My family moved across the country to the Seattle in the mid 1980s, shortly before I started high school. That allowed me to experience the rise of the burgeoning grunge scene, mostly through the constant stream of 7″ singles being put out by Sub Pop. We weren’t in the city, though, living instead in the suburbs on the other side of Lake Washington, so I hardly had a front-row seat to what was happening. Before the internet, even finding out about shows could be difficult, and I could hardly have convinced my parents to let me head downtown to run-down clubs on random nights to catch bands they’d never heard of. So I stuck mostly with AC/DC and Def Leppard concerts and my growing stack of Sub Pop records.
By time the movie Singles came out in 1992 I was attending the University of Washington… though still living on the other side of the lake, sharing a small apartment with Holly. Nirvana’s Nevermind had already blown the music scene wide open, and Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden jumped through the hole, and it seemed like everyone was talking about Seattle bands. The irony is that Singles actually finished filming in early 1991 – so the delay in its release made it look like the film was trying to capitalize on the popularity of the Seattle scene, when in fact it was actually ahead of the curve.
Opinions of tSingle in Seattle were mixed, at least among people my age. For some it was an eye-roller – a Gen X rom-com that centered around a music scene that was flat-out antagonistic towards the mainstream… one that found itself being in the odd situation of having just become the new mainstream. It’s the standard catch-22 of complaining that your scene doesn’t get enough respect, then flipping out when lots of people embrace it. Kurt Cobain talked about how weird it was to look out into the crowd at Nirvana shows and see a lot of people there who were exactly the kind of people he hated and railed against. Such is the price of popularity.
The Singles soundtrack is a kick-ass collection of songs, most of them from Seattle-area musicians (with the exceptions of Paul Westerberg, formerly of The Replacements, and The Smashing Pumpkins; Westerberg was punk, so I get it… but I have no idea what the Pumpkins are doing on it). Many of them also appear in the movie, both performing and in cameos. But there was one song conspicuous in its absence – “Touch Me I’m Dick,” by Citizen Dick, the fictional band (comprised of actual members of Pearl Jam) fronted by one of the film’s main characters and portrayed by Matt Dillon. How could that song, which is a play on Mudhoney’s punk anthem “Touch Me I’m Sick,” not have made the cut?
Well, I still don’t have an answer to that. But it was finally released as a RSD limited edition single earlier this year. And despite my best efforts, I was unable to get my hands on a copy (I suspect Seattle was the prime market for this one). I figured eventually I’d pony up and buy one on eBay. At least that was the plan until I went to Easy Street Records today and saw a bunch of copies of it, because it was just re-released on red vinyl. So I picked myself up a copy. And it’s amazing. Over-the-top with it’s references to “little Elvis” and double-entrenres (“I won’t come…”), it’s definitely a pretty funny piss-taker on the Mudhoney original. And you know, given how ridiculous and quasi-perverse it is, maybe now I understand why they left it off the soundtrack.
Like it’s RSD cousin, this version of “Touch Me I’m Dick” is single sided, with the B side given over to an etching of a quote from the movie by Matt Damon’s dense character Cliff Poncier in which he tries to explain (unsuccessfully) what the song is about. It also includes a show sticker for Citizen Dick and two other bands, most notably Mookie Blaylock, which was the original name of Pearl Jam.
A nice piece of nostalgia and good for a laugh or two.