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The uncommon misgivings of a thoughtless wank; or, on being haunted
by Jason Darling's "Hip Hop Hooray"
by Kurt Hernon
I got an e-mail the other day. Another one of those ‘did you ever listen
to such and such's record I sent you?' types that I generally ponder
for nearly as long as I did the record in question. But this one was
a bit different in that it was from a source who'd actually been fairly
consistent in feeding my habit with some pretty good shit. Jason Darling?
Jason Darling? Hmm, sounds familiar, but I sure as hell don't recall
writing about it. I began tumbling over small towers of (I assumed)
unwanted cd's. Jewel boxes crashed to the ground and broke nothing but
those goddamn tabs with the dohickey that stuck into the hole on the
case back on them. Fuck, where was this Jason guys disc.
I'll be honest, I wasn't exactly jonesing over the thing, just a bit
sussed that maybe I'd missed out on something. It wouldn't have been
the first time.
"I heard somebody say the other day rock is dead / maybe not dead just
So I spent about twenty minutes wrecking my place (well, okay, not really
wrecking, re-wrecking moving shit all around, it didn't look a lick
different from the shithole it started out as) in a half-hearted, half
avoiding work search. No luck. Who the fuck is Jason Darling? I scratched
my ass and ambled up the steps to grab a beer from the fridge and found
none. Fuck! Under the sink was a twelve of "emergency" Blatz that I'd
saved for exactly this situation. I grabbed myself a warm one, stuffed
two more in the freezer for a quick chill, and went into the living
room to toss a few more cd's around in a nugatory search. Who the fuck
is Jason Darling? Again, nothing wait! Springsteen's Greetings from
Asbury Park! Fuck, I'd spent a week looking for this thing. I suck on
the foul-tasting warm Blatz and pop Bruce in. Still wordy as fuck, but
also probably still the most honest, untainted him and that's why I
love the fucking thing.
"I heard Mr. Young say something about "hey, hey, my, my / rock and
roll will never die"
I listen to Bruce go on and on about bus drivers, kids dying in the
street, and whatnot - the naïve poetry of someone who doesn't know
any better than to be unconventionally real. All the while trying for
the life of me to figure out why the name Jason Darling still feels
so goddamn familiar. Three and a half Blatz later (one a Blatz slushy
by the time I remember it in the freezer) I forget about Jason Darling
"I heard someone sing a song last year that stuck in my ear / six months
later it'd gone away"
Friday, March 9, 2001 and I'm in this little joint called Magpie's drinking
something called a "Key-lime Martini". It is a truly hideous concoction
mind you (to be avoided), but the evil, eternal Midwest winter had extended
itself deep into what most were now calling spring and the jagged burn
of gin seemed the right tonic. A few like-minded friends joined me and
for the sad cosmic reason of everyone buying the table unannounced rounds
I wound up pouring the Key Lime poison into my soul for the rest of
the evening. The talk, as it tends to do with this sad bunch, wound
around to culture, and moreover, music. In our drunken reverie someone
inevitably brought up the "rock is dead" argument. My stance, having
always been that the debate is utterly cliché, prevented any
serious input from me and basically resulted in a lot of cocky guffaws
and chortles. A chorus of "fuck you if you don't have anything to say's"
jumped at me from my drunken cohorts. "Don't you have anything to say
on the subject matter?" one of them shot at me. "I mean, we know you
think it's all cliché, so go ahead, make us believers. Why isn't
I was stumped, although I'd claimed drunkenness to them; "Look, I'm
pretty gone. Any argument I could make would have holes the size of
the fucking Grand Canyon." I could feel the ‘hrmpfff' coming from all
of them as they nodded, laughed, and tossed back some drink.
"Hip Hop Hooray," I said.
"Huh?" was the look I got.
"Hip Hop Hooray", I laughed. "There's this song I put on a compilation
tape called "Hip Hop Hooray". I wrote something small about it once
somewhere, and I listed it as one of the best songs I'd heard last year,
and it is."
"By who?" "Who is it?" "What's the artist?" "Who?" came fluttering out
all at once.
"I don't know who, or I don't remember the guys name, but it pretty
much covers this matter and ends any debates. I listened to it on the
"I heard a young kid talking about things are today / He said when I'm
done I just throw it away"
It was arctic in my car, and the cold threatened to snap us all out
of our well-honed stupor, but all of us crammed into the damn thing
to listen to this obscure song that I'd laid out there as some sort
of prophecy. It was a pretty queer site, I'm sure, but it was and is
a big part of who we are, and every one of us was more than willing
to give a little to get a little back. That's the reason we loved this
rockroll music thing that seemed all too much the only deity in our
lives. With the tape rewound and set the car became church, synagogue,
and mosque. Everyone went silent.
"Well maybe it's over / maybe it's through / but I remember something
going down back in ‘92"
I knew that we didn't all agree with '92, but I also knew that this
little song was making the point for all of us. The silence grew, heads
nodded slowly to the acoustic rumblings of "Hip Hop Hooray". The refrain
went loud as one of the guys reached over to turn the volume knob clockwise.
"MY BROTHER SAID /
EVERYTHING CHANGES NOTHING STAYS THE SAME /
SOON ENOUGH THIS WILL CHANGE TO /
ROCK AND ROLL HEROES COME AND SAVE THE DAY /
BUT FOR NOW HIP HOP HOORAY /
WE LOVE YOU"
There wasn't any argument when Lucas the most cynical of the bunch hit
rewind as everyone else stared out the fogged windows.
"I heard somebody say there ain't no bands like that anymore / Grandpa's
still on tour today"
I didn't really want another Lime Martini, but for some reason it only
seemed right. The rest of the guys ordered drinks also and we all kept
our coats on to ease the chill from what I assumed was having been outside.
"You're right man," said Lucas. The others murmured in agreement. "No
he isn't," chimed another, "that kid playing the damn song was right.
C'mon man, what's the guys name?"
I was sorry to say I didn't recall. I'd listened to the damn song a
thousand times, and I didn't even know where the fuck it came from.
"Jason Darling," someone said at the table. "It's right here, on the
cassette "Hip, Hop, Hooray": Jason Darling."
Immediate questions arose about the rest of the disc; could they borrow
it, burn copies, was the whole thing this good? I didn't have any answers,
and quite frankly was still reeling from hearing that name again. Jason
fucking Darling! Drinks were finished, good-byes spoken, and everything
remained fairly somber as the night closed around us.
"Do me a favor," Lucas yelped as we were both getting into our cars.
"Find that disc for me."
"Yeah, right," I said. Yeah right, I thought, if I even knew where to
"I heard Mr. Young say something about ‘My my, Hey hey' / Rock and roll
is here to stay"
Some ten days later I stumble across this record called Underground
that'd fallen under the passenger side seat in my car, and I'll be damned
if it isn't Jason Darling. I grab the thing and head inside to give
her a whirl. I drop it in the disc player and flop onto the couch. A
gentle strum announces the by now oh-so-familiar song that'd become
the soundtrack of the past week and a half of my life. "Hip Hop Hooray"
unravels it's subtle proclamations of optimism (or is it the deepest
of cynicism?) and pours itself all over me once again. As it nears its
end I get up and click the song back to the beginning. I listen again,
then repeat the same act once more. Finally, after four or five go-arounds,
I turn the disc off, having listened to nothing but that one song. But
it's enough for me. I take the disc out, place it in its jewel box and
call Lucas to let him know I found the thing and that he can have it
A week later Lucas and I were driving to this sad party for a friend
of his (I was not an acquaintance) who'd just been told he had cancer.
It wasn't immediately life threatening, but it was one of those mid-thirties
moments that don't quite wake you up to just smell the coffee, but instead
tosses the whole scalding pot onto your face. Lucas was pretty rocked
by the whole ordeal and for the trip he'd sequenced a series of beautiful
acoustic tunes that really fit the mood life had recently just dropped
on us. A man was whispering about "me and the devil playing cards" when
I asked, "Who is this?" Lucas sort of shot me a bent smile.
"What the fuck do you mean?"
"This music, it's fucking nice, but who is it?"
"Are you kidding me?" He was curiously irritated with me.
"No, now who is it?" I insisted, tossing around the mess of discs littering
the car searching for my answer.
"Jesus man, it's that disc you gave me last week, that Jason Darling
"Hip Hop Hooray" guy."
There was that name again: Jason fucking Darling.
"Sounds good," I said.
"Yeah, he is pretty damn good. Didn't you fucking listen to the thing?
Shit man, no wonder you gave it to me. You know what though, that "Hip
Hop Hooray" song still really gets to me. The record is good, but that
song there's something about that song."
"I know," I whispered, "it does that to me too."
"But you do know you were wrong about it that night in the car don't
I looked at Lucas to see where he was taking this. "I was?"
"Completely," Lucas announced proudly. "That is, if you ever really
thought it was about the old ‘rock is dead' debate. But, somehow I get
the feeling that you never did believe what you said. Or that, at least
deep down, you felt that it was about something more. That it had more
meaning to you than you let on."
"Like what?" I laughed nervously.
"You tell me."
A silent moment filled the car. What was I supposed to say? Was I supposed
to tell Lucas about how that damn song reminded me of how, at 34 years
old, I could smell mortality almost daily? Was I supposed to confess
that I, some time ago, came to the realization that my music obsession
was a direct line to the past and a veil to the future? Was I supposed
to blather on and on about how absolutely fucking certain I am that
it's never been rock and roll that dies, but rather something inside
of us which decays and then fades? Was I supposed to break down right
there and then and confess that ultimately I was scared-to-fucking-death
of the responsibilities life assumes as you supposedly grow up?
"How much time do we have until we have to be at your friends thing?"
"I dunno," Lucas replied, sensing my sudden shift of the subject. "We
can get there when we get there I guess. Why?"
"Nothing really. It's just that I was just thinking, there's a cool
little bar out this way, and it used to have a killer jukebox. Lot's
of Clash and Costello that sort of thing. I think it may have even had
Raw Power on it. So I was just thinking that maybe we should stop in
for a drink before we have to go and deal with this thing that your
friend's going through."
Lucas stared straight ahead. "Yeah, yeah, sure," he said in a near whisper,
"Why don't we?"
I think we both figured that we'd just solved something, and that guy,
Jason fucking Darling, was still singing about who knows what and sounding
damn good doing so.
-- Kurt Hernon
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