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29 March 2012 @ 10:37 pm
Bp's Song of the Week #148: Bob Whelan "Overnight Drive (What Might Have Been)"  
Bob Whelan "Overnight Drive (What Might Have Been)"

I type about moments all the time, those musical moments that are priceless. Seconds, or minutes of a song that become part of your fiber. This song contains one of those such moments. A chorus that evokes such powerful imagery and emotion.

As the last tail lights faded out of sight,
I'm alone again.
I can't help wondering,
what might have been.

Rarely have I been content with seeing a great artist just once. My favorite artists I've tried to experience as many times as I can, never quite being satisfied with just one concert or performance. I've said many times, that if you're not interested in checking the band's itinerary for the next show, then the show wasn't good enough. I've seen Rush 32 times, Trans-Siberian Orchestra 31 times (34 after May), and many others between 5-10 times. Living in a small market though makes it tough and so the road trip has usually been involved in chasing artists around the Northeastern US. While my travel is more restricted these days than in the past, TSO, Rush and Matt Nathanson still keep me on the road.

Being a frugal concertgoer I've almost always driven back after the show. After all, I'd rather spend extra funds on another ticket as opposed to a hotel. In doing that though you inevitably have to endure the drive home in the wee hours of the morning. As a result of clocking many of those over the years this lyric hits home on a couple of different levels for me, however not for the original lyrical intent which I'm thinking is due a relationship that has ended. As someone who spent hours riding his bike to, passed, and from the house of flame that never really sparked in high school, I understand the metaphor of travel as a means of relationship pondering.

The bigger connection now for me is relating to losing the comfort of tail lights that have served as 'temporary friends' (as I call them) when they pull off the highway and the somewhat lonely feeling that follows as the darkness envelopes the landscape. A particular nemesis for me is between exits 3 and 4 on the Massachusetts Turnpike which is a 30 mile stretch of lonely, dark, mountainous landscape that seems to take forever at 1 am. Almost all of the venues I hit in New England wind up leading me through that stretch of road where cell signals go to die, and tail lights are few and far between. The bright spot is that when I finally get to Exit 3, it's (Geddy) Lee, MA and that makes me think of many road trips to wonderful Rush memories in various cities like Mansfield, Hartford, Manchester, Uncasville, and Boston.

On another level, the imagery of the lyrics, laid atop the acoustic guitars, is wonderful and haunting. It's a song that I would love to direct a video for, being a visual-minded person. Bob Whelan, a philosophy graduate from Brown University, always penned thought-provoking lyrics that were sharp and witty, catchy and melodic, and extremely intelligent. He was the principle songwriter for Angry Salad (signed to Blackbird/Atlantic and continually on the road between 1993-2000). There's more of Bob and Angry Salad's work below the lyrics, it's definitely worth checking out. Bob has since retired from recording and works in the education field.

"Overnight Drive" was released in 2001 with Bob's group, *64, after the imprint Angry Salad was on went under during the Time Warner/WEA turbulence in the early 2000's. This particular song is the quiet moment of the album and recorded with Bob and one-time Salad bassist, James Kinne, who you might recognize from many of my previous Album of the Year lists. Not only are Bob's lyrical images moving, but his distinctive voice drips with emotion and uncertainty. It's yearning. Reaching out, but not finding.

Overnight Drive (What Might Have Been)
A cigarette explodes,
on a highway in the dark
A lonely roman candle,
lit up for the broken hearts

Started over with no place to begin
But the changing signs and highway lines won't change the state I'm in

As the last tail lights faded out of sight,
I'm alone again.
I can't help wondering,
What might have been.

And the turn too late,
or the twist of fate
There's an answer,
wasted on the wind.
What might have been

Sometimes the wind blows in through the window
I can feel but I can't touch
And she'll swear that she knows nothing
And I swear she knows too much

A cigarette explodes,
on a highway in the dark.
Broken like a promise,
in a hundred little sparks

Let the darkness wash over me
Somewhere in the night...

More Angry Salad & James Kinne:
Empty Radio
Spotify link to *64's You Might Be Beautiful album
James Kinne