Ah, “More Than Words.” I’ll get to that song in just a couple of moments. But when it comes to words, there are two of them that give me the willies, especially when I use them, because when I do, I’m really torn between whether I’m doing the responsible thing, or recklessly selling out.
In 1990, the band Extreme released a crackerjack album, an absolute masterpiece called “Pornograffitti.” For about a year, hardly anybody paid attention to it until the song, “More than Words,” hit the airwaves in 1991. It went to number one. It made the guys from Extreme international stars. But the song was a mixed blessing because it wasn’t at all indicative of the body of their work.
Extreme is like Queen, The Who, Zeppelin, Aerosmith and Van Halen, and a bunch of other bands all mixed into one. They’re brilliant. But this one song, “More than Words,” was such a massive hit that it kind of hung around their necks like an albatross.
When they went to make their next record, the people at the record company begged the guys in Extreme to write and record another acoustic hit like “More than Words.” They were probably figuring that would help sell more records, of course.
Selling Out, or Helping Out?
It’s interesting to think about because I could make two different arguments: One is that the song “More than Words” typecast Extreme as another couple of guys sitting around singing love songs for teenage girls. They got lumped into the hairband category. For the last few decades they’ve tried to shake that image, though I don’t know that they ever will.
On the other hand, there are millions of people that bought that record and the records that came afterwards that might not have if it had not been for that song. If they had relented and let go a little of their artistic integrity, and tried to write another song like “More than Words,” and put it on another record, what would have happened?
Of course, real creativity doesn’t exactly work like that. But it does make me wonder, would it have taken that typecast and driven it in even further, making it even harder for people to relate to them? Or would it have opened it up for even more people to hear the rest of their work; brilliant albums like “Three Sides to Every Story,” “Waiting for the Punchline,” and “Saudades de Rock?”
I feel the same way about two words when I see them at the front of any headline related to anything on personal or professional growth. And the words are:
How To …
They absolutely give me the shivers.
I think that, “How To Change the Batteries in Your Smoke Detector,” or, “How To Change a Tire” … that’s one thing. But, “How To Be Happy?” “How To Be Successful?” “How To Live a Passionate Life?” These are very subjective and individual things.
So when you see me using something like “How To,” know that I’m going through the process probably similar to what Nuno Bettencourt, the guitarist of Extreme, went through when the record company was asking him to write another “More than Words:” really torn between wondering whether I’m selling out or doing the right thing just to give more people the opportunity to hear the rest of the record.