And I Can’t Get Enough: Why My Love for Third Eye Blind’s Self-Titled Debut Album Goes Deeper Than Bones
To read original article by Lindsey Hileman
Though I can’t place the exact moment I heard Third Eye Blind’s first single, Semi- Charmed Life, I know it entered my consciousness sometime during its early rotation on Bay Area radio stations in the spring of ‘97. I had been aware of it enough to know that I loved it and to be thrilled when it played as the last song of my eighth grade graduation dance at Miller Junior High. This would be the last song of my last middle school experience. I would exit the cafeteria that had been transformed into some kind of unexplained castle-themed dance floor, to the future, to high school, to some contrived idea of the best years of my life.
I watched Trisha sing along as we were dance-jumping around with our friends. I took in their smiles, their joy, their hope for what lay ahead of us. The most immediate of which was summer break and Trisha’s parent’s vacation which meant one hell of a party from what I’d been hearing.
“I'm smiling, she's living, she's golden”
The friends who surrounded me probably didn’t appreciate the intense subject shrouded beneath the catchy hit song that the D.J. probably chose for this milestone because it ends with “Goooooooodbyyyyyyeee!!!” But I understood.
I was living a semi-charmed kind of life. I was celebrating with people I didn’t know all that well. I had only started at Miller Junior High a few weeks before. Facing expulsion from my middle school in an upper-middle-class suburb of Boise, Idaho, my parents withdrew me and sent me to live with my grandparents in San Jose to finish the school year. Trisha was the only person I had known more than a month because she had a half- sister 20 years her senior who was one of my mom’s friends from high school. There are a million people in San Jose and I managed to find one I went trick-or-treating with in preschool. And I was thankful for this connection and the fast friendships that came with it.
The educational component of my time at Miller was a formality. With my subpar Idaho public school education, the teachers at Miller had no hope that I would catch up with Cupertino Union School District curriculum. I would be given “A”s as a sort of participation trophy for showing up and not getting kicked out in the last few weeks. But, I mean, who does that anyway?
Throughout most of the eighth grade in Idaho, I managed to stay pretty slippery—never exactly getting caught. But teachers and administrators were hearing about me drinking vodka mixed with Crystal Light in class, experimenting with drugs, and narrowly escaping a party that resulted in a barn burning to the ground. As soon as I did something they could make stick, even though it was so close to the end of the year, I was told to leave. I was taking my mulligan pretty early in life. California was my fresh start. I had new friends. I had hope. But I also had old friends, whom I missed and with whom I exchanged letters and poems and pictures, by mail--the 1997 version of the DM. In the next few months, before I returned to my parents’ home in Idaho to start high school, I would explore the neighborhoods in San Jose where my parents grew up, and I would see all my extended family on a regular basis just as I had before we’d moved to Idaho three years earlier. I reconnected with the friends I grew up with in the Santa Cruz mountains and made new friends with whom I bonded during sleepovers where we watched everything from The Babysitter’s Club Movie to Rocky Horror Picture Show to scrambled Cinemax. I would lose my virginity to a 19-year-old junior sheriff and have a second sexual encounter that would take me nearly a year to identify it for what it was: rape. For the first time and only time in my life, I would see a look of disappointment and fear in the eyes of my grandparents when I was brought home in the back of a cop car after sneaking out of the house.
“I'm scared but I'm not coming down And I won't run for my life She's got her jaws just locked now in smile But nothing is all right Semi-Charmed Life 2:53
Over the next year, Third Eye Blind’s self-titled debut album would become the soundtrack for all of my highs and all of my lows. And some of the lows were so plummeting that I’ve surprised even myself with my abiding love for the album. Of all the feelings that rush through me when I hear the first notes of “Losing a Whole Year,” sadness is never one. Nor regret. And, while “the four right chords can make me cry,” I’ve never been afraid of bad memories shaking loose from the melodies or lyrics of this album.
For twenty years I’ve listened to this record devotedly. I reference lyrics from all 14 tracks like bible verses. In efforts to put my homage into words, I fail to find my own and instead fall back to lyrics from Self Titled to describe 3EB’s enduring presence and guidance in my life.
“‘Cause you haunt the nights when I don’t know where my life should go.” Good For You 1:17
In 2017, I completed my pilgrimage to Berkeley to see the band perform their debut album in its entirety, as they returned home to San Francisco on the last night of their 20th anniversary Summer Gods Tour. Tears blurred my vision during my favorite song, “I Want You” because, despite my insistent Tweets to the band before the last two shows I’d attended, I’d never heard it live. And I rejoiced in this moment that 20 years of my life and love for this band came together in this religious experience.
If there is a God who doesn’t want me to worship false idols, I’m so fucked.
I Want You
It would be impossible to talk about listening to this record and not talk about Patrick, who’d been my on-again-off-again boyfriend (was there any other kind?) since seventh grade. He inspired the Swiftian poetry I composed during my time in California after he told me he started going out with someone else, but we still talked on the phone most nights.
“An open invitation to the dance, happenstance set the vibe that we are in”
I loved this lyric as soon as I heard it because it felt as innocent as where our relationship began, though what brought us together was far from a coincidence. Patrick and I established we liked each other through the usual adolescent channel of my friends and his friends probing each other for information on who the other was into. He was shy and I was cute so when his best friend passed me a note in math asking me out, I said yes to him with my only intent being to get closer Patrick.
Eventually we stopped using other people to spend time together. We didn’t hang out together much at school, because middle school. I would hurl insults at him in the hallway and then after school he’d ride his bike to my house or I’d rollerblade to his and we would spend all afternoon talking and holding hands and eventually making out. A lot. We’d sit together in the cold in front of my front door because I only broke the no- friends-in-the-house-when-parents-aren’t-home rule when I knew I could get away with it and, by eighth grade, my parents were getting increasingly unpredictable with their arrivals home from work as my behavior resulted in an uptick of phone calls from vice principals and school resource officers. Sometimes we would break up and get back together in one afternoon. He would say something to offend my fragile hormone-fueled emotions and I’d storm inside and lock him out and stand at the window by the door to see if he’d leave. He’d fog the window with his breath and write a cute message and we’d get back together.
We talked about losing our virginity to each other, but I returned from California defiled and ruined. We picked up where we left off as much as we could, and I was able to return to school in Idaho after what still seemed to many a mysterious disappearance the previous year. As we started high school, all the girls figured out how hot Patrick was, and being his girlfriend again restored me from despair and returned some of the confidence that had been stripped away.
We made it through most of freshman year as a couple, until spring when I disappeared even more mysteriously than the year before.
“I said to live this way is not for the meek And like a jazz DJ you talk me into sleep I said there will be no regrets when the worms come And they will surely come” I Want You 3:02
“And they say where’s that crazy girl? You don’t get drunk on red wine and fight no more ‘Cause I don’t see you anymore, Since the hospital” Background 1:11
Thanks to Grandma and Grandpa, I had procured a one-way ticket to California. This time it was my idea to run away from my troubles which were once again mounting.
Sitting in first period English, probably stoned out of my mind, just a couple of days before my escape, an office aid dropped off a slip of paper requesting that my teacher send me down to the drug and alcohol preventionist counselor. When I entered Sandy’s office she started by saying she knew I was leaving, but before I did, she just wanted me to take this little assessment because she worried about me. Thinking there couldn’t possibly be any repercussions at my grandparents' house, I answered the questions honestly—disclosing my meth use, the frequency of my drinking, and my general state of mind.
In hindsight, I realize the calls had already been made. I wouldn’t be returning to Eagle High School the next day, but not because I would be enrolled at my parents’ alma mater, Lynbrook High, around the corner from my grandparents' house.
My mom arrived and checked me out of school for the day. My off-brand DiscMan sat in my lap and “Jumper,” “Graduate,” “How’s It Going To Be,” and “Thanks A Lot,” blared in my ears while I seethed in the passenger seat of my mom’s minivan as she drove me to a mental hospital where I was admitted for chemical dependency. During my intake, no one would give me any clue as to how long I would be there. But I definitely wasn’t getting on my flight.
My stay would turn out to be only one week, but every single day, up until my last, my release date was a complete mystery to me. It took almost the entire week to get my call list approved. The first night I was able to, which ended up being my last, I called Patrick. His mom answered and seemed all too happy to tell me he was at the movies with another girl. I was stuck behind passcode protected, heavy metal doors with no one who understood how crushing this was. I felt completely lost and out of control. Patrick had clearly wasted no time moving on. Again.
I returned to school the following week and confronted the girl who stole my boyfriend. I stuffed my hands nervously into the opposite sleeves of my long-sleeved shirt so I could scratch myself until I bled (just as I’d learned from my self-mutilating rehab roommate) while she explained that no one knew where I was and everyone was saying I had moved back to California. Nineteen years later there is still a little strip of skin on my right wrist that is a slightly different texture than the skin around it and a spot on the back of my left hand that turns purple when I’m cold.
“I felt you long after we were through. When we were through.”
In the weeks after my discharge from the hospital, I was still cut off from most of the world due to being super fucking grounded. No friends, no TV, I was only allowed to listen to music and be on the computer because, in 1998, we still didn’t have internet at home, so a computer didn’t mean unlimited access to everything on the planet. It meant playing solitaire and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego and looking through Encyclopedia Britannica on CD-ROM while listening to Third Eye Blind on repeat. I guess if you really think about it, I actually did have the whole world at my fingertips.
“And there's a demon in my head who starts to play A nightmare tape loop of what went wrong yesterday And I hold my breath 'til it's more than I can take And I close my eyes and dream that I'm awake” Narcolepsy 1:39
If there had been a single lyric or a single note of a song on that album I hadn’t memorized in the previous year, in those weeks after the hospital, every bit of that record became etched into my bones. I selfishly assigned whatever meaning I needed to the words of Stephan Jenkins to get me through every hard time that followed. Starting with my code name for Patrick’s new girlfriend: “London,” referring track 10, which is jealousy and bitterness set to music. As I moved onto other relationships, there was no suppressing how damaged I was. When my usual chaos levels spiraled into a near psychotic break:
“Maybe you thought I’d call Instead of crashing down your hall” Burning Man 0:25
For years to come, I would ask myself “How’s It Going to Be” at the end of so many meaningful relationships, though I knew exactly how it was going to be from doing it so many times before.
God of Wine
By the middle of my sophomore year, my life had calmed enough to resemble a normal high school student’s, but many people knew my story. It was hard to ignore in a small town, and to my knowledge, I was the only kid on the debate team who had been to rehab. This was made slightly less scandalous by the fact that my policy debate partner and BFF had her first baby at the end of freshman year. “My people are the misfits” (bonus “Out of the Vein” reference).
“You let me down, I said it, now I’m going down, and you’re not even around”
In the first several weeks after the hospital, these lyrics spoke to the loneliness of losing friends and the abandonment I felt getting ditched by a boyfriend who, after two years, I needed more than ever. Such a good boy despite my bad behavior, he promised to remain my friend and help keep me out of trouble. But within weeks, he succumbed to the peer pressure of people he had never given a shit about before and started down his own destructive path.
Before long, I realized just how precisely “God of Wine” told my story. The summer after sophomore year, while listening to “God of Wine” with one of my closest platonic guy friends who was as straight-edge as they come, he told me, “This is your song.” The way I felt in that moment? I was proud. I was humbled. Whenever I share my love of Third Eye Blind with someone, I feel as though I’m scraping off a bit of my soul to leave with them, but I hadn’t realized how meaningful it would be to be a part of someone else's Third Eye Blind experience. I would understand a short time later how much more this meant to him when he drove me home and seemed to want to linger when we reached my house. “Why not us?” he asked me. But he knew the answer. I kissed him softly but quickly and with sadness. It would be a long time before I could fathom deserving someone so undamaged.
“Searching for something I could never give you And there's someone who understands you more than I do A sadness I can't erase All alone on your face” God Of Wine 4:22
Motorcycle Drive By
While there are some 3EB lyrics and songs attached to very specific memories, “Motorcycle Drive By” is the one that just consistently reminds me to live. It shows me new beginnings in every ending that I’m tempted to wallow in. I’ve turned to this song at the end of romances; I’ve mourned fizzled friendships and younger more carefree and promising versions of myself that have been lost to time. It is my constant reminder that life goes on.
“And there’s this burning Like there’s always been I’ve never been so alone And I’ve never been so alive” Motorcycle Drive By 0:43 and 1:50 and again at 3:10 like he goddamn means it.
My whole life, I’ve battled an obsession with how others will remember the moments I experience with them. I have sometimes felt that my most cherished moments don't matter if the people I experienced them with don't remember them or remember me.
In November 2017, I decided to splurge on a VIP ticket to a 3EB show and travel 5 hours to Salt Lake City, alone, to do a meet and greet with the band. In an effort to not be an annoying fangirl, I played it too cool and came off as totally unimpressed and underwhelmed when I met Stephan Jenkins and Brad Hargreaves. I spent the next six days obsessing about how I blew my chance to impress upon them who they are to me. The next weekend I went to their concert in Boise and got a chance to meet them again after the show. I quickly gushed my regrets to Stephan and told him that everything he did was so important to me, to which he replied that it was important to him too and wrapped me into a hug that healed me. Brad assured me that they were all totally awkward people and to think nothing of the past weekend’s faux pas. I suspect they’d already forgotten me in the past six days and have probably forgotten me again. But I am trying to be zen about how alive I was in those moments. And that can be enough for me. But still.
“I hope you take a piece of me with you."