It’s a safe bet members of the rock quartet Live won’t be getting keys to the city in their hometown.
York, Pa., is up in arms over the track, “Shit Towne,” off Live’s second Radioactive/MCA album, “Throwing Copper.” To many residents, it hits too close to home, way below the belt strapped around their civic pride.
Doing the opposite of what John Mellencamp did in “Small Town,” Live slams the banality and staleness of small-town ways.
It’s enough to make singer-songwriter Ed Kowalczyk move away – to nearby Lancaster.
“They’re pissed,” Kowalczyk said recently of the hometown folks. “Our mayor is pissed. They’re all riled up. They didn’t even listen to the song. They just drew their own conclusions. The people of York have no idea what we’re about.
“They say stuff like, ‘Why don’t you leave if you don’t like it here?’ What I was trying to say in that song is, look at the routine small towns are stuck in. Look how satisfied everybody is with one movie theater and one supermarket.”
In particular, Kowalczyk laments the deterioration of York’s downtown area.
“It’s like a ghost town, like a lot of small towns,” he said. “And then you have these expansive suburbs with 30 strip malls. There’s a strip mall for every family, it seems.
“What happens then is, the mass transit system can’t handle it. Because of the friggin’ bad planning and bad zoning and bad management, anybody can build anywhere in the county, so buses can’t take people where they need to go. It’s sad. That’s the whole tragedy about it; you don’t realize all these things until you leave.”
Live didn’t exactly leave – guitarist Chad Taylor, drummer Chad Gracey and bassist Patrick Dahlheimer still live in York – but it did find its ticket to the outside world in early ’92 with its Jerry Harrison-produced debut album, “Mental Jewelry.”
The hard-edged “Throwing Copper” takes the young band (the average age is 22) down a more introspective path, tackling alienation, the price of success and other dark themes.
“I would say some of our songs were molded and shaped by some of our experiences with the first record,” Kowalczyk said. “It was four guys who had only made music for themselves for years and all of a sudden made it for thousands of people. Personally, I learned, and I’m still learning, about how to communicate what I feel, my ideas. It’s a growing process.”
Are Live members sad, brooding and dissatisfied? Kowalczyk said fans have an accurate impression of the band.
“If I was happy all the time,” he said, “I probably wouldn’t make music. Loud guitars and Chad Gracey playing drums doesn’t make me want to grow daisies. It makes me want to scream and run around. That’s what we do, that’s our style.”
BWF (before we forget): “Throwing Cooper” topped Billboard’s pop chart for one week in May 1995 and went on to sell more than 6 million copies. The follow-up album, “Secret Samadhi,” also peaked at No. 1 in 1997. … Live it up on the Web @ www.radioactive.net.
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