The La’s – “Way Out”

When: Late April 2009
Where: Walking northbound on Junipero Serra Boulevard
Who: Nobody
Weather: Mild

There’s not much to say about this: It was during my Britpop phase and I was getting some shampoo, so I’d like to talk about Flower Girl.

Flower Girl was so called because she always had a flower in her hair. She was a foreign policy major from a rich family down the peninsula, but I knew her from a political science class I loved, and an art theory class that I hated more than any class I ever took. It lasted three hours, all incredibly boring for an art class. She was a big believer in art affecting social change. I was not, and I am not. And my vocal opposition in class took Flower Girl’s attention.

The breaking point came during finals. She invited me to breakfast at her place, but when I got there, she was still asleep and had to cancel. After my incident in the dorm hallway, I had my very last test in Poli Sci. My dorm was already cleared out and I was to be home by the afternoon, and we talked after the test. I had planned to go in for the kiss, but wasn’t so sure now that it came down to it. She texted me afterwards. “If I didn’t have a boyfriend,” she said, “I would have gone out with you.”

But she did go out with me, and would continue to go out with me whenever she damn well pleased. But that was later. For now it was April, and I was just getting some shampoo.

Next: What happens when you hear a song, you don’t know the name of the band, the song, or the lyrics. And you don’t even know you already have it?

The La’s – “There She Goes”

When: January 1991
Where: My father’s 1988 Corolla, with the radio tuned to KROQ-FM
Who: My mother
Weather: Unknown

Living in the future often puts you at a disadvantage. People living in, say, 1978, have no idea that the terrible clothes and music they have to live with will soon be completely swept away. On the other side, people living in good times never seem to think that bad things are coming. Most people who thought about it would put 1991 in the latter position, but when I first heard this song that January, nobody knew what would happen next.

In January 1991, The Soviet Union was our nominal enemy, The Cosby Show was on the air and Whitesnake was on tour. After all the changes of 1989-90, one could reasonably step back and realize that things had changed very little.

While The Stone Roses had swept through Europe, there was no indication that Britpop would ever reach America (it did, but not for years). Even this ubiquitous single, lost right in the middle ground between The Byrds and Best Coast, only peaked at #13 in the United States. Only when it was covered by Sixpence None The Richer (about which more later) did it appear seemingly on every TV show and advertisement for the next ten years.

Sixpence’s version is a simplified and feminized version of this otherwise dynamic song. One-album-wonder The La’s had infused it with a complex harmony and ambiguous subject matter; the band members had teased the idea that it was about heroin, already becoming the defining drug of the Nineties. So while Sixpence’s softer version may have been a hit in the boardroom, the original stands alone.

Next: What do you do when a song gets stuck in your head for 18 years, and you don’t know the name of the song, the artist, or the lyrics?