The JOAT 50 Song Countdown is a blog series where every weekday for 10 weeks I am posting a brand new long form essay where I have ranked and written about my 50 favorite songs of all-time. From Adele to Zac Brown Band, Patsy Cline to Plasma Canvas, Ludacris to Rise Against, this series offers a personal essay about the 50 songs that hit me the absolute hardest.
The end of my 6th grade year approached, the 50’s Dance was tomorrow, and our teacher had mostly checked out from having us do real work. We were watching a movie, so the desks were all rearranged and our chairs were set up in rows. I was nervous as hell sitting beside my friend Carson, who, as usual, was unflappable. We sat behind the girls we were going to ask out.
“So how are you gonna do it?” I asked him. “I dunno. Like this?” he said, and then leaned forward, tapped her on the shoulder and just straight up whispered in her ear asking if she’d like to go out with him. Holy shit! How the hell did he do that? It took me another 40 minutes or so to work up the nerve to do it, but I mimicked Carson, and asked mine out. Then it was time for recess.
Apparently this was a big to-do among the 6th graders because we saw what felt like every girl in our class disappear into a secret huddle across the playground where they… y’know, I don’t actually know how 12 year-old girls talk about stuff like this, so I have no idea exactly what they were talking about, but it sure looked important. Just before recess ended, they sent an emissary over to where Carson and I were sitting on a handrail.
She saw us both sitting there, and addressed Carson first, then me. “Hi. Christy says no. And Sarah says yes.” Then off she went. It was curt, but it was thrilling. I felt bad for Carson because no one likes getting rejected – the same girl he asked out had rejected me some months earlier – but I couldn’t dwell on that. I had my first girlfriend!
I’ve written a bit about her before, which you can find here in the City Slickers 2 section, but what’s funny is that we got together a few times that summer, went off to middle school, were in vastly different parts of the building and had no classes together, so we sort of drifted apart without officially breaking up. Cut ahead two summers later, and I find myself incredibly attracted to her again.
We were on the swim team together, and if you’ve ever been to a kids’ swim meet, you know there is an absolute shitload of downtime and waiting around. So one night we find ourselves lying on our backs on our sleeping bags looking up at the tent. We were chatting about whatever when I said to her, “Remember how we went out at the end of 6th grade?” And she says, “Yeah.” I thought I was real clever for this next part, but it now makes me cringe: “Would you like to keep going out?” And before I had barely even finished the sentence, she went, “Yeah.” We smushed together a little closer on our sleeping bags and interlocked the legs nearest each other. God, what an awesome feeling.
A couple of months before that I had gone to my first concert. I saw Bush, Goo Goo Dolls and No Doubt at Red Rocks for the KBPI Birthday Bash. I didn’t know much about Goo Goo Dolls before that show, but liked their set and picked up their most recent album A Boy Named Goo, which is still a stupid fucking name for both a band and an album (although admittedly better than Goo Goo Dolls’ original name of “Sex Maggots”). “Name” was Track 6 and my favorite because it was the most fun to experience live when I saw them. It was their biggest hit up to that point, and on its merits, it’s a very easily enjoyed jangly alternative rock ballad.
There’s a line at the end right after the bridge where Johnny Rzeznik softly sings, “I think about ya’ all the time that I don’t need to sing.” At the age of 14, your head spins and your heart swells with thoughts of your first official romance. It’s literally all you can think about. So, based on the song’s sweet tone and the strength of that line, I suggested that be our song. She agreed, and bought the CD herself. It was a great summer. Even had my very first kiss, which was followed by many, many more in short order after that first one.
I pretty callously broke up with her shortly after high school started, which I regret not because I wanted to stay together, but because I was needlessly cold about it. She deserved better than that. We tried dating a handful of times after that without much success, but always remained friends. She wrote in my senior yearbook, “Jon – Leave me alone! I have to study for a third AP test! I hate you! =) Sarah” which still makes me laugh both because that was extremely true in the moment and because we always had fun, light-hearted rapport like that.
I still hear “Name” fairly frequently in grocery stores, on SiriusXM 90’s on 9, on bar playlists and wherever else. It always gives me a nice, warm feeling whenever I hear it. And for that, the memories associated with a good person who I was lucky enough to call my first girlfriend, a pivotal time in my life, and just a pleasant vibe, “Name” will always be one of my favorite songs.
Up next: Empty wedding dance floors and a debauched road trip.