The Gin Blossoms' A&M Singles Won't Fall Away
by Eric Boehlert

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NEW YORK--Few tales chronicling the winding paths taken by hit singles are stranger than that of the Gin Blossoms' stubborn hit "Hey Jealousy."
Released to modern rock radio 24 months ago, the song, after an aborted run, resurfaced last summer and became an across-the-board radio hit that helped establish the Tempe, Ariz., band as a pop-rock radio force (Billboard, July 31, 1993).

 Now, 12 months later, defying programming odds, "Hey Jealousy" remains a staple on many modern rock, album rock, and top 40 stations. That's a full 18 months after the song began making waves, nine months after it peaked at No. 25 on the Hot 100, and six months after, by all accounts, it should have played itself out.

 Instead, for the week ending July 12, the song enjoyed nearly 900 plays across the country, according to Broadcast Data Systems. What's remarkable is that scores of major-market top 40 stations are spinning the song not as a strong recurrent, but rather as a heavy-rotation cut. WHTZ (Z100) New York has been churning the song out for nearly 12 months straight, 30-50 times a week. And for the week ending July 10, VH-1 more than doubled its airings of the "Hey Jealousy" clip over the previous week.

 "It's a phenomenon," says Rick Stone, senior VP of promotion at A&M, home of the Gin Blossoms. A phenomenon that has helped the band sell 1.5 million copies of "New Miserable Experience," according to SoundScan. The album has logged 66 weeks on the Billboard 200.

 And it's a BDS-age phenomenon. Programmers, particularly at top 40, are seeing more melodic, acoustic-flavored rock songs enjoying remarkably long shelf lives. WKBQ St. Louis PD Cruze says that pattern has been played out with Counting Crows' "Mr. Jones"; the Gin Blossoms' own follow-up single, "Found Out About You" ("almost as big a phenomenon as 'Hey Jealousy,'" Cruze reports); Melissa Etheridge's "Come To My Window" (the only single on the Hot 100 for more than 20 weeks to earn a bullet last week); and the slightly harder sounding "Plush" from Stone Temple Pilots. Fellow programmers also place recent guitar hits by Blind Melon, the Cranberries, and Toad The Wet Sprocket into that group of obstinate wonders.

 Cruze suggests that top 40 listeners have been deprived of mainstream rock for so long--instead fed a steady diet of dance-oriented singles-- that when they finally get hold of an agreeable guitar sound, they just won't let go. "They're embracing a style of music that [sic] been missing from [top 40] radio," he says.

 The easygoing, upbeat tempo of "Hey Jealousy" is one that programmers are reluctant to take off the air. Over the months, when faced with the challenge of balancing the sound of their stations, several PDs opted to boost spins of "Hey Jealousy" instead of playing newcomers.

 No doubt the song, and group, have benefited from the fact that over the last 18 months, scores of top 40 stations, adjusting to the perceived growing appetite among listeners for rock, have welcomed guitar sounds back onto the air.

 "The song has no burn factor," reports Frankie Blue, APD at Z100 New York, who has tested the single every week for the past year and has yet to detect negative feedback, an almost unheard-of occurrence. Blue's comments echo what modern rock PD Kevin Weatherly of KROQ Los Angeles told Billboard in July 1993: "We can't get rid of it. Six months later, it's still in solid rotation." Now, 18 months later, A&M's Stone points out that the song is still part of KROQ's daily programming.

 The song continues to win converts even at this late date. When album rock WWBZ Chicago adjusted its music from hard rock to mainstream earlier this month, "Hey Jealousy" was one of the first songs added thanks to strong research numbers, according to MD Charlie Logan.

 Plenty of songs have enjoyed strong research feedback only to eventually burn out. For instance, early last year programmers noted that listeners still hadn't tired of the Spin Doctors' hits. Months later, however, due to over-saturation, the band's singles became overplayed. That has not happened to the Gin Blossoms and their low- key rock, which marries loping drums and guitars with a touch of tambourine and piano.

 "It scores consistently well in so many demos," says Tom Poleman, PD at KRBE Houston, which has played "Hey Jealousy" more than 1,100 times since last fall.

 Stone cannot explain the single's sustained appeal, other than to point out that it still sounds fresh on the air and that the song's theme of restlessness--"Tomorrow we can drive around this town/Let the cops chase us around,"--strikes a universal, not to mention slightly Springsteenesque, chord.

 The promotion exec sees the single's marathon run at radio as a prime example of how the record business has shifted its attention away from station playlists and toward rotations and actual spins. The song, says Stone, "has redefined how long a song can be labeled a current hit." WKBQ's Cruze agrees, and notes that in the past, without BDS, the second life of "Hey Jealousy" would have gone undetected among programmers around the country, since the song would simply have dropped off reported playlists.

 Thanks to the song's persistence at radio, the Gin Blossoms have quietly becoma a major force, with three singles simultaneously managing to find room on playlists. In fact, for the week ending July 18, the group's "Hey Jealousy," "Found Out About You" (whose release was pushed back twice due to the strength of "Hey Jealousy"), and "Until I Fall Away" amassed more than 5,000 total spins.

 With the Gin Blossoms on tour this summer with the Spin Doctors and Cracker, "New Miserable Experience" is selling 21,000 copies a week, according to SoundScan.

 Stone reports that the parade of Gin Blossoms singles is not about to slow down. "Allison Road," arguably the strongest cut from the album, is set to arrive at album rock radio in August before heading to top 40. Based on past performances, "Allison Road" may be around for a long time. As Mario DeVoe, MD at Phoenix's top 40 KKFR, says of the Gin Blossoms, "We can't make them go away."

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