Because it’s been a while since I saw Avengers Infinity War pt 1, feeling better after seeing my therapist, and I have just borrowed a copy of the latest album and ripped it to my library and my iPod, I am in pretty good spirits to write about my favorite rock band of all time, for their latest record was just released in January of this year. Almost immediately after I post this edition of Lady in the Blue Box, I will be posting a review of their new LP Mania, which I honestly believe is some of their best work I’ve ever heard since the first song of theirs they’ve released as part of Island Records, “Sugar We’re Goin Down”.
I have every single one of their albums in hard copy, except Mania, including My Heart Will Always Be the B Side to My Tongue and the 2-CD deluxe edition of Infinity on High. I’ve only seen them once in concert at Merriweather Pavilion in 2009 for their FriendsorEnemies.com Believers Never Die tour with my favorite local band from Baltimore, All Time Low, the year they announced their four year sabbatical from recording and performing. When they released their new album Save Rock and Roll, I nearly died of arrhythmia, for I had stopped breathing and my heart was beating so fast with a surge of adrenaline. “I just pinched myself, no longer comatose” as the song “Hold Me Tight or Don’t” said. And as much as I’ve wanted to see them in concert a second time, like I have with All Time Low, I haven’t, even when they were on tour with another favorite band of mine, Paramore (I’m Hayley Williams’s age, believe it or not, and even though she loves to dye her hair different colors, especially red, I still consider her a redhead like me). I wished like crazy I had the money to go back and get an autograph.
With every single album they’ve released, no matter what they’ve been through, I’ve never stopped loving them. I haven’t been more proud of them. Their music and their story has changed my universe.
To my favorite rock band,
First thing to address for the record, I hate to say that at this moment I am one of the very rare people who still buys and listens to all of your albums since 2004 when you came out with From Under the Cork Tree. I remember the story you had from creating the title of that album, for your bassist and lyricist Pete Wentz loved children’s stories and Disney movies, for the album is named after a phrase from Ferdinand, the story about a peaceful, non violent bull who loves to smell flowers under a cork tree, and Pete’s son’s middle name is Mowgli, after the main human character, the child in Disney’s Jungle Book. I got all of your references to everything from day one, including the one about the album Infinity on High, about a letter from Vincent Van Gogh to his brother, just by looking at the gorgeous “Starry Night” album art.
The first time I ever heard about you was back in spring, 2004, when I was watching Discovery Kids shows on the NBC station in Maryland, yes, I live in the same area as the band All Time Low when they first started out in high school in Baltimore County. I was in college by the time ATL released “Dear Maria Count Me In”, though unfortunately I had never heard of them until 2007 when that song came to the radios. The show that aired after Discovery Kids segments were done was “Teen Kids News” where some teenage high school students, very young reporters, came on camera and reported interesting human interest stories for children and young adults. One of their segments was on local underground rock scenes, and they mainly focused on the rock concerts in Chicago, Illinois, for they had just finished an interview with you guys: Fall Out Boy. They also played some of your rock music from the album you released at that time.
Later that exact same day, I heard your latest single on the radio, “Sugar We’re Goin Down”, which I heard snippets of in that Teen Kids News segment. I was in the car at the time with my mother, on our way to the White Marsh Mall that Saturday to go shopping, when I said, “Quick, turn it up!” We later came home and my dad went on Yahoo.com and found the music video of the same song, the original version with the kid who had deer antlers. I call him Antler Boy.
I was only 16 years old the first time I heard that beautiful rock song. Even though our music preferences have changed over the last 15 years, and my parents are not really fans of your music, we all agree that one of your best singles was that song.
I, however, knew that you were my favorite band of all time from the first two songs of Infinity on High, your third album, with “Thriller” and “Take Over, the Break’s Over”. The last song on that record was the one that sealed the deal: “I’ve Got All This Ringing in My Ears and None on My Fingers”. It sounded like a perfect blend of Bad Company and Chicago along with punk rock elements. I loved every song on that record, learned every word, and loved the four of you then and there.
Fun fact about me: I spent my four years of high school at Perry Hall High, which has a morning announcements team that does the announcements, not over the intercom, on television, and I was one of the anchors on that show for the whole school in my senior year. Around my junior year of high school, there was a commercial to all students on the school’s TV station, channel 3, advertising the Communication Tech class that did the morning announcements every morning at 8:30, and that ad encouraged students to take the class in order to fulfill their technology class requirement for graduation, while also taking part in before and after school activities in learning about cameras, video switching, sound, reporting school news, and other electronic things.
The song they used to advertise it was “Dance, Dance”, the second single from that same album. The first time I heard it in homeroom, I said, “What is that awesome song? Who does it?” And one of the girls told me, “It’s Fall Out Boy. They’re really awesome.”
I took her word for it.
In 2009, it was nearing the end of my first year at Towson University after transferring from community college. As a transfer student, Towson had a stupid rule about dorm students, that dorms were specifically for freshmen only, and they never allowed upperclassmen or transfer students to live on campus except in rare cases, like my best friend Kerensa, who is forbidden to drive because of her seizures. 2009 was also the year following your release of your fourth album Folie a Deux, which I declared as the Holy Grail of punk rock, for it was the most amazing album I’d ever heard since Green Day’s American Idiot (with the exception of “20 Dollar Nose Bleed”, I still wish you replaced that song with “Pavlove”, which was a much better song, even though I loved Pete’s free verse poem at the end of the song- “It’s not you, it’s me, actually, it’s the taxidermy…”).
Every year, Towson U has a rock concert at the end of the school year called Tigerfest. That year, All American Rejects were the headliner, and because I hated the song “Gives You Hell” playing all the time on the pop radio stations leading up to the concert at Unitas Stadium, I had no intention of going to that. Instead, my dad went online to Ticketmaster and bought an E ticket to your Merriweather performance with All Time Low and Cobra Starship for the Believers Never Die tour, scheduled the same day as Tigerfest. When my dad printed the ticket off the computer and handed it to me as a first year of four year college gift, I was so happy I could die.
Problem was: It was general admission, first come first serve. I arrived in Colombia, Maryland a little late, but still on time to see the show, but I didn’t get a good seat in the pavilion, and I was stuck in the lawn area behind it. It did rain once when All Time Low performed, good thing I had a blanket, but they didn’t let any of us get inside. I even saw a girl who had asthma who got shoved out of the pavilion area, even when she paid for a disability accessible seat in the pavilion. She told me she had to leave early because it was 90 degrees out and she couldn’t breathe. I knew exactly how she felt because my father also has asthma, with a lot of other health problems as of now because of his respiratory issue. More recently at the beginning of 2018, dad was diagnosed with afib, or atrial flutter, at age 56.
And the even bigger problem was there was nobody I knew closely, not from high school or college, who was willing to come with me to this concert. I barely had any money except to buy the expensive food and water at the concession stands for dinner, and I did not buy a poster or program at the merch table as much as I wanted to. Most of my nerd friends from college were not fans of Fall Out Boy, and I felt left out as the only diehard fan of yours. So safe to say, at my first Fall Out Boy concert, I was kind of miserable, and at the last minute when I was about to go up to your tour buses or backstage to ask for an autograph, I either got pushed back by security, or I was called by my parents for a pick up. I still stuck around for your final performance of “Saturday” from Take This to Your Grave while everyone else left (assholes), but when I tried running across the field to find you to get my copy of Folie a Deux signed, I ran out of breath and my parents called my cell phone to find out where I was to take me home.
Fast forward several years, I now have a college degree, but I’m having a lot of professional and personal issues as an adult. Pete, Patrick, I actually felt for you when you came out with your most recent albums. 2015 was the year American Beauty/ American Psycho came out. It was also the worst year of my whole life, worse than my miserable time in high school when I was bullied by other students and the school system. Ever since elementary school, my teachers constantly had meetings with my mother, encouraging her to put me in special education with special needs kids, and my mother later realized she made the mistake of making those teachers reconsider my future, telling them that I’m much smarter than special needs and I need to be treated as a normal kid. Teachers and counselors at the time were still baffled by how I was able to get my high school diploma, let alone get into college. I think they’d be shocked if I told them I graduated college in 2011 with a Bachelor’s.
At the age of 26, that February of 2015, I was unemployed (still am) with no driver’s license (still can’t drive as of 2018), and under services from Maryland’s Division of Rehabilitation Services, DORS. I was stabbed in the back by a job recruiter and the week of Presidents’ Day, I was tormented by an employer who was an attorney old enough to be in a nursing home for two days before I resigned immediately. He didn’t even give me any tax forms during my first day of working there and he never specified when I could take a lunch break that my second day was hell, running home and telling my mother that I was starving from missing lunch.
That same month, we took my five year old dachshund D’Artagnon to the veterinarian at Falls Road Animal Hospital. (Pete Wentz, I know you’re a bulldog lover, this is going to make you sad) My baby puppy had been sick since New Year’s the previous year and we didn’t have enough money to bring him in to the vets. He had been ignoring his food, not drinking a lot, urinating and vomiting frequently, and he wasn’t his perky, happy self anymore. He used to be so full of energy, but he had been feeling miserable towards the beginning of February. We brought him in for a urine and blood test when we finally had enough money on Valentine’s Day, and the very next morning, during the annual Farpoint science fiction convention, we got a phone call from the hospital with bad news about my baby man. D’Artagnon had double kidney failure and he had lost more than a third of his body weight. The best thing we had to do for him was to put him to sleep, for it was the least expensive option, and he had only days left, not weeks. It was the most harsh and depressing thing that ever happened. We still have Cinderella, who is a handful at almost 10 years old in August, but if D’Artagnon was here, he’d be nine years old and still playful, licking me all over my face after crying for hours.
And about a week later after all that, my boyfriend at the time dumped me. I completely lost my shit that time, to the point where I was admitted to the psychiatric ward of Franklin Square Hospital twice for one night both times. I haven’t been back since and I found out why I was acting that way: In June of that year, I was diagnosed with bipolar depression with rapid cycling and unspecified personality disorder. This is what I tell everyone at my support group when we do opening stories. It is a mouthful to say.
That year, 2015, I was so excited to know that you were releasing a follow up to Save Rock and Roll. By Christmas, I finally got my hands on a copy and burned it to my music USB and my iPod. The song that’s close to the top of my Most Played list is “The Kids Aren’t All Right”, which is the song that spoke to me the most since it said so many things about needing someone for comfort and support. Every time I feel depressed or low, I play that song to lift me up a little. I know how you feel is an understatement. I feel for you.
This year, 2018, you came out with something that topped American Beauty. When I borrowed Mania from the local public library and listened to the whole thing, I nearly died smiling. I never heard such poetic lyrics and melodies, harmonies, and rhythms that you’ve done in your entire career. When I heard Patrick Stump belt “One look from you and I’m on a faded love”, the first words of “Heaven’s Gate”, I was already there in heaven. “The Last of the Real Ones” is on my 30th birthday playlist on my iPod and Windows Media Player on my USB, because it sounds like something that went with the spacey theme of my list. It’s called Supernova, because after all I’ve been through, I feel that my 30s could be either an explosion leading to a soul sucking black hole of depression and despair, or it could become a bright light of hope, like a white or blue dwarf.
Since 2015, I have lost my faith in God and I’m borderline agnostic. One of my friends says the reason why God didn’t deliver was because I blackmailed Him when my dog was dying and I was having absolutely no luck with finding a job. I have trouble believing in something, anything at this point, for I believe my father is losing faith in everything because his health has gotten so bad. And right now, I feel like God is going to keep refusing to help me even when I say I’m sorry, for I’ve said I’m sorry to friends and family for so many different things so many times. I learned that sorry should not be a crutch or an excuse. But I still have problems believing.
But when you came out with Mania, you gave me something to relate to. Mania, in a sense of substance abuse and mental illness, doesn’t affect just celebrities like Britney Spears, who you mentioned in “Young and Menace”, it affects everyone. More than half the American population has a disability, and that includes mental illnesses, a majority of them. Why do you think there were so many school shootings and mass shootings and explosions on the news almost every year? Sandy Hook, Pulse nightclub, Columbine, Virginia Tech, the Boston Marathon, you get the idea. Somehow, those things are all mental health related. Mariah Carey just announced to People magazine that she had bipolar since 2000, but she never told anyone until now. Amanda Bynes has definitely had some serious problems psychologically that led her to cause many illegal acts of crime. That’s all due to mania.
Patrick, Pete, Andy and Joe, I feel for you. Ever since I bought your album From Under the Cork Tree, you changed my perception of music. I honestly thought at the age of 15 that John Mayer changed my world with his poetry, encouraging me to seek psychological help for myself after more than a decade of trying different doctors that all said, “There’s nothing wrong with her, she’s healthy.” But it was you who truly showed me I’m not alone.
Thank you for creating the album Mania. I knew from the moment I read that article from Alternative Press magazine that the album was going to be about bipolar illnesses, but I didn’t know how much I was right. You exceeded my expectations and made something even more precious. I’m definitely no longer comatose now. I’m awake now. You saved me again.
And Patrick, if it wasn’t for you that day in 2004 when you found Pete in and out of consciousness in his car while listening to “Hallelujah” on repeat and called 911, there most likely wouldn’t have been songs called “7 Minutes in Heaven” or “Hum Hallelujah”, and I’m certain Fall Out Boy would never have been so famous as you are right now. You would have never made so many albums. You’re my hero, my Avenger.
The four of you, please stick together, and keep your friendships close. If you ever decide to leave each other permanently due to musical differences or something personal where you’ve all declared to never speak to each other again, you will break my heart. There is nobody I could picture better in your band than the four of you. Neither of you is replaceable, unlike Paramore or Panic! At the Disco. (You know that Hayley Williams and Brendan Urie are irreplaceable members of their groups and the others that used to be in those bands keep coming and going. Not you guys. I can’t picture one of you without the other three.)
Rachel Beth Ahrens
“Lady in the Blue Box” and “The Nerd Queen” on WordPress
Note: Please read my review of your latest album Mania that I wrote the same day as my letter that I’ve also posted the same day on my blog. You’ll see it under the Nerd Queen reviews when you click “Welcome to My Web” on the sidebar, and it’ll say, “Manic, but Melodically Sacred”. You’ll get a kick out of it.