MMM 2 — Easter puppies

My first day in my college dorm, I found out Jeff was living about five doors down, which made for a small world and a big awakening. We had been neighbors in our small “town” back home — by which I mean, he had lived on the next road over, about a mile away.

I hadn’t seen Jeff since he had graduated high school at the end of my freshman year, but I remembered him being funny and congenial, so I walked into his room and introduced myself. That re-acquaintance ended up doing wonders for my musical horizon.

Jeff viewed my tastes with derision, and made a concerted effort to change them. I still don’t know why he did it, but I’m glad he did. He let me hang around with his cult of personalities — his roommate Rob, the other Rob, Pat, Ashby, Billy, and Phred — and tolerated me slightly more than he tolerated Al, the beer-guzzling, psychopathic hillbilly whom I never saw sober, and who liked to sneak up on freshmen and trap them in a suffocating bear hug.

Maybe Jeff saw potential in me to become a better person than Al; maybe he just saw me as a bear hug offering to prevent Al from setting his sights on upperclassmen. Regardless, he let me hang out in his and Rob’s room, listening to music.

One of the first bands Jeff introduced me to was R.E.M., which is a blog entry for another night. Another one was Let’s Active, a Winston-Salem trio fronted by Mitch Easter, an early producer of R.E.M.

Jeff let me borrow his two Let’s Active cassettes — the EP Afoot and the LP Cypress. I nearly wore them out, particularly from hitting the rewind button to listen to Every Word Means No ad nauseum. Jangle pop, it’s been called, and I guess that makes sense. I call it great.

When my roommate and I formed a band, Every Word Means No was one of the first songs I begged the other guys to learn — my voice was as whiny as Easter’s, and that song was a showman’s dream, from its crackling twang of a guitar opening, to its perfectly timed pauses after the first words of each verse, to its fake ending punctuated by drum shots after the bridge.

It was meant to be played live, something I realized after Jeff scored tickets to a Let’s Active/dB’s show at an insanely small venue on Main Street in Blacksburg, where I stood close enough to practically catch Pete Holsapple’s guitar string when it broke mid-performance. Yep, this was love.

I took those two tapes with me on my first solo road trip, borrowing Jeff’s roommate Rob’s primer-gray sedan with the face painted on the roof and driving for the weekend to North Carolina, a state I knew little about from my comfortable perch in Virginia. But my sister had moved to Asheboro, so I drove from Blacksburg over the mountain-locked border, playing Let’s Active as loudly as Rob’s cassette deck could handle as I turned left at Easter’s hometown. Naturally, I played Every Word six times for every once-through of the other songs, trying my best to learn the lyrics without benefit of the far-in-the-future internet.

I eventually talked the rest of “The Speglers” into learning the song, and had a blast singing it at every show we did. I still remember the first time, at South Main Cafe — I introduced it by saying, “Here’s a song about a guy who couldn’t read the dictionary very well.”

I thought that was funny then. I don’t now. But I still love the song, and hope you do, too:

Lyrics:

Watching…
For a sound to lead me to
Wherever you are.
I can’t help it —
I will always love you.

Used to be, no words could come between us.
Any time was right for secret meetings.
It’s different now — when you speak,
Every word means, “No.”
Every word means, “No.”

I’m thinking…
Of things that never come to light.
You’re going through something,
So shout or leave us nothing to fight.

Used to be, no words could come between us.
Any time was right for secret meetings.
It’s different now — you speak, and
Every word means, “No.”
Every word means, “No.”

I’m a slave; I’m anything.
I have lost my way; I’m looking around for directions.
‘Cause all I ever thought about was you.
I never noticed anything but you.

Predicting…
Puts me down on shaky ground.
I keep on thinking you were looking at me.
Do you want me around?

Used to be, no words could come between us.
Any time was right for secret meetings.
Now and then, I forget the rules have changed;
You always remind me
That every word means, “No.”
Every word means, “No.”
Every word means, “No.”
Every word means, “No.”

—–

Also-rans:

  • Room with a View, Afoot
  • In Between, Afoot
  • Leader of Men, Afoot
  • Two Yous, Afoot (Re-release)
  • Waters Part, Cypress
  • Ring True, Cypress
  • Blue Line, Cypress
  • Flags for Everything, Cypress
  • Writing the Book of Last Pages, Big Plans for Everybody
  • Every Dog Has His Day, Every Dog Has His Day

—–

Time to spin….

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About Dan Bain

Dan is an award-winning humorist, features writer, emcee and entertainer from Raleigh, NC. His collection of humor essays, A Nay for Effort, has earned him fans from one end of his couch to the other. Why not join them and buy one? (You won't have to sit on his couch.) Dan will donate 10 percent of the book's proceeds to education. You can check it out at www.danbain.net; thanks!
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