Soundtrack to your life

Songs of the Week

I was in Vega$ with my Dad and brothers. As soon as my brother Greg and I got off the plane we noticed a faint odor which reminded us both of our Grandpa Ed’s basement. Greg remarked that the sense of smell is the most powerful in bringing back memories. I think another which rivals it is sound, especially for me, a particular song. Songs transport me to times and places just as well. So I try to chronicle the soundtrack to my life.

Marquette U., Milwaukee:

I’m a freshman in college. My friend Kyle and I kept a record of our favorite songs each week by writing them down as our Song of the Week on Sunday nights. Sometimes we had playoffs to see which would win. Later we would fill mixtapes with the week’s winners. By the end of the year we would have our favorite artists, albums, and songs. We kept this up through college. We were precursors to the obsessives in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. The tapes were as powerful as a journal. The songs brought back memories of parties, women, friends, seasons, places, etc. Many of them don’t stand the test of time, though some of the artists that still sound good to me are Paul Westerberg, The Beautiful South, and Poi Dog Pondering to name a few standouts.

After college, I didn’t keep track of the Songs of the Week as well when living in New York or L.A. There was a resurgence of a sort upon wooing my future wife with long distance mixtapes. Things picked up again for the now fabled Song of the Week with the advent of CD burning, MP3s, and later iPods. It became fun to fill folders with the favorite songs/MP3s and make year end compilation CDs for friends and family. (Hey, if you make one, too, let’s trade.) The year end mix thing is still in effect. The last couple years I even tried to keep track of a favorite Song of the Day. If one really grabs me now, I’ll try to make a note of it here in the blog, but I find more time to just do the one a week again these days (see toddler/infant talk below). It’s helpful to file them in a music folder and be ready to make the next friend’s birthday or party mix.

I’m acutely atuned to the music playing wherever I am, sometimes to the point of distraction. I’ve been called a music nerd, or worse, music snob. It seems the more popular something is, the less I like it. This is not always true, but as Morrissey sang, “we hate it when our friends become successful.”

Nothing fires me up more than a great song. Back in my improv comedy days we used songs to get the audience ready. Now I use them to get myself fired up before taking the stage for my book club theater gig or going out to a party. There’s three tests for a song: loud on a good stereo, in the car, and headphones. Not everything sounds good on all three. A song can give me chills (“a chill song” I call it), raise my energy, lift my mood or bring me down and make me well up.

There’s a clipped quote taped to my turntable:

“Sometimes all that you need in life is a good pop song to make your day go better.”

Too often, I think people forget to listen to music, really listen. They use the TV as background instead or they think they are too busy. I understand, with two young kids, but you’d be surprised what joys you can find. I guarantee you’d thrill to the memory of dancing to The White Stripes (hey, a “popular” band!) with your kids more than watching a Disney movie with them. Turn it on again.

I hope you understand a little more about why I can’t stop talking about music even if it is like dancing about architecture. Next time you have a new (or old) favorite song, tell me about it. I’ll be doing the same.


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1 Comment

Filed under Music, writing

One response to “Soundtrack to your life

  1. I hear you: my son, George (3), and I were rocking out to Medeski, Martin & Wood’s “Let’s Go Everywhere” just this afternoon. We watch plenty of videos, too, of course (“My Neighbor Totoro” is in heavy rotation at the moment); but, you’re right about enjoying some tunes with your kids. Dancing around like crazy people to music we’re both really in to… that’s the stuff dreams are made of.

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