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.
In my school, it was Friday. The pizza wasn’t any good at all, but you can’t really argue with pizza at school can you?
Those of you who’ve spoken to me in the last 24 hours may be surprised that there’s a song here – until about 2:00 this afternoon I had pretty much nothing. I was all ready to blow it off and go play some tennis when this came to me. The music is an idea that’s been floating around in my head forever, but the sad guy singing about pizza was one of those things that just bubbled up from somewhere. It’s by necessity a pretty simple structure and arrangement, but I kind of like it that way. It’s economical. And recording it also felt very old school for some reason, reminded me of high school, sitting in my room at home with a four track cassette and a chorus pedal. And maybe a piece of pizza.
PRESENT DAY JOCO SAYS: One of the “bolt from the blue” songs, born of desperation and despair. I’m just now remembering that originally this melody had different lyrics: it was a love song for Dana Scully. No, I can’t remember them, and I wouldn’t share them with you if I could because they obviously were not good enough to graduate to song-dom. Even then it felt a little too on the nose.
Jeez, this one is a heartbreaker, it makes me really sad. The arrangement could use some work (duh, it was done in two hours), but those vocals at the end of the chorus are great. Still love the concept, though I probably could have eased up a little in verse two - one of the things I think I’ve learned how to do a lot better is write AROUND what I want to say instead of just saying it. There is certainly a bit of distance for this guy, he never says “me” or “I”, and that works pretty well. I do think the lyrics could be stronger if he didn’t directly address what he’s really worried about in verse two. Of course there’s something honest and simple about him talking about lunch tables and wanting it all to be over, but I often find that the knife twists more painfully when you don’t see it coming. Gah, I can picture this kid sitting alone with his little slice of pizza, make it stop.
And you know, I wasn’t the kind of kid in school who didn’t have friends at lunch, so I don’t know why it still hurts me so much to think of this character. In a general sense I was definitely a nerd. I had buck teeth, I liked math, I was pals with the teachers, but various class clown techniques kept my head above water. And then in junior high, one day I woke up and realized I was a gawky kid with the wrong clothes and the wrong haircut and a sweaty underarm problem and ridiculous giant glasses. I had a good friend who had made it across the barriers, maybe had always been there somehow, and I went to great efforts to model myself after him in all the right ways. I spent a couple years feeling extremely uncomfortable all the time about how I looked and moved and acted, and somewhere in there found my way to contact lenses and confidence. By high school I had figured out how to pass as a cool kid, though I was always terribly afraid someone would discover my secret, put glasses on me, and punch me in them.
But those kids. I remember their names still, sometimes even the odd way they walked or the twitchy thing they did with their eyes when they were socially panicked. The super smart kids who talked funny. The kids who really did sit alone, who really had no friends at all. I hope I was nice to them, I always tried to be a nice to everyone, but I bet I was a jerk sometimes. I certainly didn’t go out of my way to sit with them at lunch. And I still remember how it felt before I put on my cool kid skin, the blind fear that came with certain situations - the AWFUL feeling of being different and having someone call attention to it. That’s the worst thing I can imagine, having to slog all through your school years feeling that way. I’m glad I’m a super cool rock star now with no insecurities.
Oh, and I just got this, it’s about Friday isn’t it? Because of course at this point I was done with Fridays. That was by now the saddest day of the week for me because I was tired, and empty, and slowly shambling week by week toward the day when I could stop writing dumb songs.
This is the last song on Thing a Week Three, and this is where it starts to get really good.