When The Verve Pipe released their album «The Freshmen» in 1997, it didn’t take long for the title track to become a hit. However, most people don’t know the story behind the song’s lyrics. This post will explore the song’s meaning and why it became so popular.
The Freshman is a song by the rock band The Verve Pipe. It was launched in 1997 as the 3rd single from their second studio album, Villains, and this is the group’s most famous song.
The song first began to feature acoustically on their 1992 album I’ve Suffered a Head Injury. It was re-recorded and released on the band’s 1996 LP Villains. The band then recorded the song under production support from Jack Joseph Puig. “The Freshman” peaked at No. 5 in the US.
A slightly modified version of the soundtrack was prepared and launched for radio rotation, in which the performer sings the final text of the second verse in the same melodic sequence. In contrast to his shrill, boisterous rendition of this text in the album version, he sings the corresponding context at the end of the first verse.
The Story of the Song «The Freshmen» — The Verve Pipe
The lead singer of the group wrote this song based on an actual event: his ex-girlfriend had an abortion. He allowed himself some liberties when writing the music: in the second verse, the girl takes a massive amount of Valium to lay hands on herself, but this, fortunately, did not happen.
In an interview with Songfacts, Vander Ark explained, “Part of the story is pretty plausible in that my buddy and I took turns hanging out with the same girl. But after such ambiguous encounters, she discovered her pregnancy and had an abortion. But here again, there is lyrical liberty, giving the story a dramatic effect. The neophyte rhymer ended the song by making the girl commit suicide, but this never happened in reality.
Brian Vander Ark has this to say about the song: “The Freshmen,” which was written in 1991. One year before the birth of Verve Pipe. I wrote it in a house on Gall Lake, Michigan. I rented The Freshman with Marlon Brando and Matthew Broderick. Then I realized that we are all freshmen at some point in our lives, so why not write – why not write a song for everyone?
There is a version that the song was based on the life story of Romeo and Juliet. The young lovers were only 14 (about the age of a high school student), and the “weekly vacation” could be formed when Romeo left, and Juliet faked her death. “A huge dose of Valium” could be inserted into the song by analogy with what happened with Juliet.
It turned out to be a very emotional song. Brian Vander Ark never stopped performing, giving solo concerts and as Part of The Verve Pipe. The song recounts harrowing events, but Vander Ark looks at them from an observer’s point of view, which is typical of his songs. At the same time, a girl could get pregnant and have an abortion, not only from him. Whose child it was is not known.
The music video for the song was directed by Mark Neal, who also made a video for the song Round Here for Counting Crows and later led the documentary Faster.
Meaning of the song «The Freshmen» — The Verve Pipe
The band members constantly change their answers when asked what the song means. At first, the subject of the plot seemed to be a conversation overheard at a party; then, it turned to his ex-girlfriend, who had an abortion and committed suicide. There were thoughts about her suicide and then that the ex-girlfriend of the soloist was dating his best friend. That is, some incomprehensible mishmash is obtained.
The song’s subject did not really understand the consequences of intimate communication beforehand. “Freshmen” may not know all the nuances of adult life.
The best friend, who also slept with the soloist’s girlfriend, finds out that the girl committed suicide. He feels incredible remorse and realizes the consequences of his actions. The main subject momentarily experiences guilt. However, he tries to justify himself, ending the song with the words: “We were just freshmen.” He continues to be tormented by guilt, sobbing, and burying his head on the floor. The creation of the song provoked this reaction. There is some ambiguity added to it. The guy, as it were, apologizes and tries to accuse the girl of her sexuality, an attempt to seduce him. He does not want to be responsible because she fell in love, not him. And then he sings: “We were just freshmen.” But he immediately catches himself and regrets that he could compromise. He feels guilty. And his friend took a week off to forget her.
“The girl took a week’s worth of Valium and fell asleep” is why this song isn’t that powerful literally – it’s confusing. HIS girlfriend is MY girlfriend. The same girl who had an abortion has now committed suicide.
“Now he is tormented by guilt, sobbing with his head on the floor, thinking about her now and how he never really cried,” he says. “He has the same guilt I have about the abortion and death.
“We tried to wash our hands of all this; we never talk about our relationship” – We rarely spoke after the incident – we just tried to forget it. We never talked about her or that we could not have a normal relationship with anyone since then.
By the way, this song is viral at high school proms.
«The Freshmen» — Songfacts
In an interview with Exclusive Magazine, lead singer and songwriter Brian Vander Ark stated that the incident which inspired the song was when his pregnant girlfriend had an abortion.
In a 2018 interview with Songfacts, Vander Ark said:
For the most part, a made-up story, which most of my songs are. These are stories that I come up with, and I do characters. Part of the story was true in the fact that I had gone out with a girl, and my buddy had gone out with her after I went out with her, and then I went out with her again, and then she ended up getting pregnant and having an abortion. But from there, a poetic license happens and makes the story more dramatic. A neophyte writer that I was, I ended up having her commit suicide, which never happened.
The song first appeared, in an acoustic style, on their 1992 album I’ve Suffered a Head Injury. It was recorded a second time and released on the band’s 1996 album, Villains. Later that year, the band re-recorded the song, this time with the producer Jack Joseph Puig, for release as a single in January 1997. Subsequent pressings of Villains replaced the original album version with the single version. “The Freshmen” peaked at number 5 in the United States.
In addition, a slightly modified single version was released to radio, with Vander Ark singing the final lyrics of the second verse (“thinks about her now and how he never really wept”). In the same melodic sequence as he sings the homologous songs at the end of the first verse (“stop a baby’s breath…”), as opposed to his higher-pitched, almost yelled rendering of these lyrics in the version that appeared on the album.
“The Freshman” was five years old when it became a hit. The song was first issued on early copies of the 1992 Verve Pipe EP I’ve Suffered a Head Injury, which they released independently. The second recording appeared on the 1996 album Villains, and the third recording, which was a hit, appeared in 1997 single and video. The song later appeared on various compilations.
«The Freshmen» The Verve Pipe – Songfacts
- The song is about the way Brian Vander Ark felt when he first fell in love with his wife Laura. He said that it was both happy and scary at the same time, which is why the lyrics say: “I didn’t know how to feel, I didn’t know what to say.”
- A friend of mine in college met a girl and he fell madly in love with her. He was scared of being in love but he was glad that it had happened.
- He was just like, you know, he had never really been in love before, and he was really scared, but really happy at the same time. He didn’t know what to do.
- It was a big deal for him because it was his first time ever falling in love with someone. He’s always been very careful about who he falls for and how he treats them and everything else. So this is why I think that song resonates with people so much because they can relate to it on some level or another if they’ve felt the same way as Tim has felt before