Two months ago, shortly after the conclusion of their European tour, Counting Crows entered London’s AIR studios and recorded “August and Everything After” with the London Studio Orchestra. That doesn’t mean they played their 1993 debut LP of the same name, but rather an outtake from the sessions that gave the album its title. The missing title track has taken on near-mythic status amongst Counting Crows fans over the past quarter century, but frontman Adam Duritz never truly finished the song until just a few months ago when Amazon Music approached him about teaming up with an orchestra. You can hear the completed track right below.
“August and Everything After” was one of many lyric ideas in the notebook of Adam Duritz back when the band first entered the studio in early 1993, but his efforts to record the nine-minute song never went anywhere. “It was just me on the piano, which was probably a bad arrangement for it,” says Duritz. “There were holes in the lyrics and that really weighed it down. The whole thing was just lumbering. We had to toss it.”
The title, however, stuck around his mind and became the name of the album. “I was born in August,” says Duritz. “The record was about everything that happened after that. I loved the title more than I liked the song, quite honestly. But we did include some of my handwritten lyrics to it on the cover since I didn’t want to include anything that we were actually using.”
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The song remained little more than a rumor among Counting Crows fans until a random show at San Francisco’s Warfield in December of 2003 when the band attempted to play it live. Duritz felt the result was “kind of meh,” but it became a popular bootleg in the fan community. Two years later, when they played the Walt Disney Concert Hall with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, they decided to give it another go. By that point, he’d actually lost the original cassette of the demo and had to ask fans online to send him an MP3 so he could decipher the lyrics.
That seemed to be the end of the “August and Everything After” saga since it dropped out of their live repertoire for the next 13 years, but in late 2018 Amazon Music approached them about recording “A Long December” with a symphony as an Amazon Music exclusive for the month of December. That idea didn’t appeal to Duritz (“that song wouldn’t benefit from an orchestral arrangement”), so he countered with the idea of finally getting a proper rendition of “August and Everything After” on tape. His only condition was that composer Vince Mendoza — who they worked with at the 2005 Hollywood Bowl show — oversee the session.
“I loved Vince’s arrangement of the song,” says Duritz, who rewrote about a third of the lyrics before the session. “He conceived of this kind of bizarre instrumentation of our band band with just bass, drums and pedal steel. Then there’s a 22-piece string section and one woodwind, a big oboe. It all fit together perfectly. We played live and got it in just five or so takes.”
The session came after a long year of live work for Counting Crows, who haven’t taken a break from the road since 2011. This year, however, they’re finally staying home. No shows are planned beyond a handful of festivals and other special gigs. Duritz is using the free time to write material for the follow-up to the band’s 2014 LP Somewhere Under Wonderland. “Capitol did a magnificent job promoting that record and it still barely did a blip,” he says. “Making an impact on the culture takes more these days than just sending an album out to radio and putting videos on YouTube.”
He’s not sure how he wants to get out the next album, but he knows it’s time for a change. “We need to branch out,” he says. “It’ll be interesting to see how this partnership with Amazon goes. If it goes well, maybe they’ll be interested. I want to look into as many options as I can.”