Song of the Day #4,590: ‘A Long December’ – Counting Crows

It’s been tough to find songs to highlight from my sister Amy’s list of favorites because most of them have shown up on the blog already, many of them a decade or so back.

I bet Amy’s list would have looked almost exactly the same 15 years ago, which says something about how often she explores new music. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The reason I’ve written about so many of her selections is I have some of the same associations with them that she does.

We both grew up on Carly Simon’s ‘The Carter Family‘ and Carole King’s ‘It’s Too Late.’ Our college years were soundtracked by Robbie Robertson’s ‘Broken Arrow‘ and 10,000 Maniacs’ ‘These Are Days.’

I love that her favorite Beatles song wasn’t written by John or Paul, and her favorite Tom Petty song doesn’t feature a guitar.

I did find a song on Amy’s list to write about and I was surprised I hadn’t featured it before. Counting Crows’ ‘A Long December’ is the penultimate track on the band’s sophomore album, 1996’s Recovering the Satellites. It’s a fan favorite, but one I like rather than love.

I’ve always been partial to ‘Monkey‘ from that album, and I can point to a dozen songs from their other albums that work for me more than this one.

Listening to it today, though, I’m finding it particularly poignant. Like so many works of art, it hits a lot harder during these crazy times.

“Maybe this year will be better than the last.” Talk about a sentiment that rings true in January of 2021.

Adam Duritz wrote this song about a friend of his who was seriously injured in a car accident, but the lyrics are universal enough to feel just right when applied to a global pandemic or a year of social upheaval.

[Verse 1]
A long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can’t remember the last thing that you said as you were leavin’
Now the days go by so fast

And it’s one more day up in the canyons
And it’s one more night in Hollywood
If you think that I could be forgiven
I wish you would

[Verse 2]
The smell of hospitals in winter
And the feeling that it’s all a lot of oysters, but no pearls
All at once, you look across a crowded room
To see the way that light attaches to a girl

And it’s one more day up in the canyons
And it’s one more night in Hollywood
If you think you might come to California
I think you should

[Verse 3]
Drove up to Hillside Manor sometime after 2 A.M
And talked a little while about the year
I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower
Makes you talk a little lower
About the things you could not show her

And it’s been a long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell my myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass

And it’s one more day up in the canyon
And it’s one more night in Hollywood
It’s been so long since I’ve seen the ocean
I guess I should

5 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,590: ‘A Long December’ – Counting Crows

  1. Maddie says:

    This has always been at the top of my favorite Counting Crows songs and, had I been able to lost more than one song by an artist then it may have made my list as well.

    Something about living in California now always makes me sing and hear these lyrics with even more emotion. It’s such a well crafted song and it builds in just the right way.

  2. Amy says:

    It was a bit by design that my list features older songs, as I mentioned in the comments of an earlier SOTD my reluctance to give a spot to a song I’ve only recently loved.

    This song always reminds me of my beloved mother-in-law Selma, which is why it has such a special place in my heart. Returning from a hospital visit with her, I heard the song for the thousandth time but in a whole new way. Ever since, the poignancy of it resonates deeply within me. So much so that I choke up, sometimes just slightly, sometimes to tears, literally every time I hear it. Now that’s the power of a song, a memory, and, to be sure, a person.

  3. Dana Gallup says:

    This has always been a favorite of mine, and may have well made my list except that it would have been another duplication from Amy’s list and there are a couple of other Counting Crows songs that could vie for my favorites in their discography such as “Anna Begins,” “Mr. Jones,” or “Rain King.”

    I find it interesting that you have liked but not loved this song, and that both you and Maddie are both more recently drawn to it for identifications other than for personal loss. That is a fortunate reflection of the fact that neither of you have really experienced the loss of a close loved one. Amy and I, on the other hand, cannot hear this song without thinking about the passing of my mother following prolonged suffering and hospitalizations. So, while we both loved the song before then, it took on added poignancy and emotion since the “long December” fifteen years ago when my mom died.

    • Maddie says:

      Well, I certainly don’t think that’s fair. I experienced loss with Ron most recently at a more impressionable age. But I do think tethering this song to a loss memory is just a matter or timing and circumstance. I actually always reflect on it in more of a lost friendship or relationship of a person still around rather than one who is no longer with us. That notion of forgiveness and wanting them to visit all speaks to that interpretation for me.

      • Dana Gallup says:

        Maddie, you most certainly felt loss with Ron. I should have been more clear in saying that neither you nor Clay have had to go through the prolonged suffering of a loved one. It is that experience, rather than losing someone, that makes lines like “ the smell of hospitals in winter” and “it’s been a long December” resonate with your mom and me.

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