There’s a tattoo on my left ankle that says “It was always you falling for me.” When people ask me what it means I sort of brush it off with “They’re my favorite lyrics by my favorite band, Panic! at the Disco.” At that point they either give me a puzzled look because they have no idea who I am talking about or laugh because the few that have probably stopped taking them seriously in 2008.
So I don’t explain that I started listening to them in 2005, the fall of my junior year of high school when I coincidentally moved out of my house for a two year intensive math and science boarding school. Seeing as how I’m editor of a wellness blog and an aspiring screenwriter I think you can guess how well the whole “Science & Math” thing worked out for me. Those were the toughest two years of my life. I lost my identity as the smartest girl in my class. I had a lot of family issues. I lost all the friends I had to leave behind at home and making new ones didn’t come easily to me. I was in a really dark place. Given the epidemic of teen suicides in this country over the past few years I don’t like to be as dramatic to say I was suicidal; but I also like to say that if it hadn’t been for Panic!’s debut album that I had on constant repeat I would have probably taken my wondering what it would be like to not have to exist anymore a bit more seriously. I could write 5,000 words on why that album meant so much to me but the moral of the story is that it gave me something to hold on to. It was the only thing that made me feel like a human in those two years. Those songs helped me survive and I’m a stronger, better person for it, because of this band.
People stopped taking them seriously in 2008 because that’s when their second album came out, after they had basically transformed into a Beatles tribute band. It’s not their most heralded album, but there’s a song called “Northern Downpour” on it that they wrote for their fans. That was originally going to be the tattoo. The second verse starts “And then she said she can’t believe/Genius only comes along/In storms of fabled foreign tongues,” that broke my heart. There’s a history there because they had to scrap the original sessions for the second album and briefly thought of disbanding under the pressure of trying to create a follow up to their debut “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out” – which sold 1.9 million copies worldwide. The first proposed second album was supposed to be a rock-opera of sorts, and their first album was composed of songs based off lyricist Ryan Ross’s short stories and favorite books (fabled – because the stories were made up – foreign – because some of them weren’t his – tongues, get it?) His at-the-time girlfriend told him not to give up, that he had genius of his own from his own experiences and so the band forged on to write “Pretty. Odd.” The first time I met the band I handed Ryan a letter thanking him for not giving up and quoted those lyrics. To this day I kick myself for not including my email address because I like to think he would have written back.
Of course, my idol worship was to be short lived. Apparently taking on the Beatles persona gave Ryan a case of John Lennon disease and he let his new girlfriend Yoko Ono the band. That’s rumored of course. The public story is that they had creative differences, but Ryan and bassist Jon Walker left all the same. This time it seemed Panic! was done for real. I mean, how do you write a third album when your main songwriter bails? You thank the heavens for a lead singer who knows how to step up. Brendon Urie and drummer Spencer Smith forged ahead. Brendon got out a notebook and started writing – and two years later “Vices & Virtues” was released, proving he was more than a powerhouse vocalist but a wordsmith to be reckoned with. “Always” is on that album and it’s the only ballad. Actually, it’s just an acoustic guitar and Brendon – vulnerable and austere as he sings out “It was always you falling for me/Now there’s always time calling for me/I’m the light at the end of the road/Blink back to let me know“. In interviews after the album he said the only reason the album exists is because his mentor/”Pretty. Odd.” producer Rob Mathis told him to “just show up.”
That’s what my tattoo is a reminder of – to show up for my life. And I’m glad I waited for the third album, that I picked this song over “Northern Downpour.” This is a song about finding strength, on an album that was born out of the ashes of struggle and ego. This song, these words, are the rainbow on the other side of the storm for me. Listening to “A Fever” 8 years ago pushed me to show up every day at that school no matter how hard it was. No matter how angry I was at my parents, or how hopeless my future felt. Fun fact, despite falling to a C average, my entrance essays (about the importance of participating in your life!) got me into NYU, BU, Tufts, UNC Chapel Hill and Northeastern University. The latter gave me a full-tuition scholarship, so that’s where I went and majored in Music Industry. By my senior year I was a paid freelance writer for Billboard and interviewed Panic! at the Disco, in person, in a quiet corner of the Atlantic Records office. I don’t say any of that to be arrogant or to brag. I’m saying I got there by doing what their music inspired me to do, what Brendon had to do – by showing up, and those 28 minutes and 43 seconds were absolutely worth the two years of desperation I had to survive beforehand.
Thus I couldn’t think of a better choice than “Always” for this week’s Thursday Morning Melody. Enjoy!
Are there songs or works of art that inspire you to show up? Tell us in the comments below. If you have a song that inspires or moves you submit it to our Thursday Morning Melody column by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org!