”Closing Time” came out five years after I graduated high school, and by the time it became a hit in early 1999, I was closing in on being six years removed.
I was 22 years old, busting my ass 50-60 hours a week to barely keep a deeply discounted roof over my head. Could barely afford clothes, didn’t have a bank account, was failing pretty badly at adulting. Although many people take the lyrics of the song (literally) and use “Closing Time” to shut down parties or bars or (in the case of me last night) karaoke outings, I always thought of the lyrics as signifying a major life transition (and turned out to be right. Dan Wilson wrote the lyrics about the birth of his daughter). By 1998, the most major life transition in my life was my graduation from high school and subsequent move into the “adult world”. I was living on my own nine months after matriculation. I romanticized high school a lot, and missed the relative ease of life back then.
I actually wrote a manuscript for a book about a kid who falls in love with his best friend during senior year in high school. This happened a year or two after graduation, at which point I was fairly deep into the coming out process and the story ended with the character that represented me and the character that represented (one of) my (many) crush(es) moving in together. A couple of years after that, I briefly made an attempt at turning the manuscript into a film script. I called it…you guessed it, “Closing Time”. Any proof of that script is long gone, thrown out with my belongings after one apartment move or another. With fifteen years hindsight, I clearly was not the next John Hughes.
Writing endeavors of mine aside, “Closing Time” is perfect radio power-pop. Great melody, great lyrics (that can obviously be interpreted in multiple ways). Perfect for drunken barroom sing alongs. Plus, there’s a thing about Dan Wilson’s voice that I can’t exactly pinpoint. I realize I’m in danger of overusing the word “warmth” (see the last entry for proof), but…seriously.
The thing that elevates “Closing Time” into the surreal for me is the fact that I have now met all three members of Semisonic, and consider one member in particular to be a close friend. Last December, I found myself in the band’s home base, Minneapolis, watching them perform two “reunion” shows commemorating the 20th anniversary of “Closing Time”’s parent album, Feeling Strangely Fine. The played the album in order, so “Closing Time” was the show they opened with (there had to be some intentional irony on part of the band to open an album with a song entitled “Closing Time”. Nice work, guys.) “Closing Time” was also the song the shows ended with. No one seemed to mind, not even the band members (although, to be fair, they were playing to a crowd who was well aware that their catalog went far beyond that one major hit).
I’m twenty years past that manuscript, twenty-five years past high school (my reunion is literally two weeks from today), and “Closing Time” hasn’t stopped bringing a smile to my face. It still reminds me of people and places I love, whether the memory takes place in a Brooklyn high school circa 1993 or a Minneapolis concert venue circa 2017.