THE WALLFLOWERS RIPPED-OFF JOHN PRINE

prine

And, I am worried about it.

Does John Prine know? Do The Wallflowers know?

This weekend my daughter Sophie was at her art lesson, my husband Dave was fixing the headlight lightbulb on the car at somewhere not our house, and I was enjoying my alone-time by doing a lot of Devil’s Party Press work, drinking coffee, and enjoying some music on Alexa. Often I will ask Alexa to “shuffling songs by Jack Johnson,” but instead I had asked her to play John Prine as, for some reason, John (let’s just act like he and I know each other, why not? We should, anyway.) had popped into my head. After a considerable while of Alexa shuffling songs for me, I remembered one of my favorite songs by John, “Unlonely,” and I asked her to play it. She refused. Alexa is nothing if not capricious, and so she left me no choice but to stop working, and start searching for the song on “the Google” or any place else I could hear it. I found it, and now you can hear it too:

John Prine: Unlonely

And, as I am often wont to do, I replayed it… about a zillion times.

Then I took a shower, and while in the shower I kept singing it. And, on one go-round, I found myself mixing in the lyrics from another song:

The Wallflowers: One Headlight

At first I thought this might have been because Dave was out getting our headlight fixed.

Then I realized that the music, underneath the lyrics, the singing, was pretty freaking similar.

Go ahead, click back and forth between the two.

Does John Prine know?

Do The Wallflowers know?

I assume, with Jakob Dylan in the band, The Wallflowers know John Prine and his music. They would have to, right?

And yet, I never heard anything about this from David Dye, and David Dye would know:

David Dye

Add to that, now I was thinking about David Dye too, and wondering why he doesn’t look like he sounds… however the disconnect between voice and appearance is one I cannot hope to solve in this blog entry. No, no, no.

And then, my husband came home again, and I was telling him about the problem with The Wallflowers and John Prine. John Prine is too far away in style from the Pet Shop Boys for my husband ever to like him, and he felt the need to ask me if Eric got me interested in him. The answer is no. I was interested in John Prine before I ever met Eric, and that was because David Dye and Q102 got me interested in John. Eric, though, was a prior love of mine who was heavily into Irish music and Bluegrass. I never truly embraced the Irish music, but I did like quite a bit of the Bluegrass. I dated Eric for 10 years, and then I dated Mike the alcoholic, and then I married Dave. I had my other little relationships before Eric, but he was my first big one, and it was a big one.

And so this lead to me thinking more about Eric. He is dead now. Though he wasn’t an alcoholic (that I knew of) when we were together, he apparently died as one. Eric was my first big love, and, initially, when we found out we both liked music like John Prine and Bonnie Raitt, we were very compatible, and he made me very “unlonely.” I guess that part of what Eric did for me was to make me feel secure and attractive. I guess I made him feel secure in his own desirability, because he decided, in our later years together, to try it out and try it on with quite a few other women. I left him over the last one, and he seems to have married her at some point, all while never moving out of the house he bought for me, and then she left him, he was her 5th husband I think, and he proceeded to drink himself to death. It is hard, when thinking about Eric, not to romanticize the past, when we were both very young, and very in love, and he made me unlonely. And yet, I still have to think about the person who cheated on me over and over, and who finally had the bad luck to marry a woman who had divorced 4 times prior to marrying him, because she had cheated on her spouses over and over. And when she dumped him, I guess it broke his heart, or some part of him anyway. It broke him. He was broken and not unlonely, and so he medicated his pain quite heavily until he died quite messily. And it had nothing to do with me, except that if he could have been happy with the known, instead of feeling like he was missing something out there in the unknown, I probably would have made him unlonely for life. But, I never did.

And that story reminds me so much of the lyrics to “One Headlight”:

So long ago, I don’t remember when

That’s when they say I lost my only friend

Well they said she died easy of a broken heart disease

As I listened through the cemetery trees

I seen the sun comin’ up at the funeral at dawn

The long broken arm of human law

Now it always seemed such a waste, she always had a pretty face

So I wondered how she hung around this place

Hey, come on try a little

Nothing is forever

There’s got to be something better than

In the middle

But me and Cinderella

We put it all together

We can drive it home

With one headlight

She said it’s cold

It feels like Independence Day

And I can’t break away from this parade

But there’s got to be an opening

Somewhere here in front of me

Through this maze of ugliness and greed

And I seen the sun up ahead at the county line bridge

Sayin’ all there’s good and nothingness is dead

We’ll run until she’s out of breath

She ran until there’s nothin’ left

She hit the end, it’s just her window ledge

Hey, come on try a little

Nothing is forever

There’s got to be something better than

In the middle

But me and Cinderella

We put it all together

We can drive it home

With one headlight

Well this place is old

It feels just like a beat up truck

I turn the engine, but the engine doesn’t turn

Well it smells of cheap wine, cigarettes

This place is always such a mess

Sometimes I think I’d like to watch it burn

I’m so alone and I feel just like somebody else

Man, I ain’t changed, but I know I ain’t the same

But somewhere here in between the city walls of dyin’ dreams

I think of death, it must be killin’ me

Hey, hey hey come on try a little

Nothing is forever

There’s got to be something better than

In the middle

But me and Cinderella

We put it all together

We can drive it home

With one headlight

It seems, to me, eerily on-point for Eric’s story. Eric who once upon a time left love letters to me on my mother’s front door in the middle of the night. Eric, who danced naked with me on the lawn at Haverford College. Eric who used to sing with me all the time. All the time until he met the first woman who was better than me at everything I guess, because he never said, though I did ask, and then the second, and the third, and then he knew that though he could not tell me about them, he could tell me about me: that my voice was not good, that my hair was too short, that my waist was too thick, and I went away, and I was unlonely no more, and he got married, got divorced, died.

I didn’t find my husband until after Eric found his wife. Not that it matters at all when things happened when they happen in the past. Like Eric, my husband can both play the guitar and write. And, when we adopted our daughter, I think that made him unlonely. You only have to go to his website to see how happy he is in his photo with her.

But John Prine’s song has been stolen.
The first night that I knew The Wallflowers had ripped off John Prine I awoke in a sweat at 3 am. I love The Wallflowers. I love John Prine. How could The Wallflowers do this to John? Did they know? They have to be aware of each other’s music because of Bob Dylan. Have they never listened to The Mills Brothers?
You always hurt the one you love; the one you shouldn’t hurt at all. 

You always take the sweetest rose and crush it till the petals fall.

And, for awhile, after Eric made me not unlonely anymore, I lived with Mike.

Mike was my rebound guy. He was like the car you buy when the car you love totally dies on you forever, and you just need a goddamn car because you need a ride, a quick, cheap, low-heart-impact ride. Take me to the place I need to get to, Mofo, take me to where I can forget that I know things. I need a ride, so, fuck it, yeah, I guess I’ll buy that one. I just don’t care anymore. I mean, how many people are you really gonna find who will dance naked on the lawn at Haverford College with you, not just once, but many times?
You buy the third-rate car. Not a single part designed in Japan. And so of course it’s going to die on you sooner than the one you loved did. All the good things die on you, but so do the crappy cheap cars too, which is good, even if it means a long spell of….
Public transportation. Just, well, okay, I can do it, just anything but the bus. I’ll take a taxi; I’ll hop the subway; I’ll ride the trolley or the El, just not the bus. The bus, at least a SEPTA bus, is the lowest of the low. You don’t want to be standing in the rain waiting for it; you don’t want to be schlepping yourself and your shit on and off of it; you don’t want to be run over by it. Sad, exhausting, slow walk home when you ride the bus, Baby. The subway gives you grit and street credit; the bus will drive you right to an accidental meeting at the vet with your ex boyfriend when you haven’t showered because you were on your way to yoga class anyway, where there would be a lot of other unshowered women, and you just needed to pick up the flea medication. The bus makes sure your past and present collide.
John Prine’s song has a lot less lyrics than The Wallflowers does, but I find it affects me in and around the place where my heart beats in my chest way more.
You make me unlonely
I feel like the only
Person in the world
That ever had a girl like you
You make me feel wealthy
I almost look healthy
With you on my arm
Yeah, together we could charm
This whole wide world
Once I was lonely
Nobody but me
My heart in a prison
Love set me free
God woke up
He heard my plea
He sent you to me
He sent you to me 
You made me feel stronger
You made me love longer
Than anyone
Yeah, anyone in the whole wide world
Unlonely….
The song, even when it was first released, has always made me feel like I should be busy, on a quest, back-packed and booted. And I have been waking up, sweaty and worried, every night since I realized The Wallflowers song was musically the same. In fact, I wrote to the contacts for both acts, because I just need to know that I am not the only one who knows this, and also that I am not insane. I would feel less solitary, less on my own if I felt like someone else knew.
In the meantime, it’s got me wondering if there’s anybody out there anyway(Pink Floyd, give props, Pearce). So, how do you know?
When a person takes your hand in one hand, and a picnic basket in the other, and helps you climb up and onto a disused train trestle to have lunch and sex, and afterwards, legs dangling over the open air, the tea that you drink, from the thermos he packed, is hot, there is no question about whether or not there is anybody out there.
When you drink coffee pods in the early streaky daylight alone, there is.
As the sun rises on the day, there may be distractions, to distract you, from the fact you, are not… at all… unlonely. But then the 67th dumb argument occurs or your duty to inform John Prine wakes you up again when you should be sleeping, just as the light starts to drip in over the day at 100% humidity, and you know you are 100% not unlonely.
And yet, whether hot tea on a trestle or coffee pod coffee in a certain coffee cup that cost you 10,000 in student loans( a story for another day), your cup is still full. At least the coffee dripping in little gasps from the pod into your cup is not using the same grinds to make coffee for another girl after working out the kinks with you.
How important does being unlonely become? How many attain it? Is there life on Mars? (David Bowie people!) Possibly, there is. I hope so. I just expect it’s not on Mars. We’re looking in the wrong place. When we find the right place to look, will it make us unlonely?

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