Waxing Nostalgic: Copeland, “No One Really Wins”

Published on August 8th, 2014 in: Music, Waxing Nostalgic |

By Jeffery X Martin


There comes a moment in every parent’s life where you realize that your kid is officially cooler than you. It’s a humbling moment. They spend so much time as younglings, looking up to you, enjoying all the music and movies that you like, because it’s all they know. And they want to be you when they grow up, because they can’t imagine anything greater.

You know these things. You never voice them, because it sounds egotistical. You may continually tell them, and yourself, that you aren’t a role model. You weren’t cut out for that action. You just want to be who you are without someone staring you down, learning from your actions and, even worse, your reactions.

But for a good stretch, man, you’re all they’ve got.

I took that responsibility to heart with my son, Bishop, but not in the standard dad way, though. We didn’t play much football, so I didn’t get my jollies out of knocking his ass down like some sexually repressed jock-dad. I wasn’t worried about him being able to identify different kinds of aircraft or memorizing any sort of sports statistics.

But if he wanted to make art? Hell, yes, son, do it. Draw on that wall. Play with that clay. And when it came to music, I wanted to be sure he had his Rock History down. I had made a History of Rock flowchart long before Jack Black did in School of Rock. The boy was four years old, and I was explaining to him the musical connections between Led Zeppelin and Tool, the differences between hair metal and Euro-trash metal, why the Dead Kennedys were more important than Flipper. I crammed his head full of the stuff that was vital to me, stuff I felt would help him get ahead practically in life, because it helped me. I’ve made a career from caring about things nobody else seems to. No math in our spare time, no science (even though he went on to excel at both of those things), no advice on building and keeping relationships.

I taught the boy how to rock. The music never failed me. I knew it would never fail him.

Then the day came when he said, “Have you heard this song?” And he played me a tune.

It wasn’t anything out of my collection, no. It wasn’t a new song by one of our long-standing favorite bands. It was something totally new.

The song was “No One Really Wins,” by a band called Copeland. I had never heard of them. But from the opening drumstick-clicking count-off, I was hooked. The riff was fat and nasty, the percussion a spastic wall of crashes and rides, and a simple bass line carried the whole thing along, like slaves carrying a despot-god on their backs.

The singer’s voice was high and plaintive. He should have been in a boys’ choir, not fronting one of the greatest three-and-a-half-minute rock singles ever.

Everything comes together perfectly in this song, from the blistering solo to a chorus so sharp, you can’t even feel it when it slides in and starts twisting your heart into unrecognizable shapes and feelings.

It’s a fight between my heart and mind/No one really wins this time
In the endless fight of grace and pride/I don’t want to win this time

It was a small perfect thing, almost holy, innocence and despair wrapped around razor-wire, and I was left amazed.

He looked at me when the song was over. “Did you like it?” he asked.

“Yeah, man. That was pretty cool.”

As he wandered off to do something else, I knew it was over. I knew that my realm of influence had sharply diminished, and that he had other paths to tread. He was going to find his own way, and he was going to be fine.

The year was 2006. Bishop was nine years old when he officially became cooler than me, right there on the edge of everything, only mildly aware of the changes about to come. He’s almost 17 now. His musical knowledge is expansive and encyclopedic. Talk about the student becoming the master. He’s a good kid. He’s becoming a fine man.

Listening to “No One Really Wins” is a bittersweet experience anyway. The lyrics are unguarded and honest, bringing emotions to the surface like a bruise. It will always represent that moment for me, that breaking point. Copeland surprised me with the soundtrack of inevitability, that brutal poignancy, music for me to wave goodbye to my little boy and pave the way for the man who was to come.

Listen to “No One Really Wins” on our exclusive Waxing Nostalgic playlist on Spotify!

One Response to “Waxing Nostalgic: Copeland, “No One Really Wins””

  1. Noreen Sobczyk:
    August 11th, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Nice piece – though I’d like to know a bit more about the album to which you refer.

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