Tuneful Tuesday: The Mellow Zone

mushroomI had the opportunity to eat lunch at the Mellow Mushroom in Nashville on Father’s Day. I would highly recommend it. They have some really awesome pizzas there, and the service was great, too. Lots of music stuff inside, which is right up my alley, of course. Just an overall pleasant experience.

It’s been a while since I’ve actually focused much on the music playing inside a restaurant I was eating at. There are usually so many other distractions around, particularly now that every restaurant seems to have at least five different televisions all playing five different things at the same time.

(Pet peeve: Why do restaurants put a television on a sitcom or newscast or something, turn the volume all the way down, and not turn on the closed captions? You’ve reduced the viewing experience to basically watching mimes.)

For some reason, though, on this particular day, I was listening to the songs being played with some degree of attention. As a string of ’90s alternative tunes reeled off, I had a realization: Even though some of those songs came out during really difficult periods of my life, when my depression was at some of its lowest points, I smiled after the first few notes of each of them played. It was like I was running into a bunch of old friends again.

With iPods and digital music, I think we’ve sort of lost the value of hearing a song from long ago played over a distantblur speaker. We can put our whole libraries on something the size of a notepad (or smaller). There are still those moments, though, when the past comes creeping in and taps you on the shoulder, just as it did for me Sunday. Counting Crows’ album Recovering the Satellites was like a depression soundtrack for me, but I sang nearly all the words to “Angels of the Silences” when I heard them. I don’t know what I was doing when Cherry Poppin’ Daddies “Zoot Suit Riot” came out, but I know I was diggin’ it Sunday. And even though I only know two words of Blur’s “Song 2” (“woo” and “hoo”), the energy of it made me sit up and take notice.

There may have been songs that took us to the depths of despair, but, man, aren’t we glad later on they were there? They came through when the happy, poppy stuff didn’t, then they came back years later to share war stories. Sad songs don’t always have to make you cry; sometimes they can make you smile because you’re not in the place you first heard them anymore.

That, my friends, is a pretty mellow trip, indeed.


Tuneful Tuesday: Same Old Song

Every year, it’s the same thing.

“It’s been a long December, and there’s reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last…”

The words almost feel like a warm blanket to me every year at about this time. Money starts to get tight, old habits creep their way back in, and the realization that you’ve lost a good portion of the past year to either depression or busyness or just good old-fashioned stupidity on your part begins to set in. December starts to seem very long … and cold … and lonely.

“I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower…”

Never mind that the song is about the breakup of a relationship. Thinking that this year might indeed be better than the last strikes a universal chord. The months do get long. The laughs do come a little slower. There isn’t much optimism to be found in the past, so looking ahead is about the only option left.

“And the feeling that it’s all a lot of oysters, but no pearls…”

I am sick and tired of identifying with this song.

I remember thinking not that long ago that days and months and years weren’t ever really bad; it just depended on how you viewed them. “All things work together for the good…” December could be long, or it could be a beneficial struggle; the choice was really up to me. Then things started to get a little sideways. I stopped doing healthy things and fell back into unhealthy patterns. Suddenly, December began to lengthen, to get colder, to be not so good

This is the last December I want to spend like this. A new attitude from me won’t change the fact that this is a great song, but it might make it seem not so comfortable to me in the future.

“Drove up to Hillside Manor, sometime after 2 a.m., and talked a little while about the year…”

I want it to be a good talk next December. Maybe this year will be better than the last.