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“We’re not gonna make it / Cause there’s a million better bands / With a million better songs / Singers who can drum / Singers who can sing / Deep in my heart / I do believe / We’re not gonna make it.”
That’s how The Presidents of the United States of America introduced themselves on their debut self-titled album in 1995. Though prophetic in nature, these lyrics couldn’t have been further from the truth: The record, released by the teeny-tiny Seattle label PopLlama Records and featuring tracks like “Peaches”, “Lump”, and “Bug City,” would go on to attain triple-platinum status. The trio would release their sophomore album on Capitol Records the following year. Listen to The Presidents of the United States of America play “We’re Not Gonna Make It” live at Tramps on Nov. 17, 1995.
It’s clear why success was a surprise to critics, industry professionals, and The Presidents themselves: Their lyrics are absurd, bordering on stupid. “Peaches,” an unlikely hit, laboriously details the process of eating a peach, with the continuous refrain, “Movin’ to the country / Gonna eat a lot of peaches.” The single was nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals in 1996. Another track from the debut, “Boll Weevil,” tells the story of a bug addicted to TV (think Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis meets Sara Goldfarb in Hubert Selby Jr.’s Requiem for a Dream), starting with a description of the bug’s “big butt.” Nearly every track in their discography is similarly wacky. Listen to “Peaches” and “Boll Weevil” below.
In spite of their fame-averse material, The Presidents of the United States of America managed to hit the sweet spot of the post-grunge pop era, embarking on international tours, playing coveted late-night TV spots for Jay Leno and David Letterman, and performing for actual President of the United States Bill Clinton in 1994. They ultimately disbanded in 2015, with six studio albums under their belt.
Finally, check out the band’s cover of British new-wavers The Buggles with a raucous rendition of “Video Killed the Radio Star,” performed live 22 years ago on this date.