Resistor - Vincent Van Gogh
Okay, it’s official. Letters to YVYNYL is gonna be a thing, probably my new favorite thing. Here, Steve Goldberg writes a song about artists’ angst with a note:
It’s a well-known trope that we hate it when our friends are successful. My story is a bit like that. I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, where in the 7th grade I met a girl. We both loved to perform and we did all the theater productions at school. We became close friends, but really I was hopelessly infatuated with her. It was my first love, and it was unrequited, so I spent high school trying to pretend I wasn’t heartbroken while I watched her date other guys. Classic teen angst.
Eventually high school ended, and I never got any real closure because this is life and not fiction. I cut off contact with the girl and moved away to college, where I studied English and music and began writing songs. I decided that pop stardom could give me redemption, and so I vowed to hone my craft until my songs were undeniable and made everyone love me. Occasionally I’d hear through the grapevine about the girl’s burgeoning acting career, and that would strengthen my resolve to vindicate myself with success.
So I made albums, and self-promoted, and toured, and slept in a van, and played SXSW, and opened for a couple bands that you’ve heard of. And I had bandmates bail on me, and I played empty rooms, and I lost money, and my emails went unanswered, and I worked jobs that I hated, and I watched bands I didn’t like get the recognition I wanted. But I thought that it would all prove worthwhile eventually, that it would sound like a noble struggle when I someday recounted it in magazine interviews. I thought my music was special, and that my big break was just around the corner. Just like lots of people, I guess.
And now I’m 27 and I’m working a temp job in Philly and still writing songs and hoping for the big break. These days I make music alone with my computer because I don’t have the money or the patience to deal with real instruments or real bandmates. I haven’t spoken to the girl in almost ten years. But then a little while ago I learned that not only was she was starring on Broadway, but she had been nominated for a Tony award.
Suddenly it seemed like I was seeing her everywhere without trying to, and everyone wanted to talk to me about her and how great she is. She showed up on web sites that I read regularly. I even read about her in Rolling Stone. And at that moment I wished more than anything that I were the one being interviewed in Rolling Stone and she were the one nobody had head of. And I felt bad for wishing that, and I wished I could be magnanimous instead of jealous and bitter.
And with all of these thoughts in my head, I sank into a depression. I considered giving up on everything. And at some point in the throes of my existential despair, I wrote “Vincent van Gogh.” I see it as both a sincere expression of frustration at the vagaries of fate and a sarcastic jab at my need for recognition and sense of entitlement, but you’ll have to decide on the proportion of each.
So that’s my creation story for you. Maybe this all seems terribly overwrought, and like too much pathos for a simple little pop song, but it’s the truth, which is all I can offer.