Futile Interventions With the Band Called Train

[2001, somewhere sunny]



VoR: Writing a song?

TRAIN: Yeah, what do you think?

VoR: “She acts like summer and she walks like rain.” I can give you that one. But “she listens like spring and talks like June” is too much.


VoR: What does it mean to talk like June? How is that different from talking like August?


VoR: You don’t have any idea.

TRAIN: It’s whatever you want it to mean.

VoR: Write a new line here.

TRAIN: Okay.

VoR: “She checks out Mozart while she does Tae Bo.”

TRAIN: Yeah she does.

VoR: Why?

TRAIN: She’s got the high culture and the everyday culture.

VoR: It’s distracting.

TRAIN: How do you mean?

VoR: I mean when I hear you sing it I’m going to be distracted by thinking “Did he just mention Tae Bo? Why the hell is he singing about Tae Bo?”

TRAIN: I just explained that to you.

VoR: It’s 2001 and Tae Bo is barely a thing anymore. In fifteen years it’s not going to be a thing at all.

TRAIN: Are you saying this song is still going to be popular fifteen years from now?

VoR: I certainly hope not. And even if it isn’t, you should— … …

TRAIN: What.

VoR: (pointing to the page) What is that?

TRAIN: That’s the bridge.

VoR: Like … the nonsense words you write down to get them out of your head before you write the actual words of the song? Or, like, the actual lyrics you actually intend to sing?

TRAIN: Those are the words.

VoR: “Can you imagine no love, pride, deep-fried chicken / Your best friend always sticking up for you”?

TRAIN: Yeah.

VoR: Those are actual lyrics?

TRAIN: Yeah.

VoR: “Can you imagine no first dance, freeze-dried romance / Five-hour phone conversation / The best soy latte that you ever had”?

TRAIN: It’s like these little slices of life flashing in front of your eyes.

VoR: It’s more like an alien with very limited knowledge of English watched a series of food and tampon commercials and wrote about it.

TRAIN: That’s pretty bomb.

VoR: We have to rewrite this song.

TRAIN: All of it?

VoR: Pretty much.

TRAIN: Right now?

VoR: Tomorrow. I need to take a shower and listen to some Missy Elliot.

TRAIN: Okay.

The Voice of Reason returned the next day, but The Band Called Train had already recorded the song—without changing any lyrics. It became very popular, and remained so fifteen years later.

Time heals all wounds, save those of Jupiter. What drops thence can ne’er be stanched.

[2009, clouds forming overhead]

VOICE OF REASON: Watcha writing?

TRAIN: Are you going to be mean?

VoR: I can try not to be.

TRAIN: Well try hard, okay?

VoR: “Your lipstick stains / On the front lobe of my left-side brains” …

TRAIN: … Yes?

VoR: Why did you write that?

TRAIN: It’s like, her lips left a mark on me. I’m always thinking about them.

VoR: But why “brains”?

TRAIN: Because I have to rhyme with “stains.”

VoR: People only say “brains” when they’re talking about them being splattered on the wall. Or when they’re zombies.

TRAIN: I don’t mind it.

VoR: You should, because you sound like a zombie, and I don’t think that’s the goal. You should say “brain.”

TRAIN: It needs to rhyme with stains.

VoR: Brain does rhyme with stains.

TRAIN: “Stains” has an S in it.

VoR: How about “Your lipstick stains / On my heart are muddying my brain”?

TRAIN: “Stains” has an S.

VoR: It still rhymes.

TRAIN: Do you hear the S?

VoR: It’s better if she’s stained your heart, right? And that’s so powerful it carries over to your brain and makes it hard for you to think straight.

TRAIN: It makes more sense if the lipstick stains are directly on my brains, cause that’s where thoughts come from. The front lobe is actually where we have our most important thoughts. And the left side is where we—

VoR: It’s like you’re naming parts of the brain just to prove you know that the brain has different parts.

TRAIN: Is there something wrong with that?

VoR: This is the first line of the song. You have to do better.

TRAIN: Relax, it’ll be fine.

The Voice of Reason didn’t relax, and it wasn’t fine. The Band Called Train recorded the song as written, and it became a massive hit.

A palpable one, you might say. Like that proclaimed by Osric, on the bloody floor in Elsinore.

[2015, torrential downpour]

THE BAND CALLED TRAIN: Whatever you’re going to say, don’t bother.

VOICE OF REASON: I heard your new song.

TRAIN: Really? Do you like it? It’s fun, isn’t it? I was sitting at the piano one day and—

VoR: You have to stop making music.

TRAIN: What? This is why I hate talking to you.

VoR: You’re just 100 percent out of ideas aren’t you. Done trying.

TRAIN: Done listening to you, Negative Nancy.

VoR: You never listen to me. And look what happens. You take the melody from “Heart and Soul” and put your own stupid words to it. The one song everyone in the world can play on piano. The most vanilla, vapid tune in existence. And you wrapped yourself up in it like a goddamn superhero cape.

TRAIN: What do you want from me?

VoR: Retirement. Or maybe even something more permanent. Please, I can’t bear it anymore.

TRAIN: You are so dramatic.

VoR: I know. I hate it. But this is what you bring me to.

TRAIN: I don’t see what you’re so worked up about. I’m just a shy guy looking for a two-ply Hefty bag to hold my love—

VoR: Oh my God I’m going to kill you. I’m going to Tae Bo your ass into a Hefty bag, how’s that? Splatter your brains all over the wall and rhyme them with whatever the hell I feel like—

TRAIN: Help!

At reason’s end is a bitter place. Lacking in hope, flooded with rue.

But the band called Train? It keeps on rolling. Immutable. Immune.

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