Confession time! Gather ‘round.
I believe the year was 1997 or ’98. I would have been 10 or 11 years old at the time. My mom, God bless her, allowed me to order a series of CDs from this dandy of a program:
Remember those? Of course you do.
The only CDs I distinctly remember ordering from that service were Smash Mouth’s Fush Yu Mang, Cake’s Prolonging the Magic (which featured “Never There”, “Sheep Go To Heaven” and that gem of a song, “Satan is My Motor”), some Counting Crows live album that I never listened to, and Ben Folds Five’ Whatever & Ever Amen.
If memory serves me correctly, I had seen Ben, Robert and Jesse (ironically, not five members) on Conan O’Brien late at night and was fascinated by the lack of a guitar. How could a band sound that damn good with a piano, a bass and drums? How did he get the bass to sound like he was just playing a regular guitar at times? Why is that guy on the piano out of his seat?
So after their performance, I saw that they had a CD in whatever they called the program at the time- if I’m not mistaken, the Columbia Music Club House for Esteemed Citizens of the World, But Not Really Because Every Person Who Checks Their Mail Will Get This Flyer Several Times a Month (working title).
I must have jammed Whatever & Ever Amen nonstop for weeks. Wore out my killer yellow headphones I got from my Sony Walkman (on which I used to listen to the Smashing Pumpkins on the Batman & Robin soundtrack cassette). I couldn’t seem to get enough of the prominent bass and its tones, which would later lead me to try playing bass- and subsequently failing.
I listened to Whatever unlike any album I’d ever listened to. The songs were stories. Tunes about topics I couldn’t even quite comprehend because I wasn’t even a teenager yet, and had only vague interpretations of due to lack of real world experience. These tracks created more questions than answers.
Tales of wonder and bewilderment. What did “aloof” even mean, and what the hell are The Rockford Files? What does the Franklin Mint do? Who is/are The Cure?
So of course I had to share the joy of music that I’d discovered with someone else. I was homeschooled for all of middle school, so my mother seemed like a good person to subject to Ben Folds Five. She always had a record player hooked up, so I knew she liked music. My brother had been playing piano a few years, so I knew she liked piano. There was no way this could go wrong!
I chose “Song for the Dumped” because, man, what a song. My mom would definitely appreciate the sardonic tone, and biting wit of Ben and co.
I played it for her in eager anticipation of her extolling and commendations.
This is what I made my mother listen to in 1998:
So you wanted
To take a break
Slow it down some
And have some space
Fuck you too
Give me my money back
Give me my money back
I want my money back
And don’t forget
(And don’t forget)
To give me back my black t-shirt
She took away the CD and wouldn’t give it back for years. Cake, too, when she read the lyrics of “Satan is My Motor.” I never got that one back.
Lesson learned: don’t play songs with the words “fuck” and “bitch” in the first 30 seconds of a song for your conservative Christian mother if you are an 11-year-old boy in 1998. Pretty universal, I think.
From 1997’s Whatever & Ever Amen, here’s Ben Folds Five’s “One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces”:
Standout tracks: Jammer front to back.
Weakest track: Nah.
RIYL: Life lessons. Piano rock. Jukebox the Ghost… Elton John.