The Replacements, “Left of the Dial”

I came across Songs That Saved Your Life a while ago and from reading the entries posted by Jon, I felt like I had a friend with open arms. There was talk about Nirvana, The Smiths, and the Afghan Whigs. Those three bands were a major part of my high school years and I loved reading the stories that were offered. Music has always been the way I connected with people. I’ve never been really social but when I was talking it was always about some band. It was always about some album that I peer pressured my friends into listening to. I took pride in being the music guru of my small circle.

The first entry I read was one that was posted for the Fountains of Wayne song “Hackensack“. I never cared for them or gave them a fair listen but the entry that was posted told a story that connected with me deeply. It talked about waiting, missing that unforgettable someone, and wondering where the hell everyone went. It’s probably my quarter-life crisis starting, but whenever I’m not focused on writing or working on my band’s new album, I find myself flooded with memories of people I’ll never see again. This happens to everyone and I try not to get too Holden Caulfield about it, but it’s hard not to miss the people that helped fill out your days and nights.

I don’t want to blame anyone or get any pity. It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle and fade from the minds of others. You have to do something about it and when you don’t then those people are gone in a second. A song that’s been getting a lot of play from me has been the college radio anthem “Left of the Dial” by the Replacements. The song itself is a bit of a travelogue, a second hand way of keeping contact. I guess this is the perfect song for how I’ve been feeling. Flipping through stations on the radio, digging through the CD collection, listening to the songs we used to blare when we were driving with no particular destination.

I was in several bands in my teenage years. I couldn’t play anything. I attempted guitar and it was an attempt that was just embarrassing. It wasn’t about playing. It was about hanging out and attempting to make something. It was me trying to form a bond with these people, a second family. That turned out being the thing that got me kicked out of most of them but I loved those times. Things were bright and full of promise. No one was getting anybody pregnant or dropping off the face of the earth. We were in a bedroom jamming and it was all I could ask for. The opening lines of this song give me shivers every time I hear it.

“Heard about your band in some local page.
Did it mention our name? Didn’t mention our name.”

Nothing we did made it in the paper; we broke up before we played any shows, but that line drives all the ghosts back. The guitar line is a mixture of excitement and pain. You get a lot more pain than excitement but it’s hard to find a better song that wraps up my teen years than this. The movies, the hours spent loitering in gas station parking lots, the radio playing when we didn’t have much to say and we didn’t have to force the conversation. Paul Westerberg knew me better than I knew me and I wish I heard this back then. It might’ve made things a little less lonely.

“If I don’t see you for a long, long while
I’ll try to find you – Left of the dial”

This one goes out to everyone I’ve lost touch with or don’t talk too nearly enough. I miss you more than you know. I miss you more than I thought I would. If you read this, drop me a line. I’m still playing all our old songs.


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