In My Ohio

​On the Music from My College Days

Darren C. Demaree
​I am currently fifty-four poems (it’s mapped out to be around one hundred and forty-two poems) into my newest sequence, “Alumni”, a mess of poems that is a little bit about the college experience and a lot about the decade or so after you graduate. To keep myself in that mind frame I have been listening to all of my old CD collection, which is still in the giant black binder I bought myself in high school to make my music (all of my music, because you need to two hundred and fifty CDs with you everywhere you go) more portable. That last sentence is ridiculous sixteen years after the fact, because now I can fit all of our music collections on one device that is smaller than my wallet. So, I’ve been listening to all the music I bought in college, including the mix CDs I made on the one computer in our freshman dorm that had that capability. The poems are good, I think, but the music has been a bit of a mixed bag.

Ben Lee

Ben Lee was who I brought to college that I thought would make me seem cool. Nobody else had Ben Lee CDs, and so that was the music I would play the most. 

Lee still holds up. He never reached for the moon with his music, but it’s all good. He injected the perfect amount of Buddhism and hope into his music to make an eighteen year old think it was profound, but some of those messages still work for a thirty-four year old as well.

Pearl Jam

​Pearl Jam was my favorite band heading into college. We had a tenth anniversary party of their first Album “Ten” and everything. Those of us at that party have no regrets.
There are twenty Pearl Jam songs overall that are still great to me. Most of their songs just meld into that era of music and stand out in no real way. What has been surprising to me in this re-listening is that they made a fair amount of bad music. I will probably listen to those twenty great songs for the rest of my life, because of how much this band meant to me, but they made a lot of music that I will forget (some of it on purpose).

Ani Difranco

​Ani was played constantly during my first two years at college (Fall 1999-Spring 2001). I went to see her live a couple of times. I had a very poorly planned hook up after one of those shows. I didn’t just listen to Ani to spend time with women, but that was a large part of it.
The same ratio (on a smaller scale) that worked with Pearl Jam works with Ani Difranco. There are still five Ani songs I can listen to and really enjoy (“Out of Habit” is my favorite), but most of it had dissolved into a jumble of mediocrity. I can’t listen to a whole Ani album anymore. I just can’t do it.

Blind Melon

​Blind Melon only put out a few albums, but they took the place of Pearl Jam for me by my junior year. There were several arguments with my Pearl Jam compatriots that ended in shouting about how I thought Blind Melon was better.
I can no longer make those arguments that Blind Melon was better than Pearl Jam. There are songs like “Soul One”, “Mouthful of Cavities”, and “Change” that remind me why I made that argument, but I was wrong. The floor for Blind Melon is much higher than that of Pearl Jam, though that I imagine is what happens when you only make a couple of albums. 

Ben Harper

​Harper took me and my friends like a weed-tinged tidal wave. At one point we had all picked out the Harper song we wanted to have our first dance to, which I now realize is a painfully awkward thing to admit in the present, but there you have it. Every girl we made a tape of CD for got some Ben Harper on it. A little “Forever”, a little “Steal My Kisses”, and of course some “Waiting On an Angel”. I’m looking at you, girl.
Harper barely holds up. His music is shadows of Marvin Gaye and Bob Marley. His songs make me shake my head at the eighteen-year-old version of myself. I was so sincere in my admiration for Harper, and the women I would share his music with, that it now makes me embarrassed. If the music was better I could explain it in a better way, but Harper writes songs with an eighteen-year-old’s maturity level. He writes in absolutes, which really can only be down well in the pop genre anyway, but coming from him it makes him sound like a fool or the worst kind of idealist (the one that cannot acknowledge change).
​I’ve got a few more months of writing to do on this project, and I’m still waiting to get into The Counting Crows, Smashing Pumpkins, Ben Folds, and Dave Matthews. I’m both excited and afraid to hear what’s next. One thing is for sure; listening to this music while I write this project was a good idea, as I continue to have an almost visceral reaction to some of these songs. Here’s hoping the poems have the good, twister tether I think they do.