Marcy Playground on Deadheads & Modern Influences; The Canyon Montclair 11/12

Marcy Playground’s debut is often overlooked by 90’s alternative rock circles. Spawning an acclaimed lead single that spent 15 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks Chart, their candor self-titled rocks back & forth between childlike cleverness & adult narratives. Bittersweet lyrics & a playful approach to melody leave a unique charm that reaches beyond college radio airplay; named after alternative curriculum Marcy Open grade school, the band draws inspiration from childhood trials & has continued to evolve its formula across 4 full-length records.

Liner notes read: “This song is about being picked on.”

John Wozniak, guitarist & singer-songwriter of the band, told The Morning Call in 1998 that he followed the Grateful Dead from ages 14-20 selling LSD & hard-boiled eggs for a living. Reading that he had indulged in over 100 acid trips himself during that time, I asked him how his time as a Deadhead had influenced his sound.

I would say Robert Hunter’s songwriting made the biggest impact. I mean, I love Jerry’s playing too… I grew up on rock & roll, but The Dead have this really beautiful clean tone. Sonically, it inspires me to use more acoustic/clean tones & draw on more Americana & roots. There’s so much you can do without big, loud, distorted guitars. Even though I love big, loud, distorted guitars, it taught me that you can make people have a great time & enjoy music without that. I loved my years following the Grateful Dead around, that was great.

Although not explicitly stated, one can derive that Jerry Garcia’s choice of tonality lead Wozniak to keep Sex & Candy as an acoustic post-grunge ballad. We’re glad he did. The stripped-down lead single was conceived after a friend walked in on him & his girlfriend at her dorm after coitus interruptus. She said the room smelled like the track’s title, & Wozniak coined the phrase years later in classic 4 AM bedroom songwriting.

Favorite current artists?

I’m terrible with names nowadays because I used to go to record stores and flip through albums; “cool cover” or whatever, buy from bands that way. Now it’s playlists on my phone… but I love The Shins. Bahamas is pretty cool too.

What’s a Marcy Playground song you wish more people knew?

The Angel of Forever Sleep. I think that’s just a good song to go fall asleep to. You don’t need another sleeping pill, just put that song on.

The band’s fourth single on Capitol Records.

Last question, why do you play music?

I have no idea. It started out because I loved it & it was a great way to meet people that had similar interests. “I could do this” was the main thought. & then it turned into this weird & enjoyable ride. I just loved doing it, I think. That’s why I still do it; because I love it.

Start here with Marcy Playground’s 1997 self-titled on Spotify.

More Marcy Playground at

Please watch your step as you’re getting off.


By Hector Zaldivar

Professional magician. @hexzald