Songs of our Lives May 6, 2009Posted by Matt in music, Reminiscence.
Tags: Everclear, George Strait, guns n roses, life, memorable times, metallica, music, Nirvana
Music has a strange power, one that infiltrates our senses and embeds itself deep within the blasting synapses of our mind. It can manipulate emotions, inspire, and empower, carry us to new heights and drop us to the lowest lows. The might of the muse is not to be denied.
We oftentimes define our lives by the events through which we live, for it is those happenings and our reactions to them that make us into the persons we are today. As these occurrences take place, whether tragedies or triumphs, I find it interesting that certain songs become associated with them. Perhaps the musical piece was playing at critical juncture or maybe the content of the lyrics or melodies cause us to reminisce. Whatever the reason, music can often be an important part in the shaping of our memories, the molding of our conceptions of reality.
So, I was listening to my Ipod today on shuffle and as I did my mind was flooded with remembrances of times past at the playing of certain tunes. I thought about this phenomena a while and realized just how much of my life finds its identity through music.
Therefore, today I’m in a mood to look at my past through the lens of music, so I’d like to share with you a few of the songs and albums, along with the times in my life that they have come to represent.
My earliest music memories are of my parents’ George Strait tapes, in particular the great song “Amarillo by Morning.” I have these visions in my head of long driving vacations as a young kid in the back seat with Strait’s warm baritone-voiced tales of rodeos and loves gone wrong our main accompaniment.
As I grew older and into the early years of adolescence, my attention was diverted away from the music of my parents and to the primal sounds of loud guitars and screeching vocals in the late 1980’s. This personal evolution was probably no more pronounced than in my discovery of one of the greatest rock bands of a generation, Guns N’ Roses, and in their era-defining anthem “Paradise City.” They were loud and profane, angry and aggressive, just the type of thing that appeals to pubescent boys. Now, because of the fact that the album carried a “Parental Advisory” sticker (Thanks a lot, Tipper), I was not allowed to buy the tape (If you’ve ever listened to the song “It’s so Easy” you know why), but by employing some old-school file sharing in the pre-internet days, I did have a copy taped by a friend. There is one time, in particular, that comes to mind when we were on a Boy Scout camping trip or something and we were taking turns sitting on a skateboard and riding down a paved hill into a lake, while listening to Appetite for Destruction. Good times.
Next let us climb into the metaphorical time machine a skip ahead a few years to the next stop on this personal music journey. I was a young teenager in the early 90’s and since we lived down a gravel road out in the country, I didn’t have access to things like cable television and MTV, so I had never really listened to Metallica before. Thus, when a friend of mine first turned on Enter Sandman, I was completely blown away. I have some pretty vivid memories of playing basketball and hanging out in the garage at a friend’s house while this album blared loudly over the speakers. I believe this was also the album that first inspired me to pick up a guitar, though I have regrettably never become especially proficient on the instrument.
I was 16 in the spring of 1994 and there was probably no band in the world that I loved more than Nirvana. The tormented wails of Kurt Cobain and angry crunching guitars became a intimate piece of disaffected youth. When the band’s Unplugged performance first aired, I sat in open-mouthed awe at the beautiful raw emotion of Cobain, who had found some way to even thrive outside his punkish comfort zone. I remember being absolutely enthralled with their surprise closing number from this show, Leadbelly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night,” but it was only a short time later, following Cobain’s untimely suicide, that the song took on a special poignancy as the world crashed and the realization that things would never be the same again sunk in. It was over.
Like many teens before and after, I had always wanted to play in a rock band. There were few things more appealing than dreams of crowds of people cheering the deafening sounds of a distorted guitar. In the spring of 1996 I was a senior in high school with only a short time left to walk those hallowed halls of Beebe Senior High and, as my friends and I finalized our plans to separate to different schools around the state, it soon became clear that this was our last chance to realize the dream of playing the greatest “talent” exhibition in the Dream Hometown, May Day. So, I joined with three of my good friends and we formed a band with the goal of rocking out in the gymnasium in front of a few hundred of our peers. One of the three songs that we chose to perform at that time was Everclear’s “Santa Monica,” and to this day anytime I hear it, I am transported back to those spring nights in Michael’s garage with our amps turned up loud (well, at least until 9:00). I’ve written before about my short experience as a member of a rock band here, so if you would like to see more of my ruminations on this joyful time in my life, check it out.
…To Be Continued
What about you? What songs/albums do you associate with particular times in your life?