Sometimes a song arrives in your life at an important moment and is forever elevated in your mind by the association. These are the soundtrack songs, playing underneath the movies we like to pretend our lives are. Very often we come back to those songs years later and realize they’re as immature and embarrassing as we were at the time. Only rarely does a song live up to its moment in time and still withstand scrutiny years on as something that not only witnessed our growth but perhaps even contributed to it.
This is one of those songs.
Somewhere I heard the story that Deb Talan and Steve Tannen were each singer-songwriters who were fans of each other’s before they met. When they did meet, they began playing together and eventually married. It’s the story every musician would die to have come true. So it’s an impressive feat, then, that The Weepies can still write some deeply sad songs.
“World Spins Madly On” was my soundtrack song for the first few months of my New York residency. I had just started a job at an ad agency that had provided me with more stress than I’ve ever experienced. Adapting to life in a large ad agency in a massive city, living in a shoebox apartment, working from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on an impossible project…I just felt empty inside. I felt the hope of something new, the anxiety of the unknown, and the fear of failure. This song regularly accompanied me from the subway at 14th street to Union Square to the office and back again. It functioned as a constant reminder that I was not alone in my particular suffering, and it hinted that my loneliness might even be so commonplace as to be unremarkable. The song never quite despairs; it sits suspended in judgment and in time, as the whole world keeps moving while I’m standing still. It remains a song that never wears out its welcome. It’s so good it doesn’t even need my emotional attachment to it to give it weight.