My Life in Music
Track 1: American Pie by Don McClean. I can hardly recall a time when I didn’t know all the words to this song, even though I wasn’t sure what a lot of them meant. Many a time, the song emanated from the speakers of my parents’ stereo while I sang along, wondering what the heck a levee was, how someone could drink rye (bread?), and what any of this had to do with pie. Nevertheless, I sang it and continue to sing with a strange combination of sorrow and glee that the song evokes in me.
Track 2: Puff the Magic Dragon by Peter, Paul, and Mary. We all know the marijuana references associated with this song, but let’s forget those for a moment. The fact is, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with this song for most of my life. On one hand, it’s a sweet, fantastical tune about a magical land. On the other hand, I can’t help but tear up when it gets to the part about how little Jackie Paper never came back and Puff was so sad. What kind of a jerkface abandons his best friend like that? Screw Jackie Paper! I’ll go frolic in Honah Lee with Puff any day!
Track 3: Tomorrow from the soundtrack to Annie. It’s no small miracle that I didn’t drive my family completely off the deep end by repeatedly playing this song (and I mean over and over and over and over) and belting it out at the top of my lungs. I was convinced that I was destined to play Annie on stage. After all, I had red hair. Never mind that I had more than a little trouble staying in tune. I was going to be a star!
Track 4: Jack and Diane by John Cougar. When I first heard this song, the age of sixteen seemed such a long way off, but before I knew it, I was singing this song with my college friends, changing the words to, “Hold onto nineteen…” We mused that some day, we’d all be together singing, “Hold onto ninety-five as long as you can. Changes comin’ ‘round real soon make us dead.”
Track 5: Money for Nothing by Dire Straits. Aside from having a totally kickass intro guitar riff and one of the most memorable videos ever, this song hearkens back to a time that no members of the MTV generation will ever forget. Live Aid seemingly brought the world together. Madonna was like a virgin. Michael J. Fox went back to the future. The Breakfast Club kids challenged stereotypes, and MTV actually played music videos.
Track 6: Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want by The Smiths. Never has there been a more perfect band or a more perfect song for wallowing in teen angst. No one understood me, my problems seemed bigger than anything else in the world, and I was certain that I was the first person in the world to ever feel that way…just like every other teenager since time began.
Track 7: Head Like a Hole by Nine Inch Nails. More teenage emotion, but this time it’s venting instead of wallowing. There’s nothing like driving too fast while blasting this song when you’re seventeen and having boy troubles.
Track 8: Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana. Maybe it’s cliché, and as a whole, I think Nirvana was a tad overrated, but I can’t deny this song a place on my soundtrack. It takes me back to a time when, after years of enduring cheesy, inane, hair metal, music seemed exciting again. As I stood on the cusp between childhood and adulthood, it seemed to me that popular music was experiencing a coming of age right along with me.
Track 9: What I Got by Sublime. Really, how can you argue with, “Life is too short, so love the one you got ‘cause you might get run over or you might get shot”?
Track 10: Moonlight Serenade by the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Warning: I’m going to get a bit sappy for a moment. My husband and I danced our first dance to this dreamy number on our wedding day. He didn’t have a whole lot of opinions during the wedding-planning process, but he did pick this tune. Sometimes, we put it on and dance in our living room like it’s our wedding day, and I hope we’ll be doing that for many years to come.
Track 11: Move Any Mountain by The Shamen. In the movie of my life, this song will be played during a super inspirational montage depicting me overcoming all sorts of obstacles and getting lots of important shit done: getting my master’s degree, kicking that low-life boyfriend to the curb, running my first 5K race, publishing the Great American Novel, ending world hunger, curing cancer, and finally cleaning out my junk drawer.
Track 12: Go, Cubs, Go! by Steve Goodman. They break my heart again and again, but I just can’t quit them.
Track 13: Paperback Writer by The Beatles. I have a steady job, but I want to be a paperback writer. Enough said.
Additional volumes are forthcoming. Stay tuned.
© 2011 Elizabeth Barton