Category Archives: Pop music

Music and nostalgia

A bright and crisp July afternoon, Canberra.  I board a bus and as I plonk myself on a seat my iPhone accidentally comes on and blasts Daryl Braithwaite’s “One Summer”.  Not a fashionably retro song, but something intrinsically ‘dorky’.  I see a man of about forty a few rows ahead of me smile, tap his foot and mouth the words to the lyrics “… I’ll find a waaay”!  He looks back at me and grins knowingly at the shame of this song.  In the nineties my portable CD player used to unintentionally reveal my music taste and, though the technology may have changed, the results are the same – I’ve been publicly outed as musically uncool.  But I am not alone, I am never alone. 

My previous post may have suggested my music is limited to bubblegum pop or modern-country (god bless Taylor Swift).  It isn’t, but it is consistently unfashionable.  The Cure get as much airtime as Eminem, Whitesnake and the Beastie Boys; names that ensure my unpopularity and indicate nostalgia creeping into my playlists.  On Saturday I went to an Eighties Tribute concert and I’m counting the days until the movie Rock of Ages is released.  I loudly exclaim “Oh yeah! Remember this?!  I love this song!” and look around at my fellow thirty-somethings whenever one of “our songs” (hits from the eighties and nineties) is heard.  Thankfully, they’re often doing the same.

My date of birth and my country of birth are influencing my music selection.  Last week at a small pub in Lane Cove, Sydney, I was entertained by “Gav” the guitarist singing some Australian classics.  The sentimentality resulted in me dedicating an entire playlist to songs by The Screaming Jets, Boom Crash Opera, 1927, Hunters and Collectors, Hoodoo Gurus and You Am I.  I’ve even added “Bop Girl” (which has a very young Nicole Kidman in the video).

Young Talent Time” is an Australian TV programme that features performing teenagers.  One of the boys in the current series is fourteen-year-old Tyler.  He quotes Steven Tyler and Brian Johnson as being his inspiration and Axl Rose as his idol.  With sinking compassion, I realised that this poor boy doesn’t get to hear (as “new music”) the likes of Aerosmith, AC/DC or Guns N’ Roses.  If he’d been born twenty years earlier he’d be in music heaven, and have spent hours putting together perfect mixed tapes.  Instead, he must be wasting his precious youth …

Two decades of listening to extremely loud music from Bananarama to Red Hot Chili Peppers has resulted in mild early deafness.  My extortionate, but blissful, Bose headphones are glued to my head for about three hours a day.  It was a dark period when I put my Ipod through the washing machine and was briefly forced into experiencing the quiet, and frequently annoying, external world.

Nothing makes me happier than music (or a Step class), and that includes food and sex (ex-boyfriends will testify that I won’t sacrifice a Step class for hanky-panky, no sirree – there’s no competition between those two activities).  Though admittedly music has helped me meet boys which theoretically could lead to hanky-panky.

In keeping with my inherent geekiness, and like the characters from American Pie, I was an attendee on annual Band Camps. I played the saxophone and boys used to try their luck (always unsuccessfully, I’ll have it noted!) playing with me.  I did like one boy (Stephen) until he wrote me a note referring to his “pearents” …. I couldn’t bring myself to respond to a boy who thought his parents were pears.

Smell is supposed to be the strongest sensory trigger of memories, but sound must rate a close second.  Memories and emotions come flooding back from an array of songs, beats and melodies and I welcome them all.  I like to think my fellow commuter, tapping away to Daryl Braithwaite, may have felt the same.

Music and friendship

I’m one of six students crammed into my friend’s university campus room a few doors up from mine.  Eighteen students reside on our floor and in only a few weeks since starting Uni, Anna’s room has become the communal place for us to hang-out.  My portable CD player drops out of my bag, blaring Kylie Minogue.  Not one of her well-known hits, but a rarely heard B-side track.   Four of the people make groaning sounds and laugh at my choice of music.  I casually dismiss the mocking while one girl, Lisa, looks at me silently as I stop the music and put the player back in my bag.    

It’s 1995 and this is the moment my best friend, Lisa, began to like me.  Her affections came out of sympathy and awe; liking Kylie in Australia at that time was social suicide, and I didn’t bat an eyelid at everyone hearing that I was listening to the Aussie Pop Princess.  She felt sorry for me that I’d just lost social standing and was taken aback that I wasn’t even slightly embarrassed.  Our friendship remains strong to this day.

For decades my unashamed love of music that I’m berated for enjoying has contributed to me forming strong bonds.  Last year I clapped with excitement when I heard the introductory music of Miley Cyrus’s “Hoedown Throwdown” at a Step class and a fellow Stepper rolled her eyes at me.  Within thirty seconds of obeying Miley’s instructions to, “zig-zag across the floor, shuffle in diagonal” she turned to me smiling and gave me a thumbs-up.  We’ve been great friends ever since.   I gave her the hoedown and she taught me the lasso move – both now staples of our choreography.

Eliza listening to my "music-phone"

Eliza listening to my “music-phone”

More recently, music has helped me establish a connection with my nieces who beg to listen to my “music-phone”.  I have playlists that don’t need to be altered for children – much of my taste is directly designed for eight-year-old girls.  Nashville pop, High School Musical and Glee all fluttered their eyelashes at me and I passionately embraced their melodic wiles.

Of course, music has also created relationship rifts for me.  One boyfriend wouldn’t permit me to play music and is now an ex-boyfriend:  A house without music could never be my home.

Sometimes people are stubbornly attached to an image associated with a particular style of music; they may dress in a way they think reflects their musical taste, assume they know another person’s taste by the way they look, or infer a person’s values from the music they like.  This image attachment can suffocate their natural pleasure.  At a BBQ in Sydney on Saturday I journeyed with three new acquaintances to purchase alcohol.  In the huge Liquorland a familiar song came on the radio and I clapped with elation.  My companions similarly responded and loudly sang along to the energetic lyrics: “Every single time I see you, I start to feel this way.  Makes me wonder if I’m ever gonna feel this way again”. I smiled, “How can you not like Hanson?”  Horrified, they immediately stopped singing.  It was disappointing that they’d been happy until they realised the identity of the performer.  In just minutes we’d changed from a cheerful posse to a somber group of people trying far too hard to look cool; this, to me, is embarrassing.  With Hanson’s lively chorus continuing on in my head, I knew these acquaintances wouldn’t become friends.

Music makes me happy and I will bounce along as blissfully to Katy Perry as I will to my niece’s version of Puff the Magic Dragon until the day I die.  People will continue to make fun of me, but occasionally it’ll help me form some lasting relationships and it will always make me happy.  Music, blessed music.