When I think of Counting Crows, the first thing I think of is how they were trying to copy The Black Crowes by wanting to be “crows.” Let me just settle this right now… when people refer to “The Crow(e)s,” they’re talking about The Black Crowes, and nobody else. There. I said it.
The second thing I think about when I think of Counting Crows is their amazing debut record, August and Everything After. Originally released in 1993, this album remains their most popular because of the various hit singles off of it, “Rain King,” “Round Here,” and their biggest hit to date, “Mr. Jones.”
“Mr. Jones” hit the Top 10 in April of 1994 and helped push August and Everything After‘s climb into the Top 10. August and Everything After eventually went on to sell more than 4 million copies, a number that they haven’t reached again. I’m going to state for the record that I think their sophomore album, Recovering the Satellites, is their best record… that really doesn’t have anything to do with this article, I just thought I’d throw that in there.
The meaning behind “Mr. Jones” has always brought up conversation. When I first heard about the song, I was under the impression that the song was about longing for fame and fortune because of the line, “When I look at the televison I want to see me staring right back at me.”
It wasn’t until I saw Counting Crows on VH-1’s Storytellers that I discovered the real meaning behind the song. I was close, but not exactly right… here’s what singer Adam Duritz said on the program (thanks to CountingCrowsFAQ for the transcription):
“It’s really a song about my friend Marty and I. We went out one night to watch his dad play, his dad was a flamenco guitar player who lived in Spain, and he was in San Francisco in the mission playing with his old flamenco troupe. And after the gig we all went to this bar called the New Amsterdam in San Francisco on Columbus and we got completely drunk. And Marty and I sat at the bar staring at these two girls, wishing there was *some* way we could go talk to them, but we were, we were too shy. And we thought, we kept joking with each other, that if we were big rock stars instead of such loser, low-budget musicians, we’d be able to, this would be easy. And I went home that night and I wrote a song about it.
And I joke about what’s it about, that story. But it’s really a song about all the dreams and all the things that make you want to go in to , you know, doing whatever it is that like seizes your heart, whether it’s being a rock star or being a doctor or whatever it is, you know. And I mean, those things run from like ‘all this stuff I have pent up inside of me’ to , ‘I want to meet girls’ you know, because I’m tired of not being able to. And it is a lot of those things, it’s about all those dreams. But it’s also kind of cautionary because it’s about how misguided you may be about some of those things and how hollow they may be too. Like the character in the song keeps saying, ‘When everybody loves me I will never be lonely.’ And you’re supposed to know that that’s not the way it’s gonna be, probably. I knew that even then.
And this is a song about my dreams”
“What???” you say? “It’s not about his D**K?”
Yeah, that was another interpretation that was floating around. As Duritz explains in the Storytellers episode, “When we did the interview for Rolling Stone, I walked with David Wilde into the [Muse De Ce] in Paris one day and the first thing that happened was these two kids ran up to us and said, “Hey! You’re the guy from Counting Crows, right?” And I said, ‘yeah.’ And he said, “Is Mr. Jones about your dick?” I wanted to kill the guy because I knew where that was going to end up, which is the first paragraph of the article in Rolling Stone.”
Here’s the music video for the song. I always dug how Duritz wore his jeans inside his boots. And I’m gonna have him arrested because he stole all my dance moves.
I’ve posted the Storytellers performance in the Dig-It section below, along with an another acoustic version that starts with some funky Duritz falsetto-thing. I actually prefer this version to the Storytellers because of his vocal performance. He’s got more conviction here, which is great to hear.
The Storytellers version is really interesting, though. The song starts off with lyrics from The Byrds‘ “So You Want to be a Rock and Roll Star?” and he changes up the bridge and last verse to reflect the effects of success. It’s funny to see what fame and fortunes does to you.
Makes you wonder if Duritz would still write a song like this if he knew then what he knows now.
But that’s the beauty of a snapshot… you can’t take it back.
Your Dig-It Downloads:
Mr. Jones (original version)
Mr. Jones (acoustic)
Mr. Jones (VH-1 Storytellers acoustic)