A little over a month ago, NPR ran a story asking for the six songs of your life:
songs you carry in your head and in your heart that remind you of sometime or someplace or someone. You hear the song; you remember. You remember; you hear the song. Like an optical illusion, two memories braided together in your soul.
Damn. Well said, NPR.
I’ve been thinking about this and trying to find my own six songs. It isn’t as easy as it seems; I’ve been alive for 32 years, and music has always been with me. My dad told me when my mom was pregnant with me, he put headphones on her belly, so I mean it in the most real sense that music has been with me from the start, and its never left me. Some of my fondest memories of my dad include the two of us driving wherever and always listening to music; he’d thump my knee with his massive hand in tempo to the song playing. My mother taught me the fine art of car dancing, a skill which I have honed over the years and am a self-professed pro. I got car moves, baby. In fifth grade, I started playing the trumpet, which later evolved into playing the French horn (insert fat girl/French horn jokes here). There’s something wonderful about seeing a page full of musical notes and scanning it and being able to hear the song in your head without hearing it first, but of course, hearing being played is also an experience that can send shivers throughout your body. I miss playing an instrument, and often wish I hadn’t neglected my trumpet or had my own French horn still, but the trumpet can be cleaned up and oiled and brought back to life. I’m sure I can find a used French horn on the internet somewhere for a reasonable price, as well.
Anyway, here are my six songs for the moment. I’m sure after I’m done writing this, I’ll hate my list and want to revise it, because that’s how I am.
Song One: “Coming To America” by Neil Diamond.
From what I’m told, when I was a wee tyke, my parents were huge Neil Diamond fans and would often cue up The Jazz Singer record and make baby me dance to it because that’s what parents do with their infants. Plus, I’m sure they felt some sort of patriotism playing this for me, given my birthday is July 4th. Clever, Ma and Pa.
Song Two: “Lady In Red” by Chris DeBurgh.
Back in 1986, my mom was the manager of our hometown swimming pool, which was pretty spectacular for a kid in the summer to be able to swim when you dang well pleased because your mom was the boss. I remember one time, my family went a few hours before it opened to clean and whatnot, and my dad heard this song playing on the radio and turned it up. I was in the water, doing my thing, and I remember looking over toward the pool office where my parents were and they were dancing to this song and while I was only five-years-old, I remember thinking how silly it was, but in my adolescent brain, that this was somehow important to see. Every time I hear this song now, I’m taken back to that hot summer day and seeing my mom and dad dancing in their swimsuits.
Song Three: “All For Love” by Bryan Adams, Sting, and Rod Stewart.
1993 was the year, and I was sporting a massive crush on Chris O’Donnell, thanks to the movie “The Three Musketeers.” As you know, this song was featured on the soundtrack to the movie. The soundtrack was also the very first CD I ever bought and I would play it constantly while playing with my Barbie dolls, involving them in dramatic love triangles with my Joey McIntyre from New Kids On The Block doll. I was a weird kid.
Song Four: “Head Like A Hole” by Nine Inch Nails.
I want to say I was a sophomore in high school when I first heard this song, so that would have been 1997 or so. Up until that point, my musical tastes involved all the generic pop played on the radio, but I had just discovered there was a now-defunct alternative station from Lincoln that played music I had never heard before, like The Flaming Lips, Jane’s Addiction, The Breeders, etc. Plus, my brother had left some of his CDs at home when he came back for the weekends, so I started listening to Red Hot Chili Peppers and Ugly Kid Joe. Anyway, being from a small town, the thing to do on the weekends was to cruise Main Street (how iconic) and my best friend, Corey, and I would do just that. We’d pile into his tiny Pontiac Grand Am and drive up and down and up and down and up and down for hours, laughing, talking, and listening to music. He was acting somewhat secretive and excited one night and he said to me, “I have a new band you have to hear.” Bring it! The band was Nine Inch Nails and he had me put the Pretty Hate Machine CD in my Sony Discman that we played through the cassette deck. I recall a few feelings about what we were listening to as the album played: one, was the bass lines in a lot of the songs sounded like the bass line between scenes on Seinfeld; two, was thinking if my parents heard me listening to this devil music, I would be grounded; and three, my musical taste would forever be influenced by this album and that I couldn’t go back to the schlock-y pop music I had listened to. I was forever altered, and Nine Inch Nails became my favorite band, and Trent Reznor stayed with me for damn near fifteen years after that night, but due to his recent hissy fit about his latest Grammy performance, I’ve decided to retire NIN and thank them for the many amazing memories I have of them. I’ve seen Nine Inch Nails in concert three times over the span of time, and they do put on a great visual show for sure. “The Fragile” will always be in my top 20 albums, as well, but sometimes, you just have to break yourself off from certain artists, and NIN was that artist. Thanks for the time, Reznor.
Song Five: “Hanging By A Moment” by Lifehouse.
In late 2000, I was living in Grand Island, Nebraska, going to a private college that ended up closing due to lack of funding shortly after I had enrolled. That was weird. I ended up finishing the semester at a community college in a town 25 miles away, but by then, I had decided school just wasn’t for me, so I quit and started working at the call center for Cabela’s, the outdoor retailer. That was a fun gig for the most part; I worked there with my friend and roommate, Brandy, and we’d get into all sorts of shenanigans. Good times. I also ended up meeting my would-be husband at that job. I had seen him around and we ended up being put into a training class together and the rest is, how they say, history. While we were dating, this song came out and like the dopey, lovesick birds we were, we decided this was our jam, yo. It ended up being the song that we played when we walked out of the place we got married. Things change, as they always do, and we’re divorced now, and I can say with certainty that I hate this song. It’s one of the very few songs that I have let hold a negative connotation for me and I can’t listen to it any more. I think I still have this album on my iPod, and if I do, it’s purely for sentimental purposes as even though the relationship didn’t last, it’s just a reminder that it happened, but there isn’t enough money in the entire universe to get me to listen to this again.
Song Six: “Beautiful Day” by U2.
I love U2, but this song…there’s a story behind it. Shocking! As I mentioned above, I used to live in Grand Island, but ended up moving back home with my parents in 2001-ish. That’s when they began having marital issues and long story short, one morning, I woke up to them screaming and my dad stormed out of the house and began walking the 4 miles into town to go to work. I got in my car and followed him and took him to work. As I was returning home, this song came on the radio. I was instantly angered and had to stop my car and pull over to the side of the road. I had gotten a bottle of orange juice at the gas station before I started home and I took the glass bottle and threw it against the side of my car, shattering it into pieces. That’s one of the first times I’ve ever let myself become so angry that I had to do something physical to express it. So. Needless to say, this song kind of gets to me when I hear it now.
Okay, so, I know the assignment was six songs, and honestly, I could have at least doubled this list, but I’m going to breach etiquette for a moment and include one more song. It’s my post, I can do what I want!
Song Seven: “Last Goodbye” by Jeff Buckley.
Jeff. Jeff, Jeff, Jeff. You silken, golden voiced god. This song is glorious and I love it. I listened to this on constant repeat when my marriage was ending. I mean, with lyrics like “this is our last goodbye; I hate to feel the love between us die, but it’s over” and “kiss me out of desire, not consolation.” Oddly enough, I can still listen to it. I haven’t let it get to me in that regard, which is silly, I suppose. I’m still weird.
And there you have it. These are my songs. Like I said, I could keep going, because there’s always a song for everything, and that’s the beauty of music. Music is essential. Without music, I’d lead a sad existence for sure. I want to leave you all with this last song: Beethoven’s Ode To Joy. I carry this one around with me always.
As always, thanks for reading.