Music / Counting Crows
Well I dreamt I saw you walking up a hillside in the snow
Casting shadows on the winter sky as you stood there counting crows
One for sorrow, two for joy
Three for girls and four for boys
Five for silver, six for gold
Seven for a secret never to be told
—"A Murder of One", August and Everything After

Counting Crows is an alternative rock band from Berkeley, California. They gained popularity in the mid-nineties for their debut album, August and Everything After. The band takes its name from the divination rhyme about crows, which also appears in the song "A Murder of One," quoted above. The group is fronted by and essentially is singer-songwriter Adam Duritz, a "Russian-Jew-American impersonating African-Jamaican" whose lyrics are largely inspired by his personal relationships, life, and chronic dissociative disorder.

Their music can be best described as a harmonious blending of alternative rock and country rock. Some of their most prominent influences include Van Morrison, R.E.M., Bob Dylan, and The Band; they have paid tribute to many of these influences with their cover album Underwater Sunshine.

Music by Counting Crows has been featured on the soundtracks of Clueless, Mr. Deeds , Cruel Intentions, Two Weeks Notice, and Shrek 2. "Accidentally in Love" from Shrek 2 was nominated for the Best Original Song Oscar in 2005 and played at the Oscar ceremony.

The band is unusual in that it actively encourages the recording of its concerts and the distribution of the resulting bootleg recordings. The band hosts a trading network on its website to enable fans to swap concert recordings. Fans can also visit an unofficial torrent site, Crowstown, which offers video and audio bootlegs for free.

Current members
  • Adam Duritz (Lead vocals, piano, primary songwriter)
  • David Bryson (guitar, mandolin, vocals)
  • Dan Vickrey (guitar, vocals)
  • David Immerglück (guitar, mandolin, pedal steel guitar, slide guitar, vocals)
  • Charlie Gillingham (keyboards, accordion, vocals)
  • Jim Bogios (drums)
  • Millard Powers (bass guitar, upright bass, piano, vocals)

Prior principal members
  • Steve Bowman (drums, 1991-1994)
  • Matt Malley (bass guitar, vocals, 1992-2005)
  • Ben Mize (drums, vocals, 1994-2002)

  • August and Everything After (1993)
  • Recovering the Satellites (1996)
  • Across a Wire: Live in New York City (2-disc collection of live performances recorded for MTV and VH1) (1998)
  • This Desert Life (1999)
  • Hard Candy (2002)
  • Films About Ghosts (The Best Of...) (2003)
  • New Amsterdam: Live at Heineken Music Hall (2006)
  • Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings (2008)
  • Live from SoHo (an iTunes exclusive album, 2008)
  • August and Everything After - Live at Town Hall (recorded 2007, released 2011)
  • Underwater Sunshine (or What We Did on Our Summer Vacation), a Cover Album (2012)
  • Somewhere Under Wonderland (2014)

Songs, albums, and performances by Counting Crows feature the following tropes:

  • Anti-Love Song: About half of them, most notably "American Girls", "Anna Begins", "Anyone but You", "Ghost Train", and "Butterfly in Reverse".
  • Album Title Drop:
    • This Desert Life is named for a line in the song "High Life".
    • Films About Ghosts is named for a line in "Mrs. Potter's Lullaby", which is included on the album.
    • Somewhere Under Wonderland is named for a line in "Earthquake Driver".
    • Also related, the above mentioned band name drop in "A Murder Of One".
  • Breakup Song: "Mrs. Potter's Lullaby", among others.
  • Captain Obvious / Shaped Like Itself: From "Le Ballet D'Or"
    "I would be lying if I didn't tell you the truth"
  • The Cover Changes the Gender: The cover of Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" turns "a big yellow taxi took away my old man" to "a big yellow taxi took my girl away."
  • Concept Album: Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings, divided into two sides on the precept that "On Saturday night, you sin; on Sunday morning, you repent".
  • Dark Reprise: The original recording of "Mr. Jones" is a song about wanting to be famous. The version featured on Across a Wire is about why you shouldn't want to be famous.
    • Triumphant Reprise: The version of "Mr. Jones" on the August and Everything After - Live At Town Hall album (recorded in 2007), seems to reconstruct the concept—while fame has its issues, it's still got a big upside.
  • Darker and Edgier: August and Everything After was a sweetly melodic, very subdued folk album. Their second, Recovering the Satellites, added distorted guitar, angry lyrics, and several swear words.
  • Despair Event Horizon: "Round Here" is about a girl who's crossing it. The narrator doesn't sound much better off.
    Round here we talk just like lions, but we sacrifice like lambs
    'Round here she's slippin' through my hands.
    • It should be noted, while the Crows' version mainly comes across as a melancholy classic-rock tune, the original Himalayans (Adam's old group) version seriously fits with the lyrics (to the point that you're unlikely to ever hear the Crows' version the same way again).
  • Distaff Counterpart: Maria. The most widely-accepted and often-quoted explanation, from Duritz himself:
    "She's just an idea of someone I came up with when I was writing 'Round Here.' I mean, she's me. It's through the eyes of a girl, but it's someone very much like me struggling at the edge, not sure if she's going to fall off on one side or the other. It's a theme that's stuck through songs. So she keeps popping up."
  • Driven to Suicide: Maria in "Round Here" sounds pretty close to this.
    She looks up at the building, says she's thinking of jumping
    She says she's tired of life. She must be tired of something.
  • Either/Or Title:
    • The title of one song on Hard Candy is given as "If I Could Give All My Love -or- Richard Manuel Is Dead".
    • The full title of Underwater Sunshine is Underwater Sunshine (or What We Did on Our Summer Vacation).
  • Epic Rocking: "Mrs. Potter's Lullaby", at over seven-and-a-half minutes long.
    • "Palisades Park" clocks in just over the eight minute mark, making it their longest song ever released.
    • Live versions of "Round Here" and "Rain King" are known to go on for over eleven minutes.
  • Flyover Country: "Omaha, somewhere in middle America..."
  • Greatest Hits Album: Films About Ghosts (The Best Of...)
  • Hidden Track: They are fond of putting hidden tracks on their albums, usually by placing a long period of silence after the last song followed by the hidden one. This means that the track won't show up as an option when viewing the tracks on the CD the only way to hear it is to wait through or fast forward through the silent portion of the last track.
  • I Am the Band/Face of the Band: Most people only know Adam Duritz by name. This is because he writes almost all the songs, is literally the voice/sound of the band, and is extremely charismatic. The band simply wouldn't exist without him.
  • Incredibly Long Note: In "Sullivan Street".
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: In "A Murder of One" with the "One for Sorrow, Two for Joy" rhyme (see Magpies as Portents trope) used in a song about an abusive partner, and then later in "I'm Not Sleeping" we get "I said rain rain go away\ Come again some other day,\ Cause I got all this shit to say\ But I've gone back to find my way", which is very powerful in context.
  • Los Angeles: "Goodnight L.A.", "Come Around", and "Los Angeles".
  • Long-Runner Lineup: Since 2005, the lineup of the band has been stablenote .
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Adam Duritz is pretty much the master of upbeat, poppy rock songs about emotional detachment and despair.
    • "American Girls" is a sparkly, upbeat pop song — about realizing your lover is insane yet being unable to leave them.
    • "Einstein on the Beach (For an Eggman)" is similarly upbeat and cheerful-sounding, but it's about Albert Einstein's guilt of being involved in the design of nuclear weapons.
    • "If I Could Give All My Love -or- Richard Manuel Is Dead" is another upbeat pop-rock song... about the singer realizing that his childhood idols are dying one by one and that he's unable to connect emotionally with the women in his life.
    • And then there's "You Can't Count on Me", where the singer is almost joyful to finally realize that the women in his life are nothing but playthings he can toss aside when he's bored with them.
  • Ode to Intoxication / Ode To Sobriety: "Perfect Blue Buildings" and "Amy Hit the Atmosphere" are both about heroin users. The former is about jonesing for a fix, trying to get "a little oblivion" so he doesn't have to think about himself or his life. The latter is happier, though—Adam, Amy, and the others they'd shoot up with always used to talk about being taken on a "rocket ride" to somewhere they really belonged; eventually, Amy got clean, finally getting "out of this gutter".
  • One Steve Limit: Averted since 1999; David Bryson was a longtime member of the band, and then David Immerglück joined up. To lessen confusion, the former is now listed on the album as Dave Bryson, and the latter is often announced in-concert as "Immy".
  • Perishing Alt Rock Voice: Just listen to Round Here.
  • Precision F-Strike: They don't use profanity that much, but there are a few songs where it pops up ("I'm Not Sleeping", "Recovering the Satellites", etc.).
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: "A Long December" is about Duritz's breakup with Courtney Cox, and "Come Around" is partly about his leaving California and moving to New York.
  • Rockstar Song:
    • "Have You Seen Me Lately?"
    • And more recently "Los Angeles".
    So if you see that movie star and me
    If you should see my picture in a magazine
    Or if you fall asleep by the bedroom TV
    Honey, I'm just trying to make some sense out of me.
  • Running Gag:
    • Well, less of a gag than a theme; during live performances, the band tends to work sections of "A Murder of One" into their other songs. It helps that they tend towards jamming while performing live.
    • They also name drop a woman named "Maria" in several of their songs, such as "Mr. Jones", "Round Here", and the unrecorded "August and Everything After". Lampshaded in Mrs. Potter's Lullabye:
    There's a piece of Maria in every song that I sing
  • Sanity Slippage Song: Up to half of their songs, really. This is somewhat a case of Write What You Know, as Adam Duritz has revealed that he has suffered from dissociative identity disorder.
  • Shout-Out:
    • They're fond of slipping in references to The Sandman in many songs.
    • Also many references to Henderson the Rain King, including one song title "The Rain King"
    • "The only sure road to true love is to find your inner Ric Ocasek". Duritz about his cover of "You Might Think"
    • On Across a Wire, Adam opens "Mr. Jones" by quoting the Byrds' "So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star".
    • "If I Could Give All My Love -or- Richard Manuel Is Dead" emulates both Richard Manuel's signature piano style and the main riff from "The Weight", his biggest hit with the Band.
    • It is quite likely that the subtitle of Underwater Sunshine is a tribute to Fairport Convention's album What We Did on Our Holidays, considering that it contains a cover of one of the songs from that album ("Meet on the Ledge"). The main part of the title may be a reference to the Soft Boys' Underwater Moonlight.
    • "Monkey" has a reference to Ben Folds.
  • The Show Must Go On: A 2002 performance in Los Angeles saw drummer Ben Mize fall ill mid-show, requiring his hospitalization. After a brief intermission, the band switched to acoustic instruments and performed several songs without a drummer, before drummers Randy Guss of Toad the Wet Sprocket (their opening band) and Todd Roper of Cake (who was in the audience) were persuaded to appear onstage to finish the show.
  • Something Completely Different: "Palisades Park" opens with a minute-long trumpet solo coupled with a jazz-influenced piano piece. Then the main piano riff kicks in with the first verse, backed by very jazzy, swingy drums, vibrato-infused, bluesy guitar licks and a new, almost talk-ish singing style that differs from Adam Duritz' usual style. Despite all of this, the rest of Somewhere Under Wonderland is pretty much standard Counting Crows.
  • Uncommon Time: Most of "Mercury" is in 4/4, but the intro and some of the instrumental fills are in 7/4.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Adam Duritz just might be the king of this trope. Ironically, most of his lyrics make perfect sense in context.