Good Old Days

In the early summer of 1994, when I was just fourteen, my friend Caroline gave me a mix tape to listen to one night. Actually, side A was a mix, but side B was an album she'd recorded from someone else, just something to fill in the blank space. I took that tape into my tiny boarding school dormitory, fed it into my walkman, and listened to it through my headphones in the dark. I don't even remember what was on side A now, but side B mesmerized me like a magic trick. I rewound and rewound, listened again and again, and when I finally got to the end of side B, I fast-forwarded all the way through side A until the tape clicked over and side B started from the beginning again.

In the morning, I looked at the cassette box. It's A Shame About Ray, Caroline had scrawled in her loopy handwriting. The Lemonheads.

I sought her out at breakfast. "That tape you gave me," I told her. "I loved side B. I loved every single song."

"Oh yeah," she said. "I thought you might."


I bought the album myself, from the HMV on Reigate High Street when I was visiting my grandma one weekend. I bought it as a CD, which felt a little extravagant at the time, and I played it in my room with the door closed, played it in the car with my dad when he drove me back to school Sunday evenings, played it in my dormitory after lights out, my discman---I had upgraded to a discman---slipped sneakily under my pillow. I carried that CD with me from boarding school to university, from university to my adult life, from London to Connecticut to San Diego to Charleston to San Francisco, packing it up with every move. It still remains, without question, one of my top three favorite albums of all time. 

Later that year, or perhaps it was another year entirely, Caroline and I found out that the Lemonheads were playing in London. "We should go," we said. But we were fourteen and London was miles away from our leafy suburb and the only concert I'd ever been to was Janet Jackson with my dad, and so we didn't go, and later in the halls at school I heard some older girls talking about the Lemonheads concert, how great it had been, and I wanted to punch myself for not being cool enough. One day I'll go, I thought, and the years went by and I went to lots of shows as I got older, shows in grimy clubs and sweaty stadiums, pressed up against other people with my head swiveled towards the stage in adoration, but I never went to a Lemonheads show. And in the end I sort of just forgot about it.


And then last month, I was idly scanning some dusty corner of the Internet, and I saw it: Evan Dando of the Lemonheads, Cafe du Nord in San Francisco, February 28 at 8pm. Who would go with me to this? I thought. I emailed Moose, with whom I had often discussed a mutual fondness for the 90s. "Random question," I wrote, "but did you ever like The Lemonheads?" Her email came a few minutes later: an enthusiastic transcription of the lyrics to Dawn Can't Decide. We booked our tickets.


The concert was on a Sunday night. Who goes out on a Sunday night? We arrived at eight on the dot, two overeager thirty-somethings who forgot that bands never go on stage when they're supposed to go on stage, that no-one ever gets there until at least two hours after the time on the ticket. We drank cider and looked for boys with plaid shirts. We stood and stood and stood, waited through two interminable opening acts, inching ever closer to the stage. I'm too old for this, I thought, and then of course I'm not too old for this.

I don't think there is a way to describe the way you feel when songs you've carried around with you for years are suddenly right there in front of you, live and in full color, or maybe there is, but there are people who will do a far better job of it than I could. For me, I will just say this: it was worth the wait. All sixteen years of it.



I am nostalgic to a fault, perhaps because of the way I grew up---always moving, always leaving, always idealizing the place I used to be before I left it---or perhaps because of something else entirely, a rogue strand of DNA that got mixed in at the last minute. I miss people before I've left them. I reminisce about things ten minutes after they've happened. I look back on times that were happy and they make me happy but they make me sad too, and sometimes there is just no way to separate the happy from the sad, and it's because you can't go backwards, I think, because there's no way to press the repeat button. Things happen and then they're over. People are here and then they're gone. We keep going forward because we have to, and the past recedes in the rearview mirror behind us, and it gets smaller and smaller and smaller.

Nostalgia, if you can believe it, was once recognized as a medical condition. Soldiers fighting in wars in the eighteenth century were diagnosed with nostalgia and sent home. Rousseau's Dictionnaire de Musique describes how Swiss mercenaries were banned from singing the songs of their homeland---the Kuhreihen, or cattle-herding melodies---because they stirred in them such a powerful longing for the past that they would run away, become ill, or even die. Nostalgia---from the Greek word nostos meaning "returning home" and algos, meaning "pain" or "ache"---was also known as mal du Suisse (Swiss sickness) or mal du pays (homesickness). Ah, homesickness! There's something I know a thing or two about.

You can't go home again, they say, and it's true, you can't: you can't go back in time to a dusky summer evening in 1994 when all the world seemed alive and new. You can't go back with hard-won knowledge and hard-earned skills, and you can't do it over, even if you swear you wouldn't do it any differently at all. You can't go backwards, and so you have to go forwards. But there's nothing wrong with looking over your shoulder every once in a while.



Mar 03, 2010

Reigate used to have an HMV? It's all posh gifty shops and restaurants these days...Aahhh, nostalgia!

I wonder why nostalgia was Swiss sickness? Did they think the Swiss were particularly prone to it? Mind you, having visited Switzerland a few times, if I lived in the Emmental region I'd never ever leave - beautiful is not a big enough word.

Mar 03, 2010

I could have written that third-to-last paragraph about myself. Weepies, unite.

adele Richards
Mar 03, 2010

beautiful. the song. and your words. thank you.

Balkan Girl Down Under
Mar 03, 2010


See what you've done, you've made me CRY! (Heh heh.)

Beautifully I'm bloody nostalgic!

I know exactly what you mean, though. Having been born (and growing up) in Croatia, I most definitely have those niggling bouts of nostalgia.

It's a pesky little sucker, nostalgia.


(But a part of me kind of loves it, too.)

Mar 03, 2010

The Lemonheads started when they all met at my high school!

Your words on nostalgia are lovely, and so, so true.

Mar 03, 2010

Ah, the Lemonheads. Loved them! I also have been reminiscing about 1994 as I watch Party of Five on DVD.

Mar 03, 2010

YES. The saddest thing in the world to me is not being able to press the repeat button. It's why I write, so that it never quite fades as quickly.

Mar 03, 2010

I love that. You described exactly what it feels like...
and sometimes there is just no way to separate the happy from the sad, and it's because you can't go backwards, I think, because there's no way to press the repeat button. Things happen and then they're over. People are here and then they're gone. We keep going forward because we have to, and the past recedes in the rearview mirror behind us, and it gets smaller and smaller and smaller...

You are an excellent writer. You should have a blog or something... Yay.

Mar 03, 2010

I am very nostalgic myself - and have been feeling that way a lot lately. This really touched me and was really in tune to the way I've been feeling lately. Thank you.

jive turkey
Mar 03, 2010

I totally get it. I'm incredibly nostalgic. In fact, whenever I have a long, boring wait or I can't fall asleep at night, I reminisce about what I was doing last year at this EXACT time (and believe it or not, I can usually always remember precisely what that was).

I read a Dr. Seuss quote not too long ago that helps me from getting too sad about bygone days: "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."

Operation Pink Herring
Mar 03, 2010

But as Bon Jovi wisely sang, who says you can't go home? That was the last song played at my wedding and now I need to go have a lie-down, as you'd say. Or maybe I'll just flip through my flickr wedding album and cry a little.

Mar 03, 2010

I loved what you said about the feeling you get when you're hearing a song live. I've never been able to describe that feeling either, but it's so powerful and amazing, especially when it's your most favourite song. It's incredible! :)

Thespian Libby
Mar 03, 2010

Lovely. Just lovely.

Mar 03, 2010

This was lovely and I couldn't have said it better myself. From one nostalgic soul to another...


This is almost the exact story of how I fell in love with the Violent Femmes, but substitute "summer camp" for "boarding school" and I went to concerts alone because nobody would go with me.

Looking backnow , I wouldn't have it any other way.

Mar 03, 2010

Great post, Holly.

I feel this way about Greenday, laugh if you must. I feel in love with them at 13 and still haven't seen them in concert. One day.

Mar 03, 2010


Camels & Chocolate
Mar 03, 2010

Alas, I know NOTHING about the Lemonheads, but after that video, I think I would have really liked them. Next time, I'll come with you! I'm all about some Sunday night debauchery.

Mar 03, 2010

Beautiful. Just beautiful.

Hip Hip Gin Gin
Mar 03, 2010

"I miss people before I've left them." I've never known of anyone other than myself who felt this way, and I can never quite explain to people why I can feel sad about a vacation being over before it actually ends.
Beautiful post!
Weepies unite indeed. I wonder how many of us moved around a lot as kids. I think there is something to that, always experiencing endings and goodbyes. And now I'm teary.

Mar 03, 2010

I LOVED that CD, and still have it. I, too, remember loving every single song on it, which was rare for me, who was never that into music and usually only liked the Top 40 songs on the radio. I also remember that the album was short - definitely short enough to fit on one side of a cassette. Now that you have reminded me, I kind of want to download the CD to my iPod, but i agree, there is something so definitive about the year they came out I don't know if I am ready to dilute the nostalgia. :)

Amy --- Just A Titch
Mar 03, 2010

I am one of those weirdos who you'll spy crying in the grocery store because a song I once danced to with a boy who broke my heart is playing.

I love this post, Holly. So great, and YES, I am forever looking over my shoulder.

Mar 03, 2010

So I have recent come to the realization that you are absolutely one of my favorite bloggers...because i noticed my brain gives a little cheer every time you appear in bold in my reader showing a new post. Anyway I agree...third to last post is me exactly...except the part about moving so much.

Mar 03, 2010

beautiful post, Holly. your writing can be so evocative.

Mar 03, 2010

*tears* why am I crying? oh I know, because you struck a very loud chord in my chest.

Great post Holly - who cares if I have to go into the stinky work bathroom to reapply some eye make up.

Mar 03, 2010

I LOOVED this post. If there were two words to describe me best, they'd be nostalgic and sentimental. A dangerous combination, to be sure, because nearly everything in my rear view mirror is seen with a gooey mixture of the two and of course, often its an inaccurate picture. I love that you give yourself permission to take a take a glance backward every once in a while. I've found that when I return to the view in front of me, things always look a little different having looked at the past, and that's a perspective I'm glad to have.

Jessee R.
Mar 03, 2010

I'm extremely nostalgic AND sentimental to a fault. I keep everything! I have multiple boxes of notes passed in middle school and probably every birthday card ever received. My favorite thing is when you have dreams that take you back to those wonderful, rose-tinted times we wish to live again. Makes me want to keep sleeping and get lost in the past.

Mar 03, 2010

Lovely. I have a crazy strong association between songs and locations/time periods. It's one of my guilty pleasures to be totally transported with the opening chords of a song, no matter where I am. It's nice to read the comments here and know I'm not alone!

Mar 03, 2010

I loved reading this entry. My sister texted me from work telling me how great it was and that I had to read it when I got home from work. I totally understand.

Mar 03, 2010

Beautiful, beautiful post. I've now got tears in my eyes. Just lovely. Thank you, really.

Mar 03, 2010

Wonderful post!

I can also recommend his solo cd 'Baby I'm bored'.

Mar 03, 2010

Wow, almost-weepies at work. Thanks! ;)

-another nostalgia-prone one

Julie Roads
Mar 03, 2010

Does nostalgia count for lost loves? Because I have that kind really, really, really bad.

Love your blog, love your writing - so glad to have found you...

Thanks for doing what you do.

Mar 03, 2010

it is so nice to know that other people feel the same way! thank you for this was brilliant.

"I miss people before I've left them" - this is especially true for me...maybe even moreso because of a recent long term, long distance relationship. finally having a weekend together and you're so happy to be together but sad at the same time because you know it will all end in 48 hours. so hard.

ok, now i'm crying!

Mar 03, 2010

You are totally awesome, I love your writing, and it's so cool that you got to hear one of your favorite bands!

Mar 03, 2010

I absolutely love that last paragraph. So true. Thank you!

Mar 03, 2010

Brilliant post, Holly!

Mar 03, 2010

Holly. I think I've told you in person that you are one of my top three favourite writers on the Internet.

This post exemplifies precisely why.


Mar 03, 2010

You are really such an extraordinary writer.

Mar 03, 2010

Awesome post.

Music has an incredible way of bringing on the nostalgia more so than anything else! I cannot remember how old I am, but if I hear Garth Brooks' The River, I can tell you exactly which curve on the highway to nowhere I was singing it at the top of my lungs.

Mar 03, 2010

I'm writing a book set in my country, at the other end of the world from where I am. To get inspiration, I listen to the radio from back home on the internet and do virtual tours of the city I was desperate to leave. The homesickness I feel is a physical pain that gets worse when I go back to my country. It's true; you can't go back home.

Mar 03, 2010

I'm so sad I missed the Lemonheads in SF. I used to have a big door-sized poster of them when I was in high school. It upset my high school boyfriend, though (he thought they were "posers"), so one day when he was having a bad day I took it down and let him throw rocks at it. This sounds so odd 20 years later. :)

Thanks for the nostalgia.

Mar 03, 2010

I love your blog and your writing so much, and I sympathise with being nostalgic. For years I've felt like I don't want to keep going forward because it takes me too far away from the past. But looking back and sharing memories with people that were there with you the first time is an amazing feeling.

Mar 04, 2010

This is beautiful. I could have written this about myself; I am also nostalgic to a fault.

Love, love, LOVE your blog. Thanks for telling your stories.

Mar 04, 2010

God, did I love this. I have said and written the exact words "I am nostalgic to a fault" so many times before. That whole paragraph--so, so perfect and beautiful and painful and true. Thank you. (And so interesting about it being a sickness--for those cut from the nostalgia-cloth like you and I, it makes a lot of sense).

Just today I heard a Kings of Convenience song in a store I was in that transported me precisely to springtime two years ago, my junior year of college. No matter how little time has passed, it's always arresting, always achey and heavy and so very *gone*, but I try so hard to let it come back to me, own that moment, and be grateful. I really try.

Mar 04, 2010

i love this post. i'm new to your blog, but i think it is great!

Mar 04, 2010

I love this post.

There are so many ridiculous songs that will get me nostalgic. And I like it that way. Yeah, so Blackstreet is not a band many people will claim to like, but it will always remind me of my sophomore year in college and my roomies. It always makes me smile!

Mar 04, 2010

You're a classic TCK. I know cuz I am too, and I'm raising my children by dragging them all over too. And homesickness! I realized a few years ago that I couldn't be happy anywhere. If I was in America enjoying good beer and Mexican food, I would miss French cheese. If I was in France, I would miss America. In Morocco now, I miss both.
Great post, Holly.

Sensibly Sassy
Mar 04, 2010

That last paragraph, my goodness. There was just a swirl of long summer days and Christmas mornings and first dances and last words all made alive to me in that last paragraph.

Mar 05, 2010

Oh, Holly, this really was lovely.

Also, you've totally made me miss my sister (who lives across the country) and wish that I were in her room listening to "It's A Shame About Ray" while wearing our supposedly ironic 1970's vintage tee shirts and flannel. sniff.

You're such a bright light on the interwebs. Thanks!

Mar 05, 2010

Holly, you might not remember, but some readers who grew up Stateside might remember the Sassy reader who sent a picture of herself and Even Dando at her prom. Like, she saw the Lemonheads were in town, figured out how to get in touch, and asked him to be her prom date. And he went!!!

I was thinking of that several years ago when I saw Evan and Rhett Miller on a double bill. All my high school yearning brought back in a heartbeat.

Mar 08, 2010

Um, I think you just described me exactly.

french mastiff
Mar 11, 2010

Even though i am not so old but still i remmeber the sound of the concert, i feel to get back in past and enjoy some of the golden memories with lots of fun and enthusiasm.

Mar 18, 2010

I would have totally gone to that concert with you if I didn't live in Texas. The Lemonheads were one of my favorite bands way back when, and my husband and I danced to Into Your Arms as the first dance at our wedding in 1995. It was a hard song to dance to! We still call each other if either one of us hears it on the radio. I'm glad you were finally able to see them live. I think I saw them at an outdoor concert in New Orleans in 1994, but can't remember.

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May 06, 2010

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Jul 01, 2010

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Nov 09, 2010

I could not agree with you more! It was just fabulous! :)

Apr 01, 2011

Well, then, go go lemon heads. brazilian cherry hardwood flooring and bare metal recovery. Cheers.

May 20, 2011

Excellent post, Holly!

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Evan Dando
Jan 09, 2012

I loved your article . You are a great writer . Let's hang out sometime

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