Music Article

FEAR OF FLYING

COUNTING CROWS' SURPRISE SUCCESS

It wasn't exactly a Freudian slip, but it sure was revealing. During a recent Saturday Night Live performance of Counting Crows' hit single, ''Mr. Jones,'' singer Adam Duritz changed the lyrics from ''I want to be Bob Dylan...and be a big, big star'' to ''I want to be Alex Chilton and be in Big Star.'' Not that Duritz actually yearns for the cult status of Big Star, the band led by pop- punk godfather Chilton in the early '70s. It's just that he's somewhat ''freaked'' that the Crows' debut album, August and Everything After, suddenly reached No. 13 on the charts. ''That scared the s -- - out of me,'' he admits. ''That's like Mariah Carey. That's for huge people.'' Although they have yet to reach Carey's quintuple-platinum status, this Bay Area quintet is following the flight pattern of such bands as Pearl Jam and Blind Melon. Like those other groups, the Crows are neo-hippies who draw heavily from '60s and '70s music. How does Duritz respond to critics calling the band derivative? ''I get the Van Morrison crap,'' says the 29-year-old singer. ''I don't know that we're groundbreaking, but I don't see us as being derivative. Maybe referential-my songs may have roots in other things, but they sound like me.'' That sound can only be described as melancholy, as in Duritz's explanation for the lost souls and lonely lovers that populate his songs: ''They just keep tripping over each other and hurting each other. But because they want so much more and see life as so full of possibilities, they fall a lot further.'' And therein lies the problem-the reason life, for Duritz, looks no brighter from the top of the pops. ''If everything falls apart you have the rest of your life to regret your failure,'' he says, sounding preternaturally world-weary. ''And if everything doesn't fall apart you have the rest of your life to live with your fame. Either one requires a serious adjustment.''

Originally posted Feb 18, 1994 Published in issue #210-211 Feb 18, 1994 Order article reprints