KEXP is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a radio station this year. To honor that celebration, each week we’re looking back on one year of music during the past five decades. This week, we’re celebrating the year 2003 with blink-182’s “I Miss You.” Dusty Henry reflects on teenage break-ups — and how we don’t necessarily choose the music that leaves the biggest impact on us. Read or listen to the piece below.
I know, this is KEXP and I’m about to talk to you about blink-182. You may already be rolling your eyes or cursing the heavens. But please bear with me.
Throughout this 50 Years of Music series, a thought keeps coming back to me. How honest am I with myself about the music that sticks with me? It’s easy to rewrite your own personal history. For instance, 2003 had some truly incredible albums. We have such great works like Songs: Ohia's Magnolia Electric Co.; MF Doom's debut as Viktor Vaughn, Vaudeville Villain, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' monumental Fever to Tell, just to name a few.
These are albums I’ve come to love and cherish. But I was 13 in 2003. Those albums don’t transport me back in time. No, that’s reserved for groups like the Black Eyed Peas, Linkin Park, and, of course, blink-182.
I can’t say that any of these bands I’ve mentioned are better or worse than each other. But even in 2003, I knew music snobs weren’t holding blink or Linkin Park in high regard at the time. But you don’t really get to choose which music will leave an imprint on you. Especially when you’re a teenager, the music you listen to becomes a part of your being.
Songs: Ohia’s music can bring me to tears, but blink-182 can bring me back to true heartbreak.
It’s 2003 and I’m in the throes of young love with my first girlfriend. Our courtship first began to blossom on Halloween at Wild Waves, a waterpark just outside of Seattle. It felt so appropriate. We’d both recently started to adopt, um, “alternative” styles. We were no longer shopping at preppy stores like American Eagle. Instead, we spent allowance money at Hot Topic. We were a match made in hell, right next to the food court.
But our love was not meant to last. I should have seen it coming when she kept blowing off my offers to go see the new Blade movie. One fateful day in the lunch room, it all came to an end.
She pulled me aside and said those fateful four words… “We need to talk.” She told me there was another man she wanted to spend time with. His name? Jesus Christ.
I was crushed. He died for her sins and I didn’t even have a license. How could I compete? Anyway, we hugged and agreed to stay friends. I walked back to my friends and just set my forehead on the table for the remainder of lunch, like a live-action Charlie Brown with a shaggy haircut.
The next night I reluctantly found myself at the roller rink. I’d made the plans before getting dumped, so I really didn’t want to go anymore. My two best friends insisted it’d be good for me to get out.
We arrived at Skateland in Bremerton, a musty haven for the youth of Kitsap County. The smell of pizza grease and Axe Body spray flooded my nostrils. Songs by Beyonce and Outkast pummeled through the shaky sound system. The conditions were all set for a perfect teenage night, but I wasn’t feeling it.
I skated around the rink for a while like Bambi learning to walk before finally getting into a groove. Everyone else seemed to be having the time of their lives. Laughing, joking around, young couples everywhere I looked. I needed to feed this misery twisting in my stomach.
On my next loop around the rink, I stopped by the DJ booth. There sat a sweaty, balding man, intently focused on his mixer. I got his attention and asked if he could play “I Miss You” by blink-182. He looked at me with his stern face and I felt that he could sense my desperation. He said “sure,” and I slid away. If everyone else’s happiness was going to weigh me down, then they could all bear to feel some of my sadness.
A few minutes later, the lights dimmed. The pitter patter of Travis Barker’s drums filled the room.
Blink-182 was known for their snot-nosed, cheeky pop-punk. Songs about making prank phone calls, girls, and general mischief. Like if the show Jackass were a band. But “I Miss You” from their 2003 untitled album was an uncharacteristically somber and mature turn for the band. A song about love and regret just as emo was going mainstream.
I loved the song immediately when I first heard it. Now that I was actually heartbroken, I felt like I needed to hear it. When you’re young and sad, you want to indulge your misery. But when I looked around the skating rink, I realized my calculations were off. Everywhere around me, I saw couples skating arm-in-arm beneath the twinkling lights. I’d inadvertently started a “slow skate.”
I didn’t understand. Were people not listening to the lyrics? This was a break-up song! And now all these people were cozying up and making out all around me. It was salt in the wound. But still, I skated. Circle after circle listening to bassist Mark Hoppus sing in his low voice about having “Halloween on Christmas,” thinking back to our blossoming romance at Wild Waves. But it’s guitarist Tom Delonge’s verse that’s become infamous.
The minute he sang “where are yewww,” the emotions flooded inside me. Of course, I’d been sad, but hearing these words while surrounded by everyone so happy hit even harder. And then, the chorus. "Don't waste your time on me you're already the voice inside my head."
I held back tears while gliding on the waxy floor. It was cathartic in a way I didn’t expect. I felt like I could finally let go of the voice inside my yead. Our love just wasn’t meant to be. I’d have to try to be happy for her and the Messiah. And I did get over it, eventually. I guess this is growing up. Experiencing new highs and lows and making the best of it.
Will “I Miss You” be remembered as the best song of 2003? I can’t say for sure. I’m guessing probably not. But every time I hear it, I can feel the rumble of the skates on my feet and the ache in my chest. Even when you’ve long moved on from teenage feelings, a song can harken you back.
Memories don’t care about taste or critical acclaim — and they shouldn’t. How boring would it be if we chose every little thing that impacted us? Songs like “I Miss You” find you when you need them most, but last with you for the rest of your life.
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