Thing a Week Redux

5 years ago Jonathan Coulton (that's me) started a project called Thing a Week, in which I released newly recorded song every Friday for a year. I'm replaying it in real time here with all the songs and the text from the original posts.

Jun 13

Thing a Week 38: Drinking With You

I don’t know what it is with me and the office crushes – I haven’t had a job in almost a year so you know, it hasn’t really come up. But I find them very sweet, I think because offices are a lot like high school, which is the best time to have a crush. Except when you have an office crush, you are most likely old enough to drink, and so you can go out and get drunk with your crushee, which is also the best.

I am sensitive to the fact that some might misconstrue this song to be not so much a “sweet love song” and more a “pro-date-rape” song. This is not what I mean. I’m talking about that night long after the two of you both know very well what is going on but haven’t acted on it, and you make this mutual but kind of secret decision to “go out for drinks” – and you’re playing it cool on the outside but inside you’re jumping up and down and doing a one-person conga line singing “Going out for dri-hinks! Going out for dri-hinks!”

If you aren’t old enough to drink, don’t go out for drinks with your crush. It’s really not that awesome. Stay in school kids.

PRESENT DAY JOCO SAYS: Yes, yes, yes. To my mind this is a nearly unqualified success - still love the song, not that embarrassed by the mix. I managed to not ruin this by over producing it. I even find the solo to be appropriate, interesting, and dare I say, well-executed (Ebow, baby). This kind of picky acoustic arrangement with the moving bassline is a trick I first discovered in “So Far, So Good” which was week 19. But the chord progression feels pretty fresh to me, there’s even some stuff in there that I’m not exactly sure what it is. I wrote the guitar part first, and it was one of those songs where I just played it and played it a million times before I knew what it was about. I don’t recall where the lyrics started coming to me, but my guess is that it was the kicker line in the chorus, “It’d be nice to go out drinking with you.”

And that’s a good line, if I do say so myself. It’s a concept I haven’t heard before in a love song, not in such a sweet setting anyway, and it feels slightly dangerous - like you shouldn’t talk about that feeling, and anyway if you try you’ll probably screw it up. You can hear my backpedaling in the blog post I wrote at the time. But it’s a real thing, at least it was for me back when I used to go out of the house after 6 PM. My wife and I never worked together, but the beginning of our romantic involvement (we were friends for a long time first) had a lot to do with drinking together at bars in big groups of friends. And that line about discreetly sharing a cab home comes from that period of time when we hadn’t yet gone public to our social circle. Those hours at the end of an already too long evening, trying to outlast everyone else so you can leave together without them noticing that you’re leaving together - that’s still my most direct nostalgic connection to my mid 20’s, and what passed for romance in New York City in those days.

I forget how directly I lift from my own life sometimes, and usually I don’t notice that I’m doing it. That seems crazy because of course, it’s me inside my head all the time. How did I trick myself into thinking I was writing about some imaginary office crush while not noticing until years later (today actually, just now) that I was writing a love song to my wife? It’s such a complete and total deception - when exactly did I stop paying attention to what I was thinking?  

It’s a strange headspace, and I’ve found that I can most easily get there by writing when I really don’t feel like writing - 38 weeks of Thing a Week did the trick in this case. I’m sad that I have to write a song, but here I go. Shuffle sad over to sentimental, and then start making stuff up and see where it leads. It’s a kind of emotionally directed free association, and it’s almost pathetic how well it works once the right switches get flipped on. Because if you’re doing it right, free association is not really “free” at all. In fact it might be the only time you’re ever writing as YOU, because for once, you’ve taken your dumb, scared, self-hating self out of the equation. Something else takes over then, and it doesn’t feel like it’s you. There’s another voice in your head, and you are merely listening to it and repeating what it says.

This is that feeling of being directed by the muse, the kind of writing you can’t remember afterwards, and that somehow makes an end run around all your stupid emotional sentries and gets to something resonant and true. If I had set out to write a love song about my wife, I never in a million years would have started with the sentiment that I liked getting drunk with her back in 1995. I sure did though…

You can find more info on this song, a store where you can listen to everything, and also other stuff at jonathancoulton.com.


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  4. chicazul said: This post was unexpectedly touching.
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  7. tbskyen reblogged this from jonathancoulton and added:
    favourite Coulton-song, this. LISTEN TO IT, ALL OF YOU!
  8. jonathancoulton posted this