Music in Words

Not so recently – quite a while back, actually – someone dear to me made a special request. The request was, essentially, for a “mix tape” deluxe. She wanted the meaningful songs from my life along with blurbs about why they were important to me. A long time later, I have finally gotten around to finishing this little project. There are 16 songs on the disc, whittled down from many more than that, and they represent important songs or albums until I was about 20 or 21. I suppose the latter half of my life will have to wait for another volume – and there will need to be volume 3 in order to cover the punk rock phase, of course. What was interesting in the process of writing the so-called blurbs, most of which are more like mini essays, was the ineffable quality of what draws us to music. Why this song or album or artist and not another? In some cases, it was so difficult to capture that I talked instead about the memories or associations with the song. And in the case of many, that really is exactly what continues to keep the song vibrating in a special place for me. In the process of creating this CD, I have started to think how great it would be to collect narratives from all different kinds of people about the songs that are special to them and what makes them so. For, I think when we try to put our love of music into words, what we’re really talking about is something much larger: life, identity, love, memory, self.  

So, I propose to share a sample from my CD in the hopes that I may get a few back from you guys, either publicly or privately. Feel free to shift it in any way that’s meaningful for you – it could be about a band, an artist, a concert experience, etc. It would be very coooooool to start my collection right here! And here’s my sample – definitely one of the fonder memories elicited by this process:

Hurts So Good, by John Cougar. Summer of 1982. Bike trip. Jill Shepard. Oh, man! Ok, it wasn’t only with Jill, but it may as well have been for all I paid attention to anyone else. In fact, I can’t even remember anyone else who was on that damn trip! Jill and I worked at the Triple-R Ranch. I taught horse-back riding, but I can’t remember what she did. Over that summer, we developed a fake kiss that apparently looked like a real kiss, and we reveled in showing it to people. We did a long, exaggeratedly “sexual” approach to one another. She would say, “Je t’aime beaucoup” in her best husky voice, and I would reply, “Je t’aime aussi.” And then we would move into the fake kiss. That little piece of performance art got us both kicked off the ranch for a whole week when Don, the Director, caught us doing it near a group of campers (those ranch folks were/are southern Baptists). In the summer of 1982, the powers that be decided to take some of us on a bike trip; it was only to Nags Head and back, but they devised a long route that took us a week roundtrip. I was 14 years old. Jill had recently become my best friend, and each of us would only go if the other went.

We went. There were rules against every damn thing on that trip, and all of the great times we had during the week happened because we broke at least one rule. I remember suppressing belly laughs in our tent late into the night, sneaking out one night to swim in a lake, sneaking out another night to meet some boys to watch a lunar eclipse, getting gnats stuck all over us riding over a bridge after having applied tanning oil, and playing “Hurts So Good” at least a dozen times at every juke box along the way. It was only a week. But in my memory it lasted the whole summer long.

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