Friday, October 13, 2017

Sad Songs Mean So Much: An Occasional Series

This is an oh so tragic story, so please try not to laugh.

A long time ago (no Spanish American War jokes, thank you) I was going through a really painful breakup, by which I mean I was at the beginning of a three year depression that made me all but impossible to hang out with because of my annoying habit of saying things like "What's there to live for?" in response to questions like "Would you like fries with that?"

As you can imagine, my emotional state was impacting my listening habits, and at one point the then new 1991 album Anything Can Happen, by Nashville alt-pop rockers The Questionnaires, happened to cross my desk.

One song from the album in particular -- the (I thought) ragingly beautiful breakup ballad "In the Back of My Mind" -- hit me pretty hard and I began listening to it obsessively, to the point where I think I basically ignored everything else on the record, the rest of which could have been Lithuanian grindcore for all I knew.

Anyway, one day a critical colleague of mine -- toiling at Entertainment Weekly, as I recall -- happened to ask me what I was listening to, and I recommended said Questionnaires album, rather heartily, as I also recall. A few weeks later he called me up about a review assignment, and he finally said "Uh...Steve? You know that Questionnaires thing you made me listen to? It...really sucks."

To be honest, I didn't really see the point in arguing, and I'm sure I figured that my own judgement probably wasn't all that reliable anymore, for obvious reasons. So I put the CD away out of earshot, and eventually mislaid it somewhere, probably while moving to a new apartment a year or two later.

Cut to the present and, for whatever reason the song popped into my head unbidden yesterday. So out of curiosity, I went through my iTunes library and checked out "In the Back of My Mind" for the first time in at least two decades. And guess what -- I still think that it's ragingly beautiful in a sort of Brian Wilson/early Association/lotsa harmonies kind of way.

Okay, no larger point, but you can listen to it here and make up your own mind about whether or not I'm the biggest pathetic wimp who ever lived.

Incidentally, the guy who wrote the song is big band jazz great Woody Herman's grandson. What Woody would have thought about any of this, of course, is anybody's guess.

Have a great weekend, everybody!


Mark said...

Nice. If I were driving on a highway in a car and heard IN THE BACK OF MY MIND come on my radio, and I had never heard the song before -- and I never heard the song before just now -- I would drive myself crazy trying to figure out who did the song. If it wasn't back-announced, that is.

I'm reminded that this very same experience has happened to me at my first hearing of Lloyd Cole's PERFECT SKIN, Julian Cope's TRAMPOLINE, and much earlier when Sniff N' The Tears released DRIVER'S SEAT, among no doubt others. All of these first listens took place while I was driving, and at the times, there was no Internet, radio meant FM, and Donald Trump was just a prick.

Seems to me a perfect Smithereens-type song with typical late 1980s-early 1990s production and compression.

Alzo said...

Why no love for Lithuanian Grindcore?

Anonymous said...

being Tennessee and all, should have given the guy the V-Roys' All About Town instead. interchangeable.

danny1959 said...

The singer sounds a little bit like Brian Wilson.