5 Amazing Songs

As per request (and writing prompt) from one of my dear readers and a fellow music devouter, I’d like to share 5 amazing songs that build up emotion in my chest, take me to happy and far away places, or just leave me whirlishly dancing on the chipped-tiled kitchen floor.

Don’t You Forget About Me by Simple Minds

This song of course is married to the ever-universal teen angst classic The Breakfast Club, making it even that much more endearing. That last scene when the song smacks in and John Bender gives a requited fist pump in a freeze frame forever is one of the best movie endings.

Don’t You Forget About Me reminds me of precious 80’s nostalgia, the innocence and simplicity there regarding music and hand-written letters and Walkmans and trips to the mall sans security personnel.

And the meaning: Don’t you forget about me. We all want to be remembered. We cannot let time or circumstance or distance allow the brain to turn us into static and the heart unforgiving or worse, ignored.

This one is for belting out fearlessly and dancing feverishly.  My students have seen me do this. On my fortieth birthday this is the song I boldly requested at the skating rink among all the preteens and their Taylor Swift enthusiasm. I’ll be singing and dancing to this one when I’m an old, old lady.

Don’t you forget about me. I’ll be alone, dancing, you know it, baby…

 

Us and Them by Pink Floyd

I listened to The Dark Side of the Moon on a constant loop along with The Cure’s Disintegration on a summer stint in Italy in my early teens. I know Roger Waters was talking about war in his lyrics but to me the “us” and “them” represented both the subtle and not-so-subtle differences I experienced between Americans and Italians. We spoke different languages, ate at different times of the day, looked different, but in the way we were different we were also the same. Just people trying to make it in the world, experience life, try not to trip on pebbles.

To this day, every time I hear that keyboard intro I feel the welling up in my chest. I am completely transported back to that balcony in Sardinia, back to that innocent 15 year old taking in everything never witnessed back in Antioch, Tennessee. I’m reminded of all the people I met and their cultural and nurturing influence on me.

Us, and them. And after all, we’re only ordinary men…

 

The Fool on the Hill by The Beatles

The Beatles were a big part of my growing up. They were not forced on me but rather gently introduced as my parent’s record collections included many Beatles albums and 45s. My brother and I would sit on the shaggy carpeted floor of our basement-turned-playroom and listen to them on our Fisher-price turntable. We fashioned ourselves as rock singers, belting out tunes as the grated vinyl spun round and round.

But when Fool on the Hill rolled along and into the tiny speaker, we would quietly sing together. Never looking up, frozen in that moment with lyrics and melody I swear brought welling up in my goofy sibling’s eyes.

That is one of my strongest and most fond memories of us together as children. Later in our teens we traveled to Lexington, Kentucky with a group of like-minded friends to see Paul McCartney in concert. I was enthralled to be in the presence of a Great. And to enjoy it with my bro at my side.

But the fool on the hill, sees the sun going down, and the eyes in his head, see the world spinning round…

 

A Forest by The Cure

This haunting song is one of the reasons I will forever be a Cure fan and Classic Alternative junkie. I was first introduced to the Cure when Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me came out. During this era I was blown away by this sound which at the time never reached the local radio airwaves.

A Forest mirrored my teen angst, depression, and need for creative inspiration as sheets of rain seemed to fall endlessly in the grey, Tennessee winter. This dirge didn’t exasperate my feelings as my parents agonized. Instead it encapsulated and provided solace. I wasn’t alone in my fervor.

And just the word forest. It conjures images of lush foliage where mystery hides and escape is possible.

A few summers ago I was driving alone in North Florida on a windy road away from friends and family with whom I’d just spent an unforgettable week. As soon as I entered Tate’s Hell State Forest, an unforgiving ominous expanse of swampy woodland, my GPS fell silent and A Forest shuffled on my auxiliary. I don’t know if there’s ever been more perfect timing between song and circumstance.

Come closer and see, see into the trees…

 

The Dead Heart by Midnight Oil

I could write an entire blog post about songs by Midnight Oil but for the purpose of not turning this into a biography I’ll sample this one.

I was introduced to Midnight Oil via the video for Bed’s Are Burning, seen on MTV’s Friday Night Videos. This unique sound from Australia fronted by a bald, passionate giant literally left me gasping in its strum guitar and water tank drum beats. I was instantly transformed. Life would never be the same. And then began a life-long love and adoration for the band, their extensive collection of songs throughout the decades, and their messages about equality and the environment.

The Dead Heart evokes singing and whirling, and to the tune of aboriginal rights in Australia. It’s as serious as it is heartfelt and in the end a hopeful dance. The Oils do a fantastic job of informing while entertaining and this song is no exception. When I hear it I’m in the Outback as well as on my old friend’s balcony (what’s with me and balconies) back in ’87 when all this alternative rock hoopla began voluntarily infiltrating my soul.

Midnight Oil will forever be my favorite band of all time. And The Dead Heart is just one of many that fill me with emotion, the need to research, to help bring about change, and yes, to belt it out and move.

These 5 songs helped shape who I am. What are yours?

 

 

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It Has Come to My Attention

It has come to my attention
though arduous in its reasoning of how

There is room for things slunk away
in the corner of heart’s bough

that in this instance a sprouted seed
green with fury of survival

pushed away dirt and muck and haste
against the push and pull of rivals

I do not know when or how
the why I do however know

There is room here as there’s always been
for love’s arms to embrace
to free and grow

Yet with apprehension this ardor onerous
A virtue like truth to see

Patience in heart and mind and soul
Love in earnest be.

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A Special Place

I’ve been listening to Midnight Oil nonstop for the past week. This wasn’t the case for chunks of time in the past decade. New music tastes, life occurrences, the band’s parting of ways on the stage and in the studio led my ears away from my FAVORITE BAND OF ALL TIME. But they were never gone from my heart. Ever since those warm Tennessee days in 1987 when I awoke to this new sound from a country so far away, they have stayed in my auditory cortex, in my blood.

Music lovers all over the world recognize this. If given the means and time I would have seen every show they ever did. But I’ve danced to them three times live, once just a week ago.

I traveled from Florida to Toronto to see them. It had been fifteen years. They are currently on a reunion tour. Fans all over the globe coming out in droves. Waiting in line for hours. Donning their old concert tees. Swapping stories. A quirky, nerdy, socially and environmentally conscious group of people sharing a diehard love for this Aussie band we only dreamed would reunite.

This rekindling of my love for the band has me sifting through all their albums and compilations and remembering why I started listening to them in the first place. They were different from any of the alternative bands I was listening to at the time and definitely different from the bubblegum pop dominating the radio. They brought global awareness even though many of the issues I did not quite understand, me living in Antioch. Who is Jimmy Sharman, where is Alice Springs, and what is a bullroarer? Midnight Oil inspired me to be more environmentally conscious, to research, to write, explore, travel, dance wildly.

I listened to them in my teens when I needed to be understood. I listened to them while waiting for my dad to have brain surgery. I listened to them while pushing my son in the stroller. I’m listening to them now as I write this, those teen years long gone, wrinkles on my face, my father alive and well, my son now a teenager.

Thank you Midnight Oil for sharing your gifts of music and awareness with the universe. Thank you for coming together, perhaps one last time, to re-instill all that we love about you and continue to. A special place in our hearts, always.

And damn did you rock the stage.

 

 

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As it Exists in our Minds

They say you can’t go back. Or perhaps you shouldn’t. But sometimes it’s inevitable.

Steely Dan Radio on Pandora. That’ll do it for me. A tinge of past immediately starts flowing through the neurons and blood stream. Back to childhood days in my dad’s mustard El Camino or hunched over the Fischer-Price record player with my brother.  Back to teenage days, cycling through songs on random play from the new CD player. Back to college days, blasting out the sub woofers in my ’87 Nissan Sentra. And about a hundred other memories involving a Steely Dan song.

Whether you want it to or not, music will take you back.

There are those songs you can’t bear to hear. Either they bring back a dark memory or someone you’d rather not keep in your consciousness. Those we turn off as soon as we can, if possible. Or perhaps we need a good cry out and we let it rip.

Then there are those songs that fire up our frontal lobe like fourth of July sparklers and we are transported to a time and place no longer existing. Even if our childhood homes are still intact, or the city in which we grew up, it is never the same.

I guess that’s why they say you can never go back. Because no matter how bad we may want it to be there, it is gone.

And that is one of the many beauties of music– enabling us to hold onto a moment as if we were right there. Right there in our dad’s old car. Right there on the front porch with the Walk-man. Right there in the school parking lot with our quirky friends. Right there dancing with Grandma. Or and old friend. Or an old flame. Those that have moved on or passed away. In this moment they are alive.

And this is why I play Steely Dan on Sunday morning. So I won’t forget.

El Camino

 

 

 

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The Fallen Leaves (the passing of time)

Trudging knee-high in leaves
discarded shelter now food for soil

The passing of time long arduous
and fleeting all at once

We wish for high winds
to carry all away

And when they do come
blow our hearts out of our chests

Maddening deafness except
the blind chatter of our minds

and the crunch swish crunch
of fallen foliage at our feet

Trek on still
with our eyes set forward

Lest we cackle like mad men
in the unforgiving forest of
despondency.

fallen-leaves-wallpaper-3

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Jealous of Boys

Seventh grade. Mr. Helton’s homeroom. He was the class clown and one of the most popular kids in school. I sat in the back row next to my Laotian friend and a girl who lived in a trailer park and once showed me a vile of some kind of powder (I winced at it and tried to ignore her the rest of the school year).

Even with my perm and freckles I was prettier than I ever gave myself credit for. The class clown sometimes acknowledged me but was more interested in the hottest girl in school with her long, shiny black hair, developed perky breasts, and cool mismatched socks.

I don’t know if I had a crush on the class clown or I just wanted to be the class clown. I think it was a bit of both.

He was confident. Kids giggled at his shenanigans. Even Mr. Helton found him amusing. He didn’t have the worry of covering up legs needing to be shaved, the inevitable arrival of a leaky menstrual cycle, or the proper way to curl unruly bangs into the perfect pouf.

I longed for his self-assured attitude and his fearlessness and talent for making people laugh. His tousled blond locks and casual, non-committal clothing required little to no maintenance yet he was gorgeous all the same. His wide, bright smile would surely take him far in life with minimal struggle.

When I look back at that time and the decades afterwards I think I was always jealous of boys. They were good at sports, didn’t have to wear make-up or an outfit that covered up the wobbly bits, didn’t spend hours pining over crushes that would never come into fruition.

For years I said if given the chance to come back in another life I would be Jeff Spicoli of Fast Times at Ridgemont High fame. His laid-back attitude and passion for surfing leaves little time to mull over the monstrosities of the world or the pressure of fitting into some perfect mold.

Now that I’m older and have a boy of my own I realize some of these prejudgements are just that. Not all boys get a free pass to blissfully ignorant-ville.

No, my son doesn’t have to worry about shaving his legs or getting a period. I don’t think he ever brushes his hair. But like me he worries about the world. He doesn’t always have that revered sky-high self confidence, especially when it comes to sports. But he’s miles beyond where I was at his age in seventh grade. He doesn’t seem to care so much what others think of him. He doesn’t slink away shyly in the corners of the classroom. For that I am thankful.

And in all honesty if I were a boy I would not have the experience of everything that goes with the unique ability to grow a human being in my body. That is some pretty fantastical and ever-bonding stuff. I wouldn’t trade that for any of the classroom joke-telling confidence in the world.

But…

It would be really cool to be Spicoli for a day.

spicoli

“All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine…”

 

 

 

 

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A Kind of Kindling

All relationships need kindling

It’s too easy to become wrapped up
in the monotony of daily life
and think things will fix themselves
with the drying of the plastic dishes on the counter

But sometimes gotta get out of the kitchen
go to a place where there are no dishes to wash
no routines to keep
a different perspective and air to breathe

We played in the field after dinner
and it was not planned
I saw you smile in the dunes
and make jokes while pedaling the surrey

It wasn’t you and I arguing
or me wishing you were 8 again

We were just ourselves
and there was no animosity
or harsh words or sadness

There are new memories on the beach now
a twinkle in my eye when I look southward
and see the city where we spent a weekend

A much-needed weekend
spontaneous and free

The you and me that always has been
and hopefully always will be.

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