There are bright people (dorks) who can write intelligently about key and time signature or dissect lyrics and cross-reference them with every poem ever written. All of that's great and valid and worthwhile and I occasionally try my hand at it, but to borrow from Dylan, sometimes all the truth in the world adds up to one big lie. Writing about music sometimes means writing about music but sometimes the song misses the point entirely. VH-1 had Behind The Music. Verse Chorus Verse is my "beyond the music."
I first learned of Vertical Horizon at about 2 a.m. back in 1999. Among my many college odd jobs, I worked third shift at an answering service. These were the pre-iPod days and even if I'd had an iPod I probably shouldn't have plugged into it when I was supposed to be listening for the phone to ring. That said, there was a small portable radio in the office and I tried to dial in the alternative station from Birmingham most nights and that's when I heard "Everything You Want." For the next several weekends, I'd hear the song once or twice a night and before long I was convinced I needed to get that record and learn more about the band.
By this point in the story, my wife and I had been dating for awhile. She lived an hour or so from where I was going to college so there was a lot of time spent driving, together and separately. Her taste in music when we first started dating was scandalous. She's improved me in many more ways than I could ever hope to have improved her, but I will take credit for the music. Vertical Horizon was a band we got into together. I bought her the earlier VH albums for Christmas and we spent hours listening to them together. We explored their acoustic singer-songwriter records and the more jam-oriented work that preceded what would become their mainstream breakthrough. Before the next Christmas, she and I would marry and before our first anniversary we'd see VH four times in concert.
Ten years later, we've drifted apart from Vertical Horizon. I don't listen to them as often but I sometimes think of them and when I do, I remember another time and place in my life that gets further from me every day. I still remember trying to stay awake staring at a phone, trying to decide if I wanted it to ring to break up the boredom or remain silent to allow me to continue being lazy. I can still see that room and can almost smell the stale air. I remember seeing the band in a small club and being offered a not-quite-cold beer from a perfect stranger. I remember the euphoria of seeing them at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville when we learned that what we thought were 27th row tickets (AA) were actually front row tickets. I remember driving all over north Alabama, listening and singing to those records as two kids grew closer during turbulent times.
"Everything You Want" isn't the best or most famous song on the mixtape that is our first decade together, but it's an important one.