Lost a great friend today. A man who I looked up to more than I ever told him, which I will regret for the rest of my life. He was a musical virtuoso whose melodies dug into my head and stayed there quite comfortably. It didn’t matter the instrument - guitar, keyboard, trombone, vocals, you name it. He would make a riff sound beautiful and complex yet something you could instantly hum along to.
It’s not easy to make lists, but I would say there were 3 albums that were definitive to me growing up. My dad showed me my first pirated music with his copy of Who’s Next (which I’m sure he had bought several times in different formats already), where Pete Townshend’s rhythms and mixing blew my mind. Then I saw what Roger Daltrey did to the microphone, and it was all over from there. Next up was Bike Ride by Baker. They were a pop rock band from Boston who played in our middle school. It was the first time I was ever at a “cool” concert. You got to walk right up to the band with there guitars and be there for the music hitting you. Such a fun album too.
Last, and most relevant of course, was All the Days Dirt by Pilcalmio. I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t know they even named the album, I just had it memorized as a list of songs they played. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The most important part is it consisted of 3 great people at my high school - Ned Connors, Pat Beckman, and Jake Czuczwa. They made great fucking music and you could watch them do it in front of you. I heard them play these songs every month for at least 2 years. Coffe shops, battle of the bands, school talent shows, you name it - they perfected their craft like professionals.
The worst thing about the modern world is how hard it is to care about something. It’s so easy to be a cynic and dismiss everything. This applies 100x to anyone in song writing. Just logging lyrics in public (or, heaven forbid, social media) seems like you’re putting yourself out there too much. Jake never had that problem. He was always scribbling song lyrics, humming to himself, working and reworking, whatever it takes. I still listen to some of their songs to this day, and I encourage you to do so too. They obviously hit way harder now that he’s passed away, but my personal favorite comes from “I Won’t Be Fine” :
if you are looking for my soul, i hid that a long time ago
if you find it, you can keep it
there’s no second chances
Or these quintessential burning-out-in-high-school lyrics from “Oh-Face Killah”:
This town is growing on my mind
I can not stay here all the time
I have no car, I have no plane
I only have one thing in my hands
Me and my guitar, will get away
I’ll make it to the west coast one day
Maybe they’re not the same as Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize, but right now, they’re the perfect way to remember a great friend.
Rest in melody, Jake. I will get you that guitar pedal someday and tell you about how I made it to the west coast one day.
Got to see Streetlight Manifesto play tonight for the
n-th time since high school. They’re an amazing band, and they have one song in particular that always hits hard. It’s called A Better Place, A Better Time. It’s a desperate song about trying to save someone who has clearly given up all hope.
Jake, I have never screamed the lyrics louder than tonight. I have never ran through a moshing crowd faster and harder. I have never made a bigger fool of myself by screaming lyrics far longer than they were intended to go on for. I got crushed by the crowd and felt like every bone in my body was willing to snap. My throat was on the verge of bleeding and breaking due to pure acoustical straining.
I would do that and so, so much more every day, if it could change what happened. I guarantee that you will wake in a better place, in a better time. It was not your time.