Way back God knows when, I opened for Steve Forbert at the old Stache’s. He was really good and I really wasn’t, but it was noteworthy for two reasons. 1) His guitar broke so he had to borrow mine and 2) I heard “It Sure Was Better Back Then” for the first time and it just blew me away. From that point over 15 years ago, I’m not sure I have gone two weeks without playing this song. Partly because I still have a cassette copy of “Mission of the Crossroad Palms” in my 1998 Chevy Malibu.
Obviously the performance is great, but the lyrics resonate with me. You can check it out yourself but the gist is a guy complaining about how tough his life used to be and then singing, “I hated it you know, but now I swear I miss it, just staring at the TV till the broadcast ends, of course I had it bad, but not as bad as this is, it sure was better back then”
Call it a fondness for “Glory Days”, but us humans seem to be afflicted with sickening predisposition to sentimentality. This idea that somewhere along the way, life peaks out and you are left with nothing but memories worth telling or people worth missing. Still, at the same time we are encouraged to work really hard for 45 years, save and invest our money and if we are “lucky” we can move to Florida/Arizona and play a few rounds of Golf before we die.
Basically this song works two ways for me:
1) never be that guy singing this song. Always look forward. Take chances and try to make all your days the Glory Days. Never remember when. What would Bob Dylan do? Who cares what you once accomplished or who loved you. Or left you. Or died. It means nothing now. All you have is the next moment until it is gone and then you have the next moment. Watershed has been around so long and had so many peaks and valleys that I will get the occasional, “You guys were so big in 1995 (1998, 2002, 2005, 2008, ECT) but you never really made it. What a shame. You guys were so much better back then” I just spent last week working on a new Watershed project and I NEVER had a better experience in my life. It sure was better back then too. 5 days ago.
2) The hard part is the fun part. It is cliché as it gets but the journey really is more fun than the destination. Or if fun is the wrong word, the journey is more challenging and inherently more interesting. When your only goal for the day is to golf, watch Hannity and then try to stay awake until the end of the ballgame, no doubt you will look back fondly on the days when you were really alive trying to pay bills and life was like a good book where you didn’t know the ending.
Actually now that I think about it, it works in a 3rd way and this is the most important way of all. When out playing shows, I have a tradition of drinking beer on the last road day home. The shows are over and all we have is a day to drive. Usually no money, but lots of good stories. I ride shotgun next to Biggie in the van, take control of the tunes and drinking cans of Bud around 11am. I always put on “It Sure Was Better Back Then” and crank it up to ear shattering volume singing along to every word. At the end I turn around to the guys and say, “you know, we are living the back then right now, and it is really great”. Funny, I said this same thing 5 days ago. CG 6/7/11 The studio version is what you really need to hear, but this live clip should suffice until then.