Tuesday, September 29, 2009

History: The Musical

I wrote ten pages yesterday to Paul Simon's Graceland. I was vaguely aware of this album when it first came out back in the late 80s--I spent as much time as anyone else back then bopping along to the radio as he sang, "You can call...meeee...Al..." But it wasn't a pivotal landmark of time and place for me, the way it was for some folks.

My pivotal landmarks are far more embarrassing, but it's all coming out now that I'm writing a novel and need to imagine characters in earlier parts of their lives. And I'm finding an eclectic playlist as I take this little jaunt down memory lane.

I started listening to romantic music with themes of love & loss as soon as I was old enough to spin the dial on my Dad's beat up old radio. So far before I had any idea what I was singing or what it meant to be "lost in love," lyrics by Styx, Air Supply, and Journey filled the room as I belted them out into my hairbrush. They mixed in with the tunes from the Grateful Dead and Crosby, Stills & Nash drifting out from under my brothers' bedroom door, and my parents' steady rotation of The Captain & Tennille, Tony Orlando & Dawn, and the Mamas & The Papas. (To this day, I equate having an ampersand in your name with musical success of a certain sort...)

Eventually, I moved on to REM and INXS...even an embarrassing phase with A Flock of Seagulls. And I'm not sure how it happened, but I know every word to every song on at least two different albums by The Who.

When I read Jancee Dunn's novel, Don't You Forget About Me, I realized how powerful songs can be in acclimating a reader to a certain time and place. So that's what I'm trying to do. It's fun, and embarrassing, and dredging up all sorts of random memories I'm not sure what to do with. So I'm trying to capture it on paper, seeing what sort of scenes result that I probably wouldn't have come up with except for this infusion of musical memory.

How about you--what are your musical landmarks?

6 comments:

Gretchen said...

I have a few, but the one that comes up pretty specifically is "Take My Breath Away" by Heart. It came out via Top Gun just as my dad was getting ready to marry my stepmom, and he happened to live in Florida. I remember hearing it on the radio the night before they got married, and the windows were open and you could smell the oranges in the grove next to the apartment complex where he lived. Pretty romantic!

Trish's sister said...

You have completely (and conveniently) omitted from your musical history our deep 70's fascination with Shaun Cassidy, Leif Garrett, ABBA, and everyone who ever slapped a track onto a K-Tel album...followed by the early 80's fixation with the Go-Gos and Pat Benatar. These experiences were rich and life-changing and cannot be ignored!

julia_maranan said...

Early: Somewhere over the Rainbow. Early adolescence: Debbie Gibson. Late adolescence: Indigo Girls and all manner of Christian rock, from Petra to Guardian to DC Talk. College: Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan. Post-college: Caedmon's Call and Nichole Nordeman. Now: anything you can sing along with!

Trish Ryan said...

Sister, you are not wrong! I can't believe I forgot those valuable chapters in our personal evolution that made me who I am today!

Dancing Queen, We Got The Beat, We Live For Love...it's like a musical resume!

I stand corrected :)

LEstes65 said...

The Guess Who & The Beatles define elementary school me. Toss in some Ted Nugent, The Who and Deep Purple and that'll take care of the 60's & 70's. (Can you tell I had older siblings?) The 80's were all about The Police (thanks to my sister), Cheap Trick, Journey, Pat Benetar and (oddly) The Doors. Thankfully, in 1984, I hooked up with musicians at college that introduced me to Joni Mitchell and Rickie Lee Jones. That dominated me until the early 90's. From there, I was all over the place. But certain albums from REM or Gang of Four immediately transport me back to college. Also, Depeche Mode and U2. The late 90's were all dominated by friends' bands in Boston - The Bags, The Zulus, Bim Skala Bim, Hullabaloo, Concussion Ensemble. And all the while, working on my Chick Collection. Which is more prolific than any of my other collections combined.

Melanie said...

I realize I might run a few years behind some of you, but here's what I've got. Adolescence was Bryan Adams and Chicago mixed with NSYNC. What?! And NSYNC carried into college. But then I got exposed to U2, REM, Coldplay, and Weezer. Christian music always made it's way into my life...Caedmon's Call, Jars of Clay, and Jennifer Knapp are still favorites. Did you hear that Jennifer Knapp is going to record again? I'm excited. :)