My Life Soundtrack

Today STM wrote a post about a playlist that would reflect her life, and I like the idea so much that I'm copying it here. It's also been a while since I wrote a really interesting post so hopefully this will fill that gaping hole in my blog. I listened to a lot of music while I was growing up and I feel bad that during the last few years I really don't listen to it much anymore. Most of the people in my family are 'music people' and I think I'm not. Maybe I'm just not relzxed enough anymore because the chaos of life with kids is usually just too much for me to handle without adding some background music to the mix. So there aren't really too many songs from the last five years or so, but here's the rest of my playlist:

Much of the music we listened to when I was a kid was country music. Old, classic country music. Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard, George Jones, etc. When I was very young we didn't have a television, but we had a record player and my parents had an extensive collection. It's hard to pick a song from this era because there were so many that are totally ingrained in my head. Like pretty much everything from Marty Robbins' Gunfighter Ballads album. I also loved going through the albums and looking at the covers; some of my favorites were "The Guitars that Ruled the World" (or something like that--it had giant guitars stepping on houses) and that Rolling Stones album that looked like a birthday cake made out of records. At night my parents would put us to bed and stay up listening to music while they talked or played games like dominos. For some reason I have many memories of lying in bed listening to the soundtrack to Coal Miner's Daughter. Now I know that it's actually Sissy Spacek and Beverly D'Angelo singing, but as a kid it didn't matter. I still have certain pictures in my head of a woman wandering around at night in the trees when I hear anyone sing "Walking After Midnight."

Track 1: "Walking After Midnight" by Patsy Cline

My parents subscribed to a lot of magazines, among them Mother Earth News. As a kid I read pretty much anything I could get my hands on and that included most of the magazines lying around. I saw an ad for an album by a group called Gentlemen Without Weapons thatcaught my eye; they didn't play instruments, but instead synthesized nature sounds to create music (it was the late '80s, OK?). The year I turned ten, I got my first 'boombox' for Christmas and my first cassette tape: Transmissions by Gentlemen Without Weapons. My sister still hates them and hates the album because I listened to it every night at bedtime for about a year. Their strident environmental messages reflect my budding eco-consciousness; when I was twelve I spent several months writing letters to political leaders about the importance of dolphin-safe tuna and I didn't stop wearing my air-brushed endangered species t-shirts until I went to college.

Track 2: "Unconditional Love (Planet Earth)" by Gentlemen Without Weapons

Every summer we went on road trips as a family, almost always to Utah and Wyoming to visit relatives. Sometimes I hated it, sometimes I loved it, but Wyoming still feels a bit like a second home to me. We listened to a lot of music in the car and there are some albums that just feel like road trip music to me. One of those is the album Will the Circle be Unbroken: Volume 2 by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (The Eagles and U2 are also perfect road trip music). The album is actually a collaboration by the band with a bunch of other contemporary country artists, and the folksy bluegrass always makes me think about driving around Wyoming with my family.

Track 3: "Lost River" by Nitty Gritty Dirtband with Michael Martin Murphey

I think most people I know would agree that junior high is pretty much the armpit of life. During seventh grade I got both glasses and braces, but failed to really go through puberty and was therefore resigned to being a geek for the rest of my life. Plus I went to gifted classes, wrote letters to Congress about saving the whales, and volunteered at the school library. I felt fairly comfortable in my geekiness, but secretly longed to be cool. Like my younger sister who had the right clothes, subscribed to Teen magazine (which I secretly read when she wasn't looking), and had New Kids on the Block posters instead of pictures of dolphins on the wall. Thankfully I could listen to her music because we shared a room and so I got my fill of cool stuff like Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Tiffany. Not to mention the nights I went roller skating at the Skate Palace and could really get down on the dance floor and forget for a little while just how nerdy I was.

Track 4: "Straight Up" by Paula Abdul

Another thing that happened when I was in seventh grade was the start of the Gulf War (the first one). My dad ended up being deployed to Saudia Arabia for six months due to his work as a contractor. When he got home he bought a new, bigger television as well as a new stereo system that included a cool new gadget: a CD player. We started watching a lot more movies at home with our new TV and VCR and for a while I really got into movie soundtracks. One of the first CDs I ever bought was the soundtrack to Spielberg's Empire of the Sun, mostly for the opening track with its soaring vocals (even thought I don't understand Welsh).

Track 5: "Suo Gan" from the Empire of the Sun soundtrack

My parents didn't always listen to country music and old-school rock. At some point they discovered reggae music as well and that became a big part of our family soundtrack. I have many memories of waking up to Bob Marley, which boomed through the house while my dad was getting ready for work. I loved the upbeat music and lyrics and have been a reggae fan ever since (try Jimmy Cliff for something fun and not quite so overplayed). I will admit to feeling a bit of smugness over the fact that I've been listening to Bob Marley long before he became cool, but I'm also not sure how long reggae has been 'in' so I probably don't need to be smug after all.

Track 6: "Three Little Birds" by Bob Marley

When I got to high school I finally discovered a group of equally geeky friends. We had a great time hanging out together after school, when we weren't at practice for Knowledge Bowl or Geography Bowl. In my community most of the available music was ranchero or hip hop, although my older brother supplied a steady stream of grunge and alternative for me to remain in the know with what white people listened to as well. Right about the time my brother discovered Tori Amos several of my friends did as well, and I fell in love with her too. In fact, I'm still completely in love with Little Earthquakes and have had a hard time getting into her later albums because every song is just rooted in my high school experience so deeply. I still need to figure out what happened to the Tori Amos piano book my friends gave me when I moved away my senior year.

Track 7: "Winter" by Tori Amos

My freshman year of college I went off to BYU and lived in Heritage Halls with five other girls. We all had different personalities but we generally got along quite well and I still keep in touch with most of them. It was a fun opportunity for me to really start relaxing and feeling like I could hang out with a variety of people; I'm still grateful to my roommates for their genuine friendship and the guidance they gave me on becoming more socially adept. We often had the radio in our kitchen on when we were home and it was usually tuned to B98.7, which played a general mix of 'pop favorites'. When we were feeling especially crazy we would get on our table and dance, almost always to "Red Red Wine" by UB40; one day the table suddenly crashed to the ground (we weren't on it at the time). We told maintenance that we had no idea why that had happened. I'm sure they'd heard that one before.

Track 8: "Red Red Wine" by UB40

I could probably create an entire playlist of U2 songs that would span my life and all have meaning. I love U2 and have been listening to them for years; Joshua Tree reminds me of road trips and lazy Sunday afternoons. My dad and I had always said for years that we would go to a concert together, and then they scheduled a concert in Salt Lake for my nineteenth birthday. My dad flew out to Utah and took me to see U2 in concert for my birthday. I'm embarrassed to admit that it's pretty much the only concert I've ever been to; I'm just not that cool. At least my only concert experience was a good one.

Track 9: "Even Better Than the Real Thing" by U2

Sometime during my sophomore year of college (or maybe the summer before) I went to a local store to sell some CDs in an attempt to make money and clean out my closet. While I was there they began playing an album by someone I hadn't heard before, but it was so amazing that I hung around the store just to listen to the whole thing. That was one of the few times I spontaneously bought an album by an artist I wasn't already totally familiar with. It was Fumbling Toward Ecstasy by Sarah McLachlan, and there was something about her haunting voice that spoke to a particularly angsty time in my life. Her songs on that album are all about failing to connect and bitterness in love and were the perfect thing for me to listen to on lonely Friday nights while doing my homework.

Track 10: "Possession" by Sarah McLachlan

To be fair, not all my Friday nights were lonely during my first few years of college. At the beginning of my freshman year I tried out for and made the College Bowl team. I'm still grateful for the chance I had to do something I love with such a great group of people. We spent a lot of weekends on trips to other campuses for competitions; sometimes we flew and sometimes we drove. Before my junior year the university cut our funding and decided that it didn't want to have a College Bowl team anymore, but we kept practicing and went to a few competitions by ourselves. That spring a few of us drove out to a competition at Berkeley, and while were there I took advantage of the fact that they had a Tower Records and used a gift certificate from Christmas to buy a few things. One of them was The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill; I wasn't a huge hip hop fan, but I liked her songs that I'd heard released on the radio and decided to get the album. We listened to it several times on the way back to Provo from Berkeley and I loved the entire thing. A few years later, after my mission, I found out that my album purchase had been serendipitous because a certain person who was pursuing me happened to love Lauryn Hill as well (and has jokingly stated that he asked me to marry him at least partially for the opportunity to own the album).

Track 11: "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" by Lauryn Hill

I took Italian classes for two years before my mission because I thought I was going to be an Art History major. Then I switched to English and I ended going on my mission to Spain so Italian kind of dropped out of the picture. I discovered in Spain that many of the same artists record in both Italy and Spain, since it's fairly easy to switch between the two languages and they can make more money that way. I heard many of the singers I'd discovered in Italian class singing in Spanish and I still haven't given up my (slightly embarrassing) love for Euro-pop. One of my favorite things to do in language classes is to sing along with pop music, but right now when I'm not teaching or taking classes I mostly sing along in my car (not when Mr. Fob is in the car because he teases me about it).

Track 12: "Strani Amori"/"Amores Extranos" by Laura Pausini

I'd better get to bed, but that's twelve songs that have reflected various periods of my life. It was a long post to write, but a lot of fun because I haven't thought about these things for a long time. I don't think I'm going to run out and buy the Gentlemen Without Weapons album but maybe I should track down some of this other stuff just for fun.


cool_guy said…
Wow - a nostalgic post for me - I'm sure I still have the "Gentlemen" cassette at home somwhere but I'm not sure it still works...

Good memories...

Thanks, Sweetie..
skyeJ said…
I didn't hate Gentlemen Without Weapons! I thought they were great. I didn't know you read about them in Mother Earth News, though.
Desmama said…
I'm afraid if I do this, everyone will laugh at my music even though, hey, I couldn't help what was on the radio in the eighties. It just chronicled my childhood. I'll have to think on it. :)
Fun post. Tori Amos is high school for me. I went jogging most nights listening to to her. Just thinking about it I can recall all those FEELINGS that I tried to cope with as I ran. I might have to copy you and make my own play list.
This was just so fun. I was hoping to start a playlist domino effect. Some of your songs bring back memories for me too. And, like you, many of the songs on my "life playlist" aren't really my favorites, they are just so period-defining. There is a Trisha Yearwood song that is called "The Song Remembers When" and how all of these memories of a breakup flood powerfully back just by catching a part of a song at a store. Isn't it true?

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I feel like I know you better now! Maybe, to a degree, we are all musical.

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