The year was 1992. George H. W. Bush was the president. Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Metallica, Def Leppard, and Bon Jovi were some of the biggest bands in the world. Wayne’s World was cracking teenagers up and Home Improvement was making their parents chortle.
I had just graduated from high school in the little town of Lake Butler, Florida, had cut off my mullet a few months before, and was steeped in hair metal and southern rock—not to mention all the bands mentioned above. I had recently discovered Marc Cohn’s songwriting, and it would be another year or so before I happened upon Rich Mullins, but at the time my guilty pleasures were still bands like Slaughter and Steelheart and Stryper. Then one night while watching The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, I saw this:
“Wait—is that a mandolin?” I thought. “And is he barefoot? And is he not trying to sing as high as possible? And none of those dudes have long hair. What could it mean?” Mixed in with all those thoughts was the dim awareness that “Walk On the Ocean” was a good, good song. It was evocative and utterly unique in my experience. Not only that, it told a story (“half an hour later, we packed up our things”). But the band was called Toad the Wet Sprocket. I would have assumed this music would be super-weird and/or eclectic, a la They Might Be Giants, but this—this was different. The internet wasn’t around yet so I had no way of learning that the guys had jokingly named the band in high school after a Monty Python sketch. (The name stuck and the Brits let them keep it.)
Not long after this video aired, I bought the tape—the tape, mind you—of an album called Fear and listened to it for the next several months straight while the band I was in drove around the country. I loved the music, which was a mashup of folk and rock and pop, the melodies and chord progressions somehow seeming both simpler and more complex at once. But the lyrics, rather than being brainless and banal like so much of what I listened to, were lyrical and mysterious, flavored with enough of a narrative to keep me engaged. Here’s an example,
Bradley says it’s haunted
The house up on the hill
And if we met at 4 A.M. then we would know for sure
We carried the ladders
And leaned them against it
And climbed them as we looked
Someone kicked the ladder
Bradley took a spill
Said his leg was broken
So we dragged him down the hill
Through the door
What do I see?
Something is happening
Is it for me?
Not only was there real songwriting happening here, the sounds were organic and warm—neither the slick pop-metal of Def Leppard nor the gritty grunge of Nirvana. The metal bands that I gravitated to in high school seemed mainly to be about the coolest riffs, playing the shreddiest solos, finding the highest screamers, every song striving for some climactic awesomeness that makes you want to mosh. On the other end of the spectrum were the emerging Pearl Jams and Nirvanas, great bands in their own right, whose music seemed to be chiefly expressing raw (and typically less than cheery) emotion, giving voice to the angst of high schoolers all over America. The songs represented a new generation’s personal zeitgeist, riding the wave of the shifting cultural tide so that in the end the song itself was secondary the Great Social Statement being made, whether explicitly or in the greater context of the band’s cultural influence.
But then came Toad with their B-3s and accordions and mandolins, their short hair and poetry, their baritones and songcraft and utter lack of pretentiousness (indicated by an utter lack of eyeliner). It’s surprising now to think about how odd it was to see a band in the nineties actually being themselves. Now that I think about it, other than the simple joy of discovering a pleasing batch of songs and sounds, I was intrigued by the fact that Toad was less about self-expression (grunge) or musical indulgence (hair metal) and more about (dare I say it?) beauty. They seemed to want to write good songs, to come up with great parts to embellish those songs, to make something excellent rather than something cool-right-now. Of course, my 40-year-old self has the advantage of perspective and reflection. I never would have articulated it this way then. All I knew was that, the moment I first heard Toad, I had suddenly outgrown whatever music I was into before.
I would love to give you a play-by-play of the album Fear (1991), but I won’t. It features the song “All I Want,” which is perhaps their most recognizable song (along with to “Walk On the Ocean”). I sat around with my roommates in college playing these songs over and over, sometimes on the street corners of downtown Orlando. Fear also features “Hold Her Down,” the subject matter and language of which is as dark as the title implies. Toad has worked to support a local rape crisis center in their hometown, and Glen had this to say about the song in an interview:
It’s uncomfortable to have the song released as a single at all…it has the potential danger to be taken at face value because of its somewhat graphic nature. It’s not a pleasant song. It’s angry and ugly, but sexual assault can’t be portrayed as anything but ugly. It is, however, a very personal piece, and not a contrivance. It should be a disturbing song, but it’s not without hope.
The album as a whole, however, even though it’s titled Fear, doesn’t strike me as dark, maybe because it ends with such a joyful, epic song. “I Will Not Take These Things for Granted” is one of my all-time favorites by anyone, ever. Picture this: I’m a freshman in college in 1993. My girlfriend Jamie and I are at her parents’ house. I think she’s beautiful and I’m afraid to date her because I know it will lead to marriage. She knows I play guitar and that I sing when I’m alone, so she asks me to play her a song. I demur, telling her that I never sing in front of people. She insists. I agree to play her something on one condition: she can’t look at me. She has to face the other way. I took a deep, trembling breath, and sang “I Will Not Take These Things for Granted.”
One part of me just wants to tell you everything
One part just needs the quiet
But if I’m lonely here, I’m lonely here
And on the telephone
You offer reassurance
I will not take these things for granted
I will not take these things
How can I hold the part of me that only you can carry
It needs a strength I haven’t found
But if it’s frightening, I’ll bear the cold
And on the telephone, you offer warm asylum
I’m listening: music in the bedroom
Laughter in the hall, dive into the ocean
Singing by the fire, running through the forest
Standing in the wind, rolling canyons
I will not take these things for granted
The next day I discovered a note from Jamie in my college mailbox. It had a smiley face and the words, “Awesome singing!” I still have it somewhere. I had no idea how true those Toad lyrics would ring twenty years later when I’m traveling the country with my guitar, calling home to speak to the woman who knows me best and offers me reassurance and warm asylum—whose love is a constant reminder to never take for granted things like “singing by the fire,” and “running through the forest,” and “rolling canyons.”
In 1994, Toad released their fourth album, Dulcinea. You literary folks will remember the name Dulcinea as Don Quixote’s true love, which is part of what makes the song “Windmills” so awesome. “I’ve spent too much time raiding windmills,” it begins, and Randy Guss’s drums drive us the rest of the way home. (Here’s a live clip of Glen Phillips and the great Chris Thile performing it.) As good as Fear was, Dulcinea surpassed it. Song after song after song—hits like “Something’s Always Wrong” and “Crowing” stand out, but I’m pretty sure every single song on this album is a non-skipper, starting with the rousing opener, “Fly From Heaven,” which seems to be about the Apostle Paul, though I’m not certain.
It was also around this time that I first heard Jars of Clay and thought, “I bet these guys are Toad fans.” (Turns out, they are.) Already Toad’s influence on music was coming to bear, and it would continue to do so—especially when it came to the electric guitar parts, thanks to Todd Nichols. My buddy Andrew Osenga, one of my favorite electric players, has played on almost every record I’ve made, and every single time we’ve been in the studio together I’ve said at some point, “Hey, Osenga, I was kind of hearing a Toad type guitar part on this one,” and Andy, bless his heart, knows exactly what I mean. (You can hear it on “You Came So Close” and “The Havens Grey” and “So Long, Moses,” for example.) At some point in the early 2000’s I remember hearing a producer mutter, “Everybody wants that ‘Toad’ guitar thing right now,” just like how a few years ago everybody was shooting for a “‘Coldplay’ sort of thing” on the drums.
In 1997 they released Coil, which was as good as anything they ever did. It was grittier in places, but in the best way. The band seemed to grow and grow with every release, and then I got the news that Toad was breaking up. Truly I say unto you, it was a sad day. I even called a few buddies to share the news. I only have a few artists that I go bonkers over: three of them are Rich Mullins (who died in 1998), Marc Cohn (who releases approximately one album per orbit of Halley’s Comet), and Toad the Wet Sprocket who were now calling it quits!
But WAIT. Glen, the lead singer, wasn’t finished. Turns out he released a few solo albums. Then I found out from Sean Watkins (of Nickel Creek) that Glen and Nickel Creek recorded an album together called Mutual Admiration Society. (Sean gave me an unreleased copy of it when he and Sara Watkins played the Christmas show back in 2002.) Then I heard that the other guys formed a band called Lapdog. Toad may have officially died, but the ghost still haunted the premises. Several years back my friend Justin McRoberts called to tell me that Toad had reunited for a concert with Counting Crows in California, and I seriously considered cashing in some frequent flyer points to see it.
My last little anecdote about Toad. About twelve years ago Glen Phillips played at a little Nashville club called 3rd and Lindsley, and I slunk around after the concert to give him a CD of my yet-unreleased album Clear to Venus. As it usually goes in situations like that, I made a dork of myself and I sincerely hope that he’s forgotten all about it. But I did have the bizarre experience of thanking the guy who wrote “I Will Not Take These Things for Granted,” because in a weird way that song not only paved the way to my marriage but got me into songwriting and provided the first of many opportunities for Jamie to be the ruthless encourager that she is. That’s something I will never take for granted.
Last year I toured with a great band called Colony House, and I told them one night on the bus, “You guys sound like Toad sometimes.” They looked at me blankly, and we figured out that some of those guys weren’t even born yet when I was driving around Lake Butler listening to Fear. These young guys are carrying around an influence without even realizing it! That, to me, is a testimony to the legacy of this band. So I suppose this little essay is me saying thank you to Glen, Randy, Dean, and Todd for the music you’ve put out for the last twenty years or so. Some of us never stopped listening, and for the small army of Toad fans out there, it’s easy to hear how your work has seasoned a new generation of artists—artists who weren’t even born yet when you were California kids recording Bread and Circus for $650.
In closing, I’ll say that last night I sat with Andrew Osenga, Pete, Matt Conner, Arthur Alligood, John and Janna Barber, and a few other Rabbit Room friends at the Ryman and listened to Toad the Wet Sprocket and Counting Crows. They played so many of my favorite songs, and it turns out some of those favorites are from a brand new Toad album called New Constellation—their first record in sixteen years. The new songs sound both new and old, and are just as good as (if not better than) the early ones, which is inspiring to a 40-year-old dude like me who’s supposed to be writing for a new record. The concert last night was the best kind of reminder to keep working, to keep growing, to remember that there’s no way to ever run out of things to write about. It’s also good to remember that you don’t have to reinvent yourself—rather, when it comes to music and art and good work, you can just be yourself.
Let time do the reinventing for you.
If you want to check out their music, I’d start with New Constellation, then go back and try Dulcinea.
Andrew Peterson is a singer-songwriter and author. Andrew has released more than ten records over the past twenty years, earning him a reputation for songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. As an author, Andrew’s books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga, released in collectible hardcover editions through Random House in 2020, and his creative memoir, Adorning the Dark, released in 2019 through B&H Publishing.
Dang, I had that Mutual Admiration Society album…..I don’t know what happened to it!
Great post, AP! Thanks for sharing your love for the music.
This was fun to read. I sat here and read this out loud to my 40 year old husband (who matches your first paragraph). Thanks for the links and the re-inspiration to listen to music well. We have been considering making the drive from Fort Worth to an OK casino for that show in August and I think we just might do it.
Kyle said he saw you at the show last night and I have to say we were not surprised! Your music most definitely has a “Toad” influence, part of the reason we like it so much! Their songs take me back to our dating years, listening to “All I Want” and dreaming of what might be. Sigh. Great music has a way of making us see/hear/smell/feel things all over again no matter how many years have passed! Love this post 🙂
Sarah Catherine Wheeler
Love the story about you singing to Jamie (only as long as she won’t look at you). I found Toad – or they found me? – in the mid 90’s, as a college girl who was handed a *tape* of Fear and put it on repeat during a solo road trip for more than 8 hours. It was a soul changing drive and that music continues to chase me around as a near-to-40 year old SAHmom of 3.5 kids. I loved reading your thoughts on their progression as a group of musicians. And now I have more Toad to go discover. Thanks, for the perspective & for all that you’re offering of your true self as well. I can’t wait to see what this next season of song-writing brings forth from you, Andrew. You have a gift as well, and I await the next installment as eagerly as I did W&WK.
Wow, this resonates on so many levels. “I Will Not Take These Things For Granted” was an anthem for my then-boyfriend, now-husband and me as we were freshmen in college almost 500 miles apart. (He had also just traded in his mullet for a 1990’s Harry Connick, Jr. look) To this day, that song just moves me to the deepest part of my soul! And after reading this post, I can identify that one of the things I love about your songwriting is what I loved about Toad. Grateful that the One who created song is still inspiring you to create, for Him and for fellow 40 year olds like me.
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Toad has been one of my favorites for years. Your take on their music and lyrics is spot on. Those guys are as good as they’ve ever been.
Loved this post! So many great songs. Glen’s solo record “Winter Pays for Summer” is right up there with the Toad catalog, both in its folk rock sound and consistent quality.
This is the first time I’ve ever felt wistful and sad about not experiencing the world of rock music in the 90’s and beyond.
Poor Pale, the only (non-compilation) album that didn’t get a mention. Perhaps because of their hairsytles of the era??
Not suprisingly I’ve never heard of them, but now I’ve got new (old) music to listen to. Thanks Andrew! And to hear that Andrew knows Nickel Creek too, that is awesome! I was so heartbroken when they broke up and couldn’t believe my eyes and ears when their fourth album released earlier this year. How is it all my favorite artists are tied somehow: Andrew with Sean, Sean with Jon Foreman, Jon with Sleeping At Last…what gives, not that I’m complaining. So when does the Andrew/Sean/Jon/Sleeping At Last album come out? We can call it something like Andrew Fiction and the Family Band or something.
FYI, I just checked on Amazon and New Constellation is part of Amazon’s new Prime Music, so whoever has Prime can listen for free.
This piece just drips beauty. Oddly enough, though I had a brush or two with Toad while in college (it’s a good year to be forty) I never heard any of their stuff aside from a radio single or two. This probably speaks to my musical maturity at the time.
Andrew, thank you for opening yet another window in the world so we can get a better view.
One of the many reasons why I’m thankful for The Rabbit Room is the way you have opened my ears and heart to new music. Some of it I end up getting hooked on, some of it I don’t, but I always love reading what you all write about it and grow as a result. There’s also the delightful fact that I’m discovering rich music that existed when I was in high school and college (I’m of your era, Andrew) which I completely ignored back then. Nothing like a few years for perspective!
Richard, most all of the CDs I bought in the 90s had guys with hair like that. And some of it has aged quite nicely. And some has not.
What an awesome recap of the past 20-ish years. I too have been a fan since day one and seen in excess of 30 shows between Toad/Glen solos. Last week I was able to see two Toad/Crows performances and as always it was shear bliss. How fortunate I feel to have stumbled over these four guys so long ago when a friend took me to the St. Pete State Theater to see a barefoot young man that I’d never heard of sing his heart out. Awesome.
In the 90s (and still today) I am was a big Dinosaur Jr/J Mascis fan. But his hair, his hair.
Loren, I completely agree. It has been really helpful to know some of square pegs favorite artists and thinkers such as Toad, Mullins, berry , etc
honestly, I didn’t always like rich Mullins music…but knowing that so many of my favorite artists loved his work, made me go back and try his music again and again until I’ve grown to love his work as well.
Berry’s work has been in some ways like a compass…… Pointing plain simple north (normal) in a foggy consumeristic wilderness.
I think don miller said it in one of his books, that it’s easier to come to love something watching someone else in love with that thing…. Miller said it better I think though.
I’ve not tried toad, but I’ll give it a shot
Wow. I can certainly relate with you, A.P. I grew up in Chiefland (not far from Lake Butler) and Toad has been my favorite band since college (I am 39). I became a Jars fan in college as well because I heard they got together largely because of their common love of Toad. New Constellation was certainly a much needed and long awaited album for this Toad fan.
Thanks, Andrew. Pretty much my favorite band ever, really fun to read this!
Here’s my “Ode to Toad”: http://www.jeffcagwin.com/2011/07/ode-to-toad.html
A friend of mine and I always say that, if we met you, we would certainly make an instant connection since it seems like we all had roughly the same childhood and teenage experiences. This post confirms the theory. 🙂
I am glad to find another Marc Cohn fan. I have been amazed to find that almost all my favorite musicians are Cohn fans. Just the other day, I told someone that your recent songwriting had surpassed Rich and my 2 other favorite songwriters, Marc Cohn and Sara Groves. Sorry if that puts the pressure on for the next album. 😀
I saw Toad the first and only time (so far) during their farewell/Coil tour in 1997 at 328 Performance Hall in Nashville. A show I’ll never forget, and I’m glad it really wasn’t their final farewell. Wish I could have made it to this one. Toad is and always will be one of my all time favorites.
That said, remember Andrew…
Had to throw that in 😉
The One True Stickman
This is awesome! I’d listened to a bunch of Toad a while ago after learning of their influence on Jars, but hadn’t really gotten into them at the time. It’s been a fun trip through Spotify this morning.
In addition to AP and Jars I’m hearing links (or at least similarities) to Burlap to Cashmere and Death Cab For Cutie, as well, all some of my favorite bands for both sound and songwriting.
Richard, you went over my head with that reference. Maybe it was a tad before my time, but I didn’t know Dinosaur Jr. But from the description I’ve read, it sounds like a big influence on a lot of the artists I liked in the 90s.
Thank you for a beautifully written article. My music experience has many similarities to your story starting with the “hair metal” and then evolving into listening to artists like Toad. You described about when Toad reunited with the Counting Crows in California and that was when I took the opportunity to get on that plane from Indiana to go see them. When I heard that news that they were back together and playing with another one of my favorite bands Counting Crows I got out the credit card and bought tickets to see them 2 of the 6 nights. Since then I have been lucky enough to see Toad multiple times, Glen solo multiple times and to see Glen and Nickel Creek together. I have also met the band a few times and they are just such nice guys that play incredible music.
Excellent. Have loved this band since day one. Will see them in August.
Love Toad’s music their music got me through a lot in the 90’s and still do today.
What a great tribute to one of my personal favorite bands! I first fell in love with them after hearing “All I Want” and began buying everything I could possible find from them.
I was heart broken when I heard they split but I too was relieved when I found out there would be a solo album from Glen and started following him on some fan chat room I found on line. I loved his solo work and was very excited when I heard there would be a new album from the rest of the band called Lapdog. I was happy but sad because I would never be able to see Toad in concert. Then it happened!! They reformed and started touring and one day I was taking my youngest son Zack to try out for American Idol in ST. Louis, Mo. and Toad just so happened to be in town. So I took my son, who was raised on Toad to the concert and then we got to meet them afterwards and I got to tell them THANK YOU! Thanks for the music, the lyrics in the music and for all of the memories created because of the music! I got my picture taken with them and I was very happy.
I find it awesome that this tribute is by a Christian artist with influences by Toad. I don’t always agree with the political views of Glen, but man do I love and really appreciate his music.
That was such an awesome concert last week!
This was a great read. I was exposed to Toad as a H.S. senior in 1991, via my then best friend, and he through the cool English teacher. I didn’t know what to think, but I guess it was a natural evolution from the slowly dying hair band and 80’s music era. And all these years later, I couldn’t imagine my life without their music hopping in and out of my life like a comfortable sweater.
I’ve seen them in concert many times, and even Glen during the Frazier Fair, and I have loved every minute of their shows. But the one that stuck out for me was during their run of reunion shows in the 2006. I saw them at the Appel Music and Arts Festival in Southern New Jersey. It was the first time in years that I saw them, obviously due to their break-up and long hiatus. Their set was wonderful of course, but directly after them was Duncan Sheik. I was standing in the back while Sheik played his obligatory “Barely Breathing”, and I noticed a short man wander up and start to watch too. I eventually peer over more closely and notice it was Glen. How inside I was as giddy as a schoolgirl, but I didn’t want to be that kind of fan, so after the song ended, I calmly thanked him for many years of good music. We made small talk for a few more minutes, and he quietly said goodbye and wandered off. I thought to myself, how cool it is to realize that one of your musical influences is a normal guy, and I was also happy to have met him and not be awkward.
I’m just so glad Toad exists and indeed has given us so much good music.
This puts into words what I haven’t been able to frame myself. Thank you so much for putting into words why TTWS is one of my favorite bands of all time.
Heres to Some More Toad!!! Absolutely stoked the guys are back and better than ever! I got to finally meet all four of them August 2013 as their latest release, New Constellation, was just coming out. I must confess I still went back to my old favorites from Bread & Circus, Pale, Fear, In Light Syrup and Coil. The songs and lyrics from Coil really captured that point in my life and within the past few weeks I really started to listen and identify with each song and lyric from their latest release. Kind of a good thing I left it alone until it really meant something. ” The Moment”, ‘Get what you Want” and “Enough” stand out particularly at present. Much respect to your views on spirituality Glen, you have profound gift of inspiration. These are musicians well skilled in their craft; you have many grateful fans who’ve supported you from the late 80’s to all your Reunion tours during the last decade to anticipated where you are here today in your journey at present. TTWS performed in Los Angeles a few years back with Matt Nathanson at the El Rey Theatre. After finishing one of the first songs of their set list Glen said ‘Thanks”, I responded loudly (much to my wife’s embarassment) “Thank You!”, to which he replied “You’re Welcome”. Very cool now the band is able to connect with their fan-base via social networking too. Looking forward to seeing TTWS peform live again soon as well as more excellent music from the guys!
Cool story. It’s amazing how close my introduction and subsequent love of TTWS matches yours! 1992 – graduated high school; growing tired of hair metal, unimpressed with grunge. Hanging out with a friend at his girlfriend’s house (ironically enough, her name is Nancy), not wanting to be a third wheel, I sit in a corner and investigate her cassette collection. Fear had an immediate impact on me. She let me borrow it, and eventually gave it to me when I wouldn’t shut up about it.
I remember learning to play every song on every album. I remember being blown away by Dulcinea, and repeatedly listening to Fly Away, thinking the same thing you did about Paul. I remember as a young, selfish and immature husband in ’97 listening to Come Down over and over until I decided to grow up and be better. I remember my devastation upon their break-up, the discovery of MAS (and subsequently, Nickel Creek), ordering Lap Dog by mail because the local store didn’t carry it. Hanging out at the club after a Glen solo show and helping to clean up while I asked all kinds of silly questions (he was very gracious).
I didn’t have the money to catch the recent show with Counting Crows, but I did get to see 3 concerts at smaller venues in the last couple of years, including Franklin Theatre. Each time I’ve hung around afterward to thank them and shake their hand, and they’re always game for conversation. The Franklin Theatre show happened to be on my birthday and one of the guys recognized me from the previous year and said “hey, isn’t it your birthday? Happy birthday!” I was stunned. Turns out they had been in Nashville the previous year on the same date (Cannery Ballroom) and I had mentioned that this was my birthday present when I was shaking their hands after the show. I didn’t even remember that, but he did!
Anyways, thanks for sharing. It’s fun to reminisce and to know there are other huge fans out there!
Great piece. It’s what brought me to The Rabbit Room, and I think this site is a keeper for me.
I Will Not Take These Things for Granted is our wedding song. And so much more. This is my favorite band, to this day.
This is superb, man. I love this band and you just said it how it is. Well done. Keep rockin’.
really great article, makes me love them more.
I was a little younger than that when “Walk On the Ocean” was on the radio. I wasn’t listening to anything in particular back then, but loved the radio and I loved Toad. But I just couldn’t listen to them. I love them now, yet still can’t listen to them. I can’t explain, really, why it’s just too much. It’s kind of sad and pinchy in my chest when I try. “Ordinary World” by Duran Duran also fits the bill as do a couple country tunes I remember being popular at the time. I remember the way it all sounded coming from the speakers of my alarm clock next to my bed. Maybe the saddest of all is that, by the time I was graduating high school, boy bands had taken over the air waves and everything has just kind of nose dived from there. I hate that I miss out on Toad. Maybe one day they won’t be too much for me to take in.
NEVER thought I’d see Steelheart and Slaughter mentioned on the RR. Ha. I was into all the same bands, and for all the same reasons. Class of ’92 here.
I tend to scour the net for articles about Toad, and this is one of the best fan-based essays I’ve seen. Heartfelt and personal, but also from a musician’s perspective. Very well said (incidentally, there is a podcast out there in which Glen explains that Fly From Heaven is definitely his rumination on Paul). Now I’m inspired; as a fellow fan, forgive me for taking a little time to share a couple of my recollections …
I was lucky enough (on a lot of levels) to be in Santa Barbara when Toad came into being. I took a couple of classes from Randy’s father, an English professor at UCSB. He seemed every inch the esoteric, elbow-patched professorial type, but he was also clearly the proud papa: he had a massive poster of the Fear cover art on his office door. Fear and then Dulcinea carried me through my first post-college years by giving me a connection back to the relative security of the college bubble while I started to find my way in the world. One of my most treasured possessions from those days is a binder of lyrics and guitar tabs of all of their albums I put together, something I opened and played from frequently.
I never managed to get to a concert back then, and was very bummed when they broke up after Coil. When they re-formed for a few shows in 2006, I jumped at the chance to see them live and was elated to finally be in the room with them and hear those songs live. I got in on the Kickstarter campaign to fund New Constellation last year and listened to the pre-release album constantly all through the summer.
I met my wife while we were still in college, so she has been on this Toad journey with me the whole way. She had brain surgery last summer just after New Constellation was released to Kickstarter supporters. Several of those songs got me through some pretty scary days. She had recovered enough by the time our anniversary rolled around in August that she insisted we catch Toad as they came through town. It was her first big post-surgical venture out of the house, and it could not have been more perfect (we even got a Twitter shout out from the band). I later dragged the whole family to a short set the band performed at Amoeba records in San Francisco a few months ago … standing a couple of feet from the stage, I felt like a little kid meeting his sports heroes. I endured my kids’ eye-rolling, but my hope is that they will someday be similarly moved by an artist and enfolded within a community of fans they way I have been by TTWS.
Fear was the album that found me. It tied me up and bound me. An eighth grader, wild in her ways, was given a lyrical landscape of truth in which to soar. I’d never heard anything like it before.
When my best friend, for an English assignment, chose to analyze “Stairway To Heaven” I had, at the time, been nothing less than profoundly reduced to tears by “I Will Not Take These Things For Granted” and chose to analyze it, not regarding its seemingly obvious interpretations as a reflection of my inability to find meaning in more complex lyrics. I came, because of the listening I think, to care not for what I would be thought of for choosing it. I had been altered by its profound simplicity in praise of a moment. I wanted to be “singing by the fire”, and I could feel myself “dive into the ocean” the same way his voice lingered on that last word. I chose that song because the song had found me. It found me lost, unknown, and unknowing and provided a place for me to rest in hope. The hope of what would be coming.
Somehow the music is them; Toad the Wet Sprocket. Yet somehow it is me.
Fear. Freaky album cover. Fantastic Music. Play on. (cassette, of course)
Ask my husband. I called it years ago when listening to “The Havens Grey”, I said “Methinks I hear some Toad in there”.
The music is you, too.
Funny about “The Havens Grey”: the first time I heard it, Counting Crows immediately sprung to my mind.
They were to me what TTWS was to a lot of you folks.
At least until Hard Candy. But we won’t talk about that…
Toad has always been my favorite band. Discovered in high school as I only lived one town away from Toad. My high school English teacher was one of the band members dads. My husband also a Santa Barbara native went to school with Glen. We have been fortunate enough to go to many shows. One very memorable one was Glen at the Soho in SB on 9/11. We thought maybe the show would be cancelled after the horrific events of the day but Glen still performed and I think we the audience and he all mourned the mornings events together. I remember in college that Toad was giving away free tickets to a concert in LA if you bought their album the day it came out. We drove from college down to the store to make sure we got our free tickets. I made sure we made it to the counting crow concert with toad. When they broke up we were so bummed. So when they would announce a show as a fundraiser we would go. We saw the mutual admiration society shows and nickelcreek at local LA venues.
This must be why when we discovered your music we felt so connected. Funny I was just reading about your new book last night and telling my husband that we need to get this series. Then Glen linked this sweet review on Facebook and I thought oh that is Andrew writing about Toad. So my husband and I sat in bed and I read it aloud to him. We loved reading about how your journey with toad brought us such joy.
It’s funny how the wistful feeling I get when recalling Toad’s glory days (and my college years) inhabits much the same emotional terrain as their music dies – both when I first heard it and in recent years.
Yip, I’m a massive fan. Always have been. First heard them in 1995 in varsity when I was highly influenced by the grunge era. But when I heard “Fall Down” I immediately claimed that song as “my own” – They were the band I punted when my mates were into the heavier stuff, like Smashing Pumpkins etc. I enjoyed those harder rock bands too, but there is something about the tones Todd gets, and the melody lines, and the ambient slowly played distorted riffs over beautiful bass lines, and, and , and…… Easily one my my favourite bands of all times, and “Dam would break: one of my favourite songs of all time. Thanks for posting!
Andrew, I am searching for a song by Toad that is not on any of their album a that I am aware. I heard it at a concert YEARS ago! It was basically the beatitudes in song form. Absolutely gorgeous song…. Glenn did not disappoint. I was online searching and found your post. Yet another interesting fact about you I didn’t know…that this is also one of your favorite bands! Thought you might know where I can find this song. It is a long shot. But worth asking! 😉
Thank you. After I watched your attached video I played ‘I Will Not Take These Things For Granted’ while reading the rest of your post. I could not have put my feelings for this band into words any better than you have. Well done. Although you and I grew up as far apart as geologically possible in the United States, my discovery of Toad was very similar and possibly just as ground shifting.
I have not been lucky enough to see them yet but I am hoping they swing through the South Pacific this summer.If you’re ever near Kailua and want to knock back a few while listening to some Toad, look me up.
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