Thursday, November 19, 2009

Do you want an autograph?

Q: Do you still try to get autographs?
A: Personally, I think I'm done.

I will get to this prized relic in a moment... The autographed liner notes for a CD that was released in 1997. Since I dug it up today, literally, it's meaning has grown.

Per my usual Sunday Night Sleep Difficulties, I spent a lot of time on The YouTube clicking the most random of music. I love those kinds of musical sessions for all those songs itching your mind but somehow have never won their way into your possession. Songs from TV commercials, songs from dance mixes of years past... Random Songs of The Moment.

Last Sunday I decided to post some of the more odder choices for the Facebook Faithful. The first of the three that I posted was an obscure dance video for a song I stumbled upon in a Fatboy Slip clip. Finding that video was like winning a scavenger hunt. Secondly I found a newer version of an old (to me) classic Ben Folds Five song. It's sorta creepy to have BF5 songs performed post breakup by it's solo star. And for good measure I included the current Song of the Moment by a band named The Rapture, who were mentioned in a "what the hell happened to these guys" context in a recent NPR All Songs Considered roundtable. Here's an enthusiastic performance of the song on a Letterman show that is obviously taped in some November's past.

Of these three video postings, people came out of the Facebook woodwork to "like" the Ben Folds Five clip. It was a nice discovery, because I was previously unaware these Facebook friends also liked Ben Folds Five. It's a nice feeling to get an added, "yeah, that's another good reason why we're friends" moment for yours truly.

--cue the fade to a flashback--

The back half of 1997 was an extremely odd time in my life. If it wasn't epically boring it might have made for a nice Coming-Of-Age flick. For those that don't know, I spent a year in a quagmire purgatory between my high school graduation and departure for college. In that time I worked a lot in a very isolated job in which my only company was my CD collection. Thankfully one of my closest friends from high school choose a school not far at all from us and we ended up going to more concerts that year than the four years prior combined. (Of course, that's an easy task to accomplish when we're both 18 and curfew-free*)

If pressed at gunpoint, I'd probably say "The Colour and The Shape" by The Foo Fighters was my personal pick for Album of the Year. However, Ben Folds Five easily would've won Band of the Year.

(Just processing this story out in my mind right now, the vivid memories coming back, is making me smile)

One night, late at night, I was listening to Q101 (one of the things I will mention that I did frequently in 1997 and have completely stopped currently). After playing "Battle of Who Could Care Less" the 'DJ' said, "That was Ben Folds Five - if you get a chance to see them live - do it." A few months later, on the same radio station, an upcoming concert of theirs was aannounced. I called my friend a couple days later and suggested that we should check it out. Neither of us had any of their music, but we agreed nonetheless. I went out to the local Best Buy and bought their most recent album (Whatever And Ever Amen). My friend, who was working at his college radio station, liberated it from their library.

They blew me away that night at the Riv. 3 men produced a sound that was larger than I could comprehend at the time. After the show my friend and I were somewhat dumbstruck in its wake. We decided to wait around the corner, by the tour bus, to see them after they walked out. I ran back to the car and got the CD.

Today I plug my 30GB iPod into my dashboard and can play music for ten days straight before a song repeats. In 1997, I had a cassette tape deck and a cord to my Kenwood (yeah, screw that Discman!) CD player. Not to mention about 4-6 jewel cases (I had yet progressed to the Case Logic Car Accessory Line).

All three: Ben Folds, Darren Jesse and Robert Sledge were the nicest of gentleman and very considerate of the 8-11 fans waiting for them outside. One girl was wearing a self made T-Shirt that said "KATE" on it (a song from the Whatever And Ever... album). "Oh, is that your name?" Ben said coyly. Looking at this autographed relic tonight, I find humor how each politely and neatly wrote their names next to their individual pictures.

I believe this is the only autographed piece of merchandise / memorabilia I own. I like it. I like what it represents. I like the snapshot in time looking at it brings me back and, to some extent, the realization of how that time is in so many ways gone forever. (not the least of which is that Ben Folds Five is no more)

This post was initially started with the intention of bashing autograph hounds. I wanted to say how I won't buy something that is "already" autographed. Something that would include a bitter "if you didn't see the guy ink it himself, someone else forged it" remark. But maybe these people are able to recreate the feeling I have with my jewel case many times over?

But I won't get you off that easily - autograph junkies... Giving anybody a napkin or stupid piece of paper (stupid = something that shouldn't be autographed - like a receipt) to sign is pointless. Do you expect to frame that damp napkin to hang on a sad wall? Now that everyone has cameras in their cell phones - you don't need a napkin to prove your story.

Oh, and let's not forget these creepy individuals who are involved in the buying and selling of these tangible nothings online. I don't know who's sadder, the guy with a backback of stuff for multiple people to sign or those willing to buy it?

Before I forget, all this anti autograph talk is not intended for the young. Autograph seeking is one of the pure thrills of childhood. I have another friend who had an extremely successful by-mail autograph seeking campaign. It's definitely something to be proud of and look back upon with great fondness. But not something that should be continued into adulthood (as this specific friend would be the first to agree with me).

Which makes my only autograph, quite possibly my last autograph, of this Ben Folds Five album special to me. And that's a good thought for me to have tonight.

*In a surprising note to nobody, my curfew growing up was decided upon by me informing my parents shortly before I'd leave. This is primarily attributed to factors of lack of popularity and my general harmlessness.

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