Anyone who knows me well knows that music is a huge passion. I can sing almost any lyric, have a photographic memory when it comes to music videos and can tell you all kinds of fun facts about musicians and the bands they've played in. At different times in my life, I've toyed with the idea of various music-related professions: guitarist, drummer, keyboardist, vj, dj, music journalist, record cover designer. I worked in a record store for a few years, sticking on sale stickers and having customers hum a song or recite a line of a song hoping I could tell them what it was. I even worked in the music industry for some time, enjoying it immensely, though later stepped away when I felt too close to the inner workings... too close to be swept up by the glamour and the mystery of it any longer (and sick to death of the ego's of my co-workers!). But music has always been around me, in some shape or form. Always. I even ended up marrying a drummer (though truthfully, I was so NOT looking to be with a musician). I have so many experiences and memories that are linked to music. I hear a certain song and I am immediately, vividly, taken back.
When I think back to my earliest memories of music, I am suddenly on the gold shag rug in our family room. I'm about 5 years old. We have a small turntable on a metal shelving unit, with and a small, neat stack of records beside it. In that stack is Elvis' "BLUE HAWAII," a record that I listen to over and over again. He looks so handsome of the cover (a bit like my Dad, I think), and I feel giddy during "slicin' sand," and a little teary when he croons, "take my hand, take my whole life too..." It's here in this room, stretched out on our black leather couch with the yellow, embroidered pillow propping up my head, that I sing along to novelties like "Purple People Eater," "Monster Mash," and "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini," and classics like Del Shannon's, "Runaway," The Shangri-la's, "Leader of the Pack," Gene Chandler's, "Duke of Earl," and Leslie Gore's, "It's My Party." It it here on this gold rug that my mother coaches me on dancing: "There are no right or wrong steps," she says. "You just follow the rhythm and do whatever the music makes you feel like doing. You just relax and move however you want with it."
My next memory of music takes me to our TV room, with deep, red shag and wood panelling on the walls. I can't remember what show it is (Soul Train, perhaps?), but I do know that each weekend, I dress in my red "Go-Go" vest and matching bell-bottoms, and I dance along to the music they play, mimicking the funky moves of the lucky people in the studio, surrounded by so many pulsing, multi-coloured lights. I cannot be distracted until the last song is played, and they sign off until next week. I must be right around 6 years old.
Next, I'm transported upstairs to my brother's room. He is older than me so his musical tastes automatically become my musical tastes. His narrow room is filled from floor to ceiling in KISS posters, and I marvel at their make-up, their silver platform boots, and I decide that I like the Starchild's make-up the best. Demon is a little too intense for me... I'm not big on the sinister faces he makes, and am creeped out by the fact that his boots have glowing red eyes. In our garage crawl space, amongst cardboard boxes and miscellaneous stored items, we are founders of a KISS fan club. I, to my extreme honour, am the only girl allowed, as I can successfully list the 4 members of KISS, not only by their stage names, but by their real names too.
Now I'm in my grandparent's rec room, dancing to the Beatles, the Platters, and my Grandpa Norm's favourite, Boney M. Whenever we visit, I follow the sound of music down to this room to invariably find him sitting directly in front of his turntable, with a stack of records next to his feet. He's not content to just play one album through. He likes to play the DJ, and jump from record to record, from one favourite track to another. His stereo is no joke -- the best that money can buy, and the before he places the diamond-tip needle in it's groove, he dusts the vinyl with a cleaner that resembles a little head... wooden, with white fur for hair, and a peculiar little face with crescent-shaped eyes and mouth (I still have it to this day, sitting on top of my stereo).
Now, it's Christmas '78. I don't know it, of course, but it's the last Christmas I am going to spend with my grandparents. While my relatives look on, my Grandpa Norm and I put on quite a show, doing our best Kosack dance to Boney M's "Rasputin." I am laughing so hard, trying hard to keep up with him. Everyone is looking and laughing, and some are clapping along. I remember thinking at this moment that he is THE BEST and that it just didn't get any more fun than this. Six months later, in the car with my mother and my brother, I lean forward into the front seat, loudly singing "Found a Peanut;" a funny song that I'd recently learned in school. My mother is too quiet and my brother seems agitated with me (but what else is new?) He finally tells me to be shut up, that I shouldn't be singing right now. I don't realize until we get home and my mother takes me upstairs, that Grandpa Norm and Grandma have been killed in a car accident. I'm looking out of the window to our backyard, trying to understand exactly what it means to never see them again. I am 7 years old.
My father has now inherited Norm's stereo, as wells as his respectable collection of records. My dad sits in the same chair, using the same record cleaner. He's big on singing along, and so I make it a point to learn all the words, too. On Saturday nights, we sometimes sit in this living room together, listening and singing. On Sunday afternoons, we tune in to an oldies show, and I laugh as my dad voice changes from a comical bass ("why's everybody always pickin' on me?") to a hilarious falsetto: "big girrrls dooon't cryyy.") I just can't believe he knows each and every song that comes on, word for word.
Now I'm about 9, maybe 10, and we're sitting in the kitchen of our new house. We have a fancy-schmanzty intercom system that allows us to speak to each other in separate rooms, but also allows us to pipe music into each room too. I am sitting on my dad's lap, listening to the radio, and we're singing along as usual. I tell him that it's neat that he can remember so many lyrics. He tells me, "stick with me kid, and you'll go places." It's in the same kitchen, on the same intercom, we listen together to live coverage of John Lennon's funeral procession. They describe how many people are there, and what the weather is like in New York. My dad seems a little sad, and says things like "what a shame... no more Beatles."
Now I'm in our living room, playing records, DJ style, just like Grandpa Norm used to do. I clean the dust from each one, and plug in a mic so I can hear my voice through the speakers. I sing to "My Sharona," "Angel Is The Centerfold," "The Gambler," and "She Works Hard For The Money." And when my brother and opt to go down to the recroom, we dim the lights, turn the volume way up, and play live to thousands of fans. We're members of Genesis, Supertramp, Queen, Asia and AC/DC. We each take turns at being the lead singer, and man, do we ROCK.
From here, I am taken to countless times and places at different points throughout my life:
• Buying my dad a Rocky Burnette record with my own money and having the clerk tell me, "I think your dad will really like this, little boy."
• My bedroom when I was 10 or so, putting up my very first music poster... of Olivia Newton John being gracefully pulled through the water by a dolphin.
• "Stairway to Heaven" coming on at the school dance, signaling a mixed rush of panic and anticipation at the last chance to have the boy I really liked to ask me to dance.
• Jim's guest room, having just turned 13, where I listen to my new Dexy's Midnight Runner's cassette on my tape recorder.
• My first stereo (a gift from my Dad), listening to Thriller no less than 10 times a day.
• The Jackson Tour, where I board the bus to Buffalo with my best friend, decked out in my BEAT IT t-shirt, and my sparkly white-glove earring.
• Busting out the pencil crayons & stencil in my bedroom, designing alternate covers for RIO and SEVEN AND THE RAGGED TIGER.
• Finally seeing Duran Duran live, and Simon announces they'll be filming this very performance of "Reflex" for a video.
• Watching Purple Rain so many times that I knew everyone's lines by heart.
• Finding someone's lost "Unforgettable Fire" cassette in my drama classroom, and falling hopelessly in love with each and every track once I get it home.
• Lining up outside of "Discus" on the morning the Joshua Tree is being released.
• A matinee, all-ages Skinny Puppy show where I realized exactly which clique I feel most in tune with.
• Talking with Trent Reznor outside of RPM. It's his band 1st visit to Toronto...
• Having a drink with the singer of Pop Will Eat Itself, sharing the keepsakes tucked in our wallets.
• Fastening a GOD SAVE THE QUEEN patch to the back of my jean jacket with safety pins.
• The summer I discover the Clash and listened to nothing else at all.
• Singing Dead Kennedy's "California Uber Alles" loudly and drunkingly into the band's mic at a house party.
• Ian Astbury & Billy Duffy signing my leather jacket.
• Going on a date with a radio DJ I don't really like all that much just so I can get into Deelite for free.
• Seeing Jane's Addiction's "Nothing's Shocking" album in the New Realease bin and buying it, having no idea what it sounds like, but just knowing with a cover like that, it's going to be AMAZING.
• Listening to Ride on my headphones while looking out the window of the jetfoil from Ostend, Germany to Dover, England.
• Hearing the Jesus and Mary Chain's, "Psycho Candy" record for the frst time, feeling that feedback is the most beautiful sound ever committed to vinyl.
• Seeing the "Brothers Gonna Work It Out" video, which sparks off a 2-year, full-blown P.E. obsession.
• Putting on Ray Charles when it's time for the dreary task of giving the turtle tank a thourough clean.
• Being BLOWN AWAY by the opening act for Ice-T... a band no-one had heard of... called Rage Against The Machine.
• The first song M and I dance to upon meeting at Studio 69: The Stone Roses, "Love Spreads".
• Buying tickets for both nights that Bauhaus are in town.
• Hearing Liquid Liquid for the first time in the Black Tomato in Ottawa, and feeling as though I've discovered one of music's holiest grails.
• Getting a sort of dream job of organizing in-stores at HMV, and doing surreal things such as escorting Marilyn Manson to the bathroom.
• Having a stoned QwestLove sign a lengthy inscription on his drumsticks for me.
• Watching Ben Harper play an acoustic set almost entirely with eyes closed.
• Nearly being crushed to death at a live perfomance by Green Day, in an alley that smells of garbage and pee.
• Being tapped on the shoulder, to have a "Busta Rhymes" introduce himself to me.
• Saying "nah" to an autograph from some guy named Puff Daddy, thinking him a thug who's career will fizzle in no time.
• Working at a label, meeting a 16-year-old Britney wearing plastic flip flops and a white sundress that makes her look... well, refreshingly, 16.
• Holding a Backstreet Boys' diamond-laden Rolex to verify that it is indeed the heaviest watch EVER.
• Seeing David Bowie, standing at the end of the hallway I've just entered and FREEZING on the spot, my mouth literally gaping open, unable to move toward him (and completely BLOWING the opportunity to meet him).
• Getting my picture taken with Paul Stanley (I can't WAIT to tell my brother - the Starchild - IN PERSON!)
• Buddy Guy very cordially and with a charming drawl offer me a glass of cognac in his dressing room.
• Hiding behind the air hockey table at Playdium with Aaron Carter so a descending gaggle of giggling girls won't find him.
• Club-hopping with *NSYNC and learning more about it's members than I EVER care to.
• Inheriting a red velvet purse that a 18-year-old Britney has left behind after an evening at the video awards... still containing a hotel key and a tin of Altoids.
Music has never been just a "thing" to me. It's never been a mere pastime or hobby. It's more of a natural, inextricable extension of living. A part of who I am. I've always found the question, "are you a music fan?" ridiculous, because really, how could one not be? It's always been there with me, a constant companion, whether in the background on the stereo, or the forefront on a stage. I wouldn't change a single experience I've shared with it - not even my Sigue Sigue Sputnik, phase. Well, MAYBE my Dead or Alive phase... (shudder).visit sunday scribblings