Stop and Smell the Smoke

Inspired by: “Smoke” (1997), from the Ben Folds Five album Whatever and Ever Amen

I’ve often said that the music of Ben Folds (Five) has punctuated many intervals of my life and today’s song is no exception. This song is currently among my favorite Ben Folds’ songs (the list changes from time to time depending on my mood), but it holds that spot for one special reason in my life.

When I started dating the woman who would become my wife, she went out on a limb and bought us tickets for a Ben Folds’ concert with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra shortly into our relationship. It was at a time where I wasn’t sure what my long-term plans were. I was still looking for jobs in Chicago, not yet planning on coming back to Utah, and unsure of what I really wanted to do once I finished my degree. She says that regardless of all that, she was coming with me wherever we went, and that was enough to buy those tickets.

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Not the Same

Inspired by: Not the Same” (2001), from the Ben Folds album Rockin’ the Suburbs

Didn’t think I’d be the second post in on this little experiment and already default to writing about the song as the bulk of the entry and not something else, yet here we are.

This is not one of my favorite songs from the catalog, and it ranked fairly low among all the other Track 9s once upon a time, though that might be more a product of the other songs from that particular track than any issues with the song.

The song itself is about an experience an acquaintance of Ben Folds had the first time they tried acid; they literally climbed a tree at a party and came back down a born-again Christian. This story has been told at numerous concerts I’m sure and makes an appearance on the recording of the live version from Ben Folds Live. And the song remains one of the better ones to hear live, if only for the bit of audience participation at the end.

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Inspired by: “Thank You For Breaking My Heart” (2012), from the Ben Folds Five album The Sound of the Life of the Mind

For the first entry in this series, I’m going to dig a bit into my own archives and revisit something from many years ago. You can follow that link to read the post I wrote way back in 2011 (almost to the day), but most of the following is (hopefully) going to be a condensed version of the same story, because that monstrosity is over 1,800 words (and I want to keep these things much shorter).

So, let’s talk about Hooka.

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Best Imitation of Myself

As I do almost every year, I try to find a new way to get interested about writing things. This blog is full of series started and stopped abruptly, with no ultimate payoff or whatever. I think rewatching movies last year lasted about a month.

But I digress.

As I was finishing out 2021, I was listening to a bunch of Ben Folds music (again), as my musical taste has been squarely stuck on my favorite artist from when I was in high school. And that’s fine! A lot of Ben Folds’ music seems to punctuate certain periods in my life in ways that I can’t really figure out, so I thought I would lean into it a bit this year.

I was initially going to try and rank all the songs of Mr. Folds (and friends), but I’ve kind of done that already (see Ben Folds By Track), though that kind of leaves off a bunch of songs. So instead what I’m going to do is write essays (often personal) about 100 “tracks” off Ben Folds and Ben Folds Five music. Some stuff I’ve written on before (as it will be with tomorrow’s first entry), but I am randomly going to choose one of the songs from his catalog (I’m sticking to “mainstream” albums) and write about whatever the song makes me think initially.

I don’t anticipate that many people will read along with me in this endeavor, and that’s okay! But if I happen to expose somebody to the music of Ben Folds that otherwise didn’t know about it, that will make me happy. And if it helps me exercise my writing muscle a little bit, even better.

I plan on a daily release schedule (Monday through Friday) going forward, but we’ll see how long that keeps up and if I can get a bit ahead when a stinker of a song comes up randomly. If you want to do some homework before tomorrow’s post, you can listen to the last song on The Sound of the Life of the Mind to get ready.

Hope you come along for this journey!