Music has always been a part of my life. My father can play a few different instruments: the guitar, harmonica, violin, and even a bit of the accordion. Some of my earliest memories are of him playing his guitar and singing ‘this land is my land.’ Both of my parents share a passion for The Kinks, The Beatles, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, etc. and their music collection was seriously stacked. I remember discovering the cabinet that held my dad’s records and CDs and learning how to use the record player (put the pin down ever so softly), CD player (don’t force the drawer closed), and speaker system (my dad is a firm believer in sound quality and so the sub woofer, amps, and balance were vital to his sweet set up). Honestly, I have to give my folks credit for letting me and my grubby kid hands have full access to their music and not flipping out when I listened to their Graceland CD so many times that it stopped working.
I loved the well worn records that smelled like old books but I was a glutton for the shiny CD jewel cases with their glossy inserts. The inserts were my holy grail because more often than not THE LYRICS WERE IN THERE! In order for me to feel fully connected to a song I have to be able to sing along. So naturally I employed a heavy combination of reading along and playing songs or entire albums on repeat ad nauseum. The notion that a song I love (or any media really) could get “played out” just has never really resonated with me. Sometimes I’m just in the mood for one song all day long. I recently listened to The Only Living Boy in New York on repeat for an entire days worth of commuting/time spent in transit and it felt so right. I can’t help it, I know what I like and I REALLY LIKE WHAT I LIKE! It goes for movies (try to guess how many times I’ve seen Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince), books (its almost embarrassing how often I re-read Confessions of a Shopaholic), clothing (why wouldn’t you want a shirt that fits perfectly in every color available in your size?!), food (my longest phase in recent months lasted from November to March when I ate the roasted chicken wrap from dirty bird for lunch at least 3 times a week), and even people (if I like you, I love you and I REALLY LOVE YOU). It’s not that I am afraid of trying new things, I just like the things I like so hard that I can’t give them a rest until I’m good and ready.
As a kid I would just spend hours listening and singing along to my parents music in the living room. I choreographed dances in the foyer to the show tunes (It’s A Hard Knock Life was my best work for sure) and sat calmly and introspectively on our big green couch during the sad songs on The Big Chill soundtrack. But as puberty and middle school appeared on the horizon it became clear to me that I needed to be able to listen to music in the privacy of my own room and alas, for my 11th birthday I got a 3-disc CD player. It was a sick radio, tape, and cd playing combo. I probably made a hundred mix tapes on that thing maybe more I don’t know, I have never been good at quantifying things.
Middle school was weird and hard for me emotionally, my family life took a turn for the shits, I grew all tall and awkward (4 inches in one summer!), lit our house on fire, got hit by a car, and was still being forced against my will to attend Hebrew school. All in all, it was a big mess. I listened to a lot of different music then but the biggest, most important music to me during that time was by far They Might Be Giants. I could not get enough of them. I even made mix tapes of Flood and John Henry that had the same songs as the actual albums but in the order I preferred to listen to them in so that I didn’t have to dilly about fast forwarding and rewinding with my dope yellow Walkman. My version of John Henry started with I Should Be Allowed to Think and ended with Thermostat; Flood kicked off with Minimum Wage and ended with the Theme from Flood.
I recently started listening to They Might Be Giants again after a long, long hiatus. I’m not sure why I stopped but because I did all of the songs transport me back to that time in a way that feels truly profound. Listening to them (non-stop as I have been for the past month) has brought back memories of even the smallest details from that time. I swear I can smell the peach perfume oil from The Body Shop that I wore and see the Doc Marten Mary Janes on my feet when Your Racist Friend starts playing. If that isn’t traveling through time then I don’t know what is.