The Toadies: Possum Kingdom
everal years ago, when VH1 decided they’d had enough of being television’s chroniclers of mainstream rock history—but had yet to decide that they wanted to be television’s chroniclers of Danny Bonaduce’s trips to rehab—they had only one idea for how to fill up twenty-four valuable hours of programming every day: lists. The good people at VH1 haven’t completely kicked the list habit yet, but at the height of their mania, they released a new Top 100 Something nearly every week, peaking with their inexplicable pop culture icons list which placed the cast of Friends higher than the Beatles.
If only that were the sole example of VH1’s notoriously horrific list-making inaccuracies, then maybe I wouldn’t be writing this. But I am, so let’s talk about their list of the 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders. Now, a person’s ability to properly grade the One-Hit Wonders list depends heavily on whether or not they’re old enough to remember most of the songs listed. For example, I’d never heard of Taco’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” so I can’t properly say that it was one of the ten greatest ever (even though I highly suspect that it was). But I remember 1995. I remember when the Toadies’ “Possum Kingdom” changed the world forever. And where did “Possum Kingdom” find itself on the 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders list? Well, not only did it fail to top the list, but it wasn’t even ranked.
Things have happened to me in my life that caused me to get angry, but nothing could compare to this. First I hit VH1 with a flurry of emails and phone calls under dozens of different aliases. Then came the solo grassroots movement against the network, writing carefully crafted letters to all my local politicians, from members of my hometown’s school board all the way up to the state governor.
I told them how the mini-riff at the beginning of “Possum Kingdom” immediately announces the Toadies’ fleeting brilliance to anyone who ever hears this song. I wrote about how “Possum Kingdom” has greater command of its climaxes than any other piece of art since Romeo and Juliet, how it seems like this rocket is going to lift off three separate times before it actually does in the furious finale. I mentioned the immaculate bridge, which is so masterfully constructed that it almost tops the choruses.
But what I stressed more than anything was that “Possum Kingdom” is one of the classic sing-along songs of the 20th Century. Its lyrics are vague yet highly suggestive, both threatening and loving. Most important of all, they are extremely easy to remember. Lead singer Todd Lewis beats all the key phrases into our heads so thoroughly that we can’t help but remember them forever on the first listen. The repeated wailings of “Do you want to die?” are so convincing that it causes the listener to forget that “Possum Kingdom” ends on a pretty disturbing note.
After failing to hear a response from even a single person that I tried to contact, I had to accept the sobering reality that “Possum Kingdom” might never receive its much-deserved acclaim. That fact can never diminish its brilliance. Let’s face it, if I waste my time and energy expecting VH1 to get it right, then I’m a hopeless fool. Thanks to “Possum Kingdom,” the Toadies are the greatest one-hit wonders ever. If the rest of the world refuses to accept this, then that’s their problem.
By: Ross McGowan
Published on: 2005-11-09