This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #367: You Oughta Know by Alanis Morissette.
When I was 19 years old, I was in the middle of my first year of university in Toronto. I can point to the fact that I was learning to shop, cook and clean for myself as being major accomplishments that I could be proud of. My schooling went well and I passed all of my courses. I had my first beers when I was nineteen, too. When Alanis Morissette turned nineteen, she released an album called “Jagged Little Pill” that turned out to be one of the biggest selling and most influential albums of all time. From that album came multiple hits songs such as “Ironic”, “All I Really Want”, “Hand in my Pocket”, “You Learn” and, finally, “You Oughta Know”. From this album, she won several Grammy Awards and is routinely name-dropped by modern female singers such as Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry and Pink as being such an important and empowering female role-model for them based upon this album. When Alanis Morissette released “Jagged Little Pill”, I was learning to wash and fold my underwear. I imagine, as 19 year olds, we both enjoyed our own, unique sense of accomplishment.
Alanis Morissette is from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Prior to releasing “Jagged Little Pill”, Alanis had already released two albums that can best be described as “Teen Pop”. She enjoyed a small but, growing following based on her early sound. But, that early sound did not speak to who she felt she was nor did it address the issues she felt she was being faced with. So, as a nineteen year old, Alanis Morissette moved to Toronto and then, to Los Angeles, where she met a producer named Glen Ballard. The two hit it off immediately and began writing songs together. According to Morissette, the lyrics to the songs that ended up on her album just poured out of her. Ballard, for his part, states that he had a lot of difficulty believing that she was only 19 years old because of the experiences she was writing about and because of how self-assured and forceful she was to speak her truth, so to say. The song, “You Oughta Know” is a fiery tour de force that talks about a failed relationship, in very forceful and explicit terms. It is sung from the point of view of a woman who feels she was mislead by the promises of a man who, in the end, used her and then moved on, leaving her to deal with the fallout. That fallout isn’t pretty. Morissette used this opportunity to speak for entire generations of women who felt taken advantage of by men who, in the end, didn’t deserve them. Morissette’s defiant lyrics resonated with many women, in particular, and helped inspire a whole new generation of singers to stand up for themselves, too. There would be no suffering in silence any longer.
***A small bit of music trivia for those interested in such things: bassist, Flea, from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Guitarist, Dave Navarro, from the RHCP, as well as, Jane’s Addiction, both play on the original recording of “You Oughta Know”. When Morissette toured in support of “Jagged Little Pill”, current Foo Fighters drummer, Taylor Hawkins, was her drummer.
There has been much speculation over the years as to who the male subject was in “You Oughta Know”. Alanis Morissette has never revealed who it was but, for years, I always heard that it was former Ottawa Senator hockey player, Mike Peluso. Later rumours seemed to indicate that the man who “promised to hold me until you die” was, none other than, Uncle Joey from the TV show, “Full House”, Mr. Dave Coulier. Other cast members added credence to this rumour by bearing witness to phone calls from Morissette that came during dinner….”Did you forget about me, Mr. Duplicity? I hate to bug you in the middle of dinner!” In any case, “Uncle Joey” has issued non-denial denials about his role and is, as things stand now, the man most closely associated with this song.
Alanis Morissette had a few other hits over the years but, “Jagged Little Pill” remains the album she is most known for. As time has gone on and the album reached the 25th anniversary mark, there was renewed interested in “Jagged Little Pill”, the album and in Alanis Morissette, the singer. Just prior to the Covid-19 shutdowns, Alanis was touring in North America with a complete replay of her album and, as well, there was a Broadway musical based upon the album that had launched, too. The legacy of “Jagged Little Pill” is an enduring one, for sure. As for my legacy well, as much as Keri and I share the household chores, she won’t let me near the washer and dryer so, I am not sure if I have evolved as much as Alanis Morissette has since we were both nineteen year olds making our way through the world. Here is Morissette’s rippin’ rendition of “You Oughta Know” from her appearance (as a 20 year old) on The David Letterman Show. Enjoy.
The link to the video for “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Alanis Morissette, can be found here.