One of the key narratives surrounding the success of Train’s “Hey, Soul Sister” — undoubtedly one of the most ubiquitous hits of 2010 — was that it represented an incredible comeback for the band. Prior to “Hey, Soul Sister,” Train were probably best known for their 2001 album Drops of Jupiter, which spawned a pretty gigantic hit of the same name. But they first got a taste of radio ubiquity when their single “Meet Virginia” became a chart smash in 1999 (peaking at number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100). It came from the group’s self-titled debut album, which was released on this day in 1998.
Train originally formed in San Francisco in 1994. Frontman Patrick Manahan (who had previously performed in a Led Zeppelin covers band) moved out west from Erie, Pennsylvania and began playing local bars and coffee shops with guitarist Rob Hotchkiss. The duo slowly put a band together and began to form the core of their rootsy, crunchy sound. When they couldn’t sign a record deal, they released their first album independently in 1997, and though it did not make commercial waves, it did attract the attention of a number of other bands, earning Train opening slots for the likes of Hootie & the Blowfish, Barenaked Ladies and Counting Crows.
Aware Records signed the band and re-released Train with a different track listing. The first single “Free” picked up some minor airplay on rock radio stations, but “Meet Virginia” became a massive crossover hit and propelled Train to platinum status. The memorable video stars actress and former “Noxzema Girl” Rebecca Gayheart as a foxy diner waitress.