Saturday night, 10p, Joe, Robert and I are the obnoxious people everyone hates riding the subway. We are making the L our personal car service, laughing, shouting, and eventually getting into a semi-intense conversation of our Personal Music History. It was a fun to reminisce, and a neat comparison as we are close in age but with such different tastes overall.
As we continued to talk, what struck me most was how much of the music I love, came to me thanks to other people. In fact, we were on our way to dance insanely at Brooklyn Bootie – a SF transplant (like me!) that features all mashups, all-the-time. As I am mostly not a pop music kind of gal, I would not have been anywhere near that party or even that train (I mean, Williamsburg? I am so not that cool) were it not for the lovely lads who accompanied me. Both absolutely adore mashups, and because I adore them, I decided to listen. And found myself rocking out, like you wouldn’t believe, to crazy things like Miley Cyrus mashed up with Biggie. So that was fun.
The song is called “Party and Bullshit in the USA.”
And, I think this is true historically as well. The first tape I remember devouring and listening to until it was basically nothing was the soundtrack to the lovely Disney-cult-classic Newsies. Why did I listen to Newsies? Because my cousin David was in the movie. As a supportive family, we went and saw it early in its theatrical release. I was 7 at the time, and loved the fact the theater was so empty I got to sit in a row by myself (in retrospect, probably part of why the movie is a cult classic…). Soon, after, with one of my first tape decks, my parents got me the soundtack, and I listened forever. So, thank you Cousin David for bringing me the joys of “The World Will Know” and, of course, “King of New York.”
My next major musical milestone was Jagged Little Pill. This was the first CD I bought with my own money. Like all the other angsty 11-year-old girls, I clung as hard as I could to my album with Alanis outline in red and green. Who wouldn’t love “You Outta Know” and “Hand in my Pocket.” (with regards to the former, I had no idea what “going down in a theater” meant, but loved singing the song at the top of my lungs). I can’t remember who exactly recommended this particular album to me, but it was the in the zeitgeist of the 5th and 6th grade classrooms, and I can clearly picture discussing it intensely with other grade-school pals. I loved the album so much, that when my little sister Morgan was born, I would sing “Ironic” to her as a lullaby… weird, I suppose, but I didn’t know many songs, and she seemed to like it.
(Note: if I had more time, and wanted to try your patience more, I would also mention the importance of Tragic Kingdom which came my way from my classmate Angela.)
Seventh and eighth grade were the only times I ever truly followed pop music. (For the record, this is late ‘97 through ‘99.) I imagine my following of pop music had to do with my age, but especially because I started going to my Papa’s (maternal grandfather) after school. That change meant two things:
1) I had a commute, taking the L-Taraval to the 29-bus in order to get from school to his house. So I started listening to music (by this time, of course, with a CD player – and I was a master of not letting it skip when the streetcar bounced).
2) He had cable, which meant what else to a teenage girl – TRL with Carson Daly. (also other strange shows like Breaker High and Young Hercules) Music for these two years, was definitely dictated by the demands of MTV.
I became a hard core BSB girl (Backstreet Boys, for the uninitiated) and Brian was my favorite, but also followed general trends. From Britney Spears to LFO to “That Boy is Mine,” I was way into pop music. I think I even tried to call into TRL once or twice, but the time difference made it difficult.
When I got to high school, it was pretty lame to still be listening to the Millennium CD (dear God, remember those white suits!?), or at least according to my friend Mike. I’m a big fan of the phone, I would then and still will today, talk on it for hours and hours and hours. In high school, this actually meant a lot of silence while people on either end did homework, but it also meant plenty of time for Mike to lecture me on music. One of his favorite touchstones was Nirvana. So I began to listen, and like most in their teenage years, that 1992 Seattle grunge speaks to you like nothing else. With that, my radio dial turned from Z95.7 to live105, the Bay Area’s alternative radio station, and broadly set my tastes on the rock end of the music spectrum – though it goes a lot of places with in that.
(In addition, listening to Live105, got me addicted to Loveline with Dr. Drew and Adam Carolla. I didn’t always enjoy the callers (after all how many awkward sex stories can you hear?) but loved the banter. I especially enjoyed the various running gags about Community College, working in construction, that you never know an adult named Todd, and of course Adam’s consistent riffing on Dr. Drew.)
Junior year, I stage managed my first show. This brought many changes to my life, not only dictating my future career and a huge amount of student loans, but also brought me a new and wonderful group of friends, who I still treasure to this day. One of the great things about those friends was the constant presence of mix CDs. Those CDs brought me Me First and the Gimmie Gimmie’s covers of show tunes, PotUSA, Goldfinger’s “99 Red Balloons” and Flogging Molly’s entire catalog. Quite a bit of various kinds of pop-punk, actually. Which was basically inevitable when your best friend adored ska as much as mine did. But it also brought me the only country music I will ever really love (“Standing in the Fire”and “Something Like That” AKA the BBQ Stain song ), as well as some haunting Irish music.
I remember making my own mix CD towards the end of Senior Year, as a way to catalog what had transpired. It started with ACDC “You Shook Me All Night Long” as a tribute to the end of Junior year, as it was the only good song played at our Junior prom. I think it then jumped to the Henry Ford song from Ragtime, a reference to driving fast down the freeway with Kate singing at the very tops of our lungs, and it most certainly had a Good Charlotte song, which came from many evenings when Dave drove me home from rehearsal. (It might have also had a “Nobody’s Side” from Chess on it, which while a good song, does not excuse that we did a 3-hour show about the Cold War as the Spring Musical).
When I came to college, I was introduced to the Decemberists, still my favorite band, by Andrew who was my next door neighbor in the dorms. That will actually probably get a whole entry in and of itself, as I still adore them, and saw them in concert just last week. For now, I will jump to Andrew’s roommate Bryan who was perhaps the master of the mix CD. He worked incredibly hard on each one, and had them arc perfectly. I still have playlists on my MP3 player that he created. And I will always be grateful for his introduction of “Volvo Driving Soccer Mom,” the Postal Service and Rio Kelly.
College & music were very much about two amazing friends – Jamie and Travis. All I had to do was plop down – semi-rudely – in front of their respective computers, and whine that I had nothing new to listen to, and I would go home with droves. Some key items here were All Time Quarterback, Of Montreal, the music of Cowboy Bebop, the Johnny Cash American IV album, Louis Primo & Death Cab for Cutie. This actually hasn’t changed much as I currently have folders on this computer labeled “Music from Travis” and “Music from Jamie,” so thanks to them for continuing to help broaden my musical tastes. (Absurd note: Jamie brought me back a beautiful red scarf from her time in Paris, but also about 15 burned CDs since she knew I had been floundering without her.)
And of course there was at least a few albums I tried to love because of the boys that I thought I loved. This included Thrice, and Avenged Sevenfold and often, because of who I dated, music that accompanied various video games. ::Sigh::
Also in college, I was being fed my first real intensive diet of musical theater. I had listened to some growing up (see Newsies above) but didn’t usually adventure much beyond shows I had worked on or those I had seen. There was no way that my theater friends would let that stand, thank goodness. I remember when Syche gave me two CD-Rs, both blue, with her neat handwriting. One said “Cabaret: The Alan Rickman version… sorry Joel Grey,” and I devoured it, not realizing the mistake for quite a while. The other, was Last Five Years, which would be a constant companion over the next 6 months or so. I was working as an intern for a dance company, and had to do some intense database cleanup for a direct mail campaign (again, something that hasn’t changed much) and played that album on repeat for at least 4 hours. The first time I really listened to “the Schmuel song” it made me love what music and theater can do together.
Other favorite bands & songs often came from the theater: the amazing cello suite of Yann Tierson used in a dance piece I SMed, “The Mountain Goats” thanks to a GM at a freezing cold space on 45th, “Great Big Sea” thanks to Mikhael’s featuring of “River Driver,” and “Young Folks” the only tolerable song in the intense pop music pre-show mix before Twelfth Night last year.
I’m blessed to continue to have friends who tell me you *must* listen to this. I even convinced one friend to create a blog just for that purpose. (Thanks, Alex!) And I feel I’m growing a bit, as I have begun to try to find my own music, and share it with others. But honestly …. that really means I’m just listening to “All Songs Considered” on NPR and following their advice.
I feel like my brain and soul want a never-ending diet of music. Not that I don’t return to the old favorites again and again, but I always want more.
If you are interested in some recs for me, I am currently in love with Mumford and Sons, Florence and the Machine, the new Decemberists album (of course), and what this entry began with, Best of Bootie 2010.
Thanks to all the friends who helped build my soundtrack to the last 25 years, you made it a much more beautiful adventure.