In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week: Songs we felt we had to hide from others.
A good, straight-A student, I never really got in trouble as a kid. That wasn’t for lack of wanting to do bad things—sure, it would have been cool to go to a underage drinking party or whatever—but rather out of a fear of getting yelled at, something that, to paraphrase Paul F. Tompkins, is everyone’s biggest fear. Years later, I realize this was a moot point. My dad was the kind of kid growing up that did all sorts of bad stuff and regaled us with numerous tales, and my brother, who was younger than me, broke every rule in the book and only got in trouble maybe twice. My fear was unfounded, and ultimately, the only person that cared what I did was me.
That being said, I still don’t think I’d listen to Green Day’s “All By Myself” in front of my parents—Or my mom at least. The secret bonus track on Dookie, the track is Tré Cool’s ode to teenage masturbation. Cool never says he’s jerkin’ it, choosing instead to coyly croon “I was alone / I was all by myself / No one was looking / I was thinking of you,” but that didn’t matter to me when the record came out. I knew what it meant—or at least knew the concept of what it meant. While I blasted the rest of the record loud and proud in my room, only caring a little that Billie Joe Armstrong says “masturbation” during “Longview,” I’d rush over to my boombox before “All By Myself,” turning it down to a volume I thought only I could hear. Buried at the end of that record, “All By Myself” was illicit and dirty, and because I was such a good and sensible student, one who’d never even kissed a boy, let alone seen one of their you-knows, I knew that I should feel just a little badass listening to it. I was breaking the rules—even if I was the only one who cared.