Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day 171: Shuffle –A Musical Education Revisited

Lately, I have taken to listening to my iPod in the car instead of the radio. I start my day in traffic and end my day in traffic, so why not listen to music I actually have an attachment to instead of the concerning amount of drivel that I’m bombarded with on the FM dial.  Just last week, I took a good look at my iTunes collection and did a major Spring cleaning.  I have collected quite an eclectic array of songs over the years. Sifting through it song by song, album by album, I had a chance to really see my personal musical journey from adolescence to present day. What I wasn’t prepared for was the crazy trip down memory lane.
I started to buy CD’s in high school.  Before that, I’d sing along to whatever my dad or older sister bought. Basically anything a musically curious kid could get their hands on.  My dad (a closet musician) listened to The AnimaIs, The Byrds, The Beatles, Elvis, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, etc… and my sister listened to R&B infused pop.   It wasn’t until I met my friend Angela, in grade 7, that my real introduction to a musical crowd of people with an ear to the ground began.  We bonded right away with The Beatles and all the oldies in my dad’s collection. It was such a relief to meet someone who wanted to just hang out and sing harmonies. The world became a friendly battle of who was going to sing ‘the high part’.
Angela, originally from Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, introduced me to bluegrass and country music. She came from a very musical family. Her brother was the guitarist in a popular band at our school, and we were such groupies. They were gods (not really, but it felt like they were).  Whatever they started to listen to we eventually gobbled up, too. We became big fans of the blossoming Canadian indie band scene of the early 90’s. Bands you’ve probably never heard of like The Waltons, Moxy Fruvous, the Grapes of Wrath, Pursuit of Happiness, Fall Down Go Boom.  My God, just typing the band names, has me shaking my head and smiling. Instant nostalgia. Hazy memories of lining up outside the Rialto theater, (the original) Club Soda or the Medley waiting (our bellies full of poutine or some other fast food commodity) and giggling under our breath when the band would stroll into the venue.
When we weren’t going to shows or catching up on these ‘hot’ new bands, we continued to explore the vast musical talent from the 1960’s and 70’s. We had a Doors phase. A Velvet Underground phase. An Eagles phase.  Then we switched gears and got completely seduced by R.E. M.  You never met bigger Michael Stipe fans.  We caught up on their entire 80’s catalogue and just ‘phased it’ (as we called it).  Stipe would name drop other Georgia acts like the B-52’s and the Indigo Girls.   That was momentous.  I remember hearing our first Indigo Girls song: Kid Fears. Michael Stipe delivered a haunting cameo at the end of the song.  We were sold. We started to sing a lot of their songs from that point on. It was perfect for us--already built in duet harmonies to a style of music and songwriting that felt a little more intricate and grown up then the early Beatles stuff.
We ate up the material, worked out specifics and set them in stone: I’d sing the low part and she’d sing the high part.  We got confident enough to play at family gatherings, CEGEP battle of the bands and our very first club gig in Montreal (as the opening act for her brother’s band at the old Jailhouse Rock). I remember we did one original song, some Everly Brothers and three Indigo Girl songs.  It was a big deal for us back then.  To perform to an audience of strangers.  To take it seriously.
So, last week, while clearing the cobwebs off a lot of this music I realized I still knew all the words to all the songs. I parted with some, quite honestly, that didn’t stand the test of time for me. And the others went on a very special playlist that I called: Traffic.  Now, every morning and afternoon, I play it on shuffle and have a little more fun remembering the details of an earlier version of myself. The girl who didn’t go out drinking because she was far too engrossed in trying to learn how to play guitar well enough to sing along. Or because she would rather hang out with her best friend writing songs, and singing at the top of our lungs in our parent’s basements.  Life was music (and pining over the cute musician boys…ha!…some things don’t change, I’m afraid).  In the midst of it, I suppose I was too young (and filled with teenage angst) to ever fully comprehend the musical awakening that I had. I guess that's what growing up is for. And hindsight. And iTunes.


  1. Thanks for your generous comments at my place. I am closing the blog. Wish I had met you sooner :).

  2. i LOVE this song :). thank you so much for sharing. it's a great feeling to recall past in such ways.. brings some kind of an "emotional" happiness..

  3. Oh my, I can relate to so much of this post! I love to sing along to my i-pod as I grind myself into Dobbie-The-House-Slave mode, (scrubbing our crappy loo's, etc.)trouble is, unlike you, I have the voice of a frog. I was the only kid EVER to be slung out of the school choir. Isn't it funny how one song from past glory days can rocket you right back there again?

    Have you REALLY been posting once every single day? Ye Gods, woman - respect! .AND it's quality, too.. how on earth do you do it??

  4. She writes: Sad to read that. You were a good read yesterday.

    lines n shades: this is one song that will cheer me up no matter what (as well as Pressing Lips by the same band...look it up on youtube). :-)

    Shrinky: Hmmm, quality is a matter of opinion at this point, so I thank you kindly. But yeah EVERY DAY! I'm crazy. I didn't factor in vacations to remote islands in the near future (where wifi will be a challenge) when I decided to do this. Quite honestly I didn't think through the actual challenge at all. This experiment was a spur of the moment decision one day (impulsiveness is my trademark). It's hard, I'm also a perfectionist- and I only get so many hours to devote to it most evenings (so I sometimes cringe at what I churn out). BUT--it's been exactly the challenge I needed. The fact that it's online makes me work harder than I would have in a private journal or notebook.