It's a funny thing that music can do...laugh, cry, dance, sing-a-long, and invoke so many BIG memories. Tonight I decided to put on my earphones and it's been like a little journey through time. I don't often sit and really listen to my playlists. They might be background noise, or playing on the car radio, but tonight I decided to have a conscious party for one and it's turning out to be a bit of a ride, along with random social media posts as I hear songs that remind me of people and places from times gone by. I probably have a very weird and eclectic taste in music. Some people might not consider it taste at all, but a mishmash of music. Alex and I were in the car the other day when he tried to change the song that was playing saying "I'll find something 80s for you." The truth is I do like songs with words, that I can sing along to and that tell a story of sorts, not necessarily just 80s. Although I guess there were a lot of songs with words that I could sing along to then. This post isn't really about my taste in music but rather the emotion that the music has evoked in me over the last few hours. And how much it has brought up in me.
I also started thinking about the times when my brother and I used to make our top ten lists. Our top ten of all time, our top ten power ballads, our 10 favourite SA songs... I think it's time for another Top 10 Steve!! We'd spend weeks putting them together, and then find a time to listen through them with the inevitable mudslinging about each other's choices and tastes. He's visiting in June, and I think that's the perfect opportunity to put together something like "Top 10 of my teens." or my favourite songs of the past 47 years. Pretty sure there'll be at least one Pearl Jam song there from him. And I guess something 80s from me. When I was a teenager my dad had a record collection that I would sit next to his hifi and listen to for hours, and there are a lot of classic songs from the 60s and 70s that really do form part of my teenage years. It was the time of mixed tapes recorded from records and the Top 40 on a Saturday afternoon before one of the house parties we went to, with big hair and bad fashion choices. Writing out song words for my best friends in high school; listening to a cassette tape bit by bit to get them just right. "Wind Beneath my Wings" and "Nothing Compares to You" still take me back to my little granny flat and how much I loved my friends who are now scattered all over the world.
I remember feeling so "grown up", and now I wonder how that could possibly have been the case when there are days that I can't even get my shoe laces properly tied. And I am allowed to drive a car!? I can track my teens and twenties by the playlists of my life. Classic Madonna, Wham, Prince, Talking Heads (my first album purchase), Spandau Ballet, Depeche Mode, INXs (my second international concert), and Billy Joel (my first international concert). My first ever concert was Laura Brannigan at Sun City. Don't judge; we went two nights in a row. But I was more of a "best of" listener for the most part not much of an aficionado... I am sure along with those mixed tapes, there were also a couple of "Now That's What I Call Music" cassettes. I remember listening to Erasure on repeat with one of my high school friends, and always loved a good sing-a-long and have been known to sing a little Karaoke, especially in Taiwan where it is a national pastime.
We'd get together after a night out, in a camping site, or an out-of-the-way bar, and there would be a K-TV machine rigged up and ready to go. 20 story buildings filled with lounges of happily out-of-tune revelers belting out "Knock three times on the ceiling if you want me"; a Taiwanese and Canadian favourite. And those were some of the most fun nights I can remember. I am a little less confident about my singing abilities now that I don't drink, but I have been known to have a little sing in my car. My happy songs are probably also some of the most loved 70s and 80s Pride songs - mixed and remixed through the years. Nothing like a little Gloria, Barbara, Whitney, and Kylie to lift the mood! I think that "I am What I am" has kept me sane at times when I am feeling low, depleted, and a little helpless. It's my go-to song when I am feeling a little uncertain, and being hard on myself. And it pretty much works every time.
As I was listening to music I decided to listen to some of the playlist that I put together the weekend my father died. The one thing I know was true about him was that he really did love music. I lasted a couple of songs and the tears were flowing. Sadness and confusion, anger and disbelief still linger around him, and I am doing work on this given that I really just wanted my dad to see me in my life. A little Elvis, a bit of Simon and Garfunkel, and some Neil Diamond were all I could endure, and the tears are trickling down my cheeks as I type these words. I remember long lunches followed by music late into the night when I was a child and a teenager, and there were happy times with beer can microphones and red wine stains on the carpets. I'd like to have had one last chance to listen to some of the music on my list with my dad, but we didn't have that kind of relationship after I stopped drinking.
During my high school and varsity years there was much wine and song, and I can still listen to the power ballads and classic songs of the 80s and 90s and feel instantly transported to places like Late Night Al's (Bruma Edition), the lounge in Linksfield, The Wits Ski Club, The Monkey Puzzle, The Vic, and later The Jolly Roger, and The River Bar in Zhongli. I was never much of a clubber - I like songs with words remember - so I was happiest in a bar with a DJ I knew! Guess I spent a lot of time in bars in those years!? And of course time around a fire with a friend or two who could strum out some tunes on their guit's. How things have changed...I can't remember when last I danced, except in the kitchen when no one is around. Dancing sober is a strange and awkward experience imho and I have not done too much of it in the last 14 years; just feels weird. And I know that is my ego stuff getting in the way of having fun.
I love musicals...if I could have a do over I would like to be a singer on Broadway or in the West End. My experience of live musicals is very emotional and I tend to cry a LOT. Classical musical is also very moving for me, and it's incredible to watch live too. Nothing like going to a ballet with a live orchestra. Another very special night for me was when my mom took me to watch Swan Lake at The State Opera in Pretoria when I was in high school; I've loved the ballet ever since. It doesn't have to be a stage performance though. I drove along the Aussie Gold Coast in my twenties in a little blue Ford Capri with "Priscilla: Queen of the Desert" booming, singing at the tops of our voices, and I drove my Rhodes friends mad with "My Best Friend's Wedding" on repeat with "Les Misérables" queued up behind it. I learned the words to ABBA when I was a little girl, and have known the words to "Thank You for the Music" since I was seven.
Tonight I have thought of old friends who I haven't seen for many years, and who I spent many nights singing and dancing with. Songs I haven't listened to for years have brought tears to my eyes, and I have had a really nostalgic evening with myself. It's hard to pick a favourite after all these years, but if I were to start thinking of putting together my Top 10 of the last 50 years I think that those that would make the list would be the ones that had the strongest impact on my emotions - love a good sing and a good cry!
Music has always been part of my life, whether that was when I was tearing up the town in my teens, up until my mid-30s, or post recovery where music has a very different meaning to me. It reminds me of the people I love, and I can vividly remember times, people, places, events, and experiences that I have been through in full colour. My mom's house in Kenton and weekends with friends at the beach jump to life with the opening chords of so many wonderful songs. Sunrises on the beach, road trips to wherever, overseas adventures, and nights alone at home somewhere in the world. I miss the silliness of how life can be at certain times, but music reminds me that we are all in a song of sorts as we move through it.
It's like what Jackson Maine's brother, Bobby, says in "A Star is Born", “Music is essentially twelve notes between any octave. Twelve notes and the octave repeats. It's the same story told over and over. All the artist can offer the world is how they see those twelve notes.” I guess that in some way we are all living similar experiences in different ways. We all love, lose, succeed, trip up, cry, laugh, bleed, heal, and everything else we experience as humans. And just in the way that those twelve notes repeat in different melodies, so our lives are made up of shared experiences that play out in different ways. I mean those notes are the same ones that are used in symphonies to gangsta rap, just in different combinations. When we think how different those genres are, with just twelve notes, are we at all surprised at how different life can be from one person to the next? From you to me?
Tonight's been a real dance along the emotional spectrum for me. I'm finishing off with one of my favourites - and I'll take the Gloria Gaynor remix - "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You!" 我爱你宝贝 Wǒ ài nǐ bǎobèi!
Thanks for listening! And for those of you who've got this far, what does the playlist of your life look like up until now?