I guess Iâ€™ve always been “grumpy.” The guy who hates everything. Iâ€™ve been like that my entire life. I remember being this way when I was a kid. The other kids in my classes would be happy to try out new activities or work with new partners but not me. I knew right off the bat if I would hate something or if I would like it. I always thought it was a part of my charm. I mean, you see movies where the main character is an asshole the entire way through and he still has his little group of loved ones near him. They stick up for him and then he goes through that moment of change. He realizes that if he doesn’t do something with himself then they might not stick around. Lately, Iâ€™m going through that moment except I haven’t tried and I don’t think anyone’s willing to wait on me.
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. Iâ€™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 Iâ€™m not focused on writing or working on my band’s new album, I find myself flooded with memories of people Iâ€™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. Itâ€™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 Iâ€™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? Didnâ€™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 didnâ€™t have much to say and we didnâ€™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 donâ€™t see you for a long, long while
Iâ€™ll try to find you – Left of the dial”
This one goes out to everyone Iâ€™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. Iâ€™m still playing all our old songs.
I spend an awful lot of time thinking about the past.Â I mean, let’s face it, this site wouldn’t exist if not for an overdeveloped sense of nostalgia.Â I see that faces of people I’ll never speak to again in every crowd, and I imagine bumping into the people I used to know and love.Â For some reason, my life has never really been about looking forward.Â At least, it hasn’t generally been so.Â In high school, my general disinclination to plan for the future meant that I graduated middle of my class, and without any plans beyond “avoiding lame stuff.” (1) And so, instead of following my friends to college, or doing meaningful work, I waited for my life to begin.
- Clearly, I was also born without a keenly honed sense of irony. [Back]
â€œBirds scream at the top of their lungs in horrified hellish rage every morning at daybreak to warn us all of the truth but sadly we don’t speak bird.” ~Kurt Cobain
Do you remember where you were? Â Friday, April 5, 1994?
If you were in high school back then maybe you were driving around aimlessly with friends looking for something to do to fill the hole of boredom. Â Maybe you were hanging out in your bedroom and scribbling in a journal wishing you had friends to drive around aimlessly with. Â Maybe you were on a skateboard kicking up speed in your Chuck Taylors and heading to band practice. Â Maybe you were busing tables to buy a guitar. Â Maybe you were zoned out in front of Mtv when the news hit home that Kurt Cobain was dead.
A long time ago, Mcdonald’s used to give out these plastic lunchboxes.Â They weren’t special, and they certainly weren’t interesting (a quick Google search turns up no images of the things), but, for a time, I kept my whole world in mine.Â Then, at some point, probably around age four, I became aware of the difference between cassette tapes and the radio.Â My parents starting keeping more and more cassettes in the car, and, so, John Denver’s Greatest Hits could remain in continuous play from the house to the car and back again.Â (This was, I assure you, a desired state of affairs at that age.)Â I had one or two cassettes of my own, Muppets and Twisted Sister, if I remember correctly, and I was particularly pleased when I would get the opportunity to play one of these tapes in the car.Â There’s something about having music at your command, wherever you might go, that’s just so magical.Â For a long time, my father and I loved a PBS concert from Genesis’ Mama Tour.Â (1) When we would put the cassette on in the car, I would be instantly transported back to the time we spent watching it, and that experience just fascinated me.Â As time went on, I became aware of the power of music to shape and enhance the otherwise mundane time spent traveling from home to school and back.Â But after a time, I needed something more…and that’s where my McDonald’s lunch box comes in.
- Make sure to watch parts one and two! [Back]