Flashback Fives: What Becomes of a Broken Heart

Along with our letters, we also publish “Flashback Fives”—a list of five moments when each writer fell in love with a song, album, artist, genre, et al. This list was submitted by Tiffany from Baltimore, MD.

Yeah, I got dumped. In a bad way. At a bad time. But then I’d hear these songs, and I wouldn’t feel so alone, so hopeless. I’m not the first person to feel this hurt, or this angry, or this damaged. I’d crank the songs in my car and my headphones, and I’d let them drench me. And then, very slowly, I started to heal.

The Lucksmiths
“A Hiccup in Your Happiness”

“The start is the hardest part, to step inside and announce a newly broken heart”

Sure, my name’s not Louise, but I still felt like the singer was talking to me like a friend. And I was hurting so much, and the promise of my heart mending “if by degrees” helped me get out of bed. And even if I didn’t fully believe that I could be happy again, I liked hearing that all this was just a hiccup in my happiness.


“Cut and Run”

“I don’t want to sleep alone and think of you with someone else”

I think, for a short time, I thought there might be some chance he’d try to come back to me. I wasn’t ready to be alone. He’d pried his way into my life, and then he left me and kicked me while I was down. And beyond being hurt, I had to relearn how to live without him in my life. I wasn’t ready to have to figure out how to live my life alone while he was moving on.

Diet Cig


“Fuck your Ivy League sweater, you know I was better!”

Then I got angry. Angry at him for treating me like shit. For leaving me for another woman, who looked normal, who had a fancy job, who didn’t adorn herself in thrift store dresses, who listened to bands that weren’t super obscure.


“Who will I find to talk to?”

It was never really about her, obviously. But I couldn’t help wondering why he couldn’t see that he’d thrown away something amazing. I’d been so happy, and I told him so many times. I made space for him in my life, but he left. And I was lost and alone and confused. I didn’t want him back, but I felt the hole he left in my every day.

Iggy Pop and Kate Pierson

“Down on the street those men are all the same”

He hated this song. (How on earth could I have been in love with a guy who maintained that this song was “a low point for Iggy, and for Kate?”) I sang it at my first post-dumping karaoke. We’d gone to karaoke together every week for 6 months, and he’d never been willing to sing it with me. And I stood up there, with a friend supporting me, and sang the shit out of Kate’s part.

To “Left of the Dial” and to my friend, Dan McLane:

I knew about this song for ages before I actually listened to it. Ever since I started reading and writing about music in a serious way, the name would keep popping up. It always seemed like it’d be right up my street—I’d been raised on Tom Petty and Bob Dylan, and discovered The Ramones and The Clash right around the time I was graduating from high school. I liked The Jayhawks, Los Lobos, and The Old ‘97s—bands who wore their hearts on their flannel sleeves. But somehow I didn’t get around to it right away.

Then I met Dan, my senior year of college. Dan was in a band—The Harmonica Lewinskies. People talk about first impressions; with him, I don’t remember having one. I didn’t know him, and then he was my friend. Suddenly, I was part of a scene, hanging out at sweaty venues in Lower Manhattan, dancing to music that was exuberant and raw and good-natured. Even after I left the city, I kept in touch.

Here’s where this song comes in. I was reading some article that mentioned it, and I thought to myself, “This is silly; I should just listen to it already.” Those chiming first bars kicked in, and I took off on the galloping drums and chugging bass as if I were on horseback. “Heard about your band/ in some local page…” Instantly, I thought of Dan and the Lewinskies. I thought of all of us, young and charging headlong toward the unknown horizon. I closed my eyes at the bridge, letting that high note fill my head.

“Pretty girl keep growin’ up/ playing makeup, wearing guitar/ growing old in the bar/ you grow old in the bar.” At the time, the spring of 2014, I was living in D.C., and it was becoming clear to me that I needed to get back to New York. I was turning 23, and I knew if I didn’t make the reckless decision then, I’d never make it. In June, just after I got back, Dan took me for drinks. He asked me if I listened to The Replacements, and I admitted I hadn’t delved very deeply. “But ‘Left of the Dial’ is a great song,” I said. His blue eyes lit up, and we clinked glasses.

Brooklyn, NY. Summer 2014.

Over the rest of that summer, and into the fall, I went to as many Harmonica Lewinskies shows as I could. Winter came, and things weren’t going well for me, so I sort of faded from the community. On the occasion that I did make it out to see them, though, I had a good time, and they were always glad to see me.

Fast-forward to April of 2016, just a few weeks before my 25th birthday. It was a Thursday night, and I was packing for my cousin’s wedding. Around 9 p.m., I took a break to browse the internet. I was idly scrolling through Facebook when I saw a post saying that Dan had died. At first, I thought it must be some kind of prank. But then I got a message from one of our mutual friends, and the world shifted.

Somehow, I managed to get myself to the airport the next morning and fly down to Atlanta. I’d told my parents, but I didn’t want the bridal couple knowing. It was their day—a day of life renewing itself. So I put on a silk dress and a smile, and sat in the soft, humid afternoon, watching as they took their vows. And then I thought of this song, with its mention of “sweet Georgia breezes.” I thought of how he’d looked at me in the bar. I tried to hold it together.

I flew back to the cold, rainy city. I went to Dan’s funeral, and hugged and kissed and sobbed with his bandmates and all of our friends, even people I’d been too shy to speak to in the past. I tried not to think of the ten thousand conversations I’ll never have with him, or all the times I should have stuck around after shows. I listened to this song at work, trying not to cry out loud.

Even in the short time I knew Dan, we shared a great deal—this song was only the beginning. I keep thinking of the first time he kissed me on the lips: just a peck, like a deluxe “hello.” He gave me the gift of seeing myself reflected in someone’s eyes as something beautiful. He might not walk the earth anymore, but I can find him in the realm of music, with this song’s rowdy romanticism as my guide. “And if I don’t see you there/ well I’ll know why/ but I’ll try to find you/ left of the dial…”

With all my love,


The Replacements: Left of the Dial

The Harmonica Lewinskies: Good Man He Come

Flashback Fives: Born to Love Music

Along with our letters, we will also publish “Flashback Fives”—a list of five moments when each writer fell in love with a song, album, artist, genre, et al. This is the first, submitted by Christine from New York, NY.

One. There are so many theories about playing music to a baby in the womb. Will the baby hear it? Appreciate it? Recognize it later? Based on personal experience, the answer is yes. My parents played Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Street Survivors repeatedly while my mom was pregnant. After I was born, the album became lullaby music—southern rocking me right to sleep. When my parents taught me how to use the turntable, guess what I played? That album is forever like a warm blanket to me. It feels like home. I was born to love it.

The people responsible for my condition.

Two. Message boards and chat rooms. Can’t say what specifically prompted me to partake when I was 15. Boredom and the loneliness of living in a small rural town. I sought and found a few of my ilk, including Joe. Joe was a few years older than me, lived in another state, went to art school and loved punk rock. I devised a plan to meet him in person, succeeded and was smitten. We drove a couple hours a few times each year to meet. Not much could sideline me from putting the moves on him, but the opening riff of Lifetime’s “Rodeo Clown” stopped me in my tracks. Its perfect mix of energy and heartbreak is a 4-second summary of what could loosely be called our relationship. I initially played it feverishly to relive the soaring emotions of being with Joe. Next, on repeat to mend my broken heart. Finally, years passed and I was able to appreciate it and the rest of Hello Bastards free from emotional chains. Writing about this situation 20 years later, I am ironically reminded of Lily Taylor’s infamous ex in the film Say Anything…. Does everyone have a Joe?

Lifetime: Rodeo Clown

Three. The idea of Sleater-Kinney captured me from the outset. Women vocalizing their frustrations by writing and playing raw, bitter music about the challenges of friendships, relationships, work and life. I discussed and shared Call the Doctor with friends; disseminated it via mixed tapes and tape recorded copies. As an equally frustrated outsider, it was my duty to embrace it. Dig Me Out was released a year later. Aimlessly driving around in my car on a rainy afternoon, I thought “Now’s my chance let it sink in.” I drove and drove until the album ended, struck by how much they’d advanced as songwriters in such a short time. The music was less raw, still bitter and incredibly melodic. Of all their albums, it’s the one I discussed and disseminated the least. I held it close and feel equally as protective about it today. That’s how I know it was love.

Two pieces of evidence: A devoted young fan, I wore a Sleater-Kinney shirt in my drivers license photo. You can’t see the graphics so you’ll have to believe me. More recently, I digitized my music collection and could not part with my beloved Dig Me Out CD.

Four. Growing up, I was infrequently exposed to what I considered real jazz. The jazz you read about in history books. Jazz that influenced the great writers, artists and musicians. When I moved to New York 10 years ago, I met someone who knew enough about it to give me a crash course. The moment he played Mingus Ah Um, everything clicked. It was a gateway drug, a green light, to explore the seemingly infinite world occupied by musicians like Miles Davis, Gil Evans, John Coltrane, Jimmy Giuffre. They say being a parent is the world’s biggest club. Understanding and appreciating jazz is the best one.

Charles Mingus: Better Git It In Your Soul

Five. Driving from Palm Springs to Joshua Tree, listening to the album Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son by Damien Jurado. That album, the desert road, the mountains, the brown and dusty blue, are forever etched in my mind as one of the most glorious and free moments of recent memory.


Damien Jurado: Silver Timothy