The Way

Album: All The Pain Money Can Buy (1998)
Charted: 21 5


  • This song is based on the true story of Lela and Raymond Howard, an elderly couple from Salado, Texas who drove to the annual Pioneer Day festival 10 miles away in Temple and didn't return. She had Alzheimer's disease and he was recovering from brain surgery.

    When they disappeared, a reporter from the Austin American-Statesman wrote a series of articles about the missing couple. Fastball bassist Tony Scalzo came up with the idea for the song after reading the articles (the band is from Austin). "It's a romanticized take on what happened," he said. Scalzo pictured them "taking off to have fun, like they did when they first met."

    Thirteen days after the Howards went missing, they were found in Hot Springs, Arkansas, about 400 miles from their destination; they were still in the vehicle (an Oldsmobile Delta 88), which had veered off the side of the road and was hidden in brush. Scalzo had finished writing the song when he learned that the couple had died.
  • The couple vanished on June 28, 1997. The song was released in February 1998 as the first single from Fastball's second album, All The Pain Money Can Buy. The band was little known at the time, so it took a few months for the song to catch on, but by the summer of 1998 it was getting lots of airplay. The song wasn't released as a single (a ploy to sell more albums) but it made #5 on Billboard's Airplay chart on June 20, 1998, almost a year after the the Howards went missing.
  • The keyboard figure that plays throughout this song was made with a Casio keyboard Tony Scalzo had. It was processed to loop around itself, creating a distinctive, but lo-fi sound.
  • The song opens with the sounds of an analog radio going up and down the dial, briefly tuning in stations amongst the static. When "The Way" starts, it's as if the listener has found a song he likes and is going to give it a listen. For the first 40 seconds, the dynamics are restricted to simulate the limited frequency of a radio signal. At the line, "they drank up the wine," the full range comes in.

    The band didn't put much thought into the radio collage: they simply put a microphone in front of a radio and turned the dial. The result is a sampling of Los Angeles radio in the summer of 1997. Most of it is indistinguishable chatter, but you can pretty clearly hear a split second of "Foolish Games" by Jewel in the mix - part of her line "in case you failed to notice."
  • In a Songfacts interview with Tony Scalzo, he talked about writing this song while the Howard saga was unfolding. "I didn't think it would be anything but an abstraction of their story, so I wasn't really thinking about that," he said. "Also, I wasn't expecting it to be this massive song that everybody liked, so I was unfettered by any of those concepts."
  • Guitarist Miles Zuniga is a big fan of '50s music and drew inspiration from the hit "Secret Agent Man" for his solo.
  • This is a rather unusual song with a retro feel and lot of little sound effects incorporated into the mix. "There was this brief moment in time when people were having hits with really weird stuff," Miles Zuniga said. "We got lucky that we came around at that time. Even two years later was too late."
  • This was Fastball's breakout hit, but it came on their second album. The group was signed to a major label, Hollywood Records (owned by Disney) and in 1996 released their debut, Make Your Mama Proud. It tanked, in part because the label was in disarray and gave it little promotional support. This story usually ends with the band getting dropped, but there was so much turnover at Hollywood Records that there was nobody to drop them, and they got to record a second album in the summer of 1997.

    Once the album was recorded, there was no guarantee it would be released. One of the reps at the record company felt very strongly about "The Way" and took it to radio stations, which got lots of positive feedback from listeners when they played it. The song was clearly a hit, and about six weeks later the album was released.
  • In America, "The Way" wasn't sold as a single, which was a ploy to force listeners to buy the album. It worked: All the Pain Money Can Buy sold over a million copies in the US.
  • This was a big song in the summer of 1998. It peaked on the Billboard Airplay chart at #5 on June 20 that year.
  • This song proved quite enduring, selling over 500,000 copies by 2014 after it was released digitally in 2003.
  • The music video was suitably abstract, with no allusion to the tragic story that inspired the song. It shows the band driving into the desert, arriving at a camper where dancers emerge, performing as the band plays the song.

    It was directed by McG, who before directing films like Charlie's Angels and Terminator Salvation did music videos, mostly for bands around his stomping grounds of Orange County, California. He also did most of the videos for Sugar Ray and Smash Mouth.

Comments: 53

  • JI was born February 1998, three days before this song was released. The first cassette my parents recorded for me included kid show songs along with “The Way”. Apparently, “The Way” was the only way my parents found to calm me down in times of distress my first couple years of life. I would immediately stop crying as soon as the song came on. If I was in the kitchen, and the music video was playing in the living room, I’d rush to the TV in my walker, and sit still until the end. It has been my favorite song ever since I can remember.
  • Jacob from Australia like a lot of others my interpretation is shaped by my experiences. My mum had battered women syndrome in a relationship with a highly abusive drug addict. Me and my sister lived in fear. After particularly abusive encounters my mum often used to pack up the car and drive about an hour away before ultimately turning the car around and returning to the hell hole. When we'd reach a certain overpass I knew that was the 'marker' for where she would turn. It defeated me when every time beyond all reason she slowed to turn. I still carry some of that sinking feeling just remembering those times. So when I hear this song I fantasise a reality where when we drove off we actually crashed and died instead of experiencing all the crap we did and living with it now as an adult. Maybe some of that innocence and happiness could have been preserved that way.
  • Brandon from Eastern StatesAngela, Jeff, and everyone who lost some close to them, I am so sorry for all your losses, deepest condolences. I do not know how old your comments are, but I think this song is haunting. It is beautiful in a way, but sad at the same time. I just purchased a Ventures CD and I am glad this is one of the songs that they covered.
  • Ed from Portage, Mich.As most that have posted, I too have a special memory of this song. Back in 1999, I worked at a paper mill for some time. I used to go to the front office to get Fed X mail envelopes. The receptionists would have the radio playing and I would hear The Way, playing once or twice. The following year, 2000, the mill closed for good, and we all lost our jobs. Today, when I hear this song, it takes me back to that time when life was so uncertain, loosing a job. I often wondered what became of all those people I used to work with, like dust in the wind, gone. This song is just sad, now that I know the story behind it. I liked reading all of your comments, and sharing in of your sadness as well.
  • Sam from Bend, OrAs a kid my mom played this all the time. I thought for many years that the road "paved with gold" and the lyrics about never being cold and eternal summer referenced Arizona where I lived as a kid but barely remember. I thought it was about a group of adults who left their seemingly idyllic lives in search of the eternal joy and life only found on the desert highway.
  • Greg from Columbus, OhATTN - Angela, Baton Rouge, LA, I am so sorry to hear about losing your Mom. My mom was 54 also when she died due to cancer. I was 18 at the time.
  • Midmodtom from Chicago, IlThe beginning of the song features a radio scanning through FM stations; among the songs played are Jewel's "Foolish Games", Roy Orbison's "You Got It", and Madonna's "Vogue."
  • Harold from University Park, PaFull intro (may not be accurate)

    Director of... [I think Vogue is here in the background of "director of..."]
    Public rel...
    Can you feel it? [Not sure what's really being sung here, but it's apparently from Roy Orbison's You Got It]
    or at $2.99...
    ...service available only at the [garbled]
    ...failed to notice... [Jewel]
    Sir, there's no obligation
    [talk that I can't decifer/possibly some music also]
  • Harold from University Park, PaYes, Alexandra, I concur with you that I can hear "faaaailed to notice" in the beginning (around 6 or 7 seconds)

    I have a question though...I'm almost positive that I hear "You Got It" around the 2 second mark, but I can't really make out the words...does anyone know what part of the song that is? I'm assuming it's not the chorus (if I was guessing blindly I can kinda hear "can you feel it" but I'm sure that's not a lyric in You Got It)
  • Rob from Wilmington, DeFor me this song bring up a double suicide. But instead of being sad, it's full of happy expectations of an afterlife based on the beliefs of the participants. "Packing" is metaphorical for the commission of the "act" after they made up their minds to "go" Imagine pulling the plug on all your cares and burdens. Death is stripping away all that is not self. To live you must die first.
  • Robin from Lansing, MiHaving worked with the elderly, I encountered many greedy adult children. To me, this song is about an elderly couple sick of their adult children fighting over their inheritance before their parents have even died. The parents basically say, "screw it - we're outta here" and they disappear, living their lives as they see fit - spending their children's inheritance like they were rock stars. :D
  • Gayle from Austin, TxThey were not found at Buffalo Gap outside of Abilene. That was Dr. Edward Martin and his wife Elsie Lou in 1998. They were found dead after they wandered from their abandoned car.
    The Howards were found in Arkansas. She had driven off a cliff. He died in the car, but she managed to get out and walk a few feet before collapsing.
  • Cocoa from Lv, NvI remember hearing this song when it first came out. I was about 5 years old. When I was very little, it used to make me cry because, to me, it sounded like a young couple ditching a whole mess of kids to go running off to do god knows what god knows where. I always assumed the bits about not getting old and grey, hungry, cold, et cetera, were the young couples' assumptions about how much better their lives would be without the kids and their attachments. Now that I'm older though, I can better understand that feeling of just wanting to leave life, ditch responsibility, and just drift until you die. It is a beautiful song. Very melancholy. I hadn't known the back story on this song before I looked it up on a whim. The real story is very sad as well.
  • Nancy from Baltimore, MdIt does have a heavenly meaning to it. You just got to listen a little closer.
  • Liv from Long Island, Nyjeff- i went to your sons page. wow, im so sorry for your loss. his story will forever be with me
  • John from Dallas, TxThe Howards were traveling from Saledo Texas (south of Temple) and ate at a Luby's per credit card records. He drove through a barb wire fence- wandered from his car and was found 100 yard away. She fell down a cliff and was found as well. Song is good. It has good interpretation, creativity and structure.
  • Rebecca from Brielle, NjI had forgotten the name of the song so I typed it in Google and found it. After listening, I thought of a couple who was just fed up with the world and decided to leave all the cruel and judgemental people behind, and all the material things. I felt like they found something better, and decided to pursue it, just dropped everything and left it all behind.
  • Angela from Baton Rouge, LaI love how everyone's interpretation of a song is colored by their own experiences in life. This song always reminded me of my mother who had me at 16 and left me with her parents. She was always seeking happiness in all the wrong places. She died this year at 54 of cancer. Hope the road she walks on is paved in gold, it's always summer and she never grows old.
  • Chris from Astoria, OrI thought it was a play on the Peter Pan story
  • Jeff from Toronto, OnOur thoughts and prayers go out to the elderly.
    This song to me, in my interpretation, comes across as a story of a couple, younger say around their twenties or so, who just wanted to go to the edge, get in the car and drive to where ever, then the money ran out, they started to steal, then it kept getting worse, and nobody knows what ever happened to them, they left thier children in the motel, and nobody knows because nobody showed them the way. Or you could interpret that as nobody ever showed them the way to live life as adults or take care of a family so they snapped and ran away.
  • Michael from Fuquay-varina, NcThis song should be enjoyed apart from the "true facts" of the story which was the inspiration for the song. The sad ending of the story of the elderly couple is (1) an unknown fact prior to the song's creation, and (2) not relevant to the listener's appreciation of the song. It should instead be appreciated as what it is telling: the story of a woman and a man, very much in love, weary of the rat race and feeling unappreciated at home for their work and sacrifice, deciding to just say "Eff It!" and set off on the path of adventure, just the two of them, with no goal in mind except to enjoy each other and their lives together. Anyone who is a Grown-Up with children and jobs and a mortgage can appreciate the lure of the Open Road and the ideal of chasing "The Endless Summer", the perfect wave, the greatest concert, the prettiest sunset, the most sublime wine, Jack Kerouac's "On The Road", Tom Wolfe's "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test", Springsteen's "Hungry Heart", and other works of art created through the millenia in many cultures reflecting the same theme: "There's a feeling I get, when I look to the west, and my spirit is crying for leaving".
  • Anton from Vrn, Russia FederationThis song is just great! Even now, when I know the actual story, that lays behind it, it makes me basically think about two things: the first is Tolkien's:
    The Road goes ever on and on
    Down from the door where it began.
    Now far ahead the Road has gone,
    And I must follow, if I can,
    Pursuing it with eager feet,
    Until it joins some larger way
    Where many paths and errands meet.
    And whither then? I cannot say.
    And the second thing is passing away from this life by the "road paved in gold" to "eternal summer slacking", a bit sad, but still great
  • Victora from Allen, Tx Hi. I'm only thirteen, but I just wanted to say that I always thought that in the lyrics they said
    an exit to eternal summer slackng-they were trying to run away from their past and start over.
    Anyone could see The road that they walk on is paved in gold - They ddn't care about anyone else. They thought they deserved the best.

    It's always summer, they'll never get cold
    They'll Never get hungry
    They'll never get old and gray - They died because of selfishness and they will never get on with their lives.

    You can see their shadows Wandering off somewhere
    They won't make it home
    But they really don't care
    They wanted the highway
    They're happy there today They were punished by having to stay in the desert forever.

    That's just what I alwys thought. Also My Uncle by marraige's aunt and uncle are the people that they're talking about on the top of the page.
  • Hannah from Adelaide, AustraliaThis is my favourite song. I heard it over and over when i was little and ever since then it's been sitting in the back of my mind, finally i tracked it down and now i love it (and appreciate it) more then ever.
    This song kind of reminds me of the term "seachange". I'm referring to the line: "they made up their minds and they started packing, they left before the sun came up that day.." which to me seems like they tried to slip away unnoticed. Then the song continues on with " exit to eternal summer slacking", which is an indication that they're happy and can relax forever, doing what they want to do with the rest of their lives.
    It's just a thought, feel free to say otherwise,
    but it makes me happy to have such a deep connection with this song.
    Thank you.
  • Blake from Tahlequah, Oksamething as the guy from italy I don't remember when it came out, but its a great song at first I thought the whole golden road thing was about Heaven, but then I listened and heard the "dont you know" so maybe it means we really have it good in a way and just don't realize it till its gone........... made you think didn't I.
  • Dave from O'fallon, IlEven knowing the story behind the song won't change it for me. This song speaks of other, better places, and of moving on. It brings Tolkien's "Straight Road" to mind, which leads me to all sorts of other ideas. Wonderful song!
  • Rai from London, United KingdomThis is song was released when I was 13 years old, and a heck of a lot freer than I am now. I never realized just how much freedom I had, back then - but you don't, as a child/teenager, do you? I listen to it for the nostalgia of that summer, when I was on the cusp of adolescence/puberty, knowing full well that nothing could ever be the same again and wishing to God it didn't have to be this way.
    As a writer sparks my creative side. I always envisioned a group of teenagers (as others have mentioned before me) setting out on a roadtrip, but in essence they were travelling the "highways" of the world, the leylines - secret paths where it's always the warm nostalgic heat of summer and golden sunlight, where they won't feel tiredness or hunger, but will travel on, forever young, never stopping in one place too long. And I've always envied them for it.
    I was also reading Gabriel King's "The Wild Road" in that year, so that could have something to do with it ;-)
  • Kayla from Peterborough, NhI always thought this song was about a couple leaving while their kids were sleeping because things were too tough and they needed to get away. then they were drunk and began walking and some how ended up dying. I thought the chorous was about Heaven because everything is perfect.
  • Paul from Bay Area, CaThe idea that the song is about college-age kids on a road trip makes no sense because the second verse says in part, "The children woke up / And they couldn't find them". How likely is it that a group of college kids would have children old enough to be aware that they were gone? I always figured the song was about a tragic accident. The line about them walking the street of gold, plus the line about it always being summer and the one about them never getting hungry kind of sealed the deal for me that they had died. And I figured it was an older couple since they had mature children who were looking for them. Before I found this page, I always got choked up when I heard the song. Now at least I know what really happened. I have closure. Weird. You would think they were *my* parents...
  • Al from Baltimore, MdI always took this song as an indictment of mindless slackers who are too brain addled to understand the responsibilities that come with being an adult. I've known far too many kids who saw no virtue in school or keeping a good job or growing up. So I thought this song was about half-baked plans, fuzzy intentions, avoidable disasters all encountered along the way to finding a carefree life that clearer minds realize doesn't exist. As a black comedy, it would make a pretty nice indie movie. The real story, however, is really heartbreaking. It's so sad that old age can rob you of your common sense and judgement...just when you thought you had it all together.
    One other note, does anybody think the chorus with its pretty ascending scale is very Elvis Costello? I 'd love to hear him sing this song.
    Al. Baltimore MD
  • Alexandra from South Kingstown, Rito Sara who thinks it may be paula cole in the beggining--> im almost positive that its a little piece of the jewel song "foolish Games" the line that goes "in case you failed to notice" but the only part you really heare in The Way is "notice"
  • Sarah from Guilderland, Nyi always thought this song was about a group of young kids (late teens/college age) going out, drinking, then getting into a car accident and dieing. "The road that they walk on is paved in gold" resembles them after the accident, and their spirits all walking down the road towards Heaven.

    This song has a deep meaning to me.
    My cousin Chad passed away in a tragic car accident - along with 2 of this friends.
    When i hear this song, i imagine all of them walking together towards Heaven.
    i love this song <3
  • Chris from St, Mary's, MdGood song, but I prefer "Out of My Head"
  • Cody from Perry, NyI always thought this song was about a group of young friends, about 18-20 years. Going on a long road trip to get away from things, like family and personal problems.
    This song has a deep meaning to me, I always think of me and my friends when I hear this. Me and my friends have been wanting to do things like this, And have plans of it too. We are very adventurous.
  • Kim from Springfield, VaMy husband sings this song whenever we get tired of our kids (adult children) who don't want to go away. Kind of an inside joke.
  • Anna from West Lafayette, InIs it Paula Cole in the radio static at the beginning of this song?
    It sounded like the beginning of her Cowboy song...
    Anyone know?
  • Jason from Houston, TxI had not thought about the meaning of this song until a minister in our church gave a sermon titled "The Way" on Dec 28 2002. The sermon is available at this website. I was actually present when this sermon was given and saw it listed as I was on the website. Then I looked up this song and found this website. I thought I would post this sermon in case anyone is interested... I remembered the sermon because they actually played the entire song in the sermon.
    "The Way" Dec 28, 2002
  • Jason from Florence, KyUntil I read this, I didn't know about the old couple. While they were the inspiration for the song, it still sounds like it is written about a young couple (or maybe a group of kids) that decided to take a road trip without a destination in mind.
    By the way, is it just me or does the lead singer sound a lot like Peter Frampton?
  • AnonymousOf course it was written too early for this to be the intention, but the song sounds like a commentary on the war in iraq. "where were they going without ever knowing the way". "anyone can see the road that they walked on was paved in gold."
  • John from Albuquerque, NmI like they because it reminds me of my sister she was in 50's but she was happy cheerfull person but she hated getting older anyway she she passed in a boating accident in Cabo San Lucus in 2001 . I heard the song around that time and it felt she was talking to me saying she was ok and it always summer there shes happy Eventhough I still miss so so much,this has song gives me so much peace of mind that she is just on the other side and she's just waiting.
  • Lydia from Yukon, OkMy Dad and I share this song. He lives in the country, and whenever I'm out there he and I just go drive around a lot. Sometimes we joke about wanting to just keep going, to Vegas or Mexico, or idealy, the U. S. Virgin Islands. ;) This song has therefore always made me kind of sad, even before I knew the inspiriation; we always talk about it, we may really want to at times, sure, but we never would.
  • Ted from Glenview, Ilwow, this is all good stuff guys. I enjoy reading everyone's story/take on this song
  • Scott from Chattanooga, TnTo hear the news of what the actual subject of the song was touched me. The words seemed, at first, to be a modern telling of the Hebrew peoples exit from Egpyt. Their disobedience to & complacency at God, they wandered in the wilderness, hence "an exit to eternal summer slacking, but where were they going without ever knowing the way". "The children woke up, and they couldn't find them", I thought, was the dawning on the children Egpyt that the Jews left without hesitation. Of course, not all the words gel with the complete story. Well, that's my two cents worth.
  • Jay from Atlanta, GaDo you know that you don't automatically go to heaven when you die? I hope Lela and Raymond are there, but you can't take for granted that that's where everyone goes.
  • Musicollector from Calgary, CanadaSad that someone else could not have driven them - I am sure thay must have had children, grandchildren, etc., who must have known of their condition, especially, and probably also going to the family very sad...
  • Musicollector from Calgary, CanadaI thought the song was about someone who decided to leave the rat race and just go away somewhere to lead a quiet life. Then, after I found out about the Texan couple, it took on a very sad meaning. I LOVE the song but can't help feeling very sad and thoughtful when I hear it nowadays. Be that as it may, that couple IS in Heaven where there is no disease or suffering. Thank you, Fastball, for that meaningful song.
  • Alberto from Carpi, ItalyI think I have some very hazy memory of when this song was released, but it didn't impress me very much and I must have removed it from my mind for a long time. After some years I chanced to listen to it more carefully and... it suddenly became one of my favourite songs. It gives me a sense of optimism, of freedom. I like the contrast between the verses dominated by minor chords, and thus more melancholic, and the chorus, dominated by major chords that make it open, sunny. And I feel more touched by it since I read the story that inspired it...
  • Alan from London, OhDon't ask me why but years after this song's release, and really when it and the band have been out of my mind for quite a while, I had a dream and this song was playing in my head--I guess it must just be stored memory and my brain trying to dump out the junk in my head but anyway--in my dream this song was playing and a feminine voice chirped excitedly, 'Now that's the perfect suicide song!' ...o.k.? Dreams, what can you say?!?! I did enjoy this song; certain that it gave me a sense of mortality, escape from the mundane and the adverse. Death 'cures' all things..."never get hungry", "never get cold", "never get old and grey"...hate to put any more of a melancholy sense to it than it already has...I really like 'the reading a story about the couple who got lost going to a family reunion and sort-of romanticizing it'-spin!
  • Jeff from Susanville, CaThis song has three meanings for me: it is about my generation ("the hippies") and my son's generation ("generation x"). Both groups have similar ideals and share a love of exploration, both personal and geographical. And this song has a third, personal meaning, for me: my son, Josh died at age 19 (godspeed, Joshua) and is now on a "road of gold" with "eternal summer slacking".
  • Jaren from Sidney, Canadai always loved this song because i always thought that these people died and were happy in heaven walking on a road of gold and always summer slacking
  • Robert from Puyallup, WaWhen I first heard this song, I thought the lyrics were metaphorical, rather than literal. I thought it was a veiled diatribe against the generation of the '60's who turned their back on their own idealism and embraced Yuppie materialism, to the consternation of succeeding generations of idealists.

    "Their children woke up, and they couldn't find them...."
    How far out is THAT interpretation?
  • Donna from Detroit Suburb, MiI like The Way. I always thought it was about the Heaven's Gate people. About their gentle decision for suicide.
  • Andi from I Don't Like It Here, TxAn excellent tribute.
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