What Is The Soundtrack Of Your Life?
If there is one thing my father gave me that I will take to my grave it is music. I always have a song in my head. Depending on the song or the genre of music I can pretty well tell you what station in my life I was in. I find music to nearly be a religious experience. It can take my anger away, make me feel love, remind me of a great memory, or bring my anger on. Music can guide you.
When I was a five or six years old I would go to sleep listening to an old clock radio. The kind of clock radio where the numbers flipped on a Rolodex type of system. When a minute passed you heard a loud flapping sound as the 24th minute gave way to the 25th minute of the hour. I listened to a classic music station call WFOG. It was Bach and Beethoven all through the night. It was mellow and a great start to learning melody. My dad listened to old country and 50’s and 60’s rock. He had tons of vinyl. To this very day I will take a 33 LP over a digital down load any day of the week. There is something about holding that black vinyl that just feels right. My dad came home one day with a vinyl copy of the Beatles “Abbey Road” and later that year I would see the Bee Gee’s movie of “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” which lead to “Yellow Submarine” and “Hard Days Night” music and cinema married together. My life would never be the same. The songs were simple and the meaning lost on my young mind. My dad would also bring my Dumb Ditties, Funky Favorites, Lenny and the Squigtones, and The Smothers Brothers. I would get in trouble for singing “My Ding-A-Ling” in elementary school. These songs were easy to remember and very simple. I would leave the Beatles behind for about 20 years before they had real meaning to me. I listening to clunky 8-Track Tapes by Jim Stafford, Captain and Tenille, Lobo, and something called Black Sabbath (it scared me). Does anyone remember “Disco Duck” or “Popcorn”? I do. I frequented an oceanfront record store called Stewart’s Records. It was owned by an old man who showed me all about new music. One day he played “the Point Of No Return” for me and I found my first favorite band. I was into Hobbits and Gnomes and all the fantasy stories that came with them. Kansas lyrics echoed these stories for me even though as I got older I discovered Zeppelin better fit that bill. I recently listened to Kansas after not hearing them for over twenty years and I still knew every lyric. The music was so deeply imprinted in my soul that I could pull the lyrics out with no effort nearly a quarter century later. I can’t remember if I took a crap yesterday but I can remember lyrics I have not heard since I was a child.
As I grew into the 80’s I saw the birth of MTV. Today anyone in their twenties recognizes MTV as the birthplace of Rob and Big or The Jersey Shore. For me it was the beginning of my music. The music of my generation and it was not all good. Tom Petty, The Buggles, The Police, and of course THE KING OF POP the original MJ. I can remember sitting with my mom waiting for the premier of “Thriller”. The J Geils Band video “Centerfold” and Olivia Newton Johns “Physical” made me realize what a typically horny young teenage boy was all about. It was all videos all the time and I could not get enough and my parents didn’t try to stop me. It was also during this time that I discovered stand up comedy. My mom bought me Richard Pryor’s “Dead or Alive” long before I should have had it. From comedy cassettes I learned to laugh at the darkness of life instead of allowing it to consume me. To this day I still rely on Stand Up and my sense of humor during bad times. I would get caught up in the ‘big hair” music of the 80’s. The Thompson Twins, Wang Chung, The Fixx, and Thomas Dolby. The first 80’s band I grabbed onto with both hands was Wall of Voodoo. “Mexican Radio” still clangs in my head and I sing it to my daughter. It was my second favorite band until I discovered “True Men Don’t Kill Coyote’ by The Red Hot Chili Peppers. I was finding my voice in music. When I discovered old school rap my very language changed.
Kool Mo Dee, Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five, Kwame, and the Egyptian Lover showed my how to rhyme in ways I never thought of. It was the magic of the language of rap that inspired me to write. Rap was still safe at that time. No one was being shot at……yet. A friend of mind had a box of records in his bedroom that lit my ear up in my mid teens. Punk Rock came from that box. TSOL, Fear, Dead Kennedy’s, and the Minutemen were fast furious and impressive to my young mind. I would eventually find my very own punk band that would always be one of the bands that hit my every emotion. Husker DU had lyrics that spoke to me and I felt them. I still listen to them, Sugar, Nova Mob, and Bob Mould are all parts of Husker DU. Bob Mould would eventually admit to being gay and I will admit it confused me. His painful love songs may have been about men and my ignorant younger self sometimes wondered what that meant to me as I sang them over and over again. I eventually came to the mature and correct belief that love is love. Bob Mould is still one of my inspirations. The 80’s were coming to a close and I was leaving behind the Cramps, Adam Ant, and Violent Femmes.
I was sitting in my car in my college parking lot when my ears were assaulted by Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails. It made my youthful anger make sense. When in college I worked concert security. I stopped a skinny dark haired man from entering the beer garden without an ID, it was Trent Reznor. A couple of months later I would stop Harry Connick Jr from entering the Chrysler Hall. Instead of being rude he invited me to dinner with him and Branford Marsalis. I only learned years later what musical greatness I dined with. I was in college and finding myself. I was all over the board and so were my musical tastes. Volcano Suns, Gaye Bykers On Acid, Andrew Prieboy, and The Go Betweens. None of the bands would be on the same bill together but they made sense in my mind. My mind would be settled by good old rock and roll. Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and the Doors. While listening to this music I would become a police officer and would soon need the soundtrack of my life to guide me. Nirvana was around the corner but until then I drank from a host of European lineage from Lush, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, Happy Mondays, Wonderstuff, and Stone Roses. America had begun to accept the touring festivals and Lollapalooza would be the mother of them all. I went to the first four and even my mother went to one. Ice Cube, Bodycount, Butthole Surfers, Johnny Cash, Sugarcubes, Arrested Development, and the father of the festival Jane’s Addiction covered all bases and I ate it up. I would listen to “Cop Killer” before starting a shift as a cop.
I got married and the marriage was in trouble quick. I turned to Nirvana. Cobain could keep me angry enough to be selfish enough to eventually get out of a bad situation. I eventually found myself without a job as a cop or married. A new life would follow. I would remarry and eventually have a daughter. Clutch, Coldplay, and Portugal the Man would become my favorites. Portugal the Man and Coldplay are clearly my guide now. My life is good, mellow, and soulful just like their music.
Within minutes of my daughter being born I was singing “I Want To Hold Your Hand”. I sing to my daughter every night. When she asked me where I got the music I tell her my dad. Now she sings the Smothers Brothers, sock hop music, rap, classic rock, Violent Femmes, Hank Williams, Harry Connick, Wall of Voodoo, The Beatles, Marlyn Manson, Bruce Springsteen, and any number of other songs. I am passing on music. What she does with it is up to her but I hope it gives her what it gave me. This past weekend I took her to her first real Vinyl Record Store. She loved it. I can’t wait to see the Soundtrack of her life. Will she remember The Fresh Beat Band or Yo Gabba Gabba’s music? I hope so. What is your soundtrack? What did it do for you? Where does it take you?