David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 295: Michael Been (Worried)

October 30, 2023

If all has gone as planned, I will be posting this blog at the end of an intense period of work and anxiety. It started with the planning for a fall semester, finalizing a very important document for our accreditation, teaching a class, managing the academic parts of a strategic plan, dealing with frustrating textbook issues and the potential to eliminate them (only to bring on other issues), meeting with potential academic partners, not meeting current, not-so-great, academic partners, and being insane enough to volunteer to do a peer review accreditation. Add on top of that, the on-going stress of making sure I have 3 or 4 of these song series blogs in a queue, just in case I find absolutely no time to write them for a long stretch of time.

As much as they can, save the textbook issues and the partner challenges, they should all have had a hard stop by Halloween, at which point I will be returning from a brief vacation celebrating my sisters' birthdays.

I sometimes wondered if I would even get to this moment. And I sometimes wondered what comes once All Saints' Day dawns. If you ever worried about me during this time, you better worry about me now.

That fantastic (paraphrased) line is from Michael Been, lead singer/songwriter for the lovely 1980s band The Call (see Day 120 ). It is a catchy line from a passionately dark song from a disturbingly dark album, eerily titled On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown.  Been released it in 1994, his second and last solo album, not long after the strains of The Call still came from my stereo on a weekly basis.

But that line, "if you ever worried about me, darling, you better worry about me now" haunts throughout a troubling album with an eerily discomforting cover:

The album's production, led by Been, is murky, dark, and at times cacophonous. His lyrics hinge on optimism, but likely snap from darker currents. "When You're With Me" declares "when all else seems to fail/I depend on you/to free me from myself." "This World" suggests even deeper places of hell within Been: "it's hard to be on your own/God, it hurts to be all alone/I get tired of facing the dawn." "In My Head" isn't much better, with Been lamenting, "weighted by some cruel remark/waiting for the sea to rise and part/in my heart." All of these songs, coming well before "Worried," are dominated by edgier instrumentation and vocals than anything on a Call album.

Hence, why "Worried," the 9th track on the CD, stands out. Whereas almost every other song on the CD has burst out of the speakers with some foreboding instrumental impetus, "Worried" starts achingly beautiful, Been singing "Candlelight/words in flight/now picture this/on a lover's night/when all the world/was holding us tight." The musical accompaniment, much from Been, but with help from a few others, including Call mate, drummer Scott Musick, is crisp and soars, especially between verses. A melodic piano hints in the background, allowed to emerge during the exquisite bridge.

Thus, when Been gets to the chorus, singing, "if you ever worried about me, darling," our reaction is, 'hell, yes. Have you listened to the previous 8 songs, Michael? Nothing there is like Reconciled or Let The Day Begin. Are you alright?" Then, he has the audacity to tell us, "you better worry about me now," especially since he is "on a one-way dive/to the bottom of the well/and it looks like I may not pull out." Been has clearly romanticized the past on his way to an uncertain, anxiety-filled future. The second verse takes no time to make that abundantly clear: "it's an evil scheme/or a prophet's dream/I think the fire's gone out/friend, you know the world's gone mad."

When near the end of the song, Been sings "this could be my final bow," I truly worry about him. He released no more solo albums after On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown, and I heard nothing about him (not realizing I missed one Call reunion album in 1997) until learning of his death in 2010. With little information, I assumed he had finally done his dive into the well, although much later I learned that he had a heart attack.

So, why is "Worried" my anthem coming into November 2023? If anything, my path is not one from a romanticized past to an anxiety-ridden future; I hope it is the opposite. I suppose I have two explanations. One, anxiety is always there. I'll find something to fret about in November (such as leading SMC into its next phase of accreditation compliance). Two, maybe I'm not ready for a romanticized future? What does one do when life can never be simple "candlelight" and "words in flight?"

At least as of this writing, I have no idea what will be the next song in this series. That is worrisome. I keep telling you, if you ever worried about me, you better worry about me now.

Been, Michael. "Worried." On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown. Qwest, 1994. Link here.

Day 294: Bad Company "Bad Company"

Day 296: Graham Parker "Museum Of Stupidity"

See complete list here.