Tuesday, December 4, 2018

100 Songs for 2018: Outtakes Day Two (Old Friends)


Many years ago now, I was in a band. We were pretty good, and more importantly it was just a lot of fun to get together and play music every day. At the time, we were all big classic rock guys. Beatles. Stones. Led Zeppelin. Pink Floyd. We thought the best music in the world had been made in the 60’s and 70’s, and that nothing else would ever match it, and that this was just an objectively true fact, not up for debate.

We hated fads, and in the late-90’s it seemed like fads were everywhere, especially in music. Ska. Swing. Boy bands. Nu-metal. Personally, I was offended by the way these new fads would seem to roll off the assembly line, fully formed, and overnight I was supposed to be into this new thing. It especially didn’t make sense in music. We knew what the best music was. Why did we need anything else?

With that in mind, I wrote a song called “Everything’s New,” a waltz for twelve-string guitar. The chorus went like this:

Where will you go come tomorrow when everything’s new?
Changing again is the last thing that I wanna do

The song was … fine.

The core of our band stayed together over the years, but we had three different lead singers. The second was a guy named Eric. We both worked at TGI Friday’s. Eric was a little bit older than us, and much more self-assured. He was a practicing buddhist. He was almost definitely the coolest person I had met to that point in my life. 

When Eric joined the band, we played him all of our songs. He liked “Everything’s New,” but he was confused by the chorus. He didn’t get how teenagers in a rock band could possibly hold an opinion as conservative and reactionary as “change is bad.” He embraced change. He looked forward to change. He wanted change.

I stood up for my lyrics. At the time I really did believe that change was bad, at least when it came to music. We already had Dark Side of the Moon and Led Zeppelin IV. We were all set there. Was I really supposed to get super into Squirrel Nut Zippers and Cherry Poppin’ Daddies just so Gap could sell more khakis?

Eric’s point was more subtle. It was about acceptance. You are going to change. That’s not up to you. You can fight it, but you’re going to be fighting it your entire life, and you’re going to end up frustrated and exhausted and scared. So you’re going to change, and when you do change, feel good about it. This doesn’t mean you have to throw yourself into every fad. You definitely don’t have to reset your entire personality because of some new marketing campaign. But you do need to be open to new things, and ready to change when it feels right.

At the time, I wasn’t sold. I wasn’t ready. I get it now, but it took years.

I bring this up for two reasons. One, today’s post features bands that once featured prominently in past 100 Songs posts, but who didn’t make the cut this year. Did they change? Did I change? Did I change but they didn’t? Did they change but I didn't? For each, the answer is probably a little different. Whatever the answer, it’s okay. I have to keep telling myself this. It is no one’s fault that I don’t love the new songs from these bands as much as I love their older stuff. Not mine, and not theirs.

Two, the chorus for the Death Cab song included here is literally:

Followed me, followed me
(Please don't change)
(Stay) Followed me, followed me
(Stay the same)

I don’t know what they mean by it. They probably aren’t talking about musical fads. Death Cab has been making music for more than twenty years now, across nine albums. They’ve changed. That’s good. We should all be so lucky.

(1) Death Cab for Cutie - “Gold Rush”
(2) Generationals - “Beggars in the House of Plenty”
(3) Swearin’ - “Untitled (LA)”
(4) Waxahatchee - “Chapel of Pines”
(5) Kurt Vile - “One Trick Ponies”
(6) Titus Andronicus - “Above the Bodega (Local Business)”
(7) Frank Turner - “Be More Kind”
(8) The Jayhawks - “Everybody Knows”
(9) The Kooks - “No Pressure”
(10) DMA’s - “For Now”

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