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.

Advertisements

Tuneful Tuesday: What I’m Looking For

There are a number of songs I can remember from my lifetime that I just did not “get” when they were popular. Sometimes I was too young to understand what they were talking about. Sometimes I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to appreciate them. And, probably, sometimes I just didn’t care what they meant. Whatever the case, I didn’t appreciate these songs fully until they had passed their apex of popularity.

A prime example of this is U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” from the band’s mega-selling album The Joshua Tree. Those old enough to remember when this album was current will no doubt recall that radio, television, and virtually every other type of media was saturated with all things pertaining to the Irish rock band. As is my common practice when I feel someone or something is being overexposed, I eventually just stopped paying much attention to all the hoopla, which is sort of a shame, because The Joshua Tree is a really brilliant album, recorded before U2 lost some of the fire that made them such a treat to listen to in their early days.

Beyond the fatigue aspect, though, I had a difficult time reconciling Bono’s lyrics to the Christian beliefs he seemed to express. I mean, if you are a Christian and you’ve met Jesus, what more could you be looking for? Even outside of the religious slant, if you climbed the “highest mountain,” what else do you have to accomplish? If you’ve kissed “honey lips,” what lust is there left to satisfy? If Bono had found all that, what in the world could he still be looking for?

All the years later, I understand what he was singing about. Whether it is a symptom of depression or middle age or simple selfishness, there is still a large amount of dissatisfaction residing within me. Whatever that missing piece is that will make me feel whole, I haven’t found it yet. Religion, family, work… There is still something not quite right, and I have not been able to identify what that is. There is a peace and joy which still eludes me. Sometimes I believe I have found what I lack, only to see it slip away once more. Sometimes I wonder if such a thing exists at all.

I used to sit back and declare judgement on Bono for not being satisfied with what he had. I wish now that I could take those words of condemnation back. I get it now. And I’m still looking, too.

Tuneful Tuesday: Invisible (And Different)

People are happy doing a great variety of things. Some are perfectly content to curl up at night with a good crossword puzzle. Some enjoy sitting on their front porch and watching traffic pass by. Some religiously watch their favorite television shows each week. Some may even be happy just leaning back in their recliner at night and dozing off after dinner.

I can’t begrudge anyone for what makes them happy. All those things I just mentioned, though? They’re not for me.

I have always felt a great pressure in life to be normal. To do what was expected of a regular person. If you think about it, ultronthough, people who are vastly different are celebrated daily in our culture. For instance, the movie Avengers: Age of Ultron opens in the United States this week. It will be watched by scores of “normal” people, but it will have been produced by people who think largely outside of the box. A movie which deals with the fantastic would, logically, come from minds which dwell on the fantastic, and those minds are not going to fit the common mold.

For those among us who aspire to be writers, actors, musicians, painters, photographers, or anything else outside of a normal career, our thinking has to become different. Writing is an odd task, at least in my eyes, because it doesn’t produce anything tangible or usable. It’s words on a page, not a tool that can be used for repairs or clothing that can be worn or a house that can be lived in. It does have worth, though, so it requires someone who can stand apart from the crowd and be comfortable there.

I have not arrived at that place yet, and I believe there is a great number of people who are in the same predicament. As a result, a lot of us feel invisible to the world around us, or we feel like outcasts who don’t fit in anywhere. Some people push through, though, and make it.

This song is for all of us…

Tuneful Tuesday: Hit And Miss

I have made a concerted effort lately to listen to the radio more often. I went through a phase where I just wasn’t that interested in any of the music I was hearing, so I retreated into my iPod and the vast amount of music from the 1980s and 1990s it contained. Occasionally something new might catch my ear, but for the most part I stuck with what I knew.

As a result, I’ve been discovering lots of music that is new to me but isn’t exactly “new” music. One of those songs recently has been “Some Nights,” by fun. The song was released in 2012, and the only knowledge I really had of it was the fact the group put a period at the end of its name and a column in a Christian magazine I was reading labeling it as an indicator of how confused the current generation is regarding its place in this world.

Lyrically, the song actually does sort of jump around all over the place. I mean, the guy is obviously distressed about something, but I’m not exactly sure what it is. On the other hand, sometimes that’s what depression feels like; you’re upset about something, but you can’t exactly put your finger on what it is. And then there’s the loneliness, which is captured pretty well with lines like “I try twice as hard, and I’m half as liked” and “I could use some friends for a change.”

The real kicker of the song, though, bursts forth in a couple of lines near the end. “Man, you wouldn’t believe the most amazing things that can come from some terrible nights.” It takes a long time to grasp that perspective. In this case, it takes a look into a young boy’s eyes to make the realization. It’s different for everyone, though. The rest of the song may wander a bit, but this bit of wisdom is spot-on.

It seems as if a lot of artists these days are tapping into some very profound truths about depression and being able to manage it. Maybe the radio is worth listening to after all.

Tuneful Tuesday: Frail

Apparently, “snafu” is a curse word.

snafuWell, it’s not a curse word in itself, but it is an acronym which contains a curse word. I’m not going to spell it out here; a simple Google search will tell you what the individual letters stand for. I was not so lucky as to discover the meaning of each letter through an internet search, however. No, I learned their meaning after I uttered the word on live Christian radio today.

I have been using that word for years and had absolutely no clue it was an acronym. Of course, now that I know, I definitely won’t use it on the radio anymore. What’s interesting to me as I sit here and reflect on my gaffe is that something which meant one thing to me when the day started now means something else as it is ending. The word didn’t change, though; my perception of it did.

Sometimes songs are like that. You go for years thinking a song means one thing, then one day you realize you had one of the words wrong and suddenly it takes on a completely different meaning. Ironically, on the same day I learned what “snafu” really meant, one of these song occurrences happened to me.

I’ve written about Jars of Clay here before, so I’m not going to rehash all that. The group’s second album, Much Afraid, was a bit of a dud for me. It was almost as if after the enormous success of their debut album they were given free rein on their sophomore project, which unfortunately resulted in some over-elaborate production that nearly drowned many of the songs. There are some interesting arrangements on the album, though, including a nearly seven-minute song titled “Frail.”

For years, I believed this song was about someone lamenting their inability to be a good friend. I thought this mainly because I believed the last word of the song was “friend.” Well, it’s actually “frail,” which sort of debunks my theory. I’m stubborn, though, so I’ll probably stick with my version at least a little while longer. Besides, it fits better with how I’m feeling today anyway.

“If I was not so weak/If I was not so cold/If I was not so scared of being broken/Growing old…” It’s a spiritual metaphor in the song, representing why someone can’t submit to God, but aren’t these all attitudes that keep us from being good friends? They’re also attitudes that are incredibly difficult to face in ourselves. Finally, they’re attitudes that require a lot of patience from our friends to put up with.

It’s all about the perceptions. Sometimes we’re right, sometimes we’re wrong. Sometimes we’re not exactly either one, but the hopeful side of me likes to believe things will become clearer over time. That makes the snafus … er, mistakes easier to deal with along the way.