As guitarist Rick Jackett noted, while they felt good about the danceable rock number that flaunted a set of ironic and cynical lyrics, they had felt just as strongly about some of their previous songs, including “Good Times,” the first single off of their 2003 eponymous album.
“We felt almost exactly about that song as we did about ‘Paralyzer.’ For sure people will listen to it because it’s cool and different and … no … it bombed,” Jackett says. “It didn’t just not do well, it got hate mail. We couldn’t have been more wrong.”
And so, with “Paralyzer” they were still skeptical of success. They didn’t think it would surpass the 2003 hit “One Thing” as their foremost song. They had no idea it would scream up the charts, and linger there, breaking into the Billboard Top 10 in five different categories and topping both Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks and Hot Modern Rock Tracks. They didn’t even consider that it would eventually become one of the Top 20 most downloaded songs in history. And they definitely hadn’t the faintest notion that the track would one day be sung by recording legend Daryl Hall.
Yeah, that Daryl Hall. The Daryl Hall of Hall and Oates. Jackett and fellow guitarist James Black made their way to Hall’s abode to take part in an ongoing music project titled “Live From Daryl’s House,” a venture in which Hall invites artists to sit in with him and a group of musicians and record a set from his home.
“We got there and he was like, ‘So, which one of you guys is the singer.’ And we were like, uh, we’re guitar players,” Jackett recounts. “And he was like ‘Oh, okay, I guess I’ll be the singer today then.’ It was so cool, I’ve never heard anyone else sing our songs, more or less having Daryl Hall sing them.”
The sets are recorded and broadcast live online – the Finger Eleven set goes live Sept. 15 – at livefromdarylshouse.com.
“It was something that I could never have imagined happening,” Jackett says.
Of course there was a brief moment when the band never thought they would be making music at all.
Following the release of their album Tip in 1997, they received word that they had been dropped by their label, Mercury Records. Scott Anderson, the band’s lead singer, relayed the stunning news to his bandmates during a practice session, telling them that the label thought the album was too heavy to sell in their native Canada.
“We were in our jam space and I remember our singer, Scott, came in and was like ‘We just got dropped,'” Jackett says. “We sort of asked collectively ‘What do we do now?’ And I remember Scott saying “I think this is when most bands quit. But I don’t think we should do that.’ And we just kept going.”
So, they pressed on and ultimately wound up on Wind-Up Records, touring alongside Creed and Fuel throughout the United States. Today they rank among the top modern rock acts out there, teaming with Three Doors Down for a show on Saturday, Sept. 13 at Merriweather Post Pavilion.
“It couldn’t have worked out better,” Jackett says. “That was a hard moment, but it didn’t last long.”
And the airwaves of Canada? Well, today they’re bursting with the booming sounds of hard rock from bands like Nickelback and Default.
“I wouldn’t say we were ahead of our time, because that sounds like the most arrogant thing I could ever say,” Jackett says. “We were just trying to do something that wasn’t being done at the time – trying to be individual.”
Even if Jackett and his mates in Finger Eleven are too modest to admit their roles as pioneers, it certainly seems they will be remembered in other ways, such as for the staying power of some of their songs. Maybe someday they’ll even match the rep of their stand-in frontman, Daryl Hall. Lord knows that penning the 18th most-downloaded song in history is a good place to start.
“We had a lot of success with ‘One Thing,’ and that helped us get on the map and open doors for us. ‘Paralyzer,’ it was released last March , it’s been out for almost a year and a half and people are still playing it and requesting it,” Jackett says. “That’s sort of like the dream I think of everybody wants, to write something that can endure the test of time. And so far that’s our best shot.
“But we were talking about this last night, we don’t think we’ve written our best songs yet. So hopefully we’ll have this conversation in a few years and we’ll have a new song that’s even better.”