You know I can’t let a good music meme pass me by, right?
This week’s Rolling Stone has a cover story called “The Songs That Made Me” in which artists share six or eight songs that had outsize influence in their lives. They’re not always what you’d expect – Marilyn Manson with “Cry Me A River” by Justin Timberlake? I loved the little window into the artist’s soul, and as a writing prompt you can’t ask for much better. So here are the Songs That Made Me.
I’m quite certain I’ve done this at one point or another on my LiveJournal over the years, so some of you are not going to be the least bit surprised at some of these.
1. The Church, “Under the Milky Way”.
OH HEY BIG SURPRISE THERE. Heh. I’ve contemplated as to why this is my all-time favorite song, and I realize it’s because it was one of those songs that hit me right at the perfect moment, at the perfect time. Spring 1988, when my closest high school friends, nearly all of whom were a year ahead of me, were graduating that next month. I was torn between excitement that I too would be leaving my small town (albeit a year down the road), frustration that my closest circle of friends was vanishing way too quickly, and determination that I’d try to spend as much time as I could with them before they left. This song fit the mood perfectly: a sadness for things ending, a wishful thinking for things yet started, and the stasis of waiting in between.
2. Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, “All I Ask of Myself Is That I Hold Together”.
Note: This song must be listened to as loud as possible. Summer 1995, in which I’ve got a day off from my job at the multiplex up on Somerville. Earlier that year I decide that, despite my lingering emotional and financial depression, I’m going to kick my own ass and get this writing thing started already. I’m switching between WFNX and WBCN on the radio dial during those summer afternoons, windows open, while I hammer away on my girlfriend’s low-end PC (running on Windows 3.1!). A lot of transcription of old work, but also many words on completely new projects as well. A consistent writing habit is formed.
3. Led Zeppelin, “How Many More Times”.
Late 1987, In which I hear this song and realize I need to buy myself a bass. I soon find a very cheap Arbor Stiletto for $50 at the local music store, which stays with me until I finally retire it in early 2012. I teach myself how to play it by listening to Led Zeppellin’s first album, and expanding to Cocteau Twins, Wire, New Order and Joy Division, and going on from there.
4. Takako Shirai & Crazy Boys, “Cosmic Child”.
The ending theme for the anime OAV Gall Force 2: Destruction. Late 1993, watching anime because I’m too broke to do anything else. The anime that changed my writing from feeble attempts at straight fiction to science fiction and fantasy, and the series that partly inspired the Mendaihu Universe in the first place. I later use the lead singer’s name for a pivotal character as a gesture of thanks. [The video here is a great rip, but I really dislike the English dub. I started it a little before the song to set the scene. Unfortunately the subtitles aren’t coming up…the lyrics to the song are basically a ‘thank you for giving us (spiritual) life’.]
5. Semisonic, “She’s Got My Number”.
Sometime in 2004, in which I get hints from various people that a certain someone might be interested in me. That certain someone later informs me that one of her favorite bands is Semisonic, and puts this particular song on a mixtape (ok, a mix cd) for me. Ten happily married years later and I’m pretty sure she was trying to tell me something there. She knows me better than I know myself sometimes.
6. Gerry Rafferty, “Baker Street”.
Considering I was a little kid in the 70s, that decade is a bit of a jumbled mess for me in terms of music and memory. However, I distinctly remember hearing this song on the scratchy AM radio during our family roadtrips. If we had a bag of Bugles in the car, my sisters and I would grab a few and imitate the sax solos. Decades later in 2014, and I’m winding my way down Baker Street in London, this song firmly stuck in my head.
7. Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show theme song, “This Is It”.
Yeah, I was totally a diehard Looney Tunes fan as a kid. I’ve finally warmed to Disney to some degree, but I’m still a dedicated WB fan. To this day, whenever A. and I head to the opera or the symphony, my recognition of the pieces will still often be “Oh, that piece. The one where Elmer and Bugs…”
8. The Beatles, “Hey Jude”.
It was hard to pin down exactly which Beatles song to put here, but I chose this one. My mom introduced me to this song when I was first getting into the band. This is the video I shot while in the middle of the crowd — and let me tell you, turning around and watching a football stadium-sized crowd sing along to the last half was pretty damn epic.
9. Phil Collins, “In the Air Tonight”.
Okay, I’ll totally cop to stealing Michael Mann’s ‘music video treatment’ method for Miami Vice when I first started writing seriously in my teens. My first complete novel (aka the Infamous War Novel) was outlined using a specific playlist, each chapter inspired by music, including this track. The IWN is rather painful to read now, but on the other hand I’d like to think it was a successful exercise in long-form storytelling for me.
10. Pretty much any given new release date.
It’s probably no coincidence that I didn’t see this meme until today…New Release Tuesday. I used to passively follow release dates until late 1996 when I started working at HMV…and I’ve been faithfully keeping track (and purchasing on or near drop date) ever since. For the record, today’s purchases included the new albums from Hot Chip, Tanlines, The Helio Sequence, Faith No More, and Brandon Flowers!