"Have you ever been close to tragedy, or been close to folks who have?" The question opens The Mighty Mighty Bosstones' deceptively upbeat, horn-laden track about the inevitability of tragedy in life from the perspective of someone who hasn't experienced it yet. The song, featured on the band's fifth studio album, Let's Face It, was the first big hit from the Boston-based ska-punk band.
In the '90s it was common for record companies to withhold singles to boost album sales, while promotional singles were sent to radio stations to play on the air. The downside was songs that weren't released as singles, such as "The Impression That I Get," were ineligible for the Hot 100 (a rule that was amended in December 1998). The song did, however, peak at #23 on the Hot 100 Airplay chart and hit #1 on the Modern Rock tally.
In 1995, the Bosstones garnered some attention when they appeared as the club band in the movie Clueless, with their song "Where'd You Go?" included on the soundtrack. But it was the Let's Face It track that propelled them to mainstream popularity two years later. Bosstones frontman Dicky Barrett feared the attention would damage their credibility in the punk scene.
"It was double-edged really," he told The Cleveland Scene in 2018. "It was great, but at the time, I didn't properly enjoy it the way I should have. I thought the sky was falling in, and it was the end. I thought, 'Oh my god, everyone knows who we are.' We were rude boys from Boston, and we weren't supposed to be popular. All of a sudden, we were. I didn't want us to be known as sell outs. We did the same thing we had always been doing. It was just that people gave a shit all of a sudden. Then, I realized it wasn't so bad. I learned that the people that supported us before were proud of us and thought we deserved it. Pop music joined us on our terms, we didn't join pop music on its terms."
This originally appeared on the 1995 compilation Safe and Sound: A Benefit in Response to the Brookline Clinic Violence, featuring tracks from Boston artists in response to the murders of two abortion clinic receptionists in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Throughout the song, Barrett sings about never having to knock on wood. Knocking on wood is an old superstition that involves rapping on a wooden surface to ward off bad luck, which the singer is grateful he hasn't had to do. The saying also inspired Eddie Floyd's 1966 hit "Knock On Wood
The band performed this during their debut appearance on Saturday Night Live on October 25, 1997.
A live version is included on the Bosstones' 1998 album, Live from the Middle East, which was recorded at The Middle East Restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
This was used on season 4 of Friends in the episode "The One with the Fake Party" when Phoebe, a vegetarian craving meat during her pregnancy, watches Joey make a salami sandwich. It was also featured on the 2004 soundtrack EP, Friends: The One with All the Party Music.
The song was also used in the TV show Cold Case ("Revenge" - 2005), and appeared in the movies Step Brothers (2008), Digimon: The Movie (2000), Krippendorf's Tribe (1998), and Chasing Amy (1997).