In 1997, 16-year-old Isaac was learning to drive and dating his first girlfriend. Fourteen-year-old Taylor was dealing with a bit of voice change while trying to get comfortable in his own skin as a young teenager. Eleven-year-old Zac was perfecting his video-gaming skills between playing drums for his Grammy-nominated band of brothers and playing with Legos.
In 1997, I was burning the Hanson brothers’ debut album — burning it into irreversible synaptic permanence via my disc Walkman.
To this day, after years of silence, I can play the three-time-Grammy-nominated “Middle of Nowhere” (Mercury Records) and remember the chord progressions; every dramatic crescendo of Taylor’s soulful, washboard vocals; every crazy breakout vocal like Zac’s “Waiting for the BRIGHT light to break through” on “Where’s the Love”; and — dare I say — every lyric from the playful melodic choruses. By the way, Zac remains the youngest Grammy-nominated songwriter in its history.
The group’s iconic debut single “MMMbop” still makes me want to belt the chorus like a delusional teenager determined to bicycle her way to the mall, randomly meet and steal the heart of a long-haired Taylor Hanson and then MMMhop on his tour bus.
“Middle” ultimately was the prized possession of my limited personal catalogue that included Ace of Base’s “The Sign” and the Beatles’ “Abbey Road.” Guess who still has the album. Actually, I still have every one of those CDs. Classics.
But there was something special about Hanson, and I wasn’t the only young female teenager — now an adult with the same sentiments — to think so about the unique sound of the soulful, pop rock ‘n’ roll trio from Tulsa, Okla.
The guys — who perform Monday at The Intersection — have received critical acclaim in recent years for a longevity Taylor Hanson can only attribute to ultimate purpose.
“We’ve always known that we were in it for the long haul,” Taylor, 27, said from the second stop on their summer tour from Hyannis, Mass. “You got to realize, again, if you start a band at that age, you’re weird. You’re not really average, I mean, good or bad. … We were there for a reason. That was our element … We were doing this and we were focused on it.”
Since 1997, Hanson has produced five studio albums and had to move from Mercury Records to Island Def Jam, leaving to produce music on their own label 3CG Records, launched in 2003, which birthed their recent record, “Shout It Out” (June 2010).
The keyboard-heavy album already received praise for its debut video, “Thinking ‘Bout Somethin,'” which pays homage to the classic film “The Blues Brothers” and was viewed more than 1 million times on MySpace in the first few days of its release.
Drawing off ’60s and ’70s rock, the album also features two tripped down ballads spotlighting the brothers’ harmonies on a solidly crafted song, which has been part of their successful two-decade career.
“That’s like the grilled cheese on the menu,” Taylor said of their vocals and insistence on creating well-crafted songs. “It’s sort of the core element.”
Even without the kind of mainstream success as “Middle,” the band remains relevant. Perhaps blame can be put on the band’s dedication to its fans and the mutual respect they share for each other.
And fans are still buying their albums.
“It affirms the dedication we always had as kids — of course we’re doing this. I mean, this is what we do. This is who we are. I think if anything why we’re still here is, one, we always planned to be here,” Taylor said.
“We always assumed — regardless of whether we really were able to maintain, I guess, a success level the world perceived as being successful — we always knew this is what we’d be doing. And we’ve always tried to communicate that passion and genuine interest and love of what we do to our fans.
“I think for a lot of them, I think that comes across.”
Taylor said he and his brothers’ desire is to constantly create a platform that pushes their fan base beyond “Hey, I like this song.” The band consistently looks for ways to connect their fans’ “real world” and the “Internet world” by utilizing live streaming and geolocation tagging.
“It’s really just cool to connect further. I think there is a really important place for the mystique and for the sort of behind-the-curtain, knowing there’s something that’s going on that you can’t see. But you can control how to give people that sense of connection and access and genuine excitement,” Taylor said.
“It’s sort of like the same way you like a brand or you like a clothing company,” he added. “You have a connection with something that you feel is a part of you.”
These days, the brothers are busy managing their careers as well as busy family lives.
“Everyone’s married with children,” Taylor said. “My wife and I — we have four kids. Isaac has two, and Zac has one and one on the way.”
Hanson has kids?! I guess in an MMMbop, things can change. But that doesn’t mean Zac doesn’t escape the real world every now and again, according to his brother.
“There’s something about hanging onto your youth,” Taylor said. “If you’re in a rock band, you don’t ever technically have a real job, so you can still go back to the bus and play video games.”
E-mail Rachael Recker: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/rachaelrecker
IF YOU GO
When: 6:30 p.m. Monday (doors open at 6)
Where: The Intersection, 133 Grandville Ave. SW
Opening acts: Rooney, Love Sick Radio
Tickets: $25, box office, Ticketmaster outlets, 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com, Shakedown Street, Purple East, Vertigo Music
More info: 451-8232, sectionlive.com
Hanson released “Middle of Nowhere” in 1997, and it went on to sell 10 million copies worldwide, thanks to singles such as “MMMBop,” “Where’s the Love,” “I Will Come to You” and “Thinking of You.” Here are some other interesting facts about 1997 in music, film and pop culture:
— The Notorious B.I.G. is shot dead on March 9 while sitting in the passenger seat of a car after a Soul Train Awards party.
— Billy Crystal hosts the 69th Academy Awards show in late March; “The English Patient” wins Best Picture.
— “The Freshmen,” released on March 31 by Grand Rapids-based band The Verve Pipe (off the “Villains” CD), peaks at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.
— Garth Brooks performs to an estimated 1 million people on Aug. 7 at New York’s Central Park.
— In November, the Spice Girls release “Spiceworld,” their second No. 1 album, making it the first British band since The Beatles to have two albums on the U.S. chart.
— “Titanic,” released in December, goes on to become the first film to gross $1 billion at the box office, worldwide. Also in the Top 5 that year: “The Lost World: Jurrassic Park,” “Men in Black,” “Tomorrow Never Dies,” and “Air Force One.”