In Zisk #8 we brought you a story about Hot Stove, Cool Music the charity benefit concert in Boston (which inspired an all-star album) that has very strong baseball ties. In this issue we bring you an interview with one of the artists that has been a big supporter of that fundraiser, Bill Janovitz. The singer-guitarist is best known for his work with the Boston trio Buffalo Tom, but this September he put out Fireworks on TV, the first album recorded with his solo band Crown Victoria. He’s also written music that was used going into and out of commercials for the Red Sox radio broadcasts on WEEI. And like one of the members of Zisk staff, Janovitz has been both a Mets and Red Sox fan (just not at the present moment).
With all these baseball connections, Janovitz seemed like a perfect person to include in Zisk’s series of articles about musicians and baseball. So just before the release of Fireworks on TV, Zisk had the chance to talk to Janovitz about his other passion, baseball.
Zisk: So what do you think of the Nomar trade?
How much tape do you got? (Laughs) What do I think of the Nomar trade? I
think it was inevitable, but I hated to see it happen. It was like a
relationship that all of sudden comes to an end and you just go, “Wow,
how did that happen? Why did it happen?” Nomar’s a complicated guy, from
what I can tell. I met him very briefly a couple of times, so I can’t
speak from personal experience, but from what I can tell—and I know some
guys that are on the daily Red Sox beat—and from what I can gather from
all of these different accounts, he’s just a really complicated,
misunderstood guy, by no small fault of his own. I don’t think he
handled things extremely well, but in Boston—and I lived in New York, I
grew up as a Mets fan—nothing, nothing compares to the media coverage of
the Red Sox. Because we have one team in this town, and they mean
almost everything to almost everybody. And it’s just an impossible
situation for almost every player that’s played on the team. (Laughs)
And it’s a nightmare, so he couldn’t handle it. I think his skills, here
anyway, were diminishing. I think he’ll have a renaissance wherever he
goes—Chicago if he stays there. He’s already shown signs of life. I just
think it was affecting his play. And I think the Red Sox are better off
without him. And I hate to say it, and I’m sad to say it, because I
wanted to see him stay here. I want to see all my favorite players stay
and finish their careers here, and I get emotional about it. And this
current team is really still really hard to get a hold of, and part of
it was because they had a revolving door of injuries this year.
Zisk: It seems to me that last year’s team somehow connected more with Boston and New England in general than the previous few years.
Oh absolutely, especially if you compare it to this year. Whereas this
year they have all these dramatic late inning one run losses, last year
it was 180 degrees different, where they were coming back and winning
these games consistently. They didn’t play great consistently until
September, but they had a lot of dramatics and they were really
underdogs. And this year they were picked to win the World Series. And
they had no injuries last year, so it was a blast to follow until the
last minute. And then that last minute was just the most nightmarish
situation, and it would have been that much more painful had it not been
so predictable and inevitable. (Laughs) I had grown men, friends of
mine, calling me up crying, like sobbing, and I’m not messing with you,
I’m talking about sobbing.
Zisk: I believe that.
I absolutely would believe that. I was up there [in Boston] the day
after, and it was like walking through a city that had been to a
BJ: Were you up here? (laughs) What were you doing up here?
Zisk: There was a Gentlemen
show that was the next day, and I was thinking the night before, “Wow,
if they win, tomorrow night is going to be one of the greatest nights
ever in Boston.”
BJ: Oh, you’re right.
Zisk: And I was like, “If they lose, it’s going to be one of the worst nights ever.” (Laughs)
You were right, it was a nightmare. Here’s the thing—I was
transitioning from being a Mets fan as a kid, to not caring at all, so I
didn’t even really care in the ’86 series. I was watching at a pub in
Northampton, Massachusetts, going to school, and I was full punk rock,
artsy guy at that time. Did not really care about baseball. But I
watched it and thought how dramatic it was and could appreciate it, and
if anything I guess I was leaning towards the Mets as I was only in
Massachusetts for few years at that point. But I saw the devastation
that that reaped on U-Mass’s campus. There was literally like riots. But
I don’t think—and from everybody I talked to that grew up with the Red
Sox—nothing compared to this, because it was just nuts, and that was it.
It was the end. In ’86 they had a chance to come back the next night.
Zisk: When do you think you transitioned to being a Red Sox fan? When did you feel like a true Red Sox fan?
I can almost pinpoint the moment, I just can’t remember exactly when it
was—it was sorta like ’94 or ’95. You know, I always watched the Red
Sox and I watching them increasingly more as I got older, especially if
we were around for summers during the Buffalo Tom years. We would go to
these countries, we would be playing a gig, and there’d be a World Cup
thing and we wouldn’t play. We’d have a set and just skip it because
nobody would watch us. So we’d end up going on three hours late or
whatever. And forget World Cup, just like important national games, and
the countries were just shut down. And so you’d have all these rock and
roll fans where sports would take the priority. It was sort of like Fever Pitch [Ed: a book about British soccer fans by High Fidelity author Nick Hornby].
And I gained an appreciation for that. I had a friend from Australia
who was our tour manager for most of the years and he was full on into
cricket. And he explained all the intricacies of cricket to us, so we
got this great appreciation for it. And one time he was staying with me
in Boston for a while and we had the Red Sox game on and I’m explaining
the game to him, and I just had a newfound appreciation for what this
game looks like to an outsider. And explaining it to him made me
appreciate the finer points of the game that much more. And then I
started watching regularly and got into the whole kind of local angle of
it in Boston. I had been in Boston for long enough and going away so
much on tour made me realize how much I loved the town. And I think it’s
sort of like that Tom Waits song, ‘I never missed my hometown
until I stayed away too long.’ It’s that kind of sentiment. And coming
back home after a tour made me identify more as being a Bostonian, which
is weird because I still kind of feel like an exile. I grew up in New
York, I don’t really feel like I’m a Massachusetts guy so much. So it’s
all that stuff and then in ’99 my daughter was born, and she was born in
the spring. So I had the night shift and so I watched every game that
season and I haven’t stopped watching almost every game every season
since. So that’s the arc of my Boston Red Sox fandom.
I just got that digital cable baseball package this year, and so I
watch a lot of Red Sox games now. That’s a good thing considering how
horrible the Mets commentators are. I’d much rather listen to Jerry Remy talk than Fran Healy.
BJ: Isn’t Remy great?
Zisk: Yeah, it’s a pleasure to listen to competence, considering how bad the guys are here in New York.
Yeah, and the national guys are awful too. The talk radio lines here in
Boston are lit up the next day after a national game because they can’t
believe they have to sit there and listen to Tim McCarver and Joe Buck. Joe Buck is bad enough, but with McCarver it’s like having a retarded guy calling a game. (Laughs)
Bill Janovitz and Crown Victoria’s Fireworks on TV is one of the best albums of 2004 (at least in the opinion of the senior editor) and can be ordered at Qdivision.com or through Janovitz’s website BillJanovitz.com.