast, unknown universe. Topics ranging from marijuana regulation to broken hearts, chasing your dreams in real time, to the sacred natural beauty of the West Coast.
As a young kid back then, this album changed my entire existence, whether I realized it or not at the time. Even though I was (and remain) a sponge for any and all music, Sublime was one of the first bands that I could call my own. It wasn’t something my parents or relatives introduced me to.
I found it by listening to the local radio station (99.9 The Buzz) and going down to the now-defunct Peacock Records and buying the album for myself. Flip through the record bins under the “S” section in search of Sublime. Grab the highly-coveted CD, wander down the aisle and plunk $20 on the counter.
My childhood friends and I in our native Upstate New York were enormous Sublime freaks. In middle school, we’d hop onto our bicycles and head over to our buddy Pete or Sean’s house, blasting the tunes from Pete’s badass bedroom stereo or in Sean’s basement (where we could sneak cheap cigarettes and even cheaper beer).
In high school, the album blasted from our shitty first cars (Toyota Camry, Chevy Lumina, Pontiac Grand Prix) leaving class and heading into another unknown late afternoon. Take a left out of the parking lot of Northeastern Clinton Central Scool and meander towards the nearby Golf Course Road — always a joint being smoked with the windows rolled down, blasting along some back road in the North Country within sight of the Canadian Border.
The music of Sublime was (and will always provoke) a sense of escapism. It was this portal to the fun and sun of Cali, a place our young small-town souls yearned to disappear to and visit, to “leave this cow town” and find our true selves “out there.” The car would drift along the road, hands held out the window and flowing along with the fast-paced breeze swirling into the vehicle.
“Load up the bong and crank the song” (from the song “Get Ready”) was the ethos in those days. Probably still is, truth be told. Even though I’m 36 now, with grey hairs atop of my head and in my beard, the youthful nature of the album, of Nowell’s lyrics and tunes, still flows through my veins. A quarter-century, this album remains, as all timeless music does. And we remain, too.
Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.
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Nice piece. Different era for me but same feeling. You can't really even believe it yet at your age but time keeps speeding up until you hurtle on off. Like one of the great lyricists from my time said, "enjoy every sandwich".
Rap/Hip Hop is NOT real music. It does not follow any of the basic fundamentals of music. Its just reciting words like in poetry.