Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 211
Tues. Sept. 10, 2013

“Runaway Wind”
Paul Westerberg


“♫ You
don’t blow
like the
you were
born to

Some people want to be like Mike. Others prefer to idolize the fifteen minutes of infamous… (insert flavor of the last fifteen minutes…TV or Movie Star’s name here.) I long to be the literary equivalent to Paul Westerberg, an artist with a dyslexic heart who can’t hardly wait to be anywhere—better than here. Someone who’s not content and loves taking risks with a creative mindset of “I have nothing to lose if let it ride on this line and sing it in my own style.”

I love the way that Westerberg has become an artist who doesn’t care about perfection but lives for the moment, the single take — with warts, mistakes and all. To Paul and to me, it’s not about flawlessness, it’s about the feeling and emotion you get while listening, reading or seeing the work of an artist. Just listen to his recent solo recordings on Vagrant — Stereo/Mono, Come Feel Me Tremble and Folker; they are sneak peaks into the voice of an artist who doesn’t believe in getting it right but in capturing the essence of creative spontaneity in the span of his ageless songs.

If you’re wondering what was Westerberg’s creative spark, he told Spin Magazine his secret when Paul said, “I needed desperation. ‘Cause that’s where I was coming from.” It’s that same desperation that has fueled my own artistic fire and one that you can feel in Paul’s 1993 underrated gem, “Runaway Wind.” In an interview with Bill Bentley, Paul talked about the genesis of my favorite song from 14 Songs when he explained, “Runaway Wind,” was the first one I wrote […] Generally the songs that come fast are the best. They’re usually a little silly. The one that did take a while was “Runaway Wind.” I was writing that like you would write a poem or something.”

Funny because “Wind” like The Replacements “Achin’ to Be”,” lyrically, both seem very cinematic to me. This cut from 14 Songs sounds like a song sequel to The Replacements “Achin’” It’s as if the song’s protagonist of “Wind” has been lost and aching since 1989’s Don’t Tell A Soul. “Runaway Wind” is the underachiever’s anthem and one of Paul’s greatest solo songs ever and one that inspires such emotion. Until this past week, I could so relate to Paul song, so personal, it sounds like Westerberg is singing about you and for years I could swear the former lead singer/songwriter of The ‘Mats was singing about me. It’s that one part of the “Wind” that always got to me, lyrically, the section when Paul sings:
“♫ You don’t. blow like the breeze
You were born to be
You don’t know what to do with your life
As day returns to dark
Flame returns to spark
Come on I feel I’m blowing out tonight

I always related to that lost spark that was flailing adrift, almost ready to go out. When I would sing that part, Paul’s words would set off waterworks in my eyes because I felt like I could never live up to my talent and expectations of being a successful creative writer. It’s as if I was afraid of getting burned out by my own artistic flame. It was cowardice and fear that kept me from trying to achieve my goals, when I literally traded my telescope for a keyhole or Paul said it best and as Westerberg sung:
“♫ Make way for the gray that’s in your brown
As dreams make way for plans
See ya watch life from the stands
Come on I’ll help you burn ’em to the ground

When asked by Bill Bentley if Paul knew when he’d written a good song, Westerberg honestly replied, “It’s a great feeling. And it’s almost sad, too, because it flashes through your mind that the greatest moments of your life will almost always be spent alone. Playing live with the guys is great, but it’s not like writing by yourself when there’s no one around. For that hour or two you feel like you’ve got a purpose and a place in life. You think you’re hot shit and pat yourself on the back, and then that fades.” I love that feeling that I’ve finally harnessed to experience that purpose every day of my writing life. I’ve learned that you can’t take your creative gift and/or talent for granted; you have to nourish it by channeling her every day of your life. “Runaway Wind” is a reminder of the days I would say that I was writer but I was never doing the work. It’s like that old joke, two writers are at a cocktail party and one scribe turns to the second writer and says, “I’m working on my new novel.” The other reply’s “Me neither.”

Although I finally wised up and stopped racing from my fate, “Runaway Wind” will always be the lyrical mirror soundtrack to my years as an underachiever whose fear of failure kept me from making his scar on my page. Lucky desperation reared its ugly and mark and I finally found the will to make that leap towards my creative destiny. Thank you Paul Westerberg for being my spark; I still get misty eyed when I spin 14 Songs but these days I find Paul’s song inspires tears of joy and I now I can finally revel inside the emotional intensity that is “Runaway Wind.”