Heavy Rotation

Album: Hang Time (1988)
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Songfacts®:

  • This chaotic rocker is a track on Soul Asylum's fourth album, which was produced by Lenny Kaye and Ed Stasium. Those who know the band through their 1993 hit "Runaway Train" would be surprised to hear the raw energy of "Heavy Rotation," the kind of song Soul Asylum couldn't do once they hit it big. Lead singer Dave Pirner, who wrote the song, told us in 2013, "After the band made Grave Dancers Union [1993 album], it became really hard for me to get a song like 'Heavy Rotation' on a record. Because after Grave Dancers Union people had a tendency to go, 'What the f--k is that?' 'Heavy Rotation' does not sound like a song."
  • The title of the song doesn't appear in the lyrics, which are about remaining true to yourself while coping with the pressures of life. "Heavy Rotation" is an industry term meaning a song that gets priority in a playlist, getting lots of airtime. In this context, Pirner is rebelling against demands for a hit, as Soul Asylum was a band on the brink of stardom and being pushed to get there.

    When they did hit it big in 1993, the song became prophetic: "Runaway Train" was in heavy rotation on MTV and many radio stations, and servicing the song took a huge toll on the band, who didn't appreciate the promotion, constant touring and expectations that came with it.

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