I’ll warn you ahead of time that a lot of the songs on this mix, and their reasons for being there, are exceptionally mushy ones. October 1998 was when Sharon and I “officially” started our relationship, and to someone who had never been in a serious relationship before, that rocked my world. Seems strange, reminiscing about those days now when I’m married to someone else. But it’s not about wanting those days back; it’s about realizing how those events contributed to making me the person I am today. My ex is also married now (to the guy who, ironically, had broken up with her in January 1998, which kind of led her to her initial interest in me as I tried to console her as a friend), and I think what she and I experienced together was a building block in terms of helping us both sort out what we wanted in a mate. As Lina once told me, you always remember your first love. I’d rather remember the wisdom we both gleaned from our time together, rather than being bitter and wanting to erase that portion of my life.
In with the New:
Burlap to Cashmere
The Echoing Green
Out with the Old:
Listen on Spotify:
This is May, attempting to feed a seagull on the Catalina Cruiser, en route to Long Beach after that year’s Fall Conference at Campus by the Sea. I think this is one of the best pictures I’ve ever taken, just due to the pure blind luck of the moment I happened to snap it. The bird didn’t bite her, it just suddenly snatched the bread out of her hand that she had been meaning to throw to it.
Where in the world is this?
1) “Basic Instructions”, Burlap to Cashmere (Anybody Out There?, 1998)
I was pretty wowed by this band when they first hit radio with their Greek/Latin fusion sound. So was Dawningstar, who heard them before I did and mentioned that I should keep my ears open. The lyrics to this one were ridiculously basic, but there was such an awesome breakdown in the middle of the sound that nobody cared. (Incidentally, it wasn’t until much later that I realized “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth” was actually an acronym that spelled “BIBLE”, so thanks to Tim for being sharp on that one.)
2) “The Power Cosmic”, The Echoing Green (The Echoing Green, 1998)
There was something deliriously victorious about the magical, electronica sprinkling of pixie dust that opened this song. I had always appreciated electronica-influenced rock, but this was probably my first attempt to check out a purely electronic act that used very few, if any, “real” instruments. The EG was from New Mexico, and Rebi, a native of that state, had heard of them and liked them, so we exchanged albums in order to further educate ourselves about their music.
3) “We’re Getting Nowhere (Fast)”, This Train (Mimes of the Old West, 1998)
You gotta love a tongue-in-cheek band who isn’t afraid to admit that they’re pretty obscure in the grand scheme of things. “One-hit wonders laugh at us, ’cause at least they had a hit.” But in the middle of all the fooling around and self-deprecation, there was a solid point that the last shall be the first and seeking fame wasn’t the point of making music. I loved the reference to Toby, Mike and Kevin in this song, so I decided to follow it up with a dc Talk song.
4) “Since I Met You”, dc Talk (Supernatural, 1998)
I can’t hear this one without thinking of Tim thrashing around and having a blast. This one was probably his favorite on the Supernatural record when it first came out. Lyrically it’s a bit silly, but the point of it is happy, bouncy fun, so I think they get away with it.
5) “Breakin’ the Room”, Eric Champion (Natural, 1998)
“Do you wanna know the real God? Won’t you be shocked off your block when He busts in, yellin’ ‘Get your garbage out of My temple’?” Once again, Eric created an irresistibly danceable song (albeit with cheesy raps) that challenged me to clean up my act. I could ask God to do wonderful things for me, but was I actually prepared for the drastic renovations that it would take for God to do wonderful things in me?
6) “Locked in a Cage”, Skillet (Hey You, I Love Your Soul, 1998)
This was one of my first experiences with a Skillet song that was actually a bit violent in its lyrical approach. John Cooper seems to be obsessed with the proverbial “violence” of God, and how it’s good and right that God will destroy whatever gets in the way of our relationships with Him, even if that’s painful for us at times. I understood my own tendency to make a break for the most obvious escape route, and to not want to do what God wanted me to do at times – oddly enough, it was a conversation with a freshman named Sarah about this very idea that made me realize it – sometimes I wished I could just be thrown into spiritual detention for a little while so that I’d have no choice other than to obey God.
7) “Superpowers”, Five Iron Frenzy (Our Newest Album Ever!, 1997)
There might have been a point when I thought anyone in a Christian rock band was some sort of a spiritual giant who was in a position to teach me something. Thankfully, I was starting to no longer see it that way in my college years. FIF put it into words quite well in this song, which basically said, “We’re just desperate people trying to do what we can to share God’s peace and hope, and sometimes that means we’re dirty, lazy scumbags eating junk food and sleeping on the floor of a van”. I once coveted the life of a musician. But songs like this helped me to realize that touring and the repetition of it all kind of suck for a lot of artists, yet they still do it because it means something to them to share their music with us. It’s not a life I’d want, but I admire those who make the sacrifice, assuming they do it for God’s fame and not their own.
8) “Puedo Escribir”, Sixpence None the Richer (Sixpence None the Richer, 1997)
This was one of the songs that persuaded me to check out Sixpence’s latest album at the time, which had gotten a lot of critical acclaim, but from the songs I had heard, I just didn’t get all the buzz. It sounded dry and boring to me. Then I read a review that described this song, with Spanish lyrics taken from a Pablo Neruda poem, and a funky 11/8 time signature, and man, I just had to hear that. It didn’t disappoint, and while the rest of the album took a while to catch on, it proved to be one of my most memorable purchases that year. There was one other song – a soon-to-be-famous one – that I also hadn’t heard yet, and I bought this album for that one as well… but I’ll get to that on Disc Two.
9) “Pray”, Rebecca St. James (Pray, 1998)
There has often been a bit of a barrier between me and a good “prayer life”. For whatever reason, I’ve always been the type who would sooner go talk out a problem with another person who could audibly comfort me and suggest solutions, rather than sit by myself and pray about it. It was like I didn’t trust anything that wasn’t a direct action to fix the problem. I had made attempts to read devotionals or otherwise establish some sort of regular prayer time, but it was generally very haphazard. RSJ’s new album did help a little bit, in terms of serving as a reminder that God was honored by the act of lifting up our needs to Him (a concept that I still struggle with at times), and by providing a lot of good thoughts throughout the album to make it a good fit for “quiet times” spent in my dorm room or walking around campus.
10) “God”, Grammatrain (X: The Birthday Album, 1998)
Again, here’s that semi-clever idea of following up an original song by an artist with a cover of an earlier hit by that artist. I’m honestly not sure how Pete Stewart and co. ever got talked into this one by their label, but in a weird way, their grungy slowed-down version was a good take on the song, as unrecognizable as it may seem. It gave it more of a murky mystique. I think this was the last song that the band recorded in the studio together, but I could be wrong on that one.
11) “Healing Waters”, Michelle Tumes (Listen, 1998)
From hard rock to Enya-influenced inspirational music… you gotta love the whiplash. Michelle Tumes was the opening act when the 4Him/Jaci Velasquez tour stopped over at the Fresno County Fair while Sharon and I were up there spending time with her family during Fall Break. We went because it was free with fair admission and the fairgrounds were close to her parents’ house, and because I had never had the chance to see either artist live. Michelle Tumes only played three songs to open (starting with this one), with just a keyboard and backing tracks, but Sharon was enchanted enough to want to track down her album later on, and that was a good call. It became one of the most beautiful and relaxing – and even romantic – albums in either of our collections.
12) “Made My World”, Jaci Velasquez (Jaci Velasquez, 1998)
One of the highlights from Jaci’s part of the set. I loved that it was kinda sorta a rocking song with attitude. I thought the sha-la-la’s were pretty catchy and I’d sing along and then feel embarassed when I got to the line “You came and laid a hand on this little girl”.
13) “Let the Lion Run Free”, 4Him (Obvious, 1998)
4 years after getting denied my first chance to see them live (due to the whole Petra debacle at Summer Praise ’94), I finally got my wish. And you know what, these 4 guys sounded great with a live band, and did some great medleys of their old stuff that filled me with nostalgia, but for the most part, nothing they did after The Message really excited me. Finally getting my own copy of Obvious after that concert was kind of the beginning of the end of my 4Him fandom. I guess all musical tastes change over time. Still, I loved this song with Andy Chrisman’s gritty vocals about being set free from our narrow expectations of what God could do. I guess it was the last truly great 4Him song.
Though dark and difficult to make out, this is a view of the sunset from the balcony of Bell-Young, looking out over Wylie, the Quiet Dorm. It was probably brighter and prettier a few minutes earlier, when I first noticed it and ran upstairs to grab my camera. The photo kinds of fits the mood I was in those days – winter was coming and things were getting darker, but rather than being depressing like that time of year usually was, there was a romantic glow to the way I was feeling, because I was finally getting the chance to truly fall in love.
Where in the world is this?
1) “You Then Me Then You Then Me”, Ceili Rain (Ceili Rain, 1997)
Krista thought that Rebecca St. James’ version of this song was annoying. She and Tim had spent a day at Disneyland once, and for some reason, the song had been stuck in her head all day. So not long after that, just to be a punk, I put this version (these guys actually wrote it, and I think their lyrics are a little more fun than RSJ’s version) on a mix tape as a “hidden song” after the last listed track, just so it’d be the last thing she heard. Man, I was obnoxious back then. Good to know that little has changed!
2) “His Grace Is Sufficient”, Jennifer Knapp (Kansas, 1997)
Of all of the songs on Jennifer’s first album that comforted me when I was frustrated with sin, this one really illustrated the crux of the matter – that no matter how down and out I got, no matter how undeserving I felt when I had done stupid stuff and had bad habits I just couldn’t seem to break, God’s grace was still there for me, exactly for that purpose. This track was a fun acoustic rock jam – I loved the way that Jennifer trailed off near the end and then jarred me awake again with those confident guitar chords.
3) “New Body”, Audio Adrenaline (Some Kind of Zombie, 1997)
For some reason, I always associated this song’s pieced-together blend of electronic verses and rocking chorus with a mental image of Frankenstein – probably because it talked about getting a new body to replace an old one that was out of commission. It was meant as a spiritual metaphor for life after death, I guess, but it seemed appropriate for that time of year due to Halloween being in October.
4) “Accidentally 4th St. (Gloria)”, The Echoing Green (The Echoing Green, 1998)
Leave it to The Echoing Green to make me appreciate inane-sounding 80’s songs. I loved the slamming beats on this one – it was like techno that rocked even though there was no sign of a guitar. I actually thought some of the lyrics here were kind of challenging, in a what’s-wrong-with-our-society sort of way, so I guess that’s a sign of good writing on the part of the orignal artist (Figures on a Beach), that it still applied in 1998, though some of the wording was a bit awkward.
5) “Take”, Skillet (Hey You, I Love Your Soul, 1998)
I finished up my little “Electronic rock trifecta” with another volatile Skillet song that I had been enjoying. This one was humorous because Rachel, a physics major who often studied with Sharon and Tim, misheard the outbursts of “Laid out on my face” as “Lay down on my face”, which, when combined with the obvious borrowing from the style of Nine Inch Nails, meant that she “went there” when asking me what the song was about.
6) “In My Arms Again”, Michael W. Smith (Live the Life, 1998)
I had a bunch of fast songs at the beginning of this CD, and then a succession of slow songs that I wanted in a very specific order, and no good way to bridge the two, so I ended up with a major whiplash transition between the Skillet song and this mushy MWS ballad – I justified it by saying that the Skillet song fell off into a slow piano part on the album, so dropping off into Michael W. Smith’s piano part was kind of the same thing, but it’s totally awkward no matter how I spin it. This one was kind of a key song for me and Sharon early on – not that it really said anything specific about us, being more of a generic “I miss you and it’s lonely out here” type of ballad that Smitty wrote for Titanic but it didn’t get picked up for the movie. Let’s just say that it’s no “My Heart Will Go On”, and that might actually be a good thing, but it’s not nlockbuster movie-caliber either. I don’t hate the song now, but it’s here mostly for sentimental reasons.
7) “Always”, Newsboys (Step Up to the Microphone, 1998)
I don’t think about my Dad much, because he’s been largely absent from my life since I was 12. But songs like this one – which at the time, was the normal sort of “deep thought” sort of song for the Newsboys to put at track 10 on an album of otherwise fun, bouncy stuff, really cut the core of my “daddy issues”. The lyrics here express frustration and resentment toward a father who took off when he was needed most, but they also admit, “I need to forgive you if I’m to last. Will I ever change?” It was easy for me to say I had forgiven my Dad, because that was the “right” thing to say, but actually internalizing that forgiveness and not falling into the trap of blaming him for all of my shortcomings and the things about being a man that I still failed at… that was a lot harder. And now that I was getting into a real romantic relationship for the first time, I had a lot of lost time to make up for.
8) “Please Come Back”, Michelle Tumes (Listen, 1998)
From a song about a father who had gone missing, I transitioned to a Prodigal Son song about a father who desperately wanted his child back, with no guilt or blame, no strings attached. This was the first Michelle Tumes song that I really fell in love with, and it kind of helped to form a series of “separation songs” in this mix’s middle section.
9) “Starwood”, Fold Zandura (Ultraforever, 1997)
This coda from Fold Zandura’s album was little more than a few lines of sci-fi poetry followed by a lengthy, psychedelic guitar freakout that terminated suddenly and left everything in silence. And I thought it was cool. I kind of put a romantic spin on it when I stuck it here, since the words “Wish you were here” added a sentimental tone to the song. So this one was the bridge between wishing desperately that a loved one could be present, and finally having that person present.
10) “My Dear Watson”, Mayfair Laundry (Scrub, 1997)
SMACK! Enter love, in one of the wackiest ways possible. To be funny, I had used the pairing of “Starwood” and this song on a mix tape for Sharon, just to jolt her out of the sleepy, lovey-dovey atmosphere that I had created and throw in a fun, goofy song that still expressed a romantic sentiment. This was was more about God loving a person than romantic love, but I still liked the idea that sometimes we looked too hard for explanations as to why someone loved us, when we just needed to accept that we were loved. “My Dear Watson, get a clue! I love you!”
11) “Kiss Me”, Sixpence None the Richer (Sixpence None the Richer, 1997)
Can you believe that I actually bought the album without hearing this song? I picked it up about two days before the little D-Day that I had planned on October 25, where I would officially declare that I was in love with Sharon and we should be boyfriend and girlfriend. I was anticipating my first kiss. The song didn’t disappoint, and I actually planned to have it playing that day when Sharon discovered the little clues that I had set up for her leading to my little “confession” – how contrived is that? Of course, I blew the whole thing and jumped the gun and spilled my guts the night before, so our first kiss was then, but it was after midnight, so we still got to have the October 25 anniversary (which was intentional, as a homage to Tim and Krista, who celebrated two years as a couple on that same day). Anyway, despite my initial interest in the song having to do with someone who is now an ex-girlfriend, my love for it has outlived both the ending of that relationship and the general public becoming a bit sick of it being overplayed, so it’s still one of my favorite love songs of all time. It makes me glad that I saved my first kiss for an occasion where I really meant it, and since then I’ve always been determined that a kiss meant a commitment, and that I wouldn’t just do it casually with someone I was only sort of interested in.
12) “Godsend”, dc Talk (Supernatural, 1998)
Man, I really piled on the mushy love songs at the end of this one, eh? It had all been a long time coming. My most specific memory of this one dates back to Fall Break, actually before Sharon and I had officially delcared ourselves a couple, but we obviously enjoyed the time we spent together, and we were driving up to Fresno late on a Sunday night, listening to Supernatural as we went up the Grapevine. We were both belting out Kevin’s little part in the bridge where he goes “I will never forget that first moment we met/When two worlds collided, and I found my best friend”, and we both commented on how that was our favorite part of the song and we were so glad that they did that part twice. This would end up being one of the songs that Tim would play on his guitar for Krista the next year when he proposed to her (the other one being Adam Sandler’s “I Wanna Grow Old with You” from The Wedding Singer).
13) “O Holy Night”, Seven Day Jesus (Happy Christmas, Vol. 1, 1998)
Christmas felt a lot more like something I would enjoy that year, even though Sharon and I wouldn’t spend it together because our families lived a few hundred miles apart. I had a special someone to think about and send a warm, fuzzy Christmas card to and call on Christmas Eve when I found out her hometown got a little snow. And I’d be visiting her a few days after Christmas, to spend New Year’s together. That all made Winter Break a lot easier to deal with. In keeping with the Grammatrain song from Disc One, I believe this alternative-but-reverent take on my favorite Christmas Carol (which was a little more true to the melody and rhythm than Rebecca St. James’ danceable version had been) was the last track Seven Day Jesus recorded as a band.