1993 and Everything After

My friend just sent me this article talking about the time we all go through  when we reminisce about the music of our time and how important it was. This article was talking about Nirvana’s “In Utero” and The Counting Crows, “August and Everything After.” It talked about how a lot of people this week will be talking about Nirvana, and not very many people will be writing nostalgic articles about the first album of the Counting Crows.

Part of that is because Adam Duritz is still alive, making music. But a bigger part, this author says, is related to how Nirvana’s music was “tangentially sad” whereas Counting Crows’ music was “realistically sad.” “In Utero represents who we’d like to be; August and Everything After is who we want to hide. It’s not musical history we’re revisiting. It’s our own.” This author points out that it is perfectly acceptable to make fun of the Counting Crows, but no one ever makes fun of Nirvana.

And the thing is, no one ever did. Just reading the article I was transposed back to this fraternity house I used to hang out in in college. Saturday mornings, in an attempt to get my best friend out of bed so we could try to do something cool, I’d make my rounds–to Taco Bell for burritos and Mountain Dew, and Taco Johns for Ole’s n Cheese. The Ole’s were necessary, but Taco Johns had Pepsi products, which was a bummer dude.

Fully loaded with gigantic Mountain Dews, I head up the stairs to the upper apartment in the Phi Sig house and wave the ole’s near Steve’s face, up in the loft of the bed.
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Steve literally looked like Kurt Cobain. And he was also an illustrator, so after Kurt Cobain died, he drew pictures of him, which might as well have been pictures of himself. Long stringy blond hair, flannel shirts, and all. Steve got around town on his skateboard or mountain bike. If I could really include myself in a club with him I would say we didn’t get a lot cooler than that.

But the reality is I was never that cool–I was, in fact, sometimes called “pseudo betty.” A “betty” was a term used to describe female skaters in our little part of the world. I guess for others it refers to how hot a female is. Well I was not a skater. But since I occasionally got on my friends’ boards, I was apparently posing as a betty.

On one of those mornings, MTV plays on the television beneath the loft. Or maybe it was VH1 I am sure of three things that time–that Nirvana was on, and I was ambivalent about that, that NIN was on, and I hated that because it was loud and violent and sexual, (and those last two things don’t go well together for me). Steve loved NIN. And that was where I first saw the Counting Crows and heard the song “Mr. Jones.” I was mesmerized. I bought the CD. Steve labeled it adult contempo music.

But when I lived in a town where we drank coffee in pancake houses until they closed, climbed under railroad bridges in the middle of the night, went swinging at 4 am…I found myself in the lines “Round here, we always stay up late…”

When I moved across the country, Adam’s wailing of the line “3,400 miles away, what would you change if you could. I need a phone call. I need a rain coat. I need a train ride…” hit right in the homesick place.

When I lived in Seattle, I thought all the time about how you might try to “move in the air, between the rain, through myself and back again” as I lived through that first rainy Winter.

When I drove the big triangle from Seattle to Boulder to Fargo and back, there was the perfect opportunity to listen to a song about Omaha, somewhere in middle America…

And so it goes. So I admit I’m drawn to uncomfortably honest sad songs, and they do map my life. And I’m OK with not being very cool. It is still a great album. Thus ends my nostalgic writing about 1993.

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