It’s Monday evening here in AbbadabbaDu, so I’m still under the wire for an actual Monday Listicle (as opposed to a Tuesday-in-the-Middle-East-Monday-night-US Listicle). Today’s topic is: my life in song, a topic picked by Bruna over at Bees With Honey.
My life in song? A medley that starts with long-haired folkies, morphs into midwestern hair bands, detours into the cul-de-sac known as the 80s, then shakes itself out into…well I don’t know. Let’s just say that when I’m trying to cook in my awful congealed-oatmeal colored kitchen, I often stream WMVY on my computer. It’s great sing-along music–plus I get to hear about the wintery weather, the wait-lists at the ferry docks, and the various goings-on all over the island. Music and cognitive dissonance, all at the same time.
1. Buffy Sainte-Marie. I think maybe only about ten people in the world ever listened to this record and most of them lived on communes in the North Woods. I have no idea why this record floated into my parents’ staid suburban home (I blame their hippy siblings), but I loved it. Had no idea what any of it meant, but I loved it (and her hair).
2. Another long-haired hippy chick: Joan Baez. Yeah. I was seven. Do the math. At least I’m not as old as she is. I played the grooves off this thing (grooves are things that used to exist on things called records, for those youngsters in the reading audience). She sang one of my favorite songs, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” on “The Midnight Special” — which I wasn’t old enough to stay up and watch. So nice of youtube to allow me youth’s forbidden fruit.
3. My growing-up summers were spent in Northern Michigan–not on a commune, except I guess in a way it was: one house, four aunts, twenty cousins, a lot of wine-in-a-box. For a while we had a record player at the house (this was a big deal, given that there was no television–or at least not until my grandparents wanted to stay abreast of the Watergate hearings). Of course, we had a record player and only one record. Or at least, I only remember one record, which played pretty much continuously for about ten years.
When he died, my mom cried. It was the first time I realized that singers and famous people were real–and thus, mortal.
4. The first real “rock-n-roll” song I ever knew the words to was “Black Betty,” and I wish I could say it was the original Leadbelly tune. But no. It was the of-course-you-remember-them Ram Jam. 1977. Bad era for hair, male and female; I was in sixth grade and miserable. But oh that Black Betty. I felt so cool knowing the words–and knowing that they were somehow inappropriate. Much the same way that Caleb now wiggles around to Kesha’s “Tick Tock” and in-between saying he wants to “wake up like P Diddy” says “what’s a P Diddy?”
5. High school. The early 1980s. I went to highschool in the same town that spawned Cheap Trick, so “Surrender” might as way serve for at least some of those dark years.
6. I took Latin for all four years of high school; three years of French; AP English, History, Economics…and dated boys who thought that the pinnacle of culture–and a good birthday present–would be tickets to see these guys play together.
Yes. That is Ozzy Osbourne, pre-lovable-reality-TV-dad and more a bite-the-head-off-bats kind of guy. One of those hairdos belongs to Randy Rhoads, an apparently awesome guitarist (this fact was lost on me), who died a little while after we saw him in concert. When I was first teaching high school and trying to corral a class of mainstreamed special ed kids (including a boy named Tony who was about a foot taller and seventy pounds heavier than me, and was on his second tour of 9th grade), I told them that I saw Randy Rhoads play before he died. They were like totally impressed.
7. I escaped high school with my life, barely, and hightailed it to college. Women’s college, New England…yep. There was a lot of Joni Mitchell, clove cigarettes, and Indian patterned skirts. And Joan. Not to be confused with Joni. Joan made us stand up and sing, jump around, hug each other and swear to be friends forever. Joan made us love ourselves and our padded-shoulder outfits and our permed hair and our pointy faux-jazz shoes. This is not the soft R&B smoochy smoochy Beyonce song. This is ME MYSELF I. Loud and dancing.
8. God, college. The endless packs of cigarettes, cups of coffee, conversations about all of it, and occasional studying. There was some Marshall Crenshaw, “Someday, Someway,” a lot of Elvis Costello, and a little Boston band called the Del Fuegos. We all had a crush on the lead singer, then forgot about him…and then he surfaced in our lives, decades later. You probably know him too. Heck, maybe you even have a crush on him now. And that would be fine. Whatever gets you through the morning. Yes, that would be Dan Zanes, he of the wacko hairdo and funky kids music:
9. Let’s fast-forward, shall we ? Skip over the Sinead O’Connor, The Cure, U2, Bruuuuuce. Let’s zoom past high-school teaching, bad break-ups, graduate school, even worse break-ups, then happiness, a soul-mate, and then…children and the particular brand of hell known as:
Even looking at this makes me break out in a rash. Although OMG did you hear? They fired the yellow wiggle. Out. Bam. On his daughter’s birthday, no less. Doesn’t seem very Wiggle-worthy, does it?
10. And now? All these years and records music later? Well. We’ve been singing along to Adele in the car, and the boys dance around to crap music like Kesha and Katy Perry. I thought maybe the song for now should be the Talking Heads’ “Road to Nowhere,” but that’s gloomier than I actually feel; and then I thought maybe “Once in a Lifetime,” but that’s pretty gloomy too. So I think my song for right now will be the song that makes me heave into a trot on the treadmill these days: “The Cave” by Mumford and Sons. Here’s a clip of them playing at last year’s Grammys.
What can I say? I’m a sucker for a well-played banjo, a strong rhythm section and a soupcon of brass. I guess I’ve come full circle (or not moved at all): toddler-sized folkie to middle-aged hippie with earrings too long for her age. Ah well.
So that’s it. A sound track for the life thus far. Now ‘scuse me while I go dance around a bit.