Believe it or not, there was a time when Gavin Rossdale and Gwen Stefani were roughly equal in popularity. For about six months in ’96, Rossdale and Stefani were the prettiest people of their respective genders fronting hugely successful rock bands, and if you turned on MTV, there’d be about a one in four chance you’d see something from either Bush’s Sixteen Stone or No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom. Then Gwen’s band went more mainstream, she launched a solo career and even did a little acting, while Gavin did all three of those things as well, but none of them as successfully. Now, you look at the two of them as a couple, and you think “Gee, it’s nice of Gwen to stay with him all these years.”
Gwen appearing as a guest performer on Bush’s “Glycerine”—Gavin’s big power ballad that was about as popular as No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak” back in the day, but is remembered about 10% as fondly—now seems almost like an act of charity, like it’s the result of years of Stefani going “Awww honey, are you sure you don’t want my help?” after the frustrating sales numbers for Golden State and Sea of Memories. Not that Bush have been toiling in obscurity, exactly—they scored a #1 hit on the Alternative Rock charts just last year with “The Sound of Winter”—but let’s just say that without Gwen’s involvement, we probably wouldn’t be writing about Bush on Popdust anytime soon.
Anyway, Gwen did appear as Gavin’s duet partner a week-and-a-half ago during the annual Almost Acoustic Christmas concert held by L.A. rock station KROQ—incidentally, the concert where the couple first met 17 years earlier—on a version of “Glycerine,” at first trading verses with her hubby, then harmonizing with him on the chorus, before the whole band kicks in at song’s end. (Which they never did back in the day—the only instrumentation on the original besides Gavin and his guitar was a string outro. But it would be a shame to forever be banned from playing on your own band’s biggest hit, wouldn’t it?)
The performance caught some headlines, and apparently garnered enough attention that the group decided to release a recording of the version on iTunes. About a week after the song’s release for download, it’s cracked the site’s Top 100 chart, currently residing at #82. That’s not unfathomable or anything, but it’s pretty impressive for a live version of an almost two-decade-old song that even most ’90s enthusiasts probably don’t rock out to all that often anymore—especially one that has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, as far as we could tell.
It’s a testament not only to Stefani’s popularity—which isn’t exactly at an all-time high, but is still considerable—but the fact that the rendition is a damn good one. The harmonies between the two are quite lovely, the recording is excellent, and the full-band performance, while jarring for those of us still intimately familiar, gives the song a edge it had previously lacked. And let’s face it, as dumb as some of the song’s lyrics are—and if Gwen could get through her “We live in a wheel where everyone steals / And when we rise, it’s like Strawberry Fields” couplet without giving her husband a bit of an eye-roll, she’s a better spouse than we are—the melody is still incredibly strong, and the emotional attachment for survivors of the Alternative Nation is still a strong one.
We hope the recording’s popularity only rises from here. Is it too late to get it in the 90210 season finale? It would only seem fair.