A week from today is the twentieth anniversary of the release of Sheryl Crow's Tuesday Night Music Club, which is a great album as a whole, but which is mostly notable for the hit single "All I Wanna Do." It's a great song that you've heard, probably many times. It is one of my favorites, one that I never seem to tire of listening to, and it has a permanent place on my main Spotify playlist, the appropriately titled "Awesome."
(My Awesome playlist--see how that works as a name?--is a collection of about 170 songs from nearly every genre and time period, from Ray Charles to Nine Inch Nails to George Strait to Bibio, that I enjoy. There are fixed points of reference, but the content does vary over time.)
Lately I've been in a nostalgic mood. There are lots of reasons for that: my recent 20-year high school reunion, my move back to my home state, getting acquainted with new friends who are about 15 years younger than I am, and getting reacquainted with old friends with whom we seem to just click. And lots of other reasons, too.
I'm having a hard time with the realization that All I Wanna Do is 20 years old. I remember distinctly the first time I heard it. I was at a New Year's Eve party at the end of 1993, and most of us were friends I knew from during high school, or from college, at the home of one of the coolest people I've ever known, whose parents had vacated. We were old enough to be unsupervised but young enough to need supervision.
I had never heard anything quite like that song before. It was an instant favorite. Danceable, though I wasn't much on dancing, dangerously close to one another or otherwise. Catchy accompaniment, sort of almost-free verse, and unlike most songs sung by women, singable by me both in terms of the range required and the fact that I could sing it without sounding like I liked boys instead of girls. At that age, I foolishly cared that people not think I was gay based on the words of a song I might be singing.
And what great fun it would be to sit in a bar all day, drinking beer, not having to go to work or school or anywhere else, I thought. All I really want to do, I thought, was sit here at noon on a Tuesday and drink Budweiser and watch the world go by. Happy, happy song. Great atmosphere.
My older self wonders how he came to be, what with the fits and starts and follies of youth. And my youth hardly had any follies at all.
Because All I Wanna Do isn't a happy song at all. It's full of regret. The folks in the bar aren't really having fun. They're lamenting that all they really want to do is have some fun, and what they're doing isn't that. Otherwise, the song would have a line like, "All I wanna do is sit here and drink beer until the bar closes, and I'm doing that, so, mission accomplished."
The secret to a good life is in figuring out, in the first instance, that there are lots of moments wasted on empty tasks. Even if you're industrious, and go to your job at the phone company or the record store (or, in the poem the song is based on, the genetic engineering lab), and use your lunch break to wash your car, or you lead a slack life, drinking and whiling away the hours, empty tasks are still empty and joyless. The point of living is to find joy in what you're doing. You are the only one who experiences the pleasure of the things that please you. Every minute spent on the mundane and empty is a minute robbed from your fuller life. You will never get that minute back, and when you're dead, that's it.
All I really wanna do is have a little fun, all the time. I want to love what I do all the time. And even if I can't achieve that, I want to try.