Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Music To My Ears

(Awesomeness awaits at the end of this post - I promise!)

This week, I innocently created a new station on Pandora radio titled ‘Pearl Jam.’ Nothing notable about it . . . or so I thought. But within an hour or so, it was clear that the music geniuses that create the play lists had somehow managed to raid my mixed tape collection from high school, essentially creating a soundtrack to my past.
I am so not kidding.
There I was, a thirty-something adult driving a respectable sedan to my respectable day-job one minute, and the next I was the sixteen-year-old girl I had been half a lifetime ago, zipping around in my ancient Mazda GLC. Back then, the windows would be rolled down in deference to the scorching Kentucky summer heat, while the synthetic gray lambswool seat covers stuck to my legs and my hair whipped around my face. Headed to the pool for my lifeguard job, to meet my friends at the Dairy Queen for an oreo blizzard, or just enjoying my first real taste of freedom; I went wherever the wind blew and the $4 in my gas tank would take me.
As the songs kept coming, so did the memories. To this day, I can’t hear a Smashing Pumpkins song without thinking of my husband when we were a couple of kids, hanging out in his parents’ basement. Back then, I was so dog gone in love with that boy, my every sense would be attuned to him as we sat inches apart on the cool leather couch, pretending to watch a movie on his state of the art big screen TV.
I remember riding in my friend Becky’s teal Mustang convertible, a pair of girls ready to experience all the world had to offer as we shouted along with the blaring radio.  There were boys, a few parties, and the occasional trip to the lake.  It was those trips that reveal to me everything that I would eventually want out of life: living on the water, good friends to share a meal and a laugh with, and of course Kirk, my future husband. Sitting on the dock at dusk, listening to the frogs and crickets as lightening bugs emerged for their daily dance while soft music filtered from beneath the boat cover—to this day there are few things that make me happier.
In those days, I looked to the future and wondered what it held for me. As water lapped at the boats and dusk descended, I’d lay back and envision the years ahead. It was always murky, like shadowy figures through a fogged window, taunting me with its nearness and the shear vastness of possibilities.
Now, as I listen to the songs of my youth - to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Stone Temple Pilots - I can’t help but smile. I’m in that perfect place in life when I have the luxury of looking back with happy nostalgia, while still being able to look forward with that same sense of wonder. Will the music I listen to today evoke that same ethereal sense of reminiscence? Will Adele come on the radio fifteen years from now, and make me shake my head in amazement at how it was when I first embarked on my writing career? Will the Zach Brown Band always remind me of that perfect moment in time when I first sold, and the world was my oyster?
I hope so. Music has a way of tugging the heartstrings like few things can. A whiff of an elusive scent or the taste of a long forgotten treat can have a similar effect, but I think music may be even better. It can embody a day, a year, or even a decade. It can define a period in our lives like nothing else, and it can forever sear a moment in our minds.
James Taylor will always make me think of the weekend I realized I was falling in love with my husband when we were seventeen. If The Devil Went Down To Georgia should ever come on the radio, I’ll think of me and my friend Jared on graduation night, karaoke-ing with the best of them. Sweet Home Alabama was playing on the tinny speakers of my husband’s old car the first time we said ‘I love you.’ I can’t hear Brown-Eyed Girl without thinking of Young Life, and all the fun times I had Wednesday nights when I was sixteen.
And now, thanks to my brother, I have a new song that will forever transport me to all the excitement, wonder, and strife that went along with writing my first book. Many of you have already heard the song (a free download here), but now that many of you have read or are reading my debut, I wonder – do you know what scene Andy was inspired by when he wrote the piano piece that accompanies MORE THAN A STRANGER?
Well, I’ve made a little music video, so to speak, to go along with the song. I hope you enjoy! And when you’ve finished watching it, I want to know: What song stands out most in your memories? When you think of high school, what music comes to mind?


  1. Oh, I'm a bit older than you, but three immediately jump to mind:

    Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" I was backing out of my mother's driveway in my 1964 Malibu with the half melted dashboard (the previous engine had caught fire) on my way to pick up my friend Anne for a day at Folly Beach.

    Queen's "We Will Rock You" the entire school body stomping out the beat on the bleachers in the gym after our basketball team won the state championship.

    This one seems a little sad, but really, it turned out to be a good thing, but it was 2am and I had gotten a phone call from the ER to pick up my ex who had been beaten up in a bar fight. (He was an alcoholic and drug addict and I was glad it wasn't the police calling), when I turned on the car, "Addicted to Love" was playing. It was the combination of the two that sparked something in me that said, "You can't do this anymore. You can't save him."

    So, I saved myself.

    And, in a side note, why is it that I can't write if there is talking (TV, radio, human in the room), but I can write while singing along with my favorite Pandora station - Joe Cocker?

    1. Ha - you know, Queen's sound will always put me in mind of pep rallies, lol. That song must be a part of half the world's population's consciousness ;)

      And that is rather a remarkable story about your ex. That takes a lot of moxy - good on ya, girl!

  2. Thriller was the first album my parents let me have so I always have fond memories of that song.

    Unfortunately, most of the 80s music doesn't bring back specific memories. I spent too many hours practicing classical music in symphonic band for 80s pop to stick.

    Richard Marx's Right Here Waiting reminds me of my first year of college and my first real boyfriend. Good and disappointing memories.

    1. I do have memories of dancing around the formal living room to the new Michael Jackson record when I was about four - one of my earliest memories, in fact!

      Interesting about the band practice - I never thought about how that might crowd out other music!

  3. Love this post! Great story, awesome video:)
    Ps. I too loved dancing in the formal living room on the silver carpet to the Thriller album...wonderful memory.

    1. We learned to let loose and dance early on, didn't we, sister mine? :)

  4. Great job with the video, EK! My earliest favorite songs were by Michael Jackson (Beat it), Prince (When the Doves Cry) and Stevie Wonder (Part Time Lover, lol…I loved that one). We are the World takes me straight back to 1985ish. In middle school, Aerosmith comes to mind, and in High School: Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Pumpkins, Green Day, et. al, as you mentioned. I also liked some rap. And folk. Anyway, how all this led me to classical piano, I'll never understand!