25. “Mary Melody” by Mad Caddies (2001)

The JOAT 50 Song Countdown is a blog series where every weekday for 10 weeks I am posting a brand new long form essay where I have ranked and written about my 50 favorite songs of all-time. From Adele to Zac Brown Band, Patsy Cline to Plasma Canvas, Ludacris to Rise Against, this series offers a personal essay about the 50 songs that hit me the absolute hardest.

The Mad Caddies have my favorite horn section in all of ska music. Ed Hernandez (trombone) and Keith Douglas (trumpet) are responsible for some of my absolute favorite musical notes that have come out of any act I have ever heard. I didn’t even need to look up those guys’ names as I have them committed to memory. For reference (and apologies to all the other exceptional horn players out there), the only other horn players from ska bands whose names I know are Buddy and JR (last names? Nope!) from Less Than Jake, and Scott Klopfenstein from Reel Big Fish. The Mad Caddies represent my very first true musical obsession. I heard the album Duck and Cover and went: This. This is what I want to listen to. More of this, please. More of this all the time.

And don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot I love about the Mad Caddies. I think Chuck Robertson both has a great voice and writes terrific lyrics. I think the drums, bass and guitars are all part of an awesome package from a band that can really do it all – ska, punk, hardcore, reggae, Dixieland, sea shanties – but goddammit if those horns aren’t like a pure mainline of pheromones to me. I hear them and I turn into that Vince McMahon gif you see on social media all the time.

So you can only imagine when I visited Los Angeles a few years ago, and came to find out my friend Jen had dated Mad Caddies trumpet player Keith just how fuggin’ excited that made me. You can also imagine her surprise that someone not only knew this semi-obscure ska-punk band, but LOVED them and wanted to talk about them AT LENGTH. So we blazed up, threw on some Caddies songs, and then swapped weird stories about the band from both of our perspectives for the next two hours. 10/10 evening. Five stars. Would absolutely do again!

Many of my stories about this band you’ve already heard since if you type “Mad Caddies” into the search bar of this site, you get 10 results returned to you. There’s the interview with lead singer Chuck Robertson on Episode 190 in 2018. There’s me fucking up and failing to record an interview with their guitarist Sascha (twice!) in an article from 2021.  There’s my ska fan origin story in this big ol’ ska cornucopia of an article also from 2021. And then there’s the anecdotal stuff that comes up sometimes like the fact that my very first tattoo is of the naked lady riding the bomb on the side of the airplane from the Duck and Cover album artwork. It’s a large tattoo and it sits proudly on my left shoulder.

The challenge with an autobiographical series like this is finding new angles on bands and songs I’ve already written about a bunch of times. Additionally, and here’s a little inside baseball you didn’t ask for, when I created this list I limited it to one song per band. I wouldn’t dare to guess how this list would look without that self-imposed governor, but there would certainly be more than one Mad Caddies song on here. I’ll tell you that for free.

I have seen this band in concert more times than any other band. I have high school memories tied up in them. I have college memories tied up in them. I have adult memories tied up in them. They appear more frequently in the corkboard photo collage that exists inside my head than just about anything else in pop culture. Maybe I’m wearing one of their shirts. Maybe they’re soundtracking some great party or road trip from years past. Maybe I’m overtly remembering something bitchin’ that happened at one of their concerts like when Chuck asked the crowd what they should play next, and there’s me in the pit screaming “No Hope!” at him and Chuck looks down, points at me and goes, “Alright, we’re gonna play ‘No Hope’ for this guy right here.” HEAD ASPLODE. Maybe when I look at old Facebook profile photos, I remember Grace dropped her little Donald Duck figure into my beer when I checked them out playing an acoustic set at Ratio Beerworks one afternoon when she was a year and a half old.

I don’t know where to go from here, so let’s just talk about the song.

“Mary Melody” is a song about the narrator coming to terms with what a dirtbag he can be. And what to do about it now that there’s a potential partner in the mix? Maybe change yourself for the better, maybe not. The song leaves the resolution unclear, which I like. We’re all a work in progress, and sometimes it’s like – yeah, responsibility starts Monday, and I never said which Monday.

What I do know is that the horns are dazzling and delighting the whole way through. They’re stabby and punchy in the intro. They’re punctuating lyrics in the verses like some musical Greek chorus, and then the song ends like some big showstopping Broadway number. The final 30 seconds or so, the horns take centerstage and play this thing off with all the grandeur of the Rose Bowl Parade and all this song’s conclusion is missing is a chorus line of Rockettes backing them up.

I could think and talk about the Mad Caddies all day, and sometimes I do. You wouldn’t know it, but this entry has taken me FOREVER to write. Is this my favorite song? What about one of their ballads? Shouldn’t it be something off Duck and Cover? Remember when Rise Against and Yellowcard opened for them at the Bluebird? So sick! And I think it’s because like some jagoff cigarette smoker, you know what the best thing to do after listening to and thinking about the Mad Caddies is? Listening to and thinking about the Mad Caddies some more! I love this band, perhaps too much. Send help.

Up next: The Battle for Bi-Polar Supremacy.

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