Colin Spring: Drunk Music for Drunk People (who happen to hate Capitol Hill)

As regular readers of my humble blog can attest, I’m not big on giving negative reviews of other people’s artistic endeavors. If I think something is awesome, and I have the time, I’ll tell you why I like it.  If I don’t have a use for something, I’ll simply ignore it.  Is it because I don’t want to seem petty or burn bridges?   I’m sure that’s a factor, but the main [conscious] reason for this practice is twofold: (1) I’m a busy lady. There’s so much wonderful stuff in the world, why waste time with the things that aren’t doing it for me?  (2)  I was raised by cognitive behaviorists, who taught me that praising the good always yields more positive results than bitching about the bad, whether you’re raising a child or trying to encourage more of what you want to see in a city’s artistic climate.

With that said, it pains me that I feel that I have no choice but to comment on what might be the dumbest song I’ve ever heard.

It all started a couple weeks ago, when my partner David happened to hear a song on our esteemed indie radio station KEXP with some lyrics that crawled into his brain and laid eggs of annoyingness.  Then yesterday he heard it again.  He Googled the refrain and discovered that the song is called “Drunk Music for Drunk People,” by a band from Corvallis, Oregon called Colin Spring and the Naugahyde Nights. (You can stream the song from their MySpace page.)

Colin Spring

Loves to drive: Colin Spring. Image via

The song starts out harmlessly enough: an inoffensive musical arrangement supporting a listenable, if derivative blue-collar folk balladeer lamenting the changes in neighborhoods that arise as the result of gentrification. And how he used to want to be a revolutionary and help end the suffering he sees all around him, but then he realized that he’s powerless to change the things he’d like to make better in the world because, alas, he’s just a “golden-tongued” troubadour playing “drunk music for drunk people.” Fair enough. It may not be my thing but there are plenty of people who love this kind of stuff, and it’s put together well.

But then about three-fourths of the way through the song, he sings:

Ballard’s turned into Capitol Hill
I hate that place and I always will [oh-whoa]
there’s no place to park.
Everyone walks around like they’re some kind of movie star.
But I didn’t come to play for the rich and the beautiful
I’m-a playin’ drunk music for my drunk people.

In all fairness to KEXP, I want to point out that we searched for this song in their database and it’s only been played the two times that David happened to hear it.  I’m gonna give their DJs the benefit of the doubt and assume that they aren’t intentionally giving prominent airplay to a song that deliberately insults each and every person who lives in what is by far the most populated neighborhood of their potential fanbase.  An insult, no less, coming from a guy who—again, it pains me to have to point this out—judges the value of neighborhoods based on how easy it is for him to PARK HIS CAR IN THEM.

I guess my response to this is twofold.  First, I would like to point out the mean-spirited, classist negativity in this song to the people who are giving it airplay, just in case it changes anything.  Second, I would like to encourage Colin Spring to ditch the gas-guzzling land yacht for a weekend, hop on the Amtrak Cascades and come see how much fun he has in Capitol Hill without his car.  It’s no Corvallis, but we do have lots of taxidermy and PBR.  And homeless people.

Oh, and that thing you call walking around like a “movie star?”  Yeah, us city folk just call that “being physically attractive.”  Give it a chance, Colin. It just might grow on you.


UPDATE:  Thanks to Paulus for pointing out that the cover of Colin Spring’s first album Dashboard Tallies, Pedestrian Kills features a sketch of a guy standing next to a NO PARKING sign. Apparently Mr. Spring’s parking frustrations are something of a leitmotif.

~ by emilypothast on August 14, 2010.

18 Responses to “Colin Spring: Drunk Music for Drunk People (who happen to hate Capitol Hill)”

  1. The like it or leave it arguement is ineffective and was used on me when I complained about Seattle. I hope you come here Colin and I hope you have more fun next time.

    But “Golden tongued”? Sounds like horn-tooting Jack Johnson crap. Still, amen for saying somethings that I’ve been feeling all along. I don’t want to entertain the rich and beautiful either.

  2. I *think* he’s saying he has a golden tongue. Here’s the whole song, for context:

    there ain’t no bums on cannery row
    they all left here years ago-oh-ho
    when the mansions came
    set ’em down on top of their campfire flames

    and there ain’t no love for the tired and poor
    when they’re sleepin’ outside your front door-oh-ho
    said the lady in the bay
    send yo’ huddled masses o’er my way

    […?…] to say what’s equal
    I sing drunk music for my drunk people

    well I remember back when i begun i
    thought i’d change the world with the songs i sung oh-ho
    that was so far flung
    you can’t sway a talking head with a golden tongue
    I’m not a preacher underneath a steeple
    i’m a playin drunk music for my drunk people


    once upon a time we stuck it to the man
    we put flowers in the barrels of the guns […?…] oh-ho
    like a street fighting man
    we had three chords and the truth on our FM
    but it’s not a revolution when you drop down the needle
    I’m a playin drunk music for my drunk people

    must be 99 ways to skin a cat
    you never beat down an army rat so-ho
    well they come too many
    well they eat ya out of your house and home for a copperreh penny
    well i can see em through the door when i’m peekin through the keyhole
    I’m a playin drunk music for my drunk people


    there’s one fisherman left on Ballard Ave.
    I’m gonna give him this song ’cause it’s all I have oh-ho
    keep the good fight up
    keep on shakin’ out that paper cup
    Ballard’s turned to Capitol Hill
    I hate that place and I always will oh-ho
    there’s no place to park
    everyone walks around like they’re some kind of movie star
    but I didn’t come to play for the rich and the beautiful
    I’m a playin drunk music for my drunk people
    said I didn’t come to play for the rich and the beautiful
    i’m a playin drunk music for my drunk people.

    The way I read it originally, I assumed that he meant he couldn’t use his golden tongue to sway a talking head. But it could also mean that there is just no way to sway a talking head with [the talking head’s] golden tongue.

    Even if he is talking about himself, it could be read as deadpan self-deprecation, like Leonard Cohen’s “I was born like this, I had no choice/I was born with the gift of a golden voice.”

  3. a poem:

    turn off

  4. Ha!

    We don’t have the radio on much. Which is why, at first, we thought this song must have been getting tons of airplay if David accidentally heard it both times he turned on KEXP within a month.

    In general, the radio is terrible, but KEXP subscribes to a different programming model and can therefore, at least in theory, be as good as the standards we hold it to.

  5. I must say, I am rich and beautiful (or at least physically attractive 😉 and hang out on Capitol Hill on a regular basis. That being said.. I both enjoy this song AND really enjoy the ‘offending’ verse in question. I don’t believe his point is to diss Capitol Hill per se, as much as it is lamenting some of what is lost through the regentrification process. Plus, you have to admit.. it is damn frustrating finding parking on the Hill sometimes!

  6. Congratulations on being rich and beautiful.

    I don’t really care if Colin Spring likes the people in Capitol Hill, my issue is with the line about parking specifically. I don’t think it’s offensive, I just find it stupid in a way that makes me sad for the future of humanity, in that it what it laments (car culture) has been basically unilaterally bad for cities (i.e. suburbanization), bad for the world and the other people in it (countless wars over oil), and shamefully terrible for the environment.

    The lack of parking is a trade-off for living in a dense, walkable neighborhood. I can always ride a bike. Or better yet, I can strap a couple of these guys to my feet and slide around! =)

    • Colin lived there for a decade and saw alot of change and that’s probably where that view comes from ..
      He does have a golden tongue and if his golden tongue couldn’t sway a talking head .. well, no ones could !
      and to the Jack Johnson comment , Jack Johnson couldn’t even restring Colin’s guitar ! he is a putz and Colin is a one of the finest songwriters alive ! He regularly gets comparisons to Bob Dylan and Neil Young … why take the funny line so serious ?? jeesuz people really ?? do your homework before you go dissin on one of rock and rolls last true troubadours !!

  7. I think the verse you speak of is a pretty clever commentary of the gentrification of Seattle. I lived on Capitol Hill for years, and remember a time when it was a much cheaper and more artistic neighborhood. Many people I know (myself included) had to move away from Capitol Hill to places like Georgetown and Ballard to be able to afford spaces to do their art. Now, the same thing is happening to those areas- High-rise condos and chain stores. I understand the need for urban development, but Seattle has really lost something over the years because of this. I can’t help but think Don Slack is playing it on the airwaves, thinking the same thing.

    • Hey Graig, thanks for the thoughtful response. I see what you mean, and I think you’re right, that is definitely what the song is about. I just think the rest of it does a much better job of getting that across than that particular verse.

      The image in the first stanza about mansions snuffing out the campfire flames is quite good, and makes me totally start out on his side. But then he resorts to [what I hear as] a whiny, bourgeois complaint about parking and all of a sudden he’s completely lost my sympathy. When it comes down to it, he just wants his convenience too, which makes him seem no better than the rest of the condo people.

      That’s why I think the lyrics to this verse are dumb and probably won’t change my mind. Maybe “ineffective” or “counterproductive” would have been a better choice of words than dumb. But a lot of people whose opinions I respect seem to be pretty into him, so I’m not opposed to giving Colin a second chance to wow me. What should I listen to?

      At most, I hope Colin sees my criticism as a challenge. At least, I hope he appreciates the free advertising and the satisfaction in having some snotty bitch from Capitol Hill confirm his disdain for all of us. =)

      As for Seattle not being what it used to be, the whole world ain’t what it used to be. I wish I had the same memories you do of the old Capitol Hill. But I also think that brooding over how great life used to be can be a trap that prevents us from seeing how great it could also be, here and now.

      • I’ve always thought the golden tongue line was meant as a realization that truth and common sense, coming from activists, politicians, artists, songwriters, and other influentials is lost on the masses, so why bother. And then he says in the next line, “I’m not a preacher underneath a steeple”, basically saying, that’s not what he’s aiming for, anyway. He’s just a dude singing his songs because he likes singing ’em. If you listen to this album you’ll find Colin is both very self deprecating, but also has an incredible sense of humor.

  8. I can’t believe you’re offended by this verse. I live in Capitol Hill, I love the neighborhood, and that verse makes me smile every time I hear it.

    • As I already explained once, earlier in this comments thread, “I don’t think it’s offensive, I just find it stupid in a way that makes me sad for the future of humanity, in that it what it laments (car culture) has been basically unilaterally bad for cities (i.e. suburbanization), bad for the world and the other people in it (countless wars over oil), and shamefully terrible for the environment.”

  9. Um. But you said that you think the song “deliberately insults each and every person who lives in what is by far the most populated neighborhood of their potential fanbase.”

    • Oh. Got it. Yeah, I haven’t thought about this post in weeks, so I forgot about that part. It was in reference to the line “everyone walks around like they’re some kind of movie star.” Really, Colin? EVERYONE? Because last time I checked, there was a homeless dude passed out on the sidewalk in front of my building.

      I just think taking potshots at hipsters (or whoever you run into who’s different from you) is overdone and annoying. I suppose if you want to call that getting offended, I’ll take it, though I typically reserve “offense” for things far more egregious than this song, which I find mildly to moderately irritating at worst. 😉

  10. And then you characterized the song as expressing “mean-spirited, classist negativity.”

    Sounds like you’re pretty offended.

  11. Hi Emily, the last time I was on Capitol Hill, I had to jackknife my Ford F650, which is fueled by unicorn tears, between a Prius and an Outback just to get a spot near Linda’s.. After that I got burned on forty bucks worth of horse tranquilizer by three guys wearing wolf print t-shirts and tight pants.

    Okay, okay your analysis of my song deserves a much more thoughtful and insightful response, although I feel that everyone who has responded to this thread has done a better job than I am capable of.

    I think I based “Drunk Music” on both the Ten Years After song “I’d Love To Change The World” and the Moody Blues song “I’m Just A Singer”. I’d always liked the message portrayed in each and I identified with an ongoing push pull that I felt as to whether my creative endeavors should be viewed as a valid profession or a self indulgent hobby. That theme regarding my own ineffectiveness as a performer was at least one of the layers I was trying to recreate.

    I had a good time on the hill for awhile. I got tired of it. At the time I wrote the song, I felt, maybe wrongly so, that most of the grittiness had been pushed aside. Condos were taking over not only the hill but many Seattle neighborhoods, all my favorite bars and restaurants were bought out by a handful of investors who transformed them into generic hot spots devoid of individual character, WTO had been a forgotten blip and that one needed a ton of money to appreciate the convenience of urban living. I believe I also felt that there existed a superficial sect of hill residents who were so encapsulated in themselves that they lived oblivious of their neighboring environs. And why shouldn’t I be able to take potshots at hipsters? If I can’t make fun of middle class honkies with a dress code, scripted speech and a checklist of art they are allowed to appreciate while in the throes of trying to forge their identities, who can I make fun of? And really shouldn’t a person have a sense of humor about themselves if they are going to walk around dressed up like Pat Benatar?

    The line that instigated your concern was honestly just a line to make people laugh. To me it seemed funny to call attention to several issues and then say “on top of all that, I can’t find a parking space.” (Unless of course there is a Colin Spring show in the neighborhood, in which case there is always guaranteed parking.). I lived in Seattle 7 of 10 years without wheels. It took about two hours with transfers to get from Madrona to Ballard but that gave me plenty of time to write poems about pigeons. Too bad that was pre-blogosphere!

    I think you are overanalyzing this a little. I appreciate you using this as a forum to get a message out that oil consumption is bad but I am going to go out and on a limb and say most of you readers probably already know that. I think what you were really upset about was that I insulted a place that feels true to your heart. I am glad you enjoy Capitol Hill. I hope you have a nice community and it continues to bring you happiness. I really do.…….but really, it is hard to park there isn’t it? Or maybe it was because my AMC Hornet didn’t have reverse.

    Anyway speaking of cars, my bourgeois ride is an 86’ Mazda with 250,000 miles on it and still chalking in at 28 MPH freeway, much above many of the cars being manufactured today, and we have a blood/oil bond to stay together to the end.

    Finally to the gentlemen that equated the “golden tongue” to Jack Johnson. While I am sure I have heard Jack Johnson, I am not enough of a listener to recognize one of his songs. I hear he enjoys surfing. What I meant was that I put a lot of time into those songs. I mean a lot of time. Also a lot of time into finding gigs and a lot of time traveling. Anyone who plays music for a living knows it is an exhausting, maddening circle and often the payoff is a four hour gig playing in the background overhearing conversations about haircuts five feet away from you. Did you know some people pay 100 plus dollars for a haircut while our friend Emily has to step over homeless drunks sleeping in cardboard boxes on her way to work in the morning? You and I and Emily know that and probably Jack does too.

    I appreciate your taking the time to mention my album Emily. If you or any of your readers would like a copy, drop me a line at the contact page of and I will send you a free digital download.

  12. Ha! Thanks, Colin, and thanks for the plug on your site. It’s great fun being Rowdy Roddy Piper to your Hulk Hogan. (Or is it the other way around?)

    P.S. “BOYCOTT?” Not sure where you got that but honey, you flatter yourself. 😉

    p.p.s. I’d love a free download.

    • Oh, I thought you called for a boycott. You didn’t? Well I’m just going to have to do it myself then.

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