by contributing author Dana Caudle
“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent” --Victor Hugo
I’ve always loved music. I’ve just not always appreciated it to the level that I do today. Today, I like to think of music as an extension of the senses: there is seeing, tasting, touching, feeling, hearing…and then there is music. Music can take me back to a time or place in my life as swiftly and specifically as the scent of coffee and bacon frying intermingled can take me back to my grandparents’ home on the mornings after I, as a child, spent the night. Today, there are songs that I match to my various moods; happy songs, funny songs, angry songs, sad songs. And, today--because of my love of music--the variety of artists I am willing to listen to is immense and continually growing. I was not always this way.
I grew up around music lovers. My dad was himself a musician; his tastes ran mostly to Elvis and 70’s alt-country ala the Eagles, James Taylor, and B.J. Thomas. Oldies were a staple on the car radio when we took our family vacations. At the time, I enjoyed this music; however, my understanding of it was more along the lines of me hearing it rather than actually listening to it. It didn’t necessarily provoke any kind of emotion within me.
Around the 6th grade, I decided to become a fan of country music. Because I’ve always been one to throw myself into things full-force, I decided that I should look the part, too. My hair began to take on the immense proportions and heights popular in country music at the time, blowing up to the point of resembling Mt. St. Helens circa May, 1980. (Yeah, it was pretty bad. In fact--and this is off-topic--my husband has seen basketball pictures of me from this era, and proclaimed that I must have been a great defensive player. Not only did the other team have to shoot over me, they had to make it over my hair as well.) I also acquired the ubiquitous “Garth Brooks” shirt; a red and purple color-patched atrocity with pearl snaps, worn with,--of course--red Rocky Mountain jeans and lace-up boots.
Though I played country music extensively on my Walkman, in the car, and on my stereo, I really don’t believe that I was really listening to music yet. I mean, how can one get really excited or emotional over the lyrics, Blame it all on my roots, I showed up in boots…? I’m not being snobbish, the song is enjoyable, yes, and great to dance and sing along to (and I will sing it, loudly, any time it gets played in my vicinity), but nothing that grabbed me by the heart and squeezed. Plus, I’d always liked to think of myself as an individual, a square peg in a round hole, and the fact that nine out of ten girls in my small-town Texas school wore Rocky Mountains and lace up boots didn’t sit well with my sense of eccentricity. It was time to move on. To what, I just didn’t know.
Now, I had not lived in a complete hole, just one partially buried by ten-gallon Stetsons and Justin boots. I did, at this time, know who the Beatles were. My cousins were already huge fans, my brother--who was always more willing to try something new than I--was indoctrinated, and I had been forced to watch a documentary on the band, albeit half-heartedly. My vision of the Beatles was four guys in suits and a bowl-headed haircuts singing antiquated songs from long ago. And, I’m embarrassed to say, I ridiculed them…loudly…to anyone who would listen. But looking back I think maybe, just maybe, I was more intrigued than I let on. Sort of like the kid who picks on a girl because he secretly has a crush on her--I don’t know, I can’t really say for sure. But I do know that I began to gradually change my mind.
I remember my interest first being piqued when I heard one of my cousins enthusiastically describing all the “Paul is Dead” clues on the Sgt. Peppers album. It probably appealed to my inherent sense of the macabre; I listened…and began to wonder. I wanted to hear these clues! But, I would not swallow my pride enough to ask my brother if I could borrow the copy of Sgt. Pepper’s he had attained from my cousins, knowing fully the unmerciful teasing I would endure. I had talked enough smack to eat my words unto gluttony if I even hinted at liking the Beatles. So I waited and wondered some more.
My chance finally came one day when I woke up with a stomach virus and couldn’t go to school. I was home alone! I was well enough to sneak into my brother’s room and find his Sgt. Pepper tape. The copy was in poor condition, having been made by the speed-dubbing recorder on his stereo (fancy stuff at the time, before cd’s made copying albums an almost instantaneous process.) The songs were in fragments, quite a few were incomplete. But then, “A Day in the Life” came on in its entirety. My life was changed forever.
This was a song that was so simple, yet so complex. The lyrics were so inconsequential, mostly about some guy reading the morning paper. But the morbidity of the words--someone blew his mind out in a car--combined with the nonsensical--someone actually counted how many holes filled Blackburn Lancashire--combined with the various complex movements of music--including the Beatles’ frequent use of the “middle eight” convention--escalating to the final cacophony of instruments…!!!
It might have been that I finally saw the light (or, most probably, my 102 degree fever), but I actually began listening to the music. Until then, I thought popular music was simple, about loving or losing a lover, drinking and doing people wrong, or someone doing the singer wrong. After hearing this song, I began to realize for the first time that music is an art form, and that a perfect blend of lyrics and musical arrangements could move me in ways I’d never imagine. And from then on, the Beatles--who were no longer just four bowl-cutted guys, but in my opinion, visionaries--became my favorite band! I wanted to hear more.
It wasn’t easy, I was still ashamed of my close-mindedness. The next time I went shopping with my mom I snuck Abbey Road into the cart, much like someone trying to smuggle hemorrhoid cream without anyone else noticing. My mom noticed. She glanced at the cover and said nonchalantly,
“I thought you didn’t like them.”
Nothing more was said. I wasn’t teased by my family for my new appreciation, either (though close-minded kids at school didn’t hesitate to do so. However, that appealed to my square-peg thingy, and I didn’t really care.) And years later, Mom and I went together to see Paul McCartney in concert, celebrating simultaneously my birthday and graduating from college. It was a momentous occasion for me. I was beginning a new chapter in my life and celebrating one that I will always fall back on--the beginning of my love for music--while listening to a member of the band that had opened my eyes to this affection. The Beatles ended up being just a stepping stone of my music appreciation, and now this appreciation is vast and includes many genres. But the Beatles will always be the first, and “A Day in the Life” will always be the song that “turned me on” and made me actually listen…to music (and also the song that, literally, deflated my hair.)
Now, since this Jive is usually a catalyst for expression, I would like to know the songs that inspired others to start listening to music. I know that tastes vary, and that there’s no real prescription for what makes a person actually like a song, the differences in preference are as vast and complex as music itself. But if you are a music lover, you can usually remember the song that inspired you and lead you in pursuit of more and more musical inspiration.
“Music is what feelings sound like.”--Author Unknown
At a movie you can feel it touching your heart
And on every day of the summertime
You'll hear children chasing ice cream carts
They'll play it on your wedding day
There must be 'bout a million ways
To add some music
To your day--The Beach Boys “Add Some Music to your Day”