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Counting Crows

Counting Crows is a rock band originating from Berkeley, California. The group gained popularity in 1994 following the release of its debut album August and Everything After, which featured the hit single "Mr. Jones". The band's influences include Van Morrison, R.E.M., Nirvana, Bob Dylan, and The Band. They received a 2004 Academy Award nomination for the song "Accidentally in Love" due to its inclusion in the film Shrek 2.

History

Formation

Singer Adam Duritz (former member of the Bay Area band The Himalayans) and guitarist Dave Bryson formed Counting Crows in San Francisco in 1991. As well as his experience in The Himalayans, Duritz had contributed to recordings by the Bay Area group Sordid Humor ("Barbarossa"), although he was never a member. Counting Crows began as an acoustic duo, playing gigs in and around Berkeley and San Francisco. By 1993, the band had grown to a stable lineup of Duritz, Bryson, Matt Malley (bass guitar), Charlie Gillingham (keyboard instruments) and Steve Bowman (drums), and it was a regular on the Bay Area scene. The same year, the band signed to Geffen Records. On January 16, 1993, the band, still relatively unknown, filled in for Van Morrison at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony, and was introduced by an enthusiastic Robbie Robertson. They remain the only unknowns ever to play the ceremony.

Before signing to Geffen, the band recorded demo versions of a number of songs, known as the 'Flying Demos'. These later surfaced among the Counting Crows fanbase. Tracks include "Rain King", "Omaha", "Anna Begins", "Einstein on the Beach (For an Eggman)", "Shallow Days", "Love and Addiction", "Mr. Jones", "Round Here", "40 Years", "Margery Dreams of Horses", "Bulldog", "Lightning", and "We're Only Love".

Some songs from the tape later resurfaced (in reworked versions) on the band's debut album August and Everything After.

Origin of the name

The band took its name from a divination rhyme about the crow, heard by Duritz in the film Signs of Life. The rhyme is used at the end of the song "A Murder of One" on the album August and Everything After: "Well I dreamt I saw you walking up a hillside in the snow / Casting shadows on the winter sky as you stood there, counting crows / One for sorrow, two for joy / Three for girls and four for boys / Five for silver, six for gold / Seven for a secret never to be told." In the poem, the act of counting crows is particularly useless. Duritz reveals that a name is just a name, and, with that, is useless and can be anything. This recalls a traditional rhyme: "One crow means sorrow, two crows mean joy, three crows a wedding, four crows a boy, five crows mean silver, six crows mean gold, seven crows a secret that's never been told." In the United Kingdom, the rhyme is well known but uses magpies rather than crows. A popular superstition states that if one sees a single magpie, one should greet it to deflect the "sorrow".

Success with "Mr. Jones"

From the beginning, Counting Crows focused on performing live. The band's debut album August and Everything After, produced by T-Bone Burnett, was released in the autumn of 1993. The band toured extensively in 1993 and 1994, both as headliners and in support of artists such as Cracker, the Cranberries, Suede, Bob Dylan, Los Lobos, Jellyfish, and Midnight Oil. The first single, "Mr. Jones," refers to The Himalayans bassist (and Duritz's childhood friend) Marty Jones and Kenney Dale Johnson, the drummer of Silvertone (Chris Isaak's band), describing the desire of working musicians to make it big and the fantasies they entertain about what this might bring. In December 1993, MTV began playing the video for the song. It was an unexpected hit, drawing massive radio play and launching the band into stardom. August and Everything After became the fastest-selling album since Nirvana's Nevermind. In 1994 the band appeared on Saturday Night Live and Late Show with David Letterman, and toured with The Rolling Stones. The album sold 7 million copies, but success took a toll on the band; drummer Steve Bowman left, and Duritz suffered a widely-reported nervous breakdown, which was not his first.

Recovering the Satellites

The band played only two gigs in 1995. This allowed Duritz to write a set of songs that became the band's second album, Recovering the Satellites. Released October 15, 1996, it was heavier than August and Everything After, perhaps due to the addition of second guitarist Dan Vickrey, who had joined in early 1994. A response to the sudden fame that "Mr. Jones" had brought, it contains lyrics such as "These days I feel like I'm fading away / Like sometimes when I hear myself on the radio" (from "Have You Seen Me Lately?") and "Gonna get back to basics / Guess I'll start it up again" (from "Recovering the Satellites"). Dealing with the theme of Duritz's unease with his newfound fame, the album was described as "a concept album of sorts about trying to pick up the pieces of a family, a social life and a psyche shattered by fame."

In July 1997, after nine months of near-constant touring in support of the album, Duritz developed nodules on his vocal cords, leading to the cancellation of a number of gigs. After taking time off to recover, the band toured for the rest of 1997, concluding with a show at the Hammerstein Ballroom, New York. This concert was released as half of a double live album Across a Wire: Live in New York City. The other disc was a recording of an acoustic set from the band's appearance on VH1's Storytellers.

This Desert Life

In 1999, Counting Crows released This Desert Life, sales of which were propelled by the success of "Hanginaround" and "Colorblind" (which was heard in the movie Cruel Intentions). In support of the album, the band embarked on a co-headlining tour with alternative rock band Live; Counting Crows closed nearly every show. Frequently, Duritz joined the stage for Live's performance of "The Dolphin's Cry," and Live's Ed Kowalczyk sang a verse of "Hanginaround" with the Crows.

For the album and subsequent tour, the band invited session player and long-time friend David Immerglück to join the band full-time. Immerglück had played on August and Everything After and Recovering the Satellites, but other musical commitments had previously prevented him from joining the band full time. Immerglück plays a variety of instruments with the band, including acoustic, electric, and pedal steel guitars and mandolin, as well as contributing backing vocals.

Hard Candy

On July 9, 2002, the band released their fourth studio album, Hard Candy. The album included a cover of Joni Mitchell's song "Big Yellow Taxi." Vanessa Carlton contributed backing vocals to the single edit of the track, which appeared on the soundtrack for Two Weeks Notice and was re-released on future Hard Candy albums. The original version, without vocals by Carlton, appeared on the first album release as a hidden track.

Midway through the Hard Candy tour, drummer Ben Mize amicably left the band to spend more time with his family and pursue his own musical interests. After Mize completed the American leg of the tour, he was replaced by Jim Bogios, formerly a drummer with Ben Folds and Sheryl Crow.

In November 2003, Counting Crows released the greatest hits album, Films About Ghosts. (The title is taken from the lyrics of "Mrs. Potter's Lullaby," which appeared on This Desert Life.) The band also toured in 2003 with John Mayer, Maroon 5, and the Graham Colton Band.

In 2004, the band's "Accidentally in Love" appeared on the soundtrack of the hugely popular computer-animated film Shrek 2. The song was nominated and performed for an Academy Award, and later versions of the 2003 greatest hits album include the track, which was re-released in 2004.

Following the Hard Candy tour, longtime bassist Matt Malley left the band. He was replaced by Millard Powers, who played with Crows drummer Jim Bogios on Ben Folds' Rockin' The Suburbs tour.

New Amsterdam: Live at Heineken Music Hall

In June 2006, the band released New Amsterdam: Live at Heineken Music Hall, a live album assembled from performances on their 2003 tour in support of Hard Candy. Although it is composed mainly of performances of already released material, it also contains "Hazy" (co-written with tour support act Gemma Hayes) and various vendor-specific additional tracks, such as a cover of Jackson C. Frank's "Blues Run the Game".

Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings

Duritz hinted in a number of interviews that Counting Crows' next studio record would be released in late 2007. He indicated that the band recently had spent three weeks working in a recording studio with Gil Norton, the producer behind Recovering the Satellites. On September 27, 2007, Duritz announced on his blog that the band had asked its record label to postpone the album's release until early 2008, citing the time pressures involved in preparing both the new album and the August and Everything After deluxe edition for release.

Duritz revealed the working title of the album to be Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings, explaining, "Saturday night is when you sin and Sunday is when you regret. Sinning is often done very loudly, angrily, bitterly, violently." Vickrey has stated that "the idea at the moment is to have kind of a rocking side and then an acoustic-y, maybe country-ish side. We got the first half done in May in New York, so half of it is pretty strong and done. And now we're going to work on the second half, the country tunes, during the tour."

On July 22, 2007, at Daniel S. Frawley Stadium in Wilmington, Delaware, Duritz revealed that the band would release a deluxe version of August and Everything After in the fall. A new song was also previewed at the concert, titled "Washington Square"; an acoustic ballad that is the first track on the latter half ("Sunday Mornings") of the new record. Also played was "Cowboys," a track from the first half ("Saturday Nights") of the new album. "Insignificant" was stated by Adam to be the second track on the "Saturday Nights" portion of the album.

On August 8, 2007, VH1 filmed a live performance of "Mr. Jones". Clips of that performance were shown on the VH1 miniseries 100 Greatest Songs of the 90s. VH1 ranked "Mr. Jones" at 27 on the list.

Other song titles for the new record include "Come Around", "Hanging Tree", "Anyone But You," "You Can't Count On Me," "1492," and "When I Dream of Michelangelo."

On September 18, 2007, Counting Crows played a show at Town Hall in New York City, during which they played August and Everything After from beginning to end. They also played several songs from Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings. This show was recorded for an upcoming DVD release.

The band announced on December 21, 2007 that the album was to be released in the U.S. on March 25, 2008.

On January 16, 2008, the band released a digital single on their official website as a free download. It features "1492" from the "Saturday Nights" half of the disc and "When I Dream Of Michelangelo" from the "Sunday Mornings" half as its B-side.

The lead single "You Can't Count on Me", a track from the "Sunday Mornings" half of the record, was released on February 5, 2008.

The band's former bassist, Matt Malley, played the bass guitar on the track "Sundays". Former drummer Ben Mize played drums on the tracks "Los Angeles" and "Sundays".

Live from SoHo

Live from SoHo was recorded on March 27, 2008 at an in-store performance in the SoHo Apple Store in New York City. The album was an iTunes exclusive.

Live performances

Counting Crows, and Adam Duritz in particular, have become renowned for the energetic, passionate nature of their live performances. Duritz frequently extends and rewrites songs live, adding extra verses or alternate middle sections and/or endings, sometimes fitting most of another of the band's songs into the middle of the first. He often uses other artists' lyrics in these sections as well, ranging from well-known acts, such as Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison and George Gershwin, to obscure Bay Area bands, including revisiting material from his days working with Sordid Humor.

Most songs have been altered at some point during the band's history; the ones most often subjected to this treatment include "Round Here", "Goodnight Elisabeth", "Rain King", and "A Murder of One". Examples of this can be heard on the MTV Live at the 10 Spot disc from Across a Wire: Live in New York City (on which "Round Here" contains lyrics from "Have You Seen Me Lately?") and the VH1 Storytellers disc ("Anna Begins" has an extended mid-section with new lyrics, and the introduction to "Mr. Jones" includes lyrics from "Miller's Angels" and from The Byrds' "So You Wanna Be A Rock & Roll Star"). Fansites have attempted to keep records of these alternate lyrics, or "alts".

The band has covered artists such as Rod Stewart, Fairport Convention, Pure Prairie League, The Rolling Stones, Jackson C. Frank, Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, Grateful Dead, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen, U2, and Oasis. The band has also become known for its acoustic performances, most notably recorded on the VH1 Storytellers disc from Across a Wire: Live in New York City. The band reportedly decided that it would not play any songs at the Storytellers concert for which it did not have substantially different acoustic arrangements. It has since performed variations on these acoustic arrangements at a number of concerts, often opening with a few acoustic numbers before launching into an electric set.

On August 1, 2008 the band launched a new web site offering band-approved, soundboard-quality recordings of its concerts.

The band actively encourages the recording of its concerts and the distribution of the resulting bootleg recordings. The band hosts a trading network on its website to enable fans to swap concert recordings. Sale of fan recordings for profit is prohibited; fans must either trade bootlegs for other bootlegs or pay for blank media, postage, and packaging.

The band have announced that they will open for The Police on the June 24, 2008 concert in Belgrade, Serbia.

Band members

Current members

Former members

Discography

Other appearances

References

External links

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