Monday, August 9, 2010

Early Exposure: A Favor She May Not Even Know She Bestowed

I have a library in my head.

Now, don't be impressed -- it's fairly useless, poorly catalogued, and quite dusty in many areas. And ... it's comprised almost entirely of pop culture.

I am fully aware the day will likely never come wherein I save a busload of people from careening down a fiery ravine because I know that a meatball sub is Joey Tribbiani's favorite sandwich. I've accepted that. (Except, theoretically, during a particularly long, boring drive with no battery in the ol' iPod or discernable radio stations available. What? Boredom gives license to a vivid imagination.)

Where was I going with this? Oh, right ....

OK, so I know having useless trivial knowledge is, well ... generally useless, but a giant portion of this obscure wisdom falls firmly into the "music" class; a subject I could discuss endlessly.

I've been giving a lot of thought lately to the ideas I have, the beliefs I hold and the values I operate under. Not just what they are, but where they came from. Often, it traces back to my childhood, but sometimes all the way into my adolescent and teen years. For example, my disdain of the sight and even smell of black olives can be tied directly to a time of extreme economic challenge for my family, and my mother's inventiveness in creating something to fill our bellies with the waning contents of the pantry. Also, to this day, I'll let pretty much anyone lotion my feet because it was something my mother did to express love. Ah! And I just thought of another one -- I have a preternatural affinity for the Hoover Dam. "Whuh ..." you ask? Wait, wait, I totally know this one ... it's because for a great deal of my childhood, we had to cross the Dam to get to my grandmother's house. See? It all traces back.

And here we are at the subject for posting: music.

I was a seriously nerdy 7th grader, and my older sister, J., had just moved out of the family home. (In a bold and striking statement of independence, she moved into her friend's house next door.) It was a Saturday afternoon and I was rearranging our previously-shared space to be mine, ALL MINE. (BwuwahahaHA!)

Among her leavings was a putty-colored audio cassette displaying the K-Tel logo, provocatively proclaiming, " Danger: High Voltage".

"My God," I thought, my heart racing. What could possibly be on this tape? Profanity? Sexual references? Cold War secrets chanted by mysterious pop stars? I didn't care how naughty it was, I instinctively knew my world was about to expand and by gum, I was IN.

Practically tripping over myself to find a tape player, I settled in among the upheaval that can only happen in the room of two teenage girls and had myself a listen.

What I heard not only expanded my little universe, but flat-out ROCKED it.

Up to this point, my musical tastes mirrored that of my parents': Neil Diamond (rule #1: thou shall not disparage Mr. Diamond), Marty Robbins, The Statler Brothers, Jim Croce, James Taylor and anything that hit the folk charts in the 70's. A few years prior, J. had begun her high-school career as a pom-pon girl and because of that I'd heard a little bit of Prince, Madonna and The Go-Go's--the danceable pop one needs for a proper eight-count.

But this, well this was different. A few of these songs had something more. My heart beat faster, my head nodded almost on it's own accord and my toes took on a tapping life of their own accord. A discernable baseline, real drums up front, sometimes a throaty guitar and all in your face with a notable lack of well, sheer popiness.

Before you get your pop panties in a wad, let me just say that I LOVE me some pop: N'Sync, Britney, Huey Lewis AND his News, Wham!, the Material Girl; I love it all, but there was something about rock that dug deep and sunk in its claws. And I've never asked it to leave. Ah, who are we kidding? I still seek it out.

That one cassette was the nexus of a love that's gotten me up in the morning, bonded me with complete strangers in concert venues, pulled me through scores of relationships and turned into lullabies for a cranky infant some eighteen years past. (What? Hasn't everybody rocked an angry, crying, raisin while softly singing Kiss', "Beth" at two o'clock in the morning? Don't knock it--'worked like a CHARM.)

Over the next few years, before she moved to Europe with the military, J. left musical droppings for me pretty frequently. Bad Company (Val-uh-REEE!), Journey and Foreigner completed the base for a multi-layered, cross-generational catalog of songs and memories that still and will, I hope, forever pluck a visceral chord deep inside of me. And always, always, take me back to being a young teenage girl in Mohave County, Arizona.

Raise your coffee cups for a toast, y'all:

To Julia -- for forgetting music so I may play it loud.

Rock. On.

1 comment:

wearethejohnsons said...

You make me wish I had a big sister. Wow. Julia is lucky. You are both lucky. (And, "Ah, yes. Beth.")