In Which I Survey the Music I Grew Up With
Joshua recently challenged the Gazetteers to create a Spotify playlist with music we listened to in the 90s and then write a post about the memories associated with that music. Being born in '95, my playlist would have consisted largely of VeggieTales songs, but Josh was gracious enough to let us kids stretch into the '00s. So here we go.
I remember Journey. Specifically “Don't Stop Believin'”. Exclusively “Don't Stop Believin'”. It is quite literally the only Journey song I remember my parents playing around me. As a wizened 7 or 8-year-old, I told my Mom that if that was best Journey could do, they weren't very good. (Fast-forward twelve years and you'll find me listening to Journey on a regular basis. Because Journey is awesome.)
I remember The Proclaimers. Catchy as it is, “I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)” wouldn't stick out in my mind the way it does but for one thing: to 10-year-old me, there were few things more embarrassing than hearing my parents sing along to it. I smile about it now - it was actually kind of sweet - but at the time, my only thought was, “Nope. Just nope.” Which only made my parents sing louder, of course. God bless 'em.
On the subject of embarrassment, I remember Carman. Sweet merciful crap. Dad had the Mission 3:16 album on tape (yes, I know what a tape is), and 7-year-old me thought it was the shiznit. Only Judgment Day will reveal just how many times I listened to that album. I paid it another visit as part of my “research” for this post. All I can say is, sackcloth and ashes, people. Sackcloth and ashes.
I remember DC Talk. My parents swear I wore out the VHS of Welcome to the Freak Show as a toddler. (It's not great, but next to Carman it's Bach.) Marmalade has pretty much always been associated with the lyrics to “Jesus Freak”, which makes it less than appetizing, all things considered. The Newsboys were better. Much better. Classics like “Breakfast” and “I'm Not Ashamed” were regulars on the car ride jam-list.
I remember the blues. That was all Dad's doing. Muddy Waters, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Mayall, Eric Clapton, and B.B. King, among others. If there was a road trip, you could bet your bottom dollar four or five blues albums would make an appearance. I recall a handful of arguments between my parents over whether some of the lyrics – obsessed as they seemed to be with certain carnalities - were really the kind a pre-pubescent stripling like myself should be filling his head with. (Three guesses as to what my Mom's answer was.)
I remember Pat Metheny Group. As an 8-year-old I thought they were weird. I still do. Their music is exclusively associated with long car rides in the dark and falling asleep. I can't listen to “Cathedral in a Suitcase” without also hearing the gentle hum of tires on the interstate.
I remember the hymns my Mom sang. She's still singing them. She's been singing hymns to her children for almost as long as she's had children to sing to. I can picture her now at the piano. “How Sweet and Awful”, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”, “The Son of God Goes Forth to War”, “Nothing But the Blood”, “Be Thou My Vision”, “Come Thou Fount” - these were favorites. I didn't include them on the Spotify playlist, because no rendition by any other singer could do justice to the sound I grew up hearing. Mothers are like that, after all.
I remember classical music. Lots of it. There was Bach. There was Liszt. There was Mozart. There was Hilary Hahn playing Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E Minor (damn, what a gem). I took piano for three years, and the pieces I most enjoyed playing were written by Beethoven and Chopin. Listening to Handel's “The Messiah” - or better yet, going to see a live performance of it – was one of the best parts of every Christmas season. And I can't forget Vivaldi. I loved his Cello Concertos. At age twelve I wrote some stories featuring my pet guinea pigs as adventuresome swashbucklers; I told myself that if Hollywood ever optioned the rights, those Cello Concertos would be part of the score.
Speaking of which, it was around the same age that I discovered my love of film scores. It began with James Horner's Braveheart and Bruce Rowland's The Man From Snowy River and I haven't looked back since. For awhile, the one to rule them all was none other than Howard Shore's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – The Complete Recordings. I bought it with the first iTunes gift card I ever received, and it's still some of the best money I ever spent. I got lost in that thing, all three hours and fifty minutes of it – and when you're lost in that thing, it's hard to imagine anything worse than being found. There will never be a time when the epic rumble of “The Battle Of The Pelennor Fields” doesn't make my hand itch for a sword.