Baby, baby, why can’t you sit still?
Who killed that bird out on your window sill?
Are you the reason that he broke his back?
A couple of weeks ago I walked into my usual Tuesday night trivia game after missing a week due to minor surgery. When one of the regulars saw me entering, he put his hands in front of his face and made a cross with his two index fingers – which is what people do to ward off vampires who are threatening them.
Gee, I wonder why he did that? After all, I am not – and never have been – a vampire.
His attempt to hex me didn’t work, by the way. My team still finished with the high score that night.
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There are dozens, maybe hundreds of small companies who are paid to run trivia games at bars and breweries in the U.S.
I’m aware of at least six such companies that operate in Washington, DC and its surrounding suburbs. One of them, Pourhouse Trivia, runs the contests at about 50 different locations in the DMV – including Smoketown Brewery in Frederick, MD, where I play every Tuesday. In any given week, roughly 500 teams compete at those 50 venues.
(By the way, “DMV” – which stands for District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland – is cool kids’ lingo for the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area.)
Pourhouse’s trivia games usually feature a question where the host plays excerpts from three different songs and asks players something about those songs – usually he wants you to write down the song titles, or the names of the artists who recorded them.
One week, the host played snippets from three different songs that had titles that consisted of a single words that was repeated three times, and asked us to identify those titles. (Those songs were “Fun, Fun, Fun” by the Beach Boys, “Girls, Girls, Girls” by Mötley Crüe, and “Bye, Bye, Bye” by NSYNC – pretty easy.)
Another time, we heard karaoke versions of three well-known songs – no vocals, just the backing instrumental tracks. (The three songs were “Brown Sugar” by the Stones, “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam, and “Hey Ya” by Outkast. That was harder to do than you might think because the host didn’t start the records at the beginning – he just played ten seconds from somewhere in the middle of the songs.)
* * * * *
This week, the host played excerpts from three songs as per usual. He told us that the title of all three songs was the same, and consisted of a single word. We could win bonus points by identifying who recorded each song.
I figured it was going to be easy to get the title of the songs. Since they all shared the same one-word title, all you had to do was know one of the three titles to answer the first half of the question.
Today’s featured song was the first of the three the host played. I was pretty sure the Black Crowes were the group that recorded it, although I’ve always had difficulty keeping Cracker and the Black Crowes straight. (Oddly, I have no problem whatsoever distinguishing Black Crowes and Counting Crows.)
Unfortunately, I could not pull the title to save my soul.
The host was careful to cut the song off before it got to the chorus, which repeats the word “remedy” multiple times. I tried to pick up the song in my mind where he stopped – I figured if I could keep singing it to myself, I would eventually get to a line that contained the title.
But then the host started playing the second song, and then the third, which completely threw me off. I tried everything – I even stuck my fingers in my ears like a bratty six-year-old who doesn’t like what his mommy is telling him – but I couldn’t completely block out the other music out.
* * * * *
Each of the little song morsels is played three times, and then you have a few seconds to get your answer slips to the host before he moves on to the next question. Somehow, I pulled “Remedy” from the deepest recesses of my brain just in time.
My knowing the title of “Remedy” was important – we bet the maximum amount on that question, and getting it wrong would have pretty much killed our chances of winning that night. While I knew that the Black Crowes had recorded the first of the three “Remedy” songs, I had no idea who had recorded the other two – and to score the bonus points for that question, we had to name all three.
One of my teammates was able to identify Jason Mraz as the singer of the second “Remedy” record. I’ve heard of Jason Mraz – I must have seen his name in print at some point, because I even knew how to spell it – but I couldn’t have identified him as the singer to save my life.
The Jason Mraz “Remedy” was the first single from his 2002 debut album, Waiting for My Rocket to Come, and it did pretty well – it peaked at #15 on the Billboard “Hot 100” chart and made it all the way to #1 on the “US Adult Alternative Songs” chart. So it’s not all that surprising that my much younger teammate – he was in high school when Mraz’s song was released – was familiar with it.
But the singer of the third and final “Remedy” was a mystery. I was clueless, and the rest of our team’s members seemed equally nonplussed.
* * * * *
Just as I was just about to throw in the towel and take our incomplete answer slip up to the host, another of my teammates – she’s one of the bartenders at Smoketown – came running over to where I was seated, grabbed the pen out of my hand, and scribbled “Snoop Dogg” on a piece of scratch paper.
Identifying a singer of a song you’ve never heard before isn’t always easy – you have to make an educated guess based on the singer’s voice and singing style.
I wouldn’t have come up with Snoop Dogg on the basis of the short excerpt from the third recording that the host played if he had played it a hundred times and given me an hour to think my answer over.
But as soon as my teammate wrote the name, I was almost certain she was right – the song did sound like Snoop Dogg.
Technically, Snoop Dogg was calling himself “Snoop Lion” when he recorded the song “Remedy” for his 2013 reggae album, Reincarnated. But Snoop Dogg was an acceptable answer.
* * * * *
A lot of teams got the “Remedy” part of the question right. So by coming up with that answer, I saved us from losing so much ground that we might not have been able to catch up no matter how well we did on the rest of the questions.
But only five of the 125 teams that played at the various Pourhouse Trivia venues that night got the bonus points awarded for naming the “Remedy” recording artists correctly – and I guaran-damn-tee you that the other 120 teams missed out not because they couldn’t come up with the Black Crowes or Jason Mraz, but because they weren’t able to identify Snoop Dogg.
You’re not going to win at trivia if you only answer the questions that most of your competitors get right. You need to come up with the correct answers to some questions that stump most or all of the rest of the field. Getting the bonus points for knowing Snoop Dogg gave us a tiny bit of separation from our competition that night – and the difference between the first-, second-, and third-place finishers is often just a point or two.
By the way, the difference between finishing first, second, or third is the difference between getting 30%, 20%, or 10% off your Smoketown bar tab. And when you drink as much at trivia as I do, we’re talking serious money.
(I’m amused by the fact that one of the owners of Smoketown Brewing is one of my regular teammates. Every time she contributes an answer that I didn’t know, she helps me win a bigger discount on my tab – which takes money out of her own pocket.)
* * * * *
“And the point of all this is what exactly?” you may be asking yourself.
I’ll answer that question by quoting the 17th-century English poet, John Donne – who wasn’t a bad trivia player himself back in the day:
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
In other words,
No man is a winning trivia team, entire of itself; every team member is an important piece of that team, a part of the whole.
I’d like to think I’m so smart that I can win at trivia all by myself. But the few times I’ve had to play alone – when I drive a few hours away from home to ride a new bike trail, I’ll sometimes spend the evening playing trivia solo at an unfamiliar bar or brewery where I don’t know anyone – I’ve finished in the middle of the pack.
That’s nothing to be ashamed of, by the way – unless you’re someone with an inflated ego who thinks he’s smarter than everyone in the room. (Sound like anyone you know?)
I’ve learned that a winning trivia team not only has to have several players, but also needs those players to be pretty diverse. It helps if your team members aren’t all about the same age, don’t have similar occupations, etc.
For example, you don’t need two American history buffs who both listen to classical music on your team. You’ll score much better if you have one history-and-classical-music fan and someone 25 years younger who plays a lot of video games and watches superhero movies.
* * * * *
There’s another good reason not to play trivia alone. People will think you’re a pathetic loser who doesn’t have any friends!
Believe me, I’m as competitive as the next guy. But even if I could win trivia as a one-man team, it wouldn’t be one-tenth as much fun as I have playing with my teammates – even though one of them occasionally engages in negging.
You know what negging is, don’t you? Negging is a form of emotional manipulation – you pay someone a backhanded compliment that has the effect of undermining their confidence and makes them seek your approval.
An example of negging would be when someone asks how old you are, and you tell them, and then they say “Oh, I would have never guessed you were that old! You look great!” It sounds like they’re paying you a compliment, but what they are really saying is “You’re old!”
Another example of negging is when you answer a trivia question about an old TV show, and the person says “Good thing you’re on the team or we would have missed that question. I wasn’t even born when that show was on TV!” Once again, it sounds like they’re paying you a compliment, but what they are really saying is “You’re old!”
On the other hand, a negging-type compliment may be better than no compliment at all.
* * * * *
Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson – who co-wrote “Remedy” with his younger brother Rich – told an interviewer that the song “is about freedom, plain and simple.”
I don’t know about that. You’re telling me that sh*t about a bird with a broken back that’s quoted at the beginning of this post has something to do with freedom? Really?
What I do know if that “Remedy” is built around one of the great guitar riffs of all time. For those of you keeping score at home, that riff consists of an F, an E minor, and a C chord followed by an E flat, a D, and a B flat chord. The first and third chords are played on the beat – beats one and four, to be precise – while the middle chord comes on the off-beat – between beats two and three.
Click here to listen to “Remedy”:
Click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon: