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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Everything You Hoped It'd Be

If it’s the final Friday of the month, then it’s the eighth installment of the special Top 10 Songs of All-Time edition of Flashback Friday at Faith and Fear in Flushing.

Toward the end of the 1995 season, I found myself unusually enchanted by the Mets. It could have been their smiles, their personalities, their promise.

Or it could have been that they were winning regularly for the first time in a Koonce age.

Nothing succeeds like success, and if the Mets were down so long that they could hardly see .500 for half-a-decade, their late-year surge to the cusp of respectability — 34-18 to finish 69-75 and tied for second — was exhilarating. For all the sincere lip service we pay sticking with our team when it is aching with one nameless need after another, we really like winning sometimes. It may not be noble, but it sure feels good.

There’s nothing wrong with liking something because it’s good. When I get right down to figuring out why I’m so enamored of what I’ve deemed the No. 3 Song of All-Time, that’s the best answer I can divine.

Why do I love “Roll To Me” by Del Amitri? Because it’s a great song.

That kind of conclusion will get you a D on a seventh-grade book report. “I liked ‘Treasure Island’ because it was good. It was good because I liked it.” (I only skimmed “Treasure Island,” actually, and was lucky if I pulled a D.) But I gotta tell ya, after seven months of digging up happy little nuggets of memory to explain why I fell for widely dismissed and/or forgotten hits by artists to whom not too many cling fiercely, it gives me pleasure and relief to tell you I love a song because it deserves to be loved.

It would be fitting if I ended the Flashback right there. Del Amitri would. Del Amitri doesn’t need a lot of time to achieve greatness. Del Amitri’s best-known song ran all of two minutes and twelve seconds. That’s 2:12 on the label. That’s 132 seconds in heaven. You can’t read a boxscore in 132 seconds. But you can hear “Roll To Me,” be taken aback by its beauty and brilliance and then use some of your leftover seconds to cue it up again. And again. And again.

That was me in the late summer and fall of 1995. I had to hear “Roll To Me” repeatedly. It got pretty decent airplay for a group with no particular stateside following, at least none of which I was aware save for Daily News music critic Jim Farber (who should get a commission for all the CDs he’s sold me for twenty years). Hell, first time I went into the Great Neck Sam Goody to find Del Amitri’s album, I couldn’t find it. I looked under male vocalists. Del Amitri was a guy, right? You know, like Del Unser.

No, Del Amitri was a group, a band from Scotland. Best thing ever from Scotland. Sorry Bay City Rollers, you got served.

It would violate the spirit of “Roll To Me” to dwell too long on it. Two minutes and twelve seconds of song means it better get right to the point. And it does.

Look around your world pretty baby

Is it everything you hoped it’d be?

The wrong guy, the wrong situation

 

The right time to roll to me

Boom! No screwin’ around by songwriter, vocalist and bassist Justin Currie. Hard time, love? I’m here. Talk about direct.

Look into your heart pretty baby,

Is it aching with some nameless need?

Is there something wrong and you can’t put your finger on it?

 

Right then, roll to me

Y’know what I love about these lyrics? They are so adult. Drew Barrymore wishes somebody would write dialogue like this for her, never mind music and lyrics. “Aching with some nameless need” is so simple, yet so grown up. Not sappy, not assclown Michael Bolton boring and sterile. Just to the point.

This is not a song. This is half a phone call.

And I don’t think I have ever seen a soul so in despair

So if you want to talk the night through

 

Guess who will be there

Praise Be to the gods of internal rhyme! “If YOU want TO talk the night THROUGH guess WHO”…I swear I’m in love with this pattern of speech. I do believe there are MCs who would envy that verbal beat.

So don’t try to deny it pretty baby,

You’ve been down so long you can hardly see

When the engine’s stalled and it won’t stop raining

 

It’s the right time to roll to me

For a song that got pretty hefty CHR and AC spinnage in the fall of ’95, peaking at No. 10 in Billboard early November, I don’t remember seeing the video all that much on MTV or VH1 (though I kind of recall Beavis & Butt-Head making fun of the band members in being rolled around town in a stroller like ugly babies or something). “Roll To Me” is a throwback to songs that required no video. “The engine’s stalled and it won’t stop raining”…can’t you just see that in your mind? Can’t you feel Del Amitri’s object of consolation herself frustrated? The car not starting, the rain pouring down? Isn’t that what songs should do at their very best, provide you the imagery on your own?

So Look around your world pretty baby

Is it everything you hoped it’d be?

The wrong guy, the wrong situation

The right time to roll to me

The right time to roll to me

 

The right time to roll to me

There. It’s over. That’s all you need, pretty baby.

My man Farber asked a simple question in the late ’90s when the band released its greatest hits collection:

Why isn’t Del Amitri the biggest band in the world? It may well be the best. Main songwriter Justin Currie erects verses and choruses of terrific beauty, linked by the sturdiest bridges this side of the George Washington. His band elaborates those tunes with pert guitar leads, hard drum flourishes and smart bass intrusions, finding hooks in every clang of a cowbell or strum of a six string.

Exactly.

I don’t know enough about music to identify those instruments on command, but yes, I can hear them. There’s the slightest hint of Latin flavor to “Roll To Me,” pretty good for a Scottish trio. But it’s not gimmicky. It’s timeless is what it is. “Roll To Me” is my favorite song of the 1990s, but it could have been released in any decade in which I’ve been alive and it would have fit like a glove.

I gave “Roll To Me” its No. 3 All-Time ranking in 1997, less than two years after getting hooked on it. When I showed my original Top 100 list to a mildly interested friend, she was surprised that such a recent pick would land so high. She suggested I’d look back in a few years and regret the placement. I’m happy to report my initial instinct has held out. I’ve listened to “Roll To Me” a lot lately to prepare for this writeup and I love it every bit as much now as I did in 1995. Maybe I love it more because unlike the other, older songs in the Top 10, I have fewer instant associations of “this is what I was doing” when it came out. My feel for the pop scene, or at least the pop charts, was fraying by the time I was 32, but it was the right time for “Roll To Me,” a song that doesn’t require me to lean even a little on period context to enjoy it.

Del Amitri has never had anything else succeed on the level of “Roll To Me” in the United States, though as Jim Farber suggested, they have provided lots of worthy contenders. One track in particular that I picked up off The Best Of Del Amitri: Hatful Of Rain was “Kiss This Thing Goodbye.” I put it on a compilation tape in 1999 and happened by chance to be listening to it on my Walkman on the LIRR returning from Game Three of the NLCS. The Mets had gone down 0-3 to the Braves and the song’s sentiment felt most apropos (though the lip I was getting from some drunk that my black Mets cap proved I wasn’t really a Mets fan kind of broke the mood).

When I posted my Top 500 last December, I expected some blowback and was actually kind of amused at the good-natured derision some readers expressed at my choices. That was fine, I was prepared for it. But when somebody actually left this comment…

I am a fan of your blog but your taste in music sucks. Sorry. Del Amitri?

…I was blown away. You mean somebody dislikes Del Amitri? Somebody dislikes Del Amitri enough to use them — not Vanilla Ice, not C.W. McCall, not Vicki Lawrence — as surefire evidence that my taste in music sucks?

Sorry pal. Del Amitri is proof that my taste in music is, once in a great while, exquisite.

The No. 4 Song of All-Time was heard at the end of July. The No. 2 record will be played at the end of September.

Next Friday: Grand. Simply grand.

8 comments to Everything You Hoped It’d Be

  • Anonymous

    Good song. Best of the Top 10 so far!
    I had a friend who had a band who after years and years of local rocking and rolling finally got a real record contract with A&M Records. Their 10 minutes of fame came while touring with Del Amitri while this song was hot.
    You would have to be a particularly obsessive historian of 1990s alternorock to remember The Caulfields, who got whacked after 2 records. The only song you ever heard from them was called Devil's Dairy (“I'm bigger than Jeeee-sus now”). But they were good too — like Del Amitri they counted smartyfarty critics and other musicians as strongest fans.

  • Anonymous

    Greg and I don't have a lot of overlap musically — though we both do love the criminally underappreciated Rainmakers, and I'm determined to make him (and the rest of the western world) a fan of the mighty, even more criminally underappreciated Figgs.
    But darn it, “Roll to Me” is a perfect pop song by most any standard or philosophy.

  • Anonymous

    You're not going to believe this guys, but we just booked Del Amitri frontman Justin Currie for an interview about his solo disc right before I came to FAFIF to get my daily fix.
    What a small f-ing world.
    Oh, and I prefer “Kiss This Thing Goodbye.”

  • Anonymous

    I, for one, found your way-up ranking of this song to be a very cool surprise. The Dels have never gotten nearly enough love over here; I've always liked this song- wasn't it used as the theme song to one of those millions of Friends knockoff comedies in the late 90s?- but for a body-of-work quantity, the album immediately previous to this one, Change Everything, is as solid a collection as came out from anybody in the 1990s. “Always the Last to Know” got a little airplay, and some album-rock stations (remember them?) occasionally went a little deeper, but there's an edginess to even their love songs and some kick-ass musicianship throughout.
    You oughtta give it a listen sometime.

  • Anonymous

    As for #3 itself, there's one immensely cool thing about the track you didn't mention: it is one of the few songs since the 1960s that actually puts distinctly different tracks in the left and right channels. At least the original album version does: try fiddling with the balance control on your player and you'll hear two very different songs.

  • Anonymous

    Greg, you will no doubt to be thoroughly unsurprised to hear that I have never heard of that song.
    But the 1995 Mets… oh, them I remember. I'll never forget the message Shea left us with on the final day, as long as I live:
    “We'll be back, and we'll be better.”
    Beautiful.

  • Anonymous

    The No. 3 Song of All-Time is, by definition, better than every song ever recorded, save for two.

  • Anonymous

    You're right in noting that the song has aged well. This is sharp contrast to “Convoy,” which I occasionally hear now on XM and keep waiting for something (anything) to justify the high standing it enjoyed back in 1974.