Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Soundtrack of My Childhood

I'm home sick today and it's gray and rainy in New York, so it seems like the perfect time to pass on the Oh My Blog award I got from TB over at Year 31. Blog awards, as I've mentioned before, are like chain letters passed from one blogger to another. I am always flattered when I get them, but fulfilling the "rules," which are usually the same (post 5 or 7 or 10 things about yourself) is really only fun once (and if you're already a blogger, posting inane things about yourself is what you do every day). That's why I'm so glad TB got creative. Her rules were to pick from a variety of challenges, like blogging drunk (um, been there, done that), taking a photo of yourself when you first wake up and posting it (no photo of me will ever be worse than this), writing about your most embarrassing moment (I have a whole list of them) or sharing the soundtrack of your childhood. I know I've shared with you my love for imagining fight sequences set to Ludacris songs, but my musical history goes deeper than that.

For example, when I was 4 years old, one of my favorite things to do was to dance around my living room to the soundtrack from The Big Chill (on cassette tape, naturally). My least favorite song was "A Whiter Shade of Pale," because it was slow and sad and talked about virgins. My most favorite song was definitely "Good Lovin'" by The Young Rascals. It is the stuff spastic underpants dance parties are made of.

(I didn't know they had a Pilgrim tambourine player, did you? What is going on here?)

Fun fact: Years later, I would finally watch The Big Chill expecting an energetic romp set to Motown classics. I would be depressed for weeks afterwards.

When I was ten, like every other girl in America, I purchased Madonna's Immaculate Collection, which I would listen to over and over on my Walkman, pretending I was performing for my entire elementary school. My favorite track was "Like a Prayer," because it required the most elaborate staging in my imaginary show. There was the gospel choir, obviously, who I generally hid behind a curtain until their big reveal a few minutes in, dressed in sparkling silver robes and making furious jazz hands. Then there was the lighting: it started with a single spotlight on me, but as the tempo picked up lasers got involved. And finally there was the question of a small platform that would rise up as the song reached its climax, lifting me above the gospel choir in all of my fifth grade splendor. (YouTube won't let me embed the video, but you know you want to watch it again.)

Sometimes I would practice singing "Like a Prayer" in my bedroom--practicing, I guess, for the day that the imaginary concert became real, as if my glee club teacher would turn to me out of the blue and say "You know what? Fuck Pablo the Reindeer. I want you to do a revue of Madonna's entire musical canon!" I used to tape record myself, and once the recorder caught a moment when my sister, then four, interrupted me. I yelled at her in perfect pitch, without stopping the song: "Life is a mystery--get out of my room!--everyone must stand alone..."

Summers of my youth were defined by Billy Joel's Storm Front album, which my parents always played during our annual vacations in Block Island, Rhode Island. I can't talk about my love for this album in front of Jeff, because he hates Billy Joel with the burning passion of a thousand suns.


Luckily I know all the lyrics to "We Didn't Start the Fire," and so can torment him easily whenever I want.

Puberty was all about early 90s rap and hip-hop (which offends Jeff only slightly less), and no song sticks in my memory more than "Informer" by white Canadian reggae rapper Snow (who, judging by this video, looks like Skippy from Family Ties if he had grown up to become a classics professor. WTF? I for one always imagined a badass Jamaican guy.)


There's a line in the song about where Snow comes from, but since he raps in what sounds like pig latin it's impossible to decipher. The general consensus in 7th grade was the he was "born and raised in Connecticut," although internet searches present alternative translations: "Etobicoke," which apparently is someplace in Toronto; and "the ghetto." Nowadays of course the question isn't "Where is he from?" but "Where did he go?" If this song is a clue, he is probably licking someone's boom boom down. 

This next one is kind of sad. My grandfather died when I was seventeen. He was my first major death but I couldn't cry--not when I heard, not at the wake, not at the funeral (In restrospect it didn't help that my great uncle made jokes throughout. When we lowered my grandfather's body into the ground, into one half of a shared plot reserved for his extremely Catholic spinster girlfriend, Uncle Jerry muttered, "Phil's finally gonna get laid by Claire.") Anyway, eight months later, packing for college, I finally cried. I was listening to, of all things, the soundtrack to Boogie Nights, and “Sister Christian” by Night Ranger came on. Something about the lyrics and the sad, slow melody flipped a switch and I started to sob, collapsing onto my half-packed suitcase. Now, whenever I listen to that song I well up, not just because of grandpa but also because fucking Night Ranger makes me cry, which is so incredibly lame.



Then of course came college and Liz Phair, Lauryn Hill, Radiohead and existential crises, but that's a blog for another day.

Now to pass this sucker on: To Owen The Man, Rock N' Roll Gourmet, and Mattitiyahu. I want to know your soundtracks. Rock N' Roll, you can do a cooking soundtrack if that's easier :)

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32 comments :

  1. Whoah whoah whoah.

    Sassy, if we as a society looked down upon those who welled up to "fucking Night Ranger," then everyone would feel badly about themselves and everyone else all the freaking time. Why?

    Because it's FUCKING NIGHT RANGER. And Sister Christian is one hell of a ballad.

    Fun fact: It was originally written for the lead singer's sister, Christy, who was graduating from college. He played it for the band, who misheard him and thought he said "Sister Christian" and not "Sister Christy," so the name stuck.

    Or it's about nuns getting high. Your call really. I tend to believe both.

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  2. OMG! I did the same thing with Immaculate Collection! I had a show staged in my head for the entire album! (Alright, not Holiday. I hated that song and was happy it was the first one on the album because it made it much easier to skip it) And your story about your Grandpa made me cry a little because it reminded me of when my Grandmother passed away when I was 16. She had cancer, and the song that always did me in was Nirvana's Heart Shaped Box. Good post. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. In high school, my friend ran for homecoming queen and her performance of "Like a Prayer" in the talent portion of the pageant (yes, pageant) was almost identical to the one you describe, except she made us all dance on stage barefoot. Not quite sure what that was all about?

    My husband and I just booked a long weekend in June in Block Island! Neither of us has been before and we're really looking forward to a laid-back summer vacay in New England. Any recommendations?

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  4. We're not the only ones who thought he was a bad-ass Jamaican. He says it right in the song:

    But when I'm-a at a dance an they say, "Where ya come from?"
    People them say I come from Jamaica
    But me born and raised in the ghetto that's all I want ya to know-a
    Pure black people man, that's all a man know
    Yeah me shoes used to tear up an-a my toes used to show-a
    Where me-a born is-a the one Toronto

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  5. "We Didn't Start the Fire" was a childhood song of mine as well, and I'm only 19. haha I guess that means that Billy Joel is timeless. we would put on concerts as Billy Joel and The Extremes. I guess that also made me a pretty cool little kid. Anyway, excellent soundtrack!

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  6. Oh, God. I actually love seventies-era Billy Joel, but simply the opening notes of "We Didn't Start the Fire" makes me want to PUNCH people. The whole song can cause a one-woman riot. Of course, almost every "ramble-a-list-of-pop-culture-shit" songs suck, with the exception of R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)."

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  7. oh this is great! i love hearing about the other people's musical tastes from when they were kids. :)

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  8. There really is something about "Sister Christian"...I couldn't put it into words, and it doesn't have anything to do with either of my Grandfathers, but well said. I'm not judging.

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  9. Ahahhaha Informer! A licky boom boom down, indeed.

    Throw some Wrecks-n-effect, 2LiveCrew, Sir Mix a Lot, and Onyx on that playlist, and you have my 6th grade soundtrack.

    This has inspired me.

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  10. My friend, Kristin, has a sister. Therefore, whenever she talks about her sister, I always feel compelled to belt out, "KRISTIN'S SISTER OH THE TIME HAS COME..." I'm surprised we're still friends.

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  11. This is a pretty big posting.

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  12. Hi guys! Sorry; I've been catching up on Gossip Girl and Kell on Earth.

    @soft nonsense: Okay, okay, I see your point. I will now weep with pride.

    @April: Yeah, Holiday is a crock of shit. But thanks for sharing about your grandmother. I'm so glad the post touched you.

    @Colleen: I am SO JEALOUS of your friend, living my dream. And yes, I have lots of tips about Block Island. Do I have your email address?

    @Luke: So did he live in Jamaica? Or did he just hang with Jamaicans in Toronto? I'm confused.

    @Ashley: Thanks! Actually it is a ridiculous soundtrack if you play them all in a row. These were just the songs that seemed most meaningful to my childhood, not the ones I currently love the most. Can you tell I'm insecure about my love for Snow and Billy Joel?

    @Jen: I feel you. I will not sing it to you in order to avoid a black eye.

    @RMb: Glad you like!

    @Adria: Thanks :)

    @inflammatory: YES. Any time I have a party I make an early 90s hip hop mix. Instant crowd pleaser.

    @Julie: HA! If you were my friend I would consider that a great honor. Only "Una's sister" doesn't work as well.

    @Californian: You are, as always, quite observant.

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  13. Ok...now I feel compelled to ask...

    Softnonsense - is the Sister Christy thing like that Seinfeld episode where Elaine tells the Russian writer that Tolstoy's "War & Peace" was originally titled "War - What is it good for?"

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  14. Downeaster Alexa makes me bawl every time. I don't know why. I'M FROM TEXAS. Never been on a fishing boat in my life.

    I'm glad you explained the blog awards. I was surprised you didn't have any on your sidebar as awesome as you are.

    I hate the 'post facts about yourself everyone will forget in ten seconds because they don't really care' awards, so I made one to pass around called the Soulmates Award. You give it to five people who 'get' your weirdness, then make up horribly embarrassing lies about them and pass it on.

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  15. Hope you're feeling better; enjoyed your list. My early 90's rap (maybe it was mid 90's) was Warren G/Nate Dogg "Regulators." I sorta miss 90's rap.

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  16. I, too, danced my little heart out to Madonna, only instead of in my head, my sister and neighbor and I pulled a boombox onto the front lawn and did our tightly choreographed routines there for any lucky person walking by to see. And my first record was Billy Joel, so he has a special place in my heart.

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  17. I swear i was gonna post We didn't Start The Fire in my blog until i saw it here. That is one of my favourite song, well, more of a "documentary" actually. Guess i'll post it up in the next couple of days:) Hope you don't mind:p

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  18. I went to the Ikea in Etobicoke today. I got lost trying to find the shuttle bus from the subway. I will never venture into the suburbs again.

    Despite being a child of the 80s, my parents were pretty strict about music and tv so Like a Prayer was the first Madonna song I ever heard. I had a walkman and used to pretend to listen to classical tapes while sneakily switching it over to the top 40 am radio station. I still listen to it on my ipod and probably sing along to it when no one's home.

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  19. I went to the Ikea in Etobicoke today. I got lost trying to find the shuttle bus from the subway. I will never venture into the suburbs again.

    Despite being a child of the 80s, my parents were pretty strict about music and tv so Like a Prayer was the first Madonna song I ever heard. I had a walkman and used to pretend to listen to classical tapes while sneakily switching it over to the top 40 am radio station. I still listen to it on my ipod and probably sing along to it when no one's home.

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  20. Snow, licking a boom boom down.
    What a memory from high school I had buried deep deep down somewhere... six girls squeezed into a white chevy nova, flannel shirts, and Zima. Retch.

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  21. wow.

    I wish I could add a few tracks and videos to your beautiful posting, but I am so 1990s I don't know how.
    Those videos and beta links are DIFFICULT when drunk...

    (as she reaches for another gin and tonic..)

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  22. Reading this, I feel incredibly old. Oh, wait. I am.
    I, for one, made elaborate stage shows in my head, set to tunes by the FREAKING COWSILLS! THAT'S how old I am! Thanks for reminding me. No,really. Thanks a lot.

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  23. Reading this, I feel incredibly old. Oh, wait. I am.
    I, for one, made elaborate stage shows in my head, set to tunes by the FREAKING COWSILLS! THAT'S how old I am! Thanks for reminding me. No,really. Thanks a lot.

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  24. Great post. Of course, now I'm humming "Centerfold" (J. Geils Band), which was the first 45 I ever owned, and I'll likely be humming it for hours! Then perhaps I'll move on to "Celebration" (Kool and the Gang), or perhaps some Heart or Rick Springfield (who, by the way, I once saw at Red Rocks, though I have no memory of it).

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  25. link, link, link...I followed a few and found myself here. Loved your post with the musical memory theme. Really weird, because just a few days back, I did something similar out of the clear blue sky...no meme required! Even weirder: The Big Chill soundtrack appears in mine, too!

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  26. Even though your story is incredibly sad, I'm glad that you can listen to "Sister Christian" without the Boogie Nights scene popping into your head. That movie ruined the song for me, big time. I practically get an anxiety attack every time I hear it now. *shivers*

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  27. OMG, the first death I ever experienced was my grandpa, I couldn't cry at the funeral, AND my uncle was making jokes throughout! HOW WEIRD!

    (Except I cried alone right afterward and was younger than you... but still.)

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  28. "no song sticks in my memory more than "Informer" by white Canadian reggae rapper Snow (who, judging by this video, looks like Skippy from Family Ties if he had grown up to become a classics professor. WTF? I for one always imagined a badass Jamaican guy.)"

    We have a system here at work called Informer, for the past 2 weeks I have been incessantly singing that song. Leaky boom boom down, ya'll!

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  29. I was a roller skater. I loved Footloose. I had the whole routine worked out.

    Hands fanning out in perfect time, "Now I gotta cut loose, Footloose," flip around, do spin, try not the fall on the rocks in front of my house, and finally.......one leg sticking out going in a circle, jazz hands.

    I didn't know the neighbors were all watching from behind their curtains. I am so glad for that now. Spirit Fingers.

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  30. I love your 'soundtrack of life'. What pleasant memories you stirred for me. Many of your favorites, were mine as well. It's amazing to me that I can be someplace like a hair salon and hear a song and immediately I'm somewhere else and crying.

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  31. This is great! I loved "Informer" when I was growing up but only was able to sing "Informer. . .asdoijpaweornad;vuposidr. . . a licky boom boom down."

    I actually just did an "evolution of the break up song" post on my blog!

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  32. Hey Sas. Thanks for the pass along. I'm SWAMP-FACED over here, but i will get to it as soon as i figure out how to post youtube videos in my blog :) And i'm not sure the fabric of my life would be completely woven without Snow in it. I still try to bring that song up in conversation. and it still crashes and burns.

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