Broken In All The Right Places – i am jen – 2005

Broken In All The Right Places

I used to go to this club on Lansdowne in Boston called Axis.  I went there enough that I usually just walked in without paying.  I knew the bouncers, the cashiers and the bartenders.  I look at pictures of myself from this period of time and wonder how that happened.  I looked awful.  I wonder if I ever looked in the mirror.  I had this bizarre long pony tail and my hairline was receding despite the fact that I was 23.  I was obviously overweight.  And I had these weird large glasses that looked like something out of the 60’s or 70’s.  Not a good retro look or anything.  I just really looked like a nerd.  I don’t know how to explain it any other way.  I looked terrible.  I mean I still look like a nerd, but the hair, the glasses.  What the hell?

Axis was definitely a scene bar.  It felt like Numbers in Houston which is why I went there all the time.  I was sort of homesick.  And for some reason I always felt like dancing at this time.  So I went there by myself a couple times a week.  Sometimes I would drag friends from Berklee over.  And maybe that’s got something to do with the appearance.  There were a lot of nerds at Berklee.  We were music nerds.

There is also this “never enough” thing at Berklee.  There was this Psychology 101 class where when the teacher got to the clinical therapy sections of the semester, he would demonstrate group therapy by asking a simple question.  “How many of you don’t practice at all anymore?”  More than half the class would raise their hands.  Then there would be the other half that would be practicing like 8 to 12 hours a day and going to classes.  I was in the 8 to 12 hours group.  I would fall asleep playing the guitar.  Everyone felt like they were not doing enough.  Everyone felt like they didn’t belong.  The inevitable discussion that followed would be what the teacher pointed to as group therapy.  But 15 years later the fact remains, there was no way to get all the work done that we were assigned in a full time semester.

I love Broken In All The Right Places.  But it makes me feel like I did at that time.  I couldn’t really break through to anyone.  I dated all of the time.  Looking at the pictures of myself at the time, I really wonder how this was possible.  I was awkward, a terrible conversationalist and just flat out weird.  There is this humility in I Am Jen’s presentation that I find perplexing.  She is the scene!  How is it possible that she feels so outside?  I am on the outside and it doesn’t feel like her music.  I walked through Axis looking at people like her and wondering how I could possibly meet them or be that cool.  My visual memory of the time is like I am looking at a fishbowl all of the time trying to figure out a way to get inside.

“You know I never thought I was a beauty queen
and I never felt like a part of the scene”

But I guess if I look at the evidence of everything that I did and all the places that I was and all the people I knew, I was the scene.  Maybe scenes are all about insecurity.  I remember how awkward I felt and how I would blurt things out and I was too loud.  When I see those pictures, I feel every ounce of insecurity I felt at that time.  But it’s also an insecurity that I find endearing in kids that I see at that age now.  And at the time, I saw the startled looks on people’s faces as “What the hell is wrong with this kid?”  When really it was probably, “Wow he is talking to me!  What the hell am I going to say?”  I know that’s what I was thinking whenever someone talked to me.  I guess we were all “Broken in all the right places.”

Jen Scaturro has this simplicity in her productions that is truly remarkable.  There’s all this separation.  I tend to overcrowd mixes and I definitely can’t leave things alone.  She has all these singular instruments laying it out there.  Then there will be three or four going at the same time.  Very little blending that isn’t treated as a singular voice in a larger contrapuntal idea.  And I love this sort of Suzanne Vega relaxation in her vocals.

And then I feel like I’ve totally missed the point of her song.  It’s like this song reminds me of something that I have to experience as rejection.  But then I think of 5 years after the period of time that I am describing.  The time when I met my wife.  When I just decided that whatever I was doing was okay.  And I remember the conversation we had on our first date where we were obviously trying to scare each other away with long descriptions of all the ways in which we were broken.  We weren’t hiding anything.  And in hiding nothing, it became very easy for us to become inseparable.  And really most of the time, her presence is as clear to me as this mix.

“but when I look at you and you look at me
I never want you to change a thing”

Really it’s so much easier to just be…

“Broken in all the right places.”

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