December is a month of traditions. A myriad of religious observances, baked goods, decorations and family obligations. We all have our conventions, taking the time to mark the schedule as we look forward to whatever comes.
For many years, I have kept a tradition that gets me through, something that allows me to process the feelings that I have had over the year, to drive them out of my system as I do. room for the challenges that a new year brings. On December 1st, as early in the morning as possible, I jump to âA Long December,â which as you probably know was the second single from Counting Crows’ 1996 album. Satellite recovery.
I first heard Counting Crows on a mixtape I stole from my older sister, one that a so-called suitor made to express things he was unable to express on his own . Stuck there between Mr. Big’s “Be With You” and the first three quarters of Nirvana’s “Lithium” was “Mr. Jones”, the band’s single from their debut album. August and after.
Lead singer Adam Duritz had a time as a cultural icon due to his jet black dreadlocks and dancing style that I can only describe as a puppet in a tornado. By the time I finished listening to “Mr. Jones” for the first time, I was hooked. The band were fun and playful in a way that grunge wasn’t, they painted landscapes in their lyrics, creating scenes that you could place yourself in during a song and live in the world of theirs. creation.
“Mr. Jones” gave us the Counting Crows, but Satellite recovery who showed us who the Counting Crows were.
At this point, Duritz suffered a price-to-fame blackout and the band went from indie darling to national sensation. Both rabid and relaxed listeners eagerly awaited what “Mr. Jones 2 “would sound like, where the band would take that poetic whimsy we had associated with them. Counting Crows surprisingly countered, the second single from Satellite recovery was a ballad, hidden just before the end of the record – “A Long December”.
âA Long Decemberâ came into my life on the radio, sitting in the backseat of a beige 1985 Toyota Tercel as my sister reluctantly drove me to the grocery store where I worked. The DJ enthusiastically announced the arrival of the new single from Counting Crows and as we heard the sound of a piano leading us solemnly into the song, we wondered if the DJ had not crossed his sons. Then Duritz’s unique voice came out and put us at ease. It’s a song best described as solemn, tender in some parts and hurt in others. He entered the charts in early December and as “Mr. Jones âbefore her, was quick to rise to the top.
For a while my experience with him was solely his popularity on the radio. I could hear it at work above the PA grocery store and since it was December, working in a grocery store, the besieged employees were hiding behind their backs and chanting “maybe this year will be better than the last one” to each other, as we resisted blows from angry adults for not having the right kind of eggnog on the shelf. I could hear him being driven home from work at the end of a long day, sitting in silence as words like “the smell of hospitals in winter” wafted over the air, gazing at the eternal darkness of the world. winter guide our way home.
But it was the video that really rocked the mood for the song.
Duritz plays the leaf-covered piano in a dark forest as Courteney Cox, one of the two Friends stars he dated at that time with Jennifer Aniston, writes a letter on a black table, the camera cuts out a table with dates written and scanned. It’s moody, thoughtful and emotional, with Duritz at its center; playing piano or standing and swinging with outstretched arms. Sometimes he would hide his face with a photograph before drastically releasing it into the void. The scene around him is black with white birch trees for contrast as the snow falls softly layered. It’s the epitome of the 90s, a mix of soap opera and community theater. It’s a perfect clip.
âA Long Decemberâ is a song I loved, and then like so many things we fell in love with in the 90s, it was gone. Put it away to make room for newer, shinier things. For years, I hardly thought about it, until the advent of iTunes and click-wheel iPods made any piece of music your memory can conjure up at your fingertips a reality. I bought Counting Crows greatest hits at the behest of a partner as we remembered our youth, how kids in their twenties think their youth is a bygone era.
That same partner and I had the kind of back-and-forth love affair you enjoy in my mid-20s, until she got really sick. During a dinner at a Mexican restaurant in downtown Edmonton in 2006, she told me she had cancer. A year later, on a hot Sunday morning, I received the call that no one wants to receive: she had passed away the day before. For a long time, I didn’t feel anything at all, I cut myself off from all the emotions and just walked the world like a robot that had only been half-programmed. Just enough to get by.
At the beginning of December of that year, I had to leave town to work. I was a construction worker at the time, and had to drive for hours on a long road in the Yukon to do construction. Loaded up my Ford Econoline van, stuffed myself with coffee, cigarettes, and an FM transmitter so my click wheel ipod could play the meager stereo of the van. Somewhere on the highway in the dark early hours of winter, “A Long December” happened at random. I parked my van on the side of the freeway and cried until I had nothing left.
It was the first time that I had really allowed myself to feel anything since his death and the song brought it all back to my body in one fell swoop. âThe smell of hospitals in winterâ reminded me of her visit to the cancer institute where she was being treated, when she panicked and friends came to put make-up on her before I arrived so that she did not. don’t look sick. âIf you think I could be forgiven, I wish you wouldâ the soundtrack of my desire for her to let go of me not to be there to say goodbye to her, as I had promised.
Everyone has a part of the song that hits them the hardest. For me, it is âup to the mansion on the hillside, a little after 2 am, and talked a little about the yearâ. It reminds me of days gone by, when we remembered times gone by and let the peace know those days were behind us. It reminds me not to have a last chance to say goodbye.
I asked friends what they thought of the song, just to test my theory that I am not alone in my annual tradition.
Writer Anne Theriault told me “it’s like the perfect distillation of that feeling when you’re at a holiday party and you’re so sad and lonely but trying to pretend you’re having a good time.”
âThis song came on ‘A Long December’, and I just started screaming and couldn’t stop,â the writer said. Alicia kennedy. “When I listen to it now I think it really sums up that feeling that life wasn’t going to turn out the way I wanted it to.” Kennedy says “one of those pivotal times in your life where your body achieves something before your mind does. I’m always grateful to this song for that.”
Host of Bansplain Yasi Salek has this to say “The thing with the long December is it’s absolutely a fucking holiday song. People who say it’s not are lying. The thing is, it is. is the reverse of a normal holiday song in which generally the music is often cheerful and cheerful, but the song itself makes you feel very depressed. However, with this song, the music is bittersweet and sad, but the message is a message of hope. at been a long december and the is reason to believe that this year may be better than the last. He could be forgiven. She could come to California. I think she should. Plus, it’s a quintessential LA song that belongs to the canon of Los Angeles classics. It’s one more day in the canyons. Is it Laurel, is it Topanga. Is it Benedict or Nichols? Is it just the Canyon of the Soul? We’ll never know. And of course, it’s one more day in Hollywood. Tinseltown, baby. This song has it all: grief, dreams, longings, loss of love, weather, commentary on the fleeting nature of life. It’s a perfect song.
Every year, in December, I first play “A Long December”, before listening to something else. “Fairytale of New York” can wait. And this line “climbed to the hillside mansion, some time after 2 a.m.” keeps every inch of my skin still, as I think of the days and years gone by, the farewells never said and the farewells. future.
I think of Adam Duritz’s offer of hope, so early in the song âmaybe this year will be better than the lastâ and I remember he doesn’t offer despair or boredom without issue. âA Long Decemberâ asks us to sit in our memories for a while, talk about them, recall and remember how we felt, good or bad. And then maybe, just maybe, the year ahead offers a silver lining that we didn’t find in the one we left.