This song is a commentary on fame. With the line, "When everybody loves me, I will never be lonely," lead signer Adam Duritz is stating - with more than a touch of sarcasm - that fame will make everything better ("never be lonely" is repeated to drive home the message: This guy is delusional). When it became the first hit for the band, Duritz was suddenly recognized all over America, which he found discomfiting. The newfound notoriety sent him into a prolonged funk; suddenly he found himself singing a song about dreaming of fame when he was quite bitter about it. With the song resonating his troubles, he came to loath singing it. Duritz stopped writing for over a year, and the Counting Crows second album, Recovering the Satellites
, wasn't released until three years after their debut.
Looking back on the song in our 2013 interview with Adam Duritz
, he explained that even though it is foolish to think that the adulation of fame will solve your problems, it's hard to resist. Said Duritz: "You're supposed to see through that guy: 'When everybody loves me, I'll never be lonely.' You're supposed to know that's not true. For one thing, there's no such thing as 'everybody loves me.' Nobody knows you in that case. So I knew that wasn't going to happen that way. But you still want it: you want life to be easier, you want to be a rock star so it's easier to talk to a girl. It's the same crazy person sitting there with the girl later, though. So it doesn't fix things."
"Mr. Jones" is Marty Jones, a friend of lead singer Adam Duritz. Before Duritz joined Counting Crows, they were in a band together called The Himalayans.
This was written by lead singer Adam Duritz and guitarist David Bryson (the other three band members also got composer credits). On an episode of VH1's Storytellers, Adam explained: "It's really a song about my friend Marty and I. We went out one night to watch his dad play, his dad was a Flamenco guitar player who lived in Spain (David Serva), and he was in San Francisco in the mission playing with his old Flamenco troupe. And after the gig we all went to this bar called the New Amsterdam in San Francisco on Columbus and we got completely drunk. And Marty and I sat at the bar staring at these two girls, wishing there was some way we could go talk to them, but we were too shy. We kept joking with each other that if we were big rock stars instead of such loser, low-budget musicians, this would be easy. I went home that night and I wrote a song about it. I joke about what it's about, that story. But it's really a song about all the dreams and all the things that make you want to go into doing whatever it is that seizes your heart, whether it's being a rock star or being a doctor or whatever. Those things run from 'all this stuff I have pent up inside of me' to 'I want to meet girls because I'm tired of not being able to.' It is a lot of those things, it's about all those dreams, but it's also kind of cautionary because it's about how misguided you may be about some of those things and how hollow they may be too. Like the character in the song keeps saying, 'When everybody loves me I will never be lonely,' and you're supposed to know that that's not the way it's gonna be. I knew that even then. And this is a song about my dreams."
Duritz later revealed that the guy at the bar who was getting the girls was Kenney Dale Johnson, who was Chris Isaak's drummer.
A lot of people thought "Mr. Jones" was a reference to a character in the Bob Dylan song "Ballad of a Thin Man
." Dylan is mentioned the line "I want to be Bob Dylan, Mr. Jones wishes he were someone just a little more funky."
The Beatles did mention Bob Dylan's character in their song "Yer Blues
." The line is "Feel so suicidal, just like Dylan's Mr. Jones."
Adam Duritz: "This is a song that has been misinterpreted greatly, to say the least. I think people too often look for symbolism in songs when they're simpler than they seem. This, in particular, is much simpler than it must seem to a lot of people. I have heard everything from it being about some ancient blues man who taught me to play music, which is completely ridiculous, but like somebody's movie fantasy. I've also heard it's about my dick, which is even more ridiculous. When we did the interview for Rolling Stone, I walked with David Wilde into the Musee d'Orsay in Paris one day and the first thing that happened was these two kids ran up to us and said, 'Hey! You're the guy from Counting Crows, right?' And I said, 'yeah.' And he said, 'Is Mr. Jones about your dick?' I wanted to kill the guy because I knew where that was going to end up, which is the first paragraph of the article in Rolling Stone."
This was the first single released by Counting Crows and also their biggest hit. The band's name refers to a phrase "Counting Crows" which means pointless, as in, "That is about as pointless as counting crow." (thanks, Robb - Pittsburgh, PA)
All the band members are huge fans of the group Big Star. When performing this song on Saturday Night Live, Duritz changed the line "I Wanna be Bob Dylan" to "I Wanna Be Alex Chilton." Alex Chilton is the frontman for Big Star, and "Alex Chilton" was the name of the song by The Replacements. In the Replacements song they referred to him as "An invisible man with a very visible voice." (thanks, Steve - Chino Hills, CA)
This song refers to a dancing woman named Maria: "Cut up Maria, show me one of them Spanish dances." This character appears in many of their songs. She is the main subject of their second single, "Round Here": "Maria says she's dying, through the front door I see her crying," and "Maria came from Nashville with a suitcase in her hand." In "Mrs. Potter's Lullabye," Duritz sings, "There's a piece of Maria in every song that I sing." She is also mentioned on the background writing on the cover of August And Everything After. The identity of Maria has never been revealed, which leads many to believe that she is not a real person, but a symbol for loneliness, desire, or something similar. (thanks, Alden - College Park, MD)
Like several big hits of the mid-'90s, this song was not released as a single in America, which kept it off the Billboard
Hot 100 chart, but meant that fans would have to purchase the entire album to hear it. The ploy worked, with sales of August And Everything After
topping 7 million. The song reached #5 on Billboard
's Airplay chart, which was integrated into the Hot 100 in 1998. Other hit songs of the era that weren't released as singles include "Don't Speak
" by No Doubt and "Torn
" by Natalie Imbruglia.
Duritz was accused of lifting the "sha-la-la-la-la" from Van Morrison's classic Brown Eyed Girl
, which is far from the truth, he told Entertainment Weekly
. "I've gotten a lot of this flack," he said. "I threw one 'sha la la' in as a joke on the record. The next thing I know I'm the second coming of the Belfast Cowboy [a Morrison nickname]. I don't get it. I can see where I learned from his singing. [But] all these other writers jump on it as an easy reference point."