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August 04, 2002


Thursday was a good day. Provided the solution to a couple of things that weren't my responsibility, reached the bus-stop 30 seconds before the bus, saw a traffic jam just before the last-turn off on the way home and hit the two lane scenic route instead. The nice thing about the Triangle is that unless you are in the absolute heart of downtown Raleigh or Durham, you're 10 minutes from the country. The scenic route only adds about 5 minutes to the trip, a good chunk of which is determined by the line of cars on either side of the one lane bridge that I hit halfway there.

So the sun is shining, I'm speeding along without another vehicle in site, and John Hiatt's Slow Turning kicks in on the cd player. I crank it without thinking, even though the song had barely registered with me before. Thirty seconds later I'm experiencing the kind of inconsequential delight that Hollywood does so well. A director sticks 10 seconds of helicopter cam on the screen showing a couple of starlets in a convertible, burning rubber on the two-lane to Las Vegas, wind in their face and sun in their hair, with the chorus of "Walking on Sunshine" on the radio, and he's reproduced that feeling without a word. It's a moment of ineffable joy, evaporating away as soon as it is born. There are songs that have been able to do this to me all my life, songs that make me feel, just for an instant, like I'm in a movie. I keep a list in my head of those songs, ones that punctuate my life during moments of joy, or the ones of pain and sadness. Others immediately make me recall a certain event, or a person, or an attitude that I tried on during adolescence. I call them my soundtrack songs. If my life was filmed, though at present I see no reason why on earth anyone would want to do that, these are the songs on the soundtrack album. In case you're wondering, I'm played by Steve Buscemi.

Here's a list. It's roughly chronological, based on when the song hit me rather than when it came out. Some of the songs are recurrent themes, like the one that plays whenever Darth Vader appears. Others are incidental music, played to illuminate a single moment. Some are songs from another's soundtrack, songs that became part of mine because of their effect on my life. Not all of them are good, as you'll see rather quickly. The movie would have to run extremely long to fit them all in, as well. I'd like to link to each and let you hear them, but that bitch Hilary killed music on the web.

The 60's

Snoopy's Christmas - The Royal Guardsmen - Until Ngnat was born, I had forgotten this song. Something about having a child triggered a memory of it. I knew it by heart at three, according to my parents. Dad took me to the rest home in Louisburg to sing it for the old folks one Christmas. I couldn't have been older than 5. I've always wondered what the WWI vets thought of the performance. Here they are, having coughed for fifty years because of the Kraut's mustard gas, and this all this little bastard knows of their pains is a song about a cartoon dog. Napster let me track it down. Thanks to Napster, I have almost the entire soundtrack of my life stored on my hard drive. That was impossible before, and the RIAA wants to make it impossible again. Which is why I buy all my compact discs on the secondhand market. They will never, ever, get a another penny of mine.

The 70's

Convoy - C.W.McCall - I had a cheap walkie-talkie that would sometimes pick up CB transmissions from truckers as the took the bypass (such as it was) around Louisburg. I'd put the 45 in the record player, spout some DJ babble into it, and hold the transmission button down for the whole song. Then I'd do it again.

Pilot of the Airwaves - Charlie Dore I've always been a sucker for a-cappella rock intros.

Love is Like Oxygen - Sweet

In America - Charlie Daniels Band - Man, was this sucker jingoistic. I'm pretty sure it was in response to the Iranian hostage crisis, or maybe the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. I played it again and again and again. I sang it out loud. I also played The Devil Went Down to Georgia, probably even more, but the memory of this just makes me cringe.

The Streak - Ray Stevens - We had a three songs for a quarter jukebox at the summer pool/country club dad managed for a few years. One crowded Saturday in July, I put two dollars into it and played that song 24 times in a row. My, was that popular.

Other summer pool songs from that era. The older teenagers would play Rook for hours at a time on the deck beside the clubhouse. We'd crowd in around them to watch the strategy, to stare at Annie Tully and Sonya in their bikinis and listen to John McDonald and Robert crack wise. Eventually, they would let us play a hand as they went to cool off in the pool, or to get a Coke and some Nabs. Oh, the joy of hanging with the cool kids. These songs all feel to me like the sun on the back of my neck, and smell like chlorine and coconut tanning oil.

Only The Good Die Young - Billy Joel
The Night Chicago Died - Paper Lace
Blackwater - The Doobie Brothers Oh blackwater, keep on rolling, Mississippi moon won't you keep on shining on me.
Cheeseburger in Paradise - Jimmy Buffett
Heartbreaker - Nantucket - I hated Pat Benatar for taking this title and making a more popular song with it.
Gold - John Stewart

Dj Music - Our church group would occasionally pool all our music, open up the fellowship hall in the basement of the church, and dance the night away. We were Methodists, so it was ok. The Baptist kids couldn't do the same, but they were allowed to come to our dances. I would DJ and occasionally dance. Mostly, as is the lot of the AV kid, I dj'ed. Not that I had a lot to choose from.

Play that Funky Music - Wild Cherry - Without question the absolute #1 disco hit of all time at the Louisburg United Methodist Church
Carwash - Rose Royce
Instant Replay - Dan Hartman - A girl once forced me to play this 8 times in a two hour period. Or her breasts did. It was a confusing time.
Radio Radio - Evis Costello - A buzzsaw. This song, this one song, killed disco at the church forever. It also killed the dances. Why we never had one again I don't recall, but it was the last song of the last dance ever. I danced with a girl who was later Miss Congeniality at the state pageant. None of the other girls danced, so it was me and Martha, and five other guys dancing alone on the cracked checkerboard tile, while the cream of Louisburg teen society looked at us as if we had all grown second heads. Thanks Martha.

I was going to do all the decades up to now, but I haven't even finished the 70's yet. So I'll continue tomorrow.

Update: Part Two is here.

What does the soundtrack of your life sound like?

Posted by Bigwig at August 4, 2002 08:55 PM | TrackBack
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