This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #340: I Am A Scientist by Guided By Voices.
Creativity is its own drug. There are many people who paint and sculpt and sing and dance, not for monetary gain but, more for the joy of making something worthwhile where once there was nothing. Bands that fall into this category tend to be labelled as “Indie” bands. These are bands that do not have a major record deal in place and are producing and releasing their music in order to (a) create a catalog of music that will end up getting them a deal or else, (b) they are making music because they enjoy the sounds they make more that the silences that existed previously. “Indie” bands tend to play locally a lot and, if they’re able to produce a record, quantities will be limited and, sometimes, the album cover will be designed with ‘original artwork by the artist”. Money is often in short supply, as is the reach of the band. For some artists, this is motivation to work harder, network more extensively and grow, as a brand. For other artists, the freedom that comes from making the type of music that pleases you and your friends, without worrying about pleasing anyone else, is payment enough. Initially, the latter philosophy suited the members of a band called, “Guided By Voices”.
Formed in the early 1980s, “Guided By Voices” were led by singer/songwriter, Robert Pollard who, along with his family and friends, released over 30 full-length albums and EPs. The albums were recorded in the garages and basements of whoever was available at the time. Early albums were printed in small quantities and usually ended up being bought by locals in the Dayton, Ohio area. The lineup of the group was fluid, with only Pollard staying in the group throughout its entire career. Not surprisingly, for a band that produced so much music, “Guided By Voices” developed somewhat of a cult following locally. Apparently, their live shows were quite interactive and fun and soon, by way of word of mouth, the legend of “Guided By Voices” began to spread beyond the confines of their town. The band was picked up by “College Radio” in the US and then, by other Alternative/Indie bands like “Sonic Youth” and “The Breeders”.
Because their career as a band began to ramp up, Pollard quit his day job as a teacher and devoted himself to “growing the band”. His first successful effort was an album called, “Bee Thousand” which ended up being hailed as one of the best Indie albums of all-time by a variety of music magazines and organizations. The most well-known song from “Bee Thousand” was one called, “I Am A Scientist”. Robert Pollard has been described as an “Indie Bob Dylan” because of his skill as a wordsmith. “I Am A Scientist” is proof of his skill, with lines such as:
“I am a lost soul.
I shoot myself with rock and roll.
The hole I dig is bottomless.
But, nothing else can set me free!”
If you are familiar with GBV then, you will probably be very happy that they made this list of the Top 500 Songs of All-Time. If you are unfamiliar with “Guided By Voices” then, prepare to have your day brightened. “I Am A Scientist” is such a fun bit of pop perfection. I am confident that it will make you smile. And, if you like that song then, feel free to check GBV out on YouTube, where their extensive catalogue of other perfect pop gems can be found. Have a terrific day. Here is “I Am A Scientist” by the Kings of Indie Rock, “Guided By Voices”. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “I Am A Scientist” by Guided By Voices, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Guided By Voices, can be found here.
Thanks to KEXP for playing great Indie music and promoting Indie bands like Guided By Voices. The link to their official website can be found here.