It took 10 days before I finally got around to listening to the latest episode of Reply All, “The Case of the Missing Hit.” Reply All is one of my favorite podcasts, but the blurb for this episode just didn’t appeal to me: “A man in California is haunted by the memory of a pop song from his youth. He can remember the lyrics and the melody. But the song itself has vanished, completely scrubbed from the internet. PJ takes on the Super Tech Support case.”
It doesn’t sound that appealing, right? If you haven’t heard it yet, let me tell you otherwise. Every day I go on an hour-long walk, usually very, very early in the morning. It helps me clear my head. I have a sedentary job, so it provides some semblance of exercise, and it really helps with anxiety. I usually listen to a podcast for half an hour, and then an audiobook for half an hour. It is genuinely one of my favorite parts of the day.
Lately, though, not even a walk will silence my brain. I listen to audiobooks, but I have had a hard time paying attention to anything other than the NYTimes’ The Daily podcast because everything else seems irrelevant. The Case of the Missing Hit is exactly what I needed. I loved it so much that after listening to it, I came home and listened to it again with my wife and son.
If you haven’t heard it, do so now! I don’t want to spoil it, because the surprise of PJ’s journey is so much of the fun, and there are so few joys in the world right now, I wouldn’t want to deprive you of this one. Also, understand that — as frustrated as you might feel with PJ’s progress — trust that it will provide a satisfying conclusion. Go listen to it now and then come back when you’re done (or listen to it on your next drive or walk and then come back!)
Hopefully, if you’re reading this far, you have already listened to the podcast. A brief recap before the post-script: Reply/All and PJ went so far as to hire a band to recreate the song of the California man with a song stuck in his head, and then PJ played the song for a number of people to find out if they recognized it, because they were trying to determine how this song had apparently disappeared from existence. Rolling Stone critics, late ’90s music producers, and Steven Page from Barenaked Ladies all listened to it, and no matter how many people PJ asked, no one had ever heard the song, despite the California man’s insistence that he heard it many times growing up in the ’90s. People were beginning to wonder if this was all a hoax. However, the California man was not wrong, and eventually, PJ tracked down the guy who wrote and performed the song. His name is Evan Olson. This is the song.
Now, the way that Olson tells it in the podcast is that he was just a rando dude who wrote a song that captured the attention of a huge music label, which immediately signed him and basically threw him in the garbage bin when his song did not immediately catch on in test markets.
That’s kind of true, except that Evan Olson wasn’t a total nobody at the time. Evan Olson was part of that ’90s music scene in Raleigh/Chapel Hill, North Carolina, responsible for the likes of Squirrel Nut Zippers, Whiskeytown, Superchunk, and Ben Folds Five.
In fact, before Ben Folds Five, Evan Olson was in a band called The DT’s with Ben Folds and his little brother, Chuck, and then in a band called Majosha with Ben Folds and Millard Powers (who would go on to become the guitarist for Counting Crows). Majosha made one album, but it’s only ever been available on vinyl. A few songs on that album were later turned into Ben Folds Five songs, including “Video” and “Kalamazoo.” One of those songs was co-written by Folds and Evan Olson, and it was called “Emaline,” and that is very f**king cool to the four of you who love Ben Folds Five and listened to that “Reply/All” podcast.
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