Yesterday I participated in the Books & Authors event at Leon & Lulu. And, like you do, I have been looking up the web pages and blogs of some of the fellow authors I met there. My immediate neighbor across the aisle was Birmingham, Michigan author Lisa Peers whose book Love and Other B-Sides is a rock n’ roll themed romance. (You can see her booth on her own post about the event.)
Her blog, LP on 45, is also music-themed. While browsing her concert reviews and so on I came across a video of Sisters of Mercy- “This Corrosion” and I experienced a bit of warm nostalgia for my college days and the various “alternative music” clubs that played a few requisite tracks: the full version of “This Corrosion,” Shriekback’s “Nemesis.” (“Big black nemesis, parthenogenesis no one move a muscle as the dead come home”), The Cult-“She Sells Sanctuary” and Tones on Tail- “Go.” (Also known as the ya ya song.) along with some harsher stuff by Ministry. I pretended I was cool enough for City Club, but I was actually intimidated by the goth and punk kids. What I did not yet realize is what a thin, thin line there is between nerd and cool.
What occurred to me, thinking about these tracks, is that I could write an entire musical autobiography– I bet you could too.
“…humans use music to experiment with identity and define themselves and then as a social vehicle to establish a group and find a mate, before using it to express their intellect, status and greater emotional understanding,” wrote Sarah Griffiths in The Daily Mail describing a scientific study on how musical tastes evolve throughout life. “The study suggests that unless people take the Who’s advice and die before they get old, their taste in music will probably change to meet their social and psychological needs.”
So I invite you to think about your soundtrack, and if you do write about it, pingback or post your link in the comments.
Here is my life as told by the records on my turntable, the cassettes in my walkman and the CDs in my stereo.
Elementary School: My first rock star crush was Davy Jones of the Monkees. A few days ago I wrote about the Monkees LPs on my Winne the Pooh record player. So I won’t repeat it here. But how many of you tried to imitate the Davy Jones shuffle in this video?
Sixth Grade: I was in sixth grade in 1980 when John Lennon was shot and The Beatles were all over the radio and TV. This began a long obsession with the Beatles. My friends and I went looking for “Paul is dead” clues. If you play “Revolution 9” backwards it sounds surprisingly like “Revolution 9” forwards. The “turn me on dead man” that is supposedly hidden there is actually “urn nee om reb mun.” We giggled at the word “bra” in “Obladi Oblada” and we jumped up and down to the word “trampoline” in “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.” The older I got, the more I became fascinated by John in particular. I loved the freedom John and Yoko had to experiment as artists.
Junior High: Science proves that the music of your teenage years has special power. When I was watching one of those “I Love the 80s” retrospectives I came to the conclusion that my “years” were 1982-1984. That was when all of the music was my music. MTV came into my life. The sound of the top of the hour MTV guitar melody that played as the MTV flag flashed on the moon can fill me with intense nostalgia. The first single I bought for myself was “Its Raining Again” by Supertramp. I became immersed in all things MTV. We recited catchphrases from EBN-OZN, we did that “S” thing like Men without Hats. (I thought Men without Hats were going to be huge.) I thought the drummer from Culture Club was cute. (As did Boy George, apparently.) I liked the b-side of Human League’s “Fascination,” an instrumental track called “Total Panic.” I also liked the b-side of Martin Briley’s “The Salt in My Tears,” which was called “Dumb Love.” Everyone loved Duran Duran and you had to have a favorite Durannie. I chose Andy Taylor because he seemed like the odd man out, a rocker mislaid in a pop band. My favorite, of course, was Adam Ant. (You can read about my Adam Ant history and see me dressed in my Ant costume by following the link.)
College: In my early college years I put the Monkees posters back up. The Monkees were having a big resurgence. I bought myself one of those six button Monkees shirts and subscribed to the Monkee business fanzine. Now I mixed Monkees tracks with Erasure. I spent a great deal of money tracking down every obscure mix of an Erasure track. Most of the time I didn’t like the mixes as well as the originals. Erasure are pure pop, but in this country they were considered “alternative music” because the lead singer of the duo, Andy Bell, was openly gay. One song I liked a lot my freshman year in college was the well-timed “I’m an Adult Now” by The Pursuit of Happiness
I spent my junior year at the University of Lancaster in England. The “Madchester” scene was in full swing. The song I associate most strongly with dancing at the Sugar House is “Fool’s Gold” by the Stone Roses. But there was also “Step On” by the Happy Mondays. There were the Charlatans, The Milltown Brothers and Wonderstuff. There was a band whose record I really liked called “Love’s Young Nightmare.” I have never been able to find out anything about them. It seems as if they recorded one EP and disappeared. I liked every track on it. The album Loveprayer by Bliss, which I bought over there, remains a favorite. The most popular song, by far, during my stay though was this one:
When I came back from England, finally old enough to go to music clubs in this country, I had shifted into the alternative music phase I described at the opening of this article. After college I attended the Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts to train to be a DJ and spend my life immersed in music.
While I was an intern at the alternative music station 89X they launched something called Club X at the State Theater. I could get in for free. The creepiest date I ever had was with a guy I met at Club X. We had dinner in Greektown and he kept singing the song “Murder, Tonight in the Trailer Park” and giving me a weird look. I could not get out of his car fast enough.
Interestingly, it was while working at 89X that I discovered Arlo Guthrie. (I wrote a few days ago about my period being “Arlo immersed.”) The program director, for some reason, had decided to line up an interview with Arlo. I think she was, personally, a fan. The music director, who I was then working with, was on the air and he resented having to do the interview. He didn’t think it fit the format. His first question to the folksinger was “Our listeners probably don’t know who you are…” and it did not improve much from there. I was impressed, however, by the man on the other end of the line, his grace and humor and I wanted to know more.
It is getting a bit late now, so I will continue with the soundtrack of my adult life on another day.