Beer On My Shirt: I Work at the Jukebox

J. R. Shirt, September 06, 2013

Believe it or not, several years ago, I would sometimes drink more than I should. Sometimes, when I would drink too much, I'd reach into my pocket and realize I had a few extra dollars, at which point the following scene would play out:

“What to do with these extra dollars,” I'd mutter to my friend Henry as I set them on the bar. The question was rhetorical – we both knew exactly what to do with those dollars.

I would try harder than I should have to flatten them out with my palm. My hand the hot iron, the bar top my steady ironing board, and the those three extra dollars were my collared work shirts. And they needed to be pressed and presentable before I went to work.

“Where do you work?” asked nobody.

“I work at the fucking jukebox,” I'd say, loudly, as a mysterious spotlight clicked on and shined down on me. In the distance, the sound of tribal drums was slowly building, growing louder with each step that I took towards my employment, eventually drowning out the applause of my friend Henry. Conversation was, and would continue to be, futile. The patrons started to take notice.

Only five steps away from my destiny and the sound of drums was deafening. Why are there drums? Because it is cine-fucking-matic, that's why.

Inevitably, someone would approach me and tap me on the arm. Abruptly, after one last loud thump, all drumming ceased. 

“What kind of work do you do there, at the jukebox?” they asked.

I turned and looked behind me at the one million floating eyeballs awaiting my response. As I made my final steps in my procession to the alter of songs, the ceiling slowly bowed under the pressure of absolute silence. Henry may or may not have been tying a flannel shirt around his waist, in preparation.

I fed the beast my dollars and it took them because the beast was hungry.

I turned back to the crowd, eagerly awaiting my response to the question, “What kind of work do you do there, at the jukebox?” Finally, with my finger floating just above the touchscreen, waiting for gravity to take hold, like a virgin at the edge of a smoldering volcano, consigned to fate, I shouted, “I play fucking Soul Asylum!”

Without hesitation, the opening riff to 'Somebody To Shove' exploded the eardrums of no less than a dozen patrons. And as Henry and I serenaded one another, we knew that what has been started must be finished.

We were put in this bar to play them all. These people need to hear them all. They need to hear what the record industry has, since 1992, referred to as the Holy Trinity.

The Holy Trinity, for those of you that do not work in the record industry, or perhaps you did but got out prior to 1992 (big mistake, by the way), is the term used to describe the three best rock songs that have ever started an album. Specifically, the Holy Trinity refers to the first three tracks of Soul Asylum's Grave Dancers Union.

Track 1: Somebody To Shove

Track 2: Black Gold

Track 3: Runaway Train

Never before, or since, has there been an album that has opened with a more powerful or profound trifecta of sonic perfection. Certainly, arguments could made. That is, if you're into making losing arguments.

For example, the B-side of Nirvana's Nevermind begins with 'Territorial Pissings', 'Drain You', and 'Lounge Act', and could certainly hold their own as the best three songs that have ever been presented back to back to back on an album. However, those songs start the B-side. In order to be eligible for the Holy Trinity title, they would need to start the album. My apologies to the Nirvana Loyalist Movement.

There are, however, some very interesting parallels (that I won't get into here) between the the opening three tracks of Grave Dancers Union and three tracks that start Nevermind's B-side, which incidentally may be the greatest B-side to any record ever, narrowly edging out the B-side of the Beatles' Abbey Road. But I digress – this is a website about beer, not Soul Asylum or B-sides.

Actually, before I digress, I feel I should acknowledge that overall Grave Dancers Union is not that strong of an album. The rest of the album is a bit of a let down after those first three tracks, with 'Without A Trace' being the only other real gem (Henry and I often hypothesized what the world would have been like if they had decided to put 'Without A Trace' as track 4 on the album. All of our hypotheses involved the word 'utopia'.).

After listening to the Holy Trinity few things sound great, as your expectations have just been heightened to such an unattainable level. It's like a cross between the Replacements and Wilco, and frankly, I am surprised that it didn't affect more positive change towards nuclear disarmament and world peace.

Really, after listening to the opening three tracks of Grave Dancers Union, the only thing that you can listen to is the opening three tracks of Grave Dancers Union. Again and again and again until you enter a higher level of consciousness and literally vanish – never to be seen again. Or maybe only to be seen once every seventy years, like a cross between a comet and the Silver Surfer.

So Henry and I would drink a few too many Magic Hat #9's and play the first three tracks of Soul Asylum's Grave Dancers Union over and over again, with some Dinosaur Jr. tracks mixed in so that all of the souls lucky enough to be out at the bar that night didn't spontaneously turn into small clouds of ephemeral buddha dust.

Heaven is real, folks, and Henry and I proved it once a week, for about a year.


Recently, I ordered a Magic Hat #9 (4.72 BAR) just to see what it was like. It has been maybe five years since I last had one and I my idea of what a good beer was has changed quite a bit over that five years.

Let's just cut to the chase here – it was terrible.

Appearance (2.5/5): I don't know. It was kind of orange or copper. Does it really matter? What I did notice, that perhaps does matter is that I recall the label from several years reading “not quite pale ale” as well as something along the lines of “ale brewed with apricots.” Now, it appears that “ale brewed with apricots” has been changed to “ale with natural flavor.”

Could this be related to the purchase of Magic Hat by North American Breweries in 2010? Or the subsequent purchase of North American Breweries Florida Ice & Farm Co. in 2012? I have no idea. It could be that I am imagining the slight change in wording on the label. I searched the internet for about three minutes and found no images large enough to substantiate my claims.

Moving on...

Smell (3/5): It smelled sweet. A little fruity. And some bread. Honestly, it was all down hill from this point.

Taste (2/5): Icky sweet. Almost medicinal. It completely destroyed my palate for the night, making everything I tried taste syrupy sweet. Even a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale tasted like horrible home made soda.

Mouthfeel (2/5): Like carbonated cough syrup.

Overall (2/5): I don't know what to say. I will probably never drink it again, unless maybe it is free. Maybe it was an old bottle.

Either way, looking back, Magic Hat #9 could be considered my gateway beer. I recall that after drinking this pretty regularly for about six months to a year, I started to find the beer just too sweet, which led me to try other things that really opened my eyes. Things like Victory's Prima Pils and Weyerbacher's Double Simcoe IPA.

Let's face it, this was never about Magic Hat #9. This was about the jukebox and those three songs that you just had to play. And sing. Over and over again.

My three songs just happened to be the greatest three songs to ever exist in the one, two, and three hole of an album. You know, the Holy Trinity.

P.S. My hands smell like garlic right now and it is driving me absolutely fucking crazy. And I'm all out of lemons. Follow me on Twitter @beeronmyshirt.