Counting Crows' number has come up on the pop charts

January 28, 1994|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

As Adam Duritz tells it, Counting Crows never wanted overnight success. This may seem strange, considering how well the band is doing at the moment. After all, the Crows' debut album, "August and Everything After," is comfortably ensconced the Top 20 of the Billboard album chart, and the band is enjoying Top-40 success with its current single, "Mr. Jones." Not bad for a band that, as little as a year ago, was largely unknown outside its California home base.

"I wanted this for a long time," Duritz admits, over the phone from a tour stop in Washington, D.C. "But it's very easy for it to get out of hand, for [success] to be handled poorly.

"Record companies just want to make a lot of money. I don't want to fault them for that; they're not there to do anything else, really. But I was dead sure if we left our career in the hands of those people that it would be quite a different matter entirely."

So rather than go for the big push and the killer ad campaign, Duritz says, his band "really fought for them to soft-pedal it. You know -- just release it, with no singles initially, and to let us tour. We had a big fight on our hands to get that through. But to their credit, the higher-ups who make those decisions kept their word."

One of the reasons Counting Crows wanted to avoid getting caught in the star-making machinery is that Top-40 acts tend to be thought of strictly in terms of their hits. That's fine when a band is burning up the charts, but it's no guarantee of long-term loyalty.

"You don't have a base of people who will buy your records just for making good records. You have to have a hit again," Duritz says. "I figure if we tour and tour and let people see up close what our music's all about, then those people will be there forever -- because they saw Counting Crows in a little room, and they understood clearly what we were coming from."

So that's what the band did, starting small and letting the buzz build slowly. At this point, the band has been on the road since August, touring with the Cranberries and then Cracker before beginning its current club tour. As such, success has pretty much taken the band by surprise.

"It's hard for me to assimilate that this has all happened to us," Duritz says. "I've been on the road, so all I've been doing is playing gigs every night. When I got home, it never occurred to me to unlist my number. All of a sudden I'm getting two or three phone calls a day from people, and I have no idea who they are. Nice people, really; they just want to talk about my songs. But it was a little scary. I had to unlist it."

Still, that's easier for Duritz to deal with than the Van Morrison comparisons that have sprung up in reaction to "Mr. Jones."

"It's very upsetting for me in some ways," he says. "Don't get me wrong, I love Van, I think he's a genius. I've got most of the Van records, but I've got 3,000 albums at home, so I've got most of everybody's records. I probably grew up with more Earth, Wind & Fire or the Ohio Players than I did with Van.

"I can see where I've learned a lot from Van," he adds. "But for me, influences are more about the attitude you take toward your music than actually copping riffs. I'll tell you what I learned from Van -- that when you go up on stage, you let your heart take you where you go.

"There's nothing you can do wrong as long as you're on the soul of [a song], you know what I mean? If you keep on that, you can't go wrong. That's the philosophy of it for us. Just keep your heart in it all night long, and it'll automatically be there."

Counting Crows

When: Saturday, Jan. 29, 8 p.m.

Where: Hammerjacks Concert Hall

Tickets: $5 in advance

Call: (410) 659-7625 for information, (410) 481-7328 for tickets

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