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.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #483: Start Choppin’ by Dinosaur Jr.
Dinosaur Jr. formed in the early 80s at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. I mention this for no reason other than a personal tidbit…..Amherst has some interesting museums. We were planning on travelling there in 2020 before Covid came and ruined the party. We wanted to see The Eric Carle Musuem of Children’s literary art, The Dr. Seuss Museum, as well as The Norman Rockwell Museum. One day we will travel again. But, for now, let me take you to Amherst during the time of Dinosaur Jr.
When the Alternative Rock genre was just in its early, formative days, folks often referred to groups that fit into that category as being popular on “College Radio”. University settings tend to be places where freer thinking is encouraged. This results in vibrant Arts scenes, in many instances. The creative atmosphere around U. Mass. was no different. No only did it spawn musicians who were to music like Norman Rockwell was to Art (homey, comfortable, traditional), it also spawned the special vision of musicians like Dinosaur Jr. who viewed music through the same lens as Dr. Seuss viewed Art, which is to say, non-traditional in the very least.
Dinosaur Jr. played their music loudly. But, they also experimented with the sounds they were making by using techniques such as feedback loops and other sound distorting methods. Their music was experimental but, it contained enough traditional aspects of a straight-ahead rock band to give it some commercial appeal. Once, while they played at a local festival, they were spotted by fellow distortion specialists, Sonic Youth. Sonic Youth were an established Indie band by this point and time and they invited Dinosaur Jr. to open for them on their next tour. Not only that but, their producer began recording with the members of Dinosaur Jr. (J. Mascis, singer/songwriter/guitarist, Murph on drums and Lou Barlow on bass) and helped produce a more polished sound to their records.
As time has gone on, Dinosaur Jr. have been given a lot of credit with helping to break open the doors to the Alternative Music scene through which later, bigger bands like Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney and Nirvana walked through. Dinosaur Jr. did not have any number #1 hits but, they did have one song that made it into the Top Ten and that was “Start Choppin'”. “Start Choppin'” is the most straight-forward rock song Dinosaur Jr. ever produced. It will sound like a thousand other rock songs when it first starts. But, this song is noted for its, not one but, two separate guitar solos. So, if you are ever travelling again and find yourself nearing Amherst, Massachusetts, look out for some excellent museums and tune your radio to the local college radio station….you might just find yourself listening to a little Dinosaur Jr.
The link to the music video for Start Choppin’ by Dinosaur Jr. can be found here.
Dinosaur Jr. have their own website, the link to it can be found here.
Thanks, as always, to the good folks at KEXP for helping to inspire me to write this post. Their website link is here.