Getting Under My Skin: John Hiatt, “Something Happens” (1982)

Frog under skinJohn Hiatt’s All of a Sudden (1982) is a very good lost album that from our perspective doesn’t sound like the future of John Hiatt or of anything. It’s New Wave pop in a post-Huey Lewis sort of way—hooky as all get-out and never less than interesting to listen to, but disposable. I, at least, find it so, except for one track not to be forgot, the oddly spooky-and-jaunty “Something Happens.”

You know how we say a song has gotten under our skin? There’s a point in the first line of “Something Happens” where Hiatt audibly burrows down through the skin. His voice goes indeterminately low and plants obscure suction cups. Relishing this moment has a uniquely implosive feeling.

“Something Happens” start

Later in the verse he puts a similar figure up in a normal register so you can experience it as melody, but that first time around it’s a strange submelodic life-form. It’s not clear what, but it’s palpable where: something is happening just beyond, or rather just within, the border of the skin.


About Steve Smith

Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies and Director of Film Studies at Millsaps College
This entry was posted in Arrangements and Sounds, Rock Aesthetics and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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