Jowita Bydlowska

Self-Dramatizing My Song

Jay Jay Johanson, “On the Radio” (2003)

A month before my second sober anniversary I had heard Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” for the first time and I descended into a bathtub and tears and lots and lots of wine. This was one of those songs! A my song. I had tried to explain to my AA sponsor at the time what it was that I was crying about but it sounded so pathetic: “I’m crying about being miserable. Drunk. Being stuck in staircases and in doorways, waking up next to an unknown. Missing the two-dimensional world of the day-after: The wavy walk, the slow, sticky post-buzzed lovemaking, fried eggs, brunch, and half a nap in the park.”

I missed lying on the floor at night playing Jay Jay Johanson over and over and being heartbroken over a lover, or just imagining I was heartbroken over a lover.

On the Radio” is a quintessential my song. It’s not my favourite song; it’s just a song that I could lie on the floor in the darkness and listen to. Sung by the effeminate Jay Jay Johanson—so, so my type with his orange-dyed undercut, pale ladder of a ribcage and heavy eye makeup—this song balances precisely on the line between cheesy-ironic and earnest.

In the video Jay Jay Johanson is giving a conference to an audience of Bambi-eyed models in stern 1930s S&M-secretary gear. About ¾ into the song, a honey-blonde beauty walks into the room. Jay Jay Johanson locks eyes with her and sings to her. This is their song, it’s her song, it is my song. The melody is catchy and the words are:

“Everytime I hear my song
On the radio
I keep moving closer
And closer to you
Everytime the DJ is playing my song
I can feel you here by my side
All night long.”

Over-the-top cliché; I hate liking it but I do.

Almost a decade ago, during my heaviest drinking years, I met someone who brought out the full drama queen in me. The first night I met him I asked him what he planned to do on the weekend. He said: “Slash my wrists.”

He gave me a bunch of burned CDs of Jay Jay Johanson and told me that I will love them. He got me. Although at first I was horrified at the voice and the embarrassing lyrics I realized that it fit me. Drunks are sad clowns. So sad they’re funny, so funny…

Jay Jay Johanson, “Believe in Us” (2000)

I’d left the 12-step program some time ago. I had stayed sober. I had stayed faithful and in the same relationship for years straight. My song phenomenon no longer applied to my life. I wasn’t dramatic, I was stable.

Then in the fall I flew to Europe. On arrival, coincidentally, I had received an over-the-top romantic email from the guy who introduced me to Jay Jay Johanson. It was a big wink from the past. I printed out the email. I went out to a friend’s club. I danced to Jay Jay Johanson’s “On the Radio,” buzzed on a couple of Grolsch’s. I smoked a pack of cigarettes and proclaimed an undying friendship to some girl in the bathroom. Everything seemed to be as it was before. I came home, back to Canada, and found out I was pregnant.

– Jowita Bydlowska

Ryeberg Curator Bio

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Jowita Bydlowska was born in Warsaw, as in Poland. She moved to Canada as a teenager. That hurt. She got over it eventually and now she likes it in Canada. She's the author of "Drunk Mom," a memoir, "Guy," a novel, and "Possessed," also a novel. For fun she takes weird pictures, usually of herself, because she and herself are on the same page most of the time so it's just easier that way. More from Jowita Bydlowska here.