This blog is part 7 in the 7-part Season 1 series of the Death Bus For Blondie Variety Hour podcast on Spotify. Listen to the episode now or go ahead and read on for the transcript below.
If you’re behind, jump back to a previous transcript here:
Introducing the Death Bus For Blondie Variety Hour! (it’s a podcast)
Death Bus For Blondie Variety Hour – S1 E2: Roman Candles
Death Bus For Blondie Variety Hour – S1 E3: The Ghosts of Beverly Drive
Death Bus For Blondie Variety Hour – S1 E4: Company Calls
Death Bus For Blondie Variety Hour – S1 E5: Tiny Vessels
Death Bus For Blondie Variety Hour – S1 E6: 60 & Punk
We’re back today with Episode 7 of the Season 1 of the Death Bus For Blondie Variety Hour and, yea, it’s still me, Death Bus.
I know it’s been a really quick season, even I almost can’t believe it’s the last episode, but it is. I’m going to start today with some quick housekeeping.
There are a lot of things I haven’t had a chance to get to yet or to expand on in this show and there are a lot more covers that are just sort of sitting in the back of my mind right now that I’d like to complete, so let this be the official announcement that there will be, eventually, a Season 2 of this podcast.
Sometimes I start little projects like this with no real intention beyond just doing something fun and then they grow legs into a whole other project that I later realize I need to lend a little more time to, and that’s exactly what happened here.
I have no real timeline for this but the best place to stay up to date with everything that I’m doing is my website crookedforest.ca.
There’s a page just for this Death Bus For Blondie stuff, but most of my news gets filtered through my Twitter and Instagram pages first, so if you use those platforms be sure to give me a follow.
There’s a social media channels page on the website that’ll direct you to all the different avenues depending on what you’re looking for.
All that said, today I’m premiering a brand new cover and this time it’s Bixby Canyon Bridge off of 2008’s Narrow Stairs.
I’d say this era of Death Cab is really when I solidified myself as a fan of the band. I’d been listening to them for a few years by then but as I mentioned on one of the earlier episodes this season, when I first heard Death Cab I wasn’t immediately on board with it. I didn’t quite understand what they were saying and it was a genre that was a little further outside the scope I was interested in looking through at the time.
We’d grow closer in time as I matured and by 2008 they were pretty firmly nestled into my top 10 list, but we still had a lot to learn about each other before we’d consider each other pals.
When I made the decision to cap this season at 6 songs, I had to pause for a couple weeks to figure out what song was best suited to culminate the series.
There is no real shortage of songs I wanted to recreate in this way but I do try to prioritize ones that more clearly communicate things I’m dealing with or want to think more about.
When working on projects like this I spend about 80% of the time just listening and relistening to the original songs, which is to say I’ve probably spent more time with Death Cab over the last 2 years than even the most hardcore of fans have in their lifetime. It is equal parts a Pandora’s box and Rubix Cube, and I am terrible at Rubix Cube’s.
I knew I wanted to try something from one of the earlier records; Something that jived with me back when I was really invested in creating original music with my first band.
Obviously, I settled in on Narrow Stairs and ol’ Bixby.
Lyrically, I love the imagery, and production-wise, I wanted something that I could both experiment with some softer clean tones and ramp up in a dramatic fashion before bringing it back down in a similar way Death Cab does on the original.
I also wanted to try and have some fun with some bass and guitar lines and what originally started out as two separate solos ended up becoming some sort of of weird mash-up of the two playing off each other. I get a little nervous when I try things like this because I’m just not that confident of a player or producer yet but I think it made for a unique atmosphere when it hits just ahead of the final verse.
This song brings up a lot of different things for me but here’s something I was thinking about while walking to the subway today after relistening to it.
When I was really young I had a best friend I was really close with. We spent so much time together that for a long time he was woven into about every aspect of my life.
We went to the same schools through elementary school and high school and our families were reasonably close so we’d spend a lot of time together outside school, too. A bad weekend for me was one where we weren’t able to hang out at one of our family’s houses for whatever the reason we were given then.
Even when we’d be at our own homes, we’d spend a lot of time together in some way. We’d play the same online computer games with our phones pressed to our ears and ICQ popping off, and often times we’d be on the phone even when doing something that didn’t make any sense to be on the phone for, like watching TV. I can remember a lot of times just laying down half-mindedly watching something with just his breathing on the other end of the line to keep me company.
In or around 5th grade we had a new kid join our school. This wasn’t super uncommon, but since for the most part the rest of us had all grown up together for so many years already, I can pretty much count out all the different times a new kid moved to our neighborhoods.
You hear a lot about the whole new kid feeling awkward in school storyline but, I think our school’s always did a pretty good job of integrating the newcomers without making them feel awkward or left out. I went to public schools and they were pretty diverse.
This kid in particular was immediately welcomed with open arms. He was a short, chubby Italian kid which made him non-threatening to the others and had tall spikey brown hair with blonde-streaks – this wasn’t common for most guys in Woodbridge and it gave him some spunk. Because he was Italian, he fit the mold in the all ways that made it easy for people to want to include him but was different and interesting enough that even people outside that mold were drawn to him, too.
I was sort of one of those other ones outside the mold – I didn’t always quite fit 100% with the group of friends I’d often hang out with – back then it was odd enough if you weren’t Italian – but I wasn’t so polarizing that I’d ever be left out either; It helped that I was involved in a lot of sports and clubs and would generally get along with anyone.
Like the others, I was drawn to the new kid, too, but, mostly what I’d started to notice was how much time he was spending with my best friend.
Eventually I’d come to realize that they were spending all sorts of time together that I used to spend with him.
And suddenly I started to feel like a bit of an outcast.
I had loads of other friends that’d come to fill those voids but when I think back to this change in my social dynamic I know this is when a lot of things started to change for me as a person entirely.
And my friendship with my best friend would never be the same again. I didn’t know it then but all these small instances of choosing New Kid over me felt like a complete betrayal.
I didn’t need or care to be friends with absolutely everyone I went to school with, I only really cared about a select few and this one was the top of my list, but clearly I wasn’t the top of his anymore.
That’s confusing when you’re 10.
It gets more confusing at 13 and more confusing at 15 and only more confusing after that.
We’d slowly drift further and further apart over the years that’d follow with him becoming further ingrained in that other circle that I found myself feeling a little too different from to remain a staple, but for a long time I still considered him one of my closest friends.
The amount of time we’d spend apart would grow but we’d always make a point to meet up and reconnect and in those moments it was just like it was when we were little, even if we weren’t saying much at all it was comforting to just be near them.
I had a lot of friendships like this; each ones life taking them in a direction so unlike my own but, the distance never seemed to waiver the way it felt when we’d reconnect, so I was okay with this for a long time.
In 2019 I’d begun to feel very distant from a lot of people I’d otherwise periodically meet up with and I was doing my best to maintain some sort of regular communication so that we didn’t fall even further off. I’d moved to King City just north of my hometown which I thought meant I’d see some of my friends more regularly, but that hadn’t proven to be the case, so I decided to try a little harder to reach out.
One of the people I reached out to that year was that best friend I was telling you about. I wanted to catch up, see what they were up to, tell them about all the things I was dealing with because they were always pretty good about listening without trying to offer solutions – and that’s what I needed most at the time. Someone who didn’t see the circumstances of my life as a problem to be fixed. More than that, I wanted to get back to seeing them more regularly because I knew I missed them.
I shot him a text one day and heard back pretty quickly. What I was expecting to be a casual brief catch-up exchange quickly turned into some pretty devastating news. Our mutual friend, the New Kid, had passed away.
It was a drug overdose.
It was one of those things that was unexpected but wasn’t at the same time.
See, some years ago New Kid fell into experimenting with different drugs and at one point it was bad enough that he was sent off to some sort of rehab. I didn’t know about that until he was already in it because aside from my friend, I didn’t keep up much with that former friend circle during or after college. My friend was like my link to my past life and without him I’d have next to no idea what most of those people were up to.
When New Kid came back from rehab he was like a new guy entirely. He’d finally shed all the baby fat that stubbornly stayed with him through high school and he was suddenly in insanely good shape. He had a newfound confidence that I’d never have expected if I didn’t witness it myself.
For a couple years we’d keep in touch, too, here and there. Despite the complications I felt he caused me by daring to exist in my social circle and befriend my oldest friend, we always got along and had a lot of similar interests, too.
I don’t think people knew that we actually still spoke in those days. He’d gotten involved in film and TV and we’d talk about this, him telling me about working in Italy and me telling him I was still doing the music thing.
The news gutted me. I had been talking to him not long before he passed and was excited to see him that fall – our friend was getting married and we were both going to be there. We’d both agreed it’d been entirely too long since we’d seen each other in person.
But I had to put all that aside when I found out about his overdose. I knew he’d always been closer with my friend than me and so it seemed selfish to consider my own feelings above his in those moments, so all I did was ask if there was anything I could do and say I was sorry.
I wanted to ask where the funeral was being held and I wanted to be there for my friends, too, but I couldn’t bring myself to see another young friend of mine in a casket, so I never asked and I never went.
And I never asked for more details beyond the overdose itself because I didn’t even want to know and how would that help anyways?
When he spoke about our friend, he said something to me that I’ve had trouble shaking away.
When acknowledging that they, too, had drifted apart over the years, largely I assume because of new kids’ extra-curricular interests, he said, “You know, in another life he and I would’ve been the best of friends.”
And when I read it I found myself wondering what glaringly awful thing had happened in this life that made him think that. And I realized that maybe I’d been looking at their friendship with a perspective that didn’t exist – I always thought they were.
I was emotional at my friends wedding that year but it wasn’t for the reasons I wanted to be.
I was happy for him to be starting his new life and family but I knew there was someone missing and I felt it every time I said hi to one of my old elementary and high school school friends.
Somehow I knew this would be one of the last times I saw this friend, too.
In 2020 when I’d made the decision to get sober again, I was spending a lot of time thinking about the people I used to spend time with; if that connection was genuine or circumstantial, people I wanted to reconnect with and those I was certain were best to leave behind, and what I’d done or not done to make those fabrics fray.
Once again I found myself wanting to reach out to my old friend, to mend whatever might be left of our former connection but, one of the things I had to recognize about what had become of our friendship was how one-sided those requests were.
It was almost always me doing the reaching out and that spoke volumes.
Sometime that summer the phrase hit me again when I realized that I understood completely what he meant in that message the year before.
In another life, we were best friends.
For all that’s difficult about grieving those you’ve lost, even those in the most tragic of circumstances, I maintain that it’s harder to grieve the ones still living, but that you know are living without you.
With that, I leave you with my cover of Bixby Canyon Bridge which I’ll of course be following up with Death Cab’s original recording of the same.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this long-winded introduction to this mixed-bag music podcast and hopefully you’ll stick around for Season 2 where I’ll try to speak a little slower and get into some of those topics I mentioned at the intro but didn’t get a chance to really get to yet.
I wouldn’t expect anything until a couple weeks after Death Cab’s new record comes out at the earliest because I get the sense I’m going to need to spend some late nights with my Kleenex box sniffling into my dog’s fur about the whole thing, but I am slowly working towards my next cover releases, I assure you.
‘Til then, thanks for listening.