Back To Reviews Menu

Reviews - Jason Darling - BangSheet Reviews

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 gone away"

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 entirely.

"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 rock dead?"

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 way here."

"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.


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 start looking.

"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 now.

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 you?"

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 asked.

"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

Back To Reviews Menu