Behind the movement- Dave has long purged... um, demons
"It was like a long, enjoyable bowel movement," he says, eyebrows back-flipping for loopy effect. "The good kind one that doesn't require wiping and happens in less than two minutes... of course, spread out over seven or eight months." Dave Matthews in Details magazine on the making of Some Devil
When the wit, wisdom and familiar quotations of Dave Matthews are inevitably compiled and published, a substantial portion of this potential bestseller will doubtless be devoted to Matthews' penchant for poop humor and scatological references. And that was before the recent scandal that rocked Chicago: allegations that Dave's bus had unleashed a torrent of human waste on hapless tour boat passengers.
Among contemporary celebrities, Matthews is peerless– perhaps even unique– for analogizing his inner workings to his inner workings, as the quotation above so graphically demonstrates.
No public figure of recent vintage can rival Matthews' willingness to share these intimate, moving moments– or his remarkable ability to contextualize them so fluently. It's testimony to his rakish charm that Matthews escapes the scrutiny such indelicate pronouncements might bring celebrities of more ordinary caliber. Indeed, Matthews' discharges are even central in self-appraisals of his "regular guy" image.
"I'm Johnny Boring," he tells Playboy in a February 20 Questions interview. "I work so f***ing hard at being a regular guy– 'cause I'm as regular as an orange fiery turd flying out of an elephant's ass."
But does Matthews' fecal fixation reveal only a propensity for ribald bathroom humor– or is it a sign of some deeper, constipated childhood confusion?
Certainly, any psychological profile would begin with a thorough examination of his upbringing. Freud's five stages of sexual development include the anal stage (from age one to three) in which the bowel movement– and specifically the withholding of such movement– becomes a gratifying activity, allowing a child his first experience of exerting power over his parents. The degree of leniency during toilet training, Freud asserts, results in one of two types of personalities: anal-expulsive (sloppy, disorganized, reckless, and defiant) and anal-retentive (obsessively clean, intolerant, stingy, and passive-aggressive).
It's obviously impossible for us (to say nothing of repellant) to trace Matthews' feculent infatuation. But we come not purely to psychoanalyze the man. Rather, we come to celebrate his curious compulsion for anal analogies.
Matthews clearly exists on a different plane than his rock-star peers. Even while the band and organization bearing his name generate untold wealth– Forbes estimates that the band took in $28M in 2003 from performances alone– his personal indulgences are almost inconsequential.
Eschewing the wild spending sprees that other musical prodigies seem to regard as rites of passage, Matthews splurges not on cars, planes, or Hollywood mansions but on the one room of his home where he can relieve himself of the pressures of stardom) and perhaps his turbulent digestive system): the bathroom.
"I always said that if I had the money I'd get a long bathtub here in America," Matthews told a Playboy interviewer when pressed for details of his luxury spending. "The bathtub in my house in Virginia is made from three old cast-iron tubs, the ones with the feet. I want a bathtub that, if I ask my wife to climb in, she can get in there with me. It's a hell of a tub."
Evidently, Matthews spends quite a bit of quality time in his porcelain sanctuaries at home and on the road. But where does this paper trail of anal-ogies begin?
Hook editor Hawes Spencer has the dubious distinction of being the first to catalogue Matthews' excrement-focused omnibus, performing a journalistic colonoscopy in a brief but illuminating article titled "Gut-wrenching: Will Dave go out there burdened?" in a DMB tribute issue marking the band's triumphant homecoming in 2001.
His findings? No major assessment or profile of Matthews up to that time lacked an example of the singer's gratuitous potty puns or a direct reference to impending trips to the throne.
Dubbed "Mr. Anus" by sister Jane in a 1994 Rolling Stone article for his incessant allusions to his bowels, Matthews gleefully picked up the gauntlet in a 1998 interview: "Think I'm going to have a movement soon. Better go and find a quiet place. Don't want to go out there burdened," he told Spin magazine.
Writer Dave Colapinto, who has twice profiled Matthews at pivotal career peaks, related a classic Matthews comment in the opening of his 2001 Rolling Stone profile, "The Salvation of Dave Matthews": "He makes a couple of jokes about the state of his bowels: 'Things feel ... I don't know. Loose.' "
It was perhaps after eliminating the source of his pre-concert burden at the same show that Matthews spiced his stage banter with this rhetorical outburst: "Does anyone check the toilet paper after they wipe their butt? I'm just asking. I personally don't– I got an incredible confidence level. I'm an extremely thorough person. I don't need to look, but I've heard– rumor has it– that many people do!"
Indeed, maybe we're digging too deep. In divining the secrets of Matthews' defecations, we're confusing the act with its metaphorical implications.
Perhaps Matthews' excremental expositions are simply a subconscious reference to the artistic process– or an allegorical nod-and-wink in an attempt to demystify the hyper-analytic discussions sparked by the cryptic lyrics that have kept Dave on top of the rock world for more than a decade.
Whatever the case, in the Tao of Dave, sh** happens– but it's the dump that is his muse: "I get visitations often when I'm having a crap," he once told Newsweek. "I have these ideas, and they come in, and I'm, oh, very excited about them. But then they vanish."
Maybe he flushed.
Bill Ramsey, the assistant news editor at the daily newspaper in Lafayette, Louisiana, is a former Charlottesvillian who used to write a weekly DMB column.