Thursday, January 16, 2014

High School Soundtrack

My memory often gives my husband the short end of the stick. More than anything else, songs are instant memory triggers for me. A few bars of a song can instantly transport me to a different time and place. I often email or text a friend some version of: "Just heard [insert song] and thinking of you," knowing that, because we shared an experience, we also share the song.

I've known my husband for all but 19 of my 43 years, yet very few songs remind me of our shared past. There are a few: dressing up for a college semi-formal (The Way You Look Tonight), getting ready to play basketball in grad school (Hypnotize), or the first dance at our wedding (True Companion). But there are not many.

Much of this is a function of the music I like. I haven't listened to much new music since the early 1990s. I met my husband in the fall of 1990. Not much overlap. My car radio presets play songs from the '60s, '70s, and '80s, all of which were stashed in my memory bank before I met my husband.

We also have few shared musical memories because we don't share music. We have separate iTunes libraries, and we like different music. We have never driven around together listening to a new CD or played one on repeat in our home. Music has never been "our thing"; it's something we each enjoy separately.

Instead of my husband, I am reminded often of someone I dated in high school 25 years ago. When I was a teenager, music was important. The bands you liked were part of how you defined yourself. At a heavy metal high school, I listened to U2, New Order, The Cure, Oingo Boingo, OMD, and Depeche Mode. I likely thought that distinguished me from my classmates, but it merely aligned my tastes with those of my boyfriend.

For us, music was a shared experience. As teens, music was around you all the time. We would drive to school listening to the latest cassette. We attended school dances. My boyfriend was a musician, so I listened to him play and listened to music with him. The intense emotions of the teenage years--when the right sappy love song seemed to express everything you felt inside--only intensified these memories.

Cassette Tape - Flotsam of the Mind

And so it is that I found myself texting him a couple years ago from the school parking lot. "In my minivan driving my kids to school and heard Every Rose Has Its Thorn. It's as if I'm back in Larry's barn listening to band practice all over again." I think that gave him a chuckle. It was a safe memory to share because it wasn't a sappy one. I also could text him every time any of the following comes on the radio:

Lady in Red - sitting in my car in his driveway after our first kiss

Eternal Flame - dancing in my parents' basement after junior prom

anything by The Bangles - because he though Susanna Hoff was hot

I Still Believe from The Lost Boys soundtrack - because he and his friends loved that movie

songs from The Joshua Tree tour concert in October 1987 - a religious experience

songs from Rattle and Hum - because we were the only people in the theater

Every Rose Has Its Thorn - the one song I remember from sitting through all those band practices

Promises - on the mix tape that led to us getting back together after a break-up ("We made a vow we'd always be friends. How could we know that promises end?")

Wonderful Tonight - made me cry when we saw Clapton in concert together after the (I think) final break-up

OK, anything Clapton - I think it's still a shared admiration.

And those are just the ones that jump to mind without trying. At a time of hormone-fueled emotional intensity, my life had a soundtrack. When I hear that soundtrack, I'm momentarily seventeen again.

This isn't to say that I'm pining about a teenage love. Not at all. That wasn't meant to be. I love my husband and we share a happy life; we just don't share much music.

Our marriage lacks a soundtrack. Musical tastes explain this, but that is not the only reason. My husband is my present and my future. Our life together is so much more than songs and emotions. To think of us in those terms would be missing the point.

Maybe he's not getting the short end of the stick after all.

*     *     *
It's writing prompt day for my blogging group, and today's prompt was: "The song that reminds me of that time I...." I couldn't begin to narrow it to one song. I spend most of my time in the car bouncing among old memories triggered by songs. I'm pleased I could narrow it to a person or a period of time. 

Head over to My So-Called Glamorous Life and look for the smiling frog and "view/add link" at the bottom of the post to see how other bloggers responded to this prompt.


  1. Eric Clapton's "Change the World" - best song ever. Saw him in an impromptu jam session at the Checkerboard in Chicago back in the 90's. Wonderful. Oh, and every guy thought Susanna Hoff was hot. :-)

  2. So true. The Pointer Sisters remind me of elementary school/middle school. High school was Clapton, Pink Floyd, assorted dance songs that all sort of run together to me now. Elvis Costello will always take me back to college and spring break junior year especially. It's funny and wonderful how music can do that.