Is this January? Today did not feel like January …

Wow, what a day. This wasn’t January, but it was. The high reached 54 and there was hardly a cloud in the sky. The highlight of the day, then, was the day. I even went outside for four minutes to walk around two buildings and take this photo. Things like this need documentation.

The Library of Congress and the Internet Archive will surely be along shortly to document the moment. And they should. Sunny and 54 degrees! In January!

I finished this book this evening. (I skimmed about the second half of it.)

Remarkable Journeys of the Second World War isn’t that good. The author interviews people who took part in the war. They’re all British subjects, and their lives and roles varied. Here’s a POW, there’s a nurse, a merchant seaman, member of the Home Guard, and so on. Their stories are theirs, and some of them are riveting, as you might expect. But the author, she gets in the way of those stories with her own narrative. It gets redundant.

There comes a point when you pass through respect to enamored that feels disingenuous.

I bought it for $1.99, so it’s fine. That I skimmed a book is the thing here. Couldn’t tell you the last time I did that.

The last chapter were short stories written by her grandfather, who was a POW from the Royal Air Force, they were all worth reading. The author discovered, and published, his memoir. That I’d read much more closely.

Next up on the Re-Listening Project, where we’re just making recollections through the old CDs played, in order, in the car, is the first Van Halen greatest hits. “Best Of – Volume I” has most of the songs you’d expect for a greatest hits, was rumored to be the reason that Sammy Hagar left the band, brought David Lee Roth, briefly, back into the fold and, ultimately set the stage for Gary Cherone’s brief time fronting the band. And, honestly, somewhere in all of that was when I got worn out by Van Halen.

I remember this well. It was the fall of 1996. School was busy in more ways than one. This was spinning a lot on the drive in to campus from Gentilly. Sunny days, warm skies, a hilariously mediocre football team but, otherwise, everything was ascendant. Michael Jordan and the Bulls were on the way to building the second three-peat. I was helping quiz my roommate, who would, the next month, rise to brilliant national prominence. I believe I was doing music shifts at the radio station, and I managed to be a lot of other places, too. Ahh, the energy and vitality of youth. And, also, David Lee Roth.

I am older now than he was then, so there’s that. (And he was born in Bloomington, apparently? I don’t think I’ve ever heard that.)

Anyway, the first Van Halen cassette I bought was “OU812” so I missed the Roth years. To me, the band was Van Haggar. Further, I am of the not-at-all-consequential-and-yet-controversial opinion that Alex van Halen is a terrific drummer, but Michael Anthony was the secret ingredient to the whole thing. A greatest hits disc got me most of the songs I’d need from the early days, which was perfect. I’m in no way a Van Halen completist.

It seems weird to write a great deal in this space about a now decades old greatest hits compilation. Instead, let’s briefly touch on one of the news from this …. now decades old release. This one, the last ever recorded with the original lineup, is quite good.

No video was ever made, creative differences apparently, but this was a radio hit. They topped the US Rock Chart for six weeks, the third time Van Halen did that with Roth; it was the band’s 14th number one, overall.

This greatest hits came, for me, with an inescapable realization, way back then, and I can’t not think of it today. For an act featuring one of the greatest commercial guitar players of all time, the late, great Eddie Van Halen put a lot of synth in his music.

The one that came to mind this morning, listening to this song: charismatic as he is, and before you could wave it away as his being a rock star, what was Roth like as a teenager?

Next up is Counting Crows’ second studio album, which was released two weeks prior to the Van Halen greatest hits. But this is the order I bought them in, and I shuffled through them at about an equal pace this time through. I have most of the Counting Crows catalog, but I just grew out of it, as all of us should. Time and place and all. (But I’m committed to this gimmick and the records get a lot better. Soon, I think.)

For some reason I always think of driving in Opelika when this song comes on. There must have been some restaurant or store or something that was involved. Maybe it’s a memory from juco classes the next summer. There’s an overpass, and too many decibels, and that’s the memory.

This one always seemed relatable, somehow. Who can say why? That’s what you get when you listen to emo pop rock in the free time of your teens or early 20s.

I always wondered how much of what Adam Duritz wrote and performed was real or in the character. It seems a dangerous thing to put yourself forward to profit from whatever happens next in your personal life. But I like to think this one is more real than not. There’s some wry humor here. Also, I think it is, in pretty much every way, the most lasting track on the record for me.

Also, it is, I think, just about the earliest possible namecheck for Ben Folds. I own no Ben Folds, but I did see him the next year.

Next time we check in on the Re-Listening project, we’ll have a soundtrack. It’ll be a … breezy one.

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