Friday, July 11, 2014

One Song at a Time: "Mind"

Talking Heads around the time they recorded the Fear of Music LP.

Song: "Mind"
Artist: Talking Heads
Released: 1979

Cheery cover, no?
I lived at home until I was in my mid-20s. I didn't plan it like that. Just sorta worked out that way. And I wasn't a layabout slacker, a la Ben Katz (H. Jon Benjamin) from Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, either. I went to college, and I worked as a customer service rep and a substitute teacher. But all that time, I was living in my bedroom from high school. Hell, still to this day, I have the same exact bed that I've had since I was 13. I'm writing this article from it now. Same dresser, too. And on top of that dresser, the same goddamned boombox. But, anyway, let's go back to the early 1990s. Specifically 1992-1993. My senior year of high school. That's the time when you're supposed to be getting your shit together -- applying to colleges, trying to get scholarships, picking out a career, all of that garbage. I knew I was supposed to do that stuff, but I just never got around to any of it. My mom's cancer-related death took a lot of the fight out of me back then, and I turned into the reclusive, bitter weirdo that I still basically am today. My dad took my mom's death even worse than I did and became a a rather sad and depressive person. I don't know if he's totally recovered, twenty years later. My sister, wisely, moved away and started a family of her own. Me, I stayed with my dad in my hometown. It was just the two of us in a house that was much too large. I'm not gonna lie to you, folks. Those were shitty, shitty years. (Did you see Crumb? Remember Charles Crumb and his mom? It was kinda like that. Not quite as bad, but definitely getting there. It was like the prequel to that.) My low point was when I took that customer service job, during which I worked in the world's most depressing phone bank in the basement of an auto parts plant. You descended this dimly-lit stairway to get there, like descending into Hell. All day, you had to absorb the negativity of the callers. Between calls sometimes, I would rest my head on my desk and sob. About eight or nine months into doing that, I went through the medicine cabinet at home and took everything in it. Wound up in the intensive care ward for three days. Not fun. Then went back to the parts plant to be a customer service rep again. Even less fun.

Cut to a few months later. Out of the blue, and I mean the fucking Papa Smurf's ass blue, I got a job offer to teach at a middle school near Joliet, IL. Even better, I was at my desk at the parts plant when it happened. I immediately took it, no questions. Quitting that customer service gig was one of the Top 5 happiest moments of my life. (I can't even think of the other four.) My father was not thrilled. He made me feel very guilty about the whole thing, and I don't think he's ever gotten over it. I felt then -- and I feel now -- like an ax murderer for moving out of his house and into my own apartment in another state, even though I'd definitely be dead today if I hadn't. That was 2001. That middle school was where I was when the Twin Towers fell. It was the day before my 26th birthday. I don't think I taught those kids in Joliet a damned thing. Someday, I'll write about my horrendous experiences as a teacher. (Short version: if you hate and fear people, especially teenagers, don't go into teaching.) But I certainly learned a valuable lesson that first year "on my own." I thought that the move would somehow magically fix everything and that my personality would just naturally smooth itself out once I was in Illinois. Didn't happen that way. I was the same asshole there that I was in Michigan. All my hang-ups, hatreds, insecurities, and inadequacies were still there in Illinois. That's what I think about whenever I hear "Mind" from the Fear of Music album by Talking Heads. Most of the lyrics are about the things that "won't change you": time, drugs, science, money, religion. I don't know if David Byrne was directing this song at himself, at the listener, or at somebody he knew. But I'll be good and goddamned if it isn't all true. I can add a few items to his list, too. Xanax won't change you. Therapy won't change you. Welbutrin won't change you. In the chorus, Byrne sings, "I need something to change your mind." Amen, brother. I'm still looking for that something.


  1. My favorite part of this song is the verse where Byrne gets progressively more angry as it goes.

    I try to talk to you
    To make things clear,
    But you're not even
    LISTENING to me!

    That really sells the frustration.

    1. Great quote! The song is a pretty eerily accurate representation of my mindset on some days. The 'heads have a few songs like that. "No Compassion" is one I think I've already mentioned, along with "The Big Country."