I like to think Soul Coughing is a band I discovered all on my own. That I wasn’t turned on to them by a friend or because they were influenced by or influenced some other band I loved. This, of course, is a total lie. I remember exactly how and why I discovered Soul Coughing and it wasn’t on my own.
No, I discovered was in a drunken haze inside a bar called The Grand Illusion in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. As a GI regular, I grew pretty familiar with the bartenders’ musical proclivities and they’d often acquiesce to my drunken moans of “put Sugar in.” It was the fall of 1994 and their “File Under: Easy Listening” had just come out.
One night as I whined loudly to put Sugar in, Todd one of The GI’s bartenders gave me that dead-eye, I’m done with your bullshit look and said, “Enough with Sugar. All you ever want to hear is Sugar, just listen to this it’s amazing.”
So I tripped back to the booth clutching a bloody mary and some popcorn with lemon pepper and tried to listen to the music. At one point I turned to my friend Chuck and said, “is this guy counting?” He nodded his head at me. “Well that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”
The song was, of course, “Casiotone Nation” and I fell hard. Really hard. Within a few weeks my “put Sugar in” pleas changed to “put in the counting song.” I’d ask Todd every weekend what the name of the band was and every weekend I’d forget.
Eventually it stuck. I got “Ruby Vroom” for Christmas that year and my nearly a decade long love affair with Soul Coughing and lead singer Mike Doughty began. In fact, Mr. Doughty holds the record for musical artist I’ve seen the most times. Even more than St. Paul Westerberg. Surprising isn’t it?
I’m pretty sure “Ruby Vroom” is one of my top three all-time favorite albums. It is an amazing album musically and lyrically — that big stand up bass, Doughty’s pronunciations, all the strange static and whack-a-doo noises, it’s all magnificent. There isn’t a single thing about this album that comes remotely near to sucking.
But even more than music, “Ruby Vroom” represents a huge, huge turning point in my life. Soul Coughing was the band that first introduced me to online communities, and the first people I met from the internet were from the old newsgroup alt.music.soulcoughing. This was back in the 90s people, when meeting someone from the internet seemed fraught with danger and the ultimate in nerdiness. But to a lonely, fresh from college, living at home twentysomething that newsgroup was the best thing to ever happen to me. It was alt.music.soulcoughing where I discovered my voice as a writer and learned how the things I wrote could connect with people I’d never even met.
In fact, if it weren’t for Soul Coughing and that newsgroup, I Will Dare as we know it might never have existed. It was a man from alt.music.soulcoughing who first told me to check out Blogger because it seemed like something I’d dig. And when I brainstomed 482,283 stupid domain names, he’s the one who said, “yes, that’s the one” when I finally came up with iwilldare.com.
Verdict: In the cannon. Obviously.