I was nominated to do that album cover thing on Facebook, where you post an album cover every day without explanation. The idea is that the albums are supposed to mean something to you. Or maybe the idea is that music is so profound that no explanation is needed. I don’t know.
What I do know is that I can’t complete this challenge. I don’t have ten albums that changed my life or whatever the thing is. I listen to music all the time, but if it’s not Sara Bareilles or the Foo Fighters, it’s whatever random song comes up next on Lithium or while I’m channel surfing.
I have exactly one album cover that I can share because I actually have Thoughts about the album. And you’re probably going to hate it because Dave Matthews Band sucks these days. Maybe they always did. But I loved Under the Table and Dreaming my freshman and sophomore years of college.
I would listen to this album on a cassette tape in my Sony Walkman while running endless laps around the Cole Field House concourse at UMCP. For those who don’t recall, that concourse was concrete. I probably wore cotton, too. I was a college sophomore; I didn’t know anything.
I once ran while listening to the entire album, start to finish, stopping only long enough to flip the tape. I had just gotten into some ridiculous fight with my roommate and our friends, and they didn’t want to be my friends anymore but didn’t have the emotional maturity to figure out a way to end the friendship like decent human beings, so they went full-on Mean Girl instead.
When the tape ran out, I was shocked. The album is an hour and fourteen minutes long. I had never run that long, ever. I didn’t even realize the time had passed, because I was angry, and the running was, well, taking the anger out on myself, really, given that concrete. But it’s the first time that I realized that taking care of myself mattered. I needed to do something that helped me feel better, instead of caring about what those stupid girls thought about anything. The running was solitary and an escape, and made me feel strong.
We never did make up. I got fed up with their nonsense and told them to shove it. My roommate and I did not speak one single word to each other for the last four months of our sophomore year. I made other, better friends, who are still my friends.
I learned how to run properly, with actual running shoes, and clothes made of synthetics. And I learned not to run on concrete. This post, and that memory, isn’t really about the album. Though, that’s how music works, doesn’t it? Sometimes it’s not about the music at all.
It seems your eyes are troubled
Care to share your time with me
Would you say you’re feeling low and so
A good idea would be to get it off your mind
Have a better time than most can dream
Have it better than the best
So we can pull on through
Whatever tears at us
Whatever holds us down
And if nothing can be done
We’ll make the best of what’s around
That really matters
And hurts not much when you’re around
And if you hold on tight
To what you think is your thing
You may find you’re missing all the rest…