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Doug Hopkins spent his life dreaming of hanging a gold record on the wall, but when he finally received the plaque for "Hey Jealousy," the potent pop blast he wrote and recorded with his former band the Gin Blossoms, it only stayed up about two weeks. "When Doug destroyed the gold record, it was the end," says Lawrence Zubia, a friend and the singer in Hopkins' last band, the Chimeras. "That was when the fear came to me."
Approximately ten days later, Zubia's premonition came true. On Dec. 3, Hopkins, 32, left the detox unit at Phoenix's St. Luke's Hospital during an intake consultation and bought a .38 caliber pistol. The following night, he put it in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
While the talented Hopkins was also a passionate rock historian and a quick-witted conversationalist, he fought a life-long battle against depression and alcohol addiction. "Doug got to the point where alcohol was like oxygen," says Shireen Liane, a close friend of Hopkins'. "The saddest thing is that your friends become your enemies, because they're keeping you from your oxygen. They're trying to keep you from breathing."
Much of Hopkins' recent despair may have derived from the fact that "Hey Jealousy," form the Gin Blossoms' debut record, New Miserable Experience, made the band into a national act while he watched from the shadows. He also wrote "Found Out About You," the record's second hit single, as well as several other songs. "The Blossoms' rise ate at him all the time," says Zubia. Even the promise of wealth couldn't keep Hopkins alive. While the $498 found on him at the time of his death was every cent he had, a considerable sum, perhaps as much as $500, 000, according to his lawyer, will pour into his estate in the coming years from mechanical and publishing royalties.
Hopkins had lived with music most of his life. Raised in Tempe, Ariz., he formed a series of bands before assembling the Gin Blossoms, named for a famous photo of W.C. Fields' gin-ravaged nose, in 1986. Over the following two years, the band built up a loyal fan base in Phoenix and recorded an album, Dusted, for the Tucson, Ariz., label San Jacinto Records, before signing with A&M in 1990.
Becoming the property of a major label scared Hopkins and fueled a streak of monumental stubbornness and mounting alcohol abuse. He showed up drunk at gigs, while rehearsals degenerated into verbal slugfests. Finally, in April 1992, Hopkins was fired after the Blossoms finished recording New Miserable Experience in Memphis. Doused in aftershave and mouthwash to cover the signs of a multiday drinking binge, Hopkins was put back on a plane to Arizona.
Shortly after, the band withheld about $15,000 in moneys owed Hopkins until he signed away approximately half of his publishing royalties. That share was transferred to Hopkins' replacement, guitarist Scott Johnson. Hopkins, then running out of money, reluctantly signed the papers. The album was released in August 1992. The band's lawyer could not be reached for comment.
I understand why they fired me," Hopkins said in an interview that summer, "but did they have to get so fucking cold and ruthless about it?"
Although Hopkins' departure from the band made enemies of him and singer Robin Wilson (Hopkins was ejected from a Tempe club for punching Wilson in the face), Wilson now says: "I feel fortunate to be the instrument through which Doug expressed himself. I thought he and I would be the Perry and Tyler of the '90s, but it wasn't to be."
One pressing question remains: Will the songs Hopkins wrote after leaving the Gin Blossoms become available to the band? "I'm not saying [playing a new Hopkins song] will never happen," says Wilson. "I know he has material that we could do. It would be appropriate."
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