This morning as I was dropping off Lucy and then driving to work with Zoe, I had the Sirius radio tuned to the ‘80’s on 8’ channel. I’m not going to lie, maybe my favorite part of the new car is the satellite radio – and I’ve not had a lot of time to listen to different stations, but this one is pretty awesome. As we drove, we heard Wham, Genesis, Dire Straits, Cindy Lauper and even Michael Jackson. I made Zoe sit in the parking lot at work so I could hear “Thriller” in its entirety – I mean, what’s the point of listening if you’re not going to hear Vincent Price’s laugh at the end? She was none too pleased. I began to notice that I knew most, if not all the words to each song that came on, and I began thinking about how music really does create the soundtrack to our lives in many ways.
When I was a kid I had an olive green radio – it had this terrible fabric that covered the one giant speaker, and it had all of these huge knobs. It had probably belonged to one of my parents decades earlier, but it didn’t matter, really, because it still worked and was the conduit between KY102 and my little eardrums. Somewhere along the line, I also acquired a large black tape recorder, and often I would hold it up to the green speaker and tape songs straight off the radio. Then I would play them back over and over and over again. Ahhhh, technology. My point is that my love of music started early, and my memories were shaped by music beginning around that time. I never really thought about it, though, until this morning.
Like, how when Keith Parrish broke up with 14-year-old me, the song “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” was the soundtrack. Even though in my mind the song was about me making out with the first boy who ever kissed me and not about creepy ass Bret Michaels and his breakup. When I was 16 I became a Prince junkie. Probably not so much because I loved Prince (Calm down. Later I really, really did), but Tarek Thorns loved Prince. I can’t hear “The Arms of Orion” without thinking about that time in my life. The Cure’s Japanese Whispers provided the soundtrack to one Thanksgiving trip to Woodstock, Illinois to visit my then aging grandparents. I was maybe 16. It was probably one of the last trips we ever took there for a holiday and one in which my sister and I were equally emo and moody – my poor, poor parents. To this day I can’t listen to “Let’s Go To Bed” without remembering rewinding the tape (yes, tape. So?) over and over again.
Later, the Indigo Girls and Tracy Chapman would be the soundtrack to beach week after my senior year of high school, when I traveled to North and then South Carolina with my cousin Erin. I met a kid named Travis Bales, and boy, did that throw a wrench into the supposedly wonderful relationship I was having back in KC. Later, I rapped, I raved, and I techno-ed through the late 90s after going back to the same supposedly wonderful relationship. I did that until I gained some sense and left that ass hat. The lovely Ani DiFranco provided the soundtrack to that hot mess. I have seen the woman in concert more times than I can count and still – live or not – when I hear the first five notes of “Both Hands” I get teary – and then defiant. Man, I wish I could shake that woman’s hand for helping me through that time. And then helping me again when the next relationship soured, as I pretty much always knew it would from the start.
About a month after I met the boy I would later marry, he made a mix tape (on CD – it was the turn of the millennium don’t you know!) for me. He had covered the CD itself with a black and white photo of a heart. But not just any heart – an actual human heart. And while he never said anything about it, I took it as a sign that he really liked me. Turns out I was right. I’m not sure what all was on that CD, because I only remember two of the songs. One was A Perfect Circle’s “Three Libras”. One day, a few years later, I almost ran over Maynard with my car while he was walking on the Plaza – talk about a perfect circle of events. I digress. The other song was the Barenaked Ladies singing “If I Had a Million Dollars”.
I can name you a bunch of other songs that have had some impact on my life, but I realized today as I was driving that after I had my kids, the effect of music on my life has been much different – and I hope that can change. I have music I like and I have artists that I gravitate to, but it seems like the soundtrack sort of stopped all those years ago and that songs are more of the background music (the Musac?) of my life anymore instead of the soundtrack. But, never in a million years would I have imagined that Phil Collins singing “Throwing It All Away” would have sparked this.