musicforthemorningafter (2001) :: Pete Yorn
This album found its way into my hands through one of those Columbia House/BMG buy 10 CD’s for a penny mail-order things. It was the day before we were meant to move to Michigan and everything was packed away in boxes and loaded into a moving truck that was already on its way. In the mail was a box with 3 CD’s, and as I fell asleep that night in a sleeping bag on the basement floor this was playing. We played it as we drove cross-country. Sometimes the songs played on in the middle of the night where all there was to see was a set of headlights, the white lines of the highway, and an occasional roadside stop. Other times it was at the break of morning, or the sticky heat of a middle of a June day. There was a time I could not hear this album without thinking of that drive, and everything we saw and felt as we drove to the Midwest.
The memories attached to this album, and the songs in it, evolved though. This album had so much more life in it, and was one I would find occasion to play for so many reasons. I have soothed a broken heart (and shed a few tears) to Lose You and EZ. I have rolled down the window, turned the volume up high, and sang-a-long to Life On a Chain and For Nancy (‘Cos It Already Is) while driving up the California Coast, or through the winding streets of the Hollywood Hills. And, I have thrown nearly every song on to a playlist and a music mix both kept for my own pleasure, or gifted to someone I cared about.
I eventually found myself a copy that included the four bonus songs, including one of my favorite all-time cover songs – Pete doing his best Bruce Springsteen, with his take on Dancing In the Dark.
This album reminds me of some of my dearest friends, of some of my wins and losses at love, of some of the roads I have traveled on, and for some reason it always reminds me of my Los Angeles, the one I have grown up with, and within, seen threw my distorted lens. It also reminds me of all the coffees and conversations, among a few other things, shared between a boy with a guitar and the girl he swept away that I keep mostly as a secret story, one that I will never forget.
musicforthemorningafter is this week’s choice for My Favorite Albums, and following are my three sentence recollections and reactions to my song-by-song replay. Please share your pwn thoughts on the album in the comments.
Life On a Chain
We passed each other every day for a week before we finally exchanged words. I still remember the heat of the afternoon as it poured in through the crooked blinds, the cartoon-pitched voice of the girl who took down our orders, and the gravelly sound of your laughter. I had hit such a road block in life at that moment, and you were one hell of a breath of fresh air.
She wrote letters on torn apart cereal boxes and diner napkins, stuffing them into over-sized envelopes that she colored with permanent markers and lipstick kisses. He wanted to know everything about the city of angels, and she wanted to be where any angels would fear to tread. Most of all she wanted to be the one good thing to survive this place.
You tucked a key into the palm of my hand before I left that morning, pulling me close for one more embrace, burying your head in my hair and whispering “so you can come back anytime you want“. I breathed you in deeply, mentally recalling every moment from the night before, adhering it to my forever memories because truly I believed I would never see you again. I thought the key was a throwaway gesture, and that I was just another girl to you.
She would linger around the back side door longer than she needed to, waiting and wondering if he would be back again. Months went by and after awhile she started to realize it was just something that they once stumbled into. When he snuck up behind, hands covering both her eyes, she half believed him to be a figment of her wishful imagination.
She would be the one to leave him. Sometimes she tells the tale to herself in the middle of the night in some cautionary way, justifying to her sleepless self that he would have grown tired of her soon enough and left her far behind, that she had just saved him the effort. Mostly, though, she knows she has much to regret for keeping the key, but never going back to use it, or to return to him, again.
For Nancy (‘Cos It Already Is)
Too early in the morning, stuck in god-forsaken Los Angeles traffic, half-spilling her coffee, she finds herself wishing she had not quit smoking because what does one do when all your vices are gone? She turns the music up so loud she can feel the whir and buzz in her ears, and she can no longer hear her strained voice singing-a-long. She is going nowhere fast and everywhere far too slow, and no, she does not miss him at all.
Three whiskeys in and he tells her that she has Father issues. She orders another and turns to face him, trying her very best not to slur her words, and says wryly “God and I broke up long ago.” She has already decided what she will allow him to do, how far and for how long, erasing the letters of his name in the process, hurrying up to forgetting.
In the front room he had five guitars, crates of records that were filled with so many of her favorites, and books piled everywhere and anywhere that space allowed. She felt instantly at home in a way that made her feel instantly ill at ease. Sometimes she wonders if it has changed at all, or if he has, without her.
He confronted her outside of that coffee place they had first met, asking for some kind of reason or why. He asked her if there was something he had done wrong, if there was something that he could change. He told her the dogs would miss her, and that he would never play that song again, but he never once said how he felt about her, or about any of it.
The road stretched out ahead of them, so far they wondered out loud if they would ever make it there. They laughed together, welcoming this escape to the Midwest, never admitting out loud that they both knew this was their last best chance. This – them – well it was theirs to lose now.
On Your Side
There have been three times that the girl drove back up to his house, key in her hand, heart pounding in her chest, with every intention of going up to the door. Each time she winds up stuck at the end of the long drive, sitting in her car with the windows rolled up and the music playing, frozen in the knowing that it had been way too long to show up now, much less use a key to a lock that has to have been changed. She wonders what she would do if he had seen her there, parked on his side of the street up in those Hollywood hills.
They were fated from the start to fail, five stops and starts should have told them that, yet they insisted on persisting. They lasted three years in their Midwest last chance, the final battle rounds taking a toll, but still not enough to throw up the white flag surrender. They were so sure they would never sleep better alone, yet they never made it through an entire night of sleep together.
The last time she saw him, really saw him, he came up behind her, surprising her once again. He lifted her up in his arms and spun her around, turning her dizzy, and filling her with desire. He put her down and smiled at her with a question in his eyes that he never asked, instead he ordered her a drink (if only he had asked).
She was there with friends and soon they crowded around her, pulling her away. He leaned in close for only a moment and said “it’s good to see you“, and then he was just a blur in the crowd. There is a list of things never said that night that she still thinks about some nights, nights like this, nights like tonight.
A Girl Like You
She does not harbor regrets, not really, not much if at all. Instead she tries to write out the storms and sorrows, weaving them into musical reflective recollections. It does not always make any of it hurt less, but it rarely hurts more, the act of remembering this way.
and just because I love it so, one of the five bonus songs…
Dancing in the Dark
An ode to sleepless nights and writer’s block and that certain kind of lonely desperation when you constantly chase after sleep and missed chances. We all have those moments, don’t we? Those times when we would love to be anyone but ourselves, when we long to be anywhere but here.
Thanks for the music, Pete.