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April 25, 2004

A Largehearted Girl's Music Chronicles

My wife has been working on her personal music history... here it is:

Music has been a part of my life from as far back as I can remember. Hearing a song can transport me back to a time, place, event, or people that I've known. In fact, I'm able to define pretty closely what was happening in my life by the music I heard at that specific time.

In the late 60's my musical taste was influenced by the music of my oldest sister(ten years my senior). This music, despite its often adult content, brings me back to a time of innocence and lightness of being. On the radio there was "Incense and Peppermint" and "Wendy," which I always thought should have been the opening music to the Mary Tyler Moore Show. On my sister's record player were The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Three Dog Night, The Doors, Simon and Garfunkel and The Monkees. I used to watch the Monkees' show on Saturday mornings. Being the youngest of four girls left me with the last choice for picking my favorite boy in the band, so I got stuck with Peter Tork, whom I considered a redhead (which automatically took him out of the running as a heartthrob for me). My unfortunate birth order also left me in last place for picking a favorite Beatle, but lucky for me, I was left Ringo Starr (who was my first choice because he had kind-looking eyes).

Growing up in a small city in the south in 70's did not afford us much musical variety. We had a radio alarm clock on the night stand between me and my sister's bed. It was always tuned to WKIX because that was the only "good" station on the AM dial. It was the beginning of disco, notably KC and the Sunshine Band, and heavy metal, such as KISS and Alice Cooper. I remember songs like "Rock The Boat" from my early school days. Many mornings I awoke to Elton John or Olivia Newton John (I thought they were related). There were Captain and Tennille and Peaches and Herb. There were "The Streak" and "A Boy Named Sue." All of these songs, whether I like them or not, I know by heart because repetition was the order of the day and our choices were few.

My next oldest sister (by six years) went a little bit country. Linda Ronstadt, Gordon Lightfoot, and Jim Croce were on her turntable. She liked disco, too. She took a bit of a tangent with Frampton Comes Alive, but she enjoyed learning all the steps to the latest dance club hits, her bellbottoms swishing against each other as she practiced her moves.

Next in my life, album rock finally hit the airwaves and FM was the newest thing. I was a little late coming around to that. Not being particularly popular, I was out of the loop as to what was hip and cool. WKIX was dosing out huge quantities of The Bee Gees and all kinds of love songs with conflicting messages that I'm sure to this day is what drove me to therapy.

Thank goodness for high school because by that time I was reevaluating music I had heard in my early childhood. Led Zeppelin was my favorite band. I had all their albums. Then John Bonham died. I still had the Rolling Stones, The Who and Pink Floyd to explore along with more contemporary bands like ACDC and Van Halen. My sister and I were no longer sharing a room, which was a good thing, because she was way into Bob Dylan, and, I'm sorry, but that man can't sing. She was also into other folk artists, Arlo Guthrie and Joni Mitchell.

Punk was starting to make some headway into America, but it came late to my town, like everything else did, it seemed to me. I remember The Knack, Blondie and Elvis Costello interspersed with my classic rock. As we were graduating high school, my science lab partner suggested I check out The Sex Pistols. I'm sorry to say I never did.

The beginning of college afforded me a complete break from classic rock which had become tiresome to my ear. I was looking for something new, and the new wave filled that niche. The Police released their second album and a band from Australia, Men at Work, was being played relentlessly on the radio. Every time I drove to my boyfriend's house, "Be Good Johnny" was on the radio. It was time to install a tape player.

My first boyfriend turned me on to The Pretenders, The Motels, and The Waitresses. "Bad Boys Get Spanked" made me laugh and I decided that any music that made me laugh was okay by me. It explains some of the odd musical choices I would make in the future. Billy Idol made me laugh, so I liked him, too.

I spent way too much time at a dive of a dance club ignoring much of meat-market aspect of it and enjoying the danceability of music like The Ramones, the B-52's, Romeo Void, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and the Violent Femmes. It was around this time that I started the art program at a nearby community college. My carpool buddies liked UB40, U2 and Talking Heads. I saw my first Dead Kennedys concert and lost some measure of my hearing. I enrolled in a university art program later in the Appalachian mountains and was cut off from all television and radio during that time, so I relied on my fellow students for musical stimulation. Laurie Anderson became a favorite, along with the Eurythmics. I was also subjected to George Micheal and a soft jazz genre favored by a dollmaker with whom I was employed.

My first job out of college landed me into the noisy bustle of Washington, DC. Those early days I played cultural catch-up discovering Edie Brickell and Tracy Chapman, though I've never been a huge folk fan. Fine Young Cannibals brings to mind a business trip to NYC for a photo shoot. Roxy Music's Avalon was on the turntable throughout much of the figural painting series pictured at left on my About Me page. The B52s released "Love Shack." My boss got tired of the Glenn Miller and Patsy Cline I was playing at the office and bought me several tapes of Squeeze.

A particularly rocky relationship left me on the brink of sanity and the incessant Michael Bolton music at work tipped me over the edge. I hate Michael Bolton (sorry man, nothing personal). Depeche Mode was also thick in the air at that time. Only the alternative radio station at home lent me my sanity back. Thank goodness for grunge. Suddenly all kinds of new bands were playing sounds from the sixties and seventies. My art school critiquing skills, I found, applied to music, as well. I remember the critique question "Who are your influences?" and here they were so easy to pick out of the music. Green Day and Nirvana and Pearl Jam were the order of the day. Beck, well, he made me laugh. And then there were the female artist: Breeders, Liz Phair, Sarah McLaughlin, and Veruca Salt all lent voice to a feminine side of music that made me proud.

I left Washington and moved to Alabama where I met the Largehearted Boy. When I heard he didn't care for Bruce Springsteen I knew I'd found a kindred spirit. His influence enhanced my depth of appreciation for Liz Phair and Kim Deal. I also was introduced to Guided By Voices and the whole Indie scene. It was a love match. I trust his taste in music so completely that I let him "man" the radio. Though I don't always agree with his choices, I'm never short of new music because he's always ferreting out new material.

During and after massage school, I decided to educate myself some on classical music, hence the professional library of classical music for relaxation. The romantic style is mostly to my tastes, at least for purposes of work.

Returning to the south after school, Largehearted Boy took me to my first GBV show. It had been years since I'd seen a live band in a small venue. I couldn't believe how excited I was, the energy of the band was palpable. We've been to other shows, but that first one was, for me, the most exciting and memorable. Now another band helps me appreciate my southern upbringing, Drive-By Truckers. They remind me of boys I grew up and went to school with but wouldn't date 'cause they'd get you in trouble. I'm still rather fond of them anyway.

Beware if you venture into north Alabama, the girl singing along to all the canned muzak in the supermarket and mall may be the Largehearted Girl taking a tour down memory lane.

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