By the Numbers

The Wallflowers, One HeadlightAgain I’m faced with a plethora of choices, many of which have at least decent stories attached to them. (Because, really, that’s what this is all about, right? The stories the songs bring back into memory?) Also, there are a lot of songs with numbers in the title… even in my play list, right at the beginning (and I won’t even count the saved voice mails that somehow ended up in the playlist… I’m going to have to do something about that… it’s always odd when they rotate in with the random option in the car…)

Right! Onward!

A song you like with a number in the title

There aren’t a lot of songs that, when I first heard them, almost made me have to pull over and did make me have to track down what the heck they were and who performed them. (That was a lot more difficult before the web really caught on… we’re talking long before YouTube and Wikipedia and Google having everything, everywhere, all the time.)

The Wallflowers’ One Headlight was one of those songs.

It came on the radio while I was driving somewhere around RIT up in Rochester, NY, back in 1996. That was my third year in college. My third year away from my home town. My third year reveling in being surrounded by people who actually got me, who I had a lot in common with, who I could see going places with.

It’s no secret I never really felt like I fit in all that well in my home town. It’s not that I don’t appreciate it–it’s got a lot of history, some pretty good people, and a whole lot of potential–but there were very, very few people I ever really clicked with growing up there. (Good news is, I get along better with some of those people now than I ever did when we were growing up…) Getting away to college was the first time I really felt like I fit in and wasn’t just passing through, awkwardly.

As the first verse played I was taken right back to all my feelings of being an outsider in my home town. Feeling trapped. Feeling hopeless. Fighting to just get away.

And then the chorus kicked in:

Hey, come on try a little
Nothing is forever
There’s got to be something better than
In the middle
But me and Cinderella
We put it all together
We can drive it home
With one headlight

“There’s got be something better than in the middle” hit me hard. That striving for something more than just mediocrity, something more than boredom, something more than just existing. And then the bittersweet hopeful tag at the end: “We can drive it home with one headlight.” A true image of just barely being able to make it–but making it, none the less.

The last verse was just as emotional, bringing me back to lots of long nights just wondering “Why?” and “Why bother at all?”

Even today, the song still brings me back to that place.

And it lets me remember how far I’ve come. How far so many of us have come.

Runners Up

Again, a small sampling, in no particular order and with some saved for possible future use.

  • Nena, 99 Luftballons/99 Red Balloons – I like both versions, but the German one just feels more “right”… it was always neat when it would show up on the radio.
  • Metallica, One – Back in the day this was super intense… the build of the lyrics, the audio samples, and that guitar work was beautiful and disturbing when it was all put together. It was really one of the songs that brought home the horrors of war.
  • Barenaked Ladies, One Week – This is another one of those college songs. Lots of memories there. But mostly, I love the quick complex lyric play.
  • Dolly Parton, 9 to 5 – I love the movie and I love the song… and I’ve come to love the song more the more I’ve been out in the real world…
About Kier

I've been on the web since about 1994. I have a background in a lot of things, including a five year stint as a journalist and over a decade of helping people get their message out to the world.

I write on a number of subjects--everything from relationships to personal development to politics and every day life. I hope you get something worthwhile out of it.

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