Hey now, you’re an all star
Get your game on, go, play
Hey now, you’re a rock star
Get the show on, get paid
And all that glitters is gold
Only shooting stars break the mould
When I was 17 (a busy year for me by all accounts) I was given my first, and so far one of my only, chances to play one song alongside a band which, despite being composed entirely of GCSE Music students at my school, was beginning to develop something of a following. I’d learned the violin part by heart – to a degree that I was fairly confident I could play it backwards. Through circumstances I don’t want to go into here – although Obsession might tell you – I didn’t end up playing. I went home at the interval, had a drink and a snack, and only then did I realise that I could have:
b) played my part
c) actually motherfucking done the motherfucking thing I’d motherfucking gone to motherfucking do
I’d also had several people there tell me I was pretty, so I might have pulled too. I mean, if I was going to be a rock star…
The following week was fairly awful, and the fact that nobody was taking how I felt seriously didn’t help either. In my intense gloom, one of the very few things that gave me a bit of a lift was All Star. I was doubting then – and this is a doubt that I still feel practically every day – that I was exhibiting (or do so now) any particular amount of talent. I was a pretender who had convinced himself otherwise, whereas in reality I was a talent-free jobsworth who didn’t deserve nice things. All Star told me otherwise. I was a star.
Smash Mouth knew it, so I did too.
One might assume that that was the end of it, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. For the year or so preceding that event, I had become a Smash Mouth fan. The reality of being a moody, depressed teenager was slightly mollified by the fact that I had a fairly decent repository of Californian surf rock I bought on a whim from HMV.
All Star was just the tip of the iceberg. By the time their fourth album Get the Picture? came along, I was a diehard aficionado. I knew all the words to all the songs, I would play them at maximum volume when nobody else was around, and even though they wouldn’t quite beat James to my number one spot, for a long time my John, Paul, George and Ringo were Harwell, Camp, DeLisle and Urbano.
They even played a rôle in my relationships. I got the girl I had a crush on into them and we geeked out on our shared love of US punk. My first girlfriend also became a bit of a fan, and we went on a date to buy Get the Picture? together. I even had sex to them a couple of times, although mostly by accident.
For more than half of my life now, when I need them, Smash Mouth have been there for me. Whereas there are a myriad of artists and genres that I will flick through at random, listening to Smash Mouth is like a hug from a kindly uncle: comforting, warm and familiar.
Steve Harwell is a legend
Although he left the band a few years before his death, and his tenure with them in the year preceding that was a difficult one for all involved, Smash Mouth would never have worked without Steve. His unique, characteristic raspy voice may not have gelled with any other band, but with Smash Mouth it just fitted like a glove. Whether it was a song about the Italian mafia, being stuck in a traffic jam or smoking too much marijuana (all actual songs), Steve’s voice just worked. The songs were written with his voice in mind and it was clear, from first listen, that they were.
It’s one of my biggest regrets that I never, even though I was fully intending to at the time, wrote to Steve, telling him how much his music meant to me and reminding him that they had yet to do a UK tour (and they still haven’t, and probably never will). As recently as half an hour ago I realised how much storage space on my iPod is taken up by songs with Steve Harwell.
Or just how many of his songs the band I’m in (in my fantasies; it’s not a real band) play on a regular basis.
Or that the fictional girl who asked me out kept wanting to see him naked.
Steve Harwell is very special to me and he always will be. His death is a sad day for rock and a gut-punch to anyone who, like me, grew up with his band. I will miss him every day for the rest of my life.
Thank you, Steve.