Today I heard one of the more awkward bits of radio experience that can be imagined. One of the contemporary hit radio stations in the Portland area interviewed Dave Coulier, most famous for his role as Uncle Joey on the tv sitcom Full House. It was unclear at first where they were going with the interview, as a lot of the introductory comments focused on his family friendly comedy and some of his classic impersonations. However, it became very clear where they were going when they played a game “Remember That Year” and picked movie and sound bits from 1995. Of course, one of the song clips chosen for the year 1995 was “You Oughta Know,” the first hit single from Alanis Morissette, and that prompted one of the more awkward exchanges I can ever remember hearing on radio.
For one, Dave Coulier seemed to take a while to compose himself before participating in the game, showing that he remembered very well what year the song was from, and even commenting that when he listened to the Jagged Little Pill album he recognized himself in it often, as embarrassing as it would be to admit such a thing. I found it a bit sad that nearly 20 years after the fact, Dave Coulier is still having to deal with the awkwardness of having an entire album written about him by a very young former lover who was barely an adult when the album was released. Hearing this brought forth a great deal of mixed feelings in me given my own memories of that time and my own creative endeavors and my own personal history.
As a teenager, when I started my habit of writing on a daily basis, my younger brother said in one of his moments of insight that I was a male version of Alanis Morisette. While most of my own writing is not quite as emotionally overwrought as that of Jagged Little Pill-era Alanis Morisette, he was absolultely right that I tend to use writing as a way to express emotions and that my writings are fairly confessional and personal in nature, to an extent that might be awkward and uncomfortable for others when they realize that they are the inspiration, or an inspiration, of my material. Later on other singer-songwriter types specialized in the same kind of material, like Taylor Swift. This is dangerous ground to walk on. Just about everyone who creates has inspiration, but the more direct and obvious the inspiration, the more self-indulgent the work can be, and the more awkward and uncomfortable the work is for others. While most girls would love to have imagined themselves being the subject of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles, circa 1964, no one would probably enjoy realizing that they were the subject of “Ticket To Ride” or be able to relate to the very personal “The Ballad Of John And Yoko.” There is a point at which something can become too personal to relate to, or to appreciate, for a wider audience.
Being the cheating or cold-hearted or exploitative lover of an album as raw and as painful as Jagged Little Pill is not easy for anyone to take. Having been in at least somewhat similar of a position before, I know that he probably meant no harm when he dated a young and passionate and sensitive girl. As sensitive and thoughtful as he may have been, he must not have realized the sort of hurt that he was causing to the girl, so much so that she sang about him for at least three of her albums. Should he have known what he was getting into? Absolutely, but I cannot fault someone for being foolish in love without being a total hypocrite given the course of my own life. Rather than stand in condemnation of him (or her, as I can definitely relate to the intensity of her feelings and her need to deal with them through writing), I simply ponder how long our deeds can live on after they are done, especially if they are immortalized in writing and song. Once something is committed to writing and shared with the world, it becomes something that will always be available to stick in our minds or someone else’s. At that point, the past becomes omnipresent, something which is pretty frightening for most of us.
In listening to the radio this morning, I could not help but feel sympathetic for Dave Coulier being ambushed on live radio as he was. I know exactly how awkward I would feel in his place, and feel nothing but sympathy for the fact that both he and Alanis had to work out their relationship and its aftermath in a public and deeply uncomfortable way. No doubt both of them did whatever they did with the best of intentions, but when things went sour, their fame and their creative impulses led them to a situation that still causes a fair amount of discomfort to them both. For Alanis, her songs about Coulier have become an albatross hanging over her head as people still associate her as an angry and vengeful former lover when she has clearly mellowed out with age. And for Dave, he still gets ambushed about a relationship that is nearly twenty years old because the songs are still remembered and still played. Twenty years from now, I hope that I don’t have to answer for my own foolish heart, at least not until it has found a far better fate than I have enjoyed so far in life.