Tracks like Tequila Sunrise by the Eagles, Alright by Supergrass and California Girls by the Beach Boys, to name just three, are feel good summer songs. In 2000, Californian rock band Queens of the Stones Age recorded a track called Feel Good Hit Of The Summer but it was a bit different from what the title might suggest.
Commonly abbreviated to QOTSA, lead singer and founding member Josh Homme wrote the song after a three-day millennium New Year’s party. He recalled in Mojo magazine in September 2010, “Nick Oliveri (the groups bass player) and I had gone out to Joshua Tree just before New Year’s, 2000, and stayed at a place called 29 Palms Inn. Out of that came Feel Good Hit of the Summer and Quick and to the Pointless,” two tracks that featured on their second album Rated R. “Feel Good Hit was such a great way to start that record, it basically said, Look out, here we come.”
The song’s lyrics are really a list of drugs; Nicotine, valium, vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy, and alcohol. Before they get to cocaine, which is mentioned throughout the chorus, they do, however, sneak in a quick ‘no.’ Homme has also hinted that the song is a direct reference to the band’s stoner rock label.
On a number of occasions, Josh has referred to the song as a ‘social experiment’ with regards to how the public would approach it, adding, “Despite the heavy drugs content in the track, our stance was left ambiguous because there’s no
endorsement and that it doesn’t say yes or no.” The album’s production was credited to the 5.15ers which was a pseudonym for Chris Goss. Chris said, “The track was intended to be a joke, a funny song. It was originally recorded as a chant at the end of the album, but its effectiveness resulted in its expansion into a full song and usage as the opener.”
In America, unsurprisingly, they had problems. Due to its blatant drug references a number of radio stations refused to play it. Wal-Mart, the national pharmacy, so, ironically a drug store, initially refused to sell the album unless the song was removed from the album or a warning label placed on the sleeve, though the band successfully argued that the cover and name of the album were warnings in themselves as it was called Rated R. Wal-Mart accepted that and agreed to stock it. As if the songs content needed reiterating, the sleeve of the single features the title spelt out with various drugs that are mentioned in the lyrics.
Apart from Josh, Judas Priest’s lead singer, Rob Halford, can be heard on the track. They were recording in an adjacent studio and when they passed in a corridor, Josh asked Rob if he would sing backing vocals. When Josh showed Rob the lyrics he replied, “Ah, a Rock And Roll cocktail, I know this one!”
The song, although released as a single in the US failed to chart but in the UK it remained an album track. However it did gain exposure after being included in the 2000 film Book of Shadows – Blair Witch 2 and also on the soundtrack. There have also been cover versions by notably Placebo, Machine Head and the Foo Fighters.
In 2007, the band played a gig for the patients at a rehab centre in California. Josh, in his infinite wisdom, decided to open the show with Feel Good Hit for The Summer at which the staff immediately unplugged their equipment and told them to leave. Soon after that, Josh told NME, “All of our records have some loose theme that’s put a rope around all the songs and drawn them in tight… Rated R is about paranoia and about paranoia that someone’s putting you in a box forever and trying to escape getting out of their box. You’re free to do what you want as long as you do it in here – and that is the frustration that your voice means nothing.”